Fukushima Reactor 4 poses massive global risk
Saturday May. 19, 2012
More than a year after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered a massive nuclear disaster, experts are warning that Japan isn’t out of the woods yet and the worst nuclear storm the world has ever seen could be just one earthquake away from reality.
The troubled Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is at the centre of this potential catastrophe.
Reactor 4 — and to a lesser extent Reactor 3 — still hold large quantities of cooling waters surrounding spent nuclear fuel, all bound by a fragile concrete pool located 30 metres above the ground, and exposed to the elements.
A magnitude 7 or 7.5 earthquake would likely fracture that pool, and disaster would ensue, says Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with Fairewinds Energy Education who has visited the site.
The 1,535 spent fuel rods would become exposed to the air and would likely catch fire, with the most-recently added fuel rods igniting first.
The incredible heat generated from that blaze, Gundersen said, could then ignite the older fuel in the cooling pool, causing a massive oxygen-eating radiological fire that could not be extinguished with water.
“So the fear is the newest fuel could begin to burn and then we’d have a conflagration of the whole pool because it would become hotter and hotter. The health consequences of that are beyond where science has ever gone before,” Gundersen told CTVNews.ca in an interview from his home in Vermont.