The Pyrolysis of the Spent Fuel Rods at Fukushima

As the detailed story of the Fukushima accident slowly emerges, it is increasingly apparent that much of the radiation that was emitted came from overheating spent fuel rods.  The inflection point in the crisis came when the Fukushima 50 managed to get cooling water into the spent fuel ponds to cool the rods back down.  Much of the public's attention was drawn to the risk that the pressure vessels would fail as the fuel rods inside them melted down.  But post-accident inspections of the pressure vessels reveals that they survived even though the fuel rods inside went through a partial meltdown.  The "China Syndrome" did not occur. So it is necessary to examine what was going on in the spent fuel ponds that were inside the reactor buildings, but outside the containment structures.  There were three primary mechanisms of interest to the public.  There was a release of gaseous hydrogen that resulted from a chemical reaction between the water in the pressure...(Read Full Article)