On the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, we have compiled a list of our top FOIA documents during the first week of the event. It is important for regular people who also have been watching the Fukushima disaster to not just have an accurate record of the sequence of events, but also to understand clearly what was known as the events occurred. What is perfectly clear in the various documents from March 11th through March 18th – the time period when reactors 1, 2 and 3 were actively melting and exploding and the unit 4 spent fuel pool fires led to a fourth reactor building blow-out – is that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, along with several other departments and agencies of the U.S. government and the UN’s IAEA, were watching the situation very closely.
Our government was intimately involved in withholding accurate data from the public as well as minimizing what was being publicly reported. The NRC, as you will read, was doing fairly well at first analyzing early data on actual conditions at the Fukushima plants. At the same time there was a lot of high level pressure to manage PR so the commission would not be the “official” government body to keep the public informed.
On the morning of March 13, 2011, Naval Reactors notified the NRC that dose rates were being measured from the flight deck of the USS Reagan that was -130 nautical miles off the Japanese coast. Dose rates from the overhead “plume” were approximately 0.6 mrem/hour gamma with no measurable activity on the ship surfaces. The Navy sent the contamination samples to a base in Japan to perform an isotopic analysis to determine the actual radionuclides. The principle radionuclides identified were iodine, cesium, and technetium, consistent with a release from a nuclear reactor. The SPEEDI system, which was supposed to warn Japanese authorities of the possible dispersion pathways for radioactive particles released from the Fukushima disaster was run, but the results were hidden from the public for weeks and in some cases months.
The NRC received these SPEEDI calculations and maps from Japan, generally within a matter of minutes or hours of the predictive calculations being completed. We have been working to archive and sort these transmissions for the public, and the full archive list can be found here. No one is asking the real important questions, like why didn’t anyone confront NISA and TEPCO about potential problems in their approach to tsunami risk assessments? When did officials in the United States become aware that Prime Minister Kan and other senior officials were unaware of the Japanese emergency system designed to track the spread of radioactive particles from the crippled plant, and did they consider the calculations as inaccurate as the Japanese Government did? To the public, the overwhelming lesson of Fukushima was that nuclear reactors are hazardous and support for expanding or maintaining nuclear power decreased nearly everywhere.
To start the journey through the top 125 documents, Joy Thompson points us to the March 11th e-mail sent to update NRC employees on what to do if contacted by the media. Read the rest of Joy’s series published on Enformable documenting a portion of the earlier-released FOIA’s for a more in-depth and narrated journey through the closed-door conversations related to Fukushima.
Fukushima FOIA – Part I – Who Knew What When (enformable.com)
Fukushima Docs 2: I Feel Like Crying (enformable.com)
Fukushima Docs 3: Heavily Redacted (enformable.com)
Fukushima Docs 4 – A Marathon Not A Sprint (enformable.com)
Fukushima FOIA Docs 5 – Did We Know This?? (enformable.com)
Fukushima FOIA Docs 6 – Your Career Likely Over (enformable.com)
Fukushima FOIA Docs 7: We made the Onion! (enformable.com)
Fukushima FOIA Docs 8: A Real Outrage (enformable.com)
Friday, March 11, 2011 @ 3:04 PM
This is the “NOT A DRILL” notice pictured above the squiggle. It sets the tone for information control with instructions specific to dealing with the international press. In the first paragraph it identifies where employees may direct the press in order to access the ‘official’ press releases from NRC, and urges any NRC employees who ARE contacted by the media to inform the NRC Office of Public Affairs immediately.
Then employees are handed “two important reminders” that they MUST NOT respond directly to requests for information from anyone outside the United States, but to steer the requesters to the NRC Operations Center [OpCenter], and mentions that all assistance employees may wish to provide to a foreign entity [Japan, obviously] MUST be coordinated through OpCenter and the State Department.
Finally, the OpCenter notice informs employees that if they obtain any information about Fukushima or any other nuclear emergency, they should provide that information to the Operations Officer at OpCenter.
March 11th, 2011 – Check out the TEPCO website – doesn’t sound good
March 11th, 2011 – We are safe and lucky this time.
