US to start sending planes to evacuate Americans from Japan; Update: NRC says no danger to US territory from radiation

posted at 10:12 am on March 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Americans who want to leave Japan will shortly get flights home, courtesy of the US government.  The evacuation will be entirely voluntary, but the signal it sends isn’t exactly one of hope:

Japanese military helicopters and fire trucks doused an overheating nuclear plant with water on Thursday while the United States said it was sending aircraft to help Americans worried about spreading radiation leave the country.

Engineers tried to run power from the main grid to start water pumps needed to cool two reactors and spent fuel rods considered to pose the biggest risk of spewing radioactivity into the atmosphere.

U.S. officials expressed alarm about leaking radiation but took pains not to criticize Japan’s government, which appears overwhelmed by the crisis. Washington’s actions indicated a divide with its close ally about the preciousness of the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Right now, the crisis teams are trying to evaluate how well the water dumps and water cannons have worked in cooling the reactors, especially #3, which contains plutonium.  As those evaluations continue, TEPCO continues its rush to connect power back to the station to get cooling systems back on line:

The operator of Japan’s troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant said it had started work on Thursday to connect outside power cables to the plant and that electricity could be connected on Thursday.

The power may be connected as early as the next few hours.  Japan will connect reactor 2 to power first, because it still “has a roof” and workers can connect power to internal systems more effectively.

CNN has this report on the calm patience of the Japanese people in the midst of this crisis:

Andrew Malcolm offers his experiences from his years in Japan to explain this, which should be read in full, but here is his conclusion:

Watching the latest quake victims interviewed by reporters, vivid memories of that previous disaster rushed back. I had come upon an old woman rummaging through wreckage. Yes, she said, nodding politely with each sentence. They had lost everything. The house used to be right here. Nothing left. And a daughter missing as well.

I had been overwhelmed that day, as I am again today, with the unimaginable scale of such cataclysm. Beyond even tornadoes. But then I became even more stunned by the response of those Japanese people, their strength and stoicism. No self-pity. No wailing, whining. No blaming government. No victimhood. No what-will-we-ever-do? In fact, the less they said, the stronger they seemed.

Then, the Japanese farm woman bowed deeply, mumbling something. Sorry, I asked, what did you say?

Turns out, the newly homeless woman was apologizing for being unable to serve me tea.

In the US, NBC spent time on Today discussing worst-case scenarios, and discussed the uncertainties of the implications of exposed fuel rods in reactor 4. In the end, the best one can get from this is that no one here really knows much about what’s going on in Japan:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Update: The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission tries to tamp down concerns over effects of the radiation as it gets dispersed across the Pacific:

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission sought to tamp down American fears of nuclear fallout, stressing Thursday there was no present radioactive risk to US territory from Japan’s quake-stricken atomic reactor.

“All the available information continues to indicate Hawaii, Alaska, the US Territories and the US West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity,” the NRC said.

The statement follows a day of near-panic buying of iodide pills in the United States, notably in California and Hawaii, the Pacific island state some 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) east of Japan.

It’s a little late, but a welcome, reminder that we’re more likely to absorb more radiation flying across the US in a few hours than we’ll ever see from Japan’s nuclear crisis.


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What, no ferries?

Cindy Munford on March 17, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Cindy Munford on March 17, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Beat me too it…

NotCoach on March 17, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Cindy! Beat me to it!

catmman on March 17, 2011 at 10:19 AM

Is it really a evacuation or rescue of the government send you a bill for the ticket?

catmman on March 17, 2011 at 10:20 AM

No self-pity.

Self-pity would be seen as shameful by traditional Japanese.

Count to 10 on March 17, 2011 at 10:21 AM

They’ll be billed for the planes, right?

rogerb on March 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Unfortunately the “aircraft” are the same plastic toy helicopters from the White House gift shop that Michelle gave to the British prime minister’s children.

All the real airplanes are currently in use to cart PBHO’s entourage from Rio to Hawaii and back again. Sorry, you will just have to get used to glowing in the dark.

