Guest Post: Number 2 Reactor Explodes, Damaging Core Containment Structure

Washington’s Blog

There has now been an explosion at Fukushima reactor number 2 (reactors Fukushima number 1 and Fukushima number 3 experienced explosions previously).

NHK reports:

The sound of a blast was heard Tuesday morning at the troubled No. 2 reactor of the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government said.

The incident occurred at 6:10 a.m. and is feared to have damaged the reactor’s pressure-suppression system, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said, citing a report from the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

MSN notes:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that “damage appears on the suppression pool” — the bottom part of the container, which contains water used to cool down the reactor and control air pressure inside.

“But we have not recorded any sudden jump in radiation indicators,” Edano said without elaborating.

If confirmed, it will be the first direct damage to the reactor since a massive earthquake and tsunami battered Japan’s northeast coast on Friday, knocking out nuclear plants in Fukushima, north of Tokyo.

Kyodo News is reporting higher radiation levels North of Tokyo after the blast.

Update 9:00 PM (by Yves). The latest report at the New York Times (filed in the last 20 minutes) is decidedly not cheery:

Industry executives in touch with their counterparts in Japan Monday night grew increasingly alarmed about the risks posed by the No. 2 reactor.

“They’re basically in a full-scale panic” among Japanese power industry managers, said a senior nuclear industry executive. The executive is not involved in managing the response to the reactors’ difficulties but has many contacts in Japan. “They’re in total disarray, they don’t know what to do.”

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George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. Sam

    Someone named Wendt and then Jack Welch was CEOs of GE when the reactors were designed. Jack Welch’s nickname as CEO was “Neutron Jack” for the damage he did to American GE workers, laying off GE workers, damaging the American middle class, while leaving the GE buildings standing. Thank heaven Jack Welch has lived long enough to see the damage he and his engineers have caused to another middle class. I hope someone hauls Jack Welch off the golf course, sends him, his wife, and the GE lobbyists over to Japan with Geiger counters. Jack is an absolute disgrace in a long line of disgraced American CEOs.

  2. moslof

    Due to high exposure rates plant operators are leaving the three melting reactors and the spent fuel pool is also dry. Worst possible scenario.

    1. jclass

      I’m curious. Which is causing you to feel more sick? The drama surrounding the nuclear reactors or the sight of tsunami-flattened cities? I’m wondering because when I watch news with friends they get far more stressed over the nuclear reactors than the images of obliterated cities. Odd, because tens of thousands died and people are still dying in large numbers in the aftermath, on top of which the pollution released by the tsunami will kill many more over time. Meanwhile, in a worst case scenario the nuclear reactor might cause a few dozen deaths from cancer over the same time. I don’t know, we humans are curious beings. We see a catastrophe in front of our very eyes yet still get more scared by the weird and invisible danger called radioactivity.

  3. Mark P.

    ‘Emerging Economies Move Ahead With Nuclear Plans”‘

    ‘NEW DELHI — Despite Japan’s crisis, India and China and some other energy-ravenous countries say they plan to keep using their nuclear power plants and building new ones…

    for now, while acknowledging the need for safety, they say their unmet energy needs give them little choice but to continue investing in nuclear power.

    ‘“Ours is a very power-hungry country,“ Srikumar Banerjee, the chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, said during a press conference Monday in Mumbai. Nearly 40 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people do not have regular access to electricity, Mr. Banerjee said. “It is essential for us to have further electricity generation.“’

    ‘And in China, which has the world’s most ambitious nuclear expansion plans, a vice minister of environment, Zhang Lijun, said on Saturday that Japan’s difficulties would not deter his nation’s nuclear rollout….’

  4. c.

    English NHK can be found here:

    Please know that the translators are doing live/real time work and this is normal for them. However, the do not get a chance to tell you who is speaking in the clip and so it sometimes sounds a bit disjointed due to the many speakers and many clips being shown.

    Please also note that there is a cultural difference here. What is normally said and messaged in Japanese communication won’t always meet your US based expectations. Please know that you need to be careful with your assumptions of what they are messaging before jumping to conclusions.

    I say this because the people of Japan deserve our kindness and understanding as they go through a very sad time here.

  5. Dirk77

    Is this what you see:
    Identical reactors + identical conditions => identical scenarios?
    More or less?

    1. Cedric Regula

      All affected power plant facilities had their emergency backup generators taken out by the tsunami. These backup generators were supposed to run the reactor cooling pumps so a safe controlled shutdown is achieved.

