In October 2014, I participated in a meeting with Dave Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists, Lawrence Criscione (who works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but was participating in the meeting as a private citizen), Tim Judson of Nuclear Information Research Service, Jim Riccio of Greenpeace, Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear and the NRC Staff. During that meeting each of the participants presented their concerns with how the NRC was interpreting certain FOIA rules. My particular concerns that I presented at that meeting pertained to documents released relating to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
After that meeting, a group of participants (Lochbaum (Chairman), Judson, Riccio, Gunter, and Hixson) determined to form an official committee to interface with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on FOIA-related activities. That is how in December of 2014 the Freedom of Information Team (FIT) came into being.
On July 31st, 2015, I emailed Dave Lochbaum about a FOIA request that I hoped he would submit for me.
I had come across some information from Kenji Tateiwa, who is the Nuclear Power Programs Manager at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility which operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Tateiwa graduated from Kyoto University in 1996 with a BS/MS in Nuclear Engineering and was immediately hired by TEPCO.
Before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Tateiwa worked at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, then was transferred to Tokyo to work at TEPCO’s severe accident analysis branch of the Nuclear Engineering Department. In 2010 Tateiwa was part of the TEPCO delegation that pursued investing in new nuclear reactors in Texas.
Tateiwa was in Tokyo in the early days of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, translating TEPCO press releases from Japanese to English, meeting with the EU delegation and the NRC. He was also present at a very important meeting on March 27th in Tokyo between NISA, INPO, and the NRC. He participated in the IAEA Preliminary Fact-Finding visit to the Fukushima Daiichi plant in April 2011 and May 2011. In June 2011 he was at the private residence of U.S. Ambassador Roos trying to reinforce ties, and in August he was aiding the INPO-led support team at Fukushima Daiichi. By September 2011, Tateiwa was transferred to the TEPCO office in Washington D.C.
I felt that there was much that the public could learn and benefit from a better understanding of what Tateiwa knew and when and what he relayed to the NRC and when, so I asked Mr. Lochbaum to FOIA for all communication and materials transmitted between Mr. Tateiwa and any member of the NRC.
Dave Lochbaum submitted a FOIA request on Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 at 10:36:17 A.M. for “All materials transmitted between Mr. Kenji Tateiwa and the NRC from March 1, 2011, to date. Also, all written communications (e.g., emails, memos, letters, reports) between Mr. Kenji Tateiwa and the NRC from March 1, 2011, to date. By letter dated April 23, 2015 (ML15113B323), the ACRS Chairman conveyed appreciation to TEPCO, Mr. Tateiwa’s employer, for his appearance before the ACRS on April 10, 2015. The ACRS chairman stated that Mr. Tateiwa had “unique insights” and had great “familiarity with the Fukushima Daiichi issues.” UCS is aware that Mr. Tateiwa has had extensive experience with the Fukushima response and cleanup and seeks more of his “unique insights.””
No response was ever received from the NRC. On December 8th, I emailed Dave and asked if he had ever gotten a response. He replied and told me that no, in fact the NRC had not acted on the FOIA request, potentially because of a defect with the FOIA request system at the agency.
On December 9th, Dave emailed the NRC and informed them of the oversight and requested that they follow up on the FOIA request. He received a reply from Karen Danoff, a Government Information Specialist at the NRC, acknowledging receipt of the FOIA request.
Dave received an email from Karen Danoff again in the afternoon of Monday, December 14th. In that communication Dave was notified that there could be “hundreds, or possibly thousands, of email” and they asked whether we could limit our scope to narrow down the number of documents that we would receive so they could save staff time and resources.
Dave was puzzled, after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, several individuals and organizations submitted FOIA requests for essentially any and all records related to the event. Seeing as Mr. Tateiwa served for a long time as TEPCO’s representative in Washington, as liaison to several post-Fukushima inquiries, and was such an important part of integrating with TEPCO, Dave had assumed that most (if not all) of the Tateiwa e-mails had already been released and our request would only bring a handful of new e-mails to light. In no way did Dave expect that “hundreds, or possible thousands” of records to/from Mr. Tateiwa could have avoided having been released during these many prior FOIA requests and releases.
Clearly, previous FOIA requests by other organizations and individuals encompassed emails and should’ve included Tateiwa’s records, but when Dave searched the NRC ADAMS database, he could only find ten records – six of them being FOIA responses.
