Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 4: An earthquake before spent fuel rods are moved to safe storage would be “the end”

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

This clip from TV Asahi is a lucid explanation of the biggest ongoing news story in the world today: The catastrophic consequences if an earthquake strikes the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 4 power plant before its spent fuel rods are moved to safe storage place, a process that will not even begin until December 2013, and could take years. It aired March 8, 2012 on “Morning Bird,” a mainstream Japanese news and information TV program.

NOTE Click the CC button at bottom right to show English subtitles!

I made a transcript from the video subtitles (created by tokyobrowntabby), since this interview received no (zero, zip, zilch, nada) coverage in our famously free press, and I’d also like people to be able to quote from it, and search engines to find it. If you just read the transcript, and play the whole video through, at least play the presenters’ reaction shot at [5:04 – 5:07]; “the end” is impactful. The reporter is Mr. Toru TAMAKAWA. The expert is Dr. Hiroaki KOIDE, Research Associate at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University. I’ve marked material from other presenters PRESENTER.

TAMAKAWA [0:00] You may think it’s “already one year [since the accident] but it’s actually “still only one year.” [0:05] True cause of the Fukushima Daiichi accident still hasn’t been identified. [0:10] Results from the investigation by Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) designated by Japan’s Diet have not been published yet. [0:18] Still, they are talking about resuming the operation of nuclear plants. [0:21] I wonder what lessons they have learned from the Fukushima accident. [0:26] I want to ask you if TEPCO’s Fukushima Daichii is safe now. [0:35] They talk as if the accident was over. Is it really over? Please look at this.

[0:40] (caption) Two major political parties hope to resume the operation. But is the accident over? [0:42] Is it really over? For example, Unit 4. [0:49] In fact, Dr. Koide of Kyoto University is worried about it most. [0:53] The present conditions of Unit 4 are like this. [0:57] You see, almost no walls. [1:00] They were blown off, and honestly speaking, the Unit 4 is a wreck. A wreck. [1:04] There’s a stuff called “fuel pool” here. [1:10] This is a schematic illustration on the right. [1:12] The space up to around here is occupied by the nuclear reactor. Around here. [1:17] And there’s a fuel room in this area. Many fuel rods are stored in the fuel pool. [1:24] They are “spent” fuel, but a total of more than 1,500 rods are in there. 2.8 times more fuel than that inside the reactor. [1:31] These rods in the pool must be cooled constantly. [1:34] Now, what if an earthquake strikes right now and the water in the pool started to leak? I asked this question to Dr. Koide. Please watch this video.

KOIDE [1:45] As you see, there’s the pool, here and many spent fuel rods are in the bottom of the pool. [1:54] If a large aftershock strikes and the wall here collapses, the water in the pool will leak out and the spent fuel will not be cooled any more. [2:07] Then they will start to melt, probably completely. [2:15] And a huge amount of radiation contained in the spent fuel will be released outside, with no walls to contain it.

TAMAKAWA [2:27] We’ll never know an earthquake strikes. [2:30] But can’t we simply build another pool beside it and take the rods out and transfer them to the new pool before an earthquake strikes?

KOIDE [2:37] Well, if you hoist them up in the air, huge amount of radiation will come out from the spent fuel [2:45] and people nearby will have no choice but to die from it.

TAMAKAWA [2:49] That strong? KOIDE: Yes.

TAMAKAWA [2:53] Spent fuel rods are in the pool but it doesn’t mean they’re “spent.” [2:58] They still produce heat and still have radioactivity that would kill peple nearby if exposed in the air. [3:05] They are safe now simply because they are in the water and the water blocks the radiation. [3:10] As the video shows, I asked him “Why can’t we simply transfer them to another pool?” Now, let’s look at how the transfer is normally done. [3:20] As shown here, nuclear fuel rods are initially in the reactor. When they are spent, they are transferred to the spent fuel pool here.[3:28] What they do first is lower this giant container into the water. [3:34] Then the fuel rods are transferred into this container in the water. All of them. [3:42] Then they close the lid with water inside, and hoist the container outside. [3:48] But now, because of the earthquake, the crane to hoist them is not working any more. [3:53] Then, how are they going to transfer the fuel rods?

KOIDE [3:58] You see, there’s a giant crane above the operation floor. TAMAKAWA: Yes.

KOIDE [4:02] This crane is for hoisting the giant container up and down. [4:09] But since this reactor building itself was blown off by the explosion, they can’t even use this crane. [4:16] There are many things they have to do. [4:18] First, remove the debris and other things that have fallen into the fuel pool. [4:25] Next, they have to set up a crane at the site to lower the giant container into the water. [4:35] A giant crane to operate from outside. They have to make preparations for this operation. [4:41] Lower the container down into the water, put the fuel rods which are probably damaged to some degree, into the container [4:48] and hoist it up to move outside. All this could take years.

TAMAKAWA [4:57] What if a destructive earthquake strikes during those years?

KOIDE [5:03] That will be the end. TAMAKAWA: The end? KOIDE: Yes. You see, that will be the end.

[5:04 – 5:07] Reaction shot of news presenters]

PRESENTERS [5:08] Unbelievable. Unbelievable. [5:12] This is a serious problem.

TAMAKAWA [5:14] TEPCO knows this is the most pressing issue. Yesterday, as if to make it in time for our program, TEPCO announced the latest schedule. [5:22] It says they start retreiving the fuel rods of Unit 4 in January next year at the earliest. [5:27] So if a large earthquake should strike from now until that January… [5:35] No, it doesn’t have to be that large. Unit 4 has been shaken many times already.

PRESENTER [5:39] If the pool got cracks after another earthquake and the water starts to leak out, Dr. Koide says that will be the end.

TAMAKAWA [5:49] The end for a wide area including Tokyo.

PRESENTER [5:54] Oh my, and they are talking about resuming nuclear power plant operation.

TAMAKAWA [5:55] I think resuming the operation is out of the question at least until the results from the investigation by NAIIC come out [but see below]. [6:00] The same goes for the new nuclear regulatory agency. The nature of the agency should reflect their results [but see below].

PRESENTER [6:07] For an important issue like this, the opposition should check the ruling party. [6:15] But this time they can’t, because there are also people in the opposition who want to promote nuclear power, who want to resume the plants’ operation, who are pressed to do so. Both sides want to operate nuclear power plants.

TAMAKAWA [6:26] But there are many people including Mr. Kono of LDP [opposition] who think that’s not the way it should be.

PRESENTER [6:32] But they’re a minority, aren’t they?

TAMAKAWA: No, they aren’t. [6:36] There are people who think the same even in DJP [ruling party]. But here are also many people who want to resume the operation.

PRESENTER [6:41] I want to vote again.

PRESENTER [6:42] They talk about resuming the operation after gaining understanding from local communities. [6:45] But for this issue, I think the whole country of Japan, or the whole area including the neighboring countries, is a “local community” that would be affected. [6:51] We should keep in mind that it’s not only the sites of the plants that should be considered as “local communities.”

PRESENTER [6:57] We should recognize the accident is far from over and the crisis is still ongoing.

TAMAKAWA [7:06] Yes. And excuse me, I have a correction to make. [7:13] Retrieving the fuel rods is planned to start not from January, but from… when? December next year? (Yes.)

TAMAKAWA [7:14] December next year? No kidding!

TAMAKAWA [7:18] Sorry, I was too optimistic.

PRESENTER [7:21] The members of the Diet who want to resume, I want them to resign.

PRESENTER [7:25] We need to reconsider this issue.

PRESENTER [7:28] I want to know the exact names of the members of the Diet who want to resume, and ask them for their opinions.

TAMAKAWA [7:34] I hope this issue will be discussed further at the Diet.

Since March 8, when the show aired:

  1. The NAIIC has not issued a report.
  2. A new nuclear regulatory agency has not been created
  3. The Japanese government has declared two nuclear reactors safe to restart.

A few random thoughts:

1. I find the contrast between the trappings of a morning talk show — the flowers, the stuffed animals — and the subject matter almost unbearably poignant. I assume our government has plans to accept refugees in case of disaster. Not.

2. It seems that the Japanese government is as remote from the people as “our” own, and that the Japanese elite is as stupid and/or evil as “our” own. Quelle surprise!

3. The following moral claim sounds very familiar to me:

[6:42] They talk about resuming the operation after gaining understanding from local communities. [6:45] But for this issue, I think the whole country of Japan, or the whole area including the neighboring countries, is a “local community” that would be affected. [6:51] We should keep in mind that it’s not only the sites of the plants that should be considered as “local communities.”

