Cooling Pools are Newest Worry at Fukushima

Although Tokyo Electric said it also continued to deal with cooling system failures and high pressures at half a dozen of its 10 reactors in the two Fukushima complexes, fears mounted about the threat posed by the pools of water where years of spent fuel rods are stored.

At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, where an explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that unit 1’s pool may now be outside.

“That would be like Chernobyl on steroids,” said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi unit 1.

http://my.firedoglake.com/kirkmurphy/2011/03/14/nuke-engineer-fuel-rod-fire-at-stricken-reactor-would-be-like-chernobyl-on-steroids/

When the power was lost at the site, the cooling system for the pools would have run out of water in about a day. The water in these pools would heat up and evaporate to the point where the tops of the fuel bundles would be exposed about 24 hours after the cooling system shut down.

Experts fear the explosion rained debris into the pool that stopped natural cooling of the fuel bundles or knocked the bundles together, damaging them, sending the irradiated fuel chunks to the bottom of the pool where they could reach critical mass.

http://www.dcbureau.org/201103141303/Natural-Resources-News-Service/fission-criticality-in-cooling-ponds-threaten-explosion-at-fukushima.html

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