What is Nuclear Meltdown

By | March 14, 2011

News out of Japan is replete with the technical lingo of nuclear power generation: fuel rod, exposure, feed and bleed, hydrogen explosion and meltdown. While no one intends to become a nuclear physicist overnight, these terms are not as complicated to understand as many think.

Nuclear Fuel Rod

Energy Net.org

When understanding a Nuclear Reactor Meltdown, first consider what is melting. It is not the reactor, but instead, the fuel rods that are melting. Nuclear power reactor fuel rods are not solid rods of radioactive material. The rod is actual a container for a column of radioactive fuel pellets.

In a boiling water reactor (BWR) such as those at the ill-fated Fukushima power plant, water is used to keep the rods cool during power generation.  Meltdown can occur when the coolant is no longer covering some or all of the fuel rod assembly – and that is what has occurred in Japan.

Nuclear Fuel Rod Meltdown

Once the fuel rod assembly is partially or fully exposed, or having a portion of its surface not covered by coolant, intense heat goes unchecked. The nuclear fuel will then heat-up to a point where the containment rod will melt.  In the most extreme case, the fuel pellets will then fall to the bottom of the reactor chamber, continue heating and melt into a lava-like mass of super-heated radioactive sludge. This pool of nuclear material could then melt through the floor of the containment vessel and expose the environment to massive amounts of radiation – this is commonly known as “China Syndrome”.

Conservative Daily News allows a great deal of latitude in the topics contributors choose and their approaches to the content. We believe that citizens have a voice - one that should be heard above the mass media. Readers will likely not agree with every contributor or every post, but find reasons to think about the topic and respond with comments. We value differing opinions as well as those that agree. Opinions of contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of CDN, Anomalous Media or staff. Click here if you'd like to write for CDN.
Put This Story in your Circles and Share with your Friends