Guest Post: IAEA Knew Within Weeks of Japanese Earthquake that Reactors Had Melted Down … Public Not Told for a Month and a Half

Washington’s Blog

As I noted last week, reactors 1, 2 and 3 all melted down within hours of the Japanese earthquake.

On Monday, Mainchi Daily News provided an important tidbit:

A meltdown occurred at one of the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant three and a half hours after its cooling system started malfunctioning, according to the result of a simulation using “severe accident” analyzing software developed by the Idaho National Laboratory.

Chris Allison [a former manager and technical leader at Idaho National Laboratory], who had actually developed the analysis and simulation software, reported the result to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in late March. It was only May 15 when Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) admitted for the first time that a meltdown had occurred at the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

According to Allison’s report obtained by the Mainichi, the simulation was based on basic data on light-water nuclear reactors at the Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Mexico that are about the same size as that of the No. 1, 2, and 3 reactors in Fukushima.

According to the simulation, the reactor core started melting about 50 minutes after the emergency core cooling system of the No. 1 reactor stopped functioning and the injection of water into the reactor pressure vessel came to a halt. About an hour and 20 minutes later, the control rod and pipes used to gauge neutrons started melting and falling onto the bottom of the pressure vessel. After about three hours and 20 minutes, most of the melted fuel had piled up on the bottom of the pressure vessel. At the four hour and 20 minute mark, the temperature of the bottom of the pressure vessel had risen to 1,642 degrees Celsius, close to the melting point for the stainless steel lining, probably damaging the pressure vessel.

In other words, the IAEA knew in late March that there was a meltdown. The IAEA informs all of its member states of important nuclear developments.

Government agencies sat on this information, and the world didn’t learn the truth until the operator of the stricken reactors itself made the announcement a month and a half later.

This is not entirely surprising given that governments have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for fifty years to protect the nuclear industry.

H/t: Ex-Skf

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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. anonymouz grizzard

    It’s not nuclear power per se that most people object to. It is the pathological inability of the industry leaders to tell the truth.

    1. g kaiser

      I don’t know about others, but I object to nuclear power because it is dangerous and has long long lasting problems.
      I object to the idiots lying to us as well, but I somewhat expect that now.
      That applies to the lies about nuclear power, but also the lies about the recovery, the economy, security, terrorism and many many other issues.
      Shortly, there i not much I take at face value any more.

      1. Attitude_Check

        We will just build more coal and oil fired power plants – that will be MUCH better for the environment. Oh and much more stable geo-politically. We NEED to keep sending money to the OPEC nations, they are so friendly!

        1. false dichotomy

          You have been brainwashed by the energy industry who refuses to see that there are greener alternatives like wind and solar. Denmark is on the brink of being 100% renewably energy powered.

    2. jura

      I don’t object to the power or the lies. I object to creating waste that will persist for millions of years. How can you guarantee this won’t destroy life on earth in 3,582 years from now? or even in 621 years from now?

      1. John

        You should reconsider your objection to the lies. It is (hypothetically) possible to solve other problems. Lies prevent the problems from being solved in the first place, or worse, cause the problems.

  2. concerned

    FUKUBLOWS tells the TRUTH about Fukushima. The patronage of media, scientists and politicians and the corruption of what is labeled the ‘anti-nuclear’ opinion. We are told a ‘nameless stomach is full’ and that they have ‘taken orders.’ An accident is suggested for someone who is being difficult. Relocation is promised to many and a payout of 1.5 million dollars is listed for another. The lies about the radiation levels, the public ‘brainwashing’ techniques, the research that will be done on the effects. It is all here!

    The Huffington Post was brave enough to put the link in print:

    FUKUBLOWS link:

  3. moslof

    “governments have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for fifty years to protect the nuclear industry”

    Hundreds of thousands of current and former AEC/DOE workers have participated in the cover ups. It’s a way of life. NRC oversight might have helped some , but they have avoided it like the plague because of “funding constraints”.

  4. notashill

    Even today I read in the news they are blaming the tsunami and not the earthquake. Endless lies.

    1. psychohistorian

      I recently had a chance encounter with someone from an organization that contracts for DOE. His comment was that the tsunami barrier was only one meter too low…….whoooocouldanoode.

      He cringed a bit when I referred to Fukushima as a radioactive Roman candle and quickly segued to talking about WHOOPS (Washngton’s aborted foray into nuke land).

