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Roger Mattson on: The Hydrogen Bubble
Roger Mattson Q: Who initially raised the concern over the hydrogen bubble?

RM: Well, there're several kinds of concerns over the hydrogen bubble. One concern, that it's in the reactor coolant system and we began to appreciate that that was the thing that had impeded cooling of the reactor on Wednesday and Thursday. Even though the reactor coolant pump was turned back on and the gas was not impeding, cooling after that happened, there was concern that that hydrogen bubble could grow. There was concern that that hydrogen could, when it was released into the containment, burn in such a way that would cause more problems. Then there was also the concern that oxygen might be added to the hydrogen bubble and that somehow the hydrogen and oxygen would combine catastrophically or there could be some kind of an explosion inside the reactor coolant system. So all three concerns began to deepen over the day Friday. Even though there were no physical indications that things were getting worse, the regulators were in the business of asking, "Well, what if? What if this goes wrong? What is that goes wrong?" And I'm not certain where the "What if there's oxygen being added to the hydrogen," question first came from, but it first came to me, Friday evening from Joe Hendrie.

Q: And did you go home that night?

RM: No. That was the second night of no sleep! Hindry apparently asked the question about the oxygen being added to the hydrogen bubble of a number of people, me included. We had the watch again that Friday night while some other people were off doing other things. Remember that Denton, Stello, and a contingent of people had been sent to the site Friday afternoon. The EMT members, the emergency management team members, took off Friday night and got a good night's rest and those of us a little lower in the pecking order had the watch Friday night. We turned on scientists from around the country, people in national laboratories, people in private companies, asking the question, "Given the situation we have with a damaged core, with about a thousand pounds per square inch in the primary system, with about a thousand cubic feet of hydrogen in the primary system, what's going on? What could be happening to make it worse? If that hydrogen were to detonate, what would it do to the reactor? If it were to burn, what would it do to the reactor? Could oxygen be accumulating in that hydrogen bubble through the action of the radioactivity field on the water, breaking it down into hydrogen and oxygen?" We call it radiolysis. There were a lot of questions being asked Friday night of experts literally around the country. Several teams of people were formed up to answer various aspects of those questions. And they worked through the night Friday night and into Saturday morning.

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