Wednesday, December 04, 2013 ..." /> Fukushima’s two worst-case scenarios explained by Arnie Gunderson |

Fukushima’s two worst-case scenarios explained by Arnie Gunderson

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By Paul Martin

by: J. D. Heyes″>
Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Recently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the Tokyo Electric and Power Co., or TEPCO, to decommission two more reactors at its Fukushima power plant, which was heavily damaged following an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The reactors, 5 and 6, were not in operation at the time of the tsunami and have been in cold storage since then. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 were heavily damaged and suffered meltdowns; there remains concern about the spent fuel rods in reactor 4.

As Japan prepares to take on the expensive and hazardous task of removing more than 400 tons of irradiated spent fuel rods from the entire plant, nuclear expert Arnie Gunderson, chief engineer at Fair Winds Energy Education, was interviewed by WBEZ’s “Worldview” about the process and described a pair of worst-case scenarios.

Gunderson said that the easiest part of the process would be removing the fuel rods from the 5 and 6 reactors, but that only highlighted how “truly frightening” the entire removal process would be.

The nuclear expert explained that the fuel rods are stored in a water-filled container that is not much different than an ordinary swimming pool, other than the fact that it is “50 feet deep.” At the bottom of the pool, the nuclear fuel is stored on racks, he said.

During the earthquake in 2011, the plant shook so violently, he said, that nearly four feet of water sloshed out of the pool at reactor 4. At the same time, the fuel racks at the bottom of the pool were damaged.

Worse, he continued, shortly after that, the plant suffered some explosions, which caused the roof over the container pool to collapse in on the pool itself.

Three-pronged problem

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