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My credentials are limited to a fundamental knowledge of Transition Metal Chemistry, some Thermodynamics, and Electrical Engineering.  Estimates are that it will take 40 years to decommission these reactors. Efforts are underway to stop the leakage of contaminated water to the ground and the ocean nearby. Mainly, an array of coolant pipes extending 100ft down and a mile in circumference around the plant are under construction to create an ice-dam to contain further radioactive water leakage. If the ice dam works to contain further leakage, then the slower more pragmatic approach they have in mind is probably the best way to go. However, if this plan fails then it might be worth considering a roll of the dice on an alternative approach with at least one of these reactors. The following idea has inherent risks that may not be worthwhile if leakage of contaminated water can be substantially slowed.

Depending on what kind of shape the containment vessel is in, a slurry of fine Lead particles, Borosilicates, and Pumice could be injected into the pressure vessel. the water is slowly drawn off so that eventually the entire containment vessel is filled with this mixture. communication of the molten material outside of the pressure vessel is an open question, but certainly steam must not be allowed to accumulate. Without water coolant, the core will super heat and melt the lead. The melting point of Lead is low around 327.5°C, 1,132°C for Uranium,  1342°C for Pumice, and a 820°C softening point for Pyrex(reference Borosilicate). The Lead will boil vigorously creating abrasive action of the Pumice and Borosilicate against the exposed melting Uranium. This convective action of the boiling Lead will also mix the neutron absorbing Borosilicate with the Uranium as it is assimilated into the mixture. Provided that the abrasive action does not create other problems, as the Uranium is assimilated its concentration is lowered to the point that temperature eventually drops. We finally end up with a large block of hot solid that, although still radioactive, no longer needs to be cooled with water. The final state can be entombed in concrete or cut up and reprocessed.  

Potential problems are the initial plume of steam and possibly aerosolized Lead and other materials escaping to the atmosphere as the reactor is allowed to heat up. The longer the process takes the more potential for contaminated material to escape into the air. There is also the scale involved and the cost of material to consider. The weight of the molten material might be too much for the support structure. Probably the biggest consideration is if the idea doesn't work it could create a bigger mess than we have now.

I am presenting this idea raw without formal evaluation in the hope that it might be helpful in the effort to stop radioactive material from leaking into the ocean sooner rather than later. The devil is obviously in the details.

Tue Dec 17, 2013 at  1:44 AM PT: This process will be even easier if the corium has leaked out. No need to draw off the water. Just pump in the particularized Lead(possibly a lead salt solution) and Borosilicate( or even borax) and let the convective action of the boiling water and lead do the work to make a diluted amalgam of the Uranium with the Lead and Boron that eventually slows the chain reaction. Considering the greater density of Uranium the process might be extremely slow.  The whole concept hinges on the kinetics of molten material underwater which may require some research..


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    Peace, Love, and Prosperity. See more on the R. Crosby Lyles channel on YouTube.

    by Rich Lyles on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 09:58:15 PM PST

  •  First, they need to fill the void around the core (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat

    with liquid nitrogen or liquid helium until the the core is completely cool and brittle.

    Next, they need to secure a low yield nuclear device and drop it on the core.  This should, in theory, blow the cold and brittle core into pieces.  Now that the material is separated the reaction ceases to be an ongoing problem.  

    The second reason for doing this is that the low yield nuclear device should, at first create a small chamber under the earth.  This chamber will immediately collapse, thus entombing the now harmless divided core for ever more.  Problem solved.

    Why is Japan so slow to act?  This should have been done a year ago.

    "So what if a guy threw a shoe at me!"

    by FoodChillinMFr on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 10:50:48 PM PST

    •  Yikes. Looks like the containment vessel is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat

      closer to ground level than I thought.

      Ok.  First, dig a big hole under the containment vessel.  Lower the entire vessel down into the hole.  Fill hole with liquid nitrogen.  Place nuke.  Cover hole with dirt.  Run away and push the button.

      Done.  

      This plan might have a couple holes that need filling, but its pretty sound all in all.  Let's roll.