March 11th, 2011 – We missed all the fun – There may be many casualties
March 11th, 2011 – Preliminary unconfirmed confidential information regarding Fukushima Daiichi
March 11th, 2011 – Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 not able to get to cold shutdown
March 11th, 2011 – Fukushima must not have indication of RCIC flow or cooling is not working
March 11th, 2011 – They are struggling to shut down the plant – We all need to say a prayer
March 11th, 2011 – NHK reports Fukushima Units 1 and 2 experiencing cooling problems
March 11th, 2011 – Temperature in Reactor 1 Fuel Rods Up 50% Above Normal Levels
March 11th, 2011 – NRC speaker at RIC claimed Japanese plants more seismically robust than US plants
March 11th, 2011 – This may get really ugly in the next few days
March 11th, 2011 – Radioactive Steam Could Be Released From Fukushima Daiichi After NRC Knew Temperature in Reactor 1 Fuel Rods Up 50% Above Normal Levels
March 11th, 2011 – Information more significant than official reports out
March 11th, 2011 – Fukushima Daiichi fuel could have been broken because iodine concentration in air began to be increased at the site boundary
March 11th, 2011 – Absence of NRC commentary in MSM reports is noteworthy
March 11th, 2011 – I was told to supply information ONLY to the ops center from now on which I think is misguided
March 11th, 2011 – Wonder about the details of how this played out. – Official sources can’t or won’t comment – Pressure rose over 1.5x design pressure of RPV?
March 11th, 2011 – BBC is reporting radiation levels at reactor are 1000x normal. I feel like crying.
March 11th, 2011 – If units 1, 2 and 3 have all lost emergency diesel generators, it would seem that this is more than coincidence
March 11th, 2011 – Where is the in-country and established US Nuclear infrastructure in Japan?
March 11th, 2011 – What the NRC knew as of 11:00 pm
March 11th, 2011 – NRC 23:15 Telecon Fukushima – Reactor 2 containment pressure almost double of design basis
March 12th, 2011 – JNES to NRC – We feel we grasp well the situation – In case we will need further expertise, we will let you know
March 12th 2011 – Core Damage at Unit 1 Prior to Explosion
March 12th 2011 12:52 PM FOAI Communication – Reactor 1 Water level was known to be below top of active fuel
March 12th, 2011 – NRC folks following this issue outside of the Op center can’t really tell what is going on – GEH had over 70 employees onsite at the time of the quake
March 13th, 2011 – JNES Communications – Reactor 2 fuel uncovered – Reactor 3 explosion
March 13th, 2011 UPDATE from 07:30 telecon – Fukushima Daiichi – USS Ronald Reagan picking up airborne contamination
March 13th, 2011 – FOIA UPDATE from 15:30 telecon – Reactor 3 core believed 50% uncovered in first 2 days
March 13th, 2011 – We live in Western (Redacted) I’ve called around and can’t secure KI
March 13th, 2011 – This will be a natural reaction – The nuclear industry will need to get in front of this
March 14th, 2011 – All of fuels seem to be uncovered at Unit 2 – Contrasts MSM Message
March 14th, 2011 – Drywell Failure Probability and Pedestal Melt-Through Given Wet Drywell
March 14th, 2011 – Looks like RCIC at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 has failed.
March 14th, 2011 – Things are getting really bad at Unit 2
March 14th, 2011 – TEPCO Started Sea Water Injection But Does Not Work Well – All of fuels seem to be uncovered in Unit 2
March 14th, 2011 – What to do with respect to Potassium Iodide for those going to Japan?
March 14th, 2011 – NRC ONLY Update – All 3 Reactor cores likely damaged
March 14th, 2011 – I’m a little concerned about the spent fuel storage pools for Units 1 and 3
March 14th, 2011 – Indications of Breach of Containment at Reactor 2
March 14th, 2011 – Is our [U.S.] battery backup power less effective than the Japanese?
March 14th, 2011 – This is the TBW sequence we’ve all dreaded – Japan still very secretive
March 14th, 2011 – Any inconsistencies or statements that undermine will have lasting effects
March 14th, 2011 – Containment Failure Values – Long term SBO, Loss of Decay Heat Removal
March 14th, 2011 – Receiving petitions to shut down all plants – Need NMSS help!
