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Estimating the Potential Impact of Failure of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool

Estimating the Potential Impact of Failure of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool

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Published by Jason Chan
Extreme opinions are being voiced about the risk of global catastrophe resulting from a possible collapse of the Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 spent fuel pool. These claims are appearing mostly among the public through internet media and other non-­‐official channels. Officials sources remain largely mute on the subject or downplay the risks. This report provides an approximate bounding of the risks using available data. The results of this analysis suggest that a nominal release of 10% of the SFP 4 inventory of cesium and strontium would represent 3-­‐10 times the March 2011 release amounts, substantially increasing risk levels in Japan and impacting marine life. Release of 100% of the SFP 4 inventory, or 30-­‐100 times the March 2011 release amounts, could result in significant global impact.
Extreme opinions are being voiced about the risk of global catastrophe resulting from a possible collapse of the Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 spent fuel pool. These claims are appearing mostly among the public through internet media and other non-­‐official channels. Officials sources remain largely mute on the subject or downplay the risks. This report provides an approximate bounding of the risks using available data. The results of this analysis suggest that a nominal release of 10% of the SFP 4 inventory of cesium and strontium would represent 3-­‐10 times the March 2011 release amounts, substantially increasing risk levels in Japan and impacting marine life. Release of 100% of the SFP 4 inventory, or 30-­‐100 times the March 2011 release amounts, could result in significant global impact.

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Published by: Jason Chan on Jul 05, 2012
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HolophiCHAGSpecialReportonFukushimaDaiichiSFP4
©
-April,2012
1
HolophiSpecialReport–April2012
EstimatingthePotentialImpactofFailureoftheFukushimaDaiichiUnit4SpentFuelPool
 ALocalProblemforJapanoraGlobalMegaCrisis?
PaulC.Gailey,Ph.D.,President&CEO,HolophiCHAG
www.holophi.ch
 Abstract
ExtremeopinionsarebeingvoicedabouttheriskofglobalcatastropheresultingfromapossiblecollapseoftheFukushimaDaiichiunit4spentfuelpool.Theseclaimsareappearingmostlyamongthepublicthroughinternetmediaandothernon-officialchannels.Officialssourcesremainlargelymuteonthesubjectordownplaytherisks.Thisreportprovidesanapproximateboundingoftherisksusingavailabledata.Theresultsofthisanalysissuggestthatanominalreleaseof10%oftheSFP4inventoryofcesiumandstrontiumwouldrepresent3-10timestheMarch2011releaseamounts,substantiallyincreasingrisklevelsinJapanandimpactingmarinelife.Releaseof100%oftheSFP4inventory,or30-100timestheMarch2011releaseamounts,couldresultinsignificantglobalimpact.
Introduction
MorethanayearafterearthquakeandtsunamithatdevastatedareasofJapanin2011,newalarmsarebeingsoundedconcerningthestateoftheunit4spentfuelpool(seeNote1).Althoughtheunit4reactorwasnotoperatingatthetimeofthetsunami,itsfuelwasbeingstored,alongwithalargequantityofspentfuelassemblies,inapoolwithintheunit4building.Thisbuildingwasseriouslydamagedbyahydrogenexplosion.Thespentfuelpool,whichislocatedabout30metersaboveground,isconsideredtobeindangerofcollapsing.Theinfrastructureformovingthefuelassemblieswasrenderedinoperablebytheexplosion,andhighradiationlevelsmakeitextremelydifficulttocleardebris,performrepairs,orconstructanewsystemforremovingtheassemblies.Thecoolingsystemforthespentfuelpoolwasalsodestroyedbytheexplosion,andTepcohaspositionedtemporaryhosestopumpwaterintothepoolforcooling.Theyhavealsoinstalledsteelpillarstohelpsupportthepool.
 
