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Fukushima Daiichi – Enformable http://enformable.com Tue, 02 May 2017 22:21:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 https://i2.wp.com/enformable.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/enfoicon-11-e1430233969135.png?fit=32%2C32 Fukushima Daiichi – Enformable http://enformable.com 32 32 29887482 Japanese official arrested for alleged bribery over Fukushima decontamination contracts http://enformable.com/2017/03/japanese-official-arrested-for-alleged-bribery-over-fukushima-decontamination-contracts/ http://enformable.com/2017/03/japanese-official-arrested-for-alleged-bribery-over-fukushima-decontamination-contracts/#respond Thu, 02 Mar 2017 16:57:02 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=41584 Yuji Suzuki, a 56-year old employee of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in Fukushima Prefecture in charge of overseeing decontamination activities after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was arrested on charges of alleged bribery along with the former president of the construction firm that provided the bribe.

It has been reported that Suzuki received transportation, accommodations, meals and entertainment at fancy restaurants and seedy nightclubs, racking up a bill of several hundred thousand yen.

The federal funding for decontamination in Fukushima Prefecture has turned into a good way for companies to cash in on the nuclear disaster.  Mikio Kosugi, the former president of the Toyama Prefecture construction company hoped that the bribe would help him win more contracts and funding from the government.

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has admitted that the scandal could corrode public trust in the decontamination efforts, but that the agency will try to win back the trust of the nation.

Source: NHK

Source: Kyodo

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Ice Wall at Fukushima Daiichi damaged by recent typhoons in Japan http://enformable.com/2016/09/ice-wall-fukushima-daiichi-damaged-recent-typhoons-japan/ http://enformable.com/2016/09/ice-wall-fukushima-daiichi-damaged-recent-typhoons-japan/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2016 12:44:04 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=41321 water_treatment_performance_3

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has announced that the “ice wall” (formally known as the “Land-Side Impermeable Wall”) under construction at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has been critically affected by rainfall from recent typhoons that have melted parts of the ice structure, allowing new pathways for highly contaminated water to leak from the basements of the reactor buildings.

Fukushima Daiichi - Ice Wall - TEPCO

The “ice wall” is an underground wall of frozen dirt 100 feet deep and nearly a mile long designed by the utility to divert groundwater from entering the reactor buildings and mixing with the contaminated water therein.  The ice wall was built by installing 100 foot-long pipes into the ground at three-foot intervals and filling them with a supercooled brine solution.  The Japanese utility has had to admit that the $335 million wall of frozen soil and water is not working as designed.

TEPCO announced that contaminated water was able to escape from the reactor buildings through the gaps in the ice wall that had melted from the rainfall and likely reached the Pacific Ocean.

Tokyo Electric will attempt to repair the melted portions of the ice wall by adding additional refrigerant into the underground pipes.

TEPCO has had to repeatedly address issues with the ice wall project, including an announcement in the spring of 2016 that one of the sections had not yet fully frozen.

Experts have warned that the ice wall, being electrically powered, is just as susceptible to damage from natural disasters as the nuclear power plant itself.

“The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing. They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plant,” said Yoshinori Kitsutaka, a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University.

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TEPCO admits that ice wall will not stop groundwater from entering crippled Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings http://enformable.com/2016/07/tepco-admits-ice-wall-will-not-stop-groundwater-entering-crippled-fukushima-daiichi-reactor-buildings/ http://enformable.com/2016/07/tepco-admits-ice-wall-will-not-stop-groundwater-entering-crippled-fukushima-daiichi-reactor-buildings/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:13:42 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=41306 water_treatment_performance_3

This week TEPCO officials at a meeting with officials from the Nuclear Regulation Authority in Japan admitted that the ice wall they promoted as an impermeable barrier to prevent groundwater from entering the crippled reactor buildings and mixing with highly radioactive water has failed to work as billed and is technically incapable of blocking off groundwater.

Fukushima Daiichi - Ice Wall - TEPCO

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to be overwhelmed by enormous amounts of contaminated groundwater that is generated every day as it mixes and interacts with contaminated water in the basement of the reactor buildings.  Currently 400 tons of groundwater flows into the damaged reactor buildings every day and mixes with the highly radioactive water in the basements.

Fukushima Daiichi - TEPCO - Ice Wall

TEPCO had developed the ice wall and installed subdrain wells around the reactor buildings to pump up the contaminated groundwater, treat it, and discharge it into the Pacific Ocean, in the hopes that it would reduce the amounts of contaminated water generated every day.  The wall consists of a series of underground refrigeration pipes that freeze the soil around them.

Before installation of the wall, TEPCO described the project to the public, saying, “We will create an impermeable barrier by freezing the soil itself all the way down to the bedrock that exists below the plant. When groundwater flowing downhill reaches this frozen barrier it will flow around the reactor buildings, reaching the sea just as it always has, but without contacting the contaminated water within the reactor buildings.”

The ice wall began operating in March of this year, but has not yet made a meaningful impact on reducing the amount of groundwater that enters the reactor buildings.

Experts are concerned that the increasing levels of highly radioactive water in the reactor buildings could escape into the local environment in the event of heavy rainfall or a tsunami.

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France, Japan and United States to work together on Fukushima decommissioning http://enformable.com/2016/03/france-japan-united-states-work-together-fukushima-decommissioning/ http://enformable.com/2016/03/france-japan-united-states-work-together-fukushima-decommissioning/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2016 14:42:46 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=41247 Fukushima Daiichi

The Japanese government has decided to work with the United States and France to develop new technologies to help operators decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The Science and Technology Ministry of Japan will work together with the French National Research Agency and the United States Department of Energy.

