The deadliest part of Fukushima's nuclear clean-up: Removing fuel rods

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  • 13

    Cricky

    This does not sound as if it will end well.

  • -3

    Shankun

    Great title... I wonder how the authors visualise those rods... A mighty swords which melt your hands?

  • 4

    Gregg Scott

    Japan is a world leader in robotic technology. This task seems to me to be a natural for some robotic application. But whatever it takes, this reactor must be shut down and cleaned up.

  • 16

    serendipitous

    Reading this makes you realize that when there is no 'off' switch, humans really shouldn't be messing with this kind of power anywhere in the world.

  • 18

    Baibaikin

    I think it's time that TEPCO asked for some help.

  • 6

    moneyyen

    Doesn't this prove to the world and especially the government that they need to stop with the Nuclear Energy?

  • 4

    squeeks

    Don't worry folks, TEPCO's on it....

  • 2

    minello7

    Could someone please explain what is to become of the fuel rods as they are being removed. It seems that they haven't been able to contain the water which in itself has become a disaster and these fuel rods are much more dangerous. I think its about time the International Nuclear Authority insists on being included from now on, not just for their expertise but for transparency. Seeing TEPCO have proved since the disaster they can't be trusted.

  • 4

    DamianOmen70

    Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago

    This is quite simply a much,much bigger problem than TEPCO or Japan alone can handle. Isn't there some kind of World Nuclear Energy group that can step in with an assembled group of the best technicians in the world? And if this group of the best of the best do exist,they should immediately and unconditionally be allowed to enter ANY country that screwed up to this level of danger. This is an environmental concern for the world,not just Japan.

  • 2

    Magnet

    "The operation, beginning this November at the plant’s No. 4 reactor, is fraught with danger, including the possibility of a large release of radiation if a fuel assembly breaks, gets stuck or gets too close to an adjacent bundle, said Gundersen and other nuclear experts.

    That could lead to a worse disaster than the March 2011 nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant."

    And TEPCO will be allowed to handle this... alone? Scariest article of 2013 so far. Are they the only ones "considering the risks and countermeasures"? I wouldn't trust them to keep ice cream cold.

  • 3

    Disillusioned

    Get your evacuation kits ready people. This could very well be the end.

  • 2

    E.Gravitas

    "..........they're probably going to run into some issues!!!!" Really Murry! TEPCO management has exhibited nothing but incompetence, or worse, indifference, at every stage of this disaster. Why are we - or the government - leaving the most dangerous phase of the clean-up thus far solely in their hands? It makes absolutely no sense to allow them the opportunity to further jeopardize the health and well-being of the people of Japan.

  • 2

    wanderlust

    @minello - they are moved to a common fuel pool, for further cooling, and after a period of 4-5 years (depending on residual heat and radiation, they are placed in dry storage - first into a steel cask which is then stored in steel chambers encased in a concrete structure - to prevent radiation release. These casks can each store 37 fuel assemblies. They would have liked to re-process the fuel rods, removing the plutonium, and analyse them to know the behaviour of the reactor and the irradiated fuel but at this time, they'll just be happy to have them stored, reasonably safely. TEPCO have been moving fuel assemblies from the common pool elsewhere (temporary storage!) in anticipation of this move. There are already around 6,400 fuel assemblies in the common pool! Imagine if there was a problem with that pool.

    Water is a great moderator of radiation, and the operations are usually done underwater, but in this case, they'll have to use an intermediate water-containing shroud to transport the used fuel rod from the overheard spent fuel to the common storage pool.

  • -1

    smithinjapan

    TEPCO: We know you think you're 'up to the task' with the nuclear gypsies and all, but PLEASE allow for some help here!

  • 3

    Leslie Corrice

    Gundersen and company exaggerate to the point of abject confabulation. For example, Gundersen's 14,000 Hiroshimas refers to cesium isotopes only. Cesium is one of the smallest isotopic yields from a nuclear weapon detonation spawning hundreds of others in much higher amounts...not zero Cesium, but relatively miniscule. 14,000 times nearly nothing is...well...not nearly as bad as he wants everyone to think. Sounds good, but it is an empty threat. Weapon's fallout's lethal punch comes from the vast majority of the other isotopes. The Cesium itself from a bomb blast never hurt anyone. The rest of the claims made by those cited in this article are just as vacuous. These people are expert at only one thing...rhetorical terrorism! Why? It's how they make a name for themselves, and in most cases it has become lucrative. They are no better than mere street-corner prophets, but articles like this give them credibility none of them deserve. And just because something was mentioned in the American congress means almost nothing. Many unfounded things get said in those hallowed halls. Articles like this only further scares people who are already needlessly frightened...and for what reason? Is Japan Today so low on income that they need to pose rhetorical terrorism as fact?

  • 5

    wanderlust

    The CNIC website has a very informative article on the status of fuel assemblies at Fukushima.

    There are 5,040 assemblies in the 6 overhead pools at Fukushima I NPP, plus 6,375 in the common pool. They only have capacity for 4,954, so already, the Fukushima NPP was over capacity during normal operations (102%).

    There are just 408 assemblies in the dry cask storage, which currently is full, and needs re-constructing. Due to it being close to the ocean, it was also flooded, and its integrity has not been confirmed, cranes were damaged and monitoring instruments broken. They'll also need to build a new facility for the new assemblies.