      Instead, what we are doing now is like trying to figure out why the World Trade Center collapsed after a couple 747s full of jet fuel flew into them. The steel I beams melted.

      BTW, power plants can be built far inland from the ocean if they build a man made cooling pond for water. Maybe next time…

      1. chad

        “All affected power plant facilities had their emergency backup generators taken out by the tsunami. These backup generators were supposed to run the reactor cooling pumps so a safe controlled shutdown is achieved.”

        That pretty much sums up the whole predicament. It’s a sort of power plant paradox, they require electricity to operate but their operation is where electricity comes from.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Guardian quoting BBC: “BBC World Service reporting that fire engines were being used to pump sea water to cool reactors. One ran out of fuel, so reactor boiled dry”

    Not a good sign.

  7. Juan

    “Now is the time to march for freedom and democracy.”

    Now is the time to have sufficient levels of organization to march seperately and strike together for shared
    social goals.

    This will happen but not if left to the academic left.

  8. psychohistorian

    I think we are seeing the death throes of the Japanese economy as this catastrophe unfolds.

    Can readers contemplate the results of 4 or more reactors going critical and spewing their radioactivity in what direction and for how long? This says nothing of the deaths in the immediate vicinity.

    This event, IMO, could easily bring down the world economy because of the dislocations this will cause.

    Why does the world have to suffer like this because of the bad social intentions and greed of the rich? If society were more humanistically directed we would not have put greed before safety.

  9. Mikhail Kropotkin

    Latest report from

    At: RS_Possible_damage_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_2_1503111.html

    Last two pars:
    Kan has requested that evacuation from a 20 kilometer radius is completed and those between 20-30 kilometers should stay indoors. He said his advice related to the overall picture of safety developments at Fukushima Daiichi, rather than those at any individual reactor unit.

    Shikata added that radiation levels near the reactors had reached levels that would affect human health. It is thought that the fire had been the major source of radiation.

    Note: WNN is nuclear industry funded information source, but uses reviewed and authoritative sources and seems to try to present information in a neutral manner. However, I assume they use a very strong filter as to what they present. Most of what I have seen and heard on their site has been official statements, but fairly timely, and updated regularly.

    I only discovered them several days ago.

  10. Toby

    This is the fallout from prioritizing monetary above human and environmental costs. The God of the Rich, “Hand, The Invisible”, promised to take care of everyone and create the best of all possible worlds. Surely now the stench from that bullshit is in all noses. Money can neither afford nor know, only resources and human wisdom can, not perfectly of course, but far better than the mythical invisible hand.

    This is not about Capitalism and Socialism duking it out to see who has the biggest dick, this is about recognizing where wealth comes from, and how to keep society and environment healthy, as best we can. Until we work out how to bake human and environmental concern into our global socioeconomic and monetary pie, we will be playing with fires hot enough to burn civilization to the ground.

    Demote money, promote wealth.

  11. CaitlinO

    From another source:

    I guess we really don’t have to wonder anymore. The events of the past four days offer incontrovertible proof that God is a whale.

    1. razzz

      I’d let them hunt all the whale they wanted if they could only get their reactors to cool down without contaminating the food chain.

      You’ll know the situation is hopeless when Japanese officials, during live TV, begin falling on their own swords.

  12. CaitlinO

    It has officially gone all pear-shaped.

    The news just keeps getting worse. The IAEA was pretty sanguine, at least publicly, about this for a while. Reality has a nasty habit of refusing to be ignored.

    From Reuters:

    Tue Mar 15, 2011 3:23am EDT

    VIENNA (Reuters) – Japan has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog a spent fuel storage pond was on fire at a reactor damaged by the earthquake and radioactivity was being released “directly” into the atmosphere, the Vienna-based agency said on Tuesday.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), citing information it had received from Japanese authorities, said dose rates of up to 400 millisievert per hour have been reported at the Fukushima power plant site.

    “The Japanese authorities are saying that there is a possibility that the fire was caused by a hydrogen explosion,” the IAEA said in a statement.

    In Japan, authorities warned radiation levels had become “significantly” higher around the nuclear power plant on Tuesday after explosions at two reactors, and the French embassy said a low-level radioactive wind could reach Tokyo within hours.

    1. CaitlinO

      I imagine the Leer jets are taking off from Haneda and Narita like swallows in the spring.

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