Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Campaign starts for Emergency Containment of Fukushima emissions

Below is an outline of the plan to stop emissions from Fukushima. 
Please recirculate widely to get the concept running as a meme.
There is a letter here that can be sent to nuclear authorities.

Emergency containment of Fukushima emissions

Sadly, it seems that the situation at Fukushima is not under control*.

It is being suggested that emissions of radiation to the environment from the damaged reactors may continue for months.

This is not acceptable. The emissions can and must be stopped.

The alternative - cleaning up thousands of square kilometers of soil, not to mention marine contamination - would be  prohibitively expensive in terms of environmental health and money.

First, responsibility for the site should be taken over by the IAEA, as this is now an international problem. No expense should be spared in containing the radiation.

Happily, the technology needed to contain the radioactivity is simple, practical, and relatively cheap. There are four main matters to be addressed :

  1. Reactor cooling
  2. Groundwater emissions
  3. Emissions to air
  4. Entombment

Reactor Cooling

It is likely that attempts to cool the reactor will continue for a while, if only to maintain the illusion for TEPCO that the situation is under some kind of control.

The present method of cooling involves a linear process of inserting water, and discharging the resultant waste water to the marine environment.

This is not acceptable in the long term.

An alternative would be to recirculate the water, cooling it by passing it through a heat pump. This would be energy intensive, but would eliminate discharges to the ocean. It could also continued after the site is capped, if cooling coils in hot areas could be put in place. Whether such coils would be able to extract a significant amount of heat is questionable.

The alternative is to abandon cooling altogether. After all, it is not practical to continue cooling for many decades, which is the lenght of time that the reactors are expected to remain hot.

If cooling is abandoned, there will follow an accumulation of heat, and almost certainly downward migration of the melted fuel elements into the subsoil until the hot fuel makes contact with ground water.

This will result in steam formation, possibly at times with explosive force.

Ground water will be contaminated, and left to itself, will diffuse far and wide, eventually reaching aquifers from which water is  abstracted for human use.

This must be avoided or mitigated.

Groundwater abstraction and treatment

Bore holes must be drilled to reach the ground water. Contaminated ground water must be abstracted and pumped through an ion-exchange resin and such other  filters and processes as necessary to reduce contamination to as low a level as technically achievable.

The purified water can be recycled to the cooling effort if necessary.

Emissions to Air

Emissions to air can be stopped by covering the reactors and extracting the contaminated air and steam for treatment.

Reactor 2 still has intact secondary containment. The rectangular window in the containment should be fitted with a duct through which the steam can be drawn and passed to a series of filters. The filter design choice can be a combination of particle filter, cyclone, ion-exchange washing or any other suitable modality. It is simple, standard engineering. The filters can be changed, modified and added to according to experience.

Reactor 2 will be the pilot for the other, damaged reactors, which will need to be enclosed with fabric containment. Once this is in place, air extraction can begin, again being passed to filters.

The contaminated resins and filters will be stored as nuclear waste.


Concrete has been suggested as a method of entombment. This is expensive and unyeilding in the event of explosion, with the result that the force of the explosion will be diverted downwards and laterally. It would present a barrier to further work if it is later decided that access to the reactors is necessary.

Therefore the preferred method is to use earth, which is cheap, and in plentiful supply. It will also dampen the force of any explosions that may occur.

Earth moving equipment and bulldozers should be mobilised now. Some earth can be obtained locally, scooping out a pond which may be used to hold contaminated water. Earth may also be brought from other sites in Japan, and stockpiled ready for use. This work can therefore start today.

Earth will be piled up around the walls of the reactors, and when complete, the reactors can be filled with boron sand.

When complete, the mounded earth can be capped with an impermeable fabric layer. An extraction duct can be passed into the interior of this layer, ensuring that all gases diffusing through the earth and sand will be captured, treated and stored.


The central object of the operation now is to limit and reduce the amount of radionuclides going to the environment.

It is feasible in engineering terms, and it is cheaper.

The challenge and difficulty will be to get the decision makers to initiate the containment process in a timely way. Political pressure from environmental NGOs, Green Parties, citizens, and engineers will be necessary for this to happen.

Please pass this letter on far and wide to anyone who may be interested.

For updates and feedback, email to, or search for "Fukushima". A Facebook page will be set up, with updates about this campaign, and contacts of people to write to.

Thank you for your concern and commitment to reducing the scale of the Fukushima disaster


PCAH said...

Richard's ideas for containing Fukushima's emissions to air, ground and water could also be applied to the 2 Magnox reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. These reactors are currently discharging poisonous radioactive gases through emergency vents installed in the roofs in 2006 following an unexpected build up of core pressure, just like Fukushima.

DocRichard said...

Thanks PCAH
I'm due to speak to Hinkley B tmrw re flooding. I'll enquire abt this emission too.

Sorry I have been a passenger in the NP campaign, but Fukushima and George Monbiot have got me going.

I think we need to insist that nukes are 100% insured on the Market.

lonesomedove said...

So I wrote to ( WNA Outreach InitiativeDirector for Environment & Radiological Protection )

To which the smug jerk replied and I quote: "No offense but next time why don't you try to write a few lines of your own? I have already saw pretty much the same borring write-up from a few people who do not seem to know better."

These people think they are not accountable to anyone, however even they are at the mercy God and someday they will realize it.

DocRichard said...

Hi Lonesomedove

Thanks for taking action! It is good to see that people have been writing. The fact that the WNA is responding in such an unwise way shows that they are rattled. We need to up the pressure, with hundreds more emails. Maybe some demonstrations outside their offices.

As you say, the nuclear industry is ultimately responsible for this event, and they have to give an account of themselves, and also to be open to new thinking, because the actions taken by Tepco so far show very limited thinking.

DocRichard said...

I have written to

Dear Sylvain

A colleague has told me that in response to a request for the nuclear industry to stop the actual and potential pollution from Fukushima, you wrote: "No offense but next time why don't you try to write a few lines of your own? I have already saw pretty much the same borring write-up from a few people who do not seem to know better."

I cannot believe this is exactly what you wrote, and seek clarification.

The overall position is that the global nuclear industry shares responsibility for a most serious event, but is responding to it in a partial way - concentrating on cooling to the exclusion of containment.

It is natural and right for people from outside the industry to press for containment, and this pressure will grow over time.

Reasonable discussion on any technical issues involved in containment is appropriate.

Knee-jerk dismissal of any input from outside the industry is not acceptable, and I am sure this is not your position as your office is precisely the Department for Environment & Radiological Protection.

I look forward to clarification, and will take a non-response as confirmation that my colleague's message was correct.


Richard Lawson

lonesomedove said...

Hello Doc Richard,

I have since corresponded with Sylvain. Let's just say my reply was not very lady-like but he was gracious in subsequent correspondence and we have since been chatting on friendly terms about the current situation at Fukushima. I am happy that we are moving forward in a positive, communicative direction.

I am grateful to have your support Doc.