Bishop on March 17, 2011 at 10:23 AM

A public note to AP and Ed:

I want to express my thanks for allowing a free exchange of ideas and opinions here at HA. It takes guts and integrity to allow the differences of opinion that you do. Particularly with you two personally. Not all conservative blog sites are this way. At least one has an ever shifting ‘standard’ where comments are edited, redacted, posted then later removed, or not posted at all- including some of my own- based on the whim or prejudices of censors, even though the comments themselves violate no standard of decency or call for revolution, violence etc. HA has allowed all my comments to be posted, some of which on secession, Lincoln and “The Late Unpleasantness” with which I know many vehemently disagree. So thanks, AP & Ed. You are real men of integrity. (That sounds like a good concept for an ad campaign.)

JimP on March 17, 2011 at 10:24 AM

For the LAST time – they ALL contain Plutonium.

Every reactor on the planet contains Plutonium. There is nothing special about unit 3. NOTHING

deadrody on March 17, 2011 at 10:24 AM

That article at the LATimes link is really good. I recommend it highly.

Mord on March 17, 2011 at 10:25 AM

But then I became even more stunned by the response of those Japanese people, their strength and stoicism. No self-pity. No wailing, whining. No blaming government. No victimhood. No what-will-we-ever-do?

When put in context with the behavior of the Japanese during the final phases of the war in the Pacific during WWII, this all makes sense. The Japanese were utterly beaten, driven back and finally, had to have two of their cities leveled before they even came to the surrender table. Even then, they were reluctant to do so. They have this mindset of can-do, we can work through any problem and the evidence of that is shown in their cars, the way they approach problems, fight wars and now –fight disaster. They are stoic, almost to a fault, and I think we ought to see the information they put out regarding their reactor status in this light. They will continue working this issue, no matter what, and will not, under any circumstances, declare it a lost cause, just as they did in WWII. that’s my 2cent.

ted c on March 17, 2011 at 10:27 AM

As Michael Crichton wrote twenty years ago, Japan is all about fixing the problem and not the blame.

The immortal words of Connor-san: “Their way is better.”

Well, maybe, maybe not…

But also the immortal words of Connor-san: “Remember, fundamentally different.”

Vatican Watcher on March 17, 2011 at 10:30 AM

Americans traveling home will be subjected to more irradiation from body scanners prior to boarding than they are likely to experience if they stay put. Not that that fact would change anything.

ted c on March 17, 2011 at 10:31 AM

ted c on March 17, 2011 at 10:27 AM

+++

Limerick on March 17, 2011 at 10:31 AM

As Michael Crichton wrote twenty years ago, Japan is all about fixing the problem and not the blame.

great point. Reminds me of ‘Apollo 13′ where the guy played by Ed Harris (Gene Kranz) calms everyone down after the spacecraft goes haywire says “Work the problem people, work the problem.”

probably the best representation of crisis management that I’ve ever seen in a movie.

ted c on March 17, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Leadership.

ted c on March 17, 2011 at 10:42 AM

“Crisis” hmmm… where have I hear that word?

faraway on March 17, 2011 at 10:42 AM

Plant 3 readings are claimed to be steady, but it looks like a new reading has not been taken.

JAIF reports a reading of 646.2 micro sieverts per hr as of 22:00 3/17 Japan time.

16:00 J time 3/17 the reading was 646.2 ms/h
9:00 J time 3/17 1472 ms/h
22:00? J time 3/16 1937 ms/h

G. Charles on March 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Decision Making.

ted c on March 17, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Evacuation? C’mon, sounds a bit exaggerated to me…

http://park18.wakwak.com/~weather/geiger_index.html

Geiger counter in Tokyo. Up to 60 is considered completely normal. Right now it’s just over 20.

madne0 on March 17, 2011 at 10:46 AM

“All the available information continues to indicate Hawaii, Alaska, the US Territories and the US West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity,” the NRC said.

Great, just great. All this prep for the Zombie Apocalypse Fantasy and now nothing.

What a bunch of bull…

Bishop on March 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM

If Chernobyl happened in Europe today they would be evacuating all Europeans to Africa and the US….

albill on March 17, 2011 at 10:50 AM

I understand about the radiation fears but does anyone stop to think that the U.S. getting people out might have something to do with the facts on the ground? Little food, little water, communication problems, transportation problems, winter weather, general lack of other supplies. I might want to GTHO just for that forget the nuke problem.

hboulware on March 17, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Great, just great. All this prep for the Zombie Apocalypse Fantasy and now nothing.