      I have yet to hear a credible plan as to how they expect to bring any of that crisis under control. Are we going to pour and then collect tainted water from it for the next XXX? number of years?

      The leadership of this world is pathetic and basically sociopathic fronts for the inherited rich.

  5. Hugh

    I recall saying in comments here at the time that the worst had happened at Fukushima. A pretty standard practice in elite watching is to assume that they aren’t telling the truth. Nevertheless, you can still come up with a fairly reasonable assessment by looking at the discrepancy between what information does leak out or gets reported and the lack of transparency of officials. It was pretty clear from this that as bad as what was coming out the reality was far worse.

    Then too there were reports of high radiation levels not coming from the rod storage pools. That almost certainly meant there had been a breach in containment of one or more of the reactors.

    So really this is all just confirmation. We already knew they weren’t being transparent and there had been breaches. The question now is how long are they going to dink around with this thing before they decide to encase the site. I don’t know of any other options.

    1. moslof

      I read that they are fabricating a big polyester tent for temporary containment. In DOE parlance, that would be a “hut”.

    2. Susan Truxes

      A month ago Michio Kaku (sp?) was on mainstream tv saying cover Fukushima with cement now! – bring in the military and get it done. And a month later it is still leaking live a sieve. TEPCO is the definition of 3 monkeys. The only way to ensure that this will not happen again is to put our money where our mouth is: Stop buying electricity. If we can’t make it with solar panels and little wind turbines, we should be willing to just go without it. Every household in America. Then how long would it take to get some action?

      1. jura

        The beauty of that plan is that you wouldn’t need to get any action. On the other hand, who would take care of the waste for the next million years or so?

    3. Up the Ante

      People in nuclear circles KNOW when reactors lose cooling they MELTDOWN. They know it.

      Then there’s criticality, spontaneous emergence of chain reactions. Deadly, whenever it occurs.

      ex-SKF mentions the IAEA team went to Tokai first.
      “They went to Tokai II Nuclear Power Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, where 1 of the 3 emergency power generators stopped temporarily and the seawater intake pump broke after the tsunami.
      That should help them assess the Fukushima I’s situation.”

      Look at what little it took for the Tokai criticality event.

      Of course TEPCO does want its offices raided like Tokai had, so it need not report neutron measurements.

      Reactor 3 explosion looks like a limited criticality, description of INL criticality explosion looks like #3 explosion. Criticality events would tend to stop when the material is dispersed. Same as meltdown conditions, this is common sense for those in nuclear circles.

      And TEPCO has still not directly examined the RPVs for the 4 reactors, correct? That should tell you the radiation environment in those buildings.

      1. Up the Ante

        “Of course TEPCO does [not] want its offices raided like Tokai had, so it need not report neutron measurements.”

        OCTOBER 5, 1999
        “CNN. “Japan in full-scale nuclear accident probe.”
        Japanese investigators raided the Tokyo and Ibaraki offices of the JCO Company and confiscated bags full of papers. The questions of the investigation focus on whether the accident was caused by simple human error or whether there was a systematic violation of regulations. Other aspects of the investigation are focusing on whether the federal government showed lax supervision and could therefore be held responsible for failing to ensure the company had proper safety procedures to prevent the accident.”

        TEPCO and neutron measurements. Perhaps IAEA will investigate TEPCO’s measurements.

      2. Up the Ante

        Neutron and radionuclide measurements — why are we expected to believe nuclear engineers would not measure all relevant radionuclides?

        “”Tepco knows more than they’ve said about the amount of radiation leaking from the plant,” Jan van de Putte, a specialist in radiation safety trained at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, said yesterday in Tokyo. “What we need is a full disclosure, a full inventory of radiation released including the exact isotopes.”

        The government plans to release details on the radiation released at the “appropriate time,” said Goshi Hosono, an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan ..”

        Having not directly inspected the Reactor Pressure Vessels tells us TEPCO’s engineers and technicians are smart enough to stay away from those vessels.
        They also know where the water that is leaking is going to, as well.

        So the Japanese response to the Tokai event was relatively good, but allows TEPCO to express total contempt while the country reels from the earthquake?

      3. Up the Ante

        Safety measures were skipped in fatal nuclear accident in Tokai.

