South Korea has agreed to send some 50 tons of boron from its reserves to Japan to help fight the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima reactor plant.

The scientists at TEPCO have been sent samples for analysis and a decision should be made pretty quickly. [Reuters, Korea Herald]

However, this seems to have been lightly reported and I blog this here more in the hope of an answer to a niggling question I've had since the start of this tragedy. Why have the operators at Fukushima not used boron carbide to absorb neutrons rather than boric acid? It seems as if, for whatever reasons, liquid boron is liable to evaporate along with the water.

Boron carbide is already used for the control rods and some reactor designs have ball-bearings that can be dumped into the core in case the rods are not functioning. The initial idea of using boric acid seemed fine at the time but obviously isn't working and TEPCO have run out of stocks.

So, I'm not sure if the boron that may be coming from Korea is in metallic or liquid form. I studied nuclear reactors many years ago - indeed even then the BWR looked like a cheap shoddy design - so if my idea of using boron carbide is dumb, feel free to shoot it down.

In either case, a solution may be at hand.