Fukushima FOIA Docs 5 – Did We Know This??

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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.


In episode 4 of this series – A Marathon, Not a Sprint – we managed to get all the way to March 22, eleven days after the meltdowns began. I’ve been examining the NRC documentation released in response to Lucas W. Hixson’s FOIA request. These are internal communications among and between divisions, communications with tasked DOE scientists and engineers, and some exchanges with outside ‘experts’ in the nuclear industry, its lobbying groups, and various other governmental functionaries.

The subject of Unit-4’s spent fuel pool [SFP] – where its entire core was residing while maintenance was being done – its leaky condition following the earthquake, the hydrogen explosion that managed to destroy the reactor building as thoroughly as Units 1&3, and subsequent zirconium fires (one in Unit-3’s SFP, it turns out) in the period between March 14th and 17th has factored very prominently in the early documents pertaining to technical analysis.

In this installment I’m jumping forward into the first week of April on the subject of SFP fires/source terms for release estimates and plume plotting. Thus this episode of the Fukushima Docs falls entirely into the category of What they knew and when they knew it, and doesn’t touch on the other subjects of the overall series.

More early documents pertaining to concerns about the SFPs are included in installments Docs 1Docs 3 and Docs 4, for those interested and new to this series.


I was convinced to narrow the focus to the spent fuel pool(s) in this diary due to the insistence of one of my live-in nuclear apologists. You know, the guys who usually show up to start lobbing insults after my diaries are at least a day old and well off the list. Anyway, this one objected to my mention of the SFP fire(s) by insisting that they never happened. Now, these same apologists are also all the way back to insisting that radioactive contamination doesn’t travel in plumes, almost as if they sort of expect people who follow things nuclear to believe that line of hogwash. It has been hilariously asserted that contamination doesn’t get deposited as ‘fallout’ to contaminate the earth below, and that all radiation detected in Japan and elsewhere since March 11th is just leftover fallout from contamination plumes that blanketed the planet back in the days of atmospheric bomb testing in the 1950s and early ’60s.

Don’t ask me how they think this is going to fly. These people don’t need to make rational sense, I guess. I’m pretty sure they’ll be around as soon as this is off the list if anyone cares to ask.

For the purpose of establishing what has already been well documented in 4 of the last 5 posts to this series, I’m going to cite the last document in this particular series about the Unit-4 SFP fire(s). I have used the pertinent citation from this document as the subtitle of this installment – Did we know this?? Notice not one, but two question marks, which indicates a little sarcasm to me, given the sheer volume of documents from March 14th on dealing specifically with the Unit-4 (and Unit-3) spent fuel pool zirconium fires. The subject, btw, of the experimental and modeling data about SFP zirconium fires that was “Heavily Redacted” in installment 4 of this series due to OUO [Official Use Only] DOE classification.

Wednesday, April 6 @  1:05 PM – A rather pithy back and forth among top NRC officials was set off by Jack Grobe, Deputy Director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation for the NRC when he asked…

Japan just said there was a zirc fire in Unit 4 SFP. Did we know this??

Now, this was still early on enough for the “Japanese” – especially their version of NRC [NISA] and various revolving government ministers who kept publicly quitting in protest of the coverup of true conditions and dangers – not to have established any sort of fool-proof consistency on lies being told by TEPCO and/or NISA. Which were often directly contradicted by the very next statement coming from some other player. There had by then already been at least three wildly differing and patently absurd ‘stories’ from Japan about the fires the whole world witnessed in press video and photographs. It would seem that by April 6, three weeks after the fires began, some Japanese government spokesperson forgot what the latest cover story was and blurted out a truth the whole rest of the nuclear world had known all along.

Final response to Grobe, from William Ruland, Director of the Division of Safety Systems for the NRC, appears equally tongue-in-cheek…

Depends what is meant by “know.”

Heh. Love that dry humor, bet it was typed with a straight face and everything.

Rather than go around and around on this, I’m just going to list the documents pertaining to the SFP fires in Units 3&4 that have not already been featured so far in this series. I provide them now so those who are interested can come to their own conclusions about what nukes might know about nukes. Many of these same documents will be featured in future installments, in the vein of analytical narrative I’ve been using previously, so we’ll meet the subject again in passing.

I am hoping I won’t need more than 10 posts altogether to offer the actual documents, and plan to then provide a 3-part conclusion at that point, one to each of the subjects I’ve been covering more chronologically:

• What our NRC knew (and when)
• What our NRC did with what they knew
• How our NRC got itself involved in the massive, worldwide coverup of true conditions and dangers

March 15th: Daiichi Units Degrading – Zirconium Fire at Reactor 4 SFP – Reactor 2 Possible Vessel Breach & Ex-Vessel Core Reaction

March 16: Assessing SFP Damage – SOARCA – Uncovered Spent Fuel Reports – Leak at Unit 4 SFP

March 17: Draft EDO Update – Concern about SFP – 50 Mile Evacuation

March 18: Consequences of criticality in SFP not significant in comparison to consequences of SFP remaining empty

March 20: Band of elevated dose rates to 18 mi from plant to northwest seems to coincide with “Lube Oil Fire” in Reactor 4 SFP

March 27: UPDATE from 2000 Telecon on Fukushima Daiichi Events

March 29: Isotopic makeup of spent fuel 5% enrichment

The subject of the spent fuel pools features in many other documents as well, but I don’t know that I’ll be spending too much time on that (the truth has been known for months now). Will probably be focusing on other subjects, many of these exchanges cover several topics of concern.

We’d all like to think everybody who could respond to Fukushima did the most they could do, but we also know from what’s been dribbling out as the months go by that they didn’t. And they still aren’t. And they never plan to. Instead, the industry and its pet watchdogs will go on as if nothing has changed. Their lies will be more transparent far less believable than they used to be, but they’ll still be lying. About everything, all the time. It’s who they are. What they do. The very nature of the beast.

That is never going to change.

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