The United States will work with Japan to develop new technologies to deal with the incredible amounts of radioactive waste being generated by decommissioning and decontamination activities.

France will help develop new robotic and remote-control equipment that will survive the extreme levels of radiation in the crippled reactor buildings.

The agreement between the three nations will also enhance the cooperation between governments.

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Nuclear Meltdown: Releasing radiation and containing the truth http://enformable.com/2016/02/nuclear-meltdown-releasing-radiation-and-containing-the-truth/ http://enformable.com/2016/02/nuclear-meltdown-releasing-radiation-and-containing-the-truth/#comments Mon, 29 Feb 2016 15:24:10 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=41219 The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant pictured in March 2011 (top) and March 2014 (bottom).
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant pictured in March 2011 (top) and March 2014 (bottom).

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted last week that they should have declared a meltdown within days of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, instead of delaying the public announcement for months.

“We apologize for the great inconvenience and worry the delay caused”, a representative for TEPCO said this week.   The utility has also said it will investigate why the word “meltdown” was not used for months after the crisis began.

A meltdown is recognized by the public as severe damage to the core of a nuclear reactor with the potential for widespread radiation release.  Once the core is damaged, radioactive materials escape from the fuel rods into the coolant, make their way outside of the reactor vessel into the reactor building.  The reactor building is the last barrier between the radioactive materials and the environment.    The consequences and clean-up of a full-core meltdown are obviously more complicated and dangerous than a partial-meltdown like Three Mile Island – where only a portion of the core debris was damaged and all the fuel remained in the containment structure.

The word “meltdown” was so explosive, that TEPCO, the nuclear industry, and the Japanese government were loath to apply it until it could no longer be ignored.  The word has been so powerful, that it has crossed over into other fields – like personal meltdowns, financial meltdowns, political meltdowns, etc.

Within the first 24 hours, after the Unit 1 reactor building exploded on the morning of March 12th, TEPCO was aware that at least 50% of one of three cores at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged within hours of the accident and notified the government of the ongoing meltdown – but did not acknowledge that a meltdown had occurred to the public until May 2011, long after the melted nuclear fuel escaped from the damaged reactors into the containment vessels.

Tokyo Electric’s internal regulations stated that the utility should declare a meltdown if more than 5% of the reactor core was damaged.  TEPCO has since admitted that the reactor pressure vessel of the Unit 1 reactor was damaged within the first 12 hours of the accident.  This means that a meltdown should’ve been declared within a few hours of the onset of the accident, around the time that water levels in the reactor were falling and TEPCO began hinting at the possibility of venting operations.

Any member of the nuclear industry knew the severity of the accident must be critical if the utility was considering the manual release of radioactive materials into the environment, but the utility, regulators, and elected officials paraded in front of the media and downplayed the consequences of the venting operations to the public – further complicating an already very fast-moving and complex accident.

For months operators were unable to control the temperature and pressure levels in the reactors.  They were forced to feed the reactors with water to hinder the rising temperatures and simultaneously bleed the pressure from the reactors through venting operations, in order to prevent the reactor vessel from being compromised or exploding.  Despite their efforts, they were unable to prevent full-meltdowns from occurring in the Unit 1, Unit 2, and Unit 3 reactors, and the hydrogen generated in the crippled reactors destroyed the reactor buildings for Unit 1, Unit 3, and Unit 4.  Despite all of this, TEPCO chose not to publically acknowledge the full severity of the situation they were facing at Fukushima Daiichi.

When Masao Yoshida, the former plant chief of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, later talked about the hydrogen explosion that tore apart the Unit 1 reactor he said “I thought it was all over”.  This is the man on the ground with first-hand experience of what was happening, knowing that there was a very serious situation – and still the message was not being communicated to the public.

Despite their knowledge, TEPCO did not confirm that the three reactors had actually suffered meltdowns for months, a situation which cannot be tolerated or allowed to be repeated.  Though the embattled utility admitted in 2012 that it played down safety risks (fearing that additional safety measures would shut the plant down and turn public sentiment away from supporting nuclear power plants), the true consequences of these actions has as of yet to be fully investigated and analyzed.

Fukushima Daiichi Units Meltdown Postulated Start Day Meltdown Announced
Unit 1 Within 6 hours May 12th, 2011
Unit 2 Within 100 hours May 23rd, 2011
Unit 3 Within 36 hours May 23rd, 2011

All of the blame cannot be placed solely on TEPCO.  Within 24 hours of the accident – by the time radiation levels on-site were over 1,000 times the normal limits in the control rooms of the reactors, the nuclear industry, nuclear safety regulators, and the Japanese Government knew enough details of the severity of the accident to inform the public of the core damage and ongoing meltdowns, even while they were denying it in press conferences and interviews.

There were multiple indicators offsite that severe fuel damage was underway at multiple reactors within 48 hours of the earthquake and tsunami;

  • The high temperatures of the reactor cores,
  • inability to control pressure levels in the reactors,
  • increasing radiation levels onsite and offsite,
  • the evacuation of members of the public within 3 kilometers of the plant,
  • the contamination of some evacuees near the site,
  • the evacuation of members of the public within 10 kilometers of the plant,
  • venting operations taking place at multiple reactors,
  • the injection of seawater into the reactors,
  • explosions destroying multiple reactor buildings,
  • authorities confirmed the presence of iodine and cesium off-site,
  • officials distributing KI to residents,

An aerial view of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on March 11.

