Fukushima March 18 evening update, Barry Brook on the future of nuclear energy

The following is not a  significant new update on the situation at Fukushima (see here for the 18 March morning update), because so little information has emerged since my last update this morning. But there is some new information.

Below I summarise what news and data I’ve gathered today, and then provide a 25 minute video of me, recorded just a few days ago, talking about the potential impact of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on the future of nuclear power deployment, and the prospects of new technologies.

First to Fukushima News. Here is what I’ve gathered so far today:

1. There have been no new updates from World Nuclear News or NEI updates. The IAEA provided an ‘update’ on Temperature of Spent Fuel Pools at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which didn’t really say anything new. The latest TEPCO news release doesn’t add much.

2. NHK news shows some footage of the fire trucks of the self defence forces and Tokyo fire department (including some borrowed trucks from the locally deployed US military), in the act of hosing down units 3 and 4 with the aim of raising the water levels in the open-topped spent fuel storage ponds (see here for more details) — they are doing this in serial rather than parallel, due to the difficulty in site access because of debris. They think this will be just as effective anyway. There was clearly steam rising as a result of this addition of some 50 tonnes of water, and a measured drop in on-site radioactivity as a result, so it does seem to be having some effect. I can’t say much more than this.

3. The external power line is now stretched to the site and they hope to have AC power connected by early Saturday (JST). The goal is to allow operators to restart Emergency Core Cooling System and Residual Heat Removal pumps for the reactor. TEPCO continues to install cables, transformers and distribution equipment to restore offsite grid power to Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1 and 2. Reactor 1 has now been included in the power restoration plan. Radiation around the reactor buildings are still around 20 mSv/hr, which although much lower than previously, is still hampering operations.

4. Kyodo News reports the following (extract)

The Tokyo Fire Department is slated to join in the operation at the Fukushima plant with 30 trucks capable of discharging massive amounts of water to high places and some 140 firefighters of its ”hyper rescue” team, who are specialists in rescue operations in large-scale disasters.

But a Tokyo police water cannon truck, whose contribution Thursday was revised Friday to 44 tons from the initially reported 4 tons, and the SDF choppers were not mobilized Friday.

Radiation readings at the troubled nuclear plant have consistently followed a downward path through Friday morning, according to data taken roughly 1 kilometer west of the plant’s No. 2 reactor, but plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. stopped short of calling the move a trend.

The radiation level at 11 a.m. dropped to 265.0 microsievert per hour from 351.4 microsievert per hour at 12:30 a.m. Thursday. It measured 292.2 microsievert per hour at 8:40 p.m. Thursday, shortly after SDF trucks sprayed water at the No. 3 reactor pool as part of efforts to avert any massive emission of radioactive materials into the air from the facility.

The the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum has provided their 12th reactor-by-reactor status update (16:00 March 18). It doesn’t really say anything new:

Here is the latest FEPC status report:


• Radiation Levels

o At 9:20AM (JST) on March 17, radiation level at elevation of 1,000ft above Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 4,130 micro sievert.

o At 9:20AM on March 17, radiation level at elevation of 300ft above Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 87,700 micro sievert.

o At 11:10AM on March 17, radiation level at main gate (approximately 3,281 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 646.2 micro sievert.

o At 7:50PM on March 17, radiation level outside main office building (approximately 1,640 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 3,599 micro sievert.

o For comparison, a human receives 2,400 micro sievert per year from natural radiation in the form of sunlight, radon, and other sources. One chest CT scan generates 6,900 micro sievert per scan.

• Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor

o Since 10:30AM on March 14, the pressure within the primary containment vessel cannot be measured.

o At 12:50PM on March 17, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.185MPa.

o At 12:50PM on March 17, water level inside the reactor core: 1.7 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

• Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor

o At 12:25PM on March 16, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.40MPaabs.

o At 12:50PM on March 17, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.027MPa.

o At 12:50PM on March 17, water level inside the reactor core: 1.8 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

• Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor

o At 12:40PM on March 16, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.23MPaabs.

o At 6:15AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber was observed to fluctuate.

o At 7:00AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.22MPa.

o At 7:05AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.44MPa.

o At 7:10AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.26MPa.

o At 7:15AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.52MPa.

o At 7:20AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.13MPa.

o At 7:25AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.57MPa.

o At 9:48AM on March 17, a Self Defense Forces helicopter made four water drops aimed for the spent fuel pool.

o At 4:35PM on March 17, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.005MPa.

o At 4:35PM on March 17, water level inside the reactor core: 1.95 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o At 7:05PM on March 17, a police water cannon began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool until 7:22PM.

o At 7:35PM on March 17, five Self Defense Forces emergency fire vehicles shot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, until 8:09PM.

• Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor

o No official updates to the information in our March 16 update have been provided.

o Through visual surveys from the helicopter flying above the Unit 4 reactor secondary containment building on March 16, it was observed that water remained in the spent fuel pool. The helicopter was measuring radiation levels above Unit 4 reactor secondary containment building in preparation for water drops. This report has not been officially confirmed.

• Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor

o At 12:00PM on March 17, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 147.56 degrees Fahrenheit.

o At 5:00PM on March 17, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 148.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor

o At 12:00PM on March 17, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 144.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

o At 5:00PM on March 17, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 147.2 degrees Fahrenheit.


This PDF of compiled radiation measurements indicates a range of spot values taken at areas >20 km distant from the Daiichi plant, from 1.7 to 170 μSv/hr; the average is hardly above background levels, which is good to see.

Finally, if you want to know my thoughts on the future of nuclear power, and why I consider it fundamental to eliminating fossil fuels, watch this — I hope you find my perspective persuasive! It comes courtesy of The Climate Show. My interview is from 29 — 56 min in the 1 hour 20 min show, if you want to skip straight to it.


  1. This morning I read that they probably will try – if everything else fails – to cover up the whole thing with sand and concrete.

    My question is here:
    If they do so, isn’t there a very huge chance that this coverage might just crack up with the next best strong enough earthquake? Is it possible to just cover up something in this area?


  2. Thanks for the update.

    Could you comment the pressure values from FEPC? I don’t really understand why the value of the block 2 core is negative. So, to which pressure is it relative to?


  3. Pingback: Japanese Power Plant Incident – UPDATE 3 « PA Pundits – International

  4. I read an article in Cosmos Mag some time ago about Thorium Reactors. At the time it seemed the only downside was initial set up costs. Why does no-one ever mention Thorium in the Nuclear debate?. Doesn’t Australia have some of the richest deposits? Why can’t Australia look at these reactors as a source of power when it seems so safe compared to uranium?


  5. This event will probable do more good for nuclear energy than harm in the long run. Dread of the unknown has always been part of the problem. Lacking reference, people tend to give more weight to worse case scenarios. Each time the truth fails to be as bad as what it was imagined it might be, rationality makes gains.

    At any rate this will bring the debate to the front burner and that will give us a chance to argue before a larger audience than usual.


  6. @drew – where abouts are you located, mate?

    My question, as a lay person is, in the worst case scenario where there is a full meltdown, what size will the affected area be?

    By affected, I mean human health risk not related to food contamination.


  7. Much of the discussion has focussed on the probabilities of the current damage being containable before the worst case scenario plays out – fair enough and of great importance. However, I would value informed opinion on what the worst case could actually be (I’m thinking about the public and not plant workers)..

    Suppose, for example (totally hypothetically), that all fuel rods in the 4 damaged reactors and their associated spent fuel transfer pools went dry and then melted. There would be evolution of hydrogen, but, as I understand it, no chance of recriticality. Levels of radioactivity would prevent access, but, unless explosions occurred due to non dispersed hydrogen, presumably the non volatile radioactive materials would stay put. Iodine 131 would no longer be being generated and that already present at the outset of the problem would have mainly decayed. If I am correct (probably not), it seems that one has to worry principally about caesium.

    Given correct assumptions on my part, what is the worst that could be expected from volatile caesium distribution in terms of area affected and duration of danger period. It appears (in retrospect) that Chernobyl resulted in little radiation -associated damage to the local population (excluding economic and psychological effects that were largely unnecessary) and that the few effects that there were, were primarily associated with iodine 131. Can anyone enlighten me about the specific problems of caesium and its environmental persistence? I appreciate the 30 year half life and its lack of bioaccumulating ability. It would seem, therefore, at least in the short term, to come down to concentration and distance of spread (which I know would be vary with wind/dust etc).


  8. Douglas Wise, on 18 March 2011 at 10:07 PM said:
    “Much of the discussion has focussed on the probabilities of the current damage being containable before the worst case scenario plays out – fair enough and of great importance. However, I would value informed opinion on what the worst case could actually be (I’m thinking about the public and not plant workers)”

    Right now the main concern is the spent fuel pools of reactors 3 and 4 and maybe 1 and 2. Now that outside power is back at the site, reactors 5 & 6 SFPs should not be a problem. They will now be able to be cooled. The SFPs have no protection against release if they run dry and heat. Any volitile fission products will be released and maybe particles of less volitile components of the fuel. Very bad. That radiation levels are decreasing at the plant border and that anyone is left alive at the site means this is not happening and is hopefully improving.


  9. This morning I read that they probably will try – if everything else fails – to cover up the whole thing with sand and concrete.

    My question is here:
    If they do so, isn’t there a very huge chance that this coverage might just crack up with the next best strong enough earthquake? Is it possible to just cover up something in this area?


  10. sophia, you asked a good question, and I am pleased to share my thoughts. Discerning what ultimately may be done, presently is speculation. That being said, I think we will conclude that covering the area with sand and concrete is one of the poorer ideas. Fortunately, we should be able to take our time deciding the best course of action for ourselves and the generations to come.


  11. Scott, I live about 380km away from fukushima (in Shizuoka)… Pretty far away… I too am wondering about worse case situations and how far the nasties will spread if everything goes to poop… Latest press conference news is “we will deffinately get through this crisis” type news… I hope you do


  12. Before I comment, big thank you to Barry, firstly for a most informative site and secondly for the very honest admission of understimating the magnitude of the incident initially.

    Also, that personally I want nuclear to remain an energy option for the future.

    DV82XL and others here.

    1) Any belief that this incident will help the nuclear cause is hopelessly off mark. The sight of buildings housing nuclear reactors exploding will very obviously have the opposite effect. To try to think otherwise is, I fear, a gross act of self-deception.

    2) In the middle of the incident whilst workers are risking their lives to prevent matters getting still worse to continue to advocate further nuclear so strongly is tasteless. To have any chance of convincing the public you need to show humility and wait until this is over and lessons are learned.

    3) To respond to this by redoubling efforts to push nuclear power will be counterproductive. We as a society need to take time to reflect if this tells us anything fundamental about the cost/benefit ratio of nuclear. For nuclear advocates to fail to do this and be seen to do this dooms nuclear to being dumped; you will be perceived as arrogant and close-minded.

    4) There are very significant technical and disaster planning lessons to be learned and perhaps retrofitted to existing plants. To genuinely learn these lessons is vital. Why is there such a large inventory of fuel stored alongside reactors ? Why are so many reactors so close together as to cause knock ons in a disaster ? etc etc. In the short term learning these lessons needs to be the focus of the nuclear fraternity, not pushing new build.

    5) The communication response of the Japanese authorities and others like yourselves more indirectly by reacting to play down the risks was wrong. It makes you appear to be propagandists rather than informers. Particularly, continuing to play down the seriousness after reactor #1 building exploded was, IMO at the time, totally misguided. And that was even before I knew of the cooling ponds existence. An absolute change in culture from closed and reassuring to open and totally honest is essential.

    Personally before this incident I believed nuclear was an essential part of climate mitigation. Now, I want to reflect as to whether it is either politically possible or, indeed, justified by the risks.

    Please, help keep nuclear as an option for the future by showing humility and learning, not unchanged advocacy of your prior positions.


  13. “Can anyone enlighten me about the specific problems of caesium and its environmental persistence?”

    There is a fair amount of Cs-137 created as a fission product. It emits fairly energetic gamma radiation. Its half-life is 30 years, which puts it in an inconvenient “medium” half-life region. It’s not so short that it will all disappear quickly (like I-131) but it’s short enough that it’s highly radioactive (unlike very long-lived radionuclides, like U-235, or Pu-239, or I-129.)

    That’s basically the only reason why Cs-137 is a chief source of concern in a disaster such as Chernobyl involving dispersal of fission products.


  14. @sophia:

    I doubt anyone considers that a good solution and I think you’re right there would be ongoing worries about future earthquakes in that scenario.

    But for now, I think the focus is rightly still on bringing this under control to the point it can be cleaned up eventually.

    If they can succeed in hooking up external power and getting the emergency cooling systems working in unit 2 soon, I’d consider that the first really significant progress in that direction (as opposed to staving off worse problems, which has been the main concern up to now.) I’m tentatively optimistic about that happening.


  15. Sophia, I’m not in any way qualified to answer your question, but let’s try:

    – The situation seems to be very far from where one would just try to cover it all up in sand and concrete. That would be something to think of if one of the worst case scenarios speculated about would happen.

    – If this worst case scenario were to happen (total meltdowns, containment vessel breaches, explosive or otherwise), and it was decided to just shuffle a mountain of sand and concrete over it all, further earthquakes would probably not be very problematic because a) you could always just pour more sand/concrete into the cracks, and b) the activity that you would want to cover up will be decreasing rather fast – remember no sustained reaction going on creating new emitters.


  16. @ sophia

    Even with significant dismantling and fuel removal, It would be hundreds of years before it is possible to simply “cover” the remains.

    At sea level, and in a quake zone, there would be no option but to de-construct the entire plant.

    The decommissioning contractor will need a supercomputer to calculate this one.

    @ dv82xl

    “At any rate this will bring the debate to the front burner and that will give us a chance to argue before a larger audience than usual.”

    That’s joke, right? It will mean increased costs, early phase out of crappy designs/plans and uninsurable plant. The political resistance is the least of the problems; explaining why the “unsinkable” occurred will require PR expertise beyond the nuclear industry.


  17. sophia, I’m far from qualified to answer your question, however for comparison, Chernobyl was encased in concrete, so it can be used in a last ditch effort to contain contamination if necessary.

    As I understand it, the containment buildings are likely to prevent any significant release from the reactor cores in the event of a meltdown. As mentioned above by William Fairholm, the spent fuel pools are the biggest risk at present.

    Being open-topped, I guess it would be possible to fill them with concrete via a boom-type concrete pumping truck. However, that would probably only be a last-ditch effort, and may cause it’s own problems (concrete being much heavier than water, would the supporting structure for the spent fuel pools hold that much weight?).

    It’s much better to restore cooling water to the SFPs, and continue to cool them that way. A study referenced on the previous thread suggested that even letting them boil dry may not result in catastrophic release of contamination, as air would continue to cool the fuel rods (although nowhere as effectively as water, which also acts as radiation shielding).

    Would someone more knowledgeable like to comment?


  18. That’s some pretty wild fluctuation of pressure in the unit 3 suppression chamber … several 4-atmospheres plus swings in a matter of minutes.

    Anybody have any insight as to what’s going on there and whether it’s a big concern?


  19. I see others have already answered sophia’s question – well done!

    I have a question, too, which I posed on one of the earlier threads.

    Is there some reason why, on the day after the tsunami, they couldn’t have flown in diesel-powered generator skids to provide a few MW of power? I know that the relevant pumps would need to be checked before being energised, but surely having a small generator running one cooling water pump would be preferable to letting things run dry?

    It seems they should have been able to get electricians in to the site to jury rig power to the important pumps, even if they had to be manually-controlled, and it doesn’t make sense to me that such steps weren’t taken when it was clear all other power was going to be off for at least days, if not a week or more.


  20. @ Bern, I watched yesterday at the ( http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Choose&Hearing_id=bb6c78e6-802a-23ad-4c7b-9aa7a3bb0c31 ) the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’s Full Committee Briefing on Nuclear Plant Crisis in Japan and Implications for the United States in which they stated that all U.S. nuclear power plants have mobile pumps/generators that are for such a purpose as to provide emergency cooling in case something happens.


  21. Bern, despite all the paeans to radiation from contributors to this site, the problem for getting anything done at Fukushima is radiation. If TEPCO can’t even get power lines installed to *near* the reactors in a week, you know something extraordinary is going on . As one Japanese industry flak said on NHK-TV: “We don’t know what the conditions are because we can’t get close enough to find out what the conditions are.”



  22. I see the firefighters have brought in snorkel trucks. I still think a concrete pump (70 m reach) would be a better choice because the firetrucks are not designed for lateral extension and precise targeting.


    They’ might have to rig some higher capacity pump at the base to acheive the required multi cubic meter flow. At least it could cantilever in a hose.

    Disclaimer: I live in a community where Putzmeister has paid lots of municipal taxes.

    I’d also like to hear why remotes to pull hose and carry cameras are still not used. The only reason I’ve heard is that electronics don’t like radiation.