Dave requested that the NRC not limit the scope of the FOIA request and to make all documents requested available. This morning he also sent an email to Hubert Bell, Inspector General of the NRC, asking him to look into potential NRC staff wrongdoing by not releasing some, if not all, of these records in response to prior FOIA requests.
Mr. Lochbaum’s concerns are that either the NRC program office is lying now about the inventory of unreleased records to/from Mr. Tateiwa in their possession, or that the NRC violated federal FOIA law by failing to release some or all of these records in response to numerous prior FOIA requests.
You can bet that we will be watching these events develop closely.]]>
Pages From C147216-02X – March 19th, 2011 – NRC NARAC Models of Fukushima Daiichi Disaster Did Not Model Al…]]>
Pages From C147216-02X – March 15th, 2011 – Navy Tried to Get Dosimeters for All Sailors on USS Ronald Reag…]]>
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
JAPAN’S FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI
ET TABLE BACKUP 2 AUDIO FILES
MARCH 17, 2011
Pages From C147359-02X – March 17th, 2011 – Special Lawyers Group Tackled Legal Issues Arising From Fukushi…]]>
I’m currently still in one piece, writing from my room in the Narita crew hotel.
It’s 8am. This is my inaugural trans-pacific trip as a brand new, recently checked out, international 767 Captain and it has been interesting, to say the least, so far. I’ve crossed the Atlantic three times so far so the ocean crossing procedures were familiar.
By the way, stunning scenery flying over the Aleutian Islands. Everything was going fine until 100 miles out from Tokyo and in the descent for arrival.
The first indication of any trouble was that Japan air traffic control started putting everyone into holding patterns. At first we thought it was usual congestion on arrival. Then we got a company data link message advising about the earthquake, followed by another stating Narita airport was temporarily closed for inspection and expected to open shortly (the company is always so positive).
From our perspective things were obviously looking a little different. The Japanese controller’s anxiety level seemed quite high and he said expect “indefinite” holding time. No one would commit to a time frame on that so I got my copilot and relief pilot busy looking at divert stations and our fuel situation, which, after an ocean crossing is typically low.
It wasn’t long, maybe ten minutes, before the first pilots started requesting diversions to other airports. Air Canada, American, United, etc. all reporting minimal fuel situations. I still had enough fuel for 1.5 to 2.0 hours of holding. Needless to say, the diverts started complicating the situation.
Japan air traffic control then announced Narita was closed indefinitely due to damage. Planes immediately started requesting arrivals into Haneada, near Tokyo, a half dozen JAL and western planes got clearance in that direction but then ATC announced Haenada had just dosed. Uh oh! Now instead of just holding, we all had to start looking at more distant alternatives like Osaka, or Nagoya.
One bad thing about a large airliner is that you can’t just be-pop into any little airport. We generally need lots of runway. With more planes piling in from both east and west, all needing a place to land and several now fuel critical ATC was getting over-whelmed. In the scramble, and without waiting for my fuel to get critical, I got my flight a clearance to head for Nagoya, fuel situation still okay. So far so good. A few minutes into heading that way, I was “ordered” by ATC to reverse course. Nagoya was saturated with traffic and unable to handle more planes (read- airport full). Ditto for Osaka.
With that statement, my situation went instantly from fuel okay, to fuel minimal considering we might have to divert a much farther distance. Multiply my situation by a dozen other aircraft all in the same boat, all making demands requests and threats to ATC for clearances somewhere. Air Canada and then someone else went to “emergency” fuel situation. Planes started to heading for air force bases. The nearest to Tokyo was Yokoda AFB. I threw my hat in the ring for that initially. The answer – Yokoda closed! no more space.
By now it was a three ring circus in the cockpit, my copilot on the radios, me flying and making decisions and the relief copilot buried in the air charts trying to figure out where to go that was within range while data link messages were flying back and. forth between us and company dispatch in Atlanta.
I picked Misawa AFB at the north end of Honshu island. We could get there with minimal fuel remaining. ATC was happy to get rid of us so we cleared out of the maelstrom of the Tokyo region. We heard ATC try to send planes toward Sendai, a small regional airport on the coast which was later the one I think that got flooded by a tsunami.
Atlanta dispatch then sent us a message asking if we could continue to Chitose airport on the Island of Hokkaido, north of Honshu. Other Delta planes were heading that way. More scrambling in the cockpit – check weather, check charts, check fuel, okay. We could still make it and not be going into a fuel critical situation … if we had no other fuel delays. As we approached Misawa we got clearance to continue to Chitose. Critical decision thought process. Let’s see – trying to help company – plane overflies perfectly good divert airport for one farther away.. .wonder how that will look in the safety report, if anything goes wrong.