This is exactly the moral claim made in landfill and mining fights up here in the great state of Maine. (In legal terms, we call it “standing.”) It’s also the same claim made in fights against mountaintop removal, fracking, and Obama’s Keystone XL project. And oddly, or not, this argument gets at little credence from Japan’s elite as it does from our own. “Who then is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).

4. Look! Over there! Hillary Rosen!

NOTE Hat tip Richard Smith for the video.

NOTE * A Google search on Hiroaki Koide:

Again, this isn’t fringe; this interview appeared on a major, “mainstream” Japanese television network, TV Asahi. The censorship in this country is positively Goebbelsian in its pervasiveness and power, isn’t it?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Concerned Citizen

    It is the nuclear power plants that will do us in, not the nuclear weapons.

    It wil be a slow fizzle over centuries rather than a flash bang.

    The latter is more dramatic and lends itself to a nice story or film, but the former is much more likely.

    Nukes don’t go off even when they’ve accidentally fallen out of planes.

    Given their interconnectdness, the nuclear power industry is just as much of a threat to the world as nuclear weapons.

    1. taunger

      we have a chance now to avoid this. germany is taking its fleet offline, communities in Vermont and Massachusetts are actively opposing re-licensing. We won’t win all the battles, but any we do win is a step much further than we were before

    2. Nipponese X-Man

      We will beat you round eyes in race to X-Men evolutionary superiority!

      Long live the Emperor – he has re-animated!

      1. Concerned Citizen

        Can God make a corn dog so big he can’t eat it?

        Can humans muck something up so bad that it can’t be solved on a human timescale?

        It took generations to build a beautiful cathedral (think: La Sagrada Familia). We won’t even get a nice building out of this.

    3. Poly Sci Guy

      The GOP reports a marked increase in the number of Reagan sightings on the West Coast.

    4. Kim Shee Daily News

      North Korea blamed the failure of last night’s missile test on a large, rocket powered turtle believed to have been launched from Japan.

      “We have film footage. We will retaliate.”, states Kim.

    5. Scientific American

      TEPCO Scientist Discovers Very Large Electric Eel Population Off Coast of Fukushima.

      “They were never there before.”, states Dr. Lee. “But we are quickly working to sink large electrodes and connect cable to the grid near Fukushima. Our calculations show that this electric eel farm will produce exactly as much power as is now supplied by our remaining power plants in northern Japan.”

      Dr. Lee goes on to say, “This is a huge step forward in securing energy independence for Japan. We are very excited about this electric eel discovery and will be searching for more farms around the rest of the Japanese coastline.”

      Scientific American asks – Mr. President, shouldn’t we be looking for electric eel power too?

    6. Al Jazeera

      al-Qaeda Takes Credit For Running TEPCO

      In an interview with an anonymous al-Qaeda spokesman, the spokesman revealed that al-Qaeda has been running TEPCO for almost 10 years now.

      “We learned our lesson after 911.”, said the spokesman. “It is so much easier and less dangerous for us to be terrorists between friendly countries rather than adversary countries. The Taliban, Pakistan…it was such a drain on resources and talent. With TEPCO it’s smooth sailing the whole way. Not a peep of resistance from the Infidel Powers That Be. It just makes so much more sense for the Holy cause.”

      The reporter inquired if al-Qaeda runs any other major western corporations. The spoksman declined to comment, but then added, “we will let you know…in good time.”

  2. psychohistorian

    If the public had half a clue how much they are brainwashed and manipulated their would be some global inherited rich swinging from lamp posts around the world.

    When the dam breaks of lies about Fukushima, the nuclear industry will reap its just rewards.

  3. ambrit

    Given the recent heightened readings of radioactive cesium 137 in the kelp beds off our Pacific shore and the ‘benign neglect,’ (where have we heard that before,) from the MSM about radioactive particulate reading spikes in some Pacific Northwest cities after the tsunami and hydrogen explosions at Fukushima, we’d better get ready to handle refugees from our own West Coast.
    I would be interested to see some figures concerning radioactive isotope readings along the prevailing wind routes from Fukushima to the American West Coast. If the POTUS wanted ‘shovel ready’ projects to help the economy, preparing for and recovering from, (if it can be done at all,) a new Fukushima disaster, (Dai Ichi 2.0,) will be it. It would most certainly be on the scale of WWII. Let’s see some prevailing winds maps for the North Pacific. Then plan accordingly. Surely, someone remembers how to plan for things, don’t they?

    1. Government Planner

      My team is planning to put up a force field along the pacific coast. It will extend up to the statosphere, and my PhD guys think that should be high enough.

      Another group somewhere around here is in charge of sourcing the force field.

      Not sure where that’s at but I heard a rumor Lockhead-Boeing has submitted a cost plus proposal.

      1. just me

        Your japanquakemap link shows 18 quakes in the last 7 days including one tomorrow. (Who could have foreseen?)

        1. Sanctuary

          I believe Japan is 12-13 hours ahead of us so it’s been Sunday for them since noon or 1pm EST.

          1. just me

            Point is 18 quakes in the last 7 days. Point is Japan is constantly getting hit by earthquakes. Earthquakes yesterday, earthquakes today, earthquakes tommorow, you can set your clock by it.

          2. Sanctuary

            To Just Me:

            No, the point is these earthquakes are consistently clustered around Fukushima. Corium, anyone?

          3. wb

            Yes, I’ve been reading about the corium thing…
            The situation at Fuckushima is already alarming enough, (on a par IMO with an asteroid heading straight for us) that I don’t want to add extra alarm… it’s hard to get a balanced judgement when the media and journalists don’t do their job and governments and the nuclear industry lie and do everything they can to hide what is happening, including paying shills to post comments on blogs ‘trust us, nothing to worry about, go back to sleep ‘… What does it take to wake people up ? All those blank vacant expressions walking the streets… is it more compassionate to let them sleep ?
            This IS wild speculation without substantive evidence, but it’s being suggested that the recent cluster of earthquakes centred on Fukushima may not be natural seismic activity, but could be caused by a reactor core which has melted its way down into the rock and is producing super-heated steam… hmmm. I doubt that, but we do know fracking for gas causes earthquakes…
            I found this comment so touching and so sad :
            “Looking at the earthquake cluster maps, they’re not spread anywhere near evenly along the fault lines, which is what we would see if these were natural earthquakes occurring at this frequency in this time frame. They’re all localized in one general spot – Fukushima.
            Nothing anyone can do. Just enjoy what time is left and watch what happens. Spend more time with loved ones, and inform where invited.
            I find most people don’t want to hear anything about this. I’m learning to just let them be. I give them a few websites – this being the main one – and let them decide for themselves.
            We all know what’s going on. We may disagree with some minor details, but we know what’s coming.”

            Seems that if/when a reactor core melts its way down through the soil and the rock and then hits water, it produces super-heated steam, which then forces the molten core to move upwards again, until the force is expended, then the core sinks back down, hits the water again, and repeats… so, it’s almost like a jackhammer in operation, hammering away at the geology… So doesn’t seem unreasonable to speculate, that might produce earthquakes if the geology was already stressed and prone to fracture…
            So, there’s 6 reactors and storage pools, all in various states of instability and destruction, with many unknowns, and, possibly, they are all sitting on top of what amounts to a pressure cooker that’s bobbing up and down…

          4. Sanctuary

            To Wb

            I agree about that comment. I saw that too but I can’t give in to defeatism just as I cannot I give in to the deliberate obfuscation/denialism/deception of the likes of YY and LucyLuLu.

            As for the corium, I suspect the fears are true. Granted, there is no evidence I can cite, however I base my suspicion on the history of TEPCO lies. It was months before they would even admit there were meltdowns all the while vehemently denying they took place. Sites like enenews.com kept showing the comments of independent scientists that said otherwise and then they finally admitted it. And that’s the pattern with TEPCO. They at first say everything’s fine. Then they deny credible scientific analysis. Then for a few months they offer ludicrous alternatives that don’t really make any sense and are cleverly qualified so that the alternative they are actually offering is actually a strawman and not the very situation being faced. Then they say that the initial contradicting analysis was correct, as though they “discovered” that result. So keep watching what they say about SFP#4 in the next few days. I don’t like that they qualified their statement on Friday by saying, “the temperature of the surface of the water” and that they never explained how the temperature “on the surface of the water” was over 9 degrees hotter than the day before. Remember, their thermometers are located IN the pools at different levels, not at the surface.