    From Wikipedia.
    “While normal commercial-grade chips can withstand between 50 and 100 gray(5 and 10 krad), space-grade SOI and SOS chips can survive doses many orders of magnitude greater. At one time many 4000 series chips were available in radiation-hardened versions (RadHard).[3]”

    This looks several orders greater than that measured at the plant and even a couple orders greater than levels rapidly lethal to humans.
    Maybe we’re just not hearing about it?


  23. It is my understanding that they _did_ get in extra diesel generators, but weren’t able to hook them up – presumably because of tsunami damage to central electric components (ie the big problems wasn’t that the on-site generators were destroyed, it was that the distribution equipment for the juice from those generators was destroyed).

    @bks, I’d like some hard quotes as to your assertion that the delay in getting grid-power to Daiichi was due to radiation. General infrastructure damage seems way more likely.


  24. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18spent.html?pagewanted=2&src=twrhp

    “According to Tokyo Electric, 32 of the 514 fuel rod assemblies in the storage pond at Reactor No. 3 contain mox.” – NY Times

    Note; each rod contains aprox 389 lbs of fuel

    “Engineers had said on Thursday that a rip in the stainless steel lining of the pool at Reactor No. 4 and the concrete base underneath it was possible as a result of earthquake damage. The steel gates at either end of the storage pool are also vulnerable to damage during an earthquake and could leak water if they no longer close tightly.

    The senior executive, who asked not to be identified because his comments could damage business relationships, said Friday that a leak had not been located but that engineers had concluded that it must exist because water sprayed on the storage pool has been disappearing much more quickly than would be consistent with evaporation.”



  25. @Chris Warren:

    I wouldn’t read too much into the increase in level from 4 to 5. They’ve been behind the curve on classifying this event – it’s clearly been a 5 for days. Some argument can be made for calling it a 6, although the spotty reporting we’ve had so far of radiation outside the perimeter makes that a marginal argument so far.


  26. Douglas and luke – the other problem with cesium is that it is chemically similar to potassium, meaning it is 100% absorbed from the gut, and gets incorporated in every cell. So not as bad as iodine, where the entire dose accumulates in 1 tissue, but not as good as the others that are less absorbed (like yytrium)

    Anyone able to answer this:
    Is there any info as to whether the highest level (300ft above) is particulates like cesium or all gammas? Would put a totally different complexion on population risk from the current situation


  27. 2 Bern

    “Is there some reason why, on the day after the tsunami, they couldn’t have flown in diesel-powered generator skids to provide a few MW of power? I know that the relevant pumps would need to be checked before being energised, but surely having a small generator running one cooling water pump would be preferable to letting things run dry? ”

    1 reason – underestimation of the problem and TEPCO didn’t want to lose extra money. No other explanation why they needed 5 days to get firebrigades there. And they used only 50 men for fighting with major malfunctioning of 3 reactors and 6 pools with fuel …
    Hell, one blast was due to pump failing for lack of fuel or oil, I don’t remember.
    The people on the site were too few in numbers and resources.
    For 5 days these diesel generators which tsunami had flooded could’ve been fixed already


  28. There is now talk of burying the reactors in sand and concrete using the Russian model.

    I understand how that will contain radiation from leaking into the air, but if there is no water in the containment pools, how will that stop them from melting down into the water table and causing a steam explosion that will blow up the entire complex including the new sand / concrete tomb?

    In other words, the Russians entombed their reactor after it had exploded. They merely entombed the radioactive debris. The Japanese will be entombing theirs before they meltdown and explode. It seems to me that will not work. At best that is just going to prolong the eventual meltdown and explosion.


  29. @Aspsusa, I’d like some hard quotes, too, but unfortunately all we get from TEPCO is reports about what they’re going to do “later today” or “tomorrow”.

    If you look up the comments column you’ll see that the Pollyannas have shifted from “no chance of serious problems” to “no chance of recriticality”.

    Can you point to one thing that has improved in the past 48 hours? I believe Japan just raised the severity of the crisis.



  30. chavv, I understand at least one of the diesel standy-by generators *has* been fixed, and is powering cooling systems for Units 5 & 6.

    Don’t underestimate the potential damage to a diesel engine of submersion under 5m+ of dirty seawater…

    Regarding the wiring issues – yes, I can understand that initially they didn’t want to rip things apart, but surely after a day or two they’d bite the bullet and start bypassing damaged / non-functional control circuits?
    As I mentioned above, even a small fire pump on manual control would have helped, let alone providing manually-controlled power to one of the main cooling pumps (assuming they have sealed motors that would survive immersion).

    Thinking about it, though, there are obviously other issues with the cooling system, relating most likely to damaged control systems. The fact that they were able to pump sea water into the containment buildings suggests that actually pumping water wasn’t the problem – it may have been issues with opening & closing valves on the right pipes, or even dealing with leaks caused by the fourth largest earthquake ever measured, followed by a frikkin’ 10m tsunami…

    I guess we’ll have to wait for the engineering reports to come out in a few months, to find out what really happened.


  31. bks – it’s another 48 hours down the decay curve, meaning that the decay heat from the fuel has reduced further;

    Water cannon are spraying water into the SFPs in #3 & #4 reactor buildings;

    The backup diesel gen has been brought online for #6, and is being used to provide cooling for #5 as well;

    The replacement power line to the plant has been completed, and they’re now presumably frantically busy getting ready to re-energise power & control circuits.

    Those are all positive developments. Upgrading the incident to a level everyone knew it had reached days ago is hard a negative development.


  32. Pingback: Update on Fukushima No. 2 Reactor | marfdrat

  33. This may be tricky, but i think its wise to give yes-or-no answers whenever possible. So here i go.

    Is encasing the whole place an option?
    Yes, provided the financial basis is there.

    Will that work to contain emmission of potentially dangerous radioactive particles?

    Will it bring back on site radiation to acceptable (margin) levels?

    Will it be able to survive future tsunamis or quakes?
    As a technology, Yes.
    This option requires continuous monitoring and if needed, maintenance, but provided this is done it will confine the problem indefinitely.

    Is this a good solution as in should this be seen as a preferred  solution in future cases?
    Four  reasons:
    1. It presents a theoreticly infinite cost which is not desireable in a commercial society.
    2. It renders a tiny piece of mother earth useless.
    3. It has a Damocles’ sword effect on people. It supports fear. This fear may decay fast, but so does the human tendency to stay allert on watching the gras grow over this site i.e. to pay infinite attention to it.   
    4. It blocks any conclusive solution until a technology is invented that can do so.

    (Please delete where needed without mercy)


  34. Luke Weston, on 18 March 2011 at 10:47 PM said:
    “Cs-137 … emits fairly energetic gamma radiation …. That’s basically the only reason why Cs-137 is a chief source of concern….”

    Please start citing sources for what you believe, Luke.


  35. Drd , you are correct about the concrete pumps. There is no law that says you cant use them to pump water and they are much better designed for this purpose than any fire truck. The only problem might be getting them close enough to deploy. This is an idea worth passing on, since nuclear experts being specialists tend to be less interested in the practical perks of concrete pouring technology. Does anyone know if the japanese are scanning the net for geek-factor-solutions? Or if there’s a moderated channel?


  36. Bern, are you sure that water cannon are spraying water? I think they tried a few salvoes and stopped.
    15 tons is what NHK-TV just said. 1,000 tons are needed to fill it half way. News reports say both 3 and 4 are dry and the level in 1 is falling. TEPCO says the radiation reading at the distribution panel (outside the reactors) is 20 millisieverts/hour. The pressure in the 3 containment is fluctuating. I’m glad they won’t need to deal with 5 & 6. Can you explain the JAIF report on 2? Last I heard the suppression pool was breached, then silence. Please correct anything wrong in the summary.



  37. We need to remember that there are surges of radiation. Often lethal surges. Just because the radiation goes down (this could even be effected by strong winds) the danger of a lethal radiation spike is always present. I suspect this has hampered the work of engineers, causing them to have to retreat from their work positions, and will increasingly be a problem as the spent fuel rods become more and more radioactive. Spent fuel rods that are completely exposed can give off a close proximity lethal does of radiation in 16 seconds. Eventually, this could become so much a problem that workers cannot do any work at the site and the spent fuel ponds will meltdown.


  38. http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110317/full/news.2011.168.html

    “Nature has also learned that initial CTBTO data suggest that a large meltdown at the Fukushima power plant has not yet occurred”

    This is a very useful source of information, and it would be good to see this information widely distributed and made accessible.

    The CTBTO instruments are incredibly sensitive, distributed across the globe, and provide extremely good, useful information.


  39. Thanks for linking that, Luke. Useful to know!

    Shelby – the fuel rods are already radioactive – they’re decaying, meaning they’re becoming *less* radioactive as time goes by.
    The problem is in the shielding, not the source.

    bks – even 15 tonnes is worthwhile – at 5MW (which is at the high end of some of the estimates I’ve seen here for the heat produced by the fuel rods) it’ll take somewhere north of 10 hours to evaporate 15 tonnes of water, which gives that much longer to get other cooling options up & running.


  40. More from that Nature article, context for Luke’s quote:

    “Nature has also learned that initial CTBTO data suggest that a large meltdown at the Fukushima power plant has not yet occurred, although that assessment may change as more data flow in during the coming days. … the data show high amounts of volatile radioactive isotopes, such as iodine and caesium, as well the noble gas xenon. But so far, the data show no high levels of the less volatile elements such as zirconium and barium that would signal that a large meltdown had taken place — elements that were released during the 1986 reactor explosion in Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

    See also:


  41. Those who recall the kerfuffle about availability of climate data files may appreciate the complaints about unaviailability of the CTBTO confidential data, also from the same Nature article:

    “De Geer and other scientists are keenly awaiting the fresh data that they will receive from CTBTO over the next few days. Initial data from a station near Tokyo were corrupted because the collection filters used in the sensors were contaminated earlier this week during handling when a plume of radioactivity fanned over the station building, according to Gerhard Wotawa, a researcher at Austria’s weather service, the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Vienna. That situation has now been resolved and better data are expected from tomorrow, he says…..”
    “… “The CTBTO is a complicated organization; certain member states want all data to be classified, so they are not allowed to be given out, ” says De Geer, who was formerly head of the CTBTO’s Radionuclide Development Unit. Even freeing the tsunami-relevant data “took years of discussion”, he says.

    He believes that the national laws of Sweden, a CTBTO member state, give it the right legally to “do what we want with the data”, adding that the issue of the confidentiality of the data is nonetheless still a “grey zone”. Wotawa likewise believes that Austria has the right to use the data, and says that his centre will be publishing CTBTO data in the daily updates of the Fukushima fallout that it is providing on its website. [http://www.zamg.ac.at/]


  42. @Bern
    The probability of being able to start diesel engines after being sfully ubmerged is very high. I have seen it happen myself in Germany. Key turn start, no problem. The worry is the generator part, but that too can be helped. Running it dry for a while does miracles. I had such a problem with a 67kVA rent-a-genny at a concert in holland once myself. These things can take serious beating.


  43. @Brian

    “Any belief that this incident will help the nuclear cause is hopelessly off mark”

    I disagree completely. I am quite impressed at how a nuclear reactor was able to withstand an earthquake. But for that tsunami wall not being 4 feet higher, this would have been a complete non-issue nuclear wise. If the battery backups were extended, and the Japanese having mobile pumps and generators, as the U.S. appears to have, then again this would have been less.

    How many deaths has nuclear power caused?

    “Deaths per TWh for all energy sources: Rooftop solar power is actually more dangerous than Chernobyl”:

    “Reacting to play down the risks was wrong”

    I don’t think anyone was downplaying the risks. However, it was clear that the reactors have multiple containment units, and the worst case is that it would have leaked to the bottom of the concrete containment unit?

    One thing is that more safety devices seem to be need for cooling ponds, but again in an article I posed a couple of times, the heat of spent fuel rods in totally drained pools only would get to around 1000C, not enough to cause fires or melting, and only localized radiation in the pool.

    A local professor has suggested in the past where I live about nuclear, I’m going to be seeing him at a speech he’s going to give, and speak to him about educating the public on nuclear power and its risks/benefits as well as how the campaign is going to perhaps get a plant for our city.


  44. Bern, all the water evaporated between squirts. The actual figure from NHK-TV is 50 tons, but we need to calculate what percentage of that got to the pool. From watching the video, I’d say 50% would be optimistic. I know all the water evaporated because steam stopped rising between squirts and then started again after a new squirt.



  45. Shelby,

    Puzzled on your comment:

    “Radiation spikes are more important than either lows or averages. If there is a spike every few hours or every time the wind changes directions, and it goes down when the wind carries it away, or when they put a few tons of water over it, just because the average does has been lowered does not mean the situation is any less critical or the radiation level is any less lethal. Basically, the radiation spikes are more important than the average or lows. They tell us more about where the true baseline radiation level is.”

    Why would wind affect direct radiation readings assuming the primary source would be exposed or unshielded damaged fuel? Please educate me.


  46. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Spraying_continues_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_1803111.html

    Central [pond] and dry fuel storage

    Tokyo Electric Power Company has released the conclusions of a visual inspection of the power plant’s central used fuel storage pond, where 60% of the total amount of used fuel is kept. Water levels there are ‘secured’. A separate storage area where older fuel has been stored in dry casks since 1995 showed ‘no signs of abnormal situation’. Detailed checks of both facilities are being prepared.


  47. Luke,

    Thank your for your comment and link:

    “Nature has also learned that initial CTBTO data suggest that a large meltdown at the Fukushima power plant has not yet occurred”

    Maybe some people were too young to remember the cold war and associated nuclear testing, but I would venture to guess that the monitoring sites for detecting above ground nuclear testing are still active, and represent a good source of data.


  48. > But for that tsunami wall not being 4 feet higher,
    > this would have been a complete non-issue

    Have you even looked at the site pictures? Do you see a perimeter wall all the way around the plant? With gates that would have kept water out from the inland side?


  49. When I go outside in the winter with say a temperature at say 0C, I see my breath. Is that steam coming from my mouth? Maybe there is a better word for what I see but I don’t know what it is. I tend to think of steam as water boiling at 100C, but maybe that is not so. If the pool water is at 100C it will evaporate much quicker than it it is at 60%. Can we interpret anything about the temperature of the pool by looking a the vapor coming off the pool?


  50. ParetoJ,

    I have to disagree, this will do tremendous damage to the nuclear power industry going forward. The damage is to the fear and psychology of the general population. “Not in my backyard!” will be the result. As someone who is agnostic to nuclear power, I myself have grown deeply troubled by the cost cutting mistakes as well as the downplaying of potential risks involved. We knew as far back as the 1970s that this type of reactor was dangerous for a number of reasons from poorly designed containment vessels to the stockpiling of tens of thousands of fuel rods on site. There are some 30 plus GE MK1 reactors operating in the United States alone. Many more around the world. On top of that, we have done nothing to address the massive stockpiling of fuel rods at all of our plants including the modern ones.

    [unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted. Please supply references and re-post]


  51. bks:

    What you saw is also consistent with the rods being half uncovered. Some of each squirt (which hit the rods) would vaporize immediately while the remainder would go into the pool.

    Seems to me from the color of the smoke, it looks like steam (water) indicating there is still some water in the pools. If the rods were burning I would expect darker or black smoke.

    By my calculations, they need about 25 salvos of 30 ton water injections to raise the pool level about 5m assuming all the water from each injection gets into the pool. I would not assume any more than 50% injection success so that means about 50 salvos (of 30 tons) for each pool.


  52. Hank,

    Re; “Tokyo Electric Power Company has released the conclusions of a visual inspection of the power plant’s central used fuel storage pond, where 60% of the total amount of used fuel is kept. Water levels there are ‘secured’. A separate storage area where older fuel has been stored in dry casks since 1995 showed ‘no signs of abnormal situation’. Detailed checks of both facilities are being prepared.”

    This is all fine and good.

    But if there is a meltdown and steam explosion at any one of the critical reactors or containment ponds the resulting explosion could be powerful to destroy much if not all of the entire complex. There is simply no way to calculate how intense that explosion could be or how much destruction and nuclear debris fallout it could produce.


  53. > Martin Burkle …
    > with say a temperature at say 0C,
    > I see my breath.

    Yeah, I mentioned that issue a while back in another thread. What’s observed depends on both the outside air temperature and the relative humidity. Those let you calculate the “dew point”

    “When the temperature drops below the dew-point temperature, there is a net condensation and a cloud forms” ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercyclecondensation.html

    Certainly the white cloud above the buildings contains condensing moisture and is caused by warm damp air hitting colder air, but it’s hard to know _how_ warm the source is.

    With snow falling at the site off and on, it’s certainly an issue.


  54. ParetoJ

    Firstly, politically, put yourself in the shoes of a voter. You have little or no scientific education. You have been told again and again that nuclear power is safe. You see a nuclear power plant spectacularly explode on TV. Nuclear experts continue to tell you that it’s safe.

    Would you believe the experts ? I very much doubt it

    Secondly. in engineering terms, I would not say that this was an acceptable once in 50 year accident for the nuclear industry, even as it stands now, let alone if it worsens. Would you ?

