The Regulatory & Reactor failure time warp. Containment Breach.

“In many ways the semiscale experiments were not accurate simulations of designs or conditions in power reactors. Not only the size, scale, and design but also the channels that directed the flow of coolant in the test model were markedly different than those in an actual reactor. Nevertheless, the results of the tests were disquieting. They introduced a new element of uncertainty into assessing the performance of ECCS. The outcome of the tests had not been anticipated and called into question the analytical methods used to predict what would happen in a loss-of-coolant accident. The results were hardly conclusive but their implications for the effectiveness of ECCS were troubling.

The semiscale tests caught the AEC unprepared and uncertain of how to respond. Harold Price, the director of regulation, directed a special task force he had recently formed to focus on the ECCS question and to draft a “white paper” within a month. Seaborg, for the first time, called the Office of Management and Budget to plead for more funds for safety research on light-water reactors. While waiting for the task force to finish its work, the AEC tried to keep information about the semiscale tests from getting out to the public, even to the extent of withholding information about them from the Joint Committee. The results of the tests came at a very awkward time for the AEC. It was under renewed pressure from utilities facing power shortages and from the Joint Committee to streamline the licensing process and eliminate excessive delays. At the same time, Seaborg was appealing–successfully–to President Nixon for support of the breeder reactor, and controversy over the semiscale tests and reactor safety could undermine White House backing for the program. By the spring of 1971, nuclear critics were expressing opposition to the licensing of several proposed reactors, and news of the semiscale experiments seemed likely to spur their efforts.

For those reasons, the AEC sought to resolve the ECCS issue as promptly and quietly as possible. It wanted to settle the uncertainties about safety without arousing a public debate that could place hurdles in the way of the bandwagon market. Even before the task force that Price established completed its study of the ECCS problem, the Commission decided to publish “interim acceptance criteria” for emergency cooling systems that licensees would have to meet. It imposed a series of requirements that it believed would ensure that the ECCS in a plant would prevent a core melt after a loss-of-coolant accident. The AEC did not prescribe methods of meeting the interim criteria, but in effect, it mandated that manufacturers and utilities set an upper limit on the amount of heat generated by reactors. In some cases, this would force utilities to reduce the peak operating temperatures (and hence, the power) of their plants. Price told a press conference on June 19, 1971 that although the AEC thought it impossible “to guarantee absolute safety,” he was “confident that these criteria will assure that the emergency core cooling systems will perform adequately to protect the temperature of the core from getting out of hand.”

And so nothing changed. However, regulatory continued to assess the merits of individual designs, designs which had previously been approved. Given the lack of ultimate guarantee that the ECCS would work as designed (as a result of the regulatory requirement that it must work for extended periods), the ultimate protection of the public depended upon the ability of containment structures to hold without breach. Hold without breach when faced with reactor cores which generated many atmospheres of excess pressure and which generated hydrogen gas during core overheat. Although all a reactor has to do is provide sufficient to boil water, in overheat the reactor becomes, effectively, a uranium smelter. A role its structure is not designed for. The entire industry rests on the hope than as uranium melts, the gases and pressures produced do not destroy the structure.

The folly of that idea is that no other smelter of metal on earth is designed as a pressure vessel.

The pressures within the reactors at Fukushima Diiachi became so high that the gases had to be vented to allow an attempt at pumping water into them. This situation had been foreseen decades ago. The stark choice was to either let the reactors go and evacuate Tokyo or to release pressure by releasing the pressurized gases the reactor core had caused. The pressurized gases held radionuclides created by the core during fission. The primary gas present was hydrogen. The very need to contain these things resulted in the pressure which now severely restricted the ability to add water to the cores. They vented the reactors.

There followed large explosions in each reactor building. The vent pipes, they said, terminated inside the reactor buildings and not in the open air. And that was the cause of the explosions, which they said, had not damaged the reactors. And they said, the radioactivity of the clouds which resulted from the explosions, was merely hydrogen. Perfectly safe. I have spent hours trying to compile a list of radionuclides which were actually in those clouds. I gave up. The fission product list is long and has been disclosed piece meal over time.

To preserve the containment, they had to vent it. Venting is a breach of containment. They hoped a lesser amount would released in a controlled fashion – as dictated by the needs of the reactors – would prevent a larger release due to the uncontrolled failure of containments later. When the reactor buildings blew up in March 2011, on my local news the nuclear expert providing the voice over said “This is normal”.