March 14th, 2011 – JAEA member report of March 11th events
March 14th, 2011 – We need more KI – Use federal and industry counterparts to accomplish work
March 14th, 2011 – Quick Summary of the Honshu Earthquake in Japan
March 14th, 2011 – Frustrating but we have little factual info as an agency
March 14th, 2011 – Fukushima is a total loss – May see another TMI ‘After Shock’
March 14th, 2011 – A few stories also mention the rods were uncovered to a great extent at units 2 and 3 – maybe when they were blowing down with the SRVs to prepare to inject seawater via the fire trucks
March 14th, 2011 – Japan Requested US Supply 6 BWR 3 & 4 Experts to Assist in ‘Hour of Need’ at 2 different EOC locations
March 14th, 2011 – Ops Center tasked to compare some of the dose assessment results on the Japanese plants to Chernobyl
TEPCO Earthquake Information Update as of March 14, 2300(JST) – Fukushima Daini Unit 1 in Cold Shutdown – All Fuel Became Uncovered AGAIN
March 14, 2011, 11:30pm Japan Nuclear Facility Updates – Unit 2 Ex Vessel Fuel Damage – Substantial Debris in Unit 3 SFP
March 15th, 2011 – Fukushima Daiichi Units Degrading – Zirconium Fire at Reactor 4 SFP – Reactor 2 Possible Reactor Vessel Breach & Ex-Vessel Core Reaction
March 15th, 2011 – We’ve also heard that plans to dump water on the fire with helicopters was abandoned.
March 15th, 2011 – The Conditions in Japan appear to have degraded
March 15th, 2011 – “Re-criticality” is a major concern – I hope transient will become stable
March 15th, 2011 Deflect any questions about scary numbers with the “we’ll review for scientific validity”
March 15th, 2011 – Are we still looking at a possible total meltdown and big release?
March 15th, 2011 – NRC debates INES levels 3 days prior to actual upgrade to Level 5
March 15th, 2011 – I’m surprised the turbine buildings held up – Can’t find the diesels
March 15th, 2011 – Significant corrosion of the Oyster Creek torus in 1980s
March 15th, 2011 – I hope you slept well – you have bigger fish to fry (e.g., Reactors in Japan).
March 15th, 2011 – We do not have sufficient information to compare US & Japanese batteries
March 15th, 2011 – Don’t know if Japan added hardened vent but I’m sure they are well aware of it
March 15th, 2011 – TEPCO fail on info-sharing / No N-crisis HQ for 4 days after tsunami disabled reactor cooling system
March 15th, 2011 – All 3 Reactors have known fuel damage – 50 Staff on site – 5 may have received fatal radiation doses
March 15th, 2011 – I’ve been pretty depressed about that Japanese business
March 15th 2011 – Unit 2 Containment Probably Breached – Loud Explosion – Containment Pressure Drop – Radiation Spike – Spent Fuel Fire
March 15th, 2011 – Core Exposed at #2 Fukushima Daiichi
March 15th 2011 – Unclear Fires At Reactor 4 SFP
March 15th, 2011 – The fire’s back in unit 4 – Unit 4 pool has a full core load in it and needs full attention – Holes in the upper structure from the earlier hydrogen explosion in unit 4
March 15th, 2011 UPDATE: 2000 EDT Telecon on Fukushima Daiichi – Unit 4 New Fire Broken Out – Doses in Area around 30R/hr
March 15th, 2011 – The Whole Spent Fuel Pool At Reactor 3 Could Boil Dry In 20 Days
March 16th, 2011 – Message from Japanese Scientist – Fukushima serious containment issues
March 16th, 2011 – Date that winds from Japan crossing March 13th 2011 would arrive in the West Coast per modeling at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant
March 16th, 2011 – Japan reports 5 persons have received lethal radiation doses
March 16th, 2011 – German GRS Reached Out to NRC “asking for fast action to help combat the shutdown of seven reactors in Germany in wake of the Japan events”
March 16th, 2011 – Tried dropping water from helicopters but only hit the target once
March 16th, 2011 – Might consider completing a worse case dose map
March 16th, 2011 – A public meeting and our key messages must be couched accordingly
March 16th, 2011 – That is no excuse Mike – The agency needs help
March 16th, 2011 – Unit 4 SFP walls have collapsed – Fuel may no longer be intact
March 16th, 2011 – MELCOR input deck – GRS wants run on Mark 1 to fight back
