At the time and since, people around the world have wondered if failure of primary containment (the pressure vessels) occurred in any of the massed rank of the 3 failed reactors at Fukushima Daiichi.
A straight forward explanation is provided by the New York Times as follows:
Source: U.S. Experts Blame Fukushima 1 Explosions and Radiation on Failed Venting System
By PETER BEHR AND JOHN J. FIALKA of ClimateWire
New York Times,
Published: March 25, 2011
“The hydrogen explosions that shattered the tops of two reactor buildings at the Fukushima 1 nuclear complex followed the venting of hydrogen and steam by plant operators desperate to prevent a far greater disaster: a high-pressure explosion of the primary reactor containment shell and radioactivity release, a former senior U.S. nuclear official concludes.
“In an analysis shared with other U.S. nuclear experts Saturday, Lake Barrett, who led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s investigation of the Three Mile Island accident, describes the burning of zirconium cladding on fuel rods in the reactor cores after normal cooling operations failed because of a lack of electric power. A perilous buildup of hydrogen and steam followed within the concrete primary containment shell surrounding the reactor pressure vessel in units 1 and 3, and then in 2.
“To prevent a catastrophic primary containment system failure the operators vented the primary containment through the safety venting system trying to reject heat and excess gases up the 100 meter tall stacks at the plants,” he wrote. “Normally there are operable fans and filters to control this dangerous mixture, but there was no electrical power for the fans. So most, if not all, of this dangerous mix of hydrogen gas seeped into the reactor building in Units 1 and 3. The hydrogen, being lighter than air, mixed with air in the upper large refueling floor area.”
“Some source ignited the explosive mixture, blasting away the sheet metal roofs and sides of the top section of the outer secondary containment building in units 1 and 3, he said. Braving dangerous conditions, workers had time to remove a wall panel at the top of the unit 2 reactor building providing an exit for hydrogen, avoiding a similar roof-level explosion, he said. The damage to the buildings 1 and 3 and the opening in 2 created an exit route for radioactive releases from the spent fuel pools at the top of the reactor pools.
“Barrett’s analysis is shared by many officials and experts. A series of slides created by Matthias Braun, with the German office of Areva SA, the French nuclear reactor builder, depicts the sequence of events Barrett describes. It is also being widely shared among U.S. nuclear experts.” source: as above.
I conclude that the primary technological event which caused the explosions at Fukushima Daiichi was a FAILURE OF ELECTRICAL SUPPLY AT ALL 3 AFFECTED REACTORS.
Stripped of nuclear industry mythology it is clearly self evident that the energy output in terms of heat and pressure of each afflicted reactor was, to a lay person, huge. I can’t quantify by my own arithmetic how many joules (SI unit for energy) was produced by these reactors, all in “shut down”, another technical term. (Sure when you turn an electric kettle full water off because you want it off, the kettle’s water continues for some seconds to get hotter. As heat continues to transfer from metal to the water. But that is not nuclear decay heat. Decay heat is the result of a heat generation process called just that heat from nuclear decay. Which goes on all the time in a fission reactor when operating. So far humans cannot control radioactive decay. Humans can control nuclear fission but not nuclear decay. Fission produces many radioactive atoms inside the fuel rods. These radioactive atoms decay.
When humans shut down a reactor or design automatic systems to achieve that, only fission is halted by that shut down. Decay of the fission create radio active atoms in the fuel rods continues according to the rule of nuclear physics. Humans cannot yet control decay, Humans can only control fission.
Just look again at the title of Leo Szilard’s 1934 Patent Papers for fast and slow fission. The primary thing for which he claims a new invention in these patents is “An Improved Method for the Transmutation of the Chemical Elements”
For example, fission of uranium fission far far more radio strontium 89 is produced than the previous method of making that substance – The method for making Strontium 89 as invented by Stewart, Lawson and Corke in 1928 was to use a cyclotron such as the one E.O. Lawrence operated at the then Crocker Rad Lab at Berkeley campus of UCLA.
HUMANS CANNOT CONTROL RADIOACTIVE DECAY. REACTOR FUEL TRANSMUTES FROM URANIUM ETC INTO HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES WHICH ALL DECAY. AS THE FUEL IS USED, THE FUEL RODS BECOME FAR MORE RADIOACTIVE EXPERIENCING FAR MORE DECAYS PER SECOND AND GENERATING FAR MORE HEAT THAN THE DECAY OF URANIUM DOES
Because humans cannot control the decay of the spent fuel in a reactor we have to keep the spent fuel inside the reactor (and in the fuel pools) cool. (at the right and safe temperature.
