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Fukushima - Reading Between The Lines 
By TC Burnett
I just had a one-second moment of inattention and deleted several pages of Fukushima observations. It only takes ONE SECOND whether you are writing an article or operating a nuclear plant. I will try to resurrect the high points, but it will be substantially less detailed this time around. And more ranty.
We cannot see, or predict, the future. We can try to learn from the past, but most of those lessons are 'don't let this happen to you'. It is invariably too late. The lessons NEVER tell us how to fix the problem. They are only 'gotcha' moments we wish had never have happened.
So...let us apply our inability to see the future to Fukushima. We don't need to make anything up and we don't need to make predictions. At this point we can go with observations.
I observe that the 'official' information stops at the end of the business day on Friday and doesn't resume again until the following Monday - or the next business day if Monday is a holiday. The last 'official' information we got from the IAEA was on Friday: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html
To me that's a bit disingenuous. It seems as though the official position is that the incident is over, they are just cleaning up and back on a 9-5 weekday schedule, no problem, move along, nothing to see here. Let's look at the actual wording of that report.
It updates us through last Thursday in an off-beat sort of way. For instance, it says things like this: "As of 14 April, white "smoke" was still observed coming from Units 2 and 3. White "smoke" was also observed coming from Unit 4 on 14 April."
'Smoke' is not 'steam'. If we assume that the observer knows the difference, and nothing was lost in translation (neither of which are probably good assumptions, but still), we are left with the knowledge that 'smoke' in the incomplete product of oxidation. Nothing we commonly recognize as combustible lives in the core of a nuclear reactor. What IS in there is a huge mass of melted fissile material that can never be removed, metal fuel rods, control rods, concrete, and some stainless steel. If 'smoke' is coming out, some of that material has to be oxidizing. 
TEPCO says that the temperatures in the reactor cores is being maintained at 214 to 600 degrees F, but they admit their instrumentation might not be working. But here is some news. Concrete and steel don't give off smoke at 600 degrees F. They start burning off their impurities closer to 5,000 degrees. So who is kidding whom? Is it steam or is it smoke? There is a world of difference.
But they don't know because they cannot replace the instrumentation - the radiation levels are too high. They are going to try and send in a robot with a big rectal thermometer for the nuclear core. I wonder if it can speak? I wonder if it can say "I'm melting, I'm melting."
All they can do is busy-work. They have begun to build a pipe line to supply water to the reactors, but there is no place to put the water after they pump it in. They can pump it from ditches to condensers and back, but simple logic tells us that they are continuing to pump 21 cubic meters of fresh water AN HOUR into the reactors to try and prevent them from fissioning and it has to go somewhere So, whether or not it is being made public, they are dumping huge amounts of highly radioactive water into the ocean. Simple. It has to go somewhere and that's the only 'where'. The concept of using tankers was forgotten early-on, but the water is still flowing. 
I can prove it without doing any math. The same report referenced above states the following: 
"To minimize the movement of contaminated water to the open sea, temporary boards to stop water (3 steel plates in total) were installed on 13 April on the ocean-side of the Inlet Bar Screen of Unit 2.
Silt fences have also been installed in the inlet canal and in front of the Inlet Bar Screens of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4. On 11 April, a silt screen was installed at the southern end of the inlet canal. The installation in front of the Inlet Bar Screen of Units 3 and 4 was completed on 13 April and for Units 1 and 2 on 14 April."
That's the politically correct way of saying they are dumping radioactive water into the ocean. Silt fences don't stop water. Water seeks it's own level. SEA level.
In addition, they got an increased pressure reading in one of the cores and began injecting nitrogen to prevent a hydrogen explosion - but that won't control the pressure and it will eventually vent to the atmosphere or to the water table. Unless, of course, the hydrogen blows up - which is the same thing - it will vent to atmospheric pressure. So that is busy-work as well. They want to be able to say, and ARE SAYING "We are doing our best, and cleaning up an old accident. No more earthquakes will occur, so neither this plant, which is hanging on by it's fingernails, nor any OTHER bland on the affected coastline are in any danger. Go about your business."
That belief is irrational. But worse, it isn't true.
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