What a bunch of bull…

Bishop on March 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM

What? No zombie hunting? Dang it!

ladyingray on March 17, 2011 at 10:53 AM

It’s a little late, but a welcome, reminder that we’re more likely to absorb more radiation flying across the US in a few hours than we’ll ever see from Japan’s nuclear crisis.

More importantly, who does the Coward-in-Chief think will win the women’s NCAA tournament?

rbj on March 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Best Administration, evah!

GarandFan on March 17, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Good review here of current nuclear generation designs and an effort at tamping down anti-nuclear hysteria: The Nuke Scare

“Clearly, to imply that the Fukushima accidents are representative of current developments in nuclear power is similar to claiming that car safety has remained unchanged since the Model A. This is how the Greens want it — keep in mind that goal of the environmental movement is not to develop new sources of power, but to accustom Americans to far lower levels of energy use than prevail today.”

slickwillie2001 on March 17, 2011 at 10:56 AM

ted c on March 17, 2011 at 10:27 AM

Yeah, but does everyone get a flat screen and some smokin speakers?

Cindy Munford on March 17, 2011 at 10:56 AM

There is nothing special about unit 3. NOTHING

deadrody on March 17, 2011 at 10:24 AM

This is just the type of Right-Wing hate-filled rhetoric which helps no one!

ALL of the reactors are special, in their own unique way!

Don’t you understand that? Or are you simply a bully?!

catmman on March 17, 2011 at 10:58 AM

My friends in Tokyo left before the nuclear thing even became a thing. Transportation was down, school was closed, power was iffy, after shocks were unnerving, grocery stores were low on food. They were frightened by how horrible the earthquake was, and spring break is next week anyway.
So people who can leave the area for a while are probably wise to do so.

MayBee on March 17, 2011 at 10:58 AM

I live in So Cal I’m not worried.

Hollywood is worried about the radiation from Japan, but they yet don’t care about Botox injections and possilbe side affects?

If fact, I think you would get more radiation from a year’s worth of smoking. And don’t actors smoke, drink, and use drugs as a higher percentage then the average Americans.

People need prespective.

Oil Can on March 17, 2011 at 11:02 AM

catmman on March 17, 2011 at 10:58 AM

LOL!!!!

Cindy Munford on March 17, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Let’s hope those planes going in to get US citizens will be loaded with food, water and warm blankets, clothing and medical supplies for the Japanese people.

dragondrop on March 17, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Don’t worry, the Surgeon General has your backs, Californians. Sort of…

kingsjester on March 17, 2011 at 11:21 AM

If there is no danger, why are administration officials not pleased with how the Japanese are handling this crisis?

The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing…

SSDD…

ladyingray on March 17, 2011 at 11:21 AM

Reading the MIT site on the Japanese reactor problems and radiation in general is highly recommended before posting more articles with headlines like this. It can be found at mitnse.com

secant on March 17, 2011 at 11:42 AM

I don’t care what they say, you’ll have to pry my iodine out of my cold dead fingers. :0) I happen to like my thyroid.

jjjen on March 17, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Reading the MIT site on the Japanese reactor problems and radiation in general is highly recommended before posting more articles with headlines like this. It can be found at mitnse.com

secant on March 17, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Thanks for the link. I feel slightly less bewildered.

ElectricPhase on March 17, 2011 at 11:50 AM

If there is no danger, why are administration officials not pleased with how the Japanese are handling this crisis?

The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing…

Simple. When there’s a leadership vacuum at the top, everyone else starts acting like they are in charge to fill the void. That’s why we get Obama’s incompetent Surgeon General telling people to stock up on iodine tablets while another official says not to worry. With the Boss on vacation in Rio (again!) nobody knows what the official line is, so one official expresses “worry” (which is safe, it’s always easy to be “worried” when you don’t want to commit to anything) and another says “evacuate!” as if people hundreds of miles from the reactors are at risk, and yet another will say “remain calm.” Pathetic. Truly awful when the Japanese need to know we have their backs, and this looks more like rats escaping a sinking ship than an ally aiding a long time friend.

