April Fool Molten nuclear powerplant cores from Fukushima – having burned their way down through the planetary crust and plunged into the Earth's centre – are set to emerge again on the other side of the planet and devastate the Falkland Islands, scientists believe.
Sensationally, the Register can reveal full details of the impending disaster in the South Atlantic, despite ongoing efforts by both the British and Japanese governments to keep it secret.
"It's usually called the China Syndrome," explains Dr Petar Glick of the Federation of Concerned Scientists. "The idea is that if a US-based reactor core melted down it would become so hot that nothing could resist it, and it would burn its way down through the planet until it reached China.
"But in the case of Fukushima, the other side of the planet is actually the Falkland Islands."
It is of course an established fact that the cores at Fukushima Dai'ichi reactors 1, 2 and 3 melted through their armoured primary containment vessels early during the crisis of 2011 and sank into the plant foundations.
The terrifying truth, far less well known, is that nobody actually knows where they are now. The intense radioactivity in the old reactor buildings means that it is impossible to physically ascertain where the cores ended up.
Until very recently it had been generally assumed that the melted nuclear cores were still present in the plant's foundations or somewhere beneath them.
However, just two months ago scientists in Japan finally developed a method by which the lost cores could be located. The Japan Times reported in January that a team from the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization in Tsukuba has perfected a method of using cosmic rays to see through concrete, rock and earth in order to locate nuclear core material.
The technique relies on the fact that cosmic-ray muons change course when they pass through heavy elements such as uranium but are largely unaffected by normal matter. Successful trials were carried out in January at a shut-down nuclear plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture.
“The (cosmic ray) measurement system can be installed easily,” Japanese scientist Hidekazu Kakuno told the Times following January's trials. “We are ready to use it at the Fukushima No. 1 plant if Tepco cooperates.”
The bit in the middle: GONE
The Register understands that the nuclear power company Tepco did cooperate. Characteristically, however, Tepco and the Japanese authorities chose to deploy the muon scanning system at Fukushima secretly, fearing that if the world knew the truth huge investments made by banks and the government in Tepco might become worthless.
But, according to Dr Glick, brave Japanese researchers involved in the project were determined to let their colleagues worldwide know the results in the interests of scientific openness. Thus it was that the Concerned Scientists became aware of the astonishing results obtained from the recently completed inaugural muon scans at Fukushima.
"It turns out that the cores are simply not there at all - they can't be found within the range of the detection system," Glick tells the Register. "They obviously became so hot that they have simply melted their way right down through the planetary crust and into the interior of the planet, China Syndrome style. This goes a long way to explain the otherwise puzzlingly low levels of radiation in the vicinity, radiation levels are actually higher in most of the USA than they are in the towns near Fukushima Dai'ichi."
[Amazingly, this does appear to be the case. -Ed]
Glick and his colleagues, on learning of the cores' disappearance, worked with scientific experts around the world to develop models which could predict the path of the molten nuclear fuel after it sank out of the plant foundations. And what they found was still more remarkable.
"The 'China Syndrome' has always been thought to be just a figure of speech," Glick explains. "Obviously if the fuel melts right down through the Earth's crust it would then either break up, or if not, it would presumably sink to the very centre of the planet. One would imagine, naturally, that gravity would keep it there.
"But that turns out not to be the case."
The scientific computer modelling developed in past weeks shows that in fact the molten reactor-fuel blobs are so incredibly hot that even the liquid interior of the planet is cold compared with them. Thus, the so-called "Leidenfrost effect" comes into play, the same phenomenon which makes a drop of water skitter about on a hot skillet or permits a person to put their bare hand into liquid nitrogen unscathed.
The cores are enveloped in a layer of metallic plasma vapour, causing them to slip almost completely frictionlessly through the liquid planetary interior. As the super-heavy, molten uranium blobs from Fukushima fell thousands of miles without resistance towards the centre of the Earth, they accelerated to enormous velocities.
"Our calculations show that the cores fell right through the centre of the Earth at high speed, so fast that momentum carried them almost back up to the crust again on the other side before gravity slowed them to a stop. Then they accelerated back down through the planet's centre again, repeating the process," explains Dr Glick.
The models show that the molten cores have pendulumned up and down through the centre of the planet many times since 2011, losing almost no energy due to their frictionless envelopes of superhot plasma vapour. But, over a time span of years, an additional effect has to be accounted for.
"The planet isn't only turning about its own axis," explains Glick. "It's also orbiting around the Sun. What this means is that each year the oscillating cores get a boost to the amplitude of their cycle, rather as a spacecraft can gain speed by passing through a planet's gravity field in a so-called 'slingshot' manoeuvre.
"Our models show that this year, the cumulative effect will have built up to the point where the cores will no longer fall back before reaching the surface. When the axis of travel passes through the line of the Earth to the Sun, the enhancement will kick in. The molten cores will soar upward once again, and this time they'll impact the crust still travelling at high speed and emerge from the ground: naturally, on their original line of travel. Not in China, but in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands."