How to Clean Up Hundreds of Tons of Melted Nuclear Fuel

In more than 6 years they have not been able to really find yet the melted fuel, despite their beautiful PR stunt last week, and now they talk about which techniques to use to remove it. Maybe they should better find it first before talking about how to remove it, that is if most of it has not been already vented and projected into our skies.

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How to Clean Up Hundreds of Tons of Melted Nuclear Fuel

More than six years after three nuclear reactors melted down in Japan, the country is homing in on the lost fuel inside one of them. Japan’s biggest utility and owner of the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., last week released images that for the first time showed what’s likely melted fuel inside the No. 3 reactor.

If confirmed, the nation will have to devise a way to remove the highly radioactive material, a mixture of melted nuclear fuel and reactor debris known as corium. The cleanup process that may last 40 years and cost 8 trillion yen ($72 billion) will require technology not yet invented.

Here are a few ways the removal could be done, including the government’s preferred approach by taking it out the side:

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Special tools and techniques will have to be developed to undertake such a task that has never been attempted before anywhere in the world,” said Dale Klein, an adviser to Tepco, as the utility is known, and a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “Once Tepco has identified the characteristics of this material, then they can develop a plan to remove this material in a safe manner.”

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The search for the fuel has left a trail of dead experimental robots specifically designed to find and photograph the estimated combined 600 metric tons of fuel and debris in the three melted reactors. While the No. 3 reactor was the last unit to be probed, its the first to produce a strong indication of where the fuel came to rest. The removal process is slated to begin in 2021.

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Long-handled devices guided by a television monitor system were developed to remove fuel core debris at Three Mile Island in the U.S. after its 1979 meltdown. The so-called defueling process took from 1985 to 1990 and involved removing the partially melted fuel core from inside the pressure vessel of the No. 2 reactor, which remained intact. Fukushima offers a more complex challenge since three reactors suffered total meltdowns, with melted fuel rupturing pressure vessels and falling to the bottom of the units.

No such effort is being made at Chernobyl, where a concrete sarcophagus was used to entomb the wrecked plant that melted down in 1986.

Technology research and development should focus on removing fuel through the side, the Nuclear Damage Compensation & Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., Tepco’s top government shareholder, said Monday. That method is safer for workers than flooding the reactor, which would also require the management of radioactive water.

Japan will decide how it will remove the fuel by September, Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said after the discovery last week, according to national broadcaster NHK.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-31/how-japan-could-remove-melted-nuclear-fuel-it-hunted-for-6-years

 

31 july 2017 fuel removal technique

New proposal suggests removing Fukushima plant’s melted nuclear fuel from side

A method to remove melted nuclear fuel debris on the bottom of the containment vessels of Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant’s first, second and third reactors from the side was proposed by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) on July 31.

Hajimu Yamana, head of the NDF, which is tasked with considering how to remove fuel debris from the reactors, for the first time explained the organization’s specific method proposal to the heads of local governments at a countermeasures for the decommissioning and handling of the contaminated water council meeting held in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.

The method would focus on prioritizing the removal of debris from the bottom of the vessels from the side, using robotic arms and other remote devices while flushing water over the debris.

However, ways to block radiation and countermeasures against the scattering of airborne radioactive dust still remain unsolved. The central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) plan to finalize their policy to remove the debris and amend the decommission schedule in September.

In all three of the reactors, contaminated water has collected at the bottom of the containment vessels. The NDF had previously considered a “flooding method” that would fill the containment vessels completely with water to block radiation from leaking. However, measures to repair the containment vessels and prevent leakage of the radioactive water would be difficult, so the plan was put aside for having “too many issues.”

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170801/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

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Footage from reactor 3 may force rewrite of Fukushima road map, officials say

n-fukushima-a-20170731-870x560.jpgThis underwater robot was used in the recent probe of reactor 3 at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The first images of melted fuel from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant indicate that it did not burn through the pressure vessel of reactor 3, but exited through the holes used to insert the control rods, officials say.

