Tepco: Fukushima Accident Still Evolving, Still Dangerous

December 2, 2011

NYTimes – Fukushima Meltdown in Japan May have been Worse than Thought:

TOKYO — Molten nuclear fuel may have bored into the floor of at least one of the reactors at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the complex’s operator said Wednesday, citing a new simulation of the accident that crippled the plant in March.

In the No. 1 reactor, the overheated fuel may have eroded the primary containment vessel’s thick concrete floor, and it may have gotten almost within a foot of a crucial steel barrier, the utility said the new simulation suggested. Beneath that steel layer is a concrete basement, which is the last barrier before the fuel would have begun to penetrate the earth.

Some nuclear experts have warned that water from a makeshift cooling system now in place at the plant may not be able to properly cool any nuclear fuel that may have seeped into the concrete. The new simulation may call into question the efforts to cool and stabilize the reactor, but the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, says it is not worried more than eight months after the accident.

The findings are the latest in a series of increasingly grave scenarios presented by Tepco about the state of the reactors. The company initially insisted that there was no breach at any of the three most-damaged reactors; it later said that there might have been a breach, but that most of the nuclear fuel had remained within the containment vessels.

“This is still an overly optimistic simulation,” said Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor of physics at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, who has been a vocal critic of Tepco’s lack of disclosure of details of the disaster. Tepco would very much like to say that the outermost containment is not completely compromised and that the meltdown stopped before the outer steel barrier, he said, “but even by their own simulation, it’s very borderline.”


The government estimates it will take 30 years or more to safely decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi.

Wednesday’s simulations depict what happened early in the crisis and do not mean a recent deterioration of the No. 1 reactor. Oyama said, however, the results are based only on available data and may not match the actual conditions inside the reactors, which cannot be opened for years.

Some experts have raised questions about achieving the “cold shutdown,” which means bringing the temperature of the pressure vessel containing healthy fuel rods to way below the benchmark 100 Celsius (212 Fahrenheit). They say the fuel is no longer there and measuring the temperature of empty cores is meaningless, while nobody knows where and how hot the melted fuel really is.

Fukushima Diary:

Architect of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 3, Uehara Haruo, the former president of Saga University had an interview on 11/17/2011.

In this interview, he admitted Tepco’s explanation does not make sense, and that the China syndrome is inevitable.

He stated that considering 8 months have passed since 311 without any improvement, it is inevitable that melted fuel went out of the container vessel and sank underground, which is called China syndrome.

He added, if fuel has reaches a underground water vein, it will cause contamination of underground water, soil contamination and sea contamination. Moreover, if the underground water vein keeps being heated for long time, a massive hydrovolcanic explosion will be caused.


14 Responses to “Tepco: Fukushima Accident Still Evolving, Still Dangerous”

  1. Martin_Lack Says:

    Fukushima is not a valid excuse for demonising nuclear energy. Germany’s decision to close all its nuclear power stations and/or build new ones is an environmental catastrophe because even Germany sees coal as the only large-scale alternative. Coal mining has kills thousands of people every year in accidents or due to chronic long-term illness. More people die each year getting dressed than as a result of nuclear accidents. Get some proper perspective, please.

    • Martin_Lack Says:

      Peter, please forgive me if that comment was unduly argumentative. I am not seeking a fight with you – and even less with the likes of Blue Rock!

      However, bearing in mind that the technology cannot be uninvented, I would encourage anyone who is inclined towards ideologically-driven opposition to nuclear energy (as opposed to an open-minded acceptance of existing problems and its future potential), to read and carefully consider the thinking of the previously anti-nuclear George Monbiot, writing in the UK’s Guardian newspaper earlier this year:

      ’Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power’ (21 March 2011).

      ’The double standards of green anti-nuclear opponents’ (31 March 2011).

      ’The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all’ (5 April 2011).

      • greenman3610 Says:

        I’m not going to argue. I’m just reporting an underreported story. There’s a big problem in Japan.
        I don’t think there’ s even a need for an anti nuclear movement. The economics are going to keep the industry
        a bit player at best, barring some kind of unforeseen breakthrough – but that’s 20 years out at best.

        • Martin_Lack Says:

          Agreed (let’s not argue).