The reactor pressure vessel is not like a kettle. The reactor pressure has several jobs. And some of these jobs demand that it does not vent to the biosphere. Thus the reactor pressure vessel is ordinarily like a kettle with a blocked spout. Such a kettle full of water and generating heat, would eventually failure.
The conventional explanation of what happened to the now useless reactors at Fukushima Daiichi is given above. That the method which allows for the emergency removal of pressure from a failed reactor, the opening of a special vent fitted with fans and contamination filters didn’t work properly.
Because there was no electricity present to power the fans which ensured that hydrogen generated by overheated fuel rods went up the vent pipe and not into the reactor buildings. So what happened? there were 2 explosions in the reactor buildings. This, according to nuclear expert Lake Barrett quoted above, allowed the release of radioactive materials present with the hydrogen in that moment and the destruction of the reactor roofs in two of the reactors allowed whatever venting of radio nuclides from the spent fuel pools direct access to the biosphere.
The earthquake killed the grid power to Fukushima Diiachi because 1. All other reactors on that grid had shut down due to the quake as well. 2. The quake destroyed SOME of the poles and wires which connected Fukushima Diiachi and its reactors to the grid. The tsunami destroyed emergency generators at Fukushima Daiichi. The tsunami destroyed the primary heat exchangers (radiators/condensers) located the sea. The tsunami destroyed the hardware and external piping for this primary cooling loop.
But each reactor still had 3 (THREE) Emergency Core Cooling systems. All separate from the destroyed primary cooling loops which the sea destroyed.
I have related the story of why and how it was known from 1969 (Ergen) and the 1970s (Lapp et. al, and the US public hearings – the era the US NRC calls that of the “ECCS Controversy”) that the ECCS system would fail (excess reactor pressure preventing the entry of fresh coolant) (any dunder head knows you cant top up a car radiator when the engine is and boiling and that venting the car radiator causes more boiling anyhow). To get round that technical objection the nuclear industry did two things: it sacked engineers who knew the facts (the GE three for instance) and it lied to government and to the people saying it would never come to that this side of a thousand years. 2011 – 1975 is not a thousand years it is only 36 years. Toshiba nuclear, prior to going bankrupt said, no worries, we can afford a Fukushima every 30 years.
The triggers which exposed the 36 year old industry errors include the quake and tsunami and whatever human mistakes which may have occurred during the disaster. And those mistakes made by ordinary people with a special bravery in those days I can easily overlook. Those people don’t need my forgive for they saved Japan at their own peril. As a youth I worked with people just as brave, people who remember the days when their mates died inches from them, while they survived. Soldiers. During the emergency, the Fukushima reactor emergency all the workers at the plants were soldiers fighting the enemy not of controlled and shut down fission, but of uncontrolled nuclear decay. That process of nuclear decay no human can switch off from any control room. Perhaps God can do it, but mere humans cannot do it.
Can you truly only half switch off a nuclear reactor? I suppose so. The reaction the reactor is named for is the fission reaction. OK its off. Heat is still going up, so is pressure, water becomes steam, and is useless as a coolant. So you need more water but you cannot easily put it in. Plus you have no power by which to open the electric powered emergency coolant plumbing valves, like a toilet that wont flush in a blackout.
I mentioned before that reactors continue to generate heat which is a form of energy. The unit of energy is called the joule. Those broken reactors were genereating lots of joules.
Heaps of joules.
Why is it beyond the wit of nuclear engineers to design an inherently safe reactor? Why must any reactor actually built and used from 1945 to today, including the AP1000 (for which now China owns the intellectual property)? For the AP1000 ECCS also can only run for 3 days (it is gravity fed). So it too is not inherently self cooling. It relies upon an internal supply of emergency coolant, which runs out. It relies upon gravity. If removed from external power and water for more than 3 days it too will fail.
How does one directly produce electrical power direct from radioactive decay?
The solution is blindingly obvious and has been to me for decades.
Convinced of their own superiority in all aspects of reactor design, the nuclear industry ever bothered to solve the riddle of why large reactors have to have external sources of electricity in order ensure that they do not fail.
The narrative of Fukushima Diiachi as provided by the nuclear industry and authorities is totally negligent.
If I were an American saying these things in 1970, I might well have been arrested under the terms of the US Atomic Energy Act as it existed both then and NOW.
I refer the nuclear industry to the year 1794 and to the invention made by Italian scientist Alessandro Volta. Fate gave the nuclear industry two chances to become aware of this invention because it was independently rediscovered in 1821 by Thomas Johann Seebeck.
The intelligent application of the Seebeck Effect to the problem of heat production via that uncontrollable radioactive decay in reactor cores and spent fuel pools would have prevented the Fukushima disaster.