Suddenly ATC comes up and gives us a vector to a fix well short of Chitose and tells us to standby for holding instructions. Nightmare realized. Situation rapidly deteriorating. After initially holding near Tokyo, starting a divert to Nagoya, reversing course back to Tokyo then to re-diverting north toward Misawa, all that happy fuel reserve that I had was vaporizing fast. My subsequent conversation, paraphrased of course…., went something like this:
“Sapparo Control – Delta XX requesting immediate clearance direct to Chitose, minimum fuel, unable hold.”
“Negative Ghost-Rider, the Pattern is full” <<< top gun quote <<<
“Sapparo Control – make that – Delta XX declaring emergency, low fuel, proceeding direct Chitose”
“Roger Delta XX, understood, you are cleared direct to Chitose, contact Chitose approach….etc….”
Enough was enough, I had decided to preempt actually running critically low on fuel while in another indefinite holding pattern, especially after bypassing Misawa, and played my last ace… declaring an emergency. The problem with that is now I have a bit of company paperwork to do but what the heck.
As it was – landed Chitose, safe, with at least 30 minutes of fuel remaining before reaching a “true” fuel emergency situation. That’s always a good feeling, being safe. They taxied us off to some remote parking area where we shut down and watched a half dozen or more other airplanes come streaming in. In the end, Delta had two 747s, my 767 and another 767 and a 777 all on the ramp at Chitose.
We saw two American airlines planes, a United and two Air Canada as well. Not to mention several extra Al Nippon and Japan Air Lines planes.
Post-script – 9 hours later, Japan air lines finally got around to getting a boarding ladder to the plane where we were able to get off and clear customs. – that however, is another interesting story.
By the way – while writing this – I have felt four additional tremors that shook the hotel slightly – all in 45 minutes.
March 21st, 2011 – A Delta pilot’s perspective on his approach to Tokyo in the wake of the March 11th earth…]]>
March 17th, 2011 – Hopefully This Would Not Happen Here – Pages From C146257-02X – Group DL. Part 1 of 1-2]]>
March 23rd, 2011 – Over 9,000 Lbs of Salt Added Each Day to Reactor Pressure Vessels of Fukushima Daiichi U…]]>
March 24th, 2011 – OrNL Analysis of RPV Impacts in Fukushima Daiichi Reactors – Pages From C146301-02X – Gr…]]>
March 30th, 2011 – Can the Reactor Building Structure Support Additional Loads of Water Due to Flooding of…]]>
April 20th, 2011 – JNES Assessment of Spent Fuel Pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 – Pages from C146301-02X…]]>
The roadmap which had been released by TEPCO gave examples of the near-term actions that TEPCO deemed necessary to minimize radiation releases and reestablish safety.
The consortium established five essential functions necessary for achieving the near term goal for improving plant conditions.
The five essential functions are as follows:
The consortium was also very concerned about the spent fuel pools in nearly all of the units. The consortium largely dismissed the thermographic work that TEPCO had carried out, because it only indicated the surface temperature of the first obstacle encountered, and did not indicate the actual spent fuel pool temperature.
At Unit 1, the consortium was concerned that water being sprayed on the spent fuel pool was not actually reaching the pool. They advised that TEPCO investigate and confirm that the spent fuel in the spent fuel pool was being cooled.
In Unit 1, Unit 2, and Unit 4, the consortium felt that TEPCO should install independent redundant backup systems for cooling.
While the consortium expressed concern about the Unit 4 spent fuel pool, experts were also concerned about the structural integrity of the Unit 3 building after being ripped apart by the explosions.
The consortium analysis pointed out that TEPCO’s roadmap was glaringly silent on maintaining the fuel sub-critical. Further, the experts even questioned TEPCO’s ability to detect and monitor inadvertent criticality.
After using sea water for emergency cooling in the reactors, experts felt that consideration should be given to biological growth which may occur in the reactor vessels, containments, and spent fuel pools. This had been witnessed at Three Mile Island, where it had been learned that the growth of such life forms could reduce visibility in the waters at best, or even worse could affect coolability of the fuel by reducing flows or heat transfer coefficients from surfaces.