          I agree that Japan needs to examine all its nuclear plants and close them immediately if they could be endangered by a repeat of the earthquake, datum level change and tsunami combination. Fukushima’s worst-case planning scenario was clearly not worst-case enough (i.e. easy to say in hindsight).

          Having said that, my passing shot regarding Fast Neutron Reactors would be this: I think it is a shame that mining more uranium was seen as easier and cheaper (by people that would never have to get their hands dirty) than pursuing technology that might have rendered mining unnecessary by now (and enable to solve our nuclear waste legacy problem)… But, enough already.

      • BlueRock Says:

        > I am not seeking a fight with you…

        You seem to view any presentation of facts that do not support your beliefs as an attack. That’s not how grown-up debate works.

        > …and even less with the likes of Blue Rock!

        “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” –Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

        > …anyone who is inclined towards ideologically-driven opposition to nuclear energy…

        Most people seem to be opposed based on facts and reality, whereas the nuke cult seem immune to all facts and reality that exposes the folly of their beliefs.

        * Nuclear power and climate change. “A doubling of nuclear power would reduce global greenhouse emissions by only 5%.” http://www.energyscience.org.au/FS03%20Nucl%20Power%20Clmt%20Chng.pdf

        P.S. Citing George Monbiot on energy undermines rather than strengthens your case for nuclear. Plenty of referenced facts here:

        * The Nuclear Meltdown of George Monbiot. http://thisbluerock.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/the-nuclear-meltdown-of-george-monbiot/

    • BlueRock Says:

      Ignoring the second massive nuclear catastrophe in 30 years is a symptom of denial, not rational thinking.

      > Germany’s decision to close all its nuclear power stations and/or build new ones is an environmental catastrophe…

      And yet Germany is one of the tiny handful of countries with a clear and rapidly progressing plan towards 100% renewable energy.

      If you were truly concerned about “environmental catastrophe” you would be exercising your keyboard about the US, Canada, Australia and recently the UK due to the regressive policies now seeping out of the liars and ideologues who control the UK government.

      * New green alliance in savage attack on George Osborne. Coalition on path to becoming most environmentally destructive government to hold power in the UK, say campaigning groups. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/03/new-green-alliance-savages-osborne

      > …even Germany sees coal as the only large-scale alternative.

      The only things that could prompt that comment is massive ignorance or dishonesty.

      > Coal mining has kills thousands of people every year…

      Lucky then that no one with an ounce of sense is arguing for more coal.

      * In Germany’s Nuclear Phase-Out, Renewable Energy Plans Are Clear. “…a nuclear phase-out by 2017, even faster than the current government plans, would be feasible without negative climate impacts. … a fully renewable energy system [would be] “climate-friendly, reliable, [and] affordable”.” http://www.wri.org/stories/2011/06/germanys-nuclear-phase-out-renewable-energy-plans-are-clear

      > Get some proper perspective, please.

      Wise words. Follow them.

      • Martin_Lack Says:

        I do not support current UK government policy, least of all its reliance upon the real vapourware of carbon capture and storage in justifying continuing reliance upon coal.

        I am just a realist, as is David MacKay:

        Despite all this, if Germany can achieve 100% renewable energy, I will be the first to applaud it. However, in the interim:
        Despite Germany’s Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (German Development Bank) being set to underwrite renewable energy and energy efficiency investments in Germany worth $137.3 billion over the next five years, Merkel’s government has now announced that in addition to going green, it will also build a dozen coal-fired power plants as part of the country’s future energy mix. In order to assure the energy transition, the government also plans to subsidize new natural gas power plants as well.
        (Source: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Renewable-Energy/Germany-Faces-Sticker-Shock-Over-Renewable-Energy-to-Replace-Nuclear.html).

        • BlueRock Says:

          > I am just a realist, as is David MacKay…

          That’s not an argument or evidence. It’s a tired, old tactic to make it seem as everyone who disagrees with you is “not a realist”.

          * MacKay claims that the UK cannot be powered by renewables alone. This is false. He claims the UK’s demand figure is 195 kWh/d – but the true demand figure is 82 kWh/d and that can easily be reduced with efficiency measures and EVs. MacKay’s central claim that the UK cannot be powered by renewables alone is false.