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
HolophiCHAGSpecialReportonFukushimaDaiichiSFP4
©
-April,2012
2
ReasonforConcern
Theunit4spentfuelpool(SFP)contains1300-1500spentandactivefuelassemblies.Becausethestructureoftheunit4buildingwasdamagedbyanexplosion,thespentfuelpoolisindangerofcollapsing.Ifthepoolcollapsesordevelopsseriouscracksallowingthecoolingwatertodrain,thefuelrodswillbeexposedtotheenvironment.Theseconcernsareelevatedbyarecentreportthatadditionallargeearthquakes(magnitude7)areexpectedinthearea(Tongetal.,2012).Spentfuelpoolsarenotprotectedinthesamewayasreactorcores,andtheunit4buildingisseriouslydamaged.Thus,thereisnoobvioussecondlineofdefenseprotectingtheenvironmentfromtheradioactivefuelandsecondaryisotopesifwatercoolingislost.Together,thefuelrodscurrentlyproduceaboutonemegawatt(MW)ormoreofwasteenergyintheformofheat(seeNote2)eventhoughtheyarenotoperatinginareactor.Thisheatmustberemovedthroughtheuseofcoolingwatertoavoiddamagetothefuelrodsincludingpossiblemelting,fire,explosionsandreleaseofradioactivematerial.Ifcoolingwaterforthespentfuelpoolislost–eitherbycollapseofthepool,formationofcracksinthepool,orotherfactors–amajorreleaseofradioactivematerialcouldresult.Giventhelargeamountofheatgeneratedbythefuelrods,thetemperaturewouldrisequickly.Theserodsaresurroundedbyzirconiumcladding,andathightemperatures,thiscladdingcatalyzeshydrogenproduction,cangenerateadditionalheat,andevenexplodeandburn(NRC,2006).Thewatersurroundingthefuelrodsinthespentfuelpoolsservestwopurposes:First,itconductsheatawayfromthefuelassembliestoavoidoverheating.Second,itprovidesshieldingfromtheextremelyhighradiationlevelsneartherods.Ifacollapseorbreakageoftheunit4spentfuelpooloccurs,thelossofshieldingbythecoolingwatercouldcriticallyincreaseradiationlevelsintheentireDaiichicomplex.Highradiationisalreadyaseriousproblemlimitingworkerandevenrobotaccesstotheplanttoperformrepairsandmitigation,andtomaintaincoolingoftheotherspentfuelpoolsandreactors.Thus,acatastrophicfailureoftheunit4spentfuelpoolcouldpotentiallycascadeintoadditionalreleasesfromtheotherspentfuelpoolsandreactors.
EstimatedAmountsofRadioactiveMaterial
Operationofanuclearplantproducesanumberofradioactiveisotopes.Forthispreliminarypotentialimpactanalysis,wewillfocusprimarilyoncesium,strontium,andplutonium,whilenotingthatotherradioisotopesarealsoofconcern.Cesiumandstrontiumareeasilyabsorbedinplantsandanimalssimilarlytopotassiumandcalcium,respectively.Theirmovementthroughthebiosphereandlonghalflives(yearstodecades)meanthattheyrepresentsubstantialhealthhazardsatrelativelylowconcentrations.Plutoniumisnotassolubleandeasilydistributedintheenvironment,butisextremelycarcinogenicwheninhaledoringested.
 
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
HolophiCHAGSpecialReportonFukushimaDaiichiSFP4
©
-April,2012
3Becausethevariousisotopesareproducedbynuclearreactionsduringtheoperationofthereactors,thequantitiespresentinthefuelrodsmustbeestimatedfromcalculationsandmeasurements.Forthisanalysis,wewillusetheestimatedamountsbelow(Mertyureketal.,2010,Pretzschetal.,2011).Ifimprovedestimatesareidentified,theresultsoftheanalysisbelowcanbeeasilyscaledbasedonthenewdata.
Unit4SpentFuelPool
Totalnumberoffuelassemblies*13311535*Tonsofheavymetal228EstimatedCs-13710
18
BqEstimatedCs-13410
18
BqEstimatedSr-906·10
17
BqEstimatedPu-238thru241
10
16
Bq*Reportsdifferonthisnumber,e.g.CNSCreports1331spentfuelassemblies+204newassembliesforatotalof1535fuelassemblies.However,the15%differencebetweenthesenumbersisnotcriticalforthisanalysis.†Uraniumfuel,afteruseinareactor(whenspent)become~1%plutonium.Weusedexampleisotoperatiostoestimateactivity,reducingPu-241activitybyafactorof100toreflectitslowermortalityriskrelativetotheotherPuisotopes(Petersonetal.,2007).
TotalforallDaiichireactorsandSFP’s
(includingcommonfuelstoragepool)Totalnumberoffuelassemblies~11,400Tonsofheavymetal~1950EstimatedCs-13710
19
BqEstimatedCs-13410
19
BqEstimatedSr-906·10
18
BqEstimatedPu-238thru241
3·10
17
Bq‡SomeassembliesincludedMOXfuelwhichcontainsahigherpercentageofplutonium.
BaseCaseScenario:CollapseorbreakageofSFP4leadstoreleaseof10%ofcontainedisotopesintoatmosphere(2%fallingonJapanandtheremaining8%fallingonthePacificOcean)
ThetotalCs-137releasedinthisscenariois10
17
Bq(100PBq)orthreetotentimestheamountreleasedduringthepeakdischargesofMarch2011.Avalueof2%fallingonJapan(20%oftotalrelease)iscomparabletothepercentagecalculatedtohavefallenonJapanduringtheMarch2011release(Buesseleretal.,2012).

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