To view the TEPCO Roadmap follow the link below:
April 29th, 2011 – Consortium of Industrial and Governmental Organizations Analysis of TEPCO Roadmap at Fuk…]]>
The NRC releases the Fukushima FOIA documents in three formats, unredacted, partially redacted, and completely redacted, and while the Federal Government has established guidelines and protocol for determining which information is redacted and which information is to be released to the public, the NRC’s approach appears to be more arbitrary in its discrimination of content to be released.
One of the features of the democratic process is the compulsory maintenance of records and production of documents, but all governments seemingly operate with the understanding that not all government information should be released to the public and certain types of government information should remain undisclosed. In the United States, the Freedom of Information Act establishes the protocol for handling requests of government information, with the foundational belief that the public has the right to know. Federal agencies are mandated to comply with public requests of information and are subject to penalties for hindering the petition process.
Personally, I have spent thousands of hours reviewing the Fukushima FOIAs, collecting, dissecting, and publishing them here on this site. Dave Lochbaum with the Union of Concerned Scientists has also spent untold hours extracting information from the NRC through the FOIA process over the past few decades. Dave and I have kept each other appraised of our FOIA projects and new approaches to receiving the information desired in an acceptable time period.
In the last two years, the majority of our conversations related to FOIAs have been spent discussing documents related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and often our concerns are related to how information is being released through the FOIA process. There are many documents which have questionable redactions of unclassified information, including generic reactor status data, but the following situations stand as examples of some of the concerns shared.
In May of 2012, Dave Lochbaum submitted a FOIA request for thousands of high quality photos which were referenced in FOIA documents as having been received from TEPCO by the NRC Team in Japan and sent back to NRC headquarters on a thumbdrive during the first critical weeks of the disaster. These critical photos were provided to the Team in Japan and General Electric to analyze the potential for extreme spent fuel pool damage and to determine the extent of damage to the reactor buildings and drywells.
FOIA requests are supposed to be responded to in a timely manner, with the cap on response normally set at 30-90 days. Dave waited nearly a year for the NRC to respond to this single request and ultimately was not even given all available media that was requested, only 200 of the more than 2000 requested images were provided.
Dave and I have also shared concerns about which information was being redacted in some documents and yet released in other documents.
The following two documents extracted from ML13148A066 are an example of the concerns Dave and I shared about the FOIA process. Both of the faxes are from the NRC Team in Japan which was stationed at the US Embassy in Tokyo and sent to the Reactor Safety Team at the NRC headquarters in Maryland. Both faxes contain TEPCO’s assessment of structural damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, yet one is fully redacted while the other is nearly unredacted.
The mostly unredacted document contains TEPCO’s assessment of structural damage to the reactor buildings themselves, and contains hand translations and detailed diagrams of the reactor buildings and the damage they sustained.
The mostly redacted document contains TEPCO’s assessment of the structural integrity of a spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi.
20110331 Fukushima Daiichi Tepco Assessment Structural Damage ML13148A066 1 by Enformable
20110401 Fukushima Daiichi Tepco Assessment Spent Fuel Pool Structural Damage ML13148A066 1 by Enformable
As Dave pointed out to me, “Whatever criteria governs redacting cannot parse finely enough between containment integrity and spent fuel pool integrity, especially at Fukushima where the spent fuel pools are within containment, and within the damaged parts of containment. It would appear that, as a minimum, NRC’s redaction is wrong in at least one of these cases. Either they should also have redacted info from the March 31st fax or they should not have redacted info from the April 1st fax. If so, NRC failed to fulfill its legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.”
On his first full day in office over 4 years ago, President Obama released a now famous memorandum for heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on the subject of transparency and open government.
The memorandum opens, “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
The President used three bullet points to emphasize his message to these agencies and departments; Government should be transparent, Government should be participatory, and Government should be collaborative.” Transparency promotes accountability and reasonable assurance, when governments or leaders begin to act capriciously or arbitrarily, the public in general becomes uneasy.
While the aspirations referenced in the President’s memorandum are commendable, they are far from reality, as we have failed as of yet to cultivate the appropriate conditions for their realization. Once confidence is lost, some have said, so is hope. Democracy is a process, but what can and should be done if and when the process begins to work more like a roadblock than an informative, collaborative, and open format?]]>
March 31st, 2011 – TEPCO’s Assessment of Structural Damage to Unit 1, 3, And 4 Reactor Buildings by Enformable]]>