            Also, how do we know we can even trust the literature we have on corium dispersal (the nature and speed of its movements) once outside the containment vessel? As far as I know, all such information comes from the likes of TEPCO and other nuclear operators. As we have seen far too often over the last 11 years, industries that are allowed to police themselves tend to keep damning information secret to prevent effective regulation.

  4. bmeisen

    I’ll recall the subsidies enjoyed by the nuke industry around the world, including the exemption granted to the industry by gov’ts from liability in cases of accident. These make the industry’s product attractive. Without them there would be no discussion of nukes providing an alternative to renewables. The exemption is a de facto acknowledgement of the notion of public liability.

  5. LucyLulu

    What does Koide mean by “the end” for Tokyo. I think it unlikely Tokyo would suffer ill effects. IIRC, Tokyo is 250 km from Fukushima. This is spent fuel and even the freshest fuel was last discharged Nov 2010, or roughly 18 months ago, again IIRC. I don’t doubt that the pool is at risk should there be another significant earthquake. And Japan has LOTS of earthquakes. If the pool were to go dry again, there would be certainly be fuel damage further complicating clean-up efforts and perhaps increasing contamination levels of the evacuation zone. The chances of contamination much beyond that would be very unlikely.

    The NRC’s documentation, or the two papers I’ve read, on spent fuel fires only discuss evacuations to 50 miles and our spent fuel pools have capacities that are three times and more of that at pool 4 at Fukushima. The real dirty secret is not Fukushima but our own situation here. We have 110 nuclear power plants in the US and about 30 are the same vintage and design as Fukushima. Seventy have been approved for relicensing for an additional 20 years, upon expiration of their original 40 year licenses and original expected lifespans. Our nuclear plants are suffering the same fate as the rest of our infrastructure, we haven’t transitioned to newer and safer designs such as what they are using in Europe (or were). Greg Jaczko, the controversial NRC chairman, has been casting the lone dissenting voice on these relicensings and approvals, wanting to await final reports on the implications of Fukushima and to allow open hearings for the public to be able to ask questions and express concerns. Jaczko is more conservative when it comes to safety than his fellow commissioners and advocates more transparency between the NRC and the public, which hasn’t made him popular (nor has his shelving Yucca mountain, more or less unilaterally).

    All spent fuel pools, irregardless of design carry risk. Most experts consider them the biggest risk at nuclear our facilities due to the large volume of spent fuel being stored. Accidents can cause them to go dry, from not only earthquakes but other causes too, such as airplane crashes, dropping fuel loading/unloading apparatus, equipment failure, terrorist attack, etc. Moving the spent fuel to more stable dry cask storage has been deemed too expensive to do on a widespread scale. It’s naive to think we couldn’t have our own Fukushima in the US and that our own government would be any more forthcoming. They wouldn’t. It took them over 40 years and a Congressional mandate to release the results of medical tests from the Nevada desert testing and they refuse still to admit the full scope of the Castle Bravo testing disaster!

    1. LucyLulu

      BTW, I think the greater risk to Tokyo and the island of Honshu is the risk posed by the massive amounts of contaminated cooling water and/or damaged fuel from the reactors not being sufficiently contained. Large quantities of the water has escaped into the sea and most likely some is still escaping into the sea and appearing in the marine life and could continue to bioaccumulate. In addition, it’s possible that groundwater could become contaminated and be carried underground to other parts of the island. Also, because sea water was used for cooling the reactor fuel, corrosion of the pipes that carry the coolant, along with other parts, will likely be a problem, if it isn’t already.

      1. Concerned Citizen

        From what has been said (Arnie Gundersen; a NYT article) the resulting fuel pool failure would force the evacuation of the site. The cooling regimes at the other reactors would stop and we’d find ourselves on 3/11/11 all over again.

        1. LucyLulu

          Depending on the severity of the pool failure, how much water drained out of the pool, you’re right. That could be a consequence, if they were unable to access the fuel to spray it down to prevent potential ignition of the exterior cladding. And that WOULD be very bad news.

          One would imagine that they have an emergency plan in place should such an event occur.

          1. Richard

            Hi Lucy.

            I was appreciating your balance view.

            Then you agreed that some situations WOULD be of extreme concern.

            Then you expect the PTB to have a emergency plan. That’s when I started to get real worried.

            You don’t really expect that Yakuza have any other plans other then profit do you?

    2. Eureka Springs

      50 miles is meaningless. We had reports within days of the earthquake our milk supply was contaminated. Our airport radiation triggers were ringing from inbound Japanese passengers who were never as close as 50 miles. And the only response by US Gov I recall was to raise the settings which triggered alarms.

      If you have the time read Fukushima Diary from time to time this young man who has evacuated Japan translates news items and gathers individual reports on contamination far beyond any official boundaries. He could use any financial contributions as well… being sick, so far from a home which he could never return… and working tirelessly to get the word out with no income. It’s amazing he hasn’t been censored.


      Also enews gathers reports on the larger nuke topic at home and abroad.

      1. Up the Ante

        “Our airport radiation triggers were ringing from inbound Japanese passengers who were never as close as 50 miles. ”

        That is the type of info we need.

        That would be a direct result of their govt. suppressing SPEEDI.

      2. just me

        From your Fukushima Diary blog link: Reactor No. 3 fuel pool had an accident, Tepco announced yesterday —


        35 tones of refueling machine was found dropped over the fuel storage rack in reactor3, Tepco announced in their press conference of 4/13/2012.

        They assume it dropped when reactor 3 had the explosion.

        They watched it with a remote controlling camera operated by earthquake-resisting control room.

        Tepco only published 4 pictures, which are too dark and not clear for today.

        The 35 tones of refueling machine is planned to be taken out in the end of 2014.

        According to Tepco, the size of pool is 12.2×9.9×11.8m, the machine is 14m. There are 514 assemblies of spent fuel and 52 of new fuel in the pool. (566 assemblies in total)

        So Lambert’s diary is for Unit 4 fuel pool — and there are (five?) others, and one of those just had an accident? But — whew! — the “earthquake-resisting control room” is on the job? Tell me more.

        (I am imagining beings growing extra legs to pull. Survival mechanism.)

        1. just me

          Oh shoot! I ended the quote too soon:

          When it dropped, it damaged the pool as well. From the analysis result of water in the pool, Tepco assumes the fuel is not severely damaged.

          They still haven’t checked if the machine lies on the bottom of the pool.

          A 14m machine weighing 35 tons drops into a pool no bigger than 12m at its maximum dimension, and they haven’t checked to see if it’s lying on the bottom of the pool?

          1. joebhed

            Sorry, but no has given a unit for the dimensions of the pool.
            If it is anything like the US counterpart GE units, it is MUCH larger.

          2. just me

            According to Tepco, the size of pool is 12.2×9.9×11.8m, the machine is 14m.”

            They would lie?

            (Any updates on the “earthquake-resisting control room”?)

          3. just me

            There’s a diagram in the original but I can’t read Japanese. Pool looks bigger than stuff hanging over it. Plus on my screen the measurement m’s look different, and that’s in the original too. Different units of m?

          4. LucyLulu

            We’ve known for a long time, since pretty much the beginning, that the fueling equipment had collapsed over over the top of the pool #3. Recall that is the building that had the biggest explosion, and the explosion was at this level. You can see the collapsed equipment on top of the pool in the videos from last March and April, though I thought it was the fueling platform, not the crane (but it could be just my memory fading). It’s not laying on the bottom of the pool, it’s laying over the top. And the pool is approx. 12 m. deep or 40 ft. deep, as the fuel rods are about 5 m. long. That allows for another 7 m. of water to provide a shield between the top of the rods and the air (and there is about a foot of water underneath the rods at the bottom of the pool for circulation of water).

        1. Sanctuary

          It is one of the absolute best sites to find out what really is going on at Fukushima, along with Ex-skf.blogspot.com and Fukushima Diary which are both written by native Japanese speakers.

          From the About page for Enenews:
          Enenews.com is dedicated to providing the latest information pertaining to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

          I’m not an anti-nuclear activist. In fact I never thought much about nuclear power before, even though I live near two nuclear plants.

          I’m not a lawyer trying to sue, nor am I affiliated with anyone involved with nuclear power.

          I’m someone who thought the coverage of Fukushima and its consequences was not being given the attention it deserved, so I started a website with my own time, money, and effort.

          In summary, there is no sponsor but me. I hope this site provides a public service, but I guess that’s up to the public. There are Google advertisements in order to help with the cost of starting and maintaining the site. If you’d like to donate, there is a PayPal link at the bottom of the right column.