EasyEight on March 17, 2011 at 11:53 AM

If there is no danger, why are administration officials not pleased with how the Japanese are handling this crisis?

This is rhetorical, right? Of course this administration isn’t pleased by the way the Japanese are handling the crisis. There’s no panic, no chaos, no demands for increased government interference in their lives. The Obama administration is simply appalled that the Japanese are wasting a perfectly good crisis.

Pattosensei on March 17, 2011 at 11:55 AM

JimP on March 17, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Dude?

You going to write that in ever blog posting here?

Geez.

Patrick on March 17, 2011 at 12:09 PM

Pattosensei on March 17, 2011 at 11:55 AM

If you don’t know that that was a rhetorical question, you need to use Google advanced search and look at my posts.

ladyingray on March 17, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Patrick on March 17, 2011 at 12:09 PM

I think it is very nice.

Cindy Munford on March 17, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Ok, I’m outta here for this morning. I’m off for breakfast with about 20 other old retired ‘Nukes’. Gee wonder what we’ll be talking about today?

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 7:22 AM

I keep wondering what Oldnuke has found out at breakfast….

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Japanese behave conservatively.
Analogies:
Japanese after tragedy = post tea party rally litter
Haitians after tragedy = post democrat rally litter

It is one thing when individuals take care of the collective. It is a very different thing when individuals expect the collective to take care of them.

esnap on March 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM

HA has allowed all my comments to be posted, some of which on secession, Lincoln and “The Late Unpleasantness” with which I know many vehemently disagree. So thanks, AP & Ed. You are real men of integrity. (That sounds like a good concept for an ad campaign.)

JimP on March 17, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Heh. Don’t get all emotional JimP.

Maybe they enjoy watching the mole come out of the hole to get whacked.

That the mole keeps doing so indicates the mole suffers from Battered Mole Syndrome.

rukiddingme on March 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Opps

Radiation detectors at Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports were triggered when passengers from flights that started in Tokyo passed through customs, the New York Post reported.

Tests at Dallas-Fort Worth indicated low radiation levels in travelers’ luggage and in the aircraft’s cabin filtration system; no passengers were quarantined, the newspaper said.

Details of the incident at O’Hare weren’t immediately clear, the Post said.

WoosterOh on March 17, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Knowing the incompetence of the Obama administration, they will probably arrange for a ferry out of the port of Nagasaki (about 500 miles from the accident) to Korea. All you have to do is get to Nagasaki and bring cash. Credit cards not accepted.

simkeith on March 17, 2011 at 1:17 PM

NRC says no danger to US territory from radiation

Uh, has the NRC been paying attention to what is going on at O’Hare Field in Chicago in the last couple of hours?

pilamaye on March 17, 2011 at 1:18 PM

A complete record of all nuclear explosions. up to 1998. The number is astounding when you think most people had no idea this was going on, including me. I guess the fall out just passed us by.

sonnyspats1 on March 17, 2011 at 1:22 PM

pilamaye on March 17, 2011 at 1:18 PM

Anyone know how high the levels of radiation have to be to trigger the equipment? People on HA have educated us that everyone picks up background radiation on flights so the setting has to be higher than that dosage? otherwise the machine is useless.

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 17, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Honestly I think this should have been done BEFORE the nuke plants became headline news?

Why do you ask?

Well the world’s 3rd largest economy in one of its smaller (by landmass) and larger (by population density of that landmass) nations just had the 4th largest quake ever recorded (9.0).

Oh yea and then they had the tidal wave from hell that knocked out as much or more than the initial quake. Plus all the aftershocks.

Infrastructure is shot all to hell.
Food, medicine and shelter are non-existent for many NATIVE Japanese not to mention foreigners doing business or living in Japan.

If people want to stay and help with relief efforts by all means do so, but otherwise get the heck out and let the resources you would consume be directed to those in need.

My .02

SgtSVJones on March 17, 2011 at 1:31 PM

I don’t trust what the government says or what the news media says. if I were in Japan and didn’t perform some type of essential service I would get out for numerous reasons.

ldbgcoleman on March 17, 2011 at 1:56 PM

SgtSVJones on March 17, 2011 at 1:31 PM

I said that 2 nights ago to Limerick and he/she was quite gracious about thinking about my POV.