    We need to accept that the engineering design was wrong, then understand why it was wrong.

    There are profound questions to answer:

    Did we misjudge what the design case should be (clearly yes)?

    What should design cases be in the future ?

    Should we retrofit existing installations at high cost or continue with unacceptably unsafe installations ?

    And many more.

    Massive humility needs to be shown, to get the right engineering response and if you want any chance politically with nuclear.


  55. > ParetoJ
    > not enough to cause fires

    Repeating this doesn’t make it any more correct; what’s your source and why do you consider it more reliable than the estimates from the nuclear engineers in the published literature?


  56. Michael J. Strickland, I understand what you’re saying about the water. It’s not very convincing, but I accept the possibility. I don’t know enough about the thermal conductivity of fuel rods to dismiss it.



  57. I just wanted to say, this blog is the only source of logical discussion, of both the pro and con, that I have found in a week of reading *hundreds* of reports and blogs. It helps me to digest and process the information and the emotions. Thanks to all here.


  58. Thanks for this site. I’ve been passing it around at my work.

    Even as a nuclear worker, all of the different units in use are frustrating (Rem, millisievert and microsievert). It takes some effort to ensure that I’m using the proper conversions to put things in perspective, and it must be significantly more confusing. Reading this blog has certainly clarified a lot for me, and it is now my primary source of information for the events unfolding.

    Do you know of any good sites that speak to the humanitarian efforts (evacuations, personnel exposure and such) that don’t over-sensationalize?


  59. PS for Shelby, just paste your ideas into Google Scholar and you’ll get information from the journals.

    Examples using your statement above:

    An assessment of steam-explosion-induced containment failure
    1989 – osti.gov… Description/Abstract, A variety of probabilistic models to quantify the likelihood of steam explosion induced… containment failure from core melt accidents in commercial light water reactors have been proposed in the past. …Cited by 19

    An assessment of steam-explosion-induced containment failure. Part IV: Impact mechanics, dissipation, and vessel head failure. 1987 – osti.gov
    … Abstract, Energy dissipation mechanisms and associated energy partition during the energy delivery stage from a steam-explosion-generated slug upon the upper internal structures and reactor vessel head are considered. … Cited by 6


  60. Hank,

    did you see the hydrogen explosion caused by the puny amount of hydrogen in the containment buildings? When a white hot core melts down to the water table and explodes, this is something that has simply never happened before, and therefor cannot be accurately calculated. That is especially true because you have 6 reactors side by side, at least 3 of them capable of recritality (fission) and meltdown. This situation is unique and therefor calculating the cascading effect is impossible.


  61. @Martin Burkle
    Yes it is possible to tell something. The dampy gas coming from breathing out in cold air is not steam itself in the boiling sense and it is you breathing out that makes it visible. Steam due yo boiling is different because it causes its own pressure. Damp rising from water at say 50C would dissepate, but it doesn’t blow out. Dumping water on material of over 100 degrees instantly changes it into steam, until the sheer volume of the water can significantly reduce the temperature of the material. So if a squirt results in a cloud of steam that stops after a while, but a second squirt induces another cloud of steam, one can conclude that at least some material is still over 100 degrees i.e. not submerged in water. If a second squirt results in no significant increase in damp release, it means the material is flooded.


  62. I saw you on TV briefly and heard you talking about how you saw nuclear energy as a more viable option to power Australia rather than using renewables. Obviously I could turn this into a huge debate or even give you a call, because this sort of stuff is exciting to talk about and I could be on the phone for hours but my intent is to try and keep it simple and short.

    The way I see it is that in the near future most houses will be able to supply there own power needs through solar technologies, and today these technologies exist. The reality is, we choose not to use these technologies to that extent and of course many reasons can lead to this choice, mainly government laws and setup/ongoing costs.

    I think this would be a great step towards reducing our usage of coal, since were never going to get rid of our reliance on coal in the next decade. Current nuclear technologies have drawbacks just like coal. Our goal should be to go forward, using power efficiently and effectively and generating it in a self-sustaining way.

    All this global discussion on energy generation and usage needs to turn into common sense and maybe well get somewhere greener and cleaner in the world :)

    Oh and I thought I might add something about the nuclear disaster occurring in Japan and not to be an insensitive SOB, but what are they waiting for, in fact what is the world waiting for, we use technology that has risks we need to be ready for the consequences. Someone needs to step in and resolve the situation now. There might be a loss of life, but at the moment if they don’t cool down those reactors it might lead to a greater loss of life that will affect many more people and no one wants to see a repeat of the past, it would be a huge tragedy to the say least.


  63. Shelby, that assumes that the core would actually melt down to the water table.

    Don’t forget that *all* of the cores are in full shutdown, with control rods fully inserted. The heat they’re giving off now is decay heat, which is a (very) small fraction of full power.

    On that basis, I would think that full core meltdown is fairly improbable. Damage to fuel rods, yes, particularly with the tops of them still a metre or two out of the water. But not complete meltdown.


  64. “Does anyone here know where the “cover it with sand and concrete” -idea originated?”

    I doubt anyone can put a finger on one particular person, but Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, has been beating the drum on this plan on multiple network news outlets, twitter, and the “Big Think” website:




    The anti-nuclear groups jumped on this accident from day one, http://finance.alphatrade.com/story/2011-03-12/PRN/201103121513PR_NEWS_USPR_____DC64123.html

    Click to access japan-earthquakenuclear.pdf


  65. No, Shelby, there’s not a chance that the fuel cores could “go critical” (as in prompt criticality, look it up). And there’s not a chance for a facility-destroying steam explosion in an open pool of water. Look up “steam boiler explosion” or “pressure cooker precautions” — see how they differ from an open boiling pool?

    Look at Yellowstone. Lots of boiling pools. But while the site does have catastrophic explosions every few million years, that’s from a _confined_ high pressure blowout.

    Please, look stuff up. Don’t just post opinions second-hand when you can’t do the math — and don’t claim that because you don’t know the answer, nobody possibly could.

    Seriously — Google Scholar. Read first, think — then post if you have learned something you consider reliable and say where you got the information.

    There is enough pain out there without adding speculative gossip that’s easy to debunk.


  66. @Shelby
    Please note that steam does not explode in the chemical reaction sense of the word. This means that all ‘exploding’ has to take place at the surface of the hot material. At a certain point it is the steam itself that keeps the water from reaching the material that could turn it into steam. That is why the squirting does not result in explosions.

    When the core melts and reaches water by sinking through its containment, it will cause it to turn into steam, but as long as that steam can get out, the pressure will remain in limits that would definitely not be able to destroy the entire complex.


  67. Shelby, an example — point being people _do_ know a lot about this, and it _is_ possible to figure it out:

    “an ongoing investigation of the consequences of taking fuel burnup into account in the design of spent fuel transportation packages. A series of experiments, collectively called the Spent Fuel Safety Experiment (SFSX), has been devised to provide integral benchmarks for testing computer-generated predictions of spent fuel behavior. A set of experiments is planned in which sections of unirradiated fuel rods are interchanged with similar sections of spent PWR fuel rods in a critical assembly. By determining the critical size of the arrays, one can obtain benchmark data for comparison with criticality safety calculations.”

    Now that’s from http://dx.doi.org/10.2172/102184 from 1995, not the last word — it’s an example from a major program to figure out how close used fuel assemblies can be packed safely.

    OK? You and I don’t know what’s going on, that’s true. This does not mean nobody knows.

    Who should know? The people who _have_ the inventories, know what’s stored in each pool and how old each fuel assembly package is and how they’re arranged.

    Yes, they’ve ordered a lot of borate from South Korea, and yes, they’re pumping what they can now to cool off the pools.

    We don’t know more. Please don’t post as though you knew more than anyone about what can happen. Particularly, please don’t go posting those notions elsewhere, where nobody’s checking facts.

    Time will tell.


  68. Those that think the public will panic over nuclear energy because of this event should consider the lessons of history. Far from making people more afraid, events like this seem to help putting things in perspective. Elsewhere, I wrote at length about the early jet age, and how the impact on the traveling public after each major accident became measurably less each time. The same phenomena will happen here.

    What we all dread is the unknown. Without reference points, imagination takes over, and we are all in a highly suggestible state – ripe for manipulation by propaganda. However, familiarity does breed contempt, and like fear of flying, fear of nuclear will seem quaint in the rapidly approaching future.

    Oh demagogues will pontificate, and the noisy greens will prevaricate, but they will just not be able to raise the fear factor to the levels they could before. And this time they will have an active opposition, armed with proof that things are not that bad.


  69. Oh and Hank, [unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted. Please supply references and re-post]and there is plenty of it around to make that happen. Its to my understanding as unlikely as winning several lotteries in sequense, but (all within the limits of my knowledge) not entirely impossible. You are absolutely right to stress the importance of fact value, but that knife cuts in all directions.


  70. Thanks for the link, bks. So it seems that the “bury it in sand and concrete” -idea comes from the answer to a specific question put to some tepco official at a pressbriefing.

    And just a general point to several posts upthread: I think we tend to underestimate the damage from the tsunami to the infrastructure (including normal communications) around the plant.

    One thought that occurred to me very late into this: Do we know anything about key personnel who happened to be _off duty_ when the earthquake and the tsunami hit? Or families?
    Are they also dealing with a chain of command/expertise that has been punched full of holes due to the earthquake&tsunami?


  71. I’m not presenting myself as an expert.

    I have read by experts including the concerned scientists [ unsubstantiated personal technical comments. Please supply references and re-post]Pure water (without boron) in fact aids this process. They have been pumping tons of seawater into these pools.


  72. > I have read by experts including the
    > concerned scientists

    If you have a source, cite your source.

    You read someone on some blog saying some scientist says so-and-so — don’t believe second-hand information, and don’t keep reposting it. It does not help anyone. People make shit up to screw around. If you don’t know from your own personal knowledge — like most of us don’t know — all we can do is try to filter what we read and give good attribution to primary sources.

    Otherwise copypasting just makes things worse.

    Please. Cite sources. Say why you trust the source if it’s not a first-hand source.

    This is not simple.


  73. Brian, on 19 March 2011 at 2:15 AM said:

    >Should we retrofit existing installations at high cost
    >or continue with unacceptably unsafe installations

    Some of the backup generating systems in the US were retrofitted after 9/11. (Atomic Rod has an interview with a former US NRC member posted.)

    Part of design basis is how long a plant would remain without external resources in a disaster. In ‘normal’ circumstances it wouldn’t have taken more then a day or two to restring cable from the nearest functioning power source. It’s taken more then a week.

    In normal circumstances hundreds of fire trucks would have shown up within an hour.


  74. I am not sure who said this (looks like someone form TEPCO), but recriticality is being considered. At least this is what NYT reports (6th papragraph of the story):

    “Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the plant, said earlier this week that there was a possibility of “recriticality,” in which fission would resume if fuel rods melted and the uranium pellets slumped into a jumble together on the floor of a storage pool or reactor core. Spraying pure water on the uranium under these conditions can actually accelerate fission, said Robert Albrecht, a longtime nuclear engineer.”




  75. Shelby

    It is true that there will still be a lot of U-235 left in the fuel rods in the “spent” fuel pool. However, most fissions in U-235 are caused by neutrons that have been significantly slowed down (moderated) after the fission process. This slowing is mostly caused by the water in the reactor. If the fuel was melting or melted (2000 C or so?), there will not be much water around to slow the neutrons enough to sustain the fissioning process.


  76. Hank, I appreciate your passion for the industry.

    I don’t have the time or the inclination to prove all my sources to you.

    I read a direct quote from the union of concerned scientists.

    If you don’t believe me, or the scientists, okay.

    I’m not here to attack your passion.


  77. @jan R – No that is the reason why after years of seeing traffic drop to very low levels, and stay there for months, after each major air disaster, people ignore them now and keep flying.

    I was employed in the industry most of my life, and I can even tell you the moment it happened: On March 3, 1974, a cargo door blow-out caused Turkish Airlines Flight 981 to crash into a forest near the town of Ermenonville, France shortly after leaving Paris. 346 people were killed in one of the deadliest air crashes to date. Everyone in the business held their breath preparing for the worst. My girlfriend at the time was a reservation agent, and she was called in to work an extra shift in anticipation of the wave of cancelations that were expected. But nothing happened. Nothing.

    A few years later American Airlines Flight 191 lost its number one (left wing) engine after taking off from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, USA and the plane rapidly rolled to the left and crashed before the flight crew could recover. All 271 people on board, plus two on the ground, were killed. It was the worst single plane crash in America, but again there was no real impact on bookings.

    Somehow despite the fact the media was foaming at the mouth over these incidents, the public had come to the conclusion that this was not a reason to stop flying. Since then there have been several crashes where all souls were lost, yet beyond a quick item in the news, it just doesn’t generate the same interest, and life and aviation go on.

    I believe we are getting very close to the same point with nuclear energy. The public (and I mean the real public, not the yammering antinukes that claim to speak for them) have had time to digest TMI and Chernobyl, and recognize that these were not the end of the world. Opposition to nuclear power has dropped of late, mostly without any real effort on the part of those that support it, or the industry itself. Obviously the public has managed to somehow sort out the risks in their own minds, and many have come to the conclusion that things like climate forcing and pollution are worse. I suspect that they will see straight through the rhetoric that will come from the media, and they will see that this was a very special event of unprecedented magnitude, and that a nuclear disaster was not the upshot of the problems with the plants in Japan.


  78. nkinnear,

    it is my understanding that the main function of water is to stop the release of gamma radiation.

    Pure water actually aids the neutron smashing process.

    Boron mixed with water slows it down.


  79. Look up what criticality means. It doesn’t mean a nuclear explosion. It means heat from gamma radiation. Fuel surrounded by water heats up and the water boils away. Look at a real accident with enriched fuel — much more highly concentrated fissionable material than reactor fuel used here:

    “The significance of it being a wet process was that the water in the solution provided neutron moderation, expediting the reaction. (Most fuel preparation plants use dry processes.)
    The criticality continued intermittently for about 20 hours. It appears that as the solution boiled vigorously, voids formed and criticality ceased, but as it cooled and voids disappeared, the reaction resumed. The reaction was stopped when cooling water surrounding the precipitation tank was drained away, since this water provided a neutron reflector….”

    Get it? The worry about widespread contamination spreading over a large area from overheating the fuel rod assemblies is fire, not new fission events.

    The worry about _working_ with the rooftop tanks _locally_ probably — we don’t know — includes direct radiation (neutrons, gamma rays) as well as from fission products (cesium, iodine, xenon) in the steam and smoke. But that’s local to the site.


  80. Aspsusa – “Does anyone here know where the “cover it with sand and concrete” -idea originated?”

    I think it would impossible to nail down the origination point, byt Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and solar energy proponent, has been beating the drum on this idea:

    Twitter: http://twitter.com/michiokaku

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/michiokaku

    Good Morning America: http://news.yahoo.com/video/tech-15749651/how-likely-is-full-scale-meltdown-24532243

    Big Think: http://bigthink.com/ideas/31617

    He was on GMA again this morning, which has then been linked to by websites as opposite as Crooks & Liars and Continental News.

    Also, Arnold Gunderson has stated that this accident is “Chernobyl-on-steroids”: http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2011/03/this-is-example-of-why-people-who-lie.html

    I think very early on the anti-nuclear groups realized that this accident was a golden opportunity to scare a lot of people. See these from 3/12: http://finance.alphatrade.com/story/2011-03-12/PRN/201103121513PR_NEWS_USPR_____DC64123.html and this pdf created on 3/11, 4:14 pm EST: http://www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/japan-earthquakenuclear.pdf .

    ABC News is using him and Joe Cirincione http://www.ploughshares.org/expert/103 as “experts”.

    It reminds me of the Don Henley song, “Dirty Laundry”.


  81. It was TEPCO themselves who raised the possibility of recriticality at the fuel pool, saying the chances of it ‘are not zero’, I have no idea why.

    Regarding Barrys post and the detail about a slight fall in radiation levels at the site, I noticed this being mentioned in a few Japanese stories in the last 24 hours, so I looked at the details for myself. I’m afraid its misleading, and now out of data anyway because the latest data released showed that levels since jumped back up again.

    The primary reason why these stories about slight decrease, as the media told them, were misleading, is that the numbers at most points around the site were already falling, pretty much exponentially. The water spraying events did not make any noticeable difference to these decay trends. Given that even the closest monitoring point used for this particular set of numbers is 500m north-west of reactor 2, something may have happened as a result of the spraying operations, something that may be detectable close to the scene, but made no difference at all to the numebrs at 500m+ so these stories were just an attempt by the company etc to find some good news.

    This is where I am getting the data from:


    And also a government site that I dont have the link to handy right now. Have to be a bit careful with the data because its in Japanese, and they do change the location of the monitoring post quite often, so if you see sudden changes between data around the 300 microSv/hr range suddenly jumping up to the order of 3000 microSv/hr then its likely you are now reading data from a different location. There is sometimes a map included in the documents which shows where the different points are. Also watch out because some of the pdfs may be of data from the 2nd plant further south, where readings have now decayed down to well below 20microSv/hr last time I checked.

