Mermaids and Muons

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) issued a report this week which stated that a muon scan found no fuel inside the No.1 reactor vessel at Fukushima Daiichi (here). TEPCO propose that the corium (melted reactor core) is still inside the reactor’s concrete containment structure. Hmm, all you have to do is look at the incredibly high temperature of a melted reactor core, and then the melting point of concrete, to take that one with a pinch of salt.

TEPCO have been doing these muon scans for a number of months now. Muons are cosmic particles, a bit like electrons, which constantly bombard the Earth. Muons easily pass through most ‘solid’ objects, but a few get absorbed or deflected in proportion to a material’s density and thickness (you know, stuff like uranium or plutonium). Hence, by scanning for muons you can form an x-ray type image of a given object. The reason they have to use such high tech is because the melted cores of reactors 1, 2 and 3 are incredibly radioactive, and any human or robot approaching them will be almost instantly fried.

There are three melted reactor cores lose in the environment, and four years into the disaster, TEPCO still have no clue of exactly where they are. A few years back an EU-funded study concluded that intially Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the environment (here). A becquerel is a unit of measurement that counts the number of atomic disintegrations per second (ie, radioactivity). In relation to Fukushima the numbers are jaw-dropping, and they are ongoing, and will be well into the future. What we are basically talking about here is energy, and an oft used way to describe it is to say that one single becquerel equates to enough energy to flip over a grain of sand. That might not sound a lot, until you look at the jaw-dropping numbers coming out of Fukushima. This energy also destroys living cells. The Pacific Ocean die-offs have been quite well documented by the mainstream media. Here’s three recent reports…

West Coast starfish die-off prompts calls for emergency help from Congress

Starving Sea Lions Washing Ashore by the Hundreds in California

Scientists seek cause of patchy baldness in some Beaufort Sea polar bears

… there could be any number of reasons why the Pacific Ocean has started dying just recently, but of course what sticks out like a sore thumb is that none of these news reports ever mention man-made radiation. Fukushima is the elephant in the room; and let’s get back to becquerels and energy again: two recent Pacific storms, Cyclone Pam and Typhoon Haiyan were category 5 storms; off the scale: there’s never been storms this violent in all recorded history (incidentally, these are all cyclones. The terms ‘typhoon’ and ‘hurricane’ are regional names for these storms). If such a storm hit a heavily populated area the death and destruction would be akin to a nuclear bomb going off. Here’s a standard dictionary definition of a ‘cyclone’…

An atmospheric system characterized by the rapid inward circulation of air masses about a low-pressure center, usually accompanied by stormy, often destructive weather. Cyclones circulate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cyclones are formed as warm, moist air rises up from the ocean. This leaves less air left near the surface, and this causes an area of lower air pressure. The air around this region has higher pressure, and so it rushes in to fill the low pressure area. This air also becomes warm and moist and so it rises, too. The cycle keeps going (hence the term ‘cyclone’), until a huge storm develops.

This now brings me on to the bag of ferrets known as ‘climate change’, which I really don’t want to get into because it has become so politicised and so much pseudo science is used by both sides of the debate. Here are some facts that I’ve tried to outline in this post:

1) the three melted reactor cores at Fukushima are pumping radioactivity (ie, energy) into the Pacific Ocean 24/7, and will continue to do so indefinitely.

2) since Fukushima there have been massive wildlife die-offs in the Pacific, the like of which has never been seen before. These die-offs have been quite well documented by the mainstream media.

3) since Fukushima there have been Pacific storms/cyclones the like of which have never been seen in recorded history.

And number 4, of course, is that no one ever talks about these facts…

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16 Responses to Mermaids and Muons

  1. Clark says:

    Hello RobG, thi is the latest thread here where he following will be on-topic. This is about prompt-criticality and is continued from:

    SL-1, or Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One was a prototype military reactor in the desert west of Idaho. On January 3, 1961 it was to be restarted by its rather isolated team of two operatives aged 26 and 27 and a trainee aged 22. It exploded, killing all three. I abstracted and adapted the following from:

    Another relevant kinetics factor is the contribution of what are called delayed neutrons to the chain reaction in the core. Most neutrons (the prompt neutrons) are produced nearly instantaneously via fission. But a few — approximately 0.7 percent in a U-235-fueled reactor operating at steady-state — are produced through the relatively slow radioactive decay of certain fission products. Delayed production of a fraction of the neutrons is what enables reactor power changes to be controllable on a time scale that is amenable to humans and machinery.