    The Spent Fuel Pool at reactor 4 has fuel assemblies going back to 1980, with the hottest from 2010.

    Fukushima II NPP has 6,746 fuel assemblies in their overhead pools, around 85% of the capacity.

    Looks like TEPCO had their heads in the sand over used fuel storage, before the tsunami even occurred.

  • 5

    edojin

    The story says it will take about one year to do the task. That's a long time to hold your breath. Anyway, guess all of us living in Japan will just have to endure whatever happens. If I had kids here, I think I'd try sending them elsewhere.

    No matter what ... the rods have to be removed.

    And we know what the dangers are ... and there are so many ...

    Good grief ...

  • 4

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Edojin, I do have kids here, and since the big quake about 2 and half years ago, my oldest one wants us to all go to the USA, but as long as my house is standing here in Tokyo, knock on wood, I will keep trying to make a living but if all hell does brake loose up there in Fukushima???

  • -4

    Dave Louthan

    Like I was saying. That containment will fail and kill Japan is a mathematical certainty. The only thing in question is the timing.

  • 1

    Stuart hayward

    Why haven't we allowed ALL international experts to work together on the safest way to do this? Why are we allowing TEPCO to try this without real oversight? This will take the best of the best, to pull this off without another disaster.

  • 0

    Peter Payne

    May I suggest we develop remote controlled Gundam robots that can do this for us?

  • 3

    ducaja

    Einstein was* so* right when he said, "The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking ..." And that was in 1945!

  • 4

    NZ2011

    We know the rods must be removed, it is the only way forward... However ever Mr Abe, Tepco PR... don't try and do it alone, use every resource at any cost, this goes wrong and Japan is finished.

  • 4

    CH3CHO

    Stuart haywardAug. 16, 2013 - 01:58PM JST

    Why haven't we allowed ALL international experts to work together on the safest way to do this?

    Wake up to the reality. There is no international expert on this.

    This news release by IAEA may be a little consolation for you. http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/missionfukushima.html

  • 1

    gogogo

    Title should read:

    The deadliest part of Fukushima's nuclear clean-up: Putting Tepco in charge

  • -6

    gavoz

    Fear Mongering journalism,the scourge of modern society,used foremost buy the USA and now adopted by most.

    Limited quantified facts,script written like a Hollywood blockbuster

    Stop scaring people and report responsibly

  • 2

    Funnybonesup

    Very risky operation. There's still a lot of fallen equipment in the pool to be removed before they can contemplate removal of the fuel assemblies. Some of them will be damaged, some will possibly be jammed, warped or broken open. Get a group of rods too close together or drop some onto the floor of the pool in close proximity and its" last drinks gentlemen" I hope all goes well but I'm not confident looking back at the management chain that brought us all to this point. Suffice to say...if they are successful in shutting down the plant, I'll eat my hat......and i don't say that lightly...it's a bike helmet.

  • -6

    cloa513

    This is natural operation for cranes- mechanical devices are so much more reliable than electronic. Distance makes it so much safer. They can rip through the roof. Remote observers (air balloons) and local fixed camera bombs to guide the effort They shouldn't have put it in stages of cooling then dismantling- wasted time.

  • 0

    JohnBecker

    It's time to give up hopes that TEPCO and the Japanese government will handle this situation. They've shown again and again that they can't be trusted to do the right thing or to tell the truth. And the disaster that's waiting to happen will affect not just Japan, but her neighbors as well. It's time for a vote in the U.N. to send in the IAEA and nuclear energy experts from around the world to assess and then fix the situation. If it's left to the people who are currently in charge, the only possible outcome looks to be the worst.

  • -4

    Aristoman

    Don't worry, everything will be fine. They used computers to control every mm. 4500mm pull out manually in high radiation field sounds complicated to me. Good luck, with it. Oh, and no panic if they brake one.

  • -3

    globalwatcher

    The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is preparing to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building, a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.

    Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.

    The above and TEPCO are a deadly cocktail mix for ending Japan. TEPCO needs to admit that they cannot do this alone. They need to get some help from international nuke scientists.

  • -2

    Open Minded

    @gavoz: I fully agree with you. The problem is that reporting responsibly would be much more fear mongering.

    Medias have been especially good in down playing the severity of the problem at Fukushima.

  • -2

    globalwatcher

    Open MindedAug. 17, 2013 - 06:42AM JST

    @gavoz: I fully agree with you. The problem is that reporting responsibly would be much more fear mongering.

    Medias have been especially good in down playing the severity of the problem at Fukushima.

    gavozAug. 16, 2013 - 08:28PM JST

    Fear Mongering journalism,the scourge of modern society,used foremost buy the USA and now adopted by most.

    Limited quantified facts,script written like a Hollywood blockbuster

    Stop scaring people and report responsibly

    Your posts are not convincing at all as there are no facts. I am not ready to give up my key to a drank sailor TEPCO. I do not trust them AT ALL.

  • 2

    Star-viking

    Hmmm... Gundersen, a self-appointed expert with a boosted resume, a man who claimed there was a nuclear explosion at Daiichi, a man who claimed the SFP4 had run dry. Not going to hold out for much truthfulness there.

    But we have two independent experts...who used to work for Greenpeace.

    ...ah well, looks like this article is going to have to be relegated to the trash heap too.

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