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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.

By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

384 replies on “Fukushima March 18 evening update, Barry Brook on the future of nuclear energy”

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


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.



Has anyone considered the possibility that the earthquake sloshed water out of the pools simply by the violence of the motion?


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.


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….


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.


Jon Seymour, on 19 March 2011 at 10:17 AM — SOme water would have sloshed out, but the spent fuel pons are quite deep.


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.


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…



sorry, PARs Protective Action Recommendations. I have some family things going on here that I am not totally focused on the the discussion.


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.


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?


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.


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…



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Time to admit we are just a part of nature and subject to the forces of the planet/universe. Sit back and enjoy the ride space cadets.


That makes perfect sense, but how does that mean that a NPP on Japans eastcoast is not prepped for a relatively expectable phenomena as an earthquake/tsuname combination of destructive magnitude?


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.



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.


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?


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.


em1ss, on 19 March 2011 at 11:46 AM — Always David, never Dave; that’s someone else around here.

Thank you for your prompt reply giving your understanding of the unfolding events.


Well what I ment was how long can you keep using satl water as coolant before stuff breaks down. Wont it corrode?


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.


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 ….


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.


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?


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?


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?


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.


Joshua, I concur.
From the wikipedia article on tsunamis and megatsunamis.
Largest wave height: 524m
Design for that if you can.


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.


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.


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.


Since the public has a 5 minute attention span they will have forgotten about Fukushima by the time El Nino and $150 a barrel oil arrive. That has to be in the next 3-4 years.



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.


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.


@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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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?



I just reread my earlier post and noticed that my tone and using “you” could be read as *you* that was not my intention


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.


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.


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.


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)



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.


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??


@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.


Nikkei, on 19 March 2011 at 1:25 PM — I attempted an answer to your inquery earlier. It is based on what I have learned on these several threads here on Brave New Climate.


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.


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)


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.



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.


The weather forecast says rain in the area starting Sun. evening and through Monday. How would it affect the situation?


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.


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.


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.


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.)


Wouldn’t covering the site up with sand and concrete just hamper cooling and lead to buildup of heat and pressure and eventually a uranium volcano?


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.


“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.


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)


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


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