    In the case of the SL-1 prototype reactor, an ejected control assembly made it possible for the reactor to become critical on the prompt neutrons alone (i.e. prompt critical). When a reactor is prompt critical, the time to double the power is on the order of 10 microseconds. In this accident the reactivity addition was sufficient to take the reactor prompt critical within a time estimated at 3.6 milliseconds.

    Post-accident analysis concluded that the final control method [ie. termination of the nuclear chain reaction] occurred by means of catastrophic core disassembly: destructive melting, vaporization, and consequent conventional explosive expansion of the parts of the reactor core where the greatest amount of heat was being produced most quickly. It was estimated that this core heating and vaporization process happened in about 7.5 milliseconds, the core literally blew apart; the reactor designed for a 3 MW power output operated momentarily at a peak of nearly 20 GW, a power density over 6,000 times higher than its safe operating limit.

    In the Chernobyl disaster the first explosion blew the 2000-ton upper plate with the entire reactor assembly fastened to it through the roof of the reactor building, but that was just a steam explosion:

    A second, more powerful explosion occurred about two or three seconds after the first; this explosion dispersed the damaged core and effectively terminated the nuclear chain reaction. However, this explosion also compromised more of the reactor containment vessel and ejected superheated lumps of graphite moderator. The ejected graphite and the demolished channels still in the remains of the reactor vessel caught fire on exposure to air, greatly contributing to the spread of radioactive fallout and the contamination of outlying areas.

    According to observers outside Unit 4, burning lumps of material and sparks shot into the air above the reactor. Some of them fell onto the roof of the machine hall and started a fire. About 25 percent of the red-hot graphite blocks and overheated material from the fuel channels was ejected. Parts of the graphite blocks and fuel channels were out of the reactor building. As a result of the damage to the building an airflow through the core was established by the high temperature of the core. The air ignited the hot graphite and started a graphite fire.

    There were initially several hypotheses about the nature of the second explosion. […] However, the sheer force of the second explosion, and the ratio of xenon radioisotopes released during the event, indicate that the second explosion could have been a nuclear power transient; the result of the melting core material, in the absence of its cladding, water coolant and moderator, undergoing runaway prompt criticality similar to the explosion of a fizzled nuclear weapon. This nuclear excursion released 40 billion joules of energy, the equivalent of about ten tons of TNT. The analysis indicates that the nuclear excursion was limited to a small portion of the core.

    OK do you see the point I was making at Craig’s now? Busby said that this could happen, but it hasn’t. Is that good or not? Do we presume that it gets less likely as time goes on?

  2. Clark says:

    Rob, have you even read my comment?

    • Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

      Clark apologies again, this time for my delay in replying to you; and of course I read your post here; and I thank you for such a detailed response, which I’m sure other readers will appreciate.

      I don’t quite understand the point you’re making (my bad). Are you trying to show that fission stopped at Fukushima Daiichi when the disaster originally began? You mention Chris Busby, and here’s what he had to say about it a few years ago on RT:

      There’s also been detections of cobalt 60 and zirconium 97 in Europe this year, both of which are indicators of recent fission.

      The above article describes these particular artificial isotopes as being in ‘minute quantities’, but they have very short half lives and if they came from Fukushima this would account for it. The winds during April and May would have carried a lot of airborne stuff in Japan to Europe.

  3. Clark says:

    No I don’t think fission stopped. I believe there are three meltdowns in progress. My questions at the end are quite literal; which is better? A Chernobyl / SL-1 type nuclear explosion, or an ongoing meltdown? Which releases more pollution in the end? And can a meltdown go prompt-critical and explode?