The emergency electricity needed to power the cooling systems could have been the product of the direct conversion of heat into electricity by the Seebeck Effect built within each core and within each fuel rod.
The industry has had since 1934 or 1945 to be kind, to figure it out and it never has bothered to. Its cheaper for them to merely spew propaganda. Apparently. There is no clear explanation by the nuclear industry to ordinary people of why the emergency core cooling systems didn’t work at Fukushima Diiachi. The tsunami DID NOT TOUCH THEM. But TEPCO workers who were there remain worried that the quake did damage the ECCS of at least reactor number 1.
The Japanese Diet Investigation Committee was FALSELY prevented by TEPCO (by TEPCO’s own admission – Willacy, “Fukushima”) from visiting reactor 1 reactor building to check out reports of damage to one of its ECCS condensers.
How dumb does this nuclear industry think the ordinary people of the world are?
We are not dumb, we merely speak in other tongues to them. They refuse to speak plainly about the technical facts. Because they have a primal fear.
The industry refuses to admit openly that while it can control nuclear fission, it cannot control nuclear decay.
A self cooling heat generator is not a new concept. Let me use a plain language example from my youth.
Most machinery has an optimum, best, operating temperature.
For many years the original Volkswagen engine was air cooled by air flow generated by a fan which spun according to engine speed via a simple fan belt. But being air and oil cooled, not water cooled, that air cooled engine was extremely quick to over heat when the fan belt broke. A little red light would come on you could see clearly only at night. That little was not called “fan belt light”, it was called “ignition light” or generator light. For that was what the fan was bolted to. The generator. When the fan belt broke in an air cooled VW. The driver had a mere few minutes to stop the engine before excess heat severely damaged it.
VW set out to find a safer way of cooling the engine.
In the mid sixties a new improved air cooled engined VW was introduced. The Type 3. Instead of having the fan driven by a fan belt, the new engine had the cooling fan bolted directly to the engine’s crankshaft (output shaft). The driver only needed to know to keep the revs up under engine load conditions to properly keep the engine cool. Few did.
You can’t win them all. The world does not need air cooled Volkswagen petrol engines any more. It needs safe reliable electrical power.
The Seebeck Effect which, had it been incorporated into large power reactors from the 1960s onward, would have automatically and proportionally powered emergency core cooling systems by the direct conversion of reactor core heat into electricity. It never happened.
The photo voltaic effect directly converts sunlight into electrically. That effect could have kept the Fukushima emergency batteries charged had the nuclear industry chosen not to have stored them below sea level in the Fukushima basements.
You don’t need nuclear reactors to either deploy the Seebeck Effect or the Photo voltaic Effect as a means of power the Australian nation.
There are many emissions free way of generating power. Nuclear is NOT one of them, so why bother with it?
This week the South Australia government commenced its roll out of cheap batteries for the domestic storage of household generated power.
More and more of us ordinary people will become less and less reliant upon the electrical grid.
Meanwhile the safe operation of every nuclear reactor remains as reliant upon a robust and mother nature proof electrical grid as they did in the 1960s.
That’s nuclear progress for you. Mines, refining, enrichment, transport, deployment into reactors, fission, removal, storage, reprocessing, remanufacture, waste storage. Even if all goes well with nothing beyond localised industrial accidents (such as the industry proposes Fukushima’s disaster was – its what Ben Heard and Barry Brook describes after all ) why bother?
How the home lighting kero industry must have hated Westinghouse and Edison!!!
How much nuclear industry hate hydro, solar, wind, biomass, hydrogen. The competition is increasing and improving and nuclear has at most 20 years max in order to make a sale to Australians. It knows it is running out of time.
Even if the Australian people said yes to nuclear power today, such a reactor would not go online until, at the earliest, 2038. And by that time, independent scientists, journalists and officials would be allowed to enter reactor 1 in order see what impact, if any, the quake actually had on the pipework and condensers for the ECCS.
And it won’t be until then that we for sure will know what happened there.
Volvos are safe cars. There is no such thing as a safe car.
This reactor is safe. There is no such thing as a safe reactor. Because humans can only control fission, humans cannot control the decay of the copious and concentrated decay and its attendant heat in a reactor core or spent fuel rod. Apart from using fragile external means by which the excess heat is removed. Decay though cannot be stopped. It is impossible to stop.
Only half of the heat producing processes present in a reactor can be stopped.
A solar panel can be controlled by covering it. However, in case of domestic house fires, solar panels are hazard to fire fighters. Water and power don’t mix.
Something triggered the hydrogen explosions at Fuk.
I wonder which type of emergency the CFS firefighters would rather attend.
time for a song