March 16th, 2011 – Situation getting worse and NRC response continuing to increase
March 16th, 2011 – Abnormal noise emanating from nearby pressure suppression chamber
March 16th, 2011 – Prairie Island Confirmation of Radiation from Japan
March 16th, 2011 – Harold Denton Former NRC Spokesperson during TMI calling all over NRC
March 16th, 2011 – Official Japanese Request for Assets to Cool SFP & Diagram
March 16th, 2011 – Fukushima Units 1,2,3 have fuel damage – Lost secondary containment integrity
March 16th, 2011 – Gary briefed me before the press rediscovered the issues
March 16th, 2011- ABC News Wants confirmation that things are definitely taking a turn for the worse – Per Holly – ignoring media calls
March 16th, 2011 – Assessing SFP Damage – SOARCA – Uncovered Spent Fuel Reports – Leak at Unit 4 SFP
March 16th 2011 – NRC Admits Zirc Fire Is Possible – But Won’t Release All the Research Data
March 16th, 2011 – NRC internally frustrated by lack of better response to ‘biased (MSNBC) report’
March 16th, 2011 – In Which the NRC Puts The ‘OPA Folks’ on the MSNBC GI-199 ‘Piece of Junk’
March 16th, 2011 – Where the NRC deeply regrets MSNBC’s reporter using the GI 199 Data against them
March 16th, 2011 – Classified as OUO documents – BWR zirc fire data
March 17th, 2011 – Proposal to handle dried Spent Fuel Pool
March 17th, 2011 – MACCS calculations capable of 8,000 miles – Usually run to 1,000 miles
March 17th, 2011 – Business as usual won’t exist for a long time – Try to keep smiling
March 17th, 2011 – Fukushima Daiichi Dose Models – RASCAL Runs justifying U.S. PARs
March 17th, 2011 – We need to dig up the Mark-1 liner issue resolution stuff
March 17th, 2011 – RadNet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We should be careful
March 17th ,2011 – We have tribes in the Aleutian Islands worried about radiation fall-out and effects from Fukushima
March 17th, 2011 – This is a marathon, not a sprint – Take time to go outside and enjoy the spring
March 17th 2011- All the Troublesome Reactor Venting and How to Prevent It
March 18th, 2011 – Accident progression at Fukushima Reactor 4 SFP MELCOR Request
March 18th, 2011 – Design Basis Floods Determined from Area-Discharge Envelopes – Not comfortable with level of conservatism
March 18th, 2011 – National Weather Service Reports used to estimate precipitation are 30-40 years old
March 18th, 2011 – Everyone in NRC is getting their emails FOIA’ed by AP – This should be fun
March 18th, 2011 – NRC Systems Analyst – 3 reactors with exposed fuel SFP Questionable
March 18th, 2011 – NRC creates a script for team in Japan to use when talking with family
March 18th 2011 – Consequences of criticality in one of the spent fuel pools not significant in comparison to consequences of sfp remaining empty
March 18th, 2011- Thank you. I’ll take your note as a sincere compliment, but are you drinking already?
March 18th 2011 – It might be good to know the effects of salt deposition on cooling of BWR fuel assemblies
March 18th, 2011 – The sealing of doors has very little effect on ‘sheltering in-place’
March 18th, 2011 – There’s Got to be a ton of loose materials floating in the SFP – I would not be surprised if the top 10 feet or so of the sfp was sloshed out
March 18th-23rd, 2011 – Fukushima Daiichi NRC Official Use Only Photos and Timeline
March 18th, 2011 – SPF Issues Investigated – Little Cladding Left – Fuel maybe in form of a rubble bed
March 18th, 2011 – NRC and GE Inspecting Photos to Determine Whether Drywell Head Intact in Reactor 3 – 50 Mile Evacuation Was Good Call – Aleutian Islands I-131
March 19th, 2011 – Designer of safety systems for GE Fukushima Reactor
March 19th, 2011 – Misinformed about outreach to USAID during 1530 conference call
March 19th, 2011 – The NRC gave Michael Scott KI to go to Japan – He probably won’t each much in the way of green leafy veggies while over there.
March 19th, 2011 – NRC does not want to be viewed as managing Fukushima accident – Complications with 4 train seawater system original cost was $750k but then Bechtel upped it to $9.6 million