Where there’s smoke, there is fire. But if there’s “smoke”, there’s… what…? “oxidation”?
The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) [listed in my list of *NEWS* sources] stated in their most recent update (April 15, not updated as of early April 18) that
“… As of 14 April, white “smoke” was still observed coming from Units 2 and 3. White “smoke” was also observed coming from Unit 4 on 14 April. …”
So there is “white “smoke“” coming from Units 2, 3 and 4. Not steam, not smoke, but white “smoke”, huh? Interesting choice of “words”, IAEA.
If it’s not steam, and it’s not exactly “smoke” either… what could it be? hmmm. What’s in there? Uranium-based fuel rods, stainless steel, zircaloy, concrete,… what else? At what temperature do they start oxidizing (I suppose a better term than “burning”, cause we all love oxygen and burning hints of fire… or something… fire… hot… :-) right.)? My guess (and I’m NOT an expert, just read bits and pieces online) is that core temperatures are probably still over 1,500 K (2,240 °F), causing oxidation of the Zircaloy by steam, and that’s why they’re injecting nitrogen: the oxidative reaction of zirconium with water releases hydrogen gas, and they want to prevent more hydrogen explosions. So in short: reactor cores of one or more units remain in meltdown mode. Right?
Additionally, in case you missed it: yesterday (4/17, Sunday) TEPCO announced that that new cooling systems are needed, in a first admission that efforts to restart the old cooling system has failed. Best summary from the company now well known for denial, misplaced optimism and bizarre information withholding, April 17, 2011: “The company has been doing its utmost to prevent a worsening of the situation,” Tokyo Electric’s chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, told a news conference. Yup, this still could get a lot worse. :-/
On April 19th or 20th perhaps? Isn’t that when really crazy things happen? (Waco raid, Oklahoma City bombing (I moved to the US from Belgium that day), Columbine school massacre, BP Deepwater Horizon explosion,…) …24 hours… (j/k)
SOURCE: http://www.ourbusinessnews.com/tokyo-utility-lays-out-plan-for-its-reactors/ and Wikipedia gives an overview of the levels of nuclear meltdown here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown. IAEA’s latest: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html