          For more information, please contact Enenews.com at enenewsofficial(at)gmail.com or via the Contact page.

          And thanks to everyone who has left positive feedback, your kind words are very much appreciated.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            One reason I focused on this video alone is that there aren’t any sourcing issues. Considere editorially, the video is very simple and clean. A well-informed reporter does an interview with a knowledgeable and credentialed source on the Japanese equivalent of Good Morning America. The reporter’s associates react with consternation — [5:04 – 5:07] — to the information that the source provides. I can place the video firmly in a credible social context, and I know who is supplying the information.

            Which is my problem with sites like EEnews, where I don’t know who is supplying the information (the About page doesn’t say). The nuclear power discourse is riddled with mis- and dis-information, most of the latter official, but not all. Not simple, and not clean.

        2. Sanctuary

          Enenews.com is a news aggregator for energy related news and focuses on Fukushima as well as things happening in the US and Canada that we are not being told. The stories on the sites are blurbs with links to the original source stories themselves. Much like Huffington Post. So I don’t see what the discomfort is. Their stories are not commentaries. They are real, hard news.

    3. Up the Ante

      “If the pool were to go dry again, there would be certainly be fuel damage ..”

      #4 pool has burned already.

      1. LucyLulu

        Initially they thought pool #4 had burned. They no longer believe the rods ever became uncovered. Instead the belief is that hydrogen from exhaust pipes of unit #3 had backed-vented through exhausted pipes into unit #4 (the two systems are connected) and caused the explosion. That makes more sense if you look at the damage to building 4. A fire and explosion at the roof wouldn’t have caused lower level problems walls to blow out, which are several feet of steel reinforced concrete.

        I’ve thought more about the risk of fire at this point. I can’t say for sure there is NO risk, but the risk is low at this point. And as another pointed out, they have reinforced the structure of the pool……..and repaired the leak never released to any of the media I presume, since it was quite significant. A leak was the only explanation for the radionuclide test results on the early pool samples released (about half the pool every two weeks).

        1. Up the Ante

          There was 3 explosions, #2 never did explode. Those 3 explosions were separated in time. And discolored smoke, not steam, had been observed rising from 4.

    4. Sanctuary

      If SPF#4 collapses, the fuel rods will overheat and spew radiation of a level of 85 times Chernobyl. The entire complex will be too hot to be near, for humans and machines. This will also mean thatthere will be no one able to run the controls keeping the other 5 reactors from melting down and they WILL proceed to full meltdown.


      1. neslo

        Ah what a few million pounds of spent fuel fuming off its inventory of radioactivity…
        just the end of days, prepare your spirit

          1. north country

            Correction: Gundersen said ‘I don’t know’ if the assembly would collapse, or tilt on its side, etc. But the likelihood that it would run dry seems very close to 100 pct. (Thanks posting excerpts from the transcript below, Lambert.)

  6. ex-PFC Chuck

    It’s my understanding that there are spent fuel pools at all operational power-industry light water reactors here in the US of A. Since the country has been unable to find a truly suitable location for a “final” repository for the spent fuel a large percentage of the fuel used since the inception of the industry is in these pools. (A number of plants have received approval to move some fuel rods to on-site “dry cask” storage.) The San Onofre and Diablo Canyon plants in California should be of special concern, since they are located in known active seismic zones. There may be others in less well-known seismic risk areas.

    Until Fukushima the dangers inherent in these overloaded spent fuel pools inside the reactor buildings were on almost no ones’ radar screens. Ya think it’s maybe time to begin getting serious about “permanent” off-site storage and disposal? If the nuclear power industry deserves a future at all, it’s got to come up with a much less inherently dangerous fuel cycle.

    There was a time when I thought that nuclear power could play a big part in reducing carbon emissions, but no more.

    1. bmeisen

      That was part of the shock of Fukushima – they put spent rods on the roof. And then the reports that similar solutions were popular at US plants, e.g. Vermont Yankee storing their spent rods in containers on the Connecticut River shore. These are consequences of governments exempting the nuke industry from liability costs.

        1. bmeisen

          If the nuke industry is exempted from potential public liability costs and its management rewarded comfortably then each individual American should be exempted from the potential public liability of their physical frailty and be rewarded comfortably.

        2. just me

          “Tarp-strength tarp!”

          Harry Shearer! On a “Clean, safe, too cheap to meter” segment of Le Show in January 2011, he was reading a news story about a botched cleanup of leaking old nuclear buildings on the Mohawk River:


          The buildings have been closed since 1953, ladies and gentlemen. Just standing there, safely. The partly demolished H2 building, where researchers developed a process known as Purex – not related to the bleach – or the detergent – to extract weapons-grade plutonium and uranium is now covered with tarps to prevent further contamination from escaping. You know how strong tarps are. And impenetrable. They’re– nothing can get through a tarp! No molecules or atoms can get through a tarp! What are you kidding me? That’s tarp-strength tarp!

          A fine to correct.

    2. LucyLulu

      All of our light water reactors, which are the only type of commercial reactors we have, DO have associated spent fuel pools, although a few share a pool. And roughly 40 of the fuel pools are in known seismic zones.

      Personally, I have hopes for fusion power as being the sustainable, green energy. There have been (ambitious) estimates by some of it being ready for commercial production in as little as 10 years, especially if more funds could be secured for research and development. Allegedly the design plans have been drawn up and are ready to be implemented.

      1. Up the Ante

        “Personally, I have hopes for fusion power as being the sustainable, green energy. ”

        Do you think they’ll also site them near dairy producing regions ?



        1. LucyLulu

          Fusion energy is not a risk to dairy farms, food supplies, or human health. It is very different from fission energy used in current nuclear technology. It is the same technology used in lasers.

          1. Up the Ante

            Fusion energy requires tritium, and there is certain to be discharges.
            Tritium is a threat to lifeforms, lifeforms dependent, at the very least, on cell membrane integrity.

        1. Doubting Thomas

          More like we’ve been 50 years away for a long time. Princeton has a big research project and last I heard it was 2035 for proof of concept, 2050 for commercialization.

          Gen 3 nukes, the new and improved fission plants, have about a 6-8 year permitting, design and construction lead time until they finally go on line. I think we are down to one project in the US that was recently started.

          So basically we are Fukud. Solar and wind really don’t cut it either. NG is down to $2, but then there is fraking problems with that.

  7. LAS

    John Hersey wrote a short, very readable book on the aftermath of the Hiroshima bomb, how it affected the population of that city. It was based on survivor reports he collected during a trip to Japan in 1946 and the book is simply titled “Hiroshima”.

    Here are a few passages:

    “Now not many people walked in the streets, but a great number sat or lay on the pavement, vomited, waited for death, and died.”

    “When Mr. Tanimoto, with his basin still in his hand, reached the park, it was very crowded, and to distinguish the living from the dead was not easy, for most of the people lay still, with their eyes open. To Father Kleinsorge, an Occidental, the silence in the grove by the river, where hundreds of gruesomely wounded suffered together, was of the most dreadful and awesome phenomena of his whole experience. The hurt ones were quiet, no one wept, much less screamed in pain; no one complained; none of the many who died did so noisily; not even the children cried; very few people even spoke.”

    “As she dressed on he morning August 10th, in the home of her sister-in-law in Kabe, not far from Nagatsuka, Mrs. Nadamura, who had suffered no cuts or burns at all, though she had been rather nauseated all through the week … began fixing her hair and noticed, after one stroke, that her comb carried with it a whole handful of hair; the second time, the same thing happened, so she stopped combing at once. But in the next three or four days, her hair kept falling out of its own accord, until she was quite bald … On August 26th, both she and her younger daughter, Myeko, woke up feeling extremely weak and tired, and they stayed on their bedrolls.”

    “When Father Kleinsorge arrived at the hospital (in Tokyo), he was terribly pale and very shaky. He complained that the bomb had upset his digestion and given him abdominal pains. His white blood count was three thousand (five to seven thousand is normal), he was seriously anemic, and his temperature was 104.”

    “To the patient’s face he most encouraging … But when the doctor got out in the corridor, he said to the Mother Superior, ‘He’ll die. All these bomb people die — you’ll see. They go along for a couple of weeks and then they die.'”

