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UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS UPDATE ON JAPAN'S NUCLEAR POWER CRISIS TELEPRESS CONFERENCE
APRIL 07, 2011 11:00 A.M. P R O C E E D I N G S

OPERATOR:  Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Japan Nuclear Reactor Update.  At this time, all lines are in a listen-only mode.  Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session, and instructions will be given at that time.

If anyone should require assistance during the conference, you may press star, then zero on your touchtone telephone.  As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host today, Elliott Negin, Media Director. Please begin.

MR. NEGIN:  Thank you. Good morning, everybody.  This is Elliott Negin.  I'm the media director here at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and thanks for joining our call this morning. Just to remind you again, the Union of Concerned Scientists is an independent, science-based advocacy group that has been a nuclear industry watchdog for 40 years.  We are not for or against nuclear power.  Our goal has always been to ensure that the industry operates its reactors as safely as possible.

Now, if we don't get to your question during this morning's briefing, please email us at media@ucsusa.org, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.  If you have trouble getting down everything that you need from today's briefing, we will be posting a transcript and an audio file on our website later today. Some of your questions might be answered already on our Frequently Asked Questions feature, which is on our website, and answers to more technical questions may be on our AllThingsNuclear.org blog.  We are updating both features frequently.

Now, after our speakers are done this morning and we open up the phone to your questions, please ask only one question and, if necessary, one follow-up.  And, please, mute your phone after you ask your question; otherwise, the sound of your typing will make it difficult for everyone else to hear. Now, this morning, our speakers are David Lochbaum and Edwin Lyman, who will update us on the latest developments in Japan and here in the United States. David is the director of UCS's Nuclear Safety Project.  He is a nuclear engineer, and he has worked at U.S. nuclear plants for 17 years.  He has also worked as a safety trainer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Edwin Lyman is a senior scientist in the UCS Global Security Program.  Ed has a doctorate in physics and is an expert on nuclear plant design and the environmental and health effects of radiation.

Also on the line to answer your questions is Ellen Vancko, our Nuclear Energy and Climate Change Project manager.  Ellen worked in the electric industry for more than 25 years before joining us here at UCS. I will now turn the phone over to Dave Lochbaum.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Thank you, Elliott, and good morning. The New York Times recently reported about a NRC assessment of conditions at Fukushima Dai-Ichi.  That NRC assessment was dated March 26th.  I can't speak to the document's availability, but from my awareness of its contents, there is a very bleak picture for the reactor, the site.  It's difficult to determine which is worse, the spent fuel pool situation or the reactor core situation. There are signs that the explosions in the Unit 4 and perhaps also the Unit 3 spent fuel pool have caused irradiated material to leave the building.  That could have been the reason for the high or the reports periodically of neutron beams.  That actually could be coming from decay from fuel or fuel particles that are now no longer in the spent fuel pool and were carried away by the explosion.  That was already known to cause high radiation levels.  It caused challenges for the workers, including even the helicopter pilots that were dropping water onto the site a week or so ago.

On the Reactor 1, 2, and 3 core side, things aren't much better.  While workers had successfully been able to inject seawater and more recently inject fresh water into the reactor vessels, there is a concern that this water in what is called the feed-and-bleed mode is not actually flowing through the reactor core to cool it.  It is bypassing the core due to blockage by salt buildup or molten fuel from the time that the fuel was uncovered.

The fuel that's or the water that's being injected is being injected into the reactor vessel outside a device called the core shroud that's kind of like a can within a can, and the reactor core is within the inner-most can, the core shroud.  The water that's being injected is supposed to flow down through the annulus region between those two pieces of metal, be turned around by the lower dome, and then flow up through the reactor core to cool it.  There are pretty clear signs that that's not happening and the fuel inside the core shroud is not fully covered.

There are two concerns with that.  One of those is continued damage due to overheating, and, in addition, if they are successful in recovering the water level, because the fuel has relocated, melted and moved, there is an increased chance of criticality as the water moderates the neutrons.  That's why they were injecting boron as a criticality control, both for the reactor cores and the spent fuel pools.

But they have quite a few challenges faced ahead of them.  Their instrumentation, their ability to monitor what's going on, they don't have many options.  The fact that they have to handle two spent fuel pools and three reactor cores with kid gloves, don't have any margin for error, basically makes it -- it's hard to say that things are going to get better or things are going to get worse, because they have so many challenges to face on so many places that it's going to be difficult to be 100 percent right all five times.