        “They said at the hearing that JCO had conducted an in-house survey in 1987 and ordered the plant to devise means of hiding illegal equipment and production methods in the event of inspections by the then Science and Technology Agency.

        The prosecutors also said the crisis-management committee at JCO’s Tokai office in 1992 had compiled secret documents in which the risk of a criticality accident at the plant was noted.”

        1. Up the Ante

          8 October 1999

          “We did not foresee that the situation could intensify and that is why we were late in responding,” said Hiromu Nonaka, a government spokesman. “We have to acknowledge that we were lax.”

          policy, perhaps

          Will the IAEA detect these fission products in their investigation, as were found at Tokai ?
          – strontium-91
          – iodine-131
          – iodine-133
          – cesium-137
          – sodium-24
          – xenon-139
          – krypton-91

          “According to Reuters, on 6 October 1999, a police spokesman said that about 200 investigators raided JCO’s headquarters in Tokyo and its office in Tokai-mura, searching for causes and responsibilities for the accident. It has been reported that STA and the Ibaraki Prefecture Police are involved in the investigations.”

          ” .. on 30 September 1999 , the head of the Prime Minister’s office receives the first report on the accident. It takes almost one hour before he takes action.”


  6. bmeisen

    Thanks for keeping the story going here.

    Early on in the catastrophe, many readers on this site defended the nuclear power industry and dismissed concerns as hysterical. I was somewhat shocked that so many apparently intelligent people were committed to a patently catastrophic energy policy. In my anger I asserted that we’d be dealing with the consequennces for 30,000 years. In fact the relevant half-life is 26,000 years. Sorry.

    1. jura

      The half life gives you the time until 1/2 has decayed. 1/2 of a lot of radioactivity is still a lot. You are supposed to wait 10 half lives for a sufficient amount to have decayed.

  7. jclass

    A simulation is not the same as knowing for certain.

    Here’s another Mainichi article from two weeks ago:

    Note the part about the faulty water level gauge. You might be inclined to dismiss it as a Tepco lie, but the crucial point is that as long as Tepco was claiming the rods were partially covered in water, the IAEA had no reason to believe a full meltdown had occurred. So it was considered as, and reported as, a partial meltdown. Reality apparently trumped the simulation.

    1. Up the Ante

      “A simulation is not the same as knowing for certain.”

      Nah, INL wouldn’t be the ones to know, right? They only had that criticality event decades ago.

      Reactor exploded, like no.3 did.

  8. Bill

    I am here to defend nuclear but NOT in it’s current form. Technology has now started developing much smaller reactors, with closed cooling systems, etc. making it a “self contained system”. These can be only big enough to supply a city’s need (and adding additional units as need for power demands) As for the waste, valid points but only in respect to current applied technology, not technology 100, 500, 1 million years from now.

    Global warming is now a reality – and we KNOW that burning fossil fuels can contribute noticeably to that effect, even if not the primary cause. Nuclear is totally non-global warming. It’s danger is storage and accidents. Newly developed technology and “common horse sense – don’t place on fault lines, can assist those problems relatively quickly, in comparison to wind/solar and the intelligent power grids that would need to be built.

    But most importantly, wether nuclear or green technology, the public MUST demand and receive total information, and the internet is the technology to make that happen.

  9. Buster

    Any carcinogenic toxin with a HALF-LIFE of the rest of Earth’s EXISTENCE (depleted or un-uranium at 4 BILLION YEARS) has NO Place HERE (much less CONCENTRATED in shells, BOMBS and Power PLANTS!)!

  10. Mr. Snark

    In March, the US government said that US
    nationals should observe a 50 mile
    exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant.
    This was criticized heavily by the Japanese
    press and government. It now seems that the
    US had run the simulations and realized
    that a full meltdown was a real possibility.
    With the information they had at hand, it
    was a good call. It is a certainty that
    the results were made available to the
    Japanese government, and they were ignored.

    According to this source
    the explosion at Unit three may have
    included a “prompt criticality” event.
    Unlike the
    other two explosions, which were hydrogen
    explosions only, criticality means that
    large amounts of energy were generated from
    nuclear fission. If this is true then highly
    radioactive material vaporized in the
    explosion and was dispersed into the
    environment. It seems likely that most of
    this went into the ocean. Testing for this
    possibility is relatively easy, so the lack
    of an official statement of denial is not a
    good sign.

Comments are closed.