In the May 15th, 2011 press release from Tokyo Electric updating information about the meltdown in the Unit 1 reactor it reads “regarding the Unit 1, nuclear fuel pellets have melted, falling to the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel at a relatively early stage after the tsunami reached the station.”  Are we really to believe that this catastrophic fuel damage, which occurred within hours of the tsunami, was not known by TEPCO, the nuclear industry, and the Japanese government?  If we were unable to determine the status of a damaged nuclear core for months after the onset of fuel damage, even after all of the fuel has escaped the reactor core, what would that say about our collective ability to safely operate nuclear reactors?

But none of the indicators listed above would have communicated to lay members of the public the full severity of the amount of fuel damage by themselves the way that an official announcement that there was a meltdown of core materials in the reactor would have.  The delay in announcing the meltdowns limited the public’s ability to determine the actual severity of the situation at the plant.

Instead of bringing these facts to light, the steady stream of spokespersons and officials speaking to the media would downplay the severity of the events to the public.  The public was repeatedly told there was no cause for alarm even though the government had declared a nuclear emergency.  There was seemingly nothing that would not be said to prevent the public from becoming too concerned about the disaster, it was even claimed that the radioactivity being released during the venting operations would not affect the environment or human health.

When seawater was added to the reactor cores, officials acted as if the operation would resolve the problems, when they really knew it was a last ditch effort to reduce the amount of damage that was already known to be happening to the nuclear fuel in the core.

In Japan, TEPCO, the nuclear industry, regulatory agencies, and government officials worked to provide a unified front to the public.  No one had all of the information they felt they needed, but they had enough to make some very serious determinations.

To convince the public that the water inside of the Unit 5 and Unit 6 reactor buildings was not a serious health threat, a Japanese politician named Yasushiro Sonada drank a glass of what he claimed was decontaminated water from inside of the reactor buildings to prove it was safe to drink after decontamination.  Whether or not it was an actual health threat to drink the processed water, it was an obvious publicity stunt that was carried out for effect (it also turned out to be the subject of quite a few satirical comments by the public on media coverage articles).

Fukushima Daiichi - PhysOrg Article

When Japan raised the level of the disaster from a five to the maximum seven on the international scale, the same rating as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Japanese government took special care to point out that “far less” radiation had been released then from the 1986 disaster.

A Japanese professor named Syunichi Yamashita, who held the title of “Fukushima Radiation Health Risk Advisor” in Japan, worked to convince the public that the risks from radiation were low – and is perhaps most notorious for claiming that radiation would not affect the public if they were “happy”.

In the span of two months, Nature published two articles, one claiming there was no meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, and the next confirming there was a full-meltdown at the crippled Japanese plant.

On March 22nd, 2011, Nature blog published an article called “The meltdown that wasn’t”.  The article claims that there “has never been a full meltdown in a boiling-water reactor”, a fact that already had been proven wrong three times over at Fukushima Daiichi.

Fukushima Daiichi - Nature Blog Comment

A comment on that March article (see highlighted text in image above), published two years after the article was published, expressed confusion about whether or not a meltdown had actually occurred years after the disaster.  A demonstration of the persistent confusion of the general public about the details of the accident.

By the time the meltdowns were announced to the public, it was passed off as mysterious old news.  Another article published in Nature blog published on May 13th, 2011 titled “Understanding the complete meltdown at Fukushima Unit 1” told readers “Whatever happened inside unit 1, it happened weeks ago”, and quickly worked to quell any concern by noting that the temperature trends in the reactor were much lower than in March when the fuel had melted.  There is little argument that the delaying of the announcement of the meltdowns likely led to far less questions and concern then if it had been announced when officials were first aware of the extent of the damage.

Fukushima Daiichi - TEPCO Presentation Slide to NRC

This collective front was organized, very public, and very necessary for TEPCO and Japanese authorities.  On May 7th, 2015 at a closed-door briefing by a senior TEPCO official Kenji Tateiwa for select members of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Tateiwa highlighted that an “International consensus on (the) health impact of low-dose radiation” was critical to relieve the anxiety, general perception of, and lack of trust towards, TEPCO and the Japanese government – in order to make evacuees feel comfortable returning to the areas where they used to live before the disaster.

Most of the vital accurate information that was disclosed early on during the disaster was more or less drowned out by the overwhelming number of instances where government officials would contradict themselves or someone else when bringing information to the public.

For example, on Saturday, March 13th – two days after the onset of the disaster, the Japanese government was still unable to nail down their own analysis of the event.

  • Yukio Edano, the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, told reporters that a partial meltdown may have occurred at two reactors (Unit 1, Unit 3),
  • Toshihiro Bannai a director of international affairs for the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA) reported that “At this point, we have still not confirmed that there is an actual meltdown, but there is a possibility.
  • Ichiro Fujisaki, Japanese ambassador to the United States said that “there was currently no evidence of a meltdown” at the Fukushima Daiichi site.
  • an unnamed “top Japanese official” said there was likely a “partial meltdown” at a second reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, implying that more than one reactor core was at risk,

One of the government officials who spoke out and was cut down in the first days of the disaster was Koichiro Nakamura, a senior official at the former Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA) at the time of the disaster.  Immediately after Nakamura confirmed at a press conference that a meltdown could be taking place at Fukushima Daiichi, he was removed from his position at the agency.

The nuclear industry response was just as muddled as that of international governments.

On the morning of March 12th, experts from the nuclear industry made the following statements;

  • Ian Hore-Lacy, Director of Communications for the World Nuclear Association told the “Early Show on Saturday Morning” after the explosion of the Unit 1 reactor building that the possibility of a meltdown was “most unlikely” and “diminishing by the hour”.
  • Yaroslov Shtrombakh, a nuclear expert from Russia told reporters that a Chernobyl-style meltdown, explosion, and large release of radiation was unlikely and added “I think that everything will be contained within the grounds, and there will be no big catastrophe.”
  • Ryohei Shiomi, a nuclear official from Japan, told CBS news that even if there was a meltdown, it wouldn’t affect people more than six-miles away from the plant.