So, it is a bad situation over there. It's not getting as much better with time as we had hoped, but I guess on the flip side, it could be worse than it is today, so there is that. Thanks, Elliott.

MR. NEGIN:  Thank you. And now we'll hear from Edwin Lyman.

DR. LYMAN:  Good morning. Yesterday, during a hearing of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and commerce, UCS released two emails, internal emails that we had received from a Freedom of Information Act request that we had submitted in early February to the NRC.  These emails indicate that there is an internal disagreement within NRC staff about the feasibility or viability of certain measures that the NRC and the industry are citing would be available in the case of a Fukushima-type event in the United States.

In particular, the emails referred to a study that the NRC has been conducting over the last several years called the State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequences Assessment on Consequence Analysis, "SOARCA."  This is a study that was undertaken by the NRC partly to try to show that the consequences of a severe radiological release from a nuclear plant would not be as serious as previously considered; however, there are indications that the results aren't conforming to the political direction that was originally given to that study, and I'll get to that in a minute.

But these emails demonstrate that the so-called B.5.b measures, which the NRC and the industry are both citing, these are measures that were put into place in the years after September 11th that were intended to deal with trying to prevent a catastrophe from unfolding if there were an aircraft attack on a nuclear power plant.  These are generally the kind of severe or desperate measures that we are seeing taking place at Fukushima today using whatever equipment you have at hand to try to do everything you can to cool the core. However, even though the NRC and the industry are pointing to those measures as an example of why U.S. plants are better prepared to deal with this kind of event than Fukushima, there is internal disagreement over whether some of these methods are actually viable.  One of those involve the ability to run a steam-driven auxiliary cooling system, known as the RCIC, for a long period of time in the event of a station blackout and a loss of DC battery power. The emails question whether it's viable to be able to run that system for a long period of time without battery power using manual actions.  So, we think the NRC needs to be up front about what it believes is something that it can reasonably do and what is not reasonable to assume in the aftermath of an accident and that, as part of the NRC's review, it needs to take a hard look at whether it's being too optimistic about the ability to carry out some of these extreme measures in light of what we're seeing in Fukushima.

Now, today, we're going to be releasing an additional email, this is dated February 7th, 2011, and it indicates that these recent SOARCA results do show that there would be up to or 120 acute fatalities or early fatalities from acute radiation syndrome in the event of a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant. According to the emails, it looks like this is causing some consternation among the commissioners, and I don't know what the outcome of this particular incident is, but the emails note that there's a number of 120 early fatalities, as circulated up here on 18. Eighteen would be the floor of the NRC headquarters where the commissioners' offices are.  So, we will be putting out that email a little later today. Thank you.

MR. NEGIN:  Thank you, Ed. We will now open up the phone to questions.

OPERATOR:  Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question at this time, please press star, then one on your touchtone telephone.  If your question has been answered or you wish to remove yourself from the queue, you may press the pound key.  Again, ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, please press star, one. Our first question.

REPORTER:  Good morning. I was wondering if there's a reason why these emails that you got are being released in small amounts, and then to further request you to just release whatever you've got so, you know, we can look at everything you've got at once instead of getting little pieces here and there.

DR. LYMAN:  Hi.  This is Ed Lyman. That's a fair request.  There actually aren't -- we're getting emails actually in -- the -- as these FOIA requests go, they respond in several installments.  So, we actually have only gotten one installment of emails, and there are only a few that are interesting, relevant, and those will be put out within the next day or two.  Most of them are not of significant interest.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Well, I just wanted to make a request again to just release whatever there is and let us judge what we think is significant, because, you know, we may be looking for different things than you are.

DR. LYMAN:  Actually, the NRC itself in most cases posts FOIA -- documents released under FOIA on the ADAMS website.  In some cases, they don't.  So, I can check to see how many of these are actually on the NRC website, and you would be able to get it from there.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thanks, Dr. Lyman.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi. So, I'm kind of curious about this next set of emails that you are releasing.  What kind of nuclear accident does that deal with? And I guess the other question is, you know, do you have any information related to -- there have been another couple of earthquakes I guess today, and, you know, do they raise any concerns for you, and, you know, what have you heard in terms of, you know, what the result may have been or the impact may have been from these other two earthquakes today?

