Fire has again broken out at the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan. The new blaze began at reactor four... on Tuesday morning, a third blast hit the building of reactor two, while a fourth damaged the building of reactor four, where a fire also broke out in the unit's spent fuel storage pond. Reactor four had been shut down before the quake for maintenance, but its spent nuclear fuel rods were still stored on the site.
Officials said the explosions at the first three reactors, and possibly the fourth as well, were caused by a buildup of hydrogen. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said officials were closely watching the remaining two reactors, as they had begun overheating slightly.
He said cooling seawater was being pumped into reactors one and three - which were returning to normal - and into reactor two, which remained unstable.
What ? Number 4's meant to have been closed down before ever the quake and tsunami hit ! And when was the first explosion in #4 (apparently just before the explosion in #2 yesterday)- we were told about a fire in the fuel storage pool, not an explosion ?
This morning it's not looking too good :
A rise in radiation levels at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has forced workers to suspend operations, a government spokesman says. He was speaking after smoke was seen billowing from reactor three. Earlier, a blaze struck reactor four for the second time in two days.
Reactor 3 has uranium/plutonium fuel - you really don't want bits of plutonium in the air.
There are a lot of things that don't make a huge amount of sense to ignorant me :
1) how's the hydrogen being created for these explosions ? Is it created by the fuel's cladding reacting with steam or boiling water, which will create hydrogen only, or is it as some are saying thermal decomposition of water, which requires a temperature of 2000C and which will create hydrogen and oxygen (which are likely IMHO to recombine explosively the moment temperature or pressure drops - like when the core is vented) ?
2) where's the hydrogen coming from ? In #1 and #3 we know they were venting the pressure, so that's a source of H2 - although you'd think they'd put a hole in the roof of #3 to let it escape, following the bang at #1. But I'm not sure about #2 - did it ever get vented ? Yet it went pop all the same.
3) what's with 4, 5 and 6 needing more cooling? Presumably the residual heat is the problem.
4) so why are the pumps proving such an issue (other than that they've been subject to frequent explosions) - what's been the problem with getting more pumps and more power supplies on site? I presume they're pretty specialist beasts and you can't buy them at Machine Mart - but there are aircraft to collect them and helicopters to deliver, along with the fuel. Is there not enough of that specialist deionised, ultra-pure cooling water available ? Obviously not.
It would be nice if the reactor company could keep the Japanese people (and the rest of the world) updated, but I guess it's not exactly a priority. In a situation like this, when there's big trouble and it needs to be fixed fast if at all possible, the role of management is to keep everyone off the backs of the people doing the work, so that they don't have to waste time and mental energy on anything but what's in front of them.
UPDATE - if this is true, it's not looking good. Let's hope it isn't.
At the plant, desperate and improvisational measures have become the rule. Japanese Self-Defense Forces helicopters took off from a nearby base Wednesday afternoon carrying giant red buckets on a line used to scoop up seawater to douse the plant's Unit 3 reactor building. Tepco told nuclear safety officials they had no other way of cooling the reactor's fuel rods. Kyodo later reported that the helicopters were unable to drop water due to high levels of radiation.