      "So what if a guy threw a shoe at me!"

      by FoodChillinMFr on Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 10:57:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  you mean like, "who climbs into the path of a (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, wilderness voice

        meltdown to dig a hole?"

        Righteousness is a wide path. Self-righteousness is a bullhorn and a blindfold.

        by Murphoney on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 02:56:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  LOL!!! (3+ / 0-)

        Imaginative, but impossible in these circumstances. First because the groundwater level is all the way to ground level, which is why their latest 'plan' is to pave the entire 1-4 area with asphalt. Over the inches-thick plate steel they already laid to protect workers from occasional steam geysers and fumerole eruptions between buildings.

        Second because there's three melted-through reactor cores there, not one. Even the first level basements - where the suppression toruses are - is 5 meters below sea level.

        And third because the cores left the buildings awhile ago. They are no longer in the containments. They also stopped injecting liquid nitrogen many months ago because it was expensive and pointless. The containments are breached, don't hold it, water, cores or much of anything else.

        Keep thinking, though. They need all the help they can get. Just bear in mind that nuking a nuke isn't the best avenue of approach.

        •  You guys are buzz kills. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau

          Let's nuke the sum a ma'bitch.  Somehow!

          I think they should dig a huge hole underneath the entire complex, and build one of those huge robots in 'Pacific Rim' to pick it up and move it.

          It'll be like the tree I moved I n the summer.  Dig a huge hole, extract the root ball, and stick it in another hole inland.  Only, make the new hole muuuuch deeper.

          Fill with liquid helium.  Suck it out and fill with the nuke and lots o'dirt.  That process will need to be fast because the point is to shatter the core while cool, just like Mr. Wizard did.

          Blast nuke, core is separated (no longer critical mass), the dirt above will bury the mess, and this problem will be fixed for good.

          What we are missing is human will.  Just get this done people!  You have your mission, now do it.

          "So what if a guy threw a shoe at me!"

          by FoodChillinMFr on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 10:38:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Nice snark. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rich Lyles

            My grandson - a HUGE Godzilla fan even though he's approaching mid-20s fast - thinks the Japanese need to just go ahead and unveil Mechagodzilla now, stop waiting for the Invasion of the Closet Monsters. Alas, it appears the Japanese can't make robots any more tolerant of serious radiation than anybody else.

            But just so you know, not a single one of those corium masses or all the more than 1700 tons' worth of spent fuel in all the SFPs are or ever were capable of 'critical mass'. They just contain enough fissiles and their ugly stepdaughters to keep themselves good and hot for centuries.

    •  I hope that's some snark. (4+ / 0-)

      Because this idea is nuts.

      1) There is no 'ongoing reaction'. The problem is the residual decay heat of the core even after shut-down.

      2) A 'low yield nuclear device' would disperse the intensely radioactive core material....well, everywhere.

      3) The Fukushima complex is right on the coast. Using a nuclear device to 'create a small chamber' would merely open a direct path between the intensely radioactive core and the sea by blowing a hole right through the water table right beneath the plant.

  •  The mind wants to see a schematic diagram (4+ / 0-)

    showing what you are addressing before making conclusions.

    Understanding process and process equipment implementation requires graphic understanding.

    •  That has been done. Robotic imaging was (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich Lyles

      started in the week after the 3/11 tsunami.

      Normal monitoring equipment came back on line when they reconnected electric power to that subsystem. Translating imagery to CAD 3D skinnies is relatively straightforward.

      One thing, stating that the rods in a core have melted is entirely different from claiming that the event has melted through the reactor structure and the containment.

      Melting the rods does not damage the reactor where the cooling water is replaced within specific timing parameters. That's the basic safety design objective. At Fukushima the boiled-off water was pumped in as needed for four months, despite that there was no recirculation/cooling for the reactor cooling water until July.

      Replacement water boils off. It keeps boiling off. That is not a problem that generates structural damage in the reactor or the containment.

      You also get release of hydrogen early on, which produced chemical explosions at Fukushima. TEPCO kept pumping in more water and that problem went away.