    Anyway recent data shows that even at the point where readings were high, the figures had been decaying for several days now, until this afternoon in Japan, when figures went back up to over 5000 microsV/hr at 5PM JST, and then started falling again. I havent seen this reported yet or any explanation offered, and most of the previous spikes upwards some days ago could be linked with specific events that we got to hear about.


  82. DV82XL,
    I am not so sure if the public will ever become inured to nuclear accidents. They are too safe. Nothing ever happens that is actually bad. Even the big accidents happen decades apart.

    Even in this case, with just about everything that could go wrong going wrong, people will say that catastrophe was narrowly avoided. There will be reports that the cost of this accident will not be known for decades.

    Even now people are saying that having an accident like this every 50 years is unacceptable. But what has really happened? It’s as if we hear these words “containment breach” and can only think of doomsday scenarios, when really the impact is fairly minor. Even chernobyl wasn’t that bad even though an entire city was abandoned out of sheer terror of radiation.

    I simply don’t know how to get people to analyze risks involved with nuclear power rationally.


  83. @DV82XL:

    I don’t think the analogy between the airline industry and nuclear power is particularly persuasive.

    I think the phenomenon you describe boils down to “familiarity breeds contempt.” But unlike air travel or the far more deadly automobile travel, radioactivity is still something only vaguely understood by most people, and hence scary.


  84. You know, dismissing the fears of the non-expert public can be taken too far. In the first place I think people realize that it’s a damn good thing that Fukushima is sited where it is not only in terms of being relatively distant to a huge population center, but then also its being on the East coast of Japan where lots if not most of the fallout will land in the Pacific.

    Thus, I don’t think it’s irrational to start thinking about what would happen if something like this occurred in a less favorable setting. And perhaps happened even faster so that there wasn’t time to evacuate. Not irrational at all, to me at least.

    Moreover, given that the Japanese experts did site this plant on their East coast, even despite this meaning it faced the known fault and thus the possible tsunamis, one might reasonably suspect that the Japanese experts themselves accepted the possibility of a total runaway situation. And thus if *those* experts accepted it….


  85. harrywr2

    intersting re 9/11 response, I wasn’t aware.

    And i agree with the point that the disaster around severely impacted response – but the fundamental point remains that I don’t believe this is an acceptable 1/50 year accident.


  86. Guys, this thread is for sharing factual information on the Daiichi reactors and mitigation efforts. Just because no mods are around at the moment doesn’t mean it is cool to go off on the political stuff. If I wanted that I could go to a few thousand sites.


  87. What is the endgame here?

    If you keep pumping seawater into the spent fuel pools you will end up (assuming evaporation) with a hot concentrated, radioactive, brine. How thick is that stainless steel liner?



  88. @Jan R – I suspect that you are too young to remember the sort of media circus 5that attended air crashes in the Fifties and Sixties. They where very similar to what we are seeing here. I can recall one ashen faced member of the crew picking up the pieces, after the DC-8 crash in Sainte-Thérèse, telling the reporter in a quavering voice, that the only way they could identify one of the children on the flight was by her shoe, with her foot still in it. Oh the horror.

    Mind you this was also the days before air bags and seat belts, where the carnage on the highways killed more than that crash every month.

    They are very similar, and things will develop along the same lines.

    BTW, you do know that new nuclear builds only stopped in the States after TMI. The rest of the world kept building.

    @Brian – I have no intention of changing my approach, and what will be shown is the lack of damage. Firemen risk their lives every day, and some lose, yet we still build and live in combustible structures. This in spite of the fact that there is hardly a month that goes by that we don’t see a report about a major fire on the news. We have integrated the risks, and choose to live with them.


  89. Thanks Hank, I will read it when I have a moment.

    I have already read so much. I have a high IQ, but I’ve hit the wall.

    I’m not in the business of predicting where this thing will end. Like you, I’m waiting to see how things actually unfold now.


  90. JohnG:

    Please define “political stuff.” Particularly in light of the fact that a goodly if not great degree of the “sharing [of] factual information on the Daiichi reactors and mitigation efforts” is being made by political entities.


  91. Hank, regarding the data and translation. Before I started reading the Japanese documents, I was reading the english releases that they made which were showing the same data from the same locations. But the Japanese versions come out quicker, and once you are familiar with the figures from previous days, the trends etc, its not very difficult to use the more up-to-date Japanese versions without much fear of making a mistake. I have also cross-referenced the full data with the much smaller amount of data that media articles bother to mention, and I can always get the numbers to match up with the right times and locations. I am not immune from making mistakes, but Im reasonably confident that my analysis is accurate. If anybody has questions about something specific then feel free to ask.


  92. If you keep pumping seawater into the spent fuel pools you will end up (assuming evaporation) with a hot concentrated, radioactive, brine.

    Eh, as opposed to normal operation (freshwater, move it around a bit to keep it cool for ~5 years)?
    Yes, the salt could be a problem, but probably not that much.


  93. @Brian,
    I agree with much of what you say. Factually…there still is only nuclear energy that can solve our massive energy problems. That is only part of the answer, of course…

    On the tsunami…first…a calm and rational response to the real *hysteria* that exists. So our answers have to be calm and rational and *fact based*, as opposed to headline based.

    Lastly, you are 100% that *politically* this sets back nuclear probably a decade, maybe less but it’s a huge set back because the *facts* that fellow pro-nuke blogger DV82XL notes are simply not as *practicially strong* as the fear generated by this very real incident. It doesn’t matter that the plant survived the earthquake because the plant got hit and is melting down. There is simply no getting around that to think it is going to change people’s minds that we might have a variety of serious engineering solutions to the problems.

    It will be quite some time for anyone to have a rational discussion about this. But we have to have one, if only to retrofit existing sea-side plants.



  94. @American

    The pro-con nuke debate and other off topic discussions are out of place in these threads, Barry and other mods have said so over the past few days. Keep it to a discussion of Daiichi, there are plenty of venues for political debate, including right here on BNC, just not the Daiichi update threads.


  95. Barry, have you been taken off line with regards to this event? That would be a shame…

    Those that post need to read all the posts before reflecting on the media news they are getting. Thats all I can say.

    As the situation improves, the media seems to find a way to make headlines…. This is the biggest problem the industry faces going forward unfortunately… Fixing any design problems will suffer…


  96. Hank,

    I think where the issue of the posibility of spent fuel achieving recriticality might have come from “Technical Study of Spent Fuel Pool Accident Risk in Decomissioned Reactors” pub Oct 2000.

    There they say there is a very small chance that if, in a storage pool without boron plates, a fuel assembly is crushed it may achieve a critical configuration. They also say that what happens with MOX rods is unknown.


  97. My professional opinion; I actually think the news media has backtracked, and thus is downplaying the severity of the nuclear situation by limiting the discussion. This was no doubt from political and economic pressures; propaganda / damage control.


  98. Shelby, Im not yet convinced the media have backtracked at all, its more a case that there hasnt been as many sensational new developments to report in recent days as there were before, eg no new explosions.


  99. Thanks Joshua — that cite leads to several search hits — with some back and forth discussion of the report with estimates.


    You’re right, that gave at the highest a low probability figure for crushing the fuel assemblies. The back and forth criticism and responses are worth reading. Some of the authors’ names will be familiar from media interviews recently.

    NPR’s “Science Friday” radio program is talking about this ‘recriticality’ question right now (not likely, and to be taken into account). They also mention the Tokai criticality accident I mentioned earlier as an example of a real event to look at.


  100. It is curious to me that the “Japanese authorities” rate the reactors as 5 but the R4 SFP as 3. Comments on this site indicate that R4 SFP (& R3 SFP) may be more dangerous than R1-3.

    IAEA report 3/18 10:15 UTC
    Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that new INES ratings have been issued for some of the events relating to the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants.

    Japanese authorities have assessed that the core damage at the Fukushima Daiichi 2 and 3 reactor Units caused by loss of all cooling function has been rated as 5 on the INES scale.

    Japanese authorities have assessed that the loss of cooling and water supplying functions in the spent fuel pool of the Unit 4 reactor has been rated as 3.

    Japanese authorities have assessed that the loss of cooling functions in the reactor Units 1, 2 and 4 of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant has also been rated as 3. All reactor Units at Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant are now in a cold shut down condition.

    Addition of 12:45 UTC

    Japanese authorities have assessed that the core damage at the Fukushima Daiichi 1 reactor unit caused by the loss of all cooling function has been rated as 5 on the INES scale.

    This is an upgrade from a previous rating of 12 March as 4 on the INES scale, which was based on an abnormal rise of radioactive dose rate at the site boundary.


  101. Steve, what you say is true, there has been a break in sensational news to report. But the media / press have also put the brakes on having industry experts debate and educate the public about the current situation, the dangers or safety of nuclear power stations, possible solutions, disasters, etc


  102. >> Leo Hansen, on 19 March 2011 at 4:56 AM said:

    It is curious to me that the “Japanese authorities” rate the reactors as 5 but the R4 SFP as 3. Comments on this site indicate that R4 SFP (& R3 SFP) may be more dangerous than R1-3.>>

    French authorities have already rated the accident a 6 (before the Japanese and IAEA rated it a 5). Let’s just cut to the chase. [unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted. Please cite sources and re-sumit]


  103. Here’s something i’ve come across:
    The circumstances under which this happened may be unuseual to us humans, but to nature they’re not. I’ve heard argument that sane nuclear practice should be ready to deal with any normal circumstance. In this view that would be anything short of an alien invasion.
    It’s a bit far out, but not entirely out of sight.


  104. zx81:

    If the rods melted into a solid lump it wouldn’t matter whether they were submerged of not. There there would not be enough moderation of the fast neutrons to slow them enough for capture by U235 nuclei to produce further fission (i. e. sustain a chain reaction). If the walls of the pool were an efficient neutron reflector (which they aren’t), its possible some neutrons could scatter back into the rods at low enough energy to be captured to produce fssion but they would probably be too slow after going through that much water or too fast (if no water is present).

    There would still be neutron (and other radiation) emission but not of the energy or type which could sustain a chain reaction.

    If the rods melted and then fell to the floor of the pool and then somehow miraculously refragmented into a configuration (sapcing) similar to that of a normal core and then they were immersed in water, then they could go critical again. But all of this is a very remote possibility.



  105. @DV82XL:

    I wish it were true what you said but the fact is at least here in Europe it isn’t. Even people I thought that are smart are obviously anti-nuke. They just don’t get it that a very unlikely event limited to a 30 km circle is much more favorable than global warming. You can’t talk to them rational. They are not. They are just like creationist denning evolution. And that actually scares the shit out of me that. We can all hope China will decide to go nuclear. At least there the public can’t do much against it…It’s a little ironic but for the earth and environment it’s a blessing China is as it is. Else there would be no chance for improvements.


  106. @Michael J. Strickland
    That’s also my conclusion. Several lotteries on a row. It’s just that one raffle that bothers me. Say melting and displacement would bring all fuel in a core together. would that be sufficient to obtain critical mass and start fission? Like in absolute terms, i know the probability.


  107. JohnG wrote:

    “The pro-con nuke debate and other off topic discussions are out of place in these threads, Barry and other mods have said so over the past few days.”

    Well I don’t think that’s exactly what they’ve said, but regardless if that’s your criteria then you’re objecting to all the tons of comments talking about how much or little unfounded fear there is out there, the mass media’s coverage, risk factors and analyses, and etc. and so forth, ad infinitum.

    I appreciate and indeed would like to agree with your sentiments, and hope people would keep the overt political talk down to a low roar. But there’s no bright line I’m afraid. You can’t be banning anti-nuke comments but then be allowing tons of pro-nuke commentary in via the guise of a simple recitation of allegedly relevant facts. (Because of course the other side has their allegedly relevant facts too.)

    Nobody’s got a monopoly on ’em, as the saying goes….


  108. There’s something strange going on with the reported temperature of the spent fuel pool in Unit #4. The IAEA:


    report the following for Unit 4:

    13 March, 19:08 UTC: 84 °C
    14 March, 10:08 UTC: 84 °C
    15 March, 10:00 UTC: 84 °C
    16 March, 05:00 UTC: no data

    So how can this be? We know the normal operating temperature for a spent fuel pool is approximately 25 °C. Presumably, on the 11th prior to the event, that’s about what it was.

    So are we supposed to believe that the temperature rose 59 °C in the course of the first two days and then didn’t budge at all in the next three days? That’s just not credible.

    One possibility is that the 84 °C reading is systematically wrong and that in fact the pool was already boiling on the 13th (the temperature would stabilize at the boiling point of 100 °C for as long as water remained in the pool). But that raises the question of how it could have gotten so hot that fast. It would seem this hypothesis would require the presence of a leak to account for the rapid heating.

    I’ve racked my brain for some other hypothesis to explain this extraordinary stability at 84 °C, but can’t come up with one. Anybody else have an idea?


  109. Jan R.:

    I don’t know where the sensors are in these pools, but one guess I have is that the sensor has been uncovered and it is reading air tempreature instead of water temperature.

    Another possiblity is that power/conectivity with the sensor was lost as a result of one of the explosions/fires on the 15th-16th.



  110. Jan R, regarding the unit 4 spent pool fuel temperatures. Its only the way that IAEA presented the data that causes confusion. The reality is that no data has been available since the first 84C reading. They made this much clearer in a subsequent update on the 17th, where they specifically stated that no data has been received on unit 4 pool temperature since the 14th.


  111. @Michael J. Strickland:

    It seems to me that hypothesis also requires the existence of a leak, else how did the water level drop far enough to uncover the sensor as early as the 13th?


  112. @Jan R.
    Wouldn’t the temperture stabilize at some point anyway? Unit 4 SFP holds partially spent fuel that might not need so much active cooling, right? I mean, if it was my measurements, i would check my device, no question, but thats what it says.


  113. In my opinion, the media will continue to find a way to make a headline…. here’s an example:

    “I feel a sense of dread,” said Yukiko Morioka, 63, who has seen business dry up at her lottery ticket booth in Tokyo. “I’m not an expert, so it’s difficult to understand what’s going on. That makes it scarier.”

    A Tokoyo resident not informed properly by the government or media, with a credible job just caught on the street reflecting on her day …


  114. I posted this on this mornings thread, but since this is where most people are responding I’ll do so here as well.

    A report from JAIF states that:

    “Although a tsunami had halted emergency diesel generation at all four units at the
    TEPCO’s Fukushima-II (Daini) NPS, all were able to achieve states of cold shutdown
    (water below 100 degrees C) using external power sources:”

    In other words if external power had been lost as at Fukushima-I, we would have been looking at a similar problem at this second NPS.

    Click to access 2011-03-18a.pdf

    Also a useful timeline is now on Wikipedia:



  115. bchtd1parrot:

    Well, I haven’t done the calculation but it seems to me that the notion that a pool of water with an internal heating source sufficient to raise the temperature 59 °C in two days would then suddenly be at thermal equilibrium at 84 °C.


  116. Something on the fact vs. speculation thing. A speculation presented as a speculation is a fact. No science without hypotheses and that is speculation. When i say i just made this up, thats a fact. That doesnt make it useless as long as i dont hide that i just made it up. Its like the political stuff. You dont tell people to scram, you devide the post. Not that i think thats a good idea, but still.


  117. Mike,

    Regarding recriticality. I am in no way an expert (at least in this field). I was just citing NYT relying information from TEPCO engineers. I understand it is not very likely scenario.


  118. @bchtd1parrot – Well that’s the whole point isn’t it? Claims that this is a global scale disaster in the making (or narrowly averted) just won’t pass the sniff test any more. That will happen because the antinuclear militants and the press, that have been whipping up fear can sustain any creditability in the face of facts.

    Despite the arrogant contentions from some that the public are stupid sheep, the truth is different. The public is cautious when faced with any new threat, but they have never held on to that caution in any domain for very long. I mean Christ, every Japanese knew a big one was coming, as does everyone on the North America West coast. Yet they continued to stay, and will continue to stay in active seismic zones, and at the foot of volcanoes, never mind down stream from dams, and down wind from chemical complexes.

    We have as a species an ability to weight and integrate very high risks, if we believe that we understand them; it is the unknown that we truly fear.

    Look, I belong to the duck-and-cover generation of kids that were scared spitless over the threat of nuclear warfare. This fear was, drilled into us at school and on television, and it was very real to us. Yet that terror did not last. Not that we became indifferent, nor did the real risk decrease, in fact if anything both went up as time went by, but the dread had gone. It is just the way it is – humans can’t maintain a high level of fear forever.

    Even the media is starting to ask questions:


    Now they are not giving nuclear energy a ringing endorsement, but they are stating the problem, and that’s a beginning.

    @Jan R. – I’m afraid I don’t see how your statement reinforces your argument.


