Nuclear Scientist Recycled Fuel Containing Plutonium at Fukushima Plant Increases Meltdown Stakes

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Nuclear Scientist Recycled Fuel Containing Plutonium at Fukushima Plant Increases Meltdown Stakes

At 11:01 a.m. Monday (Japanese time), NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, confirmed that six people were injured in “what appears to be” another “hydrogen blast” at the Fukushima plant. The explosion came from the No. 3 reactor.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency advised anyone within 13 miles of the plant should take shelter inside buildings as soon as possible.

Video footage shows that the top of the building has been blown off.

The plant’s operator, TEPCO, released the following prior to the #3 reactor explosion:

Unit 3(Shut down)

- Reactor has been shut down. However, High Pressure Core Injection System

has been automatically shut down and water injection to the reactor is

currently interrupted. We are examining alternative way to inject water.

Also, following the instruction by the government and with fully securing

safety, steps to lowering the pressure of reactor containment vessel has

been taken. Spraying in order to lower pressure level within the reactor

containment vessel has been cancelled.

- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage inside

the reactor containment vessel.

Also, prior to the explosion, the UK Daily Mail reported that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that a hydrogen explosion could occur at Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, the reactor that could be melting down. The BBC reported that a former nuclear power plant designer warned that the Japanese government is suppressing information about the nuclear disaster. Masashi Goto told a news conference in Tokyo that one of the reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant was “highly unstable”, and that if there was a meltdown the “consequences would be tremendous”. He said such an event might be very likely indeed.

Since interpretationa vary, we assembled an opinion from nuclear expert , Ed Lyman, who has testified before Congress and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from


The multiple cooling system failures at Fukushima Dai-Ichi could increase cancer fatalities if Unit 3 explodes, according to Ed Lyman, a senior scientist in the Global Security Program. An expert on nuclear weapons policy , nuclear materials and nuclear terrorism, he has revealed on the All Things website that Reactor Unit 3 runs on mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in the core.

(Editor’s Note: MOX fuel is made by separating uranium and plutonium through re-cycling of “used fuel.” MOX fuel from plutonium increases the energy from the original uranium by 12% and if the uranium is recycled , it’s energy increases 22%, based on data at )

“MOX is a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides. The use of MOX general increases the consequences of severe accidents in which large amounts of radioactive gas and aerosol are released compared to the same accident in a reactor using non-MOX fuel, because MOX fuel contains greater amounts of plutonium and other actinides, such as americium and curium, which have high radio-toxicities,” Lyman wrote.

While the MOX is about 6% of the core, Lyman wrote “this could cause a roughly 10% increase in latent cancer fatalities if there were a severe accident with core melt and containment breach, which has not happened at this point.”

He disputes the downplaying of “authorities” playing down “the possibility of a breach of the primary containment at these reactors.” He then cited a study by Sandia National Laboratories showing that the likelihood of “containment failure in this case is nearly 42%. The most likely failure scenario involves the molten fuel burning through the reactor vessel, spilling onto the containment floor and spreading until it contacts and breaches the steel containment vessel wall.”

The nuclear expert concedes “it’s not straightforward to interpret these results in the context of the very complicated and uncertain situation at Fukushima. However, he reiterates that three reactors there have Mart I containments which are “unusually vulnerable to containment failure in the event of a core-melt accident.”

Lyman has published articles and letters in journals and magazines including Science, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Science and Global Security, and Arms Control Today. He is an active member of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management.  He has testified before Congress and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and has served as an expert witness for intervenors in several NRC licensing proceedings.  In February 2009, he testified at an NRC briefing on risk-informed regulation, and in March and June of 2009 he spoke on reprocessing issues at two NRC events.

Comments powered by Disqus