Jeffrey LewisFEPC Info Sheet 3/30

Below the jump, please find today’s FEPC info sheet.

I wanted to pass along two other items of interest, which perhaps ought to inform the stories we are going to start seeing over the next couple of days as the situation continues to worsen.  First, my friend Mike Levi wrote an excellent blog post about the challenges in being a policy expert without pretending to be either a reactor safety expert or radiation health expert.  I struggle with the same issue of wanting to provide accurate, clear information without pretending to be something I am not.

Second, Laurie Garret reminds us, in the context of the fight between the NRC and the Government of Japan, that Japan “is desperately balancing on the fine line between providing an appropriate sense of urgency to propel mass evacuations from designated areas, while heading off mass panic across the nation.”  An important responsibility of governments is to provide information without inducing a panic that could harm more people than radiation levels.

In another context, we know that the panic caused by a dirty bomb is likely to be more lethal than the device itself.  I think we can apply that insight in this case, without denying that the current disaster at Fukushima is a serious local risk to health and the environment with the real and growing possibility of wider consequences.

Update to Information Sheet Regarding the Tohoku Earthquake

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

As of 10:00AM (EST), March 30, 2011

  • Radiation Levels

o      On March 30, it was announced that radioactive nuclide I-131 was detected from the seawater sampled near the seawater discharge point of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station at 1:55PM on March 29. The level of concentration was approximately 3,355 times higher than the maximum permissible water concentration set by the government.

o      At 6:30PM on March 30, radiation level at main gate (approximately 3,281 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 159 micro Sv/hour.

o      At 6:30PM on March 30, radiation level at west gate (approximately 3,609 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 106.3 micro Sv/hour.

o      Measurement results of environmental radioactivity level around Fukushima Nuclear Power Station announced at 7:00PM on March 30 are shown in the attached PDF file. English version is available at:

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 7:30AM on March 29, transferring the water found at the turbine building to the condenser was suspended because the water level of the condenser became almost full. (Correction of the previous day’s report that stated as of 3:00PM on March 29, transferring the water found at the turbine building to the condenser continues.)

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.34MPa.

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, water level inside the reactor core: 1.6 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.23MPaabs.

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, the temperature of the reactor vessel measured at the water supply nozzle: 518.2 degrees Fahrenheit

o      As of 4:00PM on March 30, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor

o      At 4:45PM on March 29, preparation work to recover and transfer the water found at the turbine commenced.

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 118.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.023MPa.

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, water level inside the reactor core: 1.5 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 1:00PM on March 30, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.1MPaabs.

o      As of 4:00PM on March 30, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 30, approximately 96 tons of water in total has been injected into the spent fuel storage pool.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor

o      At 1:30PM on March 30, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.018MPa.

o      At 1:30PM on March 30, water level inside the reactor core: 1.85 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 1:30PM on March 30, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.1064MPaabs.

o      As of 4:00PM on March 30, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 30, approximately 4,697 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor

o      At 2:04PM on March 30, TEPCO began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, with a specialized vehicle normally used for pumping concrete.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 30, approximately 960 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor

o      At 2:00PM on March 30, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 99.0 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor

o      At 2:00PM on March 30, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 79.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool

o      At 8:30AM on March 29, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 30, approximately 130 tons of water in total has been injected to the spent fuel storage pool.

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)


  1. FSB (History)

    Wish the NRC was as tough with domestic nuclear energy providers as it is with Japan.

  2. bks (History)

    Why has NISA stopped updating the situation?


    • Bob Kerns (History)

      ?? Looks to me like they’re consistently updating twice a day. Perhaps you need to clear your browser cache? The latest release is as of 2011-03-30 15:30 — JST I would guess.

  3. Raybender (History)


    You say “as the situation continues to worsen”, but I look in vain at the post for any evidence to support that statement. It’s not obviously worsening – seems to me they are slowly getting things sorted (look at the rate at the gate). What do you know that you aren’t saying?

    It’s true that there are probably a few thousand tons of I-131 contaminated water in the various basements that will seep out sooner or later, but that stuff is decaying pretty rapidly. Is there something substantive being whispered? Like the fact that unit 1 RPV inlet nozzle temps have been rising for the last few days?

    Or are you just following the reflexive “OMG we’re all gonna die. Die!. Any minute now…. die!” that the media has been running with for a few weeks (first a meltdown, then a H-explosion, then a containment breach, then a SFP fire, then plutonium in the soil, then I131 in MA, now I131 offshore. Last I checked we’re all still here.) I figure you’re enough of a wonk not to get carried away by the hype, so I’m genuinely curious about your statement.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      The discovery of plutonium in the soil indicates a containment breach. If there is a containment breach or portions of the fuel go recritical (see Ferenc’s paper), it will be much harder for TEPCO to manage the situation. There will likely be more bad news about radiation levels, the status of the spent fuel, the integrity of the other containment vessels.

