Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Transient Criticalities at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

I stumbled upon this academic explanation for what webcam watchers have been describing for a year and a half - ongoing, transient, Fukushima nuclear criticalities

F. Dalnoki-Veress
March 28 2011

[Excerpted] I have been totally consumed the last few weeks by one thing, day and night, and those are the events unfolding in Japan. I keep on alternating between complete disbelief and acceptance of the gravity of the situation, but mostly disbelief. And I am not the only one. Most of the nuclear physicists and engineers with whom I have spoken since the incident cannot - will not - believe that it is possible that some of the fuel that is melting could somehow produce little pockets that could go critical. I believed them for the longest time until the following came on the Kyodo news website (relevant text italicized below for emphasis) and I did the following analysis:

Neutron beam observed 13 times at crippled Fukushima nuke plant
TOKYO, March 23, Kyodo
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it has observed a neutron beam, a kind of radioactive ray, 13 times on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was crippled by the massive March 11 quake-tsunami disaster.
==Kyodo News,

MAJIA HERE: After analyzing various scenarios for the source of the neutron beam, Dalnoki-Veress concludes: 

[excerpted from conclusion] Given these uncertainties it is nonetheless important for TEPCO to be aware of the possibility of transient criticalities when work is being done; otherwise workers would be in considerably greater danger than they already are when trying to working to contain the situation. 

A transient criticality could explain the observed 13 “neutron beams” reported by Kyodo news agency (see above). This analysis is not a definitive proof but it does mean that we cannot rule localized criticality out and the workers should take the necessary precautions....

Majia here: Transient criticalities. Yep, that sounds about right.

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