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Archive for August, 2013

Sorry but the alliteration is irresistible, and the subject is truly shocking. It may be out of our minds at present but the drama of Japan’s nuclear catastrophe is still being played out, only more slowly. In fact the de-commissioning and clean-up of the Fukushima nuclear plant is barely under way. It will take 40 years. And cost $11b. If all goes well! If not, we’re in for very serious trouble, and particularly the 13.2 million Tokyo residents, 200 kms away.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is still in charge of operations despite their connivance with the authorities to hide events in the early stages of the melt-down. And it looks like the Japanese government prefers not to get dirty hands, so to speak, while TEPCO is carrying the reactor can.

The details of how they plan to deal with the spent fuel rods in Unit No. 4 make fascinating reading. The risk management document must be a horrifying series of scenarios of further accident and pollution if there are any mistakes, as the handling process sounds very scary indeed.

Over 1300 spent fuel rods must be carefully extracted from their cooling ponds with very slim tolerances, to avoid potentially disastrous contacts which would set off reactions. The computers have gone, so this has to be done manually, and will take 1-2 years. Plutonium is one of the ‘most toxic substances in the universe’.

Then Units 1-3 have to be dealt with too. Hmm, four is unlucky in Japan! Apparently it’s also hard to translate wishing good luck, so some suggest ‘ganbatte!’ or ‘do your best’. So get praying for lots of that in Fukushima, folks, otherwise it’s ‘sayonara’. And we all know what that means!

Tanks & slag

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