Well, I suppose it is for a pressurized smelter. But the event was one which the industry said it had designed against. And it had convinced the regulators that the protection of the public was at the core of reactor design.

Like the ECCS system, the containment structures of the same type as those at Fukushima Diiachi had their critics. These critics first voiced their conclusions decades ago.

The last line of defense against the process which leads to containment breach is the ECCS. I have explained that the ECCS dumps heat into the Mk1 Boiling Water Reactor torus/suppression pool. The doughnut ring. This is part of the containment. It is a separate volume to the central containment vessel. There are dynamic interplays between the torus and the main containment which result in pressure waves which impact the structures. While it seems to have acted ok as a heat sink for the ECCS, the Torus did not act ok as a containment. In terms of containment, the Torus arrangement is known as “the pressure suppression system”.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service has an explanation of the Fukushima Diiachi type reactors at
http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/bwrfact.htm

Nirs states: “As early as 1972, Dr. Stephen Hanauer, an Atomic Energy Commission safety official, recommended that the pressure suppression system be discontinued and any further designs not be accepted for construction permits. Hanauer’s boss, Joseph Hendrie (later an NRC Commissioner) essentially agreed with Hanauer, but denied the recommendation on the grounds that it could end the nuclear power industry in the U.S.”

NIRS continues: “n 1976, three General Electric nuclear engineers publicly resigned their prestigious positions citing dangerous shortcomings in the GE design.

An NRC analysis of the potential failure of the Mark I under accident conditions concluded in a 1985 report that Mark I failure within the first few hours following core melt would appear rather likely.”

In 1986, Harold Denton, then the NRC’s top safety official, told an industry trade group that the “Mark I containment, especially being smaller with lower design pressure, in spite of the suppression pool, if you look at the WASH 1400 safety study, you’ll find something like a 90% probability of that containment failing.” In order to protect the Mark I containment from a total rupture it was determined necessary to vent any high pressure buildup. As a result, an industry workgroup designed and installed the “direct torus vent system” at all Mark I reactors. Operated from the control room, the vent is a reinforced pipe installed in the torus and designed to release radioactive high pressure steam generated in a severe accident by allowing the unfiltered release directly to the atmosphere through the 300 foot vent stack. Reactor operators now have the option by direct action to expose the public and the environment to unknown amounts of harmful radiation in order to “save containment.” As a result of GE’s design deficiency, the original idea for a passive containment system has been dangerously compromised and given over to human control with all its associated risks of error and technical failure.

As we have now seen at Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011, this containment design failed catastrophically when hydrogen built up in the outer containment buildings until three of them exploded. The outer containment building was neither large enough nor strong enough to withstand these explosions.” Source: NIRS.

NIRS provides download links to scans of the original AEC documents here: http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/accidents/19711117-hanauer-memo-bwr-pressure-suppression-containment.pdf

and here: http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/accidents/19720920-hanauer-memo-pressure-suppression-containments.pdf

and here: http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/accidents/19720925-hendrie-pressure-suppression-concerns-end-of-nucl%7E1.pdf

If ever there was an example in nuclear history of past actions and decisions affecting the present (and they all do) this is a salient example. Now the same justifications used to continue to allow use of nuclear reactions at that time – too much trouble – is very much the same today. For “trouble” actually means “dollars”. The industry and the regulators say it would cost too much and would cause too much upheavals.

As it is, the nuclear industry promotes the idea that the reactor caused strife represents a tiny proportion of the strive which was caused by natural disaster. Actually the nuclear disaster greatly amplified the events of natural disaster and was man made. The nuclear disaster is not over yet and although one may prognosticate, the effects of the nuclear are still in the latent phase as far as populations are concerned. The latent phase lasts, in various aspects, for decades. Individuals suffer profoundly at the present time. The South Australian Minister for Mines proclaimed at the Uranium Conference taking place in Adelaide in March 2011 that noone would die from the events at Fukushima. He is an ignorant man who may know about smelters, but nothing about radio-genetic disease.

