Home > 2011 Japan Quake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Crisis > Stability? How Can I Tell?

Stability? How Can I Tell?

March 20th, 2011

When, exactly, will we be able to tell if the nuclear situation in Fukushima is no longer something to worry about? One article in the British media, which also is repentant about western media coverage, uses the term “stable” in the headline, but that comes from this graf in the story:

The IAEA seems to accept that things are settling down: a senior official at the agency tells Reuters that the situation is now “reasonably stable”.

There’s a huge difference between “stable” and “reasonably stable,” when “meltdown” was everyone’s guess just a few days ago.

So, what, will a siren blow when it’s actually stable? Will the return of toilet paper and open gas stations herald stability? Let’s get our signs straight on this.

  1. Troy
    March 20th, 2011 at 15:58 | #1

    Experts differ on what has to happen with the Unit 4’s fuel storage pool.

    According to wikipedia it is outputting 2MW of heat — that’s the heat output of a 3000HP diesel engine.

    Until we know what is going on there there can be no stability in this situation.

    Representative Hattori has a new update:


    (he’s a JSP member and IIRC they’ve always been against nukes)

    Says unit 3 has 2.3m of core uncovered by water — this is the special core that is ~10% plutonium.

    Primary containment vessel pressure is 340kPa — 49PSI. Design limit is 61PSI.

    NHK is running news that they are going to have to vent. That is bad enough, but HOW they are going to vent is the tricky bit since Unit 3 was the one with the really massive explosion. A shot by TEPCO last week:


    shows that the ductwork was rather affected, to use the term loosely.

    If they just vent steam it’s going to really dirty the environment. This is what really pisses me off by the hundreds of people online trying to minimize this situation as in control or can’t be another Chernobyl.


    If we get a pressure explosion on Unit 3, sure, the cloud of 500 tons of plutonium released probably won’t affect Tokyo that much. It will all be within 5-30km or whatever. But what these clowns fail to understand is that this is a situation with MULTIPLE reactors in failure mode, and if Units 1 to 3 didn’t exist Unit 4 would be a massive risk on par with Chernobyl given the 276 tonnes of radioactive material being housed on what’s left of this building’s top floor.

    If Unit 3 somehow poisons the local environment how in hell will anyone be able to address the problems with Unit 4? Or even Units 1 & 2 for that matter, which aren’t really out of the woods yet either.

  2. Troy
    March 20th, 2011 at 16:31 | #2

    From the article:

    “Japanese officials continued to contend that water remained in the No 4 pool and the situation there was less serious than that at No 3.”

    This may be true but only because of the 900 tons of plutonium housed in unit 3’s storage pool. If that goes, goodbye site as mentioned above.

    “Nonetheless, levels even adjacent to the stricken reactors have seldom been above 4 millisievert/hr”

    This is a lie. TEPCO has never publicized the dosage on the ground next to the reactors, and the press AFAIK hasn’t asked. The measure here:


    is at “事務本館北” which is about 500m to the north of Unit 1 IIRC.

    “Certainly the cores at Fukushima seem likely to come through in much better condition than the one at Three Mile Island did, offering even less chance of dangerous radioisotopes being emitted in significant quantities.”

    This was written on the 18th??? There are FOUR plants in failure mode and THREE of them have already “blown up” to some degree.

    They have been injecting seawater for almost a week now, which has impurities which become radioactive. All 3 active cores have been outside coolant for hours if not days, severely damaging the casing and allowing the nasty stuff to mix in the containment vessels.

    “Consider the Three Mile Island (TMI) incident, where 10 to 20 tons of the nuclear reactor melted down, slumped to the bottom of the reactor vessel, and initiated the dreaded China Syndrome, where the reactor core melts and burns its way into the earth … In the real world, the molten mass froze when it hit the colder reactor vessel, and stopped its downward journey at five-eights of an inch through the five-inch thick vessel wall.”

    Unit 3 has 90 tons of MOX that runs hotter than TMI’s reactor, and half of it has been outside of coolant.

    “It is highly unlikely that used fuel temperatures could reach the point where melting could occur, although some damage to the cladding cannot be ruled out.”

    This is the one thing I have to respect from this link. Some experts say the spent fuel pools pose a risk if the cooling coverage can’t be restored and maintained, but I can’t begin to say who’s right on this.

    ” The Nos 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Daiichi may never produce power again – though this is not certain – but the likelihood is that Nos 4 5 and 6 will return to service behind a bigger tsunami barrier”

    WHAT THE FUCK. Unit 4 looks like it got worked over by a flight of B-29s!

    The 5 & 6 facility is doing well, but the amount of contamination on this site will probably result it in being abandoned.

    It’s “not certain” that Unit 3 will not come back online? Which planet does this expert live on?


    “All other forms of infrastructure – transport, housing, industries – have failed the people in and around them comprehensively, leading to deaths most probably in the tens of thousands. “

    More bullshit. Japan got through the EQ as about as well as could be expected. It was the massive tsunami that wiped everything out up north, where people were living in dangerous coastal lowlands and valleys that focused the strength of the onrushing tsunami waters.

    This has GOT to be paid propaganda, ghost-written by industry insiders spinning the situation like tops, like that other piece you linked to recently.

    I don’t think things are going to get worse from here, but I do think there’s been a lot of damage to the ecology of Fukushima and Japan’s coastal fisheries, and the situation of Unit 4 is still completely uncontrolled.

    This is not to say it’s out of control, but it’s unknown what happens next with it and the energy it is outputting.

  3. Troy
    March 20th, 2011 at 17:08 | #3

    Correction — not 900 tons of plutonium in Unit 3’s storage pool, ~900 kg, and there’s “only” ~9 tons of plutonium in the reactor core not 500.

    Watching the Japanese people comment on these press conferences via twitter is cracking me up:


    (The joke is tadachi-ni always seems to accompany “the radioactive contamination is harmless” and the fact that there’s that 900kg of plutonium sitting on Unit 3’s roof waiting to get ejected into the environment.

    March 20th, 2011 at 17:31 | #4

    Luis, I see your point. A few years back my wife was in a coma with cerebral malaria for three weeks in the hospital. At one point the physician told me that she was “stable”. I wondered what it meant but it sounded good under the circumstances.

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