DR. LYMAN:  Thanks.  This is Ed Lyman. I'll take the first part, and maybe Dave will want to take the second.

The SOARCA study, to my knowledge, only examined accidents at two plants in the United States.  One is a pressurized water reactor called Surrey, and the other is a Mark I boiling water reactor like the Fukushima reactor in Pennsylvania, called Peach Bottom. It's not completely clear what accident they're referring to that would result in 120 early fatalities from radiation syndrome, but from the context, it appears it might be an accident at a pressurized water reactor, known as an interfacing system, a loss of coolant accident, which would be, for instance, if you had some event that caused a heat-up of the steam generator tubes that caused a rupture that would lead to a bypass of the containment. So, it's not completely clear.  I believe, from the context, that might be the accident in question at a pressurized water reactor.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Are you done, Ed?

DR. LYMAN:  Yes.

REPORTER:  Do they say anything about who these fatalities, you know, would be?  Are they workers or people who live near the plant or emergency responders?  Who are these --

DR. LYMAN:  Yeah, Dave, that's all I have.

REPORTER:  Okay, just a number.

DR. LYMAN:  An NRC staff member is questioning the number, saying that only 31 were killed at Chernobyl, and I don't know if he's suggesting that these were among the workers or not, but this is all I have.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  As far as the second part of that question, the Fukushima plant was designed to withstand seismic forces, but that was before the hydrogen explosions and before they filled up the buildings with water, which weighs eight pounds a gallon.  It's hard to judge how those structures will last during the aftershocks or new earthquakes.  It's just too hard to speculate.

REPORTER:  So, are you saying that there could be further damage to the containment vessel because of the water inside it?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Yeah.  They're putting in a lot of water.  The exterior structures have been damaged by these hydrogen explosions. There's the potential for structural failure due to those combinations, and if you add -- you know, the catalyst for that could be the aftershocks or the new earthquakes.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thanks. OPERATOR:  Our next question is:

REPORTER:  Yes, hi.  Good morning.

I would like to ask either one of the gentlemen about the decision to inject nitrogen into the reactor cores that caused the buildup of hydrogen.  Does this decision give you any insight into the conditions of the reactor cores?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

The workers are struggling to or trying to inject nitrogen into the containment vessel, either the drywell or the torus, not in the reactor vessel itself.  The concern is that initially, when the reactors were up and running, the containment was filled with nitrogen.  All the oxygen, all the air had been replaced by nitrogen.  That nitrogen helped to protect against a hydrogen explosion if there was an accident.

Unfortunately, the containment building is filled with nitrogen; the reactor building is not.  For some reason, the hydrogen got into the reactor building, where it mixed with air and detonated.

Now that there has been so much venting, over weeks, to try to control the pressure buildup in the containment, that nitrogen is not in the containment building as much as it needs to be.  So, they're trying to re-inert the containment or refill the containments with nitrogen to guard against a hydrogen buildup and also oxygen buildup.

As fresh water and seawater flow through the reactor core and move past the irradiated fuel, some of that water molecules disassociate or through radiolysis form individual hydrogen and oxygen molecules.  If left unchecked, they could build up to an explosive mixture.  So, the addition of nitrogen into those buildings is intended to be a protection against any hydrogen detonation.

REPORTER:  Has anything like this ever been done before, to your knowledge, in any other situation?  Thank you, again.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum again.

After the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, the hydrogen built up to the point where it did explode about ten hours after the initial event.  There was no clue -- well, there was a clue.  That happened.  They had no control over it.

Because of that, in this country, we started putting in hydrogen recombiners, hydrogen inerting, hydrogen igniters, and so on, to try to control it, but I don't know of anybody who has actually gotten into this situation and tried to put in nitrogen after the fact or to restore the nitrogen that was there originally.  No, I don't know that.

OPERATOR:  Again, ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, please press star, then one on your touchtone telephone.

Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi.  I have a question for Dave.

You had mentioned, when you were talking about the water that was being injected, the seawater and now the fresh water, into the cores, and that there is evidence that that really isn't accomplishing what it was meant to be.

I was wondering, Dave, what evidence -- what are you looking at that says it's not really flowing down, that perhaps some of the pathways are blocked?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has been publishing updates on their website about three times a day of various key parameters.  One of those has been the water level in the reactor vessels, and they've been pretty much -- on Unit 1, for example, it's been pretty much plateaued that about half core height has been covered.

