FOIA Archive Release – Spent Fuel Pool LOCA – EPZ Evacuation Zones and KI – Risk Safety and Cost in Regulating Nuclear Energy – Enformable

FOIA Archive Release – Spent Fuel Pool LOCA – EPZ Evacuation Zones and KI – Risk Safety and Cost in Regulating Nuclear Energy

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  1. Lucas et al,

    A world of thanks for your dedication and effectiveness in securing the release of these numerous documents that are so vital to the public interest.

    I am particularly interested in documents pertaining to storage of spent fuel with regard to what the implications may be for the situation at the Fukushima-Diiachi complex, eg. the Unit 4 SFPs.

    As you may be aware, at blogs like Daily Kos, members have posted diaries assuring readers that radiological fires are no longer possible given that the spent fuel has been cooled for more than a year. For instance: “In order for apocalyptic assertions of a “fuel clad ignition and fire” to occur, moreover, the clad itself would need to be heated to incredible temperatures, which just isn’t possible…In addition, the rate of heatup of the fuel depends on how long it’s been out of a reactor. According to NUREG /CR-4982, unless the spent fuel is recently discharged from an operating reactor (within 180 days), ignition of the clad is completely impossible in any situation, regardless. Experts have calculated that the heat output presently from the hottest of the spent fuel is only on the order of several hundred watts per element—a very insignificant amount in comparison to heating the material to between 900 ºC–2000 ºC in order to ignite it. In addition, in order for a “cataclysmic” spread of the radionuclides contained in this spent fuel to occur, we can see that a massive fire is needed to both release the material and provide a driving head (or “loft”) to spread it to the winds. It’s clear that no such fire is possible, given the above information”.

    I am not an expert by any means, however, the foregoing assurances do not comport with what I have read in these same NRC documents when attention is turned to HIGH DENSITY SPENT FUEL ASSEMBLIES, such as those at the Fukushima site. Per the following:

    ~ NUREG/CR-4982; BNL-NUREG-52093 – Issue 82; “Severe Accidents in Spent Fuel Pools in Support of Generic Safety” (published 1987): “The likelihood of clad fire initiation is most sensitive to the decay heat level and the storage rack configuration (which controls the extent of natural convection cooling)…The limited flow area of the high density designs makes it difficult to ensure adequate cooling by natural convection of air. For the new high density fuel racks, natural convective flows are so restricted that even after cooling for a year there is potential for self-sustaining oxidation…” []

    ~ NUREG-1738; “NRC Technical Study of Spent Fuel Pool Accident Risk at Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants”, (published 2001): “It was not feasible, without numerous constraints, to establish a generic decay heat level (and therefore a decay time) beyond which a zirconium fire is physically impossible. Heat removal is very sensitive to factors such as fuel assembly geometry and spent fuel pool rack configuration which are plant specific and subject to unpredictable changes after an earthquake or cask drop that drains the pool. Therefore, since a non-negligible decay heat source lasts many years, and since configurations ensuring sufficient air flow for cooling cannot be assured, the possibility of reaching the zirconium ignition temperature cannot be precluded on a generic basis”. []

    Lucas, it would be a great public service if you or Joieau were to follow-up on recent writings from Alvarez et al — with an updated Enformable editorial that addresses some of the foregoing false assurances, while making use of these NRC documents to shed some further light on the continued prospect of a radiological fire in the event of a loss of coolant accident in the spent fuel pools at the Fukushima-Diiachi complex. All the best.

  2. i fully agree.

    …. the Reader is advised that this comment is a reference to, and hearty endorsement of, JP’s comment, previously)….

    …. unaccustomed to being a woman of few words, the author of this comment was surprised to discover herself satisfied with it in its final form. after a moment’s reflection, however, she decided that, if she gave her comment the sort of body that provided the Reader sufficient context, such brevity could indeed serve as the soul…

    …. for she was familiar with the pro-nuclear reassurances to which JP made reference. she had read them and at the time concluded that, were they as false as most likely they were, they did an inordinate and extensive amount of damage. the importance, to the many many Readers who visit such pages in an effort to make up their minds, of such a well-sourced rebuttal (such as no doubt would be the result) may be more than it would seem. the importance, in the larger struggle against Fraud And Force to which — given in what comment section over what post at what website this exchange is taking place — we have likely committed ourselves….

    … the importance, and more to the point, the effectiveness.

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