APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chinese Nuclear Plant "Radiation Leak" (Oh, my!)

There are some rather exaggerated reports that DAYA BAY 2 experienced some sort of "radiation leak" (whatever that's supposed to mean) and there's an increase in breathless love for fear beginning on the net. Let's stop all that right now.

What appears to have happened was a minor fuel element failure. Before you jump me, YES, there are actually major fuel element failures. Fuel elements are always going to experience some kind of compromise in nuclear reactors. Each has many hundreds or even thousands of fuel pellets, or else fuel plates, or fuel pellets or spherules dispersed in a metallic fuel matrix and somewhere, sometime, there might just be a failure at a point. The whole design analysis takes this into account for any modern reactor, and there is actually a planned number assumed to fail during the life of any core.

When this happens, samples taken multiple times daily of the primary coolant will begin to reveal FP's (Fission Products) or even possibly fuel in the coolant in trace amounts. This is carefully tracked, and rate of change carefully measured. Everyone knows this will happen and when it does, so long as you don't have a multiple-days-long stratospheric increase you're all right. I can't de-nuclearize, or slim it down for the non-nuclear public, any better than that. It's like having belts on the engine in your car- you KNOW one's going to fail sooner or later. However, the actual number of people who've had a belt break while driving is a fraction of those actually driving. See?

So let's not all freak out about some "cover-up" until we hear that they've got something worth covering up over there.

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