Desperate Measures

Heard this morning that helicopters are being used to drop sea water onto the stricken reactors at Fukushima. This looks like desperation to me. A back of the envelope calculation suggests there’s no way they can get enough water in that way, and it’s exposing the pilots to radiation risk too.

I’ve been looking at the layout of the plant I posted yesterday

Notice that it’s right on the coast, with the sea just metres away from the reactors. It seems to me that what they could do is get hold of some ships (e.g. fire-fighting vessels) with heavy duty pumping equipment, get them right up to the plant, get the pumps working and then get all the crews the hell out of there.

Can anyone see a reason why that wouldn’t work?

And while I’m at it, over on Cosmic Variance there’s a pretty clear explanation of what exactly went wrong when the tsunami struck.

Although the tone of the above post is a tad melodramatic, it’s nothing compared to what Michio Kaku’s been saying. Physicists never look good when they go seeking publicity for themselves…

Here’s a more measured summary at New Scientist and another from the Telegraph by way of balance.



9 Responses to “Desperate Measures”

  1. Bryn Jones Says:

    It is not clear to me exactly what is being dropped from the helicopters. It could be plain water into the storage containers for fuel rods, in which case fire-fighting ships might be useful. On the other hand, the helicopters could be dropping an aqueous solution of boron compounds, to absorb neutrons, into the stores.

    It is possible that the tsunami moved the fuel rods in the stores and some rods may be in close proximity. Adding water might mean adding a neutron moderator, which could increase the level of nuclear reactions, causing further heating.

    It is not clear precisely what is going on.

    • telescoper Says:

      Reactor 4 wasn’t working when the tsunami struck. The situation there seems to be that the pond in which fuel rods are stored had dried up, so they are not only not cooling but are also exposed to the air. If in addition they have moved then Reactor 4 is potentially extremely hazardous, contrary to what everyone assumed at the outset given that it wasn’t switched on at the start.

      Whatever it is they are dropping from the helicopters they don’t seem to be dropping it sufficiently accurately to have any effect.

    • telescoper Says:

      Looking at the video footage it seems clear that the Chinooks are just picking up seawater and then trying to drop it on reactors 3 and 4.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      That seems a bit basic, but it may alleviate the immediate problems.

      The curious thing about the whole series of events at the Fukushima Daiichi power station after the tsunami is that there has been a string of bad luck that has produced problems at most of the reactors. A lot of bad luck.

    • telescoper Says:

      Indeed, it appears the defences were strengthened recently to protect against a 5.3m tsunami. The one that actually arrived was 10m high, way higher than predicted. This destroyed the power for the cooling systems, so they went onto their batteries which only lasted about 10 hours. Although the initial trigger prevented a Chernobyl-like catastrophe, the knock-on consequences of the cooling failure are proving harder to control than many people first thought. However, the situation is not as hopeless as some scaremongerers are suggesting. If they can recover the electrical and reinstate the cooling systems then they should be able to resolve the situation.

      I think the plant is a right-off write-off though.

    • “I think the plant is a right-off though.”

      Presumably a write-off, though it might go right off into the sea. 😦

  2. “Although the tone of the above post is a tad melodramatic, it’s nothing compared to what Michio Kaku’s been saying.”

    P.Z. Myers recently had him as “fool of the day”. I had a look at the video; he really was talking nonsense when discussing evolution. Even when he talks about his own field, I’m not sure he’s always right.

  3. Lung-Yih Chiang Says:

    Here is the viewpoint from Professor Frank Shu:

  4. Tom Shanks Says:

    When an earthquake has struck a nuclear installation, the reactors’ roofs have been blown off by explosions and the water cooling has failed on tens of tons of unused fuel, I personally think a little “scaremongering” might be in order! Can anyone tell me why they built 6 reactors right next to each other, when if one has an “incident” it makes it impossible to maintain the other 5? Am sure it saved money but I would like to have seen the Health and safety risk assessment form!

    Anyway just to cheer everyone up as we march into Libya, here is something from the 1960’s – Barry McGuire and “Eve of Destruction”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: