Jeffrey LewisFEPC Statement 3/21

Here is your daily information sheet from FEPC.  Another fire at Unit 3.  That’s not encouraging.

TEPCO is in the process of turning on the lights. Once power is restored, we’ll have some idea whether TEPCO can get this under control or whether we are heading toward entombment.

The New York Times has a pair of stories questioning TEPCO, one by Ken Belson, Keith Bradsher and Matthew Wald and another by just Ken Belson.  The stories are worth reading, but it still seems to me that we don’t have enough information to second guess TEPCO right now. Yes, I think the decision to repeatedly enlarge the exclusion zone around the reactor in the early days of the crisis from the initial, paltry decision at 3 kilometers, as well as the increase in the rating according to INES, both strongly indicate that the GOJ and TEPCO initially underestimated the danger.  But it isn’t clear to me that, at this point, it is either possible or helpful to attempt a full accounting, let alone to start imputing motives to TEPCO executives.

Sure, it is possible that TEPCO executives were a greedy lot who wanted to save their investment.  On the other hand, it seems more likely that they just made a mistake, were overwhelmed or events turned unexpectedly. 

Here is the text of the most recent FEPC information sheet:

Update to Information Sheet Regarding the Tohoku Earthquake

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

As of 11:00AM (EST), March 21, 2011

  • Radiation Levels

o      At 04:30PM (JST) on March 21, radiation level outside main office building (approximately 1,640 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 2,015 micro Sv/hour.

o      At 06:30PM on March 21, radiation level at main gate (approximately 3,281 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 1,932 micro Sv/hour.

o      Measurement results of ambient dose rate around Fukushima Nuclear Power Station announced at 1:00PM and 4:00PM on March 21 are shown in the attached two PDF files respectively.

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 2:25PM on March 21, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.198MPa.

o      At 2:25PM on March 21, water level inside the reactor core: 1.75 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 2:25PM on March 21, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.16MPaabs.

o      As of 4:00PM on March 21, the injection of seawater into the reactor core continues.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 21, external power generation is connected and the functionality of the electric devices is being checked.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor

o      At 2:25PM on March 21, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.023MPa.

o      At 2:25PM on March 21, water level inside the reactor core: 1.35 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 2:25PM on March 21, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.12MPaabs.

o      At 2:25PM on March 21, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 122.0 degrees Fahrenheit.

o      At 6:22PM on March 21, steam was emitted from the secondary containment building. (Under investigation)

o      As of 4:00PM on March 21, the injection of seawater into the reactor core continues.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 21, external power generation is connected and the functionality of the electric devices is being checked.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor

o      At 9:30PM on March 20, the Tokyo Fire Department began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, continuously until 3:58AM on March 21 (roughly 1,137 tons in total).

o      At 12:25PM on March 21, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.083MPa.

o      At 12:25PM on March 21, water level inside the reactor core: 1.6 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

o      At 12:25PM on March 21, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.120MPaabs.

o      At 3:55PM on March 21, gray smoke was emitted from the secondary containment building.

o      At 4:49PM on March 21, the gray smoke changed to white smoke, but the volume of the smoke was unchanged.

o      At 6:02PM on March 21, it was confirmed that the emission of smoke had ceased.

o      As of 4:00PM on March 21, the injection of seawater into the reactor core continues.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 20, about 3,742 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 21, activities for connecting an external power supply are underway.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor

o      At 6:22PM on March 20, 10 Self Defense Force vehicles began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, until 7:43PM (roughly 81 tons in total).

o      At 6:37AM on March 21, 12 Self Defense Force vehicles and TEPCO began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, until 8:41AM (in total about 91 tons). TEPCO used one high pressure water cannon supplied by the US Army.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 21, roughly 83 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 21, activities for connecting an external power supply are underway.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor

o      At 4:00PM on March 21, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 108.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 21, external power generation is connected and the functionality of the electric devices is being checked.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor

o      At 7:27PM on March 20: cold shutdown

o      At 4:00PM on March 21, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

o      As of 7:00PM on March 21, external power generation is connected and the functionality of the electric devices is being checked.

  • Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool

o      From 10:37AM to 3:30PM on March 21, roughly 130 tons of water in total has been injected into 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)

Comments

  1. Greenish (History)

    Pretty sure some sort of permanent sealing will happen, since this indicates they won’t be producing power:

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/reactors-will-never-reopen-says-official-20110320-1c297.html

  2. Hairs (History)

    “On the other hand, it seems more likely that they just made a mistake, were overwhelmed or events turned unexpectedly.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Having been involved in a few power station and refinery incidents myself (thankfully on a massively smaller scale) I have found that what seems obvious in hindsight is often not even in one’s mind at the time, or if it is then the thought is quickly wiped away by the urgency of the inundation of phone calls and emails, plus the shouted conversations between exhausted people desperately trying to do the right thing.

    I could easily believe the TEPCO management being as panicked and overwhelmed as anyone else in the circumstances of what happened, but I’d find it very hard to believe that they deliberately and cynically took any decision to put the recovery of their asset before the lives of their countrymen. To do so would be ascribing an awful lot of malice to a group of people who, but for their position, are the same bog-standard citizens with the same cares and concerns as the rest of us.

    • Scott Monje (History)

      Besides, in the long run, massively irradiating the population does little to help the bottom line.

  3. archjr (History)

    I found this site over the weekend. MEXT is publishing radiation levels at various distances from F-Daichi, for those of you who are interested: http://www.mext.go.jp/english/

    • Charles (History)

      Thumbs up for this link, really useful. For one, I had no idea that you would get a dose of 10 mSv/year living in Brazil…

  4. Eve (History)

    I’m hoping they can decomission Daiichi completely. Chernobyl containment never had a really longterm goal and the sarcophagus is deteriorating. It could be reasoned there is now a priority to devise or list materials that can easily moved in place, or have readily available in situ, when water cooling can not be used or entirely fails. The use of helicopter water bombing is almost beyond last resort and risks personel.

    This also makes good reading on information flow:

    How Josef Oehmen’s advice on Fukushima went viral
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20266-how-josef-oehmens-advice-on-fukushima-went-viral.html?page=1

  5. Propagandee (History)

    There’s a corollary to be found here in the martial arts that goes something like this: It doesn’t matter how advanced you are, what color of belt you might wear. In a real time situation of imminent danger, if you can’t handle the adrenalin rush, all that training will come to naught.

  6. R2D2 (History)

    An overhead thermal image appeared on a german news site:

    http://www.n-tv.de/Spezial/IAEA-misst-hohe-Strahlung-article2901381.html

  7. R2D2 (History)

    French assessment of the mess:

    http://www.irsn.fr/FR/Actualites_presse/Actualites/Documents/IRSN_Seisme-Japon_Point-situation-20032011-06h.pdf

    Apparently they think that he lid on number 3 has been blown away by the hydrogen explosion having its origin in the containment and thereby damaging the spent fuel pool:

    “L’IRSN estime que la dalle anti-missile située à la verticale de la cuve et de l’enceinte de confinement a dû être détruite lors de l’explosion hydrogène du 14 mars 2011. Si les ouvrages qui supportent cette dalle ont également été touchés, il est envisageable, outre les fuites éventuelles, 1/4
    que le niveau d’eau maximal possible au dessus des assemblages combustibles entreposés dans la piscine soit diminué (dans le pire cas : 1 mètre au dessus du haut des assemblages). Ceci expliquerait les débits de dose très importants au droit du bâtiment et confirmerait les efforts pour maintenir en eau cette piscine.”

  8. anonymous (History)

    Im having problems believing there is NO thermal output detectable from unit 4 in those german IR images. This was most recently defueled. Did they actually add so much cold water as to hide entirely the thermal signature from a pile that was hot enough to make hydrogen that burnt up the entire building? The pool was measured at 84c 6 days prior and was steaming out and is now cool as the surroundings? Im not sure what we are looking at. Other comments please.

  9. Gregory Matteson (History)

    I’m annoyed and confused by the nearly universal ongoing acceptance of rating fallout contamination (by any other name it is fallout) in units of micro seiverts. Isn’t a seivert a unit of whole body exposure to ionizing radiation? Back in the dark ages, when I took physics, chemistry and biology, the appropriate units would have been stated as micro or pico curies per Kg, or liter, or square meter, or some such, of a particular radio-isotope. I think the bigwigs are too worried about people panicking, which they’re doing anyway. Non scientist can usually figure out at least that they’re being BS’d.

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