    “Twenty-five to thirty days after the explosion, blood disorders appeared: gums bled, the white-blood-cell count dropped sharply, and petechiae appeared on the skin and mucous membranes. The drop in the number of white blood corpuscles reduced the patient’s capacity to resist infection, so open wounds were unusually slow in healing … If fever remained steady and high, the patient’s chances for survival were poor … If the patient survived, anemia, or a drop in the red blood count, also set in.”

    “Not all the patients exhibited all the main symptoms. People who suffered flash burns were protected, to a considerable extent, from radiation sickness. Those who had lain quitely for days or even hours after the bombing were much less liable to get sick (from radiation) than those who had been active.”

  8. Burning Waste

    Have no fear, Obama and GE Jeffrey will get us all computin’ with clean safe power. The owner/ruler class successfully covers up every crime they commit, whether torture or ponzi.
    The question for the lil’folk is whether certain foods are safe for consumption: wines from California, chocolates from Tokyo, fish from Alaska, rice and fish from the pacific, kelp, seaweed, sushi, cannabis, makita power tools, honda civics – is it all contaminated?

  9. Suckin in the 70s

    Reading the news here – first impressions are that Barack’s secret service types were getting nookie in right wing drug war land. Remember Nixon. The drug war, the carpet bombing, and over in Japan away from GE miniguns reactors were built. Get high people! Get high!

  10. PeakVT

    I don’t understand why people are panicking about this now. It’s been a known problem since the beginning of the crisis.

    Also, a little more research would be helpful. TEPCO announced last year it was shoring up the pool, and NHK reported work started in May and was due to be completed in June. Has the work been completed? Has any outside party analyzed the work done?

    1. lambert strether

      Well, one reason might be that the Japanese political establishment decided to turn a couple of reactors back on without (a) completing the study of what went wrong, and (b) establishing a new regulatory agency. In my experience, process violations like that are indications of much deeper problems.

      UPDATE Adding, I don’t know if I’m panicking; I’m sort of beyond panic at this point. However, the “why now” part is explained partly by censorship, as mentioned in the post, and partly by transmission time in the blogosphere. (As another commenter pointed out, George Washington posted on this last week, but I missed — 30 slaps with a wet noodle for lambert — this actual video; the visual reaction of the presenters was important to me in deciding to post this.)

      1. Aigars Mahinovs

        Maybe that particular agency has not issued its report yet, but other agencies, including international ones have already completed their prelimenary reports. It is clear that what went wrong was a design issue – the height of the cunami was underestimated, failure of emergency power was not a expected emergency condition.

        The external power line failed due to earthquake and could not be restored fast enough, secondary disel generators were flooded by a once in a 1000 years cunami, same cunami also destroyed electrical switches installed in the basement of the plant (to guard from terrorism attacks) which prevented connection of off-site generators, emergency power supply operated off lead battaries for nearly 10 hours in most cases. After that went operators could not see instrument readings and could not adequatly react to the further developments. If at least one power system remained per reactor, there would be no problems, like in 5th and 6th reactor at Fukushima 1 that both survived with no core damage with just one disel generator between them.

        They vented 1 and 3, but as the venting piping was damaged (by either earthquake or cunami) hydrogen flowed back and exploded. That caused minor radiation release. They delayed venting 2 until they could get a venting hatch open, but the pressure went too high (which they could not see due to emergency power being out) and the torus exploded under the rector. That event released more than half of all radiation of the disaster.

        Unit 4 was stopped. There was some hydrogen froming from the fuel pool and some oil/oxygen fire (spilled by earthquake, ignited later by a spark), but it is the safest of the 4. They even reinforced that fuel pool with metal rods and some concrete injections. It is not a thin structure. There are meters of concrete in the ‘walls’ of this pool.

        All the reasons are well known and all nuclear station operators already know them and have taken precautions. Japan is on electricity rationing now. There is simply not enough electricity for everyone and everything without nuclear.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          On the reinforced pool, you write:

          “They even reinforced that fuel pool with metal rods and some concrete injections. It is not a thin structure. There are meters of concrete in the ‘walls’ of this pool.”

          “Even” is a real tell, to me. I don’t see how the reinforcements can be anything other than a hack and a kludge. TEPCO has no credibility. Whatever temporary reinforcement was done, the structure itself has no integrity (else we wouldn’t be moving the rods!) I’m guessing the workers building it were contract laborers, working under conditions they and everyone know are incredibly dangerous. That doesn’t inspire confidence that the “reinforcements” are anything other than a hack and a kludge. Gunderson on the #4 pool:

          In a severe earthquake M7.0 or better, it’s likely to break. Whether break means collapse and lay on its side like the leaning tower of Pisa, or the pool itself just shatters I don’t know

          [Yeah, that’s a partial transcript from an interview. One reason I really, really hate this story is because a ton of the information is buried in YouTube’s without transcripts, so it’s really hard to assess.]

          1. YY


            I’m cynical enough to assume that there are reasons other than engineering to have done this. I’m optimistic enough to know that a simple task where all the measurements are known, structure does not need to take into account amenities/utilities, windows, doorways, rooms and aesthetics there is very little reason to under engineer for failure.

            The alarmists are wrong on two fronts. If the real agenda is to highlight the generalized problem of spent fuel storage, it is not nice to do it by spreading rumors of impending Armageddon. The other is that exaggeration brings in the Peter and the Wolf syndrome. Reasonable argument becomes impossible. The former is not such a problem right now as the #4 pool issue is fringe in Japan (google it in Japanese and see what turns up) as was the original NRC misdiagnoses which went largely unnoticed in Japan. The latter is more a problem as trying to sort out the mess becomes more difficult, the more the fear is pumped. There are already ridiculous situations of earthquake/tsunami debris from totally nuke unrelated
            areas, measured to be less than trace, being refused for incineration by other parts of Japan.

          2. neslo

            Exactly what part of that picture gives you any reassurance that this structure which can end humanity will be able to withstand another 9.0 earthquake, or even a 7.0

        2. Maiyim Baron

          I have lived in Japan for the past 7 years, in Yamagata, the next prefecture over the mountains from Fukushima and Miyagi. I am about 100 miles from the Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Japan is NOT rationing electricity and there is not now nor was there EVER since the disaster a shortage of electricity. Other shortages yes, definitely, post earthquake /tsunami, but electricity has not been a problem. There was talk about and plans made for ‘rolling blackouts’ when electricity would be rationed, but as far as I know that never happened, anywhere in the country. I am one of the people who translated notices about this for posting on my prefecture’s web site. Shortages of electricity were averted mainly because of the peoples’ amazing efforts to successfully conserve electricity on our own, last summer and through this winter too. The result of this is that it is now plainly understood by much of the population here that Japan does NOT ‘need’ nuclear generation of electricity. Last I heard, ONE of the 54 plants here is operating in some capacity.

      2. PeakVT

        I don’t understand why people are getting upset about turning some reactors back on, either. Are the reactors being considered for restart on the 1) west coast, or 2) on the east coast (facing a subduction zone)? Are the reactors A) PWRs, B) BWRs with Mk.I containment, C) BWRs with Mk.II or Mk.III containment, or D) ABWRs? Are the reactors I) less than 40 years old, or II) more than 40 years old?

        The answers are 1, A, and I.

        In the short term (1-5 years) Japan does need some power from nukes, regardless of whether they make any serious effort to build new renewable sources. From the information I have seen, the Genkai plant units 2 and 3 seem to be as good as any to turn back on.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Maybe for the same reason you’d be upset to see a recovering alchoholic take a drink?

          There are big problems here! Turning the reactors back on prevents them from being addressed! And the report that would say what went wrong at Fukushima, and the new agency to regulate the industry, have not happened. Can you not give consideration to the view that there are alternatives to “business as usual”?

          1. LucyLulu

            Why turn the the plants back on? Recall that what they experienced was a once in a 1000 year event. They need to make fixes too, but they could do those concurrently.

            See my post below. In addition, economies need energy. Toyota and Honda can’t build cars without energy. Japan is a major industrial nation. They build real things (as opposed to creating exotic financial products). Their national debt is 200% GDP. They can’t afford for their economy to be depressed due to lack of energy resources and a workforce stressed by same.

            Don’t get me wrong, you have a valid point, and I well understand it, Lambert. But I can understand their point of view, too. And its controversial there, from what I understand. One of those times where “heads, you lose, tails I lose”.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            Lucy, I would view the “once in 1000 year” event stat with “a hermaneutic of suspicion,” simply as a statistic; the incentives for distortion by those who create the (unsourced) statistic are simply too great.

          3. Up the Ante

            “They need to make fixes too ..” Lucylulu

            They built the wrong infrastructure. They are textbook now for ‘garbage in, garbage out’.