IMO, we need the US army to send it’s biomass (TIGR/POWR) unit to Japan and start getting electricity/heat to the people and help cleaning up the wood debris.

Also, we took the metal from the WTC towers and made a beautiful, deadly boat to our enemies out of that wreckage. Japan needs to get it’s people collecting every scrap of metal and figure out what THEY are going to make out of it.

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 17, 2011 at 2:15 PM

Is California still US territory?

lm10001 on March 17, 2011 at 2:47 PM

I keep wondering what Oldnuke has found out at breakfast….

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Ok, here’s the consensus from breakfast with a bunch of “Old Nukes” this morning.
1. The media is full of Siht.
2. The Japanese are doing everything they can to mitigate the event.
3. BWRs suck (take this with a grain of salt. We are all PWR people.)
4. Unless you’re on the ground at the plant you can’t possibly know what’s going on.
5. The surgeon general of the US is an idiot and should be placed under a gag order.
6. Anyone buying iodine tablets here in the US because of this is wasting money.
7. Anyone actually taking iodine tablets here in the US because of this is acting “stupidly”.
8. Best we can figure out 1 sievert = 100 rem, but we had to use this because none of us had ever used that unit of measurement. We had an ex HP supervisor do the calculation though and had it independently verified by another ex HP supervisor who holds two doctorate degrees, so we’re pretty sure that’s right. His nickname, by the way, is Doctor Doctor.
9. Exceeding two design basis accidents in the same day is very bad and we wish all our Japanese brethren the very best.
10. To the best of our combined recollection our spent fuel pool would have had a 30 day window under worst case scenario (hot core max load) before it boiled down to the point of exposed fuel. Don’t put too much faith on this number since a lot of anal extraction went into it. The designs of the plants are considerably different too.
11. We all agreed, more or less, that whether or not placing the spent fuel pool above the reactor was a good design that at this point it’s moot. That’s where it is and that’s what they’ve got to deal with.
12. We got 100% agreement and consensus on one thing. The present administration is less than useless, is actually dangerous and our country is, at the present time, completely without leadership. Of course none of our 2 1/2 liberal members was present to voice a dissent. Probably a good thing too!
13. The barter system is well under way here. I paid for a friend’s breakfast in exchange for two boxes of .38 spl +P JHP rounds. I feel I came out on the better end of that deal. Now if I can just talk him out of that Walther PPK that’s he’s been clinging to for years.
14. The event in Japan is very serious. It is definitely going to be on the level of TMI, probably worse. Nowhere near Chernobyl. Our best guess is that it’s going to be a localized event. Contamination may spread over a fairly large area but it’s probably going to be low level and not health threatening, at least outside the immediate plant area. Again because of the lack of good information this is only a guess and should be treated as such. Remember there is a lot of highly radioactive material there that has to be dealt with. The Japanese are doing the best they can under the circumstances.

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Anyone know how high the levels of radiation have to be to trigger the equipment? People on HA have educated us that everyone picks up background radiation on flights so the setting has to be higher than that dosage? otherwise the machine is useless.

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 17, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Don’t know for sure, probably wouldn’t be able to find out anyway since it would deal with security but if they’re using standard portal monitor type equipment they are extremely sensitive. When I had a nuclear stress test a few years ago I could not even approach ours without setting them off. I had to decay for about 6 weeks before I could gain access to the plant without a bunch of extra paperwork and checks.

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Same consensus here in Calgary. Lots of other folks thinking OMG! CATasstrofee!!??!!! though. They all watch the Canadian TV or BBC. The nukes here corroborate, and double down on, number 1, and agree 100% with 2, 4 thru 7, 9, 11, 14. Im good for a box of shells anytime you are in town in Houston. Too tough for me to buy ammo in Canada.

I agree with 12.

Last reported levels at site boundaries were between 2 and 3 milliremper hr. Looks like things are truly winding down there and they are getting a handle on their problem.I hope they get some food and sleep soon. Not to mention electrical power.

Your a good YOUNGSTER to work with. Have a great weekend.