In the United States, Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists was providing clear analysis to American news services warning that Japan would only have a few hours to prevent a meltdown.

Though the information they were receiving was very confusing, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission was also very worried about the events in Japan.  In documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, the concern about the serious situation at Fukushima Daiichi is evident.

By the end of March 11th, 2011, the NRC was aware of and gravely concerned about the following facts:

  • There was an extended station black-out affecting multiple reactors
  • TEPCO was taking extraordinary measures to supply water to the reactors
  • Despite all efforts, operators were struggling to bring the reactors to a safe configuration
  • The emergency diesel generators were lost at multiple units, implying a common cause failure
  • The diesel fuel supply onsite was destroyed by the tsunami
  • Fuel in the reactors was damaged and radioactive iodine and cesium was being released into the environment
  • Temperature and pressure levels were rising in the Unit 1 reactor
  • The Japanese were preparing to vent the containment under “high radiation conditions”
  • Radiation levels around the site were far above normal and implied fuel damage
  • The Unit 2 containment pressure was almost double the design basis
  • Residents within 10 kilometers were evacuated

The NRC workers in the Emergency Operations Center monitoring the event in Japan were aware of the dangers of an extended station black-out and that nuclear power plants get into trouble pretty quickly after they lose power for cooling.  This led them to conclude that there was core damage by the afternoon of March 11th.  Exelon had simulated the Fukushima event at a simulator designed for the Quad Cities reactors in Illinois with a similar design.  According to the NRC estimates at the time based off of their information and the simulations, Unit 1 core damage would begin 12 hours after the onset of the disaster and “significant offsite releases” would begin 8 hours after the core damage.

Clearly what information that was getting out, was of enough use to those who knew how to interpret it, to allow them to make fairly accurate determinations about the situation in Japan.  The NRC even knew that the situation at the plants was more precarious than the official reports suggested and could potentially get much worse.  Why was that information not communicated to the public?

The average person who followed the situation at Fukushima Daiichi could tell that they were not receiving all of the story.  How can a government quantify the erosion of public trust that occurred over the handling of nuclear disasters like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi?  No one has been able to fully measure what the fallout of the betrayal of public trust will amount to, but it will undoubtedly affect the trust of future host communities for nuclear facilities and waste storage sites alike.

Did the delay prevent the public from believing the accident at Fukushima Daiichi wasn’t as serious as it was?

Another question that has to be asked is, would fewer people have been put in harm’s way if the meltdowns had been announced promptly?   Would evacuees have had more time to gather their belongings, determine where to evacuate to, and take better routes?

The answers to these questions and more are important to consider and should be brought to the focus of public attention.

Source: TEPCO

Source: Reuters

Source: CBS News

Source: CBS News

Source: CBS News

Source: CNN

Source: CNN

Source: Time

Source: USA TODAY

Source: NJ

Source: NPR

Source: Nature

Source: Nature

Source: Nature

Source: TEPCO

Source: Phys.org

Source: Enformable

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TEPCO investigates Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 containment vessel http://enformable.com/2015/10/tepco-investigates-fukushima-daiichi-unit-3-containment-vessel/ http://enformable.com/2015/10/tepco-investigates-fukushima-daiichi-unit-3-containment-vessel/#respond Tue, 20 Oct 2015 13:30:56 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40920 151020_04

Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan used remote-controlled cameras to observe the current conditions inside of the Unit 3 containment vessel.

The cameras were also equipped with radiation detectors and temperature monitoring sensors.

On Tuesday, the work was focused on the upper areas of the containment vessel.  Next, TEPCO will investigate the lower areas of the containment vessel to monitor the temperatures and check the levels of water that have collected in the containment.  After identifying how much water is in the containment vessel, workers will collect water samples to analyze.

In April 2015, TEPCO sent a robot into the Unit 1 containment vessel, but the robot was overcome by the radiation levels on the first day after taking only 14 of 18 measurements.

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TEPCO to work with France to develop new robots for Fukushima Daiichi http://enformable.com/2015/09/tepco-to-work-with-france-to-develop-new-robots-for-fukushima-daiichi/ http://enformable.com/2015/09/tepco-to-work-with-france-to-develop-new-robots-for-fukushima-daiichi/#comments Wed, 23 Sep 2015 12:41:43 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40800 An aerial view of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on March 11.
An aerial view of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on March 11.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has signed an agreement to acquire robots that can withstand the critically high radiation levels in the Fukushima Daiichi reactor containment vessels with the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) of France.  CEA, a government-funded organization, is experienced with decommissioning nuclear reactor facilities and reprocessing facilities.

In order to lower radiation levels as much as possible, TEPCO will focus on decontaminating local areas around the reactor containment vessels before they will attempt to locate the melted nuclear fuel that escaped from the reactor pressure vessels.

As a part of the agreement, TEPCO will provide data related to the decommissioning process to CAE, CEA will work in partnership with TEPCO to train workers and develop specialized robots that will not be overcome by the high radiation levels found inside of the reactor buildings.

In 2014, TEPCO signed an agreement with Sellafield of Great Britain to process the contaminated water building up at the Fukushima Daiichi plant site.