    But consideration of prompt-criticality does raise some questions I find interesting. The proportion of delayed neutrons in a typical reactor is only 0.7% – that’s not a huge margin to aim for in design. If the rate of total neutron production were increased by under 1%, the reactor would be prompt-critical and output power would start doubling every ten microseconds. I’d rather hear your thoughts on that before I put any more into your head.

    Rob, please work methodically through the points I raise; that’s the sort of discussion I’m looking for. You’re welcome to raise points of your own, of course, but my approach to a subject like this is to try to understand it, and I do that best when I talk it through.

    The article you link to doesn’t mention Zr-97. The isotopes it does mention can all be associated with fission, but they didn’t necessarily come from Fukushima. The niobium 95 has a half-life of 35 days, so that was produced well within the last year. But how would Fukushima nuclides be getting into the atmosphere?

  4. Clark says:

    Chernobyl really was a lucky escape; it could have been much worse. I found this chilling section:

    An instance eerily similar to the actual China syndrome quote from the movie occurred during the early stages of the Chernobyl disaster: after the reactor was destroyed and began to burn, the liquid corium mass from the melted core began to breach the concrete floor of the reactor vessel, underneath which lay the bubbler pool (a large water reservoir for the emergency pumps also designed to safely contain steam pipe ruptures). The RBMK had no allowance or planning for core meltdowns, and the imminent interaction of the core mass with the bubbler pool would have produced a massive steam explosion that would have likely destroyed the entire plant and vastly increased the spread and magnitude of the radioactive plume. However, the initial explosion had broken the control circuitry which allowed the pool to be emptied. Three volunteer divers gave their lives to manually operate the valves necessary to drain this pool, and later images of the corium mass in the pipes of the bubbler pool’s basement reinforced the heroic necessity of their actions.

    • Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

      Clark, as I’m sure you’re aware, when they carried out the Trinity test in the New Mexico desert in July 1945 many of the scientists involved believed that it might be an uncontrolled chain reaction; ie, it would destroy everything in existence. Nevertheless they still went ahead with the test, and luckily we are all still here.

      The point I’m attempting to make is that the Fukushima disaster is totally uncharted territory, and you can only make a very limited comparison to events at Chernobyl in 1986. As you point out, Chernobyl unit 4 was a totally different reactor design, and it had a partial meltdown that was contained within ten days (at huge loss of life). Even so, Chernobyl was bad enough, and it was only a few years ago that restrictions were lifted on the sale of meat in certain parts of the UK, due to cesium contamination from Chernobyl. I believe these restrictions still apply in certain parts of Germany and Scandinavia.

      I’ll get back to your other points in a bit; oh, and if you’re going to the London demo tomorrow, watch out for yourself: I keep hearing murmurs that things are going to really kick off.

  5. Clark says:

    Rob, no, they DIDN’T contain the meltdown; they cleaned up some melted core material among other things, but an ongoing meltdown was prevented when the core blew itself apart by going prompt-critical. If that second explosion hadn’t happened, there would have been no way of getting the meltdown under control.

    The Trinity Test scientists didn’t believe that Trinity might start “an uncontrolled chain reaction; ie, it would destroy everything in existence”. The worst that was postulated was a chain reaction progressing through the whole of Earth’s atmosphere; catastrophic, certainly, but not remotely destruction of “everything in existence”. But the possibility of an atmospheric chain reaction was investigated mathematically and ruled out.

    Rob, I don’t think you have much of a feel for the sense of desperate urgency at the time. A world war had been raging for half a decade with immense loss of life, injury and destruction. Unheard-of weapons such as bouncing bombs and the V2 were being deployed every day, and those on the receiving end had no idea how they worked. Nuclear technology was new, its potential clearly vast but unknown. The war had interrupted academic communication between countries and everyone was terrified that some enemy power would develop nuclear weapons first, and thereby win the war and take over the world. Literally.

    You seem to paint the scientists as crazily irresponsible; so evil they were prepared to blow up the world (I’ll assume that exaggeration got the better of you and you meant destruction of Earth’s atmosphere and not the entire universe), but they weren’t; there would have been no point in calculating whether the atmosphere would ignite if they intended to proceed with the test anyway. They weren’t megalomaniacs; they were just terrified that they had to be first or be conquered, possibly exterminated along with their families and everyone and everything that they knew.