          4. PeakVT

            All reactors are not equal. If the Japanese government was proposing to restart Mk.I BWRs on the east coast, that would be reason to be very concerned. It’s not.

          5. Maiyim Baron

            Where did you guys get the ‘once in 1000 years tsunami’ idea? It is ‘once in 100 years’ here in Japan’s consciousness, which while that makes it just out of living memory for most people, is not unknown or forgotten. TEPCO just built these on the cheap, without adequate protections and backups in place, and they knew it all along, were told that in their initial planning processes. As we all get older, we realize 100 years is not SO long, and if we are building nuclear plants that are supposed to be good for say 40 years, that’s almost half a hundred. So they need to be SITED ( one of the main issues) and built to withstand a tsunami like the one of 3.11.11 in their lifetime.

  11. briansays

    “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

    “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

    — J. Robert Oppenheimer

    1. Up the Ante

      “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

      Seems uranium doesn’t even like being irradiated. Spent fuel rods are far more radioactive than new ones.

  12. Eric L. Prentis

    Why aren’t we spending trillions of dollars on this urgent Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, rather than propping up the stock market with quantitative easing. Japan could be lost, and everyone may have to move to the southern hemisphere—just to stay alive.

    But no, we are preoccupied with whether Mitt Romney’s wife works, the drug trade, prostitution, abortion and stopping the S&P 500 from going down by 15%.

    Idiots set our national priorities. I reject a bankster led world.

    1. TK421

      “Idiots set our national priorities.”

      That includes anyone who votes for Obama, rather than demanding an acceptable candidate. Even if he is an iota less awful than the Republican.

    2. just me

      “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” — Kurt Vonnegut

      “So it goes.” — Kurt Vonnegut

  13. fredw


    Lambert – great post ! BTW , I added data pertaining to quakes in the vicinity of Fukushima over the past two days as well as the past week – as you will note , your post has ben highlighted at my blog and hopefully more folks will be made aware of what’s brewing at Fukushima ). . As we have seen the ring of fire has been increasing active over the past week. The chances of a quake near Fukushima of a magnitude greater than 7 seems to be in the cards over the medium term ( query – are the swarms of quakes a precursor for a strong quake ? )

  14. Glen Furgensen

    No doubt about it, much more coverage was given to Obama’s BP disaster in the Gulf. Similarly, much effort was given to covering it up, lies, propaganda, accomodating Federal Agencies and a judge or two – everything’s just fine now.
    Too big for honesty, besides, Big Brother will let you know what to be afraid of.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      This video reminded me more of Katrina than the Gulf. There was a rare but real window during Katrina when some of the reporters were so appalled by what was happening that they rediscovered their humanity and started delivering something close to actual news. I put the reaction of the presenters into that context. (I’m not familiar at all with Japanese culture, so take this for what it’s worth, but I thought the reaction shot at [5:04 – 5:07] was extraordinary).

  15. Phil Grasso

    5,000 to 7,000 of Chernobyl’s “liquidators” are dead from what was the world’s greatest nuclear disaster.( RT won’t even show some of the videos, incidentally, preferring to heavily edit the content) Truth is always a casualty. War, housing crisis, nuclear accidents, just can’t let the kids know too much, control will be lost. We’ve got the data!

  16. ltr

    Excellent, I am grateful and I am well aware of the impossible level of censorship in Japan which is only broken through in the wake of calamity and then a little here and there.

  17. ltr

    Oh, you mean American censorship, not Japanese. I agree about American censorship and found the reports on Fukushima on public television strikingly empty but Japanese censorship is as striking as any in America.

  18. Conscience of a Conservative

    Posted by Mochizuki on December 31st, 2011

    The Nuclear Safety Commission, which has responsibility for the governance of the nuclear industry, has been involved in bribery.

    24 of 89 members, including the chairman Madarame Haruki, have received 85 million of “donation” from nuclear related companies or organizations for these 5 years.

    11 od 24 members even received money from electric companies and nuclear fuel manufactures which must be checked by Nuclear Safety Commission themselves.

  19. Sanctuary

    I’m so glad someone is finally saying this. A collapse of Spent Fuel Pool #4 literally risks the fate of humanity. Even worse, what wasn’t stated above is that if #4 collapses, it will spill more than 400 tons of plutonium into the Pacific Ocean and completely destroy it. A few weeks ago, physician Dr. Helen Caldicott stated quite clearly that if #4 collapses, she’s evacuating her family from BOSTON: http://enenews.com/caldicott-if-spent-fuel-pool-no-4-collapses-i-am-evacuating-my-family-from-boston-to-southern-hemisphere-video

    Last week, former Japanese ambassador Mitsuhei Murata went to the extraordinary step of publicly pleading for UN assistance primarily because the Japanese government isn’t doing anything about #4 until December: http://enenews.com/ambassador-murata-writes-secretary-general-exaggeration-fate-japan-world-depends-4-reactor-appeals-independent-assessment-team/comment-page-1

    Also, if #4 goes,the fuel rods will rapidly overheat and spew radiation out at a level of 85 times Chernobyl, making it impossible for humans or machines to be near the entire Fukushima complex. If that happens, with no one to monitor the fuel compressors and other controls, reactors 1,2,3,5,and 6 will ALL meltdown.

  20. Hugh

    Katrina under a Republican President and the BP blowout in the Gulf under a Democratic one are domestic illustrations of how our elites create conditions that are ripe for disaster and then respond poorly when disaster occurs. Fukushima is the Japanese version of this. And you have to wonder how many more are potentially out there, not just here and in Japan but in China, Europe, and the developing world.

  21. Pragmatic Realist

    I think that the scale of the disaster would go far beyond the contamination from reactor 4. If the whole city had to be evacuated then all the workers currently doing their best to keep the four of the reactors under control would have to leave. Eventually the cooling water systems would break down (as they already do frequently) and the reactors would heat back up and explode. Then there will be hell to pay.

  22. lb

    Regarding domestic non-reporting on this issue: there’s this from a couple of weeks ago: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/world/asia/inquiry-suggests-worse-damage-at-japan-nuclear-plant.html

    ”Experts also worry about a fourth reactor that was not operating at the time of the tsunami, but nevertheless poses a risk because of the large number of spent nuclear fuel rods stored in a pool there. ”

    ”The spent fuel rods pose a particular threat, experts say, because they lie outside the unit’s containment vessels. Experts have become especially worried in recent weeks, as earthquakes continue to hit the area, that the damaged reactor building could collapse, draining the pool and possibly leading to another large leak of radioactive materials. ”

    ” Tepco has been working to fortify the crumpled outer shell of the building of that reactor, No. 4. ”

    ” “The plant is still in a precarious state,” said Kazuhiko Kudo, a professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University in southwestern Japan. “Unfortunately, all we can do is to keep pumping water inside the reactors,” he said, “and hope we don’t have another big earthquake.””

    Tabuchi has an article from about a week ago regarding the results of a simulation of another large quake on Japan: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/10/world/asia/tsunami-projections-offer-bleak-fate-for-many-japanese-towns.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=hirokotabuchi

    Perhaps Tabuchi could be prodded to put two and two together here.

    1. Up the Ante


      “Cooling water in that vessel, called the drywell, was just two feet deep, rather than the 33-foot level estimated by Tepco officials ..”

      And they’ve steadily added water for about a year so the water is leaking to? the ocean.

      “The internal investigation also found current radiation levels of 72.0 sieverts inside the drywell, enough to kill a person in a matter of minutes ..”

      A comment from AtomFritz on ex-SKF tells us that sievert level may indicate the corium has escaped containment, as he says the empty core of a French reactor decommissioned 30 years ago still reads 70 sieverts.
      Brennilis NPP

      Get this,
      Canned Fish from Tohoku Will Go to Developing Countries, With Help from UN

      Mustn’t forget the ‘Fuku beef’,

  23. neslo

    Tens of tons of highly toxic uranium and plutonium were ejected into the atmosphere, and proven by EPA RADnet data being picked up in air filter samples.

    Man’s greed for “cheap” power has led us down the road to fashion our complete destruction, a total annihilation of the human species and all the other animals, in our insane attempt to grab “cheap power”. We could pay the highest price of all for this “cheap power”.


    1. Sanctuary

      With meltdowns and China syndrome at reactors 1,2,3,5,&6 if SFP#4 goes, I don’t think entombing the whole complex will be much help.