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A Fukushima Lesson Unlearned: NRC scraps public rulemaking on weak GE containments http://enformable.com/2015/09/a-fukushima-lesson-unlearned-nrc-scraps-public-rulemaking-on-weak-ge-containments/ http://enformable.com/2015/09/a-fukushima-lesson-unlearned-nrc-scraps-public-rulemaking-on-weak-ge-containments/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 12:18:22 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40791 Fukushima Reactors

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) typically begins its narrative on the “lessons learned” from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe with Japan’s March 11, 2011accident. Not surprisingly, the agency has avoided addressing the most critical lesson recognized in the accident’s official investigative report by Japan’s National Diet. In their finding, the unfolding radiological catastrophe is “manmade” and the result of “willful negligence” of government, regulator and industry colluding to protect Tokyo Electric Power Company’s financial interests.  Likewise, here in the US, addressing identical reactor vulnerabilities remain subject to a convoluted corporate-government strategy of “keep away” with public safety as the “monkey in the middle” going back more than four decades and, for now, three nuclear meltdowns later.

In the latest development, by a 3-1 vote issued on August 19, 2015, the majority of the four sitting Commissioners with NRC ruled not to proceed with their own proposed rulemaking and bar public comment and independent expert analyses on the installation of “enhanced” hardened containment vents on 30 U.S. reactors. In the event of a severe nuclear accident, roughly one-third of U.S. atomic power plants currently rely upon a flawed radiation protection barrier system at General Electric (GE) Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors that are essentially identical to the destroyed and permanently closed units at Fukushima Daiichi. The nuclear catastrophe has resulted in widespread radioactive contamination, massive population relocation, severe economic dislocation and mounting costs projected into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

A combination photo made of still images from video footage March 14, 2011, shows the explosion at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex.
A combination photo made of still images from video footage March 14, 2011, shows the explosion of the Unit 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex.

Fundamentally at fault, the GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor “pressure suppression containment system” designed for internalizing such a nuclear accident is roughly one-sixth the volumetric size of pressurized water reactor containment designs like Three Mile Island. Under accident conditions, the reactor pressure vessel and the operation of the emergency core cooling system is depressurized into the “drywell” containment component which in turn routes steam, heat, combustible gases and radioactivity into the “wetwell” component where it is supposed to be quenched and scrubbed in a million gallons of water.  The GE design was first identified as too small to contain potential accident conditions in 1972 by Atomic Energy Commission memos. The internal communications would eventually be released years later under the Freedom of Information Act after more GE reactors were granted operating licenses. The memos revealed that the undersized containment system is highly vulnerable to catastrophic failure from over-pressurization in the event of a severe accident. This long recognized chink in GE’s “defense-in-depth” armor was graphically confirmed with the global broadcast of the Fukushima explosions.

This combination photo shows smoke rising from Fukushima Daiichi 1 nuclear reactor after an explosion
This combination photo shows smoke rising from Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 after an explosion ripped apart the reactor building.

Fukushima further demonstrated that “voluntary” GE containment modifications requested by NRC in the early 1990’s are not reliable under real accident conditions.  Most U.S. Mark I operators voluntarily installed a hardened vent on the “wetwell” or “torus” containment component. The same modification was installed in Japanese reactors including Fukushima Daiichi. The voluntary containment modifications in the U.S. were carried out under a NRC regulation (10 CFR 50.59) that avoids licensee disclosures in the public hearing process, claiming that the design changes did not raise significant safety issues. Other than the paper trail, even the NRC inspectors were not aware of the final as-built containment modifications.

Following a review by the NRC Fukushima Lessons Learned Task Force commenced in 2011, the Commission ultimately issued a revised two-phase Order (EA-13-109) on June 6, 2013 for the unreliable containment systems. The Order requires all U.S. GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor operators in Phase 1 to re-install a more “reliable” severe accident capable hardened containment vent on the “wetwell” component by June 2018 to assist in preventing core damage and remain functional during a severe accident.  In Phase 2, operators are to install a severe accident capable hardened vent on the “drywell” component by June 2019, or alternately, provide a severe accident management strategy that precludes the need to vent an accident from the drywell. However, the Commission Order also rejected the collective research and technical recommendation of its lessons learned task force advanced on November 26, 2012. The staff recommendation was to require severe accident capable hardened containment vents be equipped with high-efficiency external filters as added defense-in-depth to trap much of the radiation while releasing to the atmosphere the extreme heat, high pressure and non-compressible explosive gases generated by the nuclear accident. The nuclear industry’s lobby group, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) vehemently opposed the installation of external engineered filters arguing it was unnecessary to add any more assurances other than the original design calculations for a radiation scrubbing effect underwater in the “wetwell” component.

The Commission’s Order, while rejecting the staff’s recommendation to add the engineered filters in vent lines, instructed staff to pursue researching a proposed rulemaking to gather more expert stakeholder input on how radiation filtration strategies would improve public safety and reduce severe accident consequences and costs.

The nuclear industry, under the direction of NEI, began developing the alternate strategy to the Phase 2 installation of a “drywell” containment vent which they describe as Severe Accident Water Addition (SAWA) and Severe Accident Water Management (SAWM).  Under the industry SAWA plan, in the event of a severe accident, water would be introduced into the reactor pressure vessel and/or the drywell containment  control temperatures and cool core debris. If the drywell hardened containment is not installed, flooding up the “drywell” containment requires constant severe accident water management to prevent the simultaneous over-flooding of the “wetwell” that would preclude the use of “wetwell” hardened vent for containment protection as well as crediting the large volume of water’s scrubbing effect for radiation release reduction. Both SAWA and SAWM will require an unspecified number of operator manual actions performed in containment that require a range of apparatus (tools, respirators, keys, etc) as well as shielding from potentially high radiation fields.

