- A friend in Japan raised questions about the feasibility
of underground concrete entrenchment (360-degree entombment) of the damaged
reactors at Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant. This fellow pointed out that
a concrete seal was successfully built at Chernobyl, even if hundreds of
laborers who worked underground later died from radiation exposure.
- My response was skeptical since Chernobyl's concrete
sarcophagus is now cracking apart due to soil settling and internal heat
build-up. There is also major differences in soil structure between Chernobyl
and Fukushima. Ukraine is a semi-arid steppe with a water table at considerable
depth below the reactor. Fukushima No.1 rests on landfill comprising loose
rock and sand over the natural seabed and is positioned only a couple of
meters above the high tide mark. Water seepage and earthquake-caused liquefaction
have seriously disturbed this rather weak soil structure.
- The carbon reactor at Chernobyl caught fire as the uranium
rods melted down, creating a molten lava flow. At Fukushima, however, the
quake damage and loss of water from inside the reactors caused many fuel
rods to shatter. Broken pieces of uranium fell to the bottom of the reactor
cores and melted through their shrouds into the containment chambers.
- The chemical evidence of slaked lime (calcium hydrate)
in the air indicates the rod fragments then seared past the containment
shields and burned through the reactor buildings' concrete footing.The
continuous release of iodine-131 for more than 4 months in both air and
sea water samples also indicates nonstop nuclear fission. Due to the intense
heat underground, any concrete poured below the reactors will probably
be unable to harden uniformly.
- Therefore the current strategy being considered by Tepco
engineers is to pump polymer resin under the reactors to prevent the inflow
of sea water and ground water. Unfortunately a watertight seal is practically
impossible to achieve since the rod fragments will melt though this bubble
- A shocking discovery at Fukushima was that zirconium
(used as a "transparent" - allowing passage of neutrons - protective
cladding around the fuel rods) when superheated can become a catalyst for
an esoteric type of nuclear fission. At extreme temperatures, zirconium
ignites even the tiniest quantities of airborne nuclear isotopes, releasing
"blue lightning". This means that zirconium catalysis could also
be occurring underground, triggering mini-fission events. This sort of
nuclear reaction is terra incognita, a yet unexplored frontier of physics,
the joker in the deck.
- Much of the danger comes from simpler processes. Extremely
hot magma, consisting of nuclear residues mixed with soil minerals, will
boil any sea water seeping underground, creating pressurized steam.Think
of oatmeal cooking in a pot and how bubbles create blow holes. The same
is happening inside the landfill.
- The steam-created tubes harden when they cool, leaving
lines of structural weakness. Eventually, these air pockets will collapse,
and the massive weight of the water-filled reactors, piles of spent rods
and their supporting structures will drop into deep sinkholes.
- If the magma tubes become filled with sea water, the
landfill will resemble a gigantic sponge, prone to liquefaction and collapse
under earthquake motion. Even the resonance vibrations from large machines
could trigger the sudden opening of new sinkholes.
- Water holds other dangers as well, since it is a better
medium for nuclear fission than the mix of stones, dirt and concrete now
under the reactors. Once sea water seeps into the newly opened underground
channels, the fissile particles will become free-floating and fire neutrons
into bits of uranium, plutonium and other isotopes, triggering cascades
of fission. The resulting steam pressure is volcanic, bursting out of the
ground and spewing vast amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere.
The oatmeal spatters across the stove top.
- The problem with concrete is that it not only keeps sea
water out but also traps any liquid inside the seal. A concrete sarcophagus
then becomes a witches' brew of nuclear fission.
- Entombment of a reactor built on landfill over the seabed
is therefore practically impossible. After the reactors drop into
sinkholes, the meltdowns could go on for decades.
- The one possible solution to this apocalyptic scenario
is the stuff that propelled Ronald Reagan into nationwide fame as host
of GE Family Theater: borax. The alkali salt used in laundry powder consists
of about 15 percent boron-10, the neutron-absorbing mineral used in control
rods inside nuclear reactors. Boron intercepts neutrons, thereby reducing
the number of fission events and thus cooling the loose uranium.
- Borax dissolves in water, meaning it can be poured into
the water seeping underground through turbine rooms and the maze of broken
pipes. Around the hot spots, the mineral salt will turn solid, trapping
and separating uranium particles. The crystalized borax will fill the
steam-created gaps in the soil, strengthening the overall weight-bearing
structure. The hard angular crystals can also resist seismic movement,
reducing the problem of liquefaction.
- Borax can be poured into water seeping through the turbine
rooms and damaged pipes or inserted through bore holes drilled at an angle
under the reactor.
- This mineral salt as low toxicity, making it safe for
the workers, and is harmless if it leaks into the sea. Cheap, abundant
and mined in the western USA, borax is the solution for cleaning up an
awful mess. If Reagan endorsed it, borax might actually work.