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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