If the injection of seawater were actually getting into the core region instead of being -- somehow bypassing it, over time, they should be able to replenish that and actually cover the water level back up, at least to two-thirds core height, if not all the way.  So that sustained inability to do that suggests the water is not getting to where it needs to be most vitally.

So, it's entering the vessel.  The heat is boiling off the water, and it's going out through the relief valves and elsewhere, but it's not recovering the level inside the reactor core that's breached.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Um-hum.

OPERATOR:  Our next question is:

REPORTER:  Hi.  Thanks, guys, for doing the call.

I wanted to follow up on the idea that it would be difficult to operate the RCIC pumps for long periods given what we're seeing now at Fukushima.  I think, Ed, it was you who said that.

What is it we're seeing at Fukushima that would make it hard to get a worker or a pair of workers to use the strobe light on the shaft in the pump and use the hand-cranked valve to modulate the output?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum. I think the --

REPORTER:  Oh, I'm sorry.  Go ahead, Dave.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  I think the challenge there would be, first of all, the radiation levels.  That's in the basement of the plant of the reactor building, in one of the diagonal rooms around the torus.

REPORTER:  Yeah.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  The radiation levels there are probably on the high side, which doesn't mean the workers would have to be there all the time.  They would just set the thing. They would leave once the -- it was injecting, and it would perhaps shut off.

The challenges the workers would have is assuming they could get in there and get the flowing going and get out, so they -- it's not a suicide mission, normally, that system oscillates between level two, which is about four foot below normal water level, and level eight, which is about two level -- two feet above the normal water level.  When it gets up to level eight, the turbine automatically trips. When the water level then drops down to level two, it restarts, fills it back up to level eight, and just does that sawtooth thing over and over again.

With the instrumentation gone, and you're taking manual control of this, if they don't get back in there and turn it off, the level will continue to rise and go into the main steam lines, which is also the pathway for the steam to get to the RCIC turbine.  So, even though the RCIC turbine is very robust and won't necessarily be damaged by water, you don't want to challenge that too many times.

So, they have -- it's also one of those things where they have never, ever tested that system that way.  The RCIC system is controlled from the control room simulators, but there's nothing that simulates the operation out in the field.  So, it doesn't mean they can't do that, but it's not something that's ever been practiced, the bugs worked out, the operators familiar with what needs to be done, and what the limitations are.  So, again, I can't claim it will never work, but it's never been done.

REPORTER:  Dave, what circumstance could you test that in?  Would you shut the reactor down and then trip it or bring it to a controlled stop and then run the RCIC?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Yeah.  After a refueling outage, they'll come up to about 100 pounds pressure in the reactor vessel, and they'll test both the HPCI and the RCIC system, both steam-driven systems; comparable, just difference in size.

In that situation, if you wanted to take credit for the system, you could manually run it.  At 100 pounds pressure, you're not going to do much damage to the pump or the reactor vessel or anything else, but at least you would build up some assurance that your procedures work.

I wouldn't go to the extent of turning off the lights and everything else, but --

REPORTER:  Okay, Dave, thank you.

DR. LYMAN:  If I could just add that I think the issue -- first of all, from the public point of view, we don't have -- you know, we know that the industry has developed plans to some extent, but those are not public, and the guidelines and the standards for how those plans are actually, you know, tested are not available.  So, we don't know what they've done to try to establish the viability, and that's part of the frustration, and we don't know what assumptions or guidelines have been imposed to actually shape these responses.

So, I mean, from the public point of view, if the public doesn't know if they've been assuming or actually -- to what extent they have modeled the situation, the actual environmental conditions, to establish whether it would be feasible for workers to do these things or not, then we don't have that confidence.  So, that's the real issue to me.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi.  Thanks. 

I'm not sure who best would answer this, but I'm curious what information is needed to kind of stop this whole unanticipated chain of events that's making this situation very -- you know, kind of like the -- like a snake of a -- the tail of a snake or something.  It just keeps flipping from one area of concern to another.

What's needed kind of at a base, core level, information that's not currently been out yet?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum. I'll take a shot at it.

I think the problem has been is that they've known what the conditions are.  They know they've got problems in the three reactor cores and in the spent fuel pools.  They just, up until recently, didn't have much equipment available to deal with those issues.

