Jeffrey LewisFEPC Statement 3/20

Time for our daily FEPC statement.  There are some indications that, as TEPCO is restoring power, they are stabilizing the situation.

An emerging argument is that either TEPCO or the Government of Japan has not been sufficiently forthcoming. Let me say a word of caution about that argument. The problem may be that the volume of released information exceeds the total of reliable information.

First, there is plenty of technical information — NISA, JAIF, IAEA and TEPCO are all releasing statements on a regular basis.  The Government of Japan is also conducting regular briefings.  I’ve been posting the FEPC statements, which compile much of the information, but I can’t keep up with it all.  It is easy for information to become confused or garbled.  After the IAEA described a fire at Unit 4 as occurring “at” the spent fuel pond, I incorrectly inferred that meant the fuel itself was on fire.  It now appears that the fire was near the spent fuel pond.  As one colleague, with some experience in crisis management noted on Facebook, “the first reports are if not always, often, wrong.”

Second, it is not clear how much of this information is reliable.  On Friday, I think, the NRC and TEPCO seemed to disagree about how much water was still in the cooling pond at Unit 4 and whether the “nearby” fire was still burning. The instrumentation at the reactor site is severely degraded and there is no access to the reactors themselves.  One reason TEPCO wants to  “distribute AC power to the main control room” is to “figure out the status of the reactor, which is useful information in taking measures.”  No kidding.  The need for more reliable data is partly why the US provided, and Japan ultimately accepted, the use of US intelligence gather assets.

So, maybe TEPCO is withholding information or is too sanguine about the situation.  It is also possible, however, that TEPCO doesn’t know much more than they’ve said and the Government of Japan has a real interest preventing a widespread panic that, in radiological events, can be more deadly than the radiation.  If TEPCO officials find the visual observation of a helicopter pilot more comforting than US officials, surely part of that disagreement reflects real differences in outlook, temperament, experience and responsibility.

In a crisis, we seem to have an insatiable demand for information.  But TEPCO is a little busy.  I am certain tempers are short and nerves are fraying.  No doubt, the IAEA and the US don’t like every decision that Japan has made, and vice-versa. If the IAEA and the White House needed to tactfully press Japan behind-the-scenes to accept a little more assistance, that’s ok with me. But let’s keep things in perspective: We all share an interest in seeing the situation is stabilized.  If Ike put up with Monty, you people can do this too.

Here is the full text of the FEPC statement.

Update to Information Sheet Regarding the Tohoku Earthquake

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) Washington DC Office

As of 11:00PM (EST), March 20, 2011

  • Radiation Levels

o      At 07:00PM (JST) on March 20, radiation level outside main office building (approximately 1,640 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 2,623 micro Sv/hour.

o      Measurement results of ambient dose rate around Fukushima Nuclear Power Station announced at 4:00PM and 7:00PM on March 20 are shown in the attached two PDF files respectively. [1|2]

o      For comparison, a human receives 2,400 micro Sv per year from natural radiation in the form of sunlight, radon, and other sources. One chest CT scan generates 6,900 micro Sv per scan.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor

o      At 3:00PM on March 20, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.187MPa.

o      At 3:00PM on March 20, water level inside the reactor core: 1.7 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 3:00PM on March 20, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.17MPaabs.

o      As of 6:00PM on March 20, the injection of seawater continues into the reactor core.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 20, activities for recovering the external power supply are underway.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor

o      At 3:00PM on March 20, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.016MPa.

o      At 3:00PM on March 20, water level inside the reactor core: 1.4 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 3:00PM on March 20, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.125MPaabs.

o      At 3:05PM on March 20, injection of seawater into the spent fuel storage pool has begun, until 5:20PM (total about 40 tons)

o      As of 3:46PM on March 20, the distribution board began to receive the external power.

o      As of 6:00PM on March 20, the injection of seawater continues into the reactor core.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor

o      At 4:00PM on March 20, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.119MPa.

o      At 4:00PM on March 20, water level inside the reactor core: 1.65 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 4:00PM on March 20, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.290MPaabs.

o      As of 6:00PM on March 20, the injection of seawater continues into the reactor core.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 20, about 2,605 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 20, activities for recovering the external power supply are underway.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor

o      At 8:20AM on March 20, 10 Self Defense Force vehicles began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, until 9:29AM.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 20, about 83 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.

o       As of 7:00PM on March 20, activities for recovering the external power supply are underway.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor

o      At 2:30PM on March 20: cold shutdown

o      At 4:00PM on March 20, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at   95.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor

o      At 10:14PM on March 19, ump for Residual Heat Removal (RHR) started up and cooling of spent fuel storage pool has started.

o      At 4:00PM on March 20, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at   82.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool

o      At 09:00AM on March 19, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 134.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our official sources are:

  • Office of The Prime Minister of Japan
  • Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Press Releases
  • Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)

Comments

  1. Riverdaughter (History)

    Thanks for keeping on top of this. I appreciate the level of objectivity you have been able to maintain.

