Across America a new breed of urban treasure hunter is making his mark. These profiteers search for precious metals in unlikely places hoping to turn junk into gold. Today the struggling economy has turned the melting of precious metals into a billion dollar industry. The search takes them from back alleys to the world of high technology. It's a high stakes game where one false move could spell disaster. But these melters risk everything to seek their fortune.
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Meltdown - Nuclear meltdown - Netflix
A nuclear meltdown (core melt accident or partial core melt) is a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating. The term nuclear meltdown is not officially defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, it has been defined to mean the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor, and is in common usage a reference to the core's either complete or partial collapse. A core meltdown accident occurs when the heat generated by a nuclear reactor exceeds the heat removed by the cooling systems to the point where at least one nuclear fuel element exceeds its melting point. This differs from a fuel element failure, which is not caused by high temperatures. A meltdown may be caused by a loss of coolant, loss of coolant pressure, or low coolant flow rate or be the result of a criticality excursion in which the reactor is operated at a power level that exceeds its design limits. Alternately, in a reactor plant such as the RBMK-1000, an external fire may endanger the core, leading to a meltdown. Once the fuel elements of a reactor begin to melt, the fuel cladding has been breached, and the nuclear fuel (such as uranium, plutonium, or thorium) and fission products (such as caesium-137, krypton-85, or iodine-131) within the fuel elements can leach out into the coolant. Subsequent failures can permit these radioisotopes to breach further layers of containment. Superheated steam and hot metal inside the core can lead to fuel-coolant interactions, hydrogen explosions, or water hammer, any of which could destroy parts of the containment. A meltdown is considered very serious because of the potential for radioactive materials to breach all containment and escape (or be released) into the environment, resulting in radioactive contamination and fallout, and potentially leading to radiation poisoning of people and animals nearby.
Meltdown - Standard failure modes - Netflix
If the melted core penetrates the pressure vessel, there are theories and speculations as to what may then occur. In modern Russian plants, there is a “core catching device” in the bottom of the containment building. The melted core is supposed to hit a thick layer of a “sacrificial metal” which would melt, dilute the core and increase the heat conductivity, and finally the diluted core can be cooled down by water circulating in the floor. However, there has never been any full-scale testing of this device. In Western plants there is an airtight containment building. Though radiation would be at a high level within the containment, doses outside of it would be lower. Containment buildings are designed for the orderly release of pressure without releasing radionuclides, through a pressure release valve and filters. Hydrogen/oxygen recombiners also are installed within the containment to prevent gas explosions. In a melting event, one spot or area on the RPV will become hotter than other areas, and will eventually melt. When it melts, corium will pour into the cavity under the reactor. Though the cavity is designed to remain dry, several NUREG-class documents advise operators to flood the cavity in the event of a fuel melt incident. This water will become steam and pressurize the containment. Automatic water sprays will pump large quantities of water into the steamy environment to keep the pressure down. Catalytic recombiners will rapidly convert the hydrogen and oxygen back into water. One positive effect of the corium falling into water is that it is cooled and returns to a solid state. Extensive water spray systems within the containment along with the ECCS, when it is reactivated, will allow operators to spray water within the containment to cool the core on the floor and reduce it to a low temperature. These procedures are intended to prevent release of radioactivity. In the Three Mile Island event in 1979, a theoretical person standing at the plant property line during the entire event would have received a dose of approximately 2 millisieverts (200 millirem), between a chest X-ray's and a CT scan's worth of radiation. This was due to outgassing by an uncontrolled system that, today, would have been backfitted with activated carbon and HEPA filters to prevent radionuclide release. However in case of Fukushima incident this design failed: Despite the efforts of the operators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to maintain control, the reactor cores in units 1-3 overheated, the nuclear fuel melted and the three containment vessels were breached. Hydrogen was released from the reactor pressure vessels, leading to explosions inside the reactor buildings in units 1, 3 and 4 that damaged structures and equipment and injured personnel. Radionuclides were released from the plant to the atmosphere and were deposited on land and on the ocean. There were also direct releases into the sea. Cooling will take quite a while, until the natural decay heat of the corium reduces to the point where natural convection and conduction of heat to the containment walls and re-radiation of heat from the containment allows for water spray systems to be shut down and the reactor put into safe storage. The containment can be sealed with release of extremely limited offsite radioactivity and release of pressure within the containment. After a number of years for fission products to decay - probably around a decade - the containment can be reopened for decontamination and demolition. Another scenario sees a buildup of hydrogen, which may lead to a detonation event. Passive autocatalytic recombiners located within containment are designed to prevent this from occurring. In Fukushima the containments were filled with inert nitrogen, which prevented hydrogen from burning in the containment. However, the hydrogen leaked from the containment to the reactor building where it mixed with air and exploded. During the 1979 Three Mile Island accident a hydrogen bubble formed in the pressure vessel dome. There were initial concerns that this hydrogen bubble might ignite and damage the pressure vessel or even damage the containment building; but it was soon realized that a lack of oxygen precluded a burnable or explosive mixture from forming inside the pressure vessel.
Meltdown - References - Netflix