Monday, 4 April 2011

Vinegar and brown paper?

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got, and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper,
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper.

I am no nuclear power expert but the fiasco going on at the Fukushima power plant is becoming a joke.  TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) seems to be very amateur in its attempts to manage the catastrophe.  It is no good excusing them as if they were ordinary people with a big problem.  Building nuclear power stations is not only a serious matter but it carries serious responsibilities too.  If companies can build such things for profit for themselves such that if anything goes wrong they just apologise and live somewhere else with all the profit that is not acceptable.  The first thing they should have done when the tsunami flooded the generators is to have realised they only had 8 hours of battery life left and treated it as a serious national danger.  They should have got the army involved and they should have had new batteries, new generators and anything else they might have needed ordered and on their way.  But no!  There was no move to get emergency help in.  One explosion and they said it was only a hydrogen bomb.  Another explosion and they said it didn't really matter because it wasn't an important part of the power station.  The fact that the bit that blew up contained the swimming pools for the spent plutonium seemed to slip their minds.  They just panicked and botched attempts to cool the generators.  As they repeatedly tripped over themselves the situation got worse.  What they were thinking of when they started flooding the cores with sea water I can't imagine.  Then the laughable attempt of flying helicopters over the nuclear power plant dropping buckets of water on them from the air.  Was that simply a publicity stunt because there is no way you can expect to prevent a nuclear meltdown of 100 tons of plutonium with a few buckets of water.  And what on earth did they think was happening to the water?  It was either going into the atmosphere as contaminated steam or it was sloshing all around the ground.  Now they have a leak (not surprising really) with all their botched attempts to fix the problem.  (I bet it isn't the only leak either.)  So what do they do next?  They pour concrete into the area where they think the leak is.  What?  Ridiculous.  What happens if it doesn't work?  There is a more severe problem and sure enough it didn't work.  Not to worry though because their comedians have got another plan... Papier-mâché with a polymer base (glue!).  So they tore up a load of newspaper and added some sawdust for good measure and poured that into the hole with the cement.  Strangely that didn't work but let's give them a round of applause for entertainment, originality and effort.  Now they have come up with an idea to wrap a giant sheet around the plant to hold the radioactivity at bay!  They'll be suggesting sending it to Monsignor Muamamamamar Gaddafi as a joke soon.

In the swimming pools above the six reactors at Fukushima are about three and a half thousand tons - yes - 3,400 tons of spent fuel rods.  These fuel rods contain a cocktail of highly toxic radioactive material including plutonium, uranium, caesium and iodine.  The nuclear fuel inside the reactors which were producing the power amounts to about 877 tons.  A total of about 4,277 tons of highly radioactive material.  Caesium has a half life of about 30 years.  This means that it loses half of its radioactivity every 30 years.  Therefore it is significantly radioactive for hundreds of years.  You can forget about the plutonium and the uranium they have half lives of 25,000 years and 700,000,000 years respectively.

But they think they can solve the problem with papier-mâché and a giant cloth bag!  Well I have an idea and I would like to present it to the folk up at Fukushima.  I heard of this remedy many years ago and I think it would stand a good chance of working.  Vinegar and brown paper!  You never know vinegar might absorb radiation.  At least they could try telling people it does.

1 comment:

  1. On the plus side it has a name that will amuse school children (and me) for years to come