While the landmark robot footage from the primary containment vessel of unit 3 is helping Tokyo Electric grasp the reality of the damaged fuel assemblies, it may also force it to rewrite the road map for decommissioning the meltdown-hit plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., better known as Tepco, sent an underwater robot into reactor 3 earlier this month to confirm its hypothesis that the core — the fuel assemblies in the pressure vessel — broke apart and fell to the bottom, letting molten fuel burn through and drip into the primary containment vessel.

According to Tepco spokesman Takahiro Kimoto, however, the images taken beneath the PCV indicate the pressure vessel probably withstood the heat of the molten fuel. He said the fuel apparently seeped through the holes for the control rods.

We do not presume that the vessel, which is 14 cm thick, melted and collapsed together with the fuel, but that part of the fuel instead made its way down through holes,” Kimoto said. The control rods are used to moderate the chain reaction and are inserted vertically into the core.

Tepco said it estimates reactor 3 has about 364 tons of fuel debris, and that similar amounts will be found in reactors 1 and 2. Removing the fuel from the reactors is the largest challenge in defueling the aged plant — a process that could take up to 40 years to complete.

The camera on the underwater robot also captured images of rubble around the fuel debris, which could slow the removal process. The rubble includes devices for supporting the control rods at the bottom of the PCV and scaffolding for maintenance workers beneath the pressure vessel.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said the government and Tepco will try to draft a plan for removing the melted fuel in September, with an eye to hammering out the specifics in the first half of fiscal 2018 and starting the work in 2021.

But the findings from reactor 3 may force them to alter the state’s road map for decommissioning Fukushima No. 1, officials said.

An entity providing technical support for the project has urged that efforts be made to remove the melted fuel from the submerged lower part of the PCV by keeping air in the upper part, according to a source familiar with the plan.

Although filling the PCV completely with water would largely reduce the radiation risk to the robot probes, the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. is reluctant to do so because it is damaged and the toxic water will just leak out, the source said.

At the other two reactors, Tepco thinks most of the fuel in reactor 1 fell to the bottom of the primary containment vessel, and that some of the fuel in reactor 2 remained in the pressure vessel. The company made the estimates based on cosmic ray imaging analysis and by sending robots and endoscopes into the PCVs of the two reactors.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/30/national/footage-reactor-3-may-force-rewrite-fukushima-road-map-officials-say/#.WX7Mha0ZOV5

Robotic Probe Has “Confirmed” Lumps that “Could Be” Fuel Debris in the No.3 Reactor…

 

Japan’s industry minister says the government hopes to have a policy in place by around September on how to remove melted fuel from the No.3 reactor of the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Hiroshige Seko told reporters on Tuesday that a robotic probe has confirmed lumps that could be fuel debris in the No.3 reactor, giving researchers valuable information.

Seko said he hopes a policy on how to remove the debris can be formulated, based on an analysis and assessment of the probe’s findings.

During the survey last week, a submersible robot found lumps below the reactor pressure vessel and at the bottom of the containment vessel.
It’s the first time a probe has identified what could be a mixture of melted nuclear fuel and broken metal parts lodged inside a reactor container.

Removing the fuel debris would require the use of remote-controlled robots. It is considered the most challenging step in the process to decommission the reactor.

The industry minister suggested that the government plans to honor the existing timetable for decommissioning.

The plan calls for setting specific methods for removing fuel debris by the first half of 2018, so the actual work can begin by 2021.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170725_16/

 

Deposits in reactor likely to be fuel debris?

 

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant released video footage on Monday of what is likely to be melted fuel debris.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, found the solidified lumps during a robot inspection of the containment vessel of Fukushima’s wrecked No. 3 reactor. The 3-day survey ended on Saturday.

TEPCO had earlier only made public still images from the probe. The 4-minute video shows black or grey lumps hanging down close to a structure just below the reactor.