      Did I say everyone is going to die any minute now? No, rather I said as we brace for more bad news it is important to keep in mind that the panic could be more dangerous than the radiation. Which I think is precisely the opposite of the sort of thing you are accusing me of saying.

    • Spruce (History)

      The containment breach is now about half a week old news. It became apparent well before the news of plutonium detection when Cerium was detected in the water in turbine building.

      As for recriticality, there’s no reason to belive it has happened (I wrote a longer dissection on the Cl-38 “detection” under the entry on the paper), nor should there be any mechanism that would cause it. The core at the moment contains so much neutron absorbers that there should be happening something extremely dramatic for recriticality to be even a remote possibilty.

      The last news of worsening situation have really been the detection of water from reactor core in the turbine building. After that the situation has been unchanging or very slightly moving towards better.

    • Wramblin' Wreck (History)

      I agree with Jeffrey’s point that the situation is worsening. To what degree, I do not know.

      The situation with Reactor Pressure Vessel #1 is troubling. The temperatures continue to climb as do the pressures. The reactor vessel water supply nozzle temperature is now over 500deg.F. The reactor vessel pressure is 3.4 atm gauge, also rising.

      While these temperatures and pressure are within the operating range the reactor should be in cold shutdown (or at least trending in that direction.) Why is the reactor still hot and getting hotter? Did the control rods misbehave? Was there a partial meltdown? What am I missing?

      This is the only area that seems to be trending in the wrong direction. The other reactors (and spent fuel piles) may be a mess but they seem stabilized and are at the really big headache stage of cleanup/recovery.

    • Bob Kerns (History)

      Recriticality is a real concern. Apparently, the IAEA’s Flory has stated that he’s heard it’s happened. It’s being widely reported in the blogosphere as having happened, while Flory is less certain; I’m trying to track down more specific info.

      Reports I’ve seen indicate that 13 “neutron beams” have been observed at up to 1.5 km from the plant. The reports all say “neutron beam”, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I suspect they mean “flash”, rather than a narrowly-directed beam (as one would expect in a criticality event). I suspect the odd wording points to a single source, possibly unreliable, or possibly involving translation error.

      I find no mention of neutron measurements on Tepco’s press site, and the Reuters link above is the closest I’ve found to a credible source on the matter.

      Given that CBS’s headline writer put “toxic plutonium pools” on their article about the plutonium leakage, I must say, it’s getting hard to sort out fact from fiction. They also offer an photo article of the 8 terrifying symptoms of radiation poisoning. All photos from iphotostock, none apparently radiation-related (except for the sunburn, technically). It seems inducing panic is on their agenda. Walter Cronkite must be spinning in his grave.

      Still, if any of this neutron-whatever is confirmed, it may point to some degree of transient localized criticality — which, of course, will make everything more difficult. And if it’s real, there must be some substantial rearrangement of the fuel.

      While you can point to progress made (such as power to the control rooms), you must also look at the rising difficulties, from radioactive flooding to shortage of trained workers.

      I think it’s fair to say that things are both getting better, and worse, and it’s really very difficult for anyone to say just how bad it will get, or how long it will take.

      I find the lack of robots to be rather astonishing; the dependence on being able to put humans on site to investigate and act is a major weakness in managing this crisis. If humans are effectively driven from the site, we can expect the situation to get worse.

  4. Scott Monje (History)

    Ironically, I’ve been getting the impression that the Japanese must be about the least panic-prone people around.

    • FSB (History)

      Wait for the harakiri.

      Japan goes from hello kitty to harakiri in a heartbeat.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      There is some anecdotal evidence that people in Tokyo are starting to engage in hoarding, panic-buying, etc. This is a pretty delicate act for the government.

    • archjr (History)

      FSB: “Hello Kitty to Hara-Kiri?” Silly, and insensitive. Also, not funny. I suppose you mean that Japanese people are more prone to panic than other people.

      More important for Japan over the long term, apart from cleaning up this mess, is the ongoing deterioration in trust between the government and “the people.” The LDP lost for the first time in 54 years in 2009. This was a really big deal, culturally as well as politically. Others have written wisely about the current confusing torrent of information coming from the Japanese government. Look at the difference between the “Nuclear Boy” video and the eruptions of measurements from NISA, TEPCO, There are fundamental changes occurring that go far beyond the nuclear crisis. And they are fundamentally all for the good.

    • FSB (History)

      Fuck sensitivity.

      I mean Japanese culture will never say “yeah, we fucked up”.

      The head honcho will go off and commit Harakiri. In a few days. (At least, in the good old Japan that I knew — they are probably more westernized now and will jump off Reactor 4).

      Yes, Japan has a different culture.

