Further communications from the Wilderness Underground
love from z
“Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and
intelligent use of scientific conquests. This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the
governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason.”
Albert Camus August 8, 1945, two days after the bombing of Hiroshima. The US military chose hell and bombed Nagasaki the next day, and have been
choosing hell ever since. Silly rabbits.
Night of the Living Rad
Very little is known about what transpired during the evening of the 14th after the R3 blast. Other than the fact that monitoring posts offsite and
far downwind picked up extremely high radiation counts depending on the wind.
But there are no pictures other than those held in secret by the US and Japanese militaries, and Tepco, that would give us an idea of what went on. I
have no doubt that the thermal photos that haven't been released would show a firestorm of radiation occurring. It would also show when R4 first went
off, which could have been anytime before dawn.
Irrespective the amount of data known about the bursts that occurred that night, where they came from and in what form, there is a basic condition
that now existed after Dai-ichi went nuclear at 11:01. This chapter will explore the physics of what was left behind, while the next will explore
biological concerns and the need to independently identify transuranics.
Plutonium-239 is an extremely congested atom. Too many subatomic particles and ready to burst. Too many forces pushing and pulling. Too many anxious
doggies waiting to break free of their cage and go out into the world, excited. All you need to do is squeeze it and 'BAM!' you've got a reaction,
even if only squeezing individual atoms. All that is needed is the right amount of compression, or being hit by a neutron, and it reacts, splitting in
half and sending neutrons flying.
Get a bunch in one place and they can set each other off. Reign a whole bunch in real tight and they can set each other off real fast. Too many atom
targets to miss. Throw something around the whole lot that reflects their wildly escaping neutrons back into the unfissioned Pu-239 making it react
even faster and baby you've got a bomb.
I think this is the single most important lesson I have learned in my entire Fukushima learning curve process. The amount of Pu-239 or U-235 or any
other fissile material needed to attain critical mass is inversely proportional to the density of that fissile material. The higher the density, the
lower the critical mass.
It was so simple, yet it took so long to understand. Compress a mass of Pu-239 in a subcritical state and it becomes critical. Compress it further and
it becomes supercritical. The size of the mass doesn't matter, as long as there is enough being compressed to produce an environment conducive to an
explosive reaction. Grams....not kilograms.
For example, in modern weapons designs the plutonium 239 pit is compressed 3 to 4 times higher via implosion. For this amount of compression the
critical mass is said to be 10 kgs. At higher compressions, however, there is no limit on the minimum amount of fissile material required for a
nuclear explosion. It is possible, with enough compression, to create micronuclear explosions with yields in the one or two ton range and only
requiring tens of grams of fissile material.
The most efficient shape for purposes of achieving compression in an implosion type nuclear bomb is a sphere, either solid or with a hollow core, and
composed of Pu-239. But for a way ward reaction out in the environment the shape and material don't matter, as long as there is sufficient purity and
density of fissile material, and sufficient compression to produce a prompt critical reaction. Efficiency, type and shape are moot points.
The density of a material can be changed by varying the temperature, pressure or tension; or by changing the crystal structure. In a nuclear bomb,
supercriticality is achieved by both increasing pressure and changing the crystal structure.
To accomplish this, pressure is applied via HE (high explosive) charges that surround the pit, and explode into it (implosion), compressing it.
At the same time the shock wave from the charges also causes a rapid phase transition in the crystal structure, and it is this rapid phase transition
that accounts for a significant portion of the explosive energy of plutonium.
Plutonium exists in 7 crystalline states. The two of importance are the delta phase and the alpha phase. The alpha phase is the most dense, and the
delta phase is the least dense, by a difference of 25%, which is alot when dealing with overly dense atoms to begin with. Just by transitioning
quickly to alpha phase from delta phase, criticality can be achieved.
Temperature changes affect which phase plutonium is in. However, weapons grade plutonium can be alloyed with other metals, primarily gallium, to be
locked in the delta phase at a wide range of temperatures, only transitioning to epsilon at temperatures approaching the melting point of plutonium.
Or to alpha phase at low temperatures if shocked. It is preferred in the delta phase because it's easier to work, safer to handle and adds a bang for
the buck when shocked into the alpha phase.
It must be assumed that the possibility exists for plutonium pits in the weapons complex to still reside in the delta phase if they were far removed
from the main explosion's detonation point.
For any plutonium that was heated by the R3 blast, as well as the corium both in transit and left behind in containment, they will arrive at different
crystalline states as they cool. Plutonium in the delta phase normally exists in the 310 C to 452 C range. It then moves through the gamma and beta
phase before coming to rest in the alpha phase at room temperatures.