Now they're at a point where, with the limited amount of equipment they used, they injected seawater, because they didn't have many other options.  Now they're dealing with some of the legacy issues of that, both in terms of the weight and the potential clogging of various flow paths.

They're so far beyond where emergency procedures and preplanning have done that they're basically having to jerry-rig solution paths or potential solution paths for situations that were never anticipated.

The other problem that's complicating it is nobody ever anticipated an accident on more than one reactor or more than one spent fuel pool at a site.  The assumption all along was we'd have a problem at one reactor or one spent fuel pool, and we'd use the equipment from the others to help deal with the situation.

Now you've got problems across the board, and you don't have that supplemental equipment that you can shift from one unit to the other to try to help you out.  Everybody needs help, and there's just not enough equipment to deal with that.

REPORTER:  Is there anything that you can think of that is kind of a way out of this?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Well, you know, they are going to have to try to achieve cooling of the fuel, in whatever shape it's in, and ultimately just keep cooling it down, trying to avoid criticality along the way and trying to avoid some of the other problems they had with the potential for hydrogen explosions and structural collapse, but they are going to have to get positive cooling over those reactor cores and spent fuel pools and the fuel that is therein and try to take it down to below boiling, give them as much margin as possible, but that's going to take some time.

REPORTER:  Thanks very much.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi.

I just wondered if you could go back and talk a little bit about the March 26th NRC memo, and the reference there is about Units 2 and 3 having seals in the reactor pressure vessel believed to have failed, and I thought it was at two-thirds core height, and this was the reference to the recirculation of pumped fuel.

So, my question is this:  Can you explain that a little bit?  And also, does that mean that they are now incapable of getting water above the two-thirds level because it's draining out through broken seals?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

The recirculation seal, each of the reactors has two loops that have piping, very large pumps that circulate water throughout the reactor core.  The recirculation pump seals can fail if they overheat, and it takes about 350 degrees Fahrenheit or more before they start to fail.

If they fail, they're deliberately designed to limit how much water they leak out through a failed seal to about 60 gallons per minute, more or less.  It's more if the pressure inside of the reactor vessel goes up to squeeze more water through that narrow opening; it's less if the pressure in the reactor vessel drops down.

But if you assume that both recirculation pumps on each reactor has failed seals, you could have upwards of 100 to 120 gallons per minute leaking out through those failed seals.  Their elevations are about half of the reactor vessel core height.  If those seals are intact, you should be able to at least flood the vessel back up to two-thirds core height.  At that point, water leaks out through what are called the jet pumps.  Right now, the fact that they are having trouble get the water level above one-half of core height is telling them that the reactor seals have likely failed.

To answer your question, could they get out of this situation, if they can get flow rate through the reactor core greater than the leakage rate and greater than the boil-off rate, which if that's the only losses you have, is about 120 gallons per minute for the seals and about 50 gallons per minute for evaporation right now, and if you could get 200 gallons or more makeup and it's not being blocked or bypassed from the core, then you should be able to refill the entire vessel.  Right now, that's not happening, so water's going somewhere.

Plus, they're --

REPORTER:  So, you're saying -- I'm sorry, but you're saying it would take 200 gallons per minute being injected in order to overcome the leakage?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Right.  If it's getting through the reactor core and both seals are leaking at the maximum rate, 200 gallons per minute or more should more than make up for those losses but right now, on unit 1, I think they say they're injecting somewhere around 30 to 35 gallons per minute.  So, they have got to get bigger pumps or more pumps or something.

REPORTER:  Do you know the numbers for Unit 2 or any units -- I thought it was -- well, Unit 1 you said -- but I thought it was Units 2 and 3 that had the seal problem, or do you think it's in all three now?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  I think it's all three.

REPORTER:  Okay.  And have you seen numbers for the injection rates at Units 2 and 3?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  I haven't, at least I don't remember what they are.  I have seen them in the past.  I just forget what they are.

REPORTER:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hey there. 

I just was wondering if either of you might be willing to comment on the statement today by the Japanese Government that it's considering extending the evacuation zone and the extent to which this action appears to be perhaps influenced by the U.S. Government.

I mean, do you think that that is something that the U.S. Government has been trying to persuade them to do behind the scenes?

DR. LYMAN:  This is Ed Lyman.

