Friday, April 01, 2011

Pumping It

Some really big pumps are going to Fukushima.

The world's largest concrete pump, deployed at the construction site of the U.S. government's $4.86 billion mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site, is being moved to Japan in a series of emergency measures to help stabilize the Fukushima reactors.

"The bottom line is, the Japanese need this particular unit worse than we do, so we're giving it up," said Jerry Ashmore, whose company, Augusta-based Ashmore Concrete Contractors, Inc., is the concrete supplier for the MOX facility.

The 190,000-pound pump, made by German-based Putzmeister has a 70-meter boom and can be controlled remotely, making it suitable for use in the unpredictable and highly radioactive environment of the doomed nuclear reactors in Japan, he said.
Jerry also said that they were in a hurry as time was a factor. The shipment because of its size will need a Russian cargo plane and is expected to start next week.

So what is the plan?
According to Putzmeister's Web site, four smaller pumps made by the company are already at work at Fukushima pumping water onto the overheated reactors.

Initially, the pump from Savannah River Site, and another 70-meter Putzmeister now at a construction site in California, will be used to pump water -- and later will be used to move concrete.

"Our understanding is, they are preparing to go to next phase and it will require a lot of concrete," Ashmore said, noting that the 70-meter pump can move 210 cubic yards of concrete per hour.

Putzmeister equipment was also used in the 1980s, when massive amounts of concrete were used to entomb the melted core of the reactor at Chernobyl.
I have seen estimates of $285 million for the biggest pumps. Guess what is going to happen to them after the project is over?
Ashmore said officials have already notified Shaw AREVA MOX Services, which is building the MOX plant for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, that the pump was being moved and will not be returned because it will become contaminated by radiation.

"It will be too hot to come back," Ashmore said.
That means on the order of $1 billion in equipment for water and concrete pumping are known to be scrap from the time the decision is made to use them. This will not be a cheap accident.

The US Military is helping Japan get back on its feet. The US Navy is delivering fresh water to Fukushima.
U.S. Navy barges containing 500,000 gallons of fresh water from Yokosuka are being used at the crippled nuclear power plant. The water will be used to replace salt water in the reactor cooling system to lessen the corrosive impact of salt from the sea water still being used for emergency cooling.
This might be a good time to review some of the problems with using salt water to cool nuclear reactors that are in an accident status. And as pointed out by the Navy, corrosion is definitely a problem.

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