  24. Shyster Sister

    This news no doubt leaves some of you feeling physically ill. So maybe these words will bring some small consolation. You probably wonder why Tepco doesn’t treat this as something urgent. An external crane could be juryrigged quickly but in order to reach the rods workers need to go in and clear the debris from the explosion. And that’s really the clue here. Tepco is not willing to sacrifice its workers on kamikaze missions. That in turn tells you a thing or two about the actual risks here. The risk of those pools cracking and draining is so small that Tepco is not sacrificing a single worker for the sake of Japan. 1 life vs 128 million. Chew on that for a while and maybe you guys will sleep better tonight.

    1. neslo

      That provides ZERO comfort.

      TEPCO is a poorly run bureaucracy.

      They are failing on so many levels, it is beyond absurd.

    2. another

      “You probably wonder why Tepco doesn’t treat this as something urgent.”

      Not really. Like many, I have reasonably concluded that it is foolish to trust TEPCO’s judgment about what is and what is not an urgent matter.

    3. falun bong

      During Chernobyl, the Soviets needed workers to shovel sand into the pit, safe lifetime exposure time was 2 minutes. So they went to new army conscripts and said “you can do two years, or you can do two minutes with us”. The number that accepted: >800,000. Get the details at the Nat’l Sciences Foundation report. While you’re at it, check out the otherwise unexplainable spike in infant deaths when the Fuku cloud was over the US and Canada. 14,000 additional deaths during that 6-week period. Records are not rolled up state-wide or even locally but there’s no other explanation that fits the facts on the ground.
      When Fuku first happened, TEPCO told all its workers to evacuate. In extremely un-Japanese fashion, PM Kan stormed into their offices and told them to keep workers there. This act saved Tokyo.
      At first TEPCO and the new government was desperate to show that Fuku damage was caused by the tsunami, not the earthquake. That way they would only need to shut the coastal nukes, not all the others. The fact they’ve shut down all their nukes now shows what they really know.
      Now Chernobyl needs a brand new concrete “sarcophagus” and the Russians have been begging the world for the money to build it. Cost? $100 billion. Seems to me that kind of money would buy a whole lot of photovoltaic panels. “Too cheap to meter” doesn’t seem to be panning out.

      1. John

        Can’t the Russian oligarchs pony up? Or are they too busy buying penthouse apartments on Central Park?

    4. Sanctuary

      Actually no. TEPCO doesn’t care one bit about risking the lives of its workers. Understand that the workers who are there right now are dead men walking. They’ve received fatal dosages of radiation already. And besides, TEPCO’s constant lies, obfuscations, foot dragging, penny-wise/pound foolish behavior throughout this entire fiasco is risking the very existence of Japan. They’ve already poisoned the northern third of the country. Trust us, the only reason they haven’t moved the crane or the debris is because it will cost a lot of money. Nothing brave or valiant going on there.

    5. just me

      Tepco is not willing to sacrifice its workers on kamikaze missions.

      Just Japan and the world! This DELUSION that nuclear power is safe — ! Who do they think they are? Like, looking back on the Titanic right now, who would they be? The designer, the captain, lots of MOTUs go down with the TBTF “unsinkable” ship. Bruce Ismay makes it out on a lifeboat, but his life is ruined. JP Morgan, obscured White Star owner, comes out ok, and his corporate personhood does go on. (Does JP Morgan own Tepco?)

    6. Up the Ante

      “And that’s really the clue here. Tepco is not willing to sacrifice its workers on kamikaze missions. That in turn tells you a thing or two about the actual risks here. ”

      The actual risks here is ALEC will lose funding if the public goes anti-nuke.

  25. Aquifer

    Why couldn’t the crane erected to transfer the rods also be used to remove the debris? Rather like the “cat’s claw” in those stuffed animal machines? Of course it would have to be a bit more precise than those …

    Dumb idea?

  26. Aquifer

    Thanx for this, I think …

    This should be priority one on the international agenda right now. There were lots of offers of help after Katrina – who has offered help for this? Are there multiple Engineering Depts in our universities working on this? If not, why the hell not?

  27. Nathan

    Aquifer, I have been asking myself the same question: where, in God’s name, is the international response to this issue? Fukushima has LONG SINCE ceased to be just a Japanese issue; the fate of civilization and Life itself is far too great a burden to be handled by a single company or government alone.

    As a response, I have drafted a petition on the WhiteHouse.Gov site demanding that President Obama commission the Fukushima International Scientific Advisory Team, save Spent Fuel Pool #4, and stop Fukushima. Regardless of one’s feelings about the President, he is the only person in the world with the power to marshall the financial and intellectual resources needed to draw this cascading catastrophe of death to a close; it is up to us, as Global Citizens, to marshall the moral and spiritual resources to demand that he do so.

    Please sign and share the petition widely. 25,000 signatures warrants and official response from the Administration.


  28. YY

    Of the six or so storage pools at Fukushima Daiichi, SFP #4 must be the best monitored and studied. Unless there is good engineering based argument that the structure that was shored up to support the pool is especially dangerous, the alarm sounds to me as something that feeds on naivety of the uninformed. There are obviously multiple challenges at Fukushima, but SFP #4 is not a stand out. There is no evidence that this pool presents a greater danger than any other part of the facility or indeed of the geography come the next big quake.

    The structure which is in effect the WTC#7 of Fukushima (ie it collapsed when it shouldn’t have) seems to draw more alarmist attention than it should. One almost wishes that the biggest problem is to protect this pool from spilling as it is too easy a task.

    There are several false narratives developing which really do not help anyone’s cause. The myth of censorship which is more indicative of inattention on part of the press, the coverup which is more reflective of absolute lack of knowledge, and this damn pool which keeps rearing its ugly head ever since U.S. officialdom falsely called attention to it in the early days. And if you do not closely follow current politics, you will get fooled by anti-nuclear opportunistic political moves which in the end will not deliver safer situations.

      1. YY

        Murata is no expert, Gunderson is, however he is not being quite straight forward and is griding his ax. There is a huge problem of time difference between the original alarm and the fact that we are already one year into the crisis. If you believe that the people on the ground at Fukushima would allow the pool to teeter totter for one full year and cross their fingers that there is no large earth quake, you’d be quite naive. I doubt very much that the integrity of the #4 SFP would remain at high priority without anyone doing anything about it. That’s not blind faith, that is common sense. It is plain silly to suggest that only those sounding the alarm are the ones who see what is happening.

        1. Sanctuary

          You are either so frightened you are sticking your head in the ground rather than face the truth or you are a paid blogger by the Japanese government. You decided to talk about Murata, the former Japanese diplomat coming out publicly for international help, because you can’t make your false argument with the 2nd link I already posted to you with Alvarez’ comments which say NUCLEAR EXPERT right in the link and title of that article. And if you prefer Gunderson yet don’t trust Murata for some specious reason, then why does Murata say explicitly that he is referencing Gunderson within the link I already sent?
          Quote: “It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on NO.4 reactor. This is confirmed by most reliable experts like Dr. Arnie Gundersen or Dr. Fumiaki Koide.” Link (again):http://enenews.com/ambassador-murata-writes-secretary-general-exaggeration-fate-japan-world-depends-4-reactor-appeals-independent-assessment-team

          How about another Gunderson since you prefer him: http://enenews.com/biggest-fear-remains-very-precarious-spent-fuel-pool-4-collapsing-quake-video

          How about Matsumura? http://enenews.com/former-un-advisor-ive-been-told-maybe-50-years-to-contain-radiation-if-no-4-pool-collapses-during-50-years-continual-you-cannot-contain-video

          You don’t have the right to try to obscure this and downplay this. It’s completely unacceptable. As Takao Yamada states quite clearly here: http://enenews.com/breaking-mainichi-expert-sr-writer-govt-sources-say-no-4-pool-a-grave-concern-storage-pool-barely-intact-we-have-no-time-to-humor-senseless-thinking-of-those-who-downplay-the-risks

          We simply do not have time for this nonsense anymore.

          1. YY

            As much as I’d love to be paid to spout on the web, alas.
            Being a former diplomat is not a qualification any more than being any other civilian. What bothers me is not the danger inherent in the quantity of the fuel in #4. It hasn’t changed in the past year and one could argue that it has aged to a relatively safer state. There has been construction to support the pool because of the damage to the building. Quality of the support I have no basis to judge but it would appear that neither do the alarmists. Removal of the rods would be a good thing, so would a pony.
            However in light of the fact that there are three nuclear reactors in various stages of being rendered stable, I question why a very visible, easily inspectable (unlike #3 pool), pool of rods should get priority over and above everything else. The removal of the rods will be a major construction project and that is probably the reason why it is slated for much later than now (besides the longer the wait the safer the process). I just find this pool alarm bizarre and am mystified as to why it is occurring.

