A few days ago, I published the text of a speech given by Murray Miles to The Keese School of Continuing Education. At the time I published that speech, I had not been able to contact Mr. Miles to obtain his permission. Since that time, I have made contact and begun what I hope will be a continuing conversation. Murray is a highly qualified and experienced source of information after completing a career with NAVSEA 08 in 1979 and a second career with GPU Nuclear.
Murray shared an update to his speech with me. I thought you might enjoy reading it as well.
FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR ACCIDENT
INTRODUCTION FOR ASBURY VILLAGE TELEVISION
MURRAY E. MILES MARCH 31, 2011
The nuclear accident at the Fukushima reactor plants happened because of the tsunami on March 11, 2011. The talk John Villforth and I are introducing was at the Keese School on March 24 and today one week later is day 20. I concentrated then on the status of the plants and John on giving a historical perspective for the resulting environmental radioactivity.
Electric power has been restored to the site and there are now electric lights. The radioactive fission products in the reactor fuel have decayed. This substantially reduces the amount of heat that must be removed from the reactors. Fresh cooling water to replace seawater is being arranged by U.S. Navy barges. They contain a desalinization plant in the ocean well away from the radioactive seawater around the plant. The emergency phase continues but the risk of releasing dangerously large amounts of radioactivity to the population outside the plants has essentially finished. Such a release would take a big fire or an explosion and these are no longer likely.
The Japanese announced they will dismantle all four of the accident plants. This will take many years. Their stated objective is to return the site of the plants to green earth cleanliness. That is a noble objective, but I suspect it will be too hard to go that far.
Help for Japan has been offered from all over the world. Teams from the U. S. and elsewhere are already in Japan.
The cleanup should not be compared with Chernobyl which is not practical to decontaminate. It will be harder than at Three Mile Island for at least four reasons:
1. There are three reactors with fuel destroyed instead of just one.
2. There is destroyed fuel around a spent fuel pool. The spent fuel pool at Three Mile Island was not involved in that accident.
3. These are Boiling Water Reactors where steam produced in the reactor vessel is sent directly to the steam turbines to convert to electricity. As a result, radioactivity is introduced directly into the turbine plant. The turbine plant is full of machinery that occupies buildings much larger than the reactor plant. At Fukushima at least one of the turbine rooms has high level radioactivity on the floor. At Three Mile Island and other Pressurized Water Reactors, steam generators inside the reactor compartment provide a barrier so that steam does not usually carry radioactivity into the turbine plant. Twenty-three of the 104 power reactors in the U. S. are Boiling Water Reactors.
4. Boiling Water Reactors have cruciform-shaped control blades entering the reactor vessel from the bottom. Complicated mechanisms drive these long control blades containing neutron poison into the reactor to shut it down. The many holes through the bottom of the reactor vessel provide leakage paths for products of core destruction that did not exist at Three Mile Island.
The most important objective is to get control of the radioactivity at the plant to reduce to the minimum the radiation exposure of the public outside the plant. This objective is exceedingly difficult to accomplish. Large amounts of radioactivity are leaking to the ocean. Radioactive gasses must continue to be vented to the atmosphere for a long time since the plant has no way to decontaminate them or to contain them. The wind and people and vehicles will continue to pick up radioactive particles that have spread around the plants and carry them off-site. Radioactive water at high pressure constantly finds paths to leak to the atmosphere through damaged piping systems and equipment. There will be millions of gallons of radioactive water to process.
Most of this work is currently in high radiation levels and is performed by workers hampered by anti-contamination suits and breathing masks. By allowing the 25 rem emergency dose limit, Japan is capitalizing on keeping the most experienced workers to do the work on systems and equipment they are most familiar with. Later in the emergency phase, outsiders can be used to reduce the emergency dose limit by spreading the total exposure over more workers.
Japan is causing unnecessary concern by putting a worker with 10 rem in the hospital isolated in a glass room able to see and talk to family only through a glass wall. Excessive conservatism such as this increases the fears of workers and the public. I believe the net result is to decrease
The spirit of each of my three previous talks on radiation, on radioactivity, and on nuclear power, to the Keese School has been to support nuclear power in the United States. My last report ended with
“We need as an urgent National priority to double the number of our nuclear power plants.”
This accident will be used to double-check the extensive safety features of our plants. It should not be used to stop nuclear power.
End Guest Post.
PS – I remain convinced that the world’s human population stands to gain a great benefit from a sustained effort to replace fossil fuel combustion with uranium, thorium and plutonium fission as many applications as feasible. The world will be a cleaner, more politically stable, and less economically stratified place when that happens. There will be less money associated with extracting, transporting and marketing fossil fuels; that situation benefits about 90% of the world’s population. I expect the other 10% will fight the change rather strenuously.