  119. @Steve Elbows:

    Ah … thank you! That makes a heck of a lot more sense. Here’s the IAEA statement:

    “Unit 4 remains a major safety concern. No information is available on the level of water in the spent fuel pool. No water temperature indication from the Unit 4 spent fuel pool has been received since 14 March, when the temperature was 84 °C. No roof is in place.”

    One of the Unit #4 fires was on the 14th, I suppose that could have affected the sensor either directly or damaged wiring to the sensor.


  120. @Jan R.
    Its only 16 degrees under boiling point and that would have an eq. effect. The two days to get there would also indicate there’s not a whole lot of energy ‘coming in’ so to speak. I’m guessing here. Maybe we’re just staring at a broken watch.


  121. @bchtd1parrot:

    See Steve Elbows’ post and my reply. It appears IAEA has acknowledged that their data point for the 15’th was in error.

    I’m still curious as to how the pool could have heated up so quickly. We know there are more fuel rod assemblies in that pool than in the others, but it still doesn’t seem to add up.


  122. DV82XL
    I’ve got the point and you are right, in most cases this is what happens. Even fears we want to keep in vivid memory (holocaust fx.) fade. The thing that makes me doubt in this case is the coincedence with the disaster in the rest of japan. This occured under circumstances that, for an NPP should be qualified as ‘normal’.


  123. Well they know the watch is broken, the question what else is broken. Is it just the sensor, or is there no water left to measure the temperature of? Did all the water boil away or was the pool integrity breached.

    They probably have some idea about this now that they have very likely captured visual & other imaging data, eg infrared, of that unit.

    Im also not sure if they are concentrating on pool at unit 3 first because they think its more serious, or because the radiation presumed to be coming from the pool at 3 is making it harder for them to approach unit 4.


  124. > how could…?
    > what if…?

    “Unit 4 reactor was already shut off for periodic maintenance when the earthquake struck. IF the fire was caused by hydrogen, its only plausible source would be spent fuel degrading in steam. Under this scenario, initial inventory was probably reduced by sloshing during the earthquake, and heat generation and resulting evaporation/boiling would thereafter be more than double that in other pools due to it containing freshly off loaded fuel. Temperature indications in the absence of water would be that of the mixture of steam and air in the location of the thermowell.

    Nothing can be confirmed at this stage. As has been the case throughout this crisis, information is hard to come by and must be pieced together….”


  125. some data from the 18th

    Click to access ENGNEWS01_1300433768P.pdf

    Page 3

    Reactor 1
    0755 18th Mar 2011
    A)-1.7m B)limit down
    Reactor P
    A)0.169 B)0.146 MPa gauge

    Reactor 2
    0755 18th Mar 2011
    -1.4 m
    Reactor P
    A) -0.041 B) -0.029 MPa gauge
    Containment P
    0.130 MPa absolute

    Reactor 3
    0800 18th Mar 2011
    A)-1.9 B) -2.3 m
    Reactor P
    A)-0.005 B) 0.009 MPa gauge
    Containment P
    0.150 Mpa absolute

    [0 m is top of fuel
    gauge pressure is pressure above atmospheric
    atmospheric is approx 0.1MPa]

    Looks like 2 and 3 are in communication with atmosphere.



  126. @bchtd1parrot:

    The days are running together … but wasn’t the Unit #4 explosion on the 15th? At any rate, I’m pretty sure it was after this anomalous behavior had already been in progress.


  127. I just had a thought. Are there any overhead images of reactor 4 at night? If the spent fuel in there is really hot it would be glowing red. You would not even need infared cameras. The race is on. Go. Whoever wins gets three cheers.


  128. In a 10m x 10m x10m (not sure on the size of the pool) pool there are 1000 cubic meters. It takes 4.2J to heat one gram of water one degree C. There are one million grams in a cubic meter of water. So 4.2 GJ of energy to heat the pool one degree C. Or 210GJ to heat the pool 50C. If the rods are outputting 10 MW (this is an overestimate) it would take ~6 hours to heat the pool up 50C. 1MW decay heat would take 60 hours.

    That calculation ignores any evaporation, though that should be fairly low until you get to 100C. Evaporation takes 2.2GJ to evaporate one ton of water.

    So the pool could warm up that quickly and is likely to have done so. Other than zirconium cladding oxidizing, how else would you get a huge build up of hydrogen to blow apart reactor 4? Then again how do you get a temperature reading of 84C for serveral days? I think defective or badly placed sensors are the more likely scenario though.

    But there was little concern over a meltdown happening in the case of an empty pool in the paper studying such an event. There was worry about zirconium oxidizing and radionuclides being released.


  129. It would appear that knowledge on the ground locally indicates that the spent fuel pool at unit 3 or unit 3 is the largest problem. Based on continued actions taken.

    Unit 4 spent fuel pool, despite the full core offload stored is a smaller problem relatively it seems. That knowledge is obviously not public. They would not be aggressively attacking unit 3 if the basis for the efforts was unfounded in my opinion.

    Continue to monitor site boundary radiation levels for sustained increases. This remains the best indicator things are degrading from current conditions.


  130. Didn’t find any night shots, but the day shot suggests it is no way near 1000 C, where water would react in a runaway manner to produce hydrogen, that would then blow up. Any slower reaction to produce hydrogen would disapate quickly. Of course this we already know, because we are not seeing any any explosions. Still it would be interesting to see infrared images. I’m sure someone is taking them, so they should have a good idea what the temperature is in there.


  131. If they thought that the storage pools were in that much danger, don’t you think they would be putting water into them on a more regular basis. It appears they are being very deliberate in what they are doing.


  132. Brian

    Tell me what is unacceptable in this accident? Your paranoia and quackery is typical of those who think the sky is falling. So far nothing has happened except few hydrogen gas related explosions and elevated radiation. Nevertheless, so far people are not dropping dead as a result of it and a few ever will. For me the unacceptable affair is building cities, villages and other infrastructure in low lying area in a country that has frequent tsunami calamity. Even the word tsunami originated in Japan so they are not ignorant to know what tsunami can do. Due to brutal reality that there is nowhere else to go, it will all, be rebuilt the same way in the same spot, waiting for another future tsunami to destroy it again.
    What have we learned from this fiasco in Japan about nuclear power? One most important thing, beside the obvious. YOU DO NOT RELY ON EXTERNAL POWER SOURCES FOR BACK UP REACTOR SAFETY. This fact was known to many engineers at the dawn of nuclear industry. The inventor of LWR Alvin Weinberg got fired from his job as a result of his concern over LWR safety. Nevertheless, sometimes the decisions are not made by engineers but by ignorant politicians, hence many times we are forced to live in less than perfect brutal world as a result of those unwise political decisions in the past and plain hard reality of life.


  133. @Frank Kandrnal
    This was not the case. There was on site power facilities. The lesson is not about power supply, its about anticipation of events. You said it yourself. You cant use the strategy on the housing 1on1 on an NPP.


  134. All these things are a matter of attitude. It is My firm conviction that nuclear energy can eventually be made 100% accident proof, provided the nescessary social environment exists and the envelop is pushed.


  135. > fire … a lube oil leak
    Has anyone seen discussion of why the Unit 4 explosion blew off the walls down several stories while leaving the roof framing in place, very different pattern than on Units 1 and 3 that lost roof and top level wall panels.


  136. There was something about that being the difference and about how condensation of steam component on cold inventory caused the gas mix to get unstable.
    No clear opinions on the dynamics of it as i recall. Time about 26 hours ago. Just before the team hit the sack.


  137. @ Leo 7:09AM The NYT radiation map is indeed based on NRC model. See

    Click to access 11-050_Attchmt.pdf

    ” In making protective action recommendations, the NRC takes into account a variety of factors that include weather, wind direction and speed, and the status of the problem at the reactors.

    This data is based on system condition estimates for a hypothetical, single reactor site, 2350 MWt, Boiling Water Reactor. (The R2 to 4 reactors at Fukushima are 2381 MWth -note by Leo). Model results are projections only and may not be representative of an actual release. This projection uses modeled forecast meteorological conditions and is subject to change.”


  138. Are these statements still factually correct:

    “I stand by my statement. I judge it would currently be rated INES Level 4: Accident with local consequences or lower on the international nuclear event scale.”

    “The only reactor that has a small probability of being ‘finished’ is FD unit 1. And I doubt that, but it may be offline for a year or more.”

    “There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity. By “significant” I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation”.

    “The risk of meltdown is extremely small, and the death toll from any such accident, even if it occurred, will be zero.”


  139. Oops sorry about that, you beat me to it with the NRC model link and I didnt notice before commenting.

    A bit more site radiation data has come out since I last posted on this subject. Since levels jumped up on Friday afternoon in Japan, there have been no further spikes for the rest of the 18th there, and levels as of 11.50PM JST had decayed back down to 3244 microSv/h. This is from the location just 0.5km north west of reactor 2, where levels had previously fallen as low as 3339 at 2.50PM but jumped up to 5055 at 5pm.


    Click to access 11031812.pdf

    (note that the 2nd column is the name of the location being monitored, and in recent days this has tended to flip between 2 locations, one which has had readings in the hundreds of microsieverts and the other in the thousands, due to differences in how far these monitoring points are away from the reactors and pools)


  140. @ iain:

    Are these statements still factually correct:

    Of course not. Barry has already stated that the situation has become worse than he originally anticipated it would get. He stated that days ago.


  141. @Frank Kandrna



    * 2 TEPCO employees have minor injuries;
    * 2 subcontractor employees are injured, one person suffered broken legs and one person whose condition is unknown was transported to the hospital;
    * 2 people are missing;
    * 2 people were “suddenly taken ill”;
    * 2 TEPCO employees were transported to hospital during the time of donning respiratory protection in the control centre;
    * 4 people (2 TEPCO employees, 2 subcontractor employees) sustained minor injuries due to the explosion at Unit 1 on 11 March and were transported to the hospital; and
    * 11 people (4 TEPCO employees, 3 subcontractor employees and 4 Japanese civil defense workers) were injured due to the explosion at Unit 3 on 14 March.

    Radiological Contamination

    * 17 people (9 TEPCO employees, 8 subcontractor employees) suffered from deposition of radioactive material to their faces, but were not taken to the hospital because of low levels of exposure;
    * One worker suffered from significant exposure during “vent work,” and was transported to an offsite center;
    * 2 policemen who were exposed to radiation were decontaminated; and
    * Firemen who were exposed to radiation are under investigation.


  142. Frank Kandrnal

    What was unnacceptable? Here’s one suggestion put very well by yourself.

    “YOU DO NOT RELY ON EXTERNAL POWER SOURCES FOR BACK UP REACTOR SAFETY. This fact was known to many engineers at the dawn of nuclear industry.”

    And yet this is what was done.

    I haven’t said anything remotely “paranoid”, I haven’t claimed the sky was falling in.

    I don’t believe three concurrent meltdowns and damaged cooling ponds at great risk is an acceptable incident on a fifty year frequency. You don’t have to agree with that, but I reckon that’s a pretty considered view.

    I think the nuclear industry needs to take time, reflect, learn the lessons and improve safety.

    I would like society to have the option of nuclear power to combat climate change. Unless the industry changes it’s culture fundamentally as a result of this accident I severely doubt that will be possible.


  143. bchtd1parrot, on 19 March 2011 at 7:28 AM — That remains unknown.

    bks, on 19 March 2011 at 7:51 AM — What was stated is to the effect that the fire trucks take turns because there isn’t enough room for more than one at a time.


  144. Based on the IAEA info link above by William, on March 17, the MP-6 monitor on plant edge (maybe 0.5 miles) had a peak of 10-12,000 microSv/hr and perhaps an avg of 4,000 microSv/hr. MP-1,3,4&5 were ~30-50 microSv/hr.

    Use the avg 4,000 microSv/hr = 4 miliSv/hr = 400 milliRem/hr = 0.4 Rem/hr.

    For the NRC 0.5 mile dose or 5,400 Rem in the NYT article, that’s equivalent to standing at the MP-6 monitor for 13,500 hours or 1.5 years.


  145. Short take on ‘reasonably foreseeable accidents’:

    I’ve been reading about nuclear safety and radiation biology since the 1950s, but only as an amateur reader. Catching up on this, all the scenarios I’ve found for reactor accidents are for _one_ reactor having multiple system failures.

    I’ve found no scenario like what happened — four reactors operating together having multiple failures while the outside infrastructure has also been wiped out.


    There must have been a scenario for a boiling water reactor having problems during a nuclear war, 1960s-era scenarios, but those would not focus on the _relatively_ very low radioactivity occurring from the current


  146. The JAIF report of “Environmental Effect” is so peculiar that it is fair to assume that they are “cherry-picking”. That is, they are trying to find a low reading somewhere and they publish that. It’s very bad that they would select a single reading for a multi-hour period, but to select a single reading at varying locations smacks of duplcity.



  147. William, I would believe it affected both the seawater pumps (elevation relative to sea level by typical design due to flooding) and the Diesel Generators (rumoured above ground fuel tanks that were swept away… un- substantiated never mind potential for flooding).

    What most don’t understand is there is an internal electrical distribution system (breakers etc.) which provides power to loads which may have been flooded too by the tsunami.


  148. Brian, they typically start to analyze probability with the initiating natural events. Most by design only assume one natural event at a time…. That may be the fly in the ointment. Here as the tsunami was caused by the earthquake which resulted in the complete extended blackout. Which may seem totally logical now, but it’s like calling a different play after the game has ended from the couch….


  149. I hate to say this, but alot was done in the US after 911 with regard to worst case line of thinking. Not sure the rest of the world was as aggressive at challenging original designs for unanalyzed or multiple events….

    I also will say there will be lessons learned from this that may not have been considered or believed possible too.


  150. There was a post about protective action requests (PARs) here. There are proscribed limits and actions in the US based on certain level indications of release. Along with the catch all judgement call.

    Despite all efforts to try and nail these things down, you will always be challenged after the fact. It’s part of the job. Too conservative or not conservative enough, you will be arm chair quarterbacked in the end.


  151. Not sure if this link has been posted here before, but here’s a brief article with input from a worker who was at the plant… have a read of it


    On the topic of the pumps: “He ran back upstairs to the roof to get a closer look and 30 minutes later saw a white wall of water — a tsunami more than six metres high surging in.

    The area around reactors 1 to 6 was submerged in an instant. The pumps that supply cooling water to the power facilities adjoining each of the reactors were washed away in quick succession.”

    … also:
    “Along the passageway, water started gushing out from the broken joints of the metal plumbing attached to the ceiling.

    The fear he may be trapped in the reactor building was greater than the fear the water gushing from overhead may be contaminated.”

    It’s not all direct quotes unfortunately…



  152. Hank, we need alot more information about how and why and where the hydrogen explosions ultimately occurred inside the secondary containment (reactor building). Too soon to over analyze, it will eventually come out but…..

    That said the primary driver was still likely primary containment venting operations to prevent failure of the primary containment (drywell & torus/suppression chamber with a steam hydrogen mix).

    How long, the path used and ultimately system leakage determined if it accumualted at the refueling area area level or below prior to explosive levels being achieved.

    In other words the ones that show the most damage at the top, likely vented sooner/longer without ventilation fan dilution due to loss of power and had looser ventilation boundaries between the elevations. Which allowed the hydrogen to accumulate faster at the highest elevation.


  153. So how long do think it will take before they decide to encase everything in sand and concrete?

    If they fail getting the power back on then what?
    If pipes and valves are too damaged then what?
    Sooner or later the salt water will ruin the reactors right?


  154. bks, the reality is the electrical work now is a longer term fix for cooling. They are basically building and scavenging a new power system to run what they can….

    Most of the installed electrical equipment would take longer to restore due to the tsunami flooding than starting new with temporary installs. They will use all they can that can be quickly restored to service though. It’s hard to imagine unless you understand the extent of the electrical infrastructure these facilities have which have likely been damaged.


  155. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20110319/t10014776401000.html

    Latest update… Fire trucks will go in again to hose down number three and jsdf trucks will hose down number four. This will take place after noon. They are doIng this to allow time for other workers to continue working on reconnecting power to one and two… In another article they stated that some workers have reached the 100milli sev range of exposure and they are preparing countermeasures…


  156. em1ss

    I hope you realise I’m talking about the Fukushima power station that managed to achieve cold shut down. The JAIF report seems to indicate this is because they didn’t lose outside power and therefore were able to deal with whatever other problems they were having. Without a power source your options are severely limited as we are seeing at Fukushima 1.


  157. Mattias, encasement in sand and concrete is likely not an option nor as the event stands today where it will end. Water shielding and cooling works as we are seeing. Time removes the enemy decay heat if water coverage is maintained.

    This is not Chernobyl where the graphite which was on fire and fuel could just be covered to stop the spread of the airborne contamination.

    This fuel design is completely different, the strategies are different too. Graphite flamability to create a huge updraft and contaminated ladened plume is not an issue. (simple analogy, have you ever seen someone burn a tire…. not a good idea if you imagine the soot is contaminated).

