Fukashima: The Effect of Sulphuric Acid on Plutonium?

  • Thread starter Skip Hawley
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In summary: Attempting to pump the material out would also be problematic. There are likely multiple places that the fuel is dispersed throughout the reactor and containment vessel. In summary, the acid dissolution of the plutonium at Los Alamos may not be feasible at Fukushima.
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Skip Hawley
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I read that at Los Alamos they cooled plutonium and then dissolved it with sulphuric acid - would this work at Fukashima? Could the Fukashima nuclear cores be turned into liquid and then pumped out?
 
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Using acid to dissolve and draw out the nuclear material is a possibility, but there are complications.
The stuff is currently somewhere under a lake of 80,000 tons of water, possibly in blobs at the bottom of the reactor vessels or on the pedestals that hold the reactors. With the site badly contaminated and the water quite loaded with radioactive material, no one as yet has come up with a way to find the core material, much less remove it. It will probably take decades, judging by the Chernobyl example, where that material is still there, with no plans to remove it, more than 25 years after the accident.
 
  • #3
In general its a lot easier to deal with solid fuel than aqueous (dissolved) fuel. And that's is a huge understatement. When dealing with solutions that contain fissile material, you have to worry about that solution accidentally going critical. Criticality accidents are significantly more common with aqueous fuel than solid fuel. For instance subtle changes could cause the fissile material to precipitate out of the solution, and accumulate until critical mass is achieved. You even have to worry about the change in geometry of the flow due to pumps breaking. When this happens you go from a vortex volume which has a high surface area to volume to cylindrical volume which has a much lower surface area to volume ratio and is more prone to going critical.

On top of that you have to consider the reactor vessel. If you going to start adding acid to dissolve the fuel, that same acid is going to eat away at the reactor vessel. And you run the risk of creating leaks or enhancing any leaks that already exist. And then after all that what do you do with the accumulated radioactive acid?

It is much easier and safer to deal with solid fuel. We were able to clean up three mile island after its core melted. And we can do the same with Fukushima.
 
  • #4
Skip Hawley said:
I read that at Los Alamos they cooled plutonium and then dissolved it with sulphuric acid - would this work at Fukashima? Could the Fukashima nuclear cores be turned into liquid and then pumped out?
I would expect that Pu or Pu compound (at Los Alamos) was dissolved in some apparatus that contained the Pu solution in a vessel. The Fukushima units are huge volumes of not only U and Pu, but other transuranics, e.g., Np, Am, Cm, and fission products. The fuel may have melted or otherwise chemically reacted with seawater, so part of the fuel maybe in the form of rubble, part would be particulates, and some is in solution, or may have migrated into the cement/concrete. Attempting to dissolve the volume in the containment vessel would be problematic, and could actually increase the contamination locally.

If the majority of the fuel is in a solid mass, that mostly excludes moderation. So placing that volume in solution would raise concerns of criticality.
 
  • #5


I cannot provide a definitive answer without further information about the specific conditions at Fukashima. However, I can offer some insights and considerations based on my knowledge and expertise.

Firstly, it is important to note that the situation at Fukashima is complex and unique, and any potential solutions must be carefully evaluated and tested before implementation. While the process of dissolving plutonium with sulphuric acid has been successfully used in controlled laboratory settings, it may not be applicable or effective in the context of Fukashima.

One major consideration is the potential reaction between the sulphuric acid and other materials present in the nuclear cores at Fukashima. It is possible that the acid could react with other radioactive elements or materials, creating additional hazardous byproducts and complicating the cleanup process.

Furthermore, the cooling and dissolution process described at Los Alamos was likely done under highly controlled and monitored conditions, which may not be feasible at Fukashima. The safety and containment of the dissolved plutonium would also need to be carefully managed to prevent further environmental contamination.

In addition, the structural integrity of the nuclear cores at Fukashima must be taken into account. If the cores have been damaged or compromised, the process of turning them into liquid may not be possible or safe.

Overall, while the idea of using sulphuric acid to dissolve plutonium may seem like a potential solution, it is important to thoroughly evaluate the risks and feasibility before attempting such a process at Fukashima. The priority must be on ensuring the safe and effective cleanup of the site, and all potential solutions should be carefully evaluated and tested before implementation.
 

1. What is the main concern about the effects of sulphuric acid on plutonium in Fukashima?

The main concern is that sulphuric acid can corrode the protective barriers around the plutonium, causing it to leak into the environment and potentially harm living organisms.

2. How does sulphuric acid interact with plutonium in Fukashima?

Sulphuric acid is highly corrosive and can react with the protective coating on plutonium, causing it to break down and release the radioactive material. This process is known as corrosion or dissolution.

3. What are the potential consequences of plutonium exposure due to sulphuric acid in Fukashima?

The potential consequences include radiation exposure, which can lead to various health effects such as cancer, genetic damage, and organ damage. It can also have long-term effects on the environment and wildlife.

4. How is the presence of sulphuric acid affecting the cleanup efforts in Fukashima?

The presence of sulphuric acid can complicate the cleanup efforts, as it can corrode equipment and make it difficult to contain and remove the plutonium. It also poses a safety hazard for workers involved in the cleanup process.

5. Is there any way to mitigate the effects of sulphuric acid on plutonium in Fukashima?

Yes, there are various methods to mitigate the effects, such as using corrosion-resistant materials, proper storage and handling procedures, and regular monitoring and maintenance of equipment. Additionally, research is being conducted to find more effective ways to neutralize sulphuric acid and prevent it from reacting with plutonium.

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