      Oh, and hello — I am insensitive!

  5. yousaf (History)

    relevant Nature commentary —

    “Less edifying have been the nuclear experts who have popped up in the media to ‘inform’ the public about the crisis. Individually, their motives may be honourable, but the collective impression has been unconvincing: defensive, selective, condescending towards public fears and, in my view, ultimately counterproductive. Their combined message seems to have been: don’t worry, things are under control, and Fukushima is not Chernobyl.

    • bks (History)

      Thank you, Yousaf. That is very helpful.


    • Eve (History)

      Thanks for the headsup!

  6. virtualnomad (History)


    I’ve already reposted under the “Recriticality” thread but still want to better understand your position. Yours is an excellent analysis of the Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress paper. You should work for IAEA public information! You could have provided insight to the volte-face the agency did from its March 18 briefing when they said re-criticality was not an issue.

    I have several question:
    1. Given the dearth of information from Nisa/Tepco, what level of confidence do you have that there was even screening for the “several other short-lived nuclides present” that would have indicated a re-criticality.
    2. Have they continued testing for Cl-38 in unit-1 or elswhere (unit-4 for example, where the neutron absorbers almost certainly melted/dissolved before potential neutron moderating water/coolant was introduced)?
    3. Heat numbers are scarce. NHK-commissioned geothermal satellite imagery is the best I can find. Japan’s DoD has also produced some slides.
    4. Boric acid: well, I asked this question 10 days ago and IAEA wasn’t certain whether Boric acid was actually being mixed with the sea water spray. It sure would be a relief if that were true.
    5. I’m not sure if I completely understand you point #5. Are those neutrons banging each other in there or what? And if not, are they at risk to do so?

    My final point: There’s not enough information. The signals that are public point to a situation that may be regrettably graver than it is. Our best minds are baffled.

    • FSB (History)

      “Are those neutrons banging each other in there or what? ”

      Yes, that’s how more neutrons are produced in chain reactions: lots of banging going on in there, making more annoying little neutrons.

      I will use that in class. Thanks!

    • virtualnomad (History)


      You are more than welcome to appropriate my “neutron banging” descriptor for your class. I didn’t realize reactor physics were taught in junior high school these days. It will really make the kiddies giggle.

      I’ve got to watch the late-night comment “wonking” with a glass of Nikka in my hand.

    • FSB (History)

      I think gang-banging is more accurate for chain reactions but kudos for interlacing nuclear physics and biology.

      Or cluster-fuck maybe: could describe what the nuclear industry does to taxpayers pretty well too.

    • Eve (History)

      I’d be really happy if South Park developed a new episode or season just for “Cluster Fuk” and neutron banging.

      but there are so many issues…

      The isotopes detected, particularly ones representing neutron capture, where are they, what of the volume estimates of these leaks, their first appearance and their subsequent followup monitoring. What about the boric acid, the amounts, at what temperature did they try to get it into solution (it’s not very soluble in the lab and on the days they were trying it must have been cold). Has Na-24 been detected in any of the workers? As I-131 has been detected, I’m sure there is a dearth of other long lived radionuclides.

      Some of the followup is particularly woeful.

      “Dammit it was reactor 2” though perhaps we can can conclude with “take a number a wait”

    • spruce (History)

      On the questions virtualnomad asked:

      1+2. Gamma spectroscopy doesn’t really “screen” for any nuclides. The spectroscopy gives you a series of peaks on certain energies and you assign these peaks to nuclides that exhibit these energies – and continue until all are assinged. Therefore, you “screen” for everything at the same time. Of course, that is idealized version of the process since usually there are lot of different nuclides that might generate given peak, so you must consider things whether the other peaks of the candidate nuclides are present and whether the parents/daughters are also present among other things.

      But the main thing is that some of the other short-lived nuclides from fission are pretty damn obvious from spectrum while Cl-38 is relatively obscure. Also one notable thing is that both of the Cl-38’s peaks are on almost the same energy as cobolt’s peaks – Co-58 for for the lower energy and Co-60 for the higher energy. These peaks are of relatively low intensity, so they would be typically undetectable in normal spectra, but the water had so much activity in it that there might’ve well been enough cobalt for them to become noticable – and since you normally don’t see them, neither software nor the analysts might have not been able to identify it correctly. Basically, if I had to make estimate just purely on basis of gamma spectroscopy analysis process whether it is more likely that error was that Cl-38 was identified while not present or that all other short-lived nuclides were not identified while present, I would say that former is more likely by odds of 1:5 to 1:10. And that’s without considering the status of the reactor.

      3. This heat production is of much larger scale. It would cause a heat and pressure peak, which would require further venting and addition of much more cooling water. So far, the rate of venting and addition of water seems to have followed the rate expected on basis of just decay heat.

