Fukushima Docs 2: I Feel Like Crying

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This post is part of an on-going series originally posted at DailyKos and republished by Enformable with permission of the author.  Through the series the author highlights and comments on FOIA documents released by the NRC in response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster.


Part I – Who Knew What When 

Originally Published Here

In Part I of this series linking to some of the documents Lucas W. Hixson received from the NRC in response to an FOIA request – which he has been uploading to his website – we looked at some internal NRC communications about the situation at Fukushima Daiichi from March 11 through March 15. This was the 5-day period when the reactors were actively melting, reactor buildings were actively exploding, and spent fuel pools were burning. Before moving on to what was happening in following days and weeks, there are a few more documents for the earliest days that help round out a picture of what our NRC knew when, but also the developing PR strategy toward information control that is often a more pressing concern to industry and government regulators when something very bad happens.

Again, links to each of these documents at Lucas’ website are included right under the document number (for our archival purposes). I encourage readers to visit Enformable to peruse these and many more documents.

Document 15:
Friday, March 11, 2001 @ 4:49 PM

Internal email from Daniel Mills in response to notification from Andrew Nosek that TEPCO was reporting a triple SBO [Site Black-Out]. Short and poignant…

BBC is reporting radiation levels at reactor are 1000x normal. I feel like crying.

This exchange is revealing for its very brevity. NRC employees were obviously well-versed enough in the technology they are tasked to promote and/or regulate to understand clearly right from the first how bad the situation at Fukushima was. This ‘First Fact’ is something we all need to keep in mind while piecing together a sketch from these NRC documents of who knew what when, and what they did with what they knew.

Document 16:
Friday, March 11, 2011 @ 11:44 PM

Email from James Polickoski expressing some surprise at the “lack of awareness” in TEPCO press releases about the Daiichi situation, and reminding colleagues of the US Navy’s nuclear presence in-country to provide immediate – and “urgent” – assistance. He highlights one passage in an initial TEPCO press release as his cause for concern –

“At present, we have decided to prepare implementing measures to reduce the pressure of the reactor containment vessel (partial discharge of air containing radioactive materials) in order to fully secure safety. These measures are considered to be implemented in Units 1 to 4 and accordingly, we have reported and/or noticed the government agencies concerned.”

What this reveals is that by the morning of March 12 in Japan, our NRC had already gamed the scenarios and knew the plants were in full meltdown mode, but at least some were still expressing dismay that TEPCO didn’t seem to understand that. Remember this is early reaction, it didn’t take the NRC long to figure out that the reason TEPCO and the Japanese government didn’t want U.S. help is because they were determined to Lie and Deny instead.

Once Lie and Deny became the official nuclear industry and governmental response in Japan, it would require a “conspiracy of acquiescence” for other governments and their official promotional/regulatory arms. Looks like Mr. Polickoski didn’t really want to contemplate that scenario before bedtime on the 11th (U.S. time).

Document 17:
Saturday, March 12, 2011 @ 6:24 AM

Official Japanese government response to the NRC’s urgent offers of U.S. aid to TEPCO during the crisis –

President of JNES, Mr. Sogabe, thanks you for transmitting the warm thoughts and expression from Mr. Jaczko. It is indeed a terrible disaster and we are very sorry for the victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis.We also appreciate your offer of support. For the time being, we feel we grasp well the situation, but it is very encouraging that the experienced American experts are ready to support us.

As for BWR experts, we already have enough support from Japanese BWR vendors, but your kind offer reassures us. In case we need further expertise, we will let you know.

Right now, we are working hard to have the situation under control. This is the worst event that we have ever had in our country, but we hope to get through the challenge.

We will, of course, try to share the information on the event with you as far as we can spare our efforts for that.

With best regards,
Akiko Iwamoto
Assistant Director
Office of International Programs

Thanks but no thanks, we’ve already decided what we’re going to do or not do.

Document 18:
Saturday, March 12, 2011 @ 5:22 PM

“Backgrounder” of talking points generated by the American Nuclear Society in response to the events at Fukushima Daiichi. Choice excerpt –

Is a nuclear reactor “meltdown” a catastrophic event?Not necessarily. Nuclear reactors are built with redundant safety systems.

Even if the fuel in the reactor melts, the reactor’s containment systems are designed to prevent the spread of radioactivity into the environment.

Don’t panic, everything’s fine…

The nuclear power industry will learn from this event, and redesign our facilities as needed to make them safer in the future.

Yeah. And I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’ll sell you cheap.

Document 19:
Monday, March 14, 2011 @ 1:11 AM

Communique from then-President of the ANS [American Nuclear Society, industry group that is NOT the NRC] listing formalized talking points per the implications of Fukushima Daiichi to U.S. nuclear plants. It begins…

Dear ANS Members:

ANS members? Remember, this came from a federal agency in response to an FOIA for internal documents pertaining to the Fukushima disaster. The darned things were busy exploding most spectacularly when this was written and received. Interested followers of this group will probably want to click on the link and read the talking points for themselves, they echo so perfectly the standard pro-nuclear stance here since the very start of this crisis.

It’s a tight-knit group (obviously). If ANS can call the PR shots for NRC, they can certainly call them for all the PR firms scrambled to defend the industry in the wake of Fukushima.

Document 20:
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 @ 12:47 PM

And just for a teaser on the world’s nuclear industry and their protector governments in documents going forward, I thought I’d include the below email circulated in response to a request from Germany’s nuclear industry group for NEA/NRC help in preventing the ordered shutdown of seven German reactors following the events at Fukushima. The NEA [Nuclear Energy Association] is yet another insider industry group that GRS would likely find some lobbying help. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission? To “combat” another sovereign government’s considered actions based on the meltdowns in Japan? Where’s that kind of jurisdiction coming from?

GRS was asking for fast action to help combat the the shutdown of seven reactors in Germany in wake of the Japan events. Dr. Weiss, director general of GRS, (through the German NEA employee in our division) was making the request.Since it was Director General of GRS and a counterpart of Brian Sheron on the CSNI board, I sent the request directly to Brian and Bill Borchardt.

Brian (below) responded quickly with help for GRS. And they are very grateful to the NRC.

Hmmm… Didn’t work out all that well in the end, did it?

In these supplemental documents to internal NRC communications during the first days of the catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi we see the course of response change from genuine alarm at the technical situation – with ample offers of expert help, which the Japanese refused because they’d already decided to just lie instead – right into industry protection and preservation, even in other people’s countries whose governments had already responded as they deemed necessary for their own safety.

“Protect the industry first and foremost” is not the job description of the federal government agency tasked with regulating the industry so that it abides by requirements intended to prevent harm to the general public. Maybe someone ought to have informed the NRC about this before the NRC decided to intervene on behalf of the German nuclear industry against the ordered actions of the German government.

This fills in Part I: Who Knew What When. This establishes clearly that the NRC and American nuclear industry leaders were very much aware of the situation in Japan, thus entirely unable to legitimately claim at any later date that they “didn’t know” how bad it was. Part II will begin offering chronological documentation of various tactics in the game of “information control” and coverup engaged once Japan was allowed to set the bar, having already determined to deceive their own public as well as the rest of the world.

The world nuclear industry and their governments went along with it even though some individuals strongly suspected the truth would come back to bite them on the ass. Once your credibility has been blown to kingdom come, what in the world would make them think the public will ever trust them again?

Stay tuned for some rather surprising answers…

Previous Posts to this series:

Fukushima Docs: NOT A DRILL

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