      The reactor systems were not badly broken. By end of October 2011 the reactors' temperatures were all below 80º C. Cooling water was again cooled off externally by replacement cooling systems.

      All of the reactors reached the engineering "cold shutdown" status in December, 2011. Of course that's "cold" for a SCRAMed reactor, not cold to touch.

      Those repairs would have been impossible with a full reactor melt down. Rods melted. Rods are not the reactor.

      What we're talking about now is leaks.

      That's the big problem. Fifty feet of water broke through these facilities and pipes were twisted everywhere outside the hard interior containment. They have had no good luck trying to use pipes, valves, joints even where the parts did perfectly well at end of year 2011. The cooling pipes leak.

      Cooling water is radioactive. Every time there's leak, it spews radioactive material.

      These reactors SCRAMed in the first seconds after the earthquake was detected. Water was injected well before coolant level went critical. Obviously, getting the reactors under 80º C proved that there are no enormous holes going out the bottoms of the reactors.

      Doing the frost layer tactic makes sense. Of course building the frost layer under a melted reactor would be impossible. It would be silly. This is designed to catch the random leaks that recur. Fix what breaks, when it's broken. And trap the waste water.

      The models work. And there are no mysteries, here. There's nothing hidden by TEPCO or anybody else. The engineering situation at Fukushima has been wide open since early 2012.

      (There's internet spew going, claiming that Abe's new "State Secrets" law connects to Fukushima. That's horse crap. They want in on the U.S.-Australia-New Zealand intelligence pool and needed to upgrade/modernize anti-espionage laws. The "State Secrets" act according to Asahi Shimbun is connected only to military and intel information.)

      •  Great Comment. Thanks for the Clarification. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        waterstreet2013

        If as you say the reactors were SCRAMed and the temps are down to 80º C , then the method I have suggested will probably not be helpful. There have been some sketchy news accounts of steam geysers with the implication that the cores are burning their way to the center of the earth. Only in this case would such novel methods be worth thinking about.  

        Peace, Love, and Prosperity. See more on the R. Crosby Lyles channel on YouTube.

        by Rich Lyles on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 05:34:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

          We've been looking for a good simulation video. Something that shows:

          -- the initial stage where cooling tank water was evaporating without replacement
          -- then water being added (producing steam and hydrogen, getting small explosions)
          -- water being added for a couple weeks with no external cooling but free escape of steam
          -- then the external cooling with the first level of cool down to 80º C
          -- then finally getting to "cold shutdown" with full instrumentation in place

          I don't know how many people are aware that the Fukushima reactors have been at "cold shutdown" for two years.

          The big problem today is leaky pipes. The tsunami did far more structural weakening than was thought back in January 2012 when the first plan was finalized. Getting to "cold shutdown" had gone so well, roughly half the expected time, that the engineers erred to optimism.

          It happens. But this is nothing like the problems of a Chernobyl.

          Interesting problem, if you get into it, is the old atmospheric test isotopes from bombs. Some of that stuff washed out when the tsunami receded.

          No one had monitored rainwater run off/collection areas for radiation. It was forgotten. But in fact there was an enormous fallout burden all over northern Japan. They've been identifying hot spots by the scores -- most of them not related to Fukushima -- but truly dangerous. Hot spots for cesium and strontium. Easy to tag them and post radiation warnings.

          One small silver lining....

        •  Just so you know, (0+ / 0-)

          this pseud has also insisted that the burden of 30+ year half-life contaminates measured from March 2011 on came from leftover fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  •  I don't trust them on this (6+ / 0-)

    From the beginning TEPCO was lowballing the seriousness of this to the point of lying.  Yes, I understand that culturally they do all they can to save face, but lives were at stake and a larger evacuation should have been ordered from the start.  How many folks are going to have health consequences because the government and a nuclear power corporation were more interested in saving face than saving the public.

    There have also been reports of the Japanese mafia being all over the government contracts for the clean up and that unqualified people are now working in positions they should never have.

    Yes, an ocean separates us, but currents exist, fish swim and we've already had tsunami debris washing up on our west coast.  