    Be patient, this will all come out as time goes on beyond the mass hysteria reports. Just hope things keep progressing positively as they seem to be despite the scope of the exisiting condition.


  158. @em1ss
    Isn’t there such a thing as ‘problem overkill’? I mean, in other diciplines where things arent allowed to go wrong they sometimes plan all the way into oblivion, if you know what i mean. Why isn’t that possible here? In general terms.


  159. Mattias, any unit that had saltwater injection is likely defunct, done. Primative methods will work now and they will be used to keep the fuel covered and cooled. Limiting factor is keeping the workers shielded with water from damaged or exposed fuel to make it happen.


  160. Parrot, in my years of experience there is always some “what if” that comes up that must be analyzed or responded to. The 911 event kicked off a similar industry response here in the US. Alot of changes were made, but the public is not allowed to know. Since the public also includes those that would threaten facilities.

    This will also. It’s the unique nature of the industry to try to analyze, address and close the holes that these types of issues as identified present.

    It’s really hard to explain the differences in industries. For example have we really identified and fixed the gulf oil spill issue. Does anyone publically know the cause and fix?. Was it even a media issue when the oil balls quit showing up on the beaches? Did the oil lobby control the dispersion of information and media damage control? Beyond that, consider all the large tanker spills that have occurred in your lifetime …

    That’s reality. Money actually controls, then deflects the media spin and political influence on events.


  161. Continuing on my point, I think the lost of on site backup power may be one of the reasons that Fukushima Daini has been listed as a category 3 on the INES scale. That is why I’m harping on the discrepancies. If JAIF is correct we came close to having another 4 reactors in the same distress as Fukushima Daiichi.


  162. em1ss — Can you explain the situation of #4? I’m having difficulty understanding how, with a hole in the concrete, it is possible that #4 holding pond still has enough water. Or rather, that those on-site seem to think so.


  163. In that sense William it’s not hard to believe that any coastal facility in Japan was close to or near a category 3 status.

    The entire electrical distribution system of the country was challenged by the earthquake and tsunami (off site power source). Any issue caused by the tsunami or earth quake with onsite power and your pretty much there.

    Severity of the damage and ability/time to restore before the reported classifications you are viewing were made could skew the data. It would seem that unit had a rough ride for an extended period of time for whatever reason.


  164. Dave,

    First of all from what I’ve seen/read they don’t have valid pool temperature indication on unit 4 since almost the start of the event. So that makes it hard to understand from the start to evaluate the situation.

    Once temperature indication is lost you would have to rely on actual local measured radiation levels. Fuel uncovered, loss of water level reduces shielding. Levels of radiation rise dramatically. Even nuclear layman knowledge for a single unit failure is reflected by the dose rate measured at the site boundary.

    Dealing with multiple unit issues requires on site knowledge of actual dose rates as measured relative to the units.

    Based on the current strategy employed focusing on unit 3, I would tend to believe those measured on site dose rates indicate water shielding is being more effective in unit 4 with limited makeup.

    From there you can extrapolate to, it is not as big an issue as on unit 4 but is a big issue on unit 3 where all the focus seems to be. Remember those dose rates limit you ability to address problems with human exposure.

    Analyzing the available photos is not currently as effective as this simple method in my opinion to determine which fuel pool is more challenged,

    Again, this does not mean Unit 4 is ok by any stretch of normal standards, just not the limiting issue for now. Nor is this a documented, reported fact to date. It’s just my perspective from a distance.


  165. There is always the unknown, but this wasnt unknown was it? Like the thing with the seawater. If i understand you correctly the decision to use that method is the death stab for the plant. I felt that way, but you know it for sure. The reason i consider this is because it also means the connection between the events on the plant and those around the plant were foreseeable to some extend and that does more damage than the entire nuclear incident itself. Or is that too far off?


  166. Parrot, actions to inject seawater were done to protect the public, not the investment. Making that decision is the right thing to do. That is the code of ethics in this industry, at least in the US anyways.
    Until all the facts of what occurred to get there come out, now is not the time to fully analyze how or what was missed in the design process.


  167. JAIF have issued a new Reactor Status Report. Nothing much new. Radiation levels decreasing at plant boundary and they keep adding to the event list. I did notice on the map that they have added that Onagawa Nuclear Power Station is located closer to the epicentre of the earthquake than either of the Fukushima NPSs. It will be interesting to find out way it did not sustain damage.


  168. What Ferg reported is significant (suspected this) and will eventually come out of this event. Electical penetrations and hardening of facilities against flooding will be a lessons learned.

    Industry standards will likely change outside of the primary containment for ECCS equipment and associated electrical distribution ….


  169. Mattias, it’s not going to be ever exposed to the extremes of normal operating pressures, temperatures or radiation. Temperature and chloride concentration accelarates corrosion. But keeping it wet reduces the temperature.

    Fuel once exposed can be stored in air after 5 years of decay. Keeping it wet and cool is the proscribed method and all I can add. Any fuel submerged in saltwater is going to be never used again…. Any reactor vessel components submerged long term in saltwater would have to be replaced prior to future operation.. Finished for operation, but safe based what I believe to be true.


  170. The loyalty of work force stands above question to me. I’ve never been in Japan, but the situation in Geesthacht (Hamburg) is similar. The thing i mean to find out is if it would have been possible to take the mysterious part out of it. The maybe. Thats what did most of the damage. Conclusive information all the way to controlled meltdown if such a thing exists. Is there a practical reason to not be able to give that information. Most people have no idea what a Sievert is anyway. The main panic was and is caused by the absence of a realistic worst case scenario. Replace fear with caution so the attention can go to the problem that the public can and should do something about. Do you understand my question?


  171. Early on it was mentioned that the US was flying a Global Hawk over the site equipped with infra-red sensing.
    A video of this hit youtube the day before yesterday.

    I’d expect this to be able to measure the temperature of the exposed ponds and thereby determine how covered the spent fuel rod assemblies are where they can be seen.

    Google turned up many mentions of this mission, but I didn’t find any results. Has anyone seen released information of this sort?


  172. Some questions:

    1. Why haven’t they been able to fully cover the fuel rods in the three reactors? I’ve noticed all of them are missing around a meter or so of water. Is it a issue of using seawater or maybe the pump?

    2. Even though the rods are partially exposed, it’s been 7 days has the decay heat gone down a lot?

    3. Is cold shutdown a realistic possibility? Or will they have to get off the mobile pumps first?


  173. When looking at protective requirements / how to break things, for other areas, I have found that it is ALWAYS possible to postulate events and constrain actions such that your target is breached, compromised or destroyed. There is only so much you can do, when constrained by reality, to protect your asset.

    It is sick that people are sitting arround saying they should have planned for this disaster. If these events were anticipated do you not think it would have been better to protect all of those towns that got washed away considering that a country only has so much money for disaster planning? Should more people have died in the earthquake and tsunami to get the funds to protect this and every other NPS from outlier events?

    This may sound like hyperbole but nothing happens in a vacuum when you are dealing in public policy. Every dollar you spend making yourself safe from one thing leaves you un/under prepared for something else. At some point you must decide what safe enough is.


  174. Joshua,
    Japan has a history of tsunamis and earthquakes. Maybe it is not feasable to prevent the damage from the population, but it must be possible to prevent the obvious risk of a nuclear emergency stealing the show. One way or another. Thats whats doing most of the damage of that event. You cant tell people nuclear power is a safe solution if it does that much off site damage.


  175. Re the topic of the thread: The Future of Nuclear Energy. The problem in the U.S. is that media, particularly Cable News Networks have no interest in reporting fact or encouraging intelligent debate (Rachel Maddow on MSNBC perhaps excepted), The rest of the network certainly not excepted. They only operate to sell infotainment. It’s trite to say it, but still true that “If it bleeds it leads”. The only forums that might entertain a serious debate on the facts are blogs on the internet, and they simply will not reach enough Americans to sway public opinion.


  176. Nikkei, on 19 March 2011 at 12:17 PM — I’m far from an expert, but I’ll approximate from what I’ve learned during this past week.

    Fully covering the fuel rods obviously requires more water; the internal pressure prevents that with the current seawater lashup. The fuel rods are safe enough for now since the zirconium rod coverrs are good heat conductors.

    When power is restored the injection system should be able to bring the reactors to cold shutdown quite soon.


  177. Nikkei,

    1. The site is a mess limiting physical access through structural damage and human access due to radiation levels. See other posts why I believe they are focusing on unit 3.

    2. Yes decay heat has gone down, more so in the operating units. 7 days for the refueling pools is only significant if the fuel was just removed from an operating core. It’s not a linear decrease…. Google it etc to see the production decay rate for exposed fuel….

    3. The challenged units are shutdown. Cold shutdown is an industry technical term where injection and temperature is maintained and controlled.

    From a layman sense as long as the current methods hold up, flooding and water level maintained, assuming reports are valid for the reactors, you could say cold shutdown is achieved.

    But you wont see that reported as the technical definition of cold shutdown is not yet met. The media would have a field day if that was reported prematurely….

    I hope the situation continues to improve, the units in question are defunct. But, it would appear the right decisions are being made to protect the public based on standard industry protocol following the events that occurred. This is just an opinion based on reported information.


  178. bchtd1parrot, on 19 March 2011 at 12:28 PM — So far there is no off-site damage from nuclear. You might check to determine how much off-site damage was down by the earthquake and tsunami within 2 km of Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Station.


  179. @David B. Benson
    Sir, thats not the point. Point is it didnt work. My appeal to reuters didnt work either. There is a group of very courageous people doing a job we all know they will do well, one way or another. This is not going to turn into a global disaster other than by half the world looking the wrong way. I bet you can put a Sievert count on the visitors of this very post looking for truth. It didnt work. This is not nuclear science, its communication skills. People are going to point at nuclear industry and say “Thats why we didnt get help”
    Its a stab in the back.


  180. No, i said that the biggest damage resulting from the nuclear emergency is the attention it gets. The emergency itself is as we all know containable. There is a limit to how bad this can get and that message is not getting through.


  181. My estimation for filling the Spent Fuel Pool (SFP):

    – SPF dimensions: 10.7 m x 12.2m x 11.9m
    ( from a web site, not Mark I but close)

    – Truck capacity: 6 tons (i. e. 6 m^3).

    Approximating area of pool, A = 11m x 12m = 132 m^2.

    Each meter of depth to be added requires 132 x 1 = 132m^3 = 132 tons (22 truck loads).

    Filling an empty pool (12m depth) will take 1584 tons (264 truck loads).

    Filling a half empty pool will take 792 tons (132 truck loads).

    It looks to me that the water cannon delivery efficiency is about 25%, so the requirements are all multiplied by 4.

    Either way it looks like a sustained injection effort will be required to ensure the SFP is filled.


  182. “Meltdown” is such a buzz word, people in the media seem to use it far too easily. Problem is none of them seem to have a clear grasp of what it actually is.

    It is a very powerful word because people genuinely get scared when they hear it. They don’t know why but all they know is that it’s no good.

    I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve heard “meltdown immanent” or “last ditch effort to stop meltdown” since the 11th.


  183. The situation of millions of japanese and japan as a whole need and are entitled to international attention and aid. That plant needs jack more attention than its getting from those who can actually do something good there. Thats only a handfull of people comparitively, and they’re all experts.


  184. I understand that people want to feel safe and wrap up all their fears into a basket they can understand. For some it is Nuclear Energy for others it is Terrorism for many in my generation it was Nuclear War. They then learn all about it that they can and find that there are so many things they can not control and Someone Should Do Something.

    Well someone does, just not as much as you want because they must deal with all of the showy horrors that everyone else is yelling about plus the mundane disasters that people do not make political issues out of. So basically you just have to deal with being scared of your own boogyman because there are many others you probably are not as emotionally invested in but kill just the same.

    Now to bring this back on topic a bit. Is there a resourse that describes what the Japanese government’s disaster plans and requirements are for nuclear plants?


  185. This IS on topic Joshua. Nothing boogyman , this is work. Its a trailer full of junk, luguage. And yes, its more important then whats going on on the plant because it has i direct effect on the future of nuclear energy and that is what this post is all about. If you use a post with over two million visitors to exchange technicsl data between insiders, youre missing the point.


  186. It’s interesting to note that for several nights when the wind has changed to blow from the sea (typical weather phenomenon in the area), dose rate radiation monitoring from inside the plant area increased by over 50%.

    For example, last night when the wind of about 2 m/s (“light breeze”) was from east at 0500 JST, the reading at the main office building 500 m from the reactors read 5,055 uSv/h (5 mSv/h), up from 3,346 uSv/h two hours earlier when the wind was from south. The latest available measurement from the same location 1150 JST reads 3,244 uSv/h, with the wind from west north west at 1.2 m/s.

    This might be the one reason why they don’t operate much of anything at night, even if sufficient artificial lighting could probably be rather easily provided.


  187. Someone (I can’t seem to find the comment) postuated that teh off-site radiation data was being cherry-picked to make it look less urgent. Single data point readings were/are being reported for geographically separate points with different times, whic makes it very hard to analyze for trends and impossible to plot on a map for a single instant in time.

    A plausible explanation, especially if power or phone lines are not reliable, is that someone is driving around to the different sensor locations and then reading the data at the time they are there. Then off to the next data point location.


  188. Did you get what i’m getting at. All that panic does more damage than the whole nuclear emergency itself. This can swing either way. This can be explained as one more evil component of the industry and trust me, it will. This can also be explained as a very damaging media hype on something they really should not approach the issue in the good old entertainment way and that can be enforced. That takes loosing the industries fear for fear. It also takes levveling it out. You cant sell something as the solution for global problems and then leave its primary objective the making of a financial profit. That doesnt work. (I’m getting tired, sorry)


  189. em1ss

    Thank you for the response, it is very appreciated.

    1. I totally understand why filling the SF pool and in reactor 3 is the top priority.

    I was curious about the water level in the reactor pressure vessel. It sounds like things have been stable in there for a while but the fuel rods have also been partially exposed.

    I was just wondering why they didn’t cover the reactor core fuel rods completely with water. Were they not able to do it because of the equipment, or once a certain level of water is achieved that you want to maintain that.

    I hope my question makes sense.


  190. I live in futaba machi, 5km from the plant. When the reactors are finally cooled will we be able to return to the surrounding area or will we have to wait for the radiation to drop? What sort of timeframe are we talking about, days, weeks, months, years??


  191. @William Fairholm, I followed the link you posted and the pictorial seems wrong. I have seen photos of Daiichi clearly y right on the coast. Even if it’s an issue of scale, perhaps the general concensus that most damage was Tsunami related explains the relatively good outcome at Onagawa, which appears to be farther inland. Also, no elevation data to assist evaluation.


  192. B….
    Since plant safety is OK here. What do *you* consider safe enough? Assuming that you are not simply no-nukes no matter what. I can respect and understand that position but there is simply no point in discussing the matter with me.

    Until the most powerful earthquake in the history of the island and a tsunami hit it was suposedly safe. And until the next disaster no one planned for everything else will be safe. The problem is what disasters are planned for? I have not actually worked the numbers but I bet a meteor strike either is within a couple orders of magnitude chance of this, prossibly much more likely since a dry SFP is one in 10^5-10^7 per year times probability of tsunami causing earthquake…

    What would, in my opinion, be better for nuclear safety is to make sure the plants all actually meet the requirements they are suposed to. That NPS operators and builders are not allowed to compormise plant safety for economic reasons. That they can meet the disasters that they are suposed to not require them plan for bigger and badder disasters. That is a good and noble pursuit and it will save lives.


  193. Unfortunalty the media drives public opinion. In the US there are very few times that they will reign themselves in. Once was to prevent panic on 9/11/2001 and once was to tell Americans that they really did not need KI pills and they should not take them. Those are the ONLY times in recent history that I can think of that they backed away from sensational reporting. And I am not even sure all of the networks made it clear not to take the pills (I would be suprised if FOX did and a lot of Americans take what they say as literal gospel)


  194. David B. Benson

    Thank you, I missed your answer. I was thinking it had something to do with the pressure and the equipment.

    Concerning the exposed portion of the fuel rod. I thought since the outer cladding was exposed, combined with the high heat and steam/oxygen it oxidized. That’s what created the huge amounts of hydrogen gas.

    If the outer cladding has failed then is it the fuel core that is exposed? I was under the impression that was bad. Or is the decay heat not hot enough for the fuel core to melt?

    I was looking at some earlier reports for Reactor 2 and it appears there was an extended period of time where they could not get the seawater in. And it seems like the entire fuel core was exposed.

    They had problems opening the vent and/or releasing enough pressure so seawater could be injected. That was a bit scary.


  195. @rpl

    Here is a link to Wikipedia with a picture of the reactor complex at Onagawa. Right on coast, but with hills in background. The hills would stop the electrical distribution system from being destroyed, but not the plant being inundated as far as I can see. Maybe the backup generators where not low down. Haven’t researched it. Tsunami height depends on the seabottom in front of the plant, so if steep dropoff, maybe height never got that high. Lots of questions and I think someone will do a full analysis with know wave heights and all. Not me and not tonight, I’m heading to bed. The technical to political post ratio is starting to get pretty low. Those arguements never seem to get clearer.