The delta, gamma, beta and alpha phases in plutonium exist in significantly different crystal structures and densities from each other. This causes
plutonium to be extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, pressure or chemistry, and leads to rapid and dramatic volume changes during phase
transitions. For this reason it doesn't take much of a pressure wave to shock and collapse the crystal structure into it's alpha phase.
The reason I bring this all up is to not only to set the stage for the conditions at Fukushima leading into the 15th of March, but to also show that
there will never be a time in the near future, and maybe even the distant future, that any of the uranium or plutonium at Dai-ichi can be considered
stable and safe. This is true for melted fuel, weapons grade materials that haven't been worked, or plutonium pits ready for insertion. There are tons
and tons of fissile material at Fukushima and all of it should be considered fragile, subcritical and unstable.
This is especially true for any material that is submerged in groundwater. It is in a subcritical state in a medium that enhances the chance of
And of greater importance, water is a medium that transfers pressure with little loss over great distances. This is due to the density of water and
the fact that water is basically incompressible. Shock waves in that medium have very high peak over-pressures and propagation velocities. The peak
over-pressure at a distance of 1 km from a 10 Kt underwater burst is approximately 6080 kPa (60 atmospheres of pressure, atm), while the peak
over-pressure in air at the same distance from an air burst is only 111.4 kPa (1.1 atm).
The simplest way to understand this phenomena is to consider the following. An explosion a hundred yards away above ground that doesn't have enough
power to reach someone at that distance, will kill them at the same distance if they are both underwater. The shock wave will compress the person
causing their internal organs to implode.
Should there be another explosion underground, and underwater, in an area in communication with the flooded UC like R3 is, even if it is non nuclear
in nature (i.e. a vapor explosion caused by a chunk of R3's corium hitting groundwater) it could be enough to compress and send other fissile
materials into a critical and supercritical state.
In fact, for large amounts of plutonium at delta phase (as can be found in a nuclear weapons factory), simply inducing phase transition may provide
sufficient means for reactivity. In that scenario a classical implosion system is not even necessary. The instantaneous 25% increase in density is all
It should also be noted that a variety of mechanisms can produce the weak 10-20 kilobar shock required to collapse the crystal structure from delta to
alpha, including strong earthquake disturbances and related damaging effects.
The above picture is the underground plutonium processing room at the US military's bomb factory at Rocky Flats circa 1980, just outside Denver.
Though I stated earlier that Mayak was the only time an explosion occurred at a weapons factory, that's only partly true. It was the only one that did
significant damage. There was a fire at Rocky Flats in 1957 in the previous Pu room from the one pictured above that had a very small explosion
associated with it, and that will be covered in a later chapter. (We came a whiskers distance from nuking Denver that day).
For now it's just being used as a reference point for what a similar room may have looked like underground at Fukushima. Assuming that something
similar does exist in the UC we need to consider what condition it might be in. If plutonium pits were being processed at the time of the EQ, which
would normally be occurring in the Pu room of a weapons factory, then this material is most likely still where it was at the moment of the EQ.
Power was lost at the time of the EQ, or shortly after when the SY was buried in seawater. If the power went down at the time of the EQ, all personnel
working in the UC would have been trapped. Nor would there have been a way to transport materials to safer keeping. Or even lights for that matter to
move around, like the reactor control rooms. One would think that keeping lights on in the control room would be one of those things that would be
designed to be failure proof. But it wasn't. Did the UC suffer the same fate. Even if electricity was still available, the damage from a 9+M EQ
underground must have been substantial.
The EQ most likely damaged and cracked the walls of the UC, allowing groundwater to begin seeping in. Then the tsunami struck. The seawater probably
didn't make it past the pressurized steel doors leading down to the UC, but if there was an opening available, say an elevator shaft in use at the
time, then it is possible that the UC was flooded with both groundwater and seawater. In fact, being so close to the sea and below sea level means
that it would be both seawater and groundwater that infiltrated through cracks caused by the EQ. And seawater is highly corrosive.
I feel sorry for anyone trapped in the UC after the EQ.
Postcards From The Brink
I get a kick out of the above picture. It looks like Mr. Tibbets forgot which side of the postcard to put his return address on. I wonder if he would
have autographed a photo of Hiroshima if it looked like this.
Probably not. At least I hope not. The horror that the above picture displays should send people into shock, but at this stage of life we have been
numbed to the pain that others feel, and the above picture doesn't have the impact it should. Unless we take the time to visualize ourselves in the
same situation, cooked in a microsecond.
The above picture should also make us appreciate life, the ability for biological beings to exist, especially since life is hanging by a thread right
now. The decision we face, and that Camus alluded to, hell or life, is upon us. We are at the point of no return.