    I'm really worried.

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 12:47:56 AM PST

  •  I prefer the Sneferu solution (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, enhydra lutris

    Cover it with a big pyramid and leave it there for millenia.

  •  They appear to have given up (3+ / 0-)

    on the ground-freezing idea already. Even the metal cofferdam on the bluff was stopped when it became entirely apparent it wasn't going to work. They did put silt fences (heh) over the discharge and trench outlets though and concrete the lagoon bottom, though. Now they want to pave the facility with asphalt.

    Things that might work have been proposed by the international consortiums working on the problem, but TEPCO doesn't like any of them. A cofferdam and drainage system just below the upstream mountains to divert the groundwater around the facility would help a lot, but that's been nixed. Too expensive, I guess. Another idea to surround the four units with a deep pit filled with zeolite and some kind of other stuff has also been nixed. Deal is, the plant is sitting at water level now. Digging just produces self-heated ponds and canals, increases leaks to the sea.

    Bottom line, the corium isn't in the reactor vessels or in the containments anymore. They say they don't know exactly where it is, but it's sitting in water somewhere in the basements or beyond, and likely resembles something like a grossly misshapen multi-legged giant starfish, with 'legs' following any paths of least resistance presented by the environment toward the sea. And don't forget about the overloaded spent fuel pools dangling up there 100' above the ground...

    The Japanese have no experience with decommissioning, but project it would take 30 years for a regular reactor decommissioning. These at Daiichi will take a lot longer than that. Keep thinking, though!

    •  Your claim (0+ / 0-)
      ...the corium isn't in the reactor vessels or in the containments anymore. They say they don't know exactly where it is, but it's sitting in water somewhere in the basements or beyond...
      is at odds with the physical state waterstreet2013  has described. You two seem to disagree. What is your source?

      Peace, Love, and Prosperity. See more on the R. Crosby Lyles channel on YouTube.

      by Rich Lyles on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 06:01:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's just the sales spiel (0+ / 0-)

        concocted by the industry and its lobby arms based entirely on the lies TEPCO and nuclear arms of Japan's government have been selling since the beginning. Unfortunately, they've been caught in those lies regularly. Since the beginning. Still, it'll no doubt work on a majority of the intended public audience not keeping close track.

        My sources are also TEPCO and the Japanese government. As well as considerable understanding of the physical dynamics of melting reactors, earned by extended study and application of same over years. As well as almost daily contact with various nuclearly, physically and engineering-ly engaged persons, about such things.

        GE, the designer and co-owner of the reactor plants at Daiichi, produced a nifty animation for the benefit of TEPCO for educating their engineers, operators and workforce about the dynamics of meltdown in these plants years before March of 2011. Based on BWR meltdown experiments conducted at Oak Ridge long ago. It takes ~5 hours to total meltdown, ~8 to melt-through, and ~16 to containment breach. More or less, depending on the totality of the LOCA and availability of controls. And whether or not the corium stays in the drywell to melt through the concrete or flows into the broader containment to escape via the torus downcomers.

        ...Which happened in at least two of the 3 operating reactor plants at Daiichi.

        TEPCO reported each of the plants lost pressure (in the reactors, then the containments), one after the other - though late. Took them longer to report actual meltdowns/melt-throughs, but the progression was entirely predictable and the admissions were logged.

        3. TEPCO on Saturday 'apologized' for not reporting earlier that entirely inadequate emergency coolant - even seawater tied into exterior piping and pumped first by fire trucks and later by portable pumps - reached the reactor vessels in the first six months of the disaster. Seems there were no valves they could close to prevent the water from backflowing into the turbine buildings. Oops.

        Six months. It was September of 2011 before sufficient water reached the vessels. By then the corium was long gone.

        4. Evidence of corium passage from the downcomers in unit 1 (and unit 2, from robotic examination last year) is present. The explosion at unit 2 was known and reported at the time to have come from the torus, so that escape route for the molten core was previously known.