Subsunk

Subsunk on March 17, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Thank you.

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 17, 2011 at 5:27 PM

Your a good YOUNGSTER to work with. Have a great weekend.

Subsunk

Subsunk on March 17, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Hahaha, I’m retired Sub, every day is a a good weekend and evey day above ground is better than the alternative :-)

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Subsunk, Oldnuke. . .

Thanks so much for your input and knowledge.

I can’t disagree with you about any of your points. I haven’t checked — but wasn’t the radiation release from TMI almost trivial? If that’s the case — then yeah, this would already be worse than the TMI incident.

Just wondering. . . do you think that maybe the reason they’re having problems with that particular cooling pond . . . .is the earthquake damaged it and it’s leaking?

Narniaman on March 17, 2011 at 5:38 PM

Just wondering. . . do you think that maybe the reason they’re having problems with that particular cooling pond . . . .is the earthquake damaged it and it’s leaking?

Narniaman on March 17, 2011 at 5:38 PM

Very good question. We talked about that very point this morning. It’s quite possible but like everything in this situation the only people who know for sure are the guys on the ground. The rest of us are just going to have to wait for the after accident reviews to find out.

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 6:05 PM

— but wasn’t the radiation release from TMI almost trivial?

Narniaman on March 17, 2011 at 5:38 PM

Well trivial isn’t a term that we would have used for PC reasons but…yeah pretty much.

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Last reported levels at site boundaries were between 2 and 3 milliremper hr. Looks like things are truly winding down there and they are getting a handle on their problem.I hope they get some food and sleep soon. Not to mention electrical power.

Your a good YOUNGSTER to work with. Have a great weekend.

Subsunk

Subsunk on March 17, 2011 at 5:24 PM

I had an interesting conversation today with an old acquaintance that should know. He mentioned that there was 18ft of water in the Aux buildings. No wonder nothing was working, even with pony diesels. I guess that’s what a wall of water 2 ft above your design basis will do. Hope they get some kind of real power restored so they can pump out and dry out.

They seem to be doing a great job given the circumstances.

whbates on March 17, 2011 at 7:23 PM

For the LAST time – they ALL contain Plutonium.

Every reactor on the planet contains Plutonium. There is nothing special about unit 3. NOTHING

deadrody on March 17, 2011 at 10:24 AM

I believe you may be mistaken. The unit 3 reactor is using a fuel called MOX (for which it was not originally designed). MOX is mixture of fuels including plutonium and is more radio active. Where the other reactors in the complex are light water reactors, which are low enriched uranium only.

I could be off base here, but that is my recollection from my engineering school days.

Found this article that has some current information about No. 3 and MOX, which explains that a fire in No. 3 is more dangerous:
http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/mox_reactor_coolant_loss

JeffVader on March 17, 2011 at 8:58 PM

Found this article that has some current information about No. 3 and MOX, which explains that a fire in No. 3 is more dangerous:

“A shutdown of coolant to a reactor loaded with MOX fuel make the reactor much more difficult to control tha a reactor loaded with usual uranium fuel,” wrote Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of Russia’s Ecodefence, in his regular updates on ***anti-atom.ru, noting that a disaster at the No. 3 unit would lead to plutonium fallout.

JeffVader on March 17, 2011 at 8:58 PM

Somehow I’m not sure I’d hang my hat on information provided by Valdimir of Ecodefence at (anti_atom.ru). He provided only opinion and zero facts. Him saying it doesn’t make it a fact.

whbates on March 17, 2011 at 9:17 PM

I believe you may be mistaken. The unit 3 reactor is using a fuel called MOX (for which it was not originally designed). MOX is mixture of fuels including plutonium and is more radio active. Where the other reactors in the complex are light water reactors, which are low enriched uranium only.