If we are smart enough, and strong enough, to stop the military industrial beast from destroying this planet, and we make the transition to
de-contaminating and healing the earth instead, we will need to learn to be brutally honest concerning the conditions we face. It's time to wake up to
the real dangers that face us or go to sleep forever.
At Fukushima we have a situation that is almost beyond the scope of worst case scenarios. Just considering the plutonium and uranium in the corium and
UC, and what it could very easily do, boggles the mind.
The Worst of the Worst
Now consider this. It isn't the greatest danger we face. Not by a long shot. All an explosion caused by corium or plutonium underground would be is a
catalyst. The propellent. The ignitor.
There are 11,125 spent fuel rod assemblies at Dai-ichi. There are 63 or more rods in each assembly, and when fresh, each assembly has between 200 and
380 pounds uranium dioxide.
After a few years use the composition of the fuel has changed. There is now a significant component of fission products and transuranics, especially
plutonium-239, which makes the fuel more toxic and more dangerous than before.
In general, the isotopic ratio for plutonium in spent fuel derived from current commercial light water reactors is roughly 60% Pu-239, the remainder
being Pu-240 with descending amounts of heavier isotopes. However, this is not a given, and weapons grade plutonium (WGP) has been made in power
reactors. One particular case in point, in the early 1970s, leaking fuel rods caused the utility operating the Dresden-2 reactor to discharge the
entire initial core, and found that it contained a few hundred kgs of plutonium with 89-95% Pu-239.
I had to read that a few times before I finally let it sink in. One core, discharged prematurely, contained a few hundred kgs of Pu-239. Enough WGP
for 20 to 30 bombs from one reactor core from an older and smaller reactor. Had it gone full term the levels of plutonium would have been even
And Fukushima has been pumping out 6 reactor's worth of plutonium rich spent fuel since the 70's.
Considering all of the above, one would think that the worst case scenario would be an even bigger nuclear explosion than the first one underground,
with a shallow subsurface explosion and fireball that vaporized or micronized the thousands and thousands of thousands of pounds of radionuclides
crammed into zirconium rods in the spent fuel pools and launched it into the atmosphere. This would pretty much wipe out life for thousands of miles.
What could be worse.
The truth. And since we got ourselves into this run away condition by being fed a constant diet of corporate and military inflicted ignorance, it is
time for the truth.
The whole purpose of nuclear fuel is to emit neutrons and start reactions. Therefore, whatever the uranium is housed in must be transparent to
neutrons, allowing them to pass through freely. That's where zirconium comes in. It is transparent to neutrons. In the beginning anyway. Then the
constant passage of neutrons begins to take it's toll on the zirconium in a process known as neutron embrittlement, and the zirc crystalline structure
tightens up and becomes considerably less transparent. This then causes too many of the neutrons to bounce back into the fuel. When this occurs a few
years down the road, the fuel is said to be spent.
Just like high and low waste being misnomers, spent fuel has nothing to do with the fuel's 'heat generating potential' being used up. Those puppies
still gots plenty of activity left and could boil water for many more years to come. They are pulled from service because they are now unstable and
the zirconium casing has the potential to act as a reflector, bouncing back too many neutrons if used much longer.
That spent fuel is far less dangerous than active fuel is the biggest lie the nuclear industry has ever created. Nothing could be further from the
truth. The only thing spent about spent fuel is the time it spends in the reactor. Spent fuel is more toxic, more unstable and more dangerous than
active fuel and represents the single greatest threat the human race currently faces. And I don't see that changing anytime soon. Every rod is a bomb
waiting to happen, a disaster waiting to unfold, and there's millions of them worldwide. Just sitting there.
There's a Little 'Demon Core' In All of Us
Remember the 'demon core'. It was a 6.2 kilogram sphere of Pu-239, used at Los Alamos for experiments. Then in July 1946 it was detonated in a 23
kiloton nuclear explosion. So much for needing at least 10 kilograms for a bomb. In fact, modern warheads contain only an estimated 2 to 4 kgs of
weapons grade plutonium.
The demon core got it's name from two experiments that went bad. One went critical, another went supercritical, and both times a scientist died. In
the first, a brick was dropped on top of the core causing it to go critical. In the second the core was completely covered by a reflector and it
It's the second one we are interested in. In this experiment the demon core was being covered by beryllium hemispheres. Beryllium is a popular
reflector used in nuclear bombs. By covering the plutonium pit completely with the beryllium, and sending all of the neutron activity back into the
core, the core would go critical. So the experiment was to find the closest point before criticality is achieved by slowly covering the plutonium with
the neutron reflector.
This was jokingly called 'tickling the dragon's tail', as they knew the dangers they were playing with should it be completely covered and go
critical. In the above re-enactment the screwdriver is being used to hold the hemisphere up. On the day of the accident the screwdriver slipped and
the hemisphere shut closed.
In that brief instant before the scientist performing the experiment was able to dislodge the beryllium hemisphere and return the core to a
subcritical state, a blue flash indicating supercriticality occurred, and the scientist received a fatal dose of radiation, killing him 9 days
That's all it took for a supercritical state to be reached. Enclose the plutonium in a reflector and watch out. Had the core been left covered, it
would have melted everything in site in a matter of minutes.
A few months after the second accident, the demon core was put into a bomb and detonated, producing the explosion below.
Imagine playing with a material that has that kind of explosive potential. Now imagine that the amount of Pu-239 contained in the spent fuel at
Dai-ichi equates to thousands of nuclear reactions with similar potential. Add to this the fact that in 1962 the US military successfully used reactor
grade plutonium to produce a nuclear explosion with significant yield, and the dangers encased in Fukushima become more clear. Once things start going
off who knows what thousands of tons of fissile material might do.
And yes, the lie that reactor grade plutonium can't produce a nuclear explosion is just that, one more lie put out by DOD or DOE.
And that becomes the final ingredient in the worst case scenario for Dai-ichi. Should a reaction cause another nuclear explosion underground that
involves large amounts of plutonium, both unworked and worked, there could be an explosion many times the size of March 14th's. The subsequent shock
wave would easily break through the already weakened ground and erupt with a fireball erupting from the southend to R1 that vaporized or reduced to
micro size particles the entire area. When the shock wave hit the spent fuel it went critical. When the fireball hit it it went supercritical, and now
becomes the secondary stage of the explosion. And main punch.
At this point we are looking at a nuclear reaction far beyond anything experienced in the history of nuclear bombs. The amount of fissile material
available to join the fracas is beyond beyond. As Saddam would say, 'it's the mother of all bombs'. Bang!
Night of the Living Rad
And that is an idea of what condition Fukushima existed in as night fell on March the 14th. A hellish night of invisible fire, stinging rain and
changing winds. A night that saw the dragon breathe fire continuously, and the winds blow wildly across the landscape. The hell that had been
descending on the ocean now took a beeline for Tokyo and the rest of northern Japan.
This also caused NISA, METI, other Japanese and US government agency people, the SDF brass, Tepco head honchos and the US Navy to run inside and take
cover from the invisible fire that was expected in the wind and rain that night.
Too bad they forgot to tell everyone else. Silly rabbits.
In all fairness we will never know what happened the night of March 14th/15th at Dai-ichi. Odds are that nobody knows for sure, except the military.
After R3 blew, video footage taken the afternoon of the 14th by independent sources shows a steady stream of smoke, not steam, issuing from R3's NW
section heading in to the night. And that's the last we know.
Tepco reports indicate that very few workers were in the field that evening performing tasks. There were no eyes on Dai-ichi, other than military
overflights, and especially not in the area of R3 or R4. The first indication of trouble in this area, other than the smoke and high radiation
readings from R3, came shortly before 6:00 the next morning when an explosion that wasn't an explosion occurred at R2 or R4 or..........?
Needless to say, confusion reigned supreme. A state of panic existed among Tepco, GE and SDF personnel on site at this time, and the level of
confusion that existed offset everything else. What was occurring in R3, and soon R4, was the last thing on people's minds. All any one really cared
about was making it through the night, while praying R2 didn't go south as well.
The following time lapse sequence is from Goddard's Journal, and covers the night and morning bursts that were emitted from the plant. This simulation
from METI data represents both low and high level winds. The darkest red indicates levels in the range of 1 uSv/hr. The first is the 14th and the rest
are the 15th.
The above simulation though is not entirely accurate. Being derived from METI data this is to be expected. The SPEEDI readings for Horiguchi and other
towns in Ibaraki Prefecture show much higher levels than those used in the above simulation, and these higher levels persisted for a long time. Seven
days in some areas to be exact. And it must be assumed that the levels in Fukushima Prefecture were even higher.
Suffice it to say that Dai-ichi was beginning to cook, and the fumes from this cooking process were bubbling out for many days afterwards. What ever
direction the wind was blowing was where the atmospheric radiation readings were found to be off the charts. And for March 15th and later on the 21st,
they blew all day into the heart of Japan.
Next, Chapter 12) March of the Transuranics.
Not a part of the book. Since chapter 12 has been posted, but modified slightly since then, I will post it as well as Chapter 13) "By Dawn's Early
Light" next. Chapter 13 covers the most confusing time of all at Fukushima, daylight hours for the 15th and 16th of March, when real fires were
breaking out, and invisible fire seemed to be everywhere.
edit on 2-4-2012 by zworld because: (no reason given)
edit on 2-4-2012 by zworld because: (no reason given)