In Stricken Fuel-Cooling Pools, a Danger for the Longer Term
The pools, which sit on the top level of the reactor buildings and keep spent fuel submerged in water, have lost their cooling systems and the Japanese have been unable to take emergency steps because of the multiplying crises.
Experts now fear that the pool containing those rods from the fourth reactor has run dry, allowing the rods to overheat and catch fire. That could spread radioactive materials far and wide in dangerous clouds.
“It’s worse than a meltdown,” said David A. Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Certainly damage to these pools could be an issue at several other reactors. The article mentions that in 1997 the Brookhaven national laboratory did a study of a potential fire at one of these sites.
Severe Accidents in Spent Fuel Pools
in Support of Generic Safety
Accidents leading to complete pool draining that might be initiated by
loss of cooling water circulation capability, missiles, and pneumatic seal
failure were found to have a very low likelihood. However, the frequency
estimates for pool draining due to structural failure resulting from seismic
events and heavy load drops were found to be quite uncertain. In the case of
seismic events, the seismic hazard and structural fragilities both contribute
to the uncertainty range. For heavy load drops, human error probabilities,
structural damage potentials and recovery actions are the primary sources of