The lava-like lumps are piled in layers, a phenomenon unknown before the accident.

TEPCO officials say the debris is probably melted nuclear fuel mixed with broken reactor parts.

In addition to metal scaffolding and other structural components, rocks and sand-like sediment can be seen getting stirred up by the movement of the robot.

The government and TEPCO plan further analysis of the footage in order to determine methods for removing the debris.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170724_27/

 

How Much Fuel Was in Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 Reactor?

“Basically, at Daiichi Unit 3 TEPCO has misplaced 50 plus tons of reactor fuel that was “enriched” with plutonium and now were are being encouraged to think that shards of melted-fuel debris represent the entirety of the missing reactor core….a core that weighed more than a school bus….”

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Via Majia’s Blog:

I’ve followed the Fukushima Daiichi disaster so closely for so long that I was surprised to discover this morning that I really don’t know exactly how much fuel was in reactor 3.

I have the data on fuel contained in the spent fuel pools, but NOT the data on fuel in the REACTOR CORES.  

Below find the spent fuel pool data:

TEPCO. Integrity Inspection of Dry Storage Casks and Spent Fuels at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (16 November 2010), http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/accidents/6-1_powerpoint.pdf

[PARAPHRASING] The total spent uranium fuel inventory at Daiichi in March 2010 was reported as 1,760 tons. The 2010 report asserts that approximately 700 spent fuel assemblies are generated every year. The report specifies that Daiichi’s 3,450 assemblies are stored in each of the six reactor’s spent fuel pools. The common spent fuel pool contains 6291 assemblies. The amount of MOX fuel stored at the plant has not been reported.

SO, 700 spent fuel assemblies were generated at Daiichi each year. There were 6 reactors at Daiichi, although not all were operational at time of earthquake. Assuming they were operational, can we infer that each reactor core contained approximately 100 assemblies? 

That estimate is supported by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s information on fuel assemblies found here, which suggests a reactor may contain up to 200 assemblies, with each assembly containing 200 or more rods:

US NRC (2017, April 10). Fuel assembly (fuel bundle, fuel element). https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/glossary/fuel-assembly-fuel-bundle-fuel-element.html

A structured group of fuel rods (long, slender, metal tubes containing pellets of fissionable material, which provide fuel for nuclear reactors). Depending on the design, each reactor vessel may have dozens of fuel assemblies (also known as fuel bundles), each of which may contain 200 or more fuel rods.

The website titled Nuclear Power Net, described as non-profit and founded by nuclear engineers, suggests a typical reactor  contains 157 fuel assemblies but those are composed of over 45,000 fuel rods (which is more than 200 in each assembly):

Nuclear Power Net (no date). http://www.nuclear-power.net/nuclear-power-plant/nuclear-fuel/

An 1100 MWe (3300 MWth) nuclear core may contain 157 fuel assemblies composed of over 45,000 fuel rods and some 15 million fuel pellets. Generally, a common fuel assembly contain energy for approximately 4 years of operation at full power. Once loaded, fuel stays in the core for 4 years depending on the design of the operating cycle. During these 4 years the reactor core have to be refueled. 

During refueling, every 12 to 18 months, some of the fuel – usually one third or one quarter of the core – is removed to spent fuel pool, while the remainder is rearranged to a location in the core better suited to its remaining level of enrichment. The removed fuel (one third or one quarter of the core, i.e. 40 assemblies) has to be replaced by a fresh fuel assemblies.

The variation in data is puzzling but I think we can move forward assuming that there were approximately 100 fuel assemblies in each reactor.

A typical fuel assembly for a Pressured Water Reactor (PWR) “stands between four and five metres high, is about 20 cm across and weighs about half a tonne” according to the World Nuclear Association (http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/conversion-enrichment-and-fabrication/fuel-fabrication.aspx).