          More at http://thisbluerock.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/david-mackays-sustainable-energy-without-the-hot-air-perhaps-a-little-hot-air-2/

          But you can argue for days about the minutiae, it makes no difference: nukes are too expensive, too slow and unreliable to build to be anything but a dwindling niche energy source.

          • Martin_Lack Says:

            Blue Rock, it is an undeniable fact that nuclear energy cannot solve our urgent need to de-carbonise our energy generation. I have never claimed otherwise. My main point is one of principle – not ideology – that we gave up on FBR 25 years ago because Governments were scared away by anti-nuclear hysteria; and because it was easier and cheaper to carry on mining uranium. Had they not done this, FBR might well have been a reality by now and, if so, our nuclear waste legacy problem and future energy needs would have been solved. Furthermore, this would have been achieved without the need to build wind turbines and solar farms everywhere. However, if everyone was to generate their own electricity, that would be much better; as we would not need to despoil the countryside with distribution networks either.

            I suspect that you and I would agree on every other possible environmental issue. However, I am not demanding that you embrace nuclear energy; I am only asking that you do not treat it like it is the enemy of mankind because, back in the real world, our governments are building both new coal-fired and thermal nuclear power stations – rather than investing in workable renewable solutions. We should therefore be united in fighting to prevent continuing reliance being placed on failed 20th Century technology.

            I do not have a pathological need to be right about everything and, for this reason only, I am not going to argue with you any more. I am 46 years old and my thinking on this issue is not as simplistic as you appear to suppose. I have better things to do with my time than indulge in pointless debate with someone who is clearly not part of the problem. However, if you continue to insist that you are right and I am wrong, be prepared for a very long wait for a reply.

          • BlueRock Says:

            > …we gave up on FBR 25 years ago because Governments were scared away by anti-nuclear hysteria…

            No, it was cold, hard economic reality. As you admit in your words that immediately follow:

            > …and because it was easier and cheaper to carry on mining uranium.

            There are all sorts of amazing things that might be possible with nuke technology – in theory or at unlimited cost. The problem that the nuke cult can’t digest is that theory / unlimited budgets are not compatible with commercial reality.

            Nukes could not compete with coal. Now they cannot compete with renewables. Only when states make ideological / political / military decisions to support nuclear does it get built. For some reason, those who are constantly raging about government welfare seem totally blind to this massive, never-ending Ponzi Scheme that relies on taxpayer money to keep afloat.

            > …I am only asking that you do not treat it like it is the enemy of mankind…

            I do not “treat” nuclear based on such hysterical rhetoric. I “treat” it based on a mountain of science, facts and reality which prove it is too expensive, too slow and unreliable to build, because it is another mechanism to move wealth from the many to the few, because it privatises profits and socialises losses, because it can literally end societies in hours, because the legacy of nuclear waste is an obscenity – but mostly because it exacerbates rather than mitigates climate change:

            * Nuclear Energy Steals Billions from Other Technologies. http://stephenleahy.net/2010/07/19/nuclear-energy-steals-billions-from-other-technologies/

            * Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change. “In combination with renewables supplying up to 40% of supply in 2050, it would require more than a doubling of nuclear reactors to stabilise CO2 at 2000 levels. That would mean a new nuke coming online every 15 days on average between 2010 and 2050.” http://www.ieer.org/reports/insurmountablerisks/summary.pdf

            P.S. I’m not really debating you any more than I debate ACC deniers. Only you keep attempting to personalise debate of facts. I’m just advocating for real solutions to an existential threat to most life on this planet.

  2. Jean Mcmahon Says:

    I heard about this “China Syndrome”event last week from Ace Hoffman..Really horrifying..Most people seemed to be saying no more Nuclear plants will ever be built before this disastrous info came out.When the hydrovolcanic event happens everyone will see the light this time..horrifying

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Let’s not get ahead of the reporting.
      Clearly this is still a problem that is still evolving. Whether there is a blob of
      molten stuff burrowing into the ground under unit 1 is still unknowable.
      I am covering this because I think it’s underreported in the US media – and this recent announcement by Tepco was very pointedly released only in Japanese.

  3. I think the government should require the company information on the agenda, or gather information about the reactor and its containment as a matter of national security can even be a regional issue.

  4. […] radiation protection gear, including masks and helmets covering their heads entirely. However, an article on Climate Crocks says that the government estimates it will take 30 years or more to safely decommission Fukushima […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: