TEPCO put out a report on alpha emitters found in the gas removal systems for units 1-3. This appears to be the first reporting of this.
Units 1 and 2 were tested and said to be below detection. Unit 3 is leaking a certain amount of alpha emitters out the gas removal system and is likely leaking the same out the damaged reactor well on the top. Some of the isotopes listed are expected. What appears unusual is that only unit 3 is cited as detecting them. Since unit 3 was running a partial load of MOX plutonium fuel is this a roundabout admission by TEPCO that 3 is leaking detectable amounts of plutonium due to the fuel mix?
Since TEPCO plays coy, or possibly lazy and only lists “all alpha” radiation together it is hard to know for sure what they found. The difference between units 1 & 2 and unit 3 that consistently detected alpha radiation does seem to hint they found another problem at unit 3. With the new admissions that unit 3 leaks out the reactor well and has since 2011, this could be another vague admission by TEPCO.
Below is a list of some alpha emitting radioactive isotopes, those in bold are known to be emitted from spent nuclear fuel.
- Americium-241 is used in smoke detectors, measure levels of toxic lead in dried paint samples and in thickness gauges.
- Californium-252 is used to inspect luggage for explosives, in brachytherapy, in moisture gauges and to locate water and oil-bearing layers in oil wells.
- Radium-226 is used to make lightning rods more effective.
- Thorium-220 is used for coloring and fluorescence in colored glazes and glassware
- Thorium-229 helps fluorescent lights last longer.
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