USING THESE DATA POINTS, I can infer that Unit 3’s reactor core contained approximately 50-75 tons of fuel. Does that sound roughly correct? A ton is 2,000 pounds so 50 tons of fuel is 100,000 pounds. For metric users, that converts into 45359.237 kilograms.

Why is it so important that I determine how much fuel was in reactor 3?

The reason lies in the media representations of TEPCO’s robotic probe, Little Sunfish, which allegedly has (likely) located unit 3’s  missing reactor fuel, illustrated in the media as “rocks on the floor”:

Kohei Tomida (July 23, 2017). Melted nuke fuel images show struggle facing Fukushima plant. The Asahi Shimbun, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707230012.html 

In particular, what is believed to be nuclear fuel debris is scattered in the form of rocks in the area directly beneath the pressure vessel. 

My point is not to deny that these found rocks might be nuclear fuel debris. Rather, my point is that these shards of melted fuel and debris can hardly be construed as representing the entirety of the fuel.

Put otherwise, there is no compelling evidence that TEPCO has located the majority of fuel that was contained in Unit 3.

I decided to search my notes, books, and the web validated statistics on how much fuel each reactor contained. I was struck by how little information is available about the missing fuel and the sanitized accounts of what happened at unit 3, the one running MOX fuel.

Basically, at Daiichi Unit 3 TEPCO has misplaced 50 plus tons of reactor fuel that was “enriched” with plutonium and now were are being encouraged to think that shards of melted-fuel debris represent the entirety of the missing reactor core….a core that weighed more than a school bus….

http://majiasblog.blogspot.fr/2017/07/how-much-fuel-was-in-fukushima-daiichi.html

 

Likely Melted Fuel Heap Found Inside Fukushima Daiichi’s Reactor 3 Shows Future Removing Difficulties

Underwater robot finds likely melted fuel heap inside Fukushima reactor

melted fuel 23 july 2017 3.This image captured by an underwater robot provided by International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning on Saturday, July 22, 2017 shows heaps of solidified lava-like rocks believed to be nuclear fuel.

 

TOKYO (AP) — Images captured by an underwater robot showed massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 1 meter on the bottom inside of a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima’s Unit 3 reactor, said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.

On Friday, the robot spotted suspected debris of melted fuel for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns and destroyed the plant. The three-day probe of Unit 3 ended Saturday.

Locating and analyzing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant’s three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant. The search for melted fuel in the two other reactors has so far been unsuccessful because of damage and extremely high radiation levels.

During this week’s probe, cameras mounted on the robot showed extensive damage caused by the core meltdown, with fuel debris mixed with broken reactor parts, suggesting the difficult challenges ahead in the decades-long decommissioning of the destroyed plant.

TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto said it would take time to analyze the debris in the images to figure out debris removal methods.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170723/p2g/00m/0dm/033000c

 

Melted nuke fuel images show struggle facing Fukushima plant

melted fuel 23 july 2017 2What is believed to be nuclear fuel debris has accumulated at the submerged bottom of the containment vessel in the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in an image taken on July 22. Part of the collapsed metal scaffolding is seen at back right.

 

Images captured on July 22 of solidified nuclear fuel debris at the bottom of a containment vessel of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant show the enormity of decommissioning of the facility.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it will closely study the images from the No. 3 reactor’s containment vessel to determine the spread and amount of nuclear fuel debris.

After analysis, TEPCO will decide on a policy to retrieve the fuel debris.

The government and TEPCO plan to start the retrieval process in one of the three crippled reactors at the plant from 2021.

It will be a formidable task, given that a method of recovering debris that is stuck to the floor has yet to be considered.

The recent images were taken by a submersible robot, which was sent into the containment vessel on July 19, 21 and 22.

The No. 3 reactor’s containment vessel is filled with water to a depth of 6.4 meters.

On the final day, the remote-controlled robot was dispatched to the deepest part of the containment vessel.

The images showed that pieces that fell from the structure and deposited material accumulated to a height of about 1 meters at the bottom of the containment vessel.