The Cutting Edge blogsite quotes Hendrie in a later interview: “The 85-year-old Hendrie, reached at his home on Long Island, N.Y., said, “there were some serious questions about the pressure suppression scheme, but it seemed in many ways like a good way to deal with a loss-of-coolant accident. To have declared it unacceptable when we’d already been licensing [plants] with it seemed more of a tearing up of a regulatory structure than was justified. When I said it would create more tumult than I can stand, I think I really meant it.” Source: http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/index.php?article=51603&pageid=37&pagename=Page+One

Here Hendrie actually describes the dual roles the Torus plays. Its roles in LOCA, loss of coolant, and we have previously seen the role the torus (suppression pool) plays in the functioning of the ECCS. And he replies to the question of the serious reservations held for that device as part of the containment.

And here I have to say that in every sectional diagram I have seen of the Mk1 reactor in the media and on the net in general audience pages, NONE of these diagrams include any of the components of the ECCS apart from the Torus.

It is obvious that the design of the Torus in its cooling role for the ECCS causes a person to wonder whether that requirement dictated a lighter construction than its role as part of the containment required. That’s a personal musing of my own I guess. Noone has mentioned it as a limitation. But I think it is at the heart of the weakness. The other thing at the heart of the weakness, is the fact that the containment volume in total is smaller than other designs. But they say the Mk1 operates at lower pressures than other reactors. I suppose that’s true. Until it turns from being a reactor into being a uranium smelter. And in the case of Fukushima Number 3, a uranium/plutonium smelter.

The twin roles of the Torus/suppression pool. Heatsink/radiator and containment. Like an old VW cylinder head.

The BBC reported containment from the Torus at Fukushima Diiachi in the following manner:

Reactor breach worsens prospects
By Richard Black
BBC
15 March 2011 Last updated at 17:50 GMT

A third explosion at the site appears to have damaged reactor 2’s containment

Officials have referred to a possible crack in the suppression chamber of reactor 2 – a large doughnut-shaped structure, also known as the torus, below the reactor housing.

That would allow steam, containing radioactive substances, to escape continuously.

This is the most likely source of the high radioactivity readings seen near the site in the middle of Tuesday.

Under normal circumstances, the suppression chamber stores a large volume of water that can be used to condense steam produced in the reactor.

The industry newsletter World Nuclear News reports that a “loud noise” came from the reactor chamber, and that “the pressure… was seen to decrease from three atmospheres to one atmosphere after the noise, suggesting possible damage”.

This pressure drop is consistent with the chamber cracking and releasing steam.

Once de-pressurised, material would probably be ejected at a slower rate. This is consistent with the swift fall in readings taken around the plant later in the day.

Another possible source was a fire and explosion in the building housing reactor 4….”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12745186

It is an early report.

There are multiple sources of emissions of radio-chemicals from the site and clearly the fire at the Reactor four spent fuel pool was significant.

In any event, belatedly the Japanese government ordered people to stay indoors, to shut their windows and doors and to turn off air conditioners so as not to suck the reactor emissions into their homes.

The homes of Japan became the ultimate containments.

With the destruction of the containment buildings in the hydrogen explosions, the fuel pools became exposed.

The fire in spent fuel pool four caused the IAEA to issue an internal alert.

Immediate damage to the reactor containments by the earthquakes on the day of the disaster cannot be ruled out.
High radiation readings immediately after the quake may have been the result of damaged containment. I don’t know. The vent valves may have failed during the quake, allowing the escape of radionuclides.

The forces involved as a reactor core overheats are akin to those of a blast furnace, a metal smelter. The pressure builds up because the smelter must be contained. That is the industry design weakness inherent within all nuclear reactors. It afflicts them all, not just the Mk 1 Boiling water reactor.

There is one final feature in the Fukushima Diiachi reactors which makes the melt down process in a Mk1 potentially faster then in other reactors. The design of the control rod tubes which enter the core from below. The Mk 1 is a reactor with 70 holes in the bottom of the pressure vessel.

Here is one image of a schematic of the Mk1 BWR as at Fukushima Diiachi:
mk 1
No ECCS shown.

Here is another, from the GE site:
mk 1
No ECCS shown, no connection from the Torus to the rest of the structure shown

Schematic diagrams rarely show the full complexity of a device. They show the systems talked about
in the primary reference. When they are used to illustrate the total functioning of a system, schematic
diagrams are usually insufficient.

Noone is talking about the ECCS. There schematics used to explain containment in the Mk1
are aimed at showing containment schematics. But the Torus of the Mk1 reactor has multiple roles
pressure suppression and cooling (effectively the same thing) and containment.

