|NOTE FROM JEFF: This is an excerpt from the article I just sent. It’s the first actual quantification of radiation emission I’ve seen from credible sources, and it’s very very scary. So far we know FOR SURE that at least one spent fuel pool has totally burned up into the atmosphere. So the MINIMUM possible radiation leakage is at 24,000 Hiroshimas.
Amongst the most troubling and most deeply underplayed questions of the entire crisis concern the Fukushima Spent Fuel Pools. These basin are packed with tons of irradiated fuel rods that need to be cooled. One of the major postulated accident scenarios involves a Loss-of-Coolant Accident (LOCA) to the reactor core, but a LOCA event can also occur with a spent fuel pool. It has. Fires and explosions in Japan. The Spent Fuel Pools at the six Fukushima reactors are NOT inside primary containment. They are exposed. Burning. About to burn.
Reactors No. 4, 5, and 6 at Fukushima were shutdown when the earthquake struck. After the water drained and the spent fuel became exposed, the pool at reactor No. 4 caught fire, and continues to burn, as of Thursday March 17, releasing massive amounts of radiation into the environment. The status of the other six spent fuel pools at Fukushima is unknown. A courageous U.S. journalist Rachel Maddow explored the spent fuel pool issue with a former government official. The most important, critical point made by Princeton professor Frank Von Hippel occurs at minute 14:19 — where Rachel Maddow talks over him: these are LONG-LIFE RADIONUCLIDES being emitted from the spent fuel pool(s). Isotopes of cesium: Cs-137 has a half-life of 30 years and will be around and hot for decades.
How much disaster are we talking about? The atomic bomb that exploded at Hiroshima created about 2000 curies of radioactivity. The spent fuel pools at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant (U.S.) are said to hold about 75 million curies. There are six spent fuel pools at Fukushima, but the numbers of tons of fuel rods in each have not been made public.
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) did the math: If Fukushima’s Reactor No. 4 operated for 35 years and produced 30 tons of irradiated fuel per year and each ton is equivalent to 24 times the amount of cesium-137 produced by the Hiroshima bomb, then each fuel pool could contain on the order of 24,000 times the amount of cesium-137 produced by the Hiroshima bomb, if all the produced irradiated fuel remains in the fuel pool.