    Rob, I get the impression that you’re very scared of nuclear technology. I don’t think you’re interested in it; you just wish it didn’t exist. Am I close?

  6. Clark says:

    Rob, thanks for the warning about tomorrow’s demo. I’ll charge some batteries and take a camera.

  7. Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

    Clark, you said in your earlier post: “The article you link to doesn’t mention Zr-97”.

    I believe neobium 95 is a decay product of zirconium 95. Short lived fission products were also detected in Europe at the end of 2011 and in 2012. At the time the International Atomic Energy Agency tried to blame these isotopes on a company in Hungary, which strenuously denied that they were the source…

    With regard to ongoing criticalities at Fukushima, the following paper explains how such criticalities can occur. The maths is way above my head. You might be able to understand it better than me…

    You said: “But how would Fukushima nuclides be getting into the atmosphere?” Well, there’s three reactor cores in ongoing meltdown and due to the incredibly high radiation levels no one can get inside the buildings of reactors 1, 2 and 3. In otherwords they can’t make any repairs to these badly damaged structures, and the melted cores remain open to the environment. Most of the radiation is going into the Pacific Ocean (and the situation there grows worse and worse by the day), but some of it also goes into the atmosphere.

    You said: “which is better? A Chernobyl / SL-1 type nuclear explosion, or an ongoing meltdown? Which releases more pollution in the end?”

    You only have to compare the radioactive inventories to answer that one. Each of the three melted down reactors at Fukushima is many times bigger than the Chernobyl reactor. Also, there weren’t any spent fuel pools at Chernobyl, whereas at Fukushima there’s 40 years worth of spent fuel rods sitting around; thousands of tons of the stuff.

    “Rob, I get the impression that you’re very scared of nuclear technology. I don’t think you’re interested in it; you just wish it didn’t exist. Am I close?”

    You are quite correct.

  8. Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

    Oh, and with regard to the Pacific Ocean, here’s the latest bit of good news…

    1,000,000 Bq/m3 of Sr-90 detected in seawater of Fukushima plant port / Highest in recorded history

  9. Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

    And with regard to world war 2, there are many famous quotes from the likes of Einstein and Oppenheimer about the folly of all things nuclear. It’s also worth noting that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was uranium fueled, whilst the one dropped on Nagasaki was plutonium fueled. We can argue about the merits of the use of these weapons with regard to ending the Second World War, but what is not in doubt is that they were deliberately testing different types of nukes on civilian targets.

  10. Clark says:

    Rob, I didn’t encounter any trouble at the demonstration. The police kept a low profile.

    No it isn’t just a case of comparing inventories, though I agree that the Fukushima inventory was much larger than Chernobyl’s was. What matters is how much of which isotopes get dispersed into which parts of the environment – a complex matter, but I agree with Busby; a core melting its way into the ground will be far less polluting than a core dispersed by an explosion.

    The paper you linked to on concerns the possibility of a runaway chain reaction in a Travelling Wave Reactor (TWR), which is a theoretical reactor; an actual example has never been built. It might apply to the meltdowns if their temperature is in the 1000K to 3000K range.

    I have a theory that nuclear engineering selects for those who like messing about with geometry. I think this leads to prejudice against fluid-core reactors, which have no geometry to get clever with. I’m opposed to reactors that rely on geometry for control because if the core melts down the geometry is lost, and with it all hope of controlling of the reactor. In reactor design the reactivity is kept down by spacing the fuel rods apart i.e. the fuel density is kept down. If the core melts down the fuel all collects together at the bottom of the reactor vessel, i.e. the density goes up, and with it the reactivity.

    The TWR design is a nuclear geometer’s wet dream, so clever-clever to do all your calculations, lay everything out just-so, and then watch it breed from and burn its initial charge over the course of the next forty years – assuming that practice follows theory, which of course it won’t. That paper says the reaction could run away and cause a meltdown.