  196. I am interested in knowing what, exactly, IS the worst case scenario. I feel that it is glossed over by the mainstream experts I’m hearing on TV and in the media.

    Is it possible, assuming worst cast conditions, that there is currently fission occurring in any of the reactors? Could lumps be fissioning down in the base of the reactors, after the rods were damaged earlier?

    What is truly the worst case scenario for humanity?

    There is a vast quantity of radioactive material at the Fukushima plant, 11,000 fuel rods, at least 20 times the amount involved in the Chernobyl explosion and fire. If the absolute worst happens and it all burns uncontrollably, what would be the result?

    If absolutely everything goes wrong: reactor 3 explodes, reactors 1 and 2 melt down through the containment and building floors, and all the stored fuel rods are ablaze, with at least some of the burning material contacting the ocean and creating a massive steam plume, and the prevailing winds are toward Tokyo during a rainstorm, could a fatal dose of radiation be delivered to the entire city?

    How far could a fatal plume travel? Could it circle the globe, delivering a fatal dose to the entire northern hemisphere?

    Thanks in advance for any responses to these queries.


  197. Looking at Onagawa NPP using Google Earth, and moving the cursor over different areas, it appears that there is an inital 14′ rise to the roadway just inland of the cooling water intakes. Then the site rises another 13′ to the road between the grassy slope and the site pad. Then the site pad itself rises in elevation as one moves further from the waters edge. The site appears to be well designed to shed water away from the main buildings. It would be interesting to see a post-tsunami satellite photo.


  198. I am having trouble figuring out two things from the news about Fukushima Daiichi:

    1) If there is “meltdown” meaning the fuel is no longer usable? Why is that a terrible end result. Other than the money (wasted on the obtaining the original fuel and the money that will be spent to keep it safe in the future). Doesn’t a “meltdown” of that nature not affect the general population in anyway.

    2) There seems to be no differentiation between “radiation” and “radio-isotopes”. Again, if there are just gamma rays being emitted that will certainly hamper people working at the site but little beyond that. The larger concern would be a large release of radio-active particles that would then create gamma rays where ever they fall.

    I worked my way through college at a plant that manufactured nuclear medicine I can tell you can get a high dose of radiation in a situation where there is literally no chance at contamination while you can get contaminated by a small amount of a radioactive material while still getting a much lower dose of actual radiation.

    Based of the stories that I have read, there seems to be a very small amount of radio-isotopes escaping from the plant, while the level of gamma rays at the site is very high. Again, the only people who seem to be in any danger of health complication are the people at the site working close to the source of radiation.


  199. Bchtd1parrot, Frank Kandrnal has it exactly right. Backup generators *are* an external power source. It doesn’t matter whether the external power comes from 500km away or a diesel generator less than 50m away. These reactor designs require external power to run pumps that provide active cooling. (Some designs do provide completely automatic passive safety, however, such as liquid sodium fast reactors.)


  200. A true meltdown will result in the fuel reaching the ground water table causing a steam explosion that throws radioactive debris everywhere.

    This will not happen though. The word “meltdown” is used way too loosely in the media.


  201. “It is sick that people are sitting arround saying they should have planned for this disaster. ”

    How absurd. The completely possible failure of the cooling system power sources didn’t have a contingency.


  202. Great news!


    The government says parts of the cooling systems at 2 of the 6 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been confirmed to be operable.

    The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference on Saturday that an emergency diesel generator at the No. 6 reactor has resumed operation.

    The agency also said that a cooling pump, at the No. 5 reactor, has been confirmed to be usable, and that workers started cooling the spent fuel storage pool there at 5 AM on Saturday.

    The agency said the radiation level at the west gate of the plant, located about 1.1 kilometers west of the No. 3 reactor, was relatively high at 830.8 microsieverts per hour at 8:10 AM. But it said the figure fell to 364.5 microsieverts at 9:00 AM.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011 14:07 +0900 (JST)



  203. Idea:
    Use suppression water from unit 4 to spray on unit 3.
    Advantages: 1 million gallons of clean water only a fire hose length away – not needed in plant 4 because no fuel in reactor
    Possible problems:
    This water is already radioactive – can’t get to it due to radiation or site geometry


  204. The following is a link to a photo showing the extent of damage to the reactor 4 building from the [hydrogen] blast. Previous pics were of such low resolution that I had suspected that the upper portions of the building were steel frame & panels. This photo clearly shows a reinforced concrete post & beam structure with reinforced concrete infill, now shredded. Clearly a formidable explosion.






    The World Health Organization has said radiation levels outside the evacuation zone in Japan are not harmful for human health.

    WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl made the remarks at a regular news conference in Geneva on Friday.

    The Japanese government issued an advisory on Tuesday to evacuate from a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It also told people living within a 30-kilometer radius to stay indoors.

    He said the amount of radiation being reported outside of the evacuation zone continued to be below the levels considered a public health risk.

    He said the WHO finds no public health reason to avoid travel to Japan, except to the affected areas, or to recommend that foreign nationals leave the country.

    Some countries are encouraging their citizens to leave Japan or are moving their embassies from Tokyo to Osaka.

    Referring to an examination of Japanese food imports by some countries, he said he cannot imagine that any food from the quake-damaged areas was able to have been delivered. He said he concludes there is no risk that exported Japanese foods are contaminated with radiation.


  206. Pingback: One Plus One – Fukushima’s legacy « BraveNewClimate

  207. I think what people are most concerened about is what levels might be reached not so much what they now. Worst case scenario IS complete meltdown. People want to know what happens then and is what they have been asking all along. How bad can this get, bad, very bad. But don’t worry American most of the radiation will be abosorbed by the oceans inhabitants before it gets to you. I wouldn’t put too much faith in the words of those who are vested in the success of nuclear energy.


  208. Pingback: The Japanese nuclear reactors: worst case fears « SeekerBlog

  209. @Womensplaywow

    I think people on this blog have been trying to give answers to your questions. I think that there are people who are anti-nuclear who sometimes fudge the truth too. If the kids are fed lies it could be from either side of the debate. I personally don’t think we have to be scared of this going really bad, as you say. The news is better already from the plant and so far there has been no health problems for anybody from the nuclear incident. All we can do is hope it continues that way. Let us make sure that we don’t frighten the kiddies ourselves through ignorance of radiation and unnecessary hyping of the present situation.


  210. Here are URLs of three categories of websites that I am finding useful in getting a well-rounded picture of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. I post them in case others would like to copy/paste them for their own use or to share with friends — to ease their way. I am a physics educator, so I like to read articles by scientists and nuclear engineers, to correlate events with the underlying physics, chemistry, and engineering.


    KYODO NEWS. “Japan’s leading news network”

    The Japanese Broadcasting System, in Tokyo. “NHK WORLD is NHK’s international broadcast service. NHK operates international television, radio and Internet services. Together, they are known as NHK WORLD.”

    “The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum,Inc. (JAIF) was incorporated as the comprehensive non-governmental organization on nuclear energy in Japan on March 1, 1956. JAIF is a non-profit organization incorporated under the auspices of the industry to promote peaceful utilization of nuclear energy for the benefit of Japanese nationals in consideration of the importance of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, radioisotopes and radiation in a wide variety of fields.”

    Spreadsheet of data on status of each reactor, each day, in pdf.

    Tokyo Electric Power Company press releases — less information than on Kyodo News.

    “The IAEA is the world´s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.”
    Information is broader in scope than on Kyodo News.

    For educational ‘background’ articles in non-technical language, I found articles at these three websites:

    1) the Union of Concerned Scientists’ “All Things Nuclear” blog: http://www.ucsusa.org/. (The authors include a physicist and nuclear engineer, both of whom have extensive experience with nuclear reactors. The authors have access to the same press releases as everyone else, plus professional contacts in Japan.) They explain the physics of the events.

    2) For more extensive educational background: https://bravenewclimate.com/
    This blog; the specific article is fukushima-simple-explanation/ by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston.

    3) http://nei.cachefly.net/
    Nuclear Energy Institute
    “The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry and participates in both the national and global policy-making process.
    NEI’s objective is to ensure the formation of policies that promote the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and technologies in the United States and around the world.”


    The Guardian.
    Excellent up-to-date articles. Interactive video each day on status of each reactor.

    The New York Times.

    The Wall Street Journal.

    Not as complete as other websites.


  211. NHK reports that the fire trucks injecting water into reactor buildings are operating unmanned which can only be a good thing not just from the safety viewpoint but also the capacity to sustain the operation.


  212. I have to admit I’m quite skeptical of the Union of Concerned Scientists, since they are undoubtedly an anti-nuclear organisation.

    Of the thousands of physicists and nuclear engineers across the United States, they have a couple who are anti-nuclear activists.

    I’m always reminded of the fact, whenever I hear about UCS, that Hans Bethe refused to join their organisation, despite working with them extensively on arms control and disarmament issues.


  213. As of five today… The hyper rescue truck is pumping water into 3’s sfp for 7hrs continuously to hopefully deliver enough water to cover most of the tank (1260 tons)… A concrete pump truck is also on the way ( maybe they have been reading these coments) and they are still aiming for tonight for power to be usable for one and two

    If I mistranslated any articles, sorry (all from nhk’s website)


  214. Could someone with better knowledge than me try to answer Futabajin:
    “I live in futaba machi, 5km from the plant. When the reactors are finally cooled will we be able to return to the surrounding area or will we have to wait for the radiation to drop? What sort of timeframe are we talking about, days, weeks, months, years??”

    My (not-that-well-informed) answer would be “it depends”. Partly on whether your particular area got heavily showered with particles (if not, move right back), and partly on how bad the earthquake/tsunami damage is close by.
    Without details about your village (?) it is almost impossible to say. My guess would be most likely weeks – months. Longest time if heavily contaminated and requiring cleanup (perhaps not very likely, but possible).

    Anyone here have any comments (or a better source) on this report:
    Milk and spinach tainted, radiation levels exceeding the allowable


  215. This seems to be double talk, can someone comment on how serious this is? The temp of #3 is 212F taken by a fire truck at 60′ and workers cannot approach the reactor to check the reactor because of radiation, yet they hope that pouring water in from fire trucks is going to lower that? How serious is that temp reading? and how effective can this water spraying really be?

    “Temperatures were below 212 degrees Fahrenheit based on readings taken by firefighters from the Japan Self-Defense Force that drove trucks with water cannons to within about 60 feet of the No. 3 reactor on Friday.

    Mr. Kitazawa (defense minister) said that the temperature readings had increased hopes that the nuclear fuel could be kept cool through further efforts to spray the reactors with water, while technicians worked on restoring power to the cooling systems.

    “What we are ultimately working toward is getting to a point where water is continuously pouring into the reactors,” he said, adding that engineers were also working to find a way to assess water levels inside the reactors, which were currently unapproachable by workers because of high levels of radiation.”



  216. This can’t be good for industry PR…

    “Efforts to control Japan’s nuclear crisis were delayed by concerns over damaging valuable assets at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant and initial passivity from the Japanese government, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. was reluctant to use seawater to cool one of the six reactors at the plant and hesitated because it was concerned about harming its long-term investment in the plant…”

    Missed Deadline

    “Engineers today missed a deadline to restore power to the crippled plant, prolonging efforts to prevent more radiation leaks. People living within 30 kilometers (19 miles) of the Fukushima plant along the northeastern coast should wear masks and long sleeves and stay out of the rain, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said today.

    Tepco pushed back its target to reconnect a power cable to the No. 2 reactor to later today after working through the night. Power may be restored to all six reactors by tomorrow, Hikaru Kuroda, chief of the utility’s nuclear facility management department, told a briefing in Tokyo.

    There’s a “possibility” water pumps damaged by the quake and tsunami (and explosions), may not work once power is restored and the situation “does not allow optimism,”

    People will also ask, why did it take TEPCO so long to start running a new power line to the plant? That would seem like the first thing to be done the minute flood waters had receded.



  217. @Moquiti 4:45 PM picture of R4 building – this looks like R4 building explosion was outward, not damaged inward from adjacent R3 H2 explosion Mar 14 11:01. JAIF and IAEA both say that R4 building was damaged by R3 explosion. Latest JAIF spreadsheet info does not show any R4 building explosion. Although JAIF does not indicate it, there are Wiki reports that R4 building had explosion 06:00 on Mar 15 with fires afterwards.

    Mar 14 BNC comments discussed R3 building damage but not R4 building damage. JAIF report Mar 15 10:30 shows R3 severely damaged but R4 building undamaged. Subsequent JAIF reports show progressively more damage to R4 building.

    R4 had no fuel in it, so any R4 building damage could not come from venting Reactor 4 H2 to building. Diesel and lube oil (implicated in R4 building fires) do not form explosive vapors.
    That leaves the R4 SFP fuel assemblies as the only source of H2 for a R4 building explosion.

    Therefore the R4 SFP fuel assemblies must have become uncovered by water and heated to 850-950C on Mar 15 to generate H2 and cause explosion.


  218. 2 Shelby
    “This seems to be double talk, can someone comment on how serious this is? The temp of #3 is 212F taken by a fire truck at 60′ and workers cannot approach the reactor to check the reactor because of radiation, yet they hope that pouring water in from fire trucks is going to lower that? How serious is that temp reading? and how effective can this water spraying really be? ”

    You see, the fuel in pools is shielded with water, lots of water. 3m of water shield 99.999% of radiation from the fuel (tho usually 4-5m is norm). One can literally look into the pool if there is enough water :), actually its both harmless and beautiful.

    So, if they are able to restore water level in the pools radiation will drop sharply, what will left will be from parts “ejected” in explosions, and could be dealed easily.


  219. “People will also ask, why did it take TEPCO so long to start running a new power line to the plant? That would seem like the first thing to be done the minute flood waters had receded.”

    Because pumps does not work on regular 220V/110V electricity, they need higher-voltage – 6KV or even more. And high currents too – pumps are quite powerful devices – more than 100KW
    Making such high-voltage lines is not so easy…
    Due to this problem they also couldn’t use ship for giving electricity, usually military ships work with 400V
    (all this is based on info from atominfo.ru forums)


  220. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20110319/t10014784751000.html
    No power for two and one tonight… They hope to have them operating tomorrow… But the article says 20日以降 which basically means the 20th or later… They have to check all the pumps etc and this takes time… They are also aiming for 3-6 to be connected by tomorrow (didn’t say anything about the ability to use the power though)…

    Still not getting much detailed info… I can’t see why tepco can’t live blog updates… Someone must have a keitai on the site… The lack of detailed news is frustrating


  221. @Drew Liveblogging? Too risky, someone might say something which might expose them to legal action or something. I’m sure all information coming out of there has to be cleared through legal at some level…


  222. @Drew
    The remark on the concrete pump as made on this post was passed on to tepco by email shortly after the remark was made. The use of a concrete pump makes perfect sense, since the objective here is not ordinairy fire fighting but the accurate remote delivery of controllable amounts of liquid. A concrete pump does just that.


  223. <>

    According to the IAEA the correct term would be implosion caused by the explosion of #3? That could be a significant detail as an implosion would put its force into building 4 and its internal machinery and systems.

    “Unit 4

    All fuel had been removed from the reactor core for routine maintenance before the earthquake and placed into the spent fuel pool. A portion of the building’s outer shell was damaged by the explosion at Unit 3 on 14 March, and there have been two reported fires – possibly including one in the spent fuel pool on 15 March — that extinguished spontaneously, although smoke remained visible on 18 March.

    Authorities remain concerned about the condition of the spent fuel pool.

    On 18 March, Japan assigned an INES rating of 4 to this site.”



  224. 212 F would be the ‘threshold’ temperature. As a rule it stays like that until all water is turned into steam. This seems to me as nothing new. Unlike radiation, temperature is measured in media terms. Thus the measured value is the actual value of the unit, unless the truck itself is that hot, which i doubt.


  225. what is really irritating me more and more is people like Ms. Perps saying there haven’t been any health problems for anybody from the nuclear incident right now.

    isn’t this something we can answer in a few month or years? people are not afraid of an immediate death so much as of a creeping one caused by cancer for example.

    i don’t see the not occuring health ‘problems’ as a good argument right now. it is close to …i am sorry….mockery (though i know it wasn’t meant as such. i just want to point it that it could sound like …..a bit).


  226. I’ve read this blog in the past few days and I must admit that this is currently my primary source of news for better understanding on fukushima events.
    After the tsunami and the explosions in the nuclear site I’ve started reading tons of pages about nuclear energy and its production, and read in detail what the scientists think it has happened in japan.
    What I did not understand and still wonder is:
    1) the seawater in some of the reactors was injected in the PVR? If so, how? I mean, is there any available access into the PVR for mechanical (since power isn’t available) injection of liquids?
    2) if the containement vessel isn’t damaged, considering how thick it is, has it any sense putting water into the drywell? I mean, putting water into the CV shouldn’t cool the reactor core itself, since the thickness of the steel around the core would protect it from any convectivity
    3) adding water into the PVR shouldn’t *increase* pressure, instead of reducing it? More water, more steam, more pressure. Is there anything wrong?
    If so, more water, more pressure, increased need of manual depression. How could they free some gases without power? is there any valves mechanically activated?

