Oceans Will Be Impacted

Some really cheery news from Japan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says that if the current situation continues for a long time, with accumulation of more radioactive substances, there will be "a huge impact on the ocean."
Well OK. If it continues for a long time.

What are the odds of that?

William Brinkman, director of the Dept. of Energy's Office of Science, was in Oak Ridge this past week and spoke to the East Tennessee Economic Council on Friday. Brinkman touched on many topics, including Japan's nuclear emergency and how the DOE and its labs are trying to help. He didn't try to sugarcoat what he termed a "tremendous tragedy."

The DOE science chief, who formerly was VP for research at Bell Labs, senior research physicist at Princeton and president of the American Physical Society, said it's a very complicated and "tricky" situation. He noted that ORNL and other labs are trying to address some of the difficult chemistry questions and help prevent additional hydrogen explosions or other setbacks.

"But it's probably not going to be over for six months to a year before things really settle down in a way in which we're absolutely sure that nothing is going to happen," Brinkman said.

I wonder if six months to a year qualifies as a long time? I wonder where they are going to put all the cooling water they are going to need for the next six months to a year? The cooling will have to continue for at least 24 months. Probably longer. Where is all that water going to go? Now if they could deploy heat exchangers they could probably use fresh water just for make up and let the sea water do the cooling. How long to deploy such equipment? And where will they get a nuclear qualified heat exchanger on short notice? If they have to manufacture one or six of them it will take time. The steam condensers that are part of the plant could be used if they are intact and they can get the pumps working and they can make the necessary plumbing arrangements. Good luck with that in a high radiation environment. In fact good luck with any solution in a high radiation environment.

Charlie Foxtrot.

H/T My friend Eric of Classical Values for the knoxnews link via e-mail.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 04.04.11 at 09:35 PM


They need this company:


CH2M Hill, with a 23,000+ workforce, is a worldwide engineering company that specializes in contaminated water treatment. They cleaned up The Rocky Flats plutonium facility in Colorado, where in 1967 drums of a plutonium/oil mixture were leaked into sandy soil, and blown in the wind as far away as Denver. They are also under contract now cleaning up the Hanford site in Washington State.

Frank   ·  April 5, 2011 12:30 AM

From the Wiki article on CH2M Hill:

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) contracted a CH2M HILL company, CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, LLC (CHPRC), to manage deconstruction and remediation of the Central Plateau on the Hanford Nuclear Site in eastern Washington, one of the world's largest environmental cleanup projects. The project focuses on shrinking the environmental footprint of the Hanford Site from a 586-square-mile area (large enough to fit the city of Los Angeles) to 75 square miles or less.

Frank   ·  April 5, 2011 12:47 AM


Plutonium is not very radioactive. You have to be suited up but as long as the stuff is kept outside the body the radiation hazard is minimal.

There is not much you can do (for very long) in a 100 REM/hr [1 Sievert/hr] environment.

And if the robots to do the job are not on the shelf there will not be enough time to make and test one. And of course they will not be ordinary robots. They must be at least able to tighten the bolts on some very large fittings. That probably means compressed air. Among other things. If the environment is wet that complicates the design.

So they will have to set up some kind of industrial shop with air compressors, tools, etc. And of course the robots will get "hot". Which means decontaminating them for any human interaction (at the shop) required.

It is a very difficult problem.

M. Simon   ·  April 5, 2011 1:52 AM

I can't imagine the problems at Fukushima, let alone a solution. It just seems to me that a company which has had experience with environmental nuclear hazard clean-ups needs to be put in charge.

Read what CH2M Hill is involved with now, like the widening of The Panama Canal or the innovative sand-into-glass solution for leakage at Hanford, and you get a sense that if anyone can lead a crew of experts in solving this, they can.

Committees of politicians and military are going to fix it like the Russians "fixed" Chernobyl. To date they've allowed it to get FUBAR.

Frank   ·  April 5, 2011 10:14 AM


The difficulty as one zero hedge guy put it is this (approximately): "What do you do when there is nothing you can do?"



They are going to have to let the cores melt in a controlled manner, even if it means containment breach (assuming that hasn't already happened).

Their goal of cooling things is simply causing massive radiation release because there are leaks and cracks now all over. At this point it is going to have to be lead and sand and boron or maybe tin instead of lead. I still think the problem is with the SFRs. They are going to have to end up creating radioactive lava just to *immobilize* the waste.

There appears no hope to actually "fix" anything and I have no clue why they still seem to act as if that is a possibility. Pumping water through leaky cores and SFPs makes it impossible to access the reactors to make ANY repairs. And not cooling these things leads to melts and fires and breaches and even worse rates of contamination dispersion. Clear catch .22.

Get a crane in there with some kind of means by which it can lift the roof off of the SFPs. Dump in lead, boron, sand. As they exhaust potential tools which can plug the cracks and stop the flow of contaminated water, they are going to end up having to solidfy and immobilize the fuel. This is the point of no return.

M. Simon   ·  April 5, 2011 12:30 PM


I have a very strong suspicion that the reason the problem looks intractable is because it actually is.

They face the devil of fire and uncontrolled meltdown on one side and the deep blue sea of continued contaminated water leakage on the other. There is no way out through conventional means.

It's pretty clear that the structures containing nuclear fuel have immense leaks now; they cannot contain water. Every drop sprayed becomes a contaminant foreclosing the possibility of getting workers in to fix anything. How can someone fix a leak when what's flowing out of that leak is highly radioactive?

M. Simon   ·  April 5, 2011 12:31 PM

Thanks, but don't thank me; thank Instapundit (where I got it).


Eric Scheie   ·  April 6, 2011 11:52 AM

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