The proposed NRC rulemaking to develop regulatory guidance for severe accidents and reconsider filtration strategies was renamed “Containment Protection and Release Reduction” (CPRR) and published as a draft informational document in May 2015. The proposed CPRR rulemaking introduced the staff analyses of four alternatives for consideration by the Commission, the public and industry stakeholders and the NRC’s own independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS).

Alternative 1

Alternative 1 adopted the status quo, namely, making the established Order EA-13-109 generically applicable, drop the rulemaking activity and take no further regulatory action. It adopts the Order’s Phase I requirement to install a severe accident capable vent on the “wetwell” containment component without an external engineered filter and instead relying upon the containment water to scrub out radioactivity before a release to the atmosphere. It adopts the NEI approach under Phase 2 to develop alternative capability for severe accident water addition and management to cool reactor core debris should it burn through the reactor vessel and end up on the bottom of the drywell;

Alternative 2

Alternative 2 would pursue the rulemaking to make Order EA-13-109 generically applicable for protection of BWR Mark I and II containments against over-pressurization;

Alternative 3

Alternative 3 would  proceed with a public rulemaking while making Order EA-13-109 generically applicable for improved protection of Mark I and Mark II containment systems with severe accident water addition to the drywell but dropped any further consideration, analysis and public comment for external engineered filters for severe accident capable hardened containment vents;

Alternative 4

Alternative 4 would pursue the rulemaking to protect containment against multiple failure modes and release reduction measures with controlled releases through hardened containment venting systems. This alternative would include making Order EA-13-109 generically applicable and require external water addition in the reactor pressure vessel or the drywell containment component. In addition, licensees would be required to further reduce fission product releases by maximizing wetwell scrubbing capability or   the installation of an engineered filter in severe accident capable containment vent pathway.


The NRC staff’s draft information paper recommended the adoption of Alternative 3 to pursue a rulemaking to make the Order generically applicable without external engineered filters.

What happened when the information paper for draft guidance was sent up to the Commission is alarming. NRC Commissioner Svinicki took the NRC staff information paper and turned it into a notation vote paper for the Commission to decide, leaving no further consultation, no independent expert input even from the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, the public and their independent experts.  Commission Chair Stephen Burns, Commissioner Kristine Svinicki and Commissioner William Ostendorf voted to approve Alternative 1.


Commissioner Jeff Barran’s comments submitted with his minority vote to go forward with the rulemaking are illuminating.

“Consistent with the Commission’s direction, the staff prepared a draft regulatory basis for a containment protection and release reduction (CPRR) rulemaking. The draft regulatory basis was provided to the Commission as an information paper. Prior to the conversion of the information paper to a notation vote paper, the staff planned to issue a Federal Register notice requesting public comment on the draft regulatory basis, ‘hold a public meeting to provide members of the public an opportunity to ask questions and have discussions about the draft CPRR regulatory basis,’ and present the draft regulatory basis to ACRS in order to obtain independent expert feedback on the document. After this public comment period and ACRS review, the staff was scheduled to provide the final regulatory basis to the Commission by September 19, 2015, the proposed rule by September 19, 2016, and the final rule by December 19, 2017.”

“In my view, it is premature for the Commission to consider the draft regulatory basis at this time without the benefit of public comment or ACRS review. I approve the staff’s established plan, based on clear Commission direction, to seek public comment and ACRS review of the draft regulatory basis prior to its submission to the Commission for a notation vote. “

“Furthermore, there is no reason for the Commission to vote on the draft regulatory basis before the ACRS (Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards) has reviewed and provided recommendations on the document. Under the staff’s original schedule, the ACRS planned to hold a subcommittee meeting and provide a letter to the Commission after the staff received and addressed public comments on the draft regulatory basis. The staff should resume this course. Though the staff previously presented the draft results of the rulemaking analysis to the ACRS, this will be the first time the ACRS will examine the draft regulatory basis as a whole and share its thoughts with the Commission. We should wait for the ACRS letter before making substantive decisions about the draft regulatory basis.”  

“This is an important post-Fukushima rulemaking. A wide range of stakeholders will have a variety of perspectives on the four alternatives presented in the draft regulatory basis. We should hear their views and critiques of these alternatives and the staff’s regulatory analysis before taking any alternatives off of the table. Therefore, consistent with existing Commission direction, the staff should carry out its plan to seek public comment and the ACRS review of the draft regulatory basis prior to submission to the Commission in the next few months for a notation vote.”


 

The Commission’s August 19th majority vote is effectively a gag order on the American public’s opportunity for formal input to fortify the continued operation of GE Mark I and Mark II reactors against the next nuclear catastrophe. Ironically, the international nuclear industry is simultaneously cashing in on the effort to restart Japan’s nuclear power plants where their Nuclear Regulation Authority has ordered state-of-the-art engineered external filters on severe accident capable hardened containment vents as a prerequisite to resume operation.  On August 17, 2015, AREVA issued  a press release announcing that it had just delivered it fourteenth filtered containment vent system to the Hamaoka Unit 4 reactor operated by Chubu Electric Power Company where 70% of the Japanese public no longer trust the industry and its regulator  and remain opposed to any further nuclear power  operations.

LINKS

August 19, 2015 Commission Notation Vote Sheet

AEC memo September 25, 1972

“voluntary” retrofits

EA-13-109

November 26, 2012, SECY 2012-0157

“Proposed rulemaking”

AREVA press release

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TEPCO gets approval to release more Fukushima water into the Pacific http://enformable.com/2015/08/tepco-gets-approval-to-release-more-fukushima-water-into-the-pacific/ http://enformable.com/2015/08/tepco-gets-approval-to-release-more-fukushima-water-into-the-pacific/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 15:20:40 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40773 Fukushima Daiichi - 2014 The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is overwhelmed by the massive amounts of contaminated water piling up at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and 300 tons more is being generated every day. Groundwater passing underneath the nuclear facility is being continually contaminated as is moves through the site and the crippled reactor buildings.