    Thanks for the answers.


  227. @zark, I understand this but lack details is frustrating, especially since Wednesday (reports in japans ultra conservative media seem to be even more conservative now)
    @bchtd1parrot, I’m glad the info was passed on, if they can get it working on number 4 then that’s a good thing right

    And is there anyway pumps and valves can be sourced quickly to replace potentially broken ones at the site??? Ie has general electric offered anything???


  228. @Drew
    I’m surprised they actually use it. The timing indicates that this might actually be a response on the email. That would mean the ctisis management is in fact open for suggestions. Thats a very good sign. Japanese conduct and attitude can get truely amazing at times,.. seen from a europeans point of view.


  229. @squindon – if you have a pressure vessel containing 1 tonne of water at a high temp, and you add 1 tonne of water at low temp, you pull the average temp down quite a bit, and will condense quite a lot of the steam in there, which can reduce the pressure. Depends on the actual temps & pressures, of course.

    @sophia – if there hasn’t been any clear indication yet of significant releases of radioactive contaminants, there’s no evidence yet of longer-term problems that such contaminants may cause. There are different types of radiation & radioactive elements involved here – some may cause long term problems, many do not, but all will cause short-term exposure problems for workers at the plant (in fact the very short-lived isotopes are worse in this regard, while posing no threat to people outside the plant).

    I think the comments you’re referring to are only talking about the short-term effects – as you say, there is insufficient info to make a call on long-term effects, as of yet. But until there is a credible report of significant contamination (not just detectable, but significant in terms of human health), there is also no credibility to comments stating that there *will* be long-term health effects.


  230. moquiti:

    From that photograph, it looks to me like the Unit #4 pool is almost full. I see the crane near the center of the circle and the lighter color toward the bottom of the circle looks like the pool wall behind it. If the darker color below the wall is the water, it looks like it is almost full.

    Do you concur?



  231. Latest update

    The hyper rescue truck is going to continue delivering water to number three’s spent fuel tank for three more hours, the government wants them to get as much water in there as possible

    And with that I’m going to watch an amazing van-damn movie… If anything pops up (in the Japanese media) that no one else posts I’ll try and translate and summarize the gist of the article/s here


  232. Does anyone know how this is being reported on BBC, ITV and other OFCOM regulated broadcasters? I read that part of the OFCOM charter had language about misrepresenting material facts. Does this have any impact on the reporting in UK? … Just curious.


  233. bchtd1parrot, on 19 March 2011 at 10:55 PM said:

    212 F would be the ‘threshold’ temperature. As a rule it stays like that until all water is turned into steam. This seems to me as nothing new. Unlike radiation, temperature is measured in media terms. Thus the measured value is the actual value of the unit, unless the truck itself is that hot, which i doubt.

    Since it was taken from 60′ wouldn’t 212F be the radiant temp of the structure itself verses the temp of the water? This would seem a critical point as the building would act as a heat sync and actually store heat thus take much longer to cool down? What I’m wondering is will spraying cool water into a small pool actually reduce temps that much if the tank and it’s structure are 212F? It would seem that would quickly heat any water back up to that temp and because the water is not being circulated would have a very limited cooling affect on the structure itself.


  234. Sincere and highest respect for Mr. Masashi Goto on his containment structure design. After being subjected to a 9.0 earthquake + 7m tsunami + out of control reactors + the explosive disassembly of the secondary containment (building) the primary containment is still fulfilling its purpose. He must have been a very young man when he did this work. He sould be well satisfied. I stand in awe.

    Props to the workers on site in their battles. Their bravery should be recognized even if they themselves cannot see it.


  235. I just ran Google Translate on the document posted earlier with the radiation readings. All of the 300uSV readings are listed as WEST GATE. All of the 3000 have SECRETARY TATE KITIMOTO instead of a location. Is this a fault of automatic translation?


  236. This from the latest IAEA update.

    “Japanese authorities have implemented two critical measures to counter the contamination of food products by radioactive iodine. First, on 16 March, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission recommended local authorities to instruct evacuees leaving the 20-kilometre area to ingest stable (not radioactive) iodine. As an established method of prevention, the ingestion of stable iodine can help to prevent the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid. Stable iodine pills and syrup (for children) have been made available at evacuation centres. Second, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has ordered a stop to the sale of all food products from the Fukushima Prefecture.”

    This is the first report I’ve seen that people have been told to take iodine and this was done 3 days ago. Before now all the reports had been they hadn’t been told to do this, and those reports were appearing quite regularly. Haven’t seen a report on that for several days though. This information took a long time to come out or I just missed it.


  237. Tanks were prepared to fight in contaminated environments. Tanks and APC trucks often have environmental seals, so why army is not using such devices to secure situation around reactors? I see in NHK that fire trucks are used and a lot of concerns about firemans exposure is in consideration. Are there any anti contamination vesels in hands of Japan army or at last US Army based in Japan?


  238. Michael Strickland

    I can’t tell anything from that picture about water level. It is relatively dark inside that building and this picture is from a low angle. If I saw a shiny patch I would conclude that was water, but not a dark patch.


  239. I’ve been looking back at older JAIF reactor status reports. The first mention of the SFP of unit 4 was 19:00 March 15. It says “SFP level low, Injecting Water”. By 8:00 March 16 it changes to “SFP Level Low” If they actually had a method to inject water I wonder how they loss control of that method and what that method was. Regular or jury-rigged.

    Click to access ENGNEWS01_1300189582P.pdf

    Click to access ENGNEWS01_1300240000P.pdf


  240. > undoubtedly an anti-nuclear organisation.

    They’re an anti-stupid-careless-nuclear organization, I’ll agree with Luke only that far. I think Luke could meet them halfway, as the UCS is quite well aware of climate change from the biology as well as the physics side, and know biological systems can detect changes before our measuring and statistical tools do so. Look at phenological work on climate; to the ecologists there’s clear evidence all over the world that climate has started changing. It’s a very small signal emerging from a very noisy background.

    Well, duh. Same applies to any public health concern. If Luke will quit thinking of UCS as “anti-nuclear” and start thinking of them as “anti-stupidity” some progress could be made toward Gen4.

    Personally I think a decade or generation of serious conservation efforts worldwide, buying time to leap past the current plans for building more Gen2 plants (as China is doing) let alone more Gen3 plants, or Gen3+ — is something everyone could come to agree should be done.
    “But, alas, I’m an optimist” — Cassandra


  241. William Fairholm:

    Maybe I’m being too optimistic but I wouldn’t expect water in the pool to look shiny. The illumination (sun) appears to be coming from behind and to the left of the camera viewpoint. Therefore it seems the building debris is blocking the direct sunlight.

    As I said before, below the crane I see a light green area (tank wall?) and then a darker green area (tank wall seen through water?). Also the smoke/vapor plume emanating from the pool seems to be water vapor indicating water in the pool.

    If you look carefully, the vapor/smoke plume starts at the border between the light and dark green areas (at about 7 o’clock on the circle, halfway in to the center) . This is consistent with the light/dark green border being the surface of the water and the plume being vapor coming off the hot water on a cold day. It is not consistent with the plume being smoke from the fuel rods further below the light/dark green border since there would be an unexplainable discontinuity in the smoke plume (at the 7 o’clock, mid-radius area of the circle).

    Links to picture:



  242. Harvey, I guess I don’t get where you are coming from. Perhaps they should bottle the stuff and create a new energy drink called Godzilla juice. It would help people understand the benefits of gamma radiation and make the cleanup more profitable.


  243. Hank Roberts

    I agree. As soon as I saw Luke Weston’s pronouncement I went to the UCS website. I have found there information very detailed and fair with less slant than I have found here. I haven’t read the report they have prepared and released early, because of this accident, so don’t know I would agree with their conclusions or any obserbable bias, but the technical explainations are fair and accurate as far as I can tell. In fact it looks like Barry has used their table of the fuel loads in the reactors and SFPs in his lates update on the situation.


    UCS blog: http://allthingsnuclear.org/
    Go down to Fuel Amounts at Fukushima


  244. Shelby, i’m trying to provide some factual background information so you and others can estimate what will be the “fallout” from this accident.
    You have not provided any facts, so I was just trying to help you along.


  245. Michael Strickland

    I wasn’t saying it was likely to see a reflection of light off the water in the SFP, I just said that the picture wasn’t clear enough to make any judgment. Also, I agree that isn’t smoke but steam. Your still don’t think you can come to the conclusions you have on the level of water in there. I don’t think this steam/water vapour is continuously being emitted as it would be if water was always present. Not enough information from one picture.


  246. Also Luke Weston assured me and then wrote in a feature on this site:

    that they were not injecting seawater into reactor vessel itself. This is after the JAIF reactor status reports were clearly showing this. If he didn’t believe these reports or he had some direct information that this was not true, I didn’t see any documentation to back up his assertion.


  247. Harvey, where I am coming from is that I am a highly intelligent average citizen that is agnostic to nuclear power but highly suspicious of those humans that try to control its power. This was first played out in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The gist of this classic is not that nuclear bombs are dangerous, but the fallibility of human beings mixed with nuclear power is. Forget those who are against nuclear power itself, they will never be convinced. If you want to convince people like myself, the agnostic middle, that nuclear power is safe, you have to convince me that the people who design and deploy nuclear power are 100% competent. That’s a tall order that won’t be reached with stunts like see how this or that disaster wasn’t all that bad in the long run. We want to know that corners were not cut in the name of design cost or profit, we want to know that officials don’t lie or cover up the truth before or after the fact. [unsubstantiated personal comment/appraisal. Please re-post with authoratative references] I hope to god that these brave workers bring this under control with the least loss of life and limb. But don’t try to tell me that bad isn’t really all that bad. I’m not buying it and you only harm your credibility in the process. These reactors were old and poorly designed and clustered together in a poorly designed complex. If they do bring this under control that still must be addressed. There was a natural disaster that caused this nuclear accident but those will continue to happen on this planet and this will not be the last time or the most severe natural disaster. Not to mention the threat of attack or terrorism on a plant, which is another thing all together. Sorry for the long rant, but spinning the affect of a nuclear disaster is not the point. Avoiding the nuclear accident all together is. [unsubstantiated personal opinion/appraisal. Please re-submit with autthoratative references]


  248. Pingback: It’s Friday~ | CactuarJ's NotePad

  249. Selby

    I can see how you can assert that ” these reactors are old” but what is your justification for “pooly designed”? Do you claim that clustering them was a bad design decision? If so can you honestly tell me that if they were spead out before this accident you would not be claiming that having them all over the place putting more people and land area at risk was poor design.

    The area impacted by these four reactors is not much if at all greater than the area that would have been impactee by any one of them.


  250. This is looking better thank goodness.

    Japan ends water spray on No.4 reactor at troubled nuke plant

    English.news.cn 2011-03-20 11:35:42 FeedbackPrintRSS

    TOKYO, March 20 (Xinhua) — Japan’s defense ministry said Sunday that it succeeded in putting water into the No. 4 reactor at the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

    About 80 tons of water was believed to have been shot into the reactor’s spent fuel pool in a 70-minute mission which ended at 9: 30 a.m. local time (0030 GMT).

    In a separate move, the Tokyo Fire Department shot over 2,000 tons of water into a spent fuel pool of the No. 3 reactor in an overnight mission that lasted more than 13 hours until 3:40 a.m. local time Sunday.

    The cooling system was reactivated at the No. 6 reactor, thanks to restoration of electricity supply and the temperature of its overheated spent fuel pool has dropped to around 40 degrees Celsius, according to the operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

    The company is trying to restore electricity to the No. 1 and 2 reactors later Sunday to restart the cooling system.

    The power plant, about 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, was stricken by catastrophic March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, triggering a series of explosion and fire at four of its six reactors following failure of their cooling function due to damaged power supply.



  251. Tom
    From the article I just posted (at the same time as your post) it would seem that problem is under control now.

    BTW Barry – hope we are going to get another update tonight from your sources. These are invaluable.
    I just hope you don’t collapse with fatigue – I saw you were still on the blog at 4.30am today. Wow – that is dedication. You should take a holiday when this is resolved.


  252. Thank you Barry, your contribution is remarkable and selfless. Like you, I hope that one day an alternate, renewable resource can be found. In all likelyhood, it is right in front of our eyes and may have already been seen but not identified as such. In the interm, we have the limited choice of reducing our life style and power lust or accepting the status quo. Neither solution is fully or likely acceptable. For the short term we could close/de-commision older nuclear and coal fired plants as soon as possible and replace them with the newest generation. Of course this is expensive, but as the events show, it is less expensive than allowing things to continue as they are in terms of material cost and human suffering. Do not be hurt by your critics, they have just not thought this through as far as you have. thanks, david


  253. Joshua, on 20 March 2011 at 7:10 AM said:


    I can see how you can assert that ” these reactors are old” but what is your justification for “pooly designed”? Do you claim that clustering them was a bad design decision? If so can you honestly tell me that if they were spead out before this accident you would not be claiming that having them all over the place putting more people and land area at risk was poor design.

    The area impacted by these four reactors is not much if at all greater than the area that would have been impactee by any one of them.

    Hi Joshua

    Industry experts are already making the case and they will continue to elaborate the case as the situation unfolds. From my understanding thus far, the GE Mk1 reactor was a robust low budget work horse reactor in its day. It wasn’t cutting edge in 1965 and its badly outdated (poorly designed) by today’s standard. They have already exceeded their 40 year design life. Many experts assert that all GE Mk1 reactors should be decommissioned rather than retro fitted and recommissioned. An analogy would be comparing the efficiency and crash safety of a 1965 car to a 2011 model. There is no comparison. The clustering of 6 reactors and 11k fuel rods into one complex was mainly done to save operational expenses. That makes sense to the bottom line. But it vastly increases the danger of one accident causing a cascading failure at the other units. If one of those units goes into meltdown, it can and almost did cause so much gamma radiation that workers could not get into the other units to save them from also melting down. It also has caused power failure and backup systems to fail throughout the plant. Which brings us to another design oversight, the proper level of redundant backup systems were not in place to deal with a large scale disaster. It has also been reported that Tepco knew before this accident that the reactors were vulnerable to this type of natural disaster, yet failed to design proper disaster strategies. This type of negligence cannot be tolerated. It has in part lead to this outcome. The saddest part for me is the negligent officials are not fighting and dying to bring this reactor under control, the low and mid level managers, firefighters, and other heroes are the ones paying the price.

    All older reactors should be decommissioned immediately.

    All reactors in natural disaster zones should be decommissioned.

    Any new reactors should be the safest most modern reactors built in the safest places. It’s not like we don’t have a national power grid to get the power from safe locations to densely populated or danger prone areas.


  254. Joshua wrote:
    I just ran Google Translate on the document posted earlier with the radiation readings. All of the 300uSV readings are listed as WEST GATE. All of the 3000 have SECRETARY TATE KITIMOTO instead of a location. Is this a fault of automatic translation?

    Drew wrote:
    @Joshua, google translator fault, that’s the main gate… It’s closer to the reactors

    Drew wrote:
    Joshua I made a mistake that’s the main office building (事務本館北) 正門 is main gate 西門 is west gate

    事務本館北 means Main Office Building (North) and that seems to be the white rectangle right in the middle of the diagram which is two buildings away to the north-west from reactor #1. (BTW, the smaller red building next to reactor #1 is the Main Office Building Annex.) The character for north doesn’t appear on the map next to the characters for “Main Office Building” but because of the high level of 3000 i suspect it is that building due to its proximity to the reactors.

    This is the map showing the plan for bringing in electricity 2011031900004_2.JPG 1,002×709 pixels
    from here 東京電力福島第一原発、電源引き込み工事始まる – 法と経済のジャーナル Asahi Judiciary – WEBマガジン – 朝日新聞社(Astand)


  255. If one was brutally honest TEPCO has made little real progress for the last 5 days. To find out what is going on in the buildings why don’t they take a building site crane which has a telescopic boom and mount a TV camera and other radiation sensor equipment on it and send it in over the site. They could leave it their to monitor what is going in. They could do this for each of the 4 sites. This would give them precise info, not guess work and supposition.

    And if anyone thinks electric pumps which have had sea water through them are going to work when you switch the current on needs to think again. Try doing that with your hair dryer after its been in the bath!!. Too much linear thinking is going on at TEPCO. They need more PlanB’s and C’s all to be progressed at the same time.

    From a risk management perspective this plant has been operating way outside its design spec for almost 2 weeks. They cant continue to be “lucky” that it remains relatively stable.


  256. Pingback: Minä ja Tšernobyl – George Monbiot ja Fukushima « Gaia

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