Fukushima Fuel Rods and Radioactive Water | Tritium
In “Fukushima Update & Nuclear Power Safety: Part 1”, Dr. Kai Vetter shares pertinent straight-talk surrounding the Fukushima disaster, and points of concern moving forward.
One salient topic was the spent fuel rods from the Fukushima nuclear reactor and how they are discarded. Dr. Vetter explained that the spent fuel rods (the holding containers of fission material) need to “cool off” and are placed in large pools of water to do so. In the Fukushima fuel pond, there are literally metric tons of radioactive spent fuel.
Dr. Vetter clarifies that, while the fuel pond is quite large and does contain radioactive material, it is extremely well-managed and over ninety-nine percent of the water has been cleared of radioactivity. The remaining radioactive contamination is known as tritium, an isotope of hydrogen which is very similar to water in its chemical composition. Although radioactive, Dr. Vetter explains that one would have to ingest copious amounts of it to notice any harmful effects.
Playfully skeptic, Dr. Sweeny questioned if it would be possible to know if this fuel pond was being disposed of in the ocean. Dr. Vetter answered that it would be extremely difficult to measure the amount of tritium, as it would be diluted immediately. Dr. Vetter mentions that this would be a political land mine for Japanese authorities, and, even if the tritium were released, the health effects would be virtually immeasurable.
Dr. Vetter has been to Fukushima more than ten times since the incident, and is vastly knowledgeable on the subject. To hear him discuss spent fuel rods, tritium, nuclear power safety and more, check out the full episode.