TEPCO’s “subdrain plan” works to pump out the contaminated groundwater and process it to remove some of the radioactive materials.  The utility hopes to be able to process and dump around 150 of the 300 tons of contaminated water being produced daily.

On Tuesday, the National Federation of Fisheries Co-Operative Associations in Japan gave TEPCO the approval required to dump processed groundwater into the Pacific Ocean.  The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations asked that TEPCO only release water which was under the legal allowable limits for radioactive contamination.

TEPCO officials have stated that the subdrain plan is an imperative part of their efforts to stem the flow of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean and hopes to begin dumping the processed waters as early as next month.

In exchange for approving the release of the water, the fisherman’s association demanded that fisherman be given compensation for as long as the disaster impacts their operations.

The fisherman’s approval was given at the same time as a report from a third-party panel of experts criticized TEPCO for not releasing all available data related to leaks of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.  “There is an organizational culture at the company for officials to avoid clarifying where responsibility lies and implementing planned countermeasures,” the report said.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun

Source: The Japan Times

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Earthquake insurance premiums in Japan to increase for 2nd time in 18 years after Fukushima Daiichi http://enformable.com/2015/07/earthquake-insurance-premiums-in-japan-to-increase-for-2nd-time-in-18-years-after-fukushima-daiichi/ http://enformable.com/2015/07/earthquake-insurance-premiums-in-japan-to-increase-for-2nd-time-in-18-years-after-fukushima-daiichi/#respond Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:07:22 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40756 IAEA review mission members examine recovery work at TEPCO's No.4 reactor building at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

In July 2014, Japan introduced the first increase in earthquake premiums in 18 years.  Now, a group commissioned by the Japanese Ministry of Finance to study the issue has announced that insurance companies could add another 19% increase in earthquake premiums by January 2017 as they reassess risk following the magnitude 9 earthquake in March 2011.

After the March 11th earthquake and subsequent tsunami, insurance companies in Japan had to pay a $1.2 trillion yen bill, which far surpassed the previous record of $78.3 billion yen paid out after the 1995 earthquake in Kobe.

Earthquake insurance rates are established by regional hazard maps which are published annually by the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.

The request premium hikes have been confirmed by the General Insurance Rating Organization of Japan, who represents some of the largest insurers in Japan.

Professor Hiroyuki Fujiwara of the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention is a member of the group that draws up the hazard maps.  Fujiwara predicts that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7 earthquake near Tokyo within the next 30 years, but says that the premium increases are affected because in an attempt to improve their predictions experts are now trying to model potential earthquakes in areas where they’ve never before been considered.

 

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TEPCO to launch another attempt to remove debris from Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 spent fuel pool http://enformable.com/2015/07/tepco-to-launch-another-attempt-to-remove-debris-from-fukushima-daiichi-unit-3-spent-fuel-pool/ http://enformable.com/2015/07/tepco-to-launch-another-attempt-to-remove-debris-from-fukushima-daiichi-unit-3-spent-fuel-pool/#respond Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:40:15 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40748 Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 Spent Fuel Pool - March 2013

Tokyo Electric has announced a new plan to attempt to retrieve the fuel handling machine that fell into the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 spent fuel pool.

TEPCO has been working to remove the fuel handling machine from the spent fuel pool in parts.  Previous attempts to retrieve debris from the spent fuel pool were halted after dislodging debris which fell back into the pool and oil was found to be leaking from some of the parts collected.

Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 Spent Fuel Pool - Fuel Handling Machine
A computer-generated image of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 spent fuel pool from above
The fuel handling machine, as seen from the south,  is resting on the spent fuel racks.
The fuel handling machine, as seen from the south, is resting on the spent fuel racks.
Both cranes will be attached to the fuel handling machine.
Both cranes will be attached to the fuel handling machine.
The fuel handling machine will be removed  at the same angle it is resting in the spent fuel pool.
The fuel handling machine will be removed at the same angle it is resting in the spent fuel pool.
Image showing lifting of fuel handling machine.
Image showing lifting of fuel handling machine.
TEPCO plans to use two remote-controlled cranes to remove the fuel handling machine, which is currently resting on top of the spent fuel racks in the spent fuel pool.
TEPCO plans to use two remote-controlled cranes to remove the fuel handling machine, which is currently resting on top of the spent fuel racks in the spent fuel pool.
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Atomproekt to construct demonstration tritium removal plant at Fukushima Daiichi http://enformable.com/2015/07/atomproekt-to-construct-demonstration-tritium-removal-plant-at-fukushima-daiichi/ http://enformable.com/2015/07/atomproekt-to-construct-demonstration-tritium-removal-plant-at-fukushima-daiichi/#respond Wed, 08 Jul 2015 19:20:49 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40731 The situation related to contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very complex.  Every day more and more contaminated water is generated and requires storage and processing.
The contaminated water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very complex. Every day more and more contaminated water is generated and requires storage and processing.

The Russian company Atomproekt has announced that in 2016 it will construct a treatment plant at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to demonstrate their ability to process contaminated water and remove tritium.

The tritium processing demonstration facility will have a capacity of only 400 cubic meters per day.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant pictured in March 2011 (top) and March 2014 (bottom).
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant pictured in March 2011 (top) and March 2014 (bottom).