      4. At least the analyses I’ve read seem to agree that boric acid was added – and it’s actually been another worry as salt water, boric acid, and free hydrogen create an extremely corrosive combination especially in the torus.

      5. If the conditions allowed criticality (the chain reaction started), what’s stopping it from accelerating? What’s the process that prevents a Chernobyl-like huge power peak? Or even more simply, if there’s been recriticality, why hasn’t the plan gone *boom*?

    • John Schilling (History)

      If there were a recriticality, it would necessarily involve a moderator (you can’t get fast-neutron criticality with BWR fuel), and the most likely candiate by far is water. Thus, the criticality stops when it has generated enough energy to boil off enough of the water. I would expect this to result in an obvious, noticeable signature, but on further consideration there is a possible scenario:

      Assume the remains of the core now exist in such a geometry that, when fully immersed in water, the system is supercritical. Hard to arrange given all the neutron absorbers (control rods, boric acid) that have been introduced into the system, but I’m playing devil’s advocate here and it’s not outright impossible.

      With the reactor core largely exposed, there’s no moderation and no criticality. But TEPCO gears up to inject sea water on a massive scale, and eventually the water level reaches the point where the system is critical, then barely supercritical. Producing heat, which boils just enough water to render the system subcritical again, and also push the steam pressure up to the point where water can no longer be injected (or at least not fast enough to overcome losses).

      When sufficient steam either condenses, leakes, or is vented, water injection resumes and criticality is restored. Lather, rinse, repeat, a cycle of brief, low-yield criticality events.

      This could plausibly explain the high temperatures and pressures in reactor 1, and would produce Cl-38. As already noted, it would also produce other nucleides that have not been reported, and it would require a rather implausible core geometry that somehow admits water but excludes control-rod remnants and boric acid, so I would wager real money against it.

      But if there are “neutrons banging each other in there”, it would have to be something like this going on. Easy enough to check, and to fix.

    • Eve (History)

      Typically fuel rods expand as they heat up and this is a missing discussion point. Are there any suggestions that the control rods are still behaving normally in the melted core – they haven’t gone like a sausage in a peel?

    • Spruce (History)

      The fuel rods would expand into the water spaces where there’s least resistance. The expansion would be anomaliously large to impact the control rods. But if there were an effect, it would be sideways force; the rods are fully inside the core and of uniform thickness. That would just jam the control rods even more tightly in place, not push them out – like piece of metal held in workbench.

    • Eve (History)

      ….and the top water spaces are potentially filled with melt and pellets?

    • John Schilling (History)

      Any melt would collect at the bottom, not the top – molten “corium” is denser than just about anything else in those buildings, and being molten it isn’t going to rest on top of anything that isn’t very thoroughly solid and unbroken. Hopefully the floor of the containment building still qualifies.

      And, whether still molten or solidified, it’s going to exclude water, which means no moderation, no thermal neutrons to “bang away”. For criticality, you need to find a way to get fuel elements intermingled with water, but excluding the control rods that were fairly thoroughly intermingled with the fuel elements when this started and whatever boric acid was introduced with the water.

      Neither thermal expansion nor melting of fuel elements seems a likely candidate. Nothing seems a likely candidate, though it’s hard to absolutely rule out.

  7. yousaf (History)

    Looks like they should have done more and farther evacuations:

    • Scott Monje (History)

      Maybe Jaczko was right all along. As to Garrett’s point that he should have informed the Japanese directly and discreetly instead of announcing it, . . . perhaps he did and thought they weren’t taking him seriously.

    • Spruce (History)

      This doesn’t really prove Jaczko right – or wrong for that matter. Cesium is one of the volatile elements that will have exited the primary loop during the steam ventings. It looks more like that there has been sea wind (situation where wind at coast is from sea to land due to sun heating up the air over land despite the general wind field being in the opposite direction) at inopportunate time during one of the steam ventings.

      Seeing some non-volatile nuclides that could’ve only been released due to zirkonium-oxygen reaction would prove Jaczko right, but Cesium point to the steam releases from reactors.

  8. Eve (History)

    What is the feasibility of having say a BWR with a final emergency shutdown system based on conversion to a MSR type reactor? Would this type of emergency system be less dependent on input energy and water as coolant?

    • Eve (History)

      Would such a system might be able reduce pressure within the primary containment vessel?

  9. bob (History)

    Folks – in case anyone has missed them, there are some fascinating hi-res aerial pics of dai-ichi on cryptome:-

    There are also some higher res pics in a zip file to download.

    Try following the vent piping – not exactly a “hard pipe” eh?

  10. Ben (History)

    Some high resolution aerial photographies of Fukushima Daichi NPP taken the 24th march appears on this website :

    Really impressive, but it’s again difficult so see the real state of reactor containment and spent fuel pool that are hidden by concrete and steel frames.

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