  2. Scott Monje (History)

    “the first reports are if not always, often, wrong.”

    And the downside of the information revolution is that the continuous deluge of “first reports” often drowns out the later, more reasoned assessments.

  3. Ralph Siegler (History)

    Great work and thanks for being objective. Pity the IR video of the spent fuel pools is being withheld by Japanese government. Fuel pool fires and meltdowns would be more scary than reactor core ones. Since we have all the first generation and second generation reactors close to large bodies of water, a mandated auxiliary emergency cooling system (UPS, pumps and long flexible hoses) for them might be wise.

    • Matthew (History)

      I think more important than requiring a particular system is requiring a _plan_ for cooling the fuel using external equipment brought from off-site. How much time in the first days of this (or any accident) is spent figuring out where to get additional equipment and what kinds of alternative equipment would work.

      Built-in equipment has to be tested, maintained, and must survive the initial incident. Once the initial incident occurs having a book on the shelf that lists all the sources for things like pumps, high pressure hoses, generators, etc in the near and extended vicinity and the types of vehicles that can transport them could be a much greater help.

      Whatever happens the best laid plans and equipment can always break down, but the knowledge and forethought that goes into planning can often be used to improvise rapidly.

  4. Wramblin' Wreck (History)

    I truly appreciate the information provided here! I believe I speak for many when I say thanks so much for your time and efforts in compiling this data.

    Two questions I hope someone here can help with.

    For the data here (pressures, temperatures, water heights, etc.) what are the normal operating conditions? For example, what is the normal pressure in the primary containment vessel? Is there a chart somewhere I can reference for these figures?

    Second, virtually all the information presented in the media concerns the Daiichi facility. Not surprising since this facility was by far the most damaged. But, there is also the Daini facility. All information I can find shows this facility is currently in cold shut down. But it is also listed at INES #3 (moderate local radiological event). So what happened? Help with references and sources would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I don’t have to compile it; I just repost it from FEPC.

  5. Vittidinia (History)

    Many thanks for your work, Jeffrey.

    Are you able to provide any updates on the Rokkasho reprocessing plant? I understand that the electricity went off there, as well. Do you know whether it has been restored?

  6. anonymous (History)

    I wont believe anything about unit 4 until we see a clear megapixel resolution photograph of the pool. The fire(s) obviously consumed most of the building, so what was the cause of that other than the spent fuel pool. The good news is they added water and it didn’t go critical,so the worst is probably past for unit 4. My bet is fuel rod fragments all over the bottom of the pool, and I am afraid the pool leaks are just as well explained by thermal stress or melting. Everything else is being withheld. How exactly and when exactly did the thermal imager decide the pool had a temperature below 100c ? Was this during the spraying with firehoses? Fortunately there has been plenty of time for the fuel to settle in its final state and the radiation released is what we have already seen, and unlikely to get “worse”.

    • Seb (History)

      The UCS (allthingsnuclear.org) had a post suggesting fuel pool leaks could be a consequence of power loss.

      The seal on the gates of the fuel pool between it and the top of the shaft leading to the reactor (which is only flooded when you want to move the fuel around) is by an inflated rubber ring, which needs continuous power to replace air lost through leaks.

      Apparantly, a reactor in Hatch had a problem with this system, leading to the seal breaking, and lost 5 ft of water through leaks. It sounds like the same problem would be likely in these reactors.

  7. Scott Wedge (History)

    Jeffery,

    It looks like a “catastrophe” may have been avoided. But what no one is saying is what that avoided catastrophe could have been. What are we not saying? What nearly happened? If the winds had been from the wrong direction, and had much more of the fuel been burned or exploded into the atmosphere, would we be witnessing an attempt to evacuate Tokyo?

    Thanks for helping spread what information is available. It is very difficult to describe and discuss this chaotic event without inadvertently misstating some detail or other. You are doing far better than many who consistently overstate or understate the situation.

    SW

    • Jeffrey (History)

      The “catastrophe” would be an uncontrolled burn of the spent fuel. We aren’t out of the woods yet.

  8. jeannick (History)

    .
    I’m a bit puzzled by the instrumentation readings
    where do the power come from ?
    uninterrupted power supplies are standard for major process plant but they would last only a few hours
    backup diesel are supposed to kick in but have they ?
    or have the operators rigged some other supply ?

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