In the NRC technical manual on the BWR Mk1 – Mk3, the ECCS is clearly shown in schematic
diagrams. These diagrams illustrate conceptual layout in order to explain functioning.
They are not photographs of the actual object.

The ECCS in the GE reactors does actually exist. If the ECCS did not exist, the reactors
would have demolished themselves within a very short space of time.

Any blacksmith looking at the design of any nuclear reactor would probably ask “You have placed a smelter inside. Why are you trying to destroy the containment ?”

The answer of the nuclear engineers: “In order to protect the public” has never ever made sense. This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that thousands of people were told by the Japanese government to stay in their houses with their doors and windows shut.

“Ultimate containment” became the houses of the Japan. And the world’s atmosphere and oceans.

It didnt work. And it never would and they have always fear so. They feared in secret and if the public dare murmur the same fear, the nuclear elite called us nasty names. They foresaw precisely the problem and danger and engineered a profitable solution. It is not an adequate solution. In March of 2012 the US NRC ordered owners of the suppression pool type reactors to make changes. Not to the ECCS or the containment. But to implement safeguards. A chief one is the mandatory installation of portable electric generators on reactor sites.

Because nuclear reactor, while it powers some grids, is unable to power its own cooling systems from its own resources. It’s nuts. And this is the ultimate cause of the disaster. When the grid went down the reactor site at Fukushima Diiachi was totally on its own for a short period. And in that period of time, the reactors became uranium/plutonium smelters locked inside inadequate containments. Any accident chain can be reproduced deliberately. The safety of nations depend upon nuclear safety. Nuclear is not safe. And so the solution in the USA is the portable diesel generator.

Nuclear has just entered the diesel age.

The safety of the USA rests upon good old Rudolph. Hope he is up to it boys.

A discussion about reactors can never be purely about the reactors in Japan. It is reflective of reactors everywhere.

Here is a schematic from the NRC technical manual on the Mk1 – Mk 3 Boiling Water reactor. It is different to the usual ones seen in the media and on the net. It is a schematic drawn to show not the primary circuits, nor the containment but the ECCS. As result, as in all specific schematics, all other systems are left out of the picture:

eccs
The turbine shown in this schematic is not the main power turbine. It is the ECCS turbine. It is located immediately adjacent to the reactors. It has the sole job of powering the ECCS water pumps. The ECCS pipe valve solenoids are not powered by it. The valves shut when emergency batteries went flat. Even though the turbines and pumps could still operate, the water stopped flowing in the ECCS loop.

Just because a system is not included in a schematic diagram does not mean the omitted system isn’t important or doesn’t exist. Until this understood, schematic after schematic can be dragged out by industry PR one after the other until we are fully inculcated nuclear designers. It’s all a fnord because it has been shown not to work. Fukushima Diiachi is a smoking ruins because nuclear engineers make lousy blacksmiths.

Reactors power the grids, but not, directly, themselves, to a sufficient degree. When the grid goes down, the reactors may go down.

This is a design flaw. A devise capable of powering the grid, and which is dependent upon the grid, is capable, in theory, but not in actual design as it stands, to power itself.

This was known at the time the reactors were sold to Japan.

They were deemed safe despite many indications to the contrary, including the well known vulnerability of the Japanese power grid to earthquake. In the first instance. Had the assumption that long period grid failure was impossible not been made, the Fukushima Diiachi could have powered their own ECCS directly, fully instead of partially, independently and long term. The cause of the disaster was lack of power for the ECCS. That commenced with the earthquake.

Reactor siting approval is the domain of the regulators. When the USA approved the reactor design for export to Japan, they approved, de facto or actually, the use of those reactors in Japan in the 1960s at all sites as determined by the industry.

It may be found that the effects of the earthquake damaged parts of the ECCS in one or more of the Fukushima Diiachi reactors. The answer to this is known yet. There are witness reports of pipes damaged by earthquake. It is not known what system or systems these pipes belonged to. Well not known by the public anyway.

One Response to “The Regulatory & Reactor failure time warp. Containment Breach.”

  1. CaptD Says:

    Great article about how the “industry regulators” covers themselves while also protecting the Nuclear Industry from public scrutiny! Then as time goes by, they also change their name from the AEC to the NRC further confusing their paper trail should anyone try and “follow” what they are doing, all the while using “Need to Know,” “Secret,” or “National Security” labels to cover up for themselves!

    Salute!

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