The project was first announced in February 2015, when RosRAO commissioned Atomproekt to design the water treatment plant and test with 48 cubic meters of simulated solution.

RosRAO and Atomproekt are subsidiaries of Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation.

RosRAO is the national manager of spent fuel and radioactive waste in Russia.

Atomproekt is formerly known as VNIPIET (All-Russia Science Research and Design Institute of Power Engineering Technology), and designs nuclear projects, processing plants, and waste facilities.

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Internal TEPCO document reveals executives knew beefing up tsunami defenses was “indispensable” http://enformable.com/2015/06/internal-tepco-document-reveals-executives-knew-beefing-up-tsunami-defenses-was-indispensable/ http://enformable.com/2015/06/internal-tepco-document-reveals-executives-knew-beefing-up-tsunami-defenses-was-indispensable/#respond Fri, 19 Jun 2015 12:26:09 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40700 Fukushima Daiichi Tsunami
Two photographs show the Fukushima Daiichi tsunami defenses being overwhelmed by the tsunami on March 11th, 2011.

Tokyo Electric, the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, has released a document during a lawsuit brought by over 40 shareholders which reveals the utilities acknowledgment that tsunami defenses at the plant were not adequate.

The internal document from 2008 noted that TEPCO executives had agreed that it would be “indispensable” to further build up coastal defenses for the plant in order to protect against a tsunami larger than had previously been recorded.

The utility has asserted that it could not have foreseen a tsunami of the size or magnitude that hit the plant in March 2011, that it had done everything it could to protect the nuclear power plant, took every available precaution against a tsunami, and has used that defense to protect itself from litigation.

This positioning by TEPCO has allowed the utility to argue that it is not responsible for the triple meltdown, but the internal document casts a definitive shadow over that claim.

Insiders from the nuclear industry in Japan have come forward since 2011 and claimed that TEPCO and the federal regulators ignored warnings of larger-than-expected tsunami in northern Japan for years.  By ignoring these warnings, TEPCO delayed implementing countermeasures, including but not limited to increasing the height of protective wave barriers or removing the critical emergency backup diesel generators from the basements of the reactor buildings to higher ground.

Tsunami

In 2004, Kunihiko Shimazaki, a former professor of seismology of the University of Tokyo, warned that the coast of Fukushima could experience tsunamis more than double the estimates of federal regulators and TEPCO.  His assertions were dismissed as “too speculative” and “pending further research.”

At a nuclear engineering conference in Miami in July 2007, Tokyo Electric researchers led by Toshiaki Sakai presented a paper which concluded that there was a 10% chance that a tsunami could test or overwhelm the defense at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the next 50 years.

Engineers from TEPCO confirmed Shimazaki’s concerns in 2008, when they produced three unique sets of calculations that revealed tsunami waves up to 50 feet tall could hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  The utility sat on the information for nearly a year before handing it over to federal regulators and didn’t reveal the 50-foot wave calculation until March 7th, 2011, but by then it was too late.

In hindsight, it can now be seen that TEPCO scientists realized by at latest 2004 that it was indeed quite probable that a giant tsunami could overcome the defenses at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — defenses which were based on engineering assumptions that dated back to the plant’s design in the 1960s.

In the weeks following the nuclear disaster in 2011, former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan pointed out the weaknesses in TEPCO’s tsunami defense concisely when he told the Japanese Parliament “It’s undeniable their (Tokyo Electric’s) assumptions about tsunamis were greatly mistaken.  The fact that their standards were too low invited the current situation.”

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TEPCO to sell large portion of uranium reserves http://enformable.com/2015/05/tepco-to-sell-large-portion-of-uranium-reserves/ http://enformable.com/2015/05/tepco-to-sell-large-portion-of-uranium-reserves/#respond Tue, 19 May 2015 12:35:18 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40682 TEPCOb

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility that owns and operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, has not used any uranium to produce electricity since the March 11th, 2011 nuclear disaster.  None of the reactors owned by TEPCO have been restarted and remain offline.

The utility has been struggling to stay ahead of the mounting financial problems as it has to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and pay compensation for damages without generating income from its other nuclear reactors.  Without the 9 trillion yen of aid promised by the Japanese government, TEPCO would’ve collapsed shortly after the onset of the nuclear disaster.

TEPCO has been pushing to restart its only remaining operational plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, in 2016, but has faced many complications and local opposition to restarts.

According to a spokesman for TEPCO, in a last ditch effort, the utility is negotiating a sale of part of its uranium reserves with the suppliers.

TEPCO holds some 17,570 tons of uranium, which would provide enough fuel to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant for 10 years.  According to estimates released by the utility, by selling half of its reserves it could raise $102 million.

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New snake-like robot to inspect Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor http://enformable.com/2015/02/new-snake-like-robot-inspect-fukushima-daiichi-unit-1-reactor/ http://enformable.com/2015/02/new-snake-like-robot-inspect-fukushima-daiichi-unit-1-reactor/#respond Fri, 06 Feb 2015 16:14:49 +0000 http://enformable.com/?p=40599 Fukushima Daiichi Robot

Engineers from Hitachi-GE revealed the latest robot designed to help engineers understand the conditions inside of the crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan where high radiation levels prevent humans from physically accessing the reactor buildings for inspection.

The remote-controlled snake-like robot is only 2 feet long with a lamp at the front, a camera and the ability to measure radiation levels and temperatures.

Engineers hope to use the robot to inspect the Unit 1 reactor in April.  The robot will access the containment vessel through a pipe and descend onto the pedestal underneath the reactor.

Even if the robot is able to be recovered, it cannot be reused, it will require immediate shielded disposal because of the extreme levels of contamination it will collect.

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