        •  Okay, Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau

          That gives me something to chew on.  Side note: a graphic illustration of the Three Mile Island meltdown showed that the corium in that case had at least partially pooled up in the bottom of the pressure vessel. Given the circumstances at Fukushima it does seem entirely possible for the corium to have made its way into the down comers.

          The more I think about molten uranium pooled up in that aqueous environment, the more I like my idea.   If what you say is true, they should try it in at least one of the reactors. It should be relatively easy to do.

          Peace, Love, and Prosperity. See more on the R. Crosby Lyles channel on YouTube.

          by Rich Lyles on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 01:19:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  What is broken that this plan fixes? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich Lyles

    The coolant pipes are the generally known problem.

    The reactors were O.K. as of October, 2011, when the new external cooling system got the temperatures down to 80º C.

    They are cooler than that today.

    Catching leaks where the stressed cooling pipes/valves/etc. fail -- that is what the planned ice/frost layer achieves.

    All of the Fukushima reactors are at "cold shutdown." They are being cooled externally with a set of replacement cooling structures. That's where they've been every day for two years.

    The pro-coal guys like to pretend that the Fukushima reactors suffered full meltdowns. Thing is, rods are not reactors. The fraction of a power rod that got above water line melted, but certainly not the tanks and not the reactors.

    Water was replaced well in time to protect the reactors. And then temps were lowered to 80º C and then "cold shutdown." No mystery. Lots of silliness on the Internet, but no mystery.

  •  Hey, we've been told time and again not to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    worry about those immaterial releases that immediately decay and sink to the bottom, so, don't worry, no further work needs to be done.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 10:19:58 AM PST

  •  Meltdowns coming soon to Oconee, [SC] and the US (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    It's easy to read official details about this looming disaster, but hard to understand how nothing is being done. It's even mentioned on Wikipedia.

    One of our nations oldest, and largest nuclear stations, (a three unit nuclear campus) is the highest on the NRC's list of US probable plant fails…although over 1/3 of US plants are at risk of failing (that's meltdowns) due to flood risk…they are all conveniently by waterways, usually rivers.

    Here's the facts on this grave threat, including aerial images you can't get on Google maps showing the plant and it's five foot flood walls:

    www.huffingtonpost.com/ 2012/ 10/ 19/ nuclear-plant-flood-threat-leak_n_1983005.html

    The Oconee station in South Carolina is below an old dam that will flood the plant when it fails. Duke "Energy" (NYSE:DUK) knows this, but doesn't want to spend the billion dollars to mitigate the risk. The Keowee dam above will flood the 40+ year old plants, and meltdown is expected within eight to ten hours.

    Lake Toxaway, above Lake Keowee, but across the state line in NC, had it's dam blow out in 1916 when two hurricanes hit the area back to back.

    THe NRC's leaked study (thanks Greenpeace, and Huffington Post) puts over 1.4 million citizens in the 50 mile great risk/evacuate territory. Of course, we Southern Highlanders aren't told about such…no iodine tablets or evacuation plans here.

    What has the NRC done? They hid the study, and renewed Dukes application to run these oldest plants another 20 years… one of the first bunch of old plants to be approved to run beyond their design lifetimes.

    Good luck getting compensation when this forces you off your land, and crashes the region's economy, if not the nation's. Just as Japan has created a new "state's secrets" law to stop information about TEPCO's mess that threatens the globe, don't expect to hear anything more than "there is no immediate danger". Cancer does take a long time, beyond tort liability timelines, even if the trespass is their radionuclides in your children's bodies.

    Don't look for SC-GA-NC-TN to tell any truth about what is happening when the ions and nuclides go flying. They probably have no plan for what to do, or who will do it. After all, these are the grifter states who expect that awful federal gubbermint to bail them out, and big political powers like the power companies can do whatever they want.

    BTW, Asheville, NC, had more [excess] rainfall above it's 50-year average this year than any of the top 200 cities. Maybe the nations' nuclear delusion is one Gulf hurricane away from being stopped forever, but after it's too late.

    Thyroid cancer can be the Next Big Thing to invest in:

    http://www.3quarksdaily.com/...

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