JeffVader on March 17, 2011 at 8:58 PM

No Jeff, he’s right. The term light water reactor means that the moderator is plain old water. Highly purified but still just plain old water. All the reactors at this site are light water reactors. The fuel in all these reactors is U238 enriched with U235. In one of them there is also some Pu239 in the enrichment at the beginning of cycle. That’s the one with MOX fuel. MOX means mixed oxide. Without MOX enrichment the power in the core at the beginning of the fuel cycle is produced mostly from the fission of U235 as the core ages U235 decreases but some U238, by absorbing a neutron, gets converted to PU239. By the end of the fuel cycle approximately 10% of reactor thermal power will be coming from the fission of PU239. Cores that use MOX enrichment will have a higher percentage of power produced from the fission of Pu239 at beginning of cycle than a non MOX core. But all commercial power reactors in the world that have U238 in their fuel assemblies will have some significant percentage of Pu239 after being taken critical the first time.

Oldnuke on March 17, 2011 at 9:50 PM

I’ll post this here but looks like this thread is dying so doubt many will read it. I asked a friend what the required minimum decay time was before transferring a spent fuel assembly to a dry storage cask. He was the supervisor in charge of our dry cask project from it’s inception until he retired. Here’s his reply.

We hold them for five years at a minimum, but they could go in before that based on initial enrichment and “burn” history. The big thing is that waiting until the last minute to go to cask storage all the pools here (in this country) are near full , so you have lots to choose from, but at the rare places like NAPS we uprated the core and consequently the fuel such that we had to change to the new style (horizontal) casks.Most people thought the new casks were required because they are direct shippable but really they are way better than the bolted lid ones. They are analyzed for 5%+ enrichment and 60,000+ mwd/mtu exposure.

Oldnuke on March 18, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Yes, this thread is about dead and falling off the page on Hot Air but here is the latest from NEI just for an FYI:

Latest NEI Updates
**NOTE: Refresh your Web browser periodically to ensure you receive the latest updates appearing on this page.**

UPDATE AS OF 1:50 P.M. EDT, FRIDAY, MARCH 18:
NEI has uploaded two new videos to its YouTube channel. In the first, Alex Flint, NEI’s senior vice president of governmental affairs, welcomes President Obama’s effort to unify safety lessons from the Japan accident. The second features Flint discussing lawmakers’ questions about U.S. safety measures following events in Japan.

UPDATE AS OF 11:20 A.M. EDT, FRIDAY, MARCH 18:
Reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are in stable condition, with workers continuing to provide seawater cooling into the reactors. Containment integrity is believed to be intact on reactors 1, 2 and 3, and containment building pressures are elevated but are within design limits.

Site radiation doses have been decreasing since March 16. Radiation dose rates are fluctuating based on some of the relief operations, such as adding cooling water to the used fuel pools. Recent readings at the plant boundary are about 2 millirem per hour. Radiation dose rates at reactor 3 range between 2,500 and 5,000 millirem per hour.

The Japanese Self-Defense Force restarted cooling water spray into the Unit 3 reactor building and spent fuel pool at around 1 a.m. EDT on March 18. Plans are to spray 50 tons of water on the reactor 3 reactor building/spent fuel pool using seven fire-fighting trucks.

A diesel generator is supplying power to reactors 5 and 6. TEPCO is installing high voltage cables from a nearby transmission line to reactors 1 and 2. Once electricity supply is re-established, priority will be given to restoring power to reactor heat removal systems and cooling water pumps. Workers are seeking to install electrical cables to reactors 3 and 4 components in about two days.

Fukushima Daini

All four reactors at Fukushima Daini remain shut down with normal cooling being maintained using residual heat removal systems.

Daiichi Accident Rated 5 on International Event Scale

New International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) ratings have been issued for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Reactor core damage at the Daiichi reactors 2 and 3 caused by a loss of cooling function has resulted in a rating of 5 on the seven-point scale.

The loss of cooling and water supply functions in the spent fuel pool of reactor 4 was rated a 3, or “serious” incident. The loss of cooling functions in the reactors 1, 2 and 4 of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant has led to a rating of 3.

The rating for the Chernobyl accident was 7, or a “major accident” on the INES scale. The Three Mile Island accident was 5, or an “accident with wider consequences.” For more information on INES, see the IAEA’s website and this IAEA leaflet.

1 to 2 MR/hr at the OCA site boundry is great considering four units in some stage of trouble. 2.5R to 5R at reactor 3 is pretty hot but managable and logistics seem to be improving. If there is an SFP in trouble, it seems that it is unit 3.

whbates on March 18, 2011 at 3:24 PM