I can't comment about the impact of the U.S. Government.  I do know that there's at least a citizens movement in Japan that has been pressuring the government to try to extend the evacuation zone.

Now, the situation is that between 20 and 30 kilometers, that people there were under a voluntary evacuation order but also a sheltering order, meaning that they have now been stuck in their homes for almost a month, and, you know, according to press reports, the supplies are running low.  And, you know, for a few days, sheltering is perhaps a viable option, but there doesn't seem to be any end in sight.

So, we have been calling -- from the very beginning, we thought they should have expanded the evacuation zone in the first place, and meanwhile, a lot of these people are just getting dosed unnecessarily, and we think the Japanese Government should have taken this action a long time ago.  The hot spots in places like Namie and Iitate are of pretty grave concern.  I think that the ultimate radiological consequences are going to be greater because of this lack of action on their part.

REPORTER:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi.  Thank you for doing this conference call.

I have to apologize, because I only joined in a few minutes ago, so forgive me if I'm being redundant and you guys have already talked about this, but I want to just ask about your concerns about the 7.1 magnitude quake that Japan just felt.

I know that -- I'm just wondering, are you guys concerned at all about this possible tsunami washing up to shore with, you know, radiation in the water?  Is that at all a concern?

And then also, I want to ask about -- you know, you, as scientists, saying that the situation in Japan is far worse than TEPCO is leading on and if you have any thresholds on the vulnerability and how concerned are you guys? If you could answer that, please.  Thank you.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

The Fukushima plant was originally designed to withstand seismic forces or earthquake motion.  The damage that's been done to date, the hydrogen explosions in the reactor buildings, has degraded that ability to withstand ground motion.

In addition, the efforts to try to deal with the reactor cores on Units 1, 2, and 3, and the spent fuel pools on the other units, has put a lot of water into the buildings.  All of that weight, if there is ground motion, an earthquake, could lessen the ability of the structures to withstand that motion.  So, it could be more likely that you would have structural failures if there's aftershocks or a new earthquake.

So, I would be more concerned about that than the next tsunami, but, again, the conditions at that plant are so fragile that it can't really stand too many more challenges.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Thank you for holding this conference.

Some experts pointed out that (inaudible) chain reactions might be happening at Unit 1, and what do you think about it?

DR. LYMAN:  This is Ed Lyman.

I haven't seen any new reports of that, but if you're referring to reports that came out over a week ago --

REPORTER:  Yes.

DR. LYMAN:  -- about the chlorine 38 found in the turbine building -- is that it?

REPORTER:  Yes, that's right.

DR. LYMAN:  Yeah.  My initial view, and I still stick to that, is that given all the problems that they've been having with doing accurate radionuclide analysis, that you shouldn't base any conclusions from a single reading.  In fact, there would have been -- if you could see chlorine 38 from that kind of an event, then you'd expect to see a wide range of other short-lived fission products, which didn't appear.  So, I continue to be skeptical.

It's not that limited criticality couldn't be happening, but I don't think that you can make any conclusions based on a single reading like that.  Also, it was reported in the New York Times story, I believe, that the neutron dose rates that were detected away from the reactor buildings could have been explained by fuel particles that had been released from the spent fuel pool that contained some isotopes that undergo spontaneous fission and release neutrons.

So, again, I don't think there's any conclusive evidence one way or another.

REPORTER:  And I have one follow-up.

Given the current situation of Unit 4, do you think they still have some water or it is also empty?

DR. LYMAN:  Dave, do you have any insight?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

It's circumstantial, but it looks like there's water -- at least some water back in the reactor -- in the spent fuel pool in Unit 4. When the water level was down low enough that it led to the hydrogen explosion and some of the other problems there, the radiation levels were so high that it caused problems for worker access at the site, and we haven't seen those kind of limitations in recent days, which suggests but does not prove that the water level in the Unit 4 spent fuel pool has been recovered somewhat.

REPORTER:  Thank you so much.

OPERATOR:  I am not showing any other questions at this time.

MR. NEGIN:  Okay.  If there are no other questions, thank you for participating this morning.  If you have any other questions later today, please email us at media@ucsusa. org.  Please be very specific about what your questions are, and let us know what your deadline is, and we will do our best to get back to you and get you the information you need. Thanks again.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in today's conference.  This does conclude the conference.  You may now disconnect.  Good day.

(Whereupon, the telepress conference was concluded.)

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