    I agree that the decision to detonate two different designs of weapons on Japan was an experiment. There was no need to destroy either city. Various historians have argued that Japan was on the brink of surrender but even if not, the first (Trinity) or second bomb could have been detonated on an unpopulated nearby area as a demonstration.

    I think you’re wrong to reject nuclear technology in its entirety. Science isn’t piecemeal and the study of nuclear physics has enabled great advances in the body of science as a whole. Nuclear technology has saved countless lives – smoke detectors, checking for metal fatigue in aircraft and other critical structures, nuclear medicine, etc. Nuclear technology has also cost countless lives, but so have other technologies.

    I saw your comment about the toxic algal bloom in the Pacific before it got deleted. This is bad, but it proves my point; the Pacific is starting to recover just the way we’d expect it to after such a catastrophe – from the bottom of the food chain (the organisms with shortest generations) upwards. The problem is that more complex organisms with slower reproductive cycles will have been affected the worst, so whatever normally kept the algae in check has been greatly reduced in numbers, leaving the algae to reproduce uncontrolled. But the higher levels of the food chain will recover in time.

    My point about 99.3% of neutrons being prompt neutrons makes me wonder how ongoing meltdown is even possible. The margin is so small that I’d expect a pool of molten fuel to either stop reacting or go prompt-critical; do you see my point? The chances of a random pool of fuel sitting there, reacting away in that 0.7% margin seems rather unlikely. I’d like to invite YouKnowMyName over here to explain it to us.

  11. Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

    Clark said: “What matters is how much of which isotopes get dispersed into which parts of the environment – a complex matter, but I agree with Busby; a core melting its way into the ground will be far less polluting than a core dispersed by an explosion.”

    There’s two things I can counter your statement with:

    Firstly, there was a massive explosion at Daiichi unit 3 on 14th March 2011. Here’s a video of it, and by way of perspective the vent stacks shown in this video are about 30 storeys tall…

    (People have argued about whether this explosion was from a build-up of gases, or an actual nuclear explosion. I believe it was neither, and was in fact a thermal explosion, as 100 tons of molten reactor core went down through the containment vessel and met the large body of water sitting beneath the reactor building).

    Secondly, the Daiichi plant was built on a river bed, and although the river was diverted, 1000 tons of water still flows beneath the plant every day (and out into the Pacific – where the currents take it to North America). In otherwords, Chernobyl was inland and did not sit on any large water table. Fukushima sits on a river bed on the coast, and all the isotopes are going directly into the Pacific. If interested see the post I made yesterday about what’s happening to the Pacific Ocean as a result of this.

    I’ll address the more technical parts of your post in a bit (I’ve had a hard day at the office). Feel free to invite YouKnowMyName over here. I’m always happy to talk about this stuff, although I’d rather do it somewhere where more people will see it; but from what you’ve said a lot of my Fukushima posts seem to get deleted over at Craig’s place!

  12. Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

    Oh, and good to hear that the demo went off ok. I believe Class War diverted from the march and headed down to Southwark, but apparently there weren’t any rucks. Even the Daily Mail didn’t say much about the march, and went into non-reporting mode!

  13. Clark says:

    Rob, I’m glad you’ve opened a new Fukushima thread, and I’ll continue there – but not tonight because I’m up too late already.

    Just to say for now, a core can either continue melting down or it can explode; doing both is pretty unlikely since an explosion is most likely to disperse the core so that it’s no longer critical. So I think the Fukushima explosions (I’ve seen videos of two) were hydrogen explosions above the cores, as a prompt-critical explosion and your water-body scenario would both have dispersed the core stopping the chain reaction, and we know that didn’t happened.

    I don’t think I’ve said anything relevant to deletions of comments over at Craig’s, but there do seem to be new moderators and they seem pretty active; probably better to continue on this site.

  14. Rob Godfrey Rob Godfrey says:

    Clark, quite a lot of my posts get removed by mods over at the other place. This new lot of mods seem to be a bit draconian! Suffice to say, whether you agree with my views or not, I do allow real free speech here. I don’t ban/delete anything on this blog, except the usual stuff like overt hate speech and calls for murder, etc.

    I know, it’s often a difficult one to call!

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