In particular, what is believed to be nuclear fuel debris is scattered in the form of rocks in the area directly beneath the pressure vessel.

The latest investigation has confirmed TEPCO’s assumption made through analyses that most of the reactor’s nuclear fuel melted through the pressure vessel and accumulated at the bottom of the containment vessel.

It also discovered that the nuclear fuel debris has spread throughout the containment vessel.

The images marked the first confirmation through a robot probe of a large amount of nuclear debris in any of the embattled No. 1 through No. 3 reactors.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707230012.html

Japan Pictures Likely Show Melted Fukushima Fuel for First Time

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New images show what is likely to be melted nuclear fuel hanging from inside one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima reactors, a potential milestone in the cleanup of one of the worst atomic disasters in history.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest utility, released images on Friday showing a hardened black, grey and orange substance that dripped from the bottom of the No. 3 reactor pressure vessel at Fukushima, which is likely to contain melted fuel, according to Takahiro Kimoto, an official at the company. The company sent a Toshiba-designed robot, which can swim and resembles a submarine, to explore the inside of the reactor for the first time on July 19.

Never before have we taken such clear pictures of what could be melted fuel,” Kimoto said at a press briefing that began at 9 p.m. Friday in Tokyo, noting that it would take time to analyze and confirm whether it is actually fuel. “We believe that the fuel melted and mixed with the metal directly underneath it. And it is highly likely that we have filmed that on Friday.”

800x-1.pngPictures taken on July 21 inside of Fukushima reactor. Source: Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.

 

If confirmed, the substance — which has the appearance of icicles — would be the first discovery of the fuel that melted during the triple reactor accident at Fukushima six years ago. For Tokyo Electric, which bears most of the clean-up costs, the discovery would help the utility design a way to remove the highly-radioactive material.

The robot, which is about 30 centimeters (12 inches) long, will search for melted fuel at the bottom of the reactor on Saturday. It is possible that the company will take more pictures of what could be melted fuel spread across the floor and lower levels, according to Tokyo Electric’s Kimoto. Fuel from a nuclear meltdown is known as corium, which is a mixture of the atomic fuel rods and other structural materials.

Early Signs

It is important to know the exact locations and the physical, chemical, radiological forms of the corium to develop the necessary engineering defueling plans for the safe removal of the radioactive materials,” said Lake Barrett, a former official at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who was involved with the cleanup at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the U.S. “The recent investigation results are significant early signs of progress on the long road ahead.”

Because of the high radioactivity levels inside the reactor, only specially designed robots can probe the unit. And the unprecedented nature of the Fukushima disaster means that Tepco, as the utility is known, is pinning its efforts on technology not yet invented to get the melted fuel out of the reactors.

Removal Plans

The company aims to decide on the procedure to remove the melted fuel from each unit as soon as this summer. And it will confirm the procedure for the first reactor during the fiscal year ending March 2019, with fuel removal slated to begin in 2021.

Decommissioning the reactors will cost 8 trillion yen ($72 billion), according to an estimate in December from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Removing the fuel is one of the most important steps in a cleanup that may take as long as 40 years.

Similar to the latest findings on Friday, Tepco took photographs in January of what appeared to be black residue covering a grate under the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 2 reactor, which was speculated to have been melted fuel. However, a follow-up survey by another Toshiba-designed robot in February failed to confirm the location of any melted fuel in the reactor after it got stuck in debris.

A robot designed by Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. also failed to find any melted fuel during its probe of the No. 1 reactor in March.

The significance of Friday’s finding “might be evidence that the robots used by Tepco can now deal with the higher radiation levels, at least for periods of time that allow them to search parts of the reactor that are more likely to contain fuel debris,” M.V. Ramana, professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia, said by email.

If some of these fragments can be brought out of the reactor and studied, it would allow nuclear engineers and scientists to better model what happened during the accident.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-22/japan-pictures-likely-show-melted-fukushima-fuel-for-first-time