          1. wb

            ” I just find this pool alarm bizarre and am mystified as to why it is occurring.”

            If you are not a shill for the industry, then what does explain your complete lack of insight into the seriousness of the situation, which I find totally bizarre and mystifying.

          2. YY

            Predicting a big quake and fear mongering about it is serious insight? This is in absence of any objective evidence that the pool is structurally vulnerable? The alarm is based solely upon the quantity of the fuel and the appearance of a blown up building. These are obvious points and are not news to anyone who’s followed the story. If the pool is unsound it would be a story, but if it isn’t, it is just yelling fire in a theater.

          3. wb

            That remark would be tragically funny irony if you were to be taken seriously, YY. You appear to be mentally deficient in some way.
            Odds for a big quake are extremely high over the next 3 -4 years are very high. Quakes have been happening over the last few days. If the pool was not structurally vulnerable, why the attempts to support it ? What about the reports that it was leaking water and the water was boiling ? Sometimes there is indeed a fire in the theatre, and yet irresponsible clowns like yourself tell everyone not to worry, go back to sleep, trust the authorities…
            You’re obviously not capable of intelligent critical appraisal of risk.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          I think “teeter totter” is a straw man. The real issue is, can the reinforcements as built withstand an earthquake? Anything’s possible, but nothing about the process inspires confidence.

          In particular, it would be very easy for TEPCO to have released imagery and/or YouTubes explaining how safe it is. They could do site visits. Presumably, as a huge corporation, they have a department of public relations? That could wheel out the team of structural engineers who designed the work and put them on TV?

          Yet TEPCO has not done any of those things. So I think that at best we’re looking at a situation where a corporation is muddling through, kicking the can down the road, and hoping for the best.

          So, I don’t think the burden is on the critics to “Produce your own structural engineer!” If the structure were sound, TEPCO would have already done so.

          “The dog did nothing in the night time.”

          “That was the curious incident.”

          1. YY

            I think the problem is, unfortunately, that the criticism and the presentation of the issue is not coming from what would be interpreted as credible sources. They are not doing a good job of addressing the alarmists (for lack of better description). And the mainstream is not covering it with the right questions -remember this is going back more than half a year ago. All they did was release some poor quality photos and make announcements. So I’m relying very heavily on the notion that they would have made sure that the structure will not create for them a further mess and danger. This is not an unreasonable position to take.

          2. Anonymous

            With the amount of obfuscation we’ve had so far from TEPCO/Japanese government, I’d think we would want to send in the UN inspectors like we do other places that try and hide things from us. Or the DOE people. I hear most of the DOE budget is spent monitoring nuclear developments around the world.

            Bottom line is that if something does go wrong from here on out, they will be spewing huge amounts of fallout into the atmosphere and sea, and that is a major international problem.

            We need more than assurances from TEPCO, or even a few private individuals trying to analyze the situation from afar, that everything possible is being done.

            It’s also extremely disturbing to let corporate execs in Tokyo do what they think is the proper cost/benefit analysis for containment and cleanup. My electric bill will stay the same, but my tuna fish may glow in the dark and my cell division may begin misbehaving.

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            CHUTZPAH: “I’m relying very heavily on the notion that they would have made sure that the structure will not create for them a further mess and danger. This is not an unreasonable position to take.”

            Yes, it is an unreasonable position, since the same reasoning applies to Fukashima before the quake. Nobody wants “mess and danger.” And there Fukashima is: A mass of radioactive rubble and twisted metal. What part of meltdowns, plural, is not “mess and danger”?

            What’s unreasonable is to rely on data, engineering procedures, and institutions that produced “Clusterfukashima” in the first place! Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

  29. YY

    So what’s your point other than to insult? Everybody is well aware of quakes and of predictions. In that context how structurally sound should the supports for the pool be? That presumably is what was addressed by the engineers at Fukushima. The quality of the fix should be what’s at issue, however there appear to be no reliable report that the fix is deficient or substandard. And I would make the big assumption that those who are working the issues do make informed engineering decisions. Rather than to selectively decide that all Tepco announcements are proof of bad news and lies, especially when all the critics rely on the same basic information coming out of Tepco, I would give them some benefit of doubt when the issues are so obviously straight forward.

    So all we have are people shouting watch out with no substance to back it up. This is what is wrong here. Scare mongering for its own sake is strategically stupid and socially irresponsible.

    1. Sanctuary

      You were shown at least 6 links from reputable sources backing up the seriousness of this widening disaster. There are myriad other links posted thoughout this thread. The only one making claims here and not backing them up is you. Where is your proof that there’s, “nothing to see here…move along?”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      “Presumably.” I think, at this point, the only rational course of action is to apply a “hermaneutic of suspicion” to TEPCO and whatever it does.

      In particular (see above) I think presumption (the burden of proof) should be level set against TEPCO, rather than against its critics.

      (Which is not to say that all the critics are right. The sourcing issues on this story are making me crazy.)

  30. YY

    There was a mystery one time loss of water, the explanation did not make sense to me. However it did not seem to lead to any consistent loss of integrity which is comforting.
    As to the smoke, it would appear to be sourced elsewhere in #4. Even the NRC has corrected itself as to exposure of fuel in #4 pool, which it would appear never occurred. The damage of the original false alarm was not corrected enough however, as we go around again with the issues about this pool.

      1. YY

        If you really want stupid. Go read the NRC meeting minutes that resulted in the congressional testimony about #4 pool.
        Google it yourself and see how myths are constructed out of thin air.

    1. Sanctuary

      You just simply have no point to make. You were shown what experts said and you just blathered on to another non-point. You complained that diplomats are not experts but were shown that the diplomats are referencing the very experts you claim to want. When those such as yourself choose to deny facts, it is incumbent upon YOU to substantiate your denialism. I’ve more than substantiated why this is a grave concern. Just because you are incurious, refuse to recognize what experts are saying, and choose to be deliberately obtuse does not in any mean there is no need for alarm. With the seriousness of this widening disaster, THIS IS EXACTLY THE TIME TO BE ALARMED.

      1. YY

        The integrity of the pool structure is what’s at issue not expertise in what is in the pool. So who is the structural engineer expert and on what basis is he/she making the judgement? That is what’s missing here and it is crucial to the argument. It’s probably a good thing that TV Asahi’s programming is such that it isn’t going to send the capital city’s population on a panic. Don’t start me on diplomats, but would you trust everything that a former American diplomat would say in a field unrelated to his posting history in Cameroons and Switzerland? A former diplomat in fact represents only himself, otherwise he’d be a current diplomat representing the country. What of it?

          1. LucyLulu

            Arnie is a structural engineer? Are you sure? I thought his specialty was designing fuel racks, and I know he did some papers on calculating source terms and stuff, but I’ve never seen any structural engineering stuff. Of course, he could have easily consulted with some S.E.’s. IIRC, TEPCO put their plans for reinforcing the pool online.

            That still doesn’t negate that Arnie has a tendency to ring bells that don’t exist. I wonder if he still has his old videos online, with his predictions? They’d be very interesting for some of you to watch.

          2. LucyLulu

            BTW, Arnie sounds very impressive. In the beginning I hung on his every word myself so I understand. He sounds very credible and sometimes he IS right on target. But I also discovered that sometimes he is also dead wrong, and generally its when he predicts dire consequences.

            I have no doubt he is very knowledgeable and knows his stuff. I don’t know exactly what his agenda is, but it’s rather a strange one. To me, it isn’t consistent or predictable (kinda like nuclear power, lol).

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            Had I meant to write that Gunderson was a structural engineer, I would have done so.

            I guess I’m getting a little tired of the “Produce your own structural engineer!” as an argument. See here for why.

            I’d argue that the burden is not on the critics to prove that the #4 pool structure is safe (where “safe” means able to withstand another earthquake). From the behavior of the only people who are likely (if they have not deceived themselves) to know what the real situation is — TEPCO — it isn’t at all safe.

            I’d also argue that the burden is not on the critics to prove the exact degree of “badness” in the event of an earthquake. If the spectrum is from a 50-mile-wide “no go” zone across Japan to losing Tokyo…. Well, all you can say is that outcomes range from “really, really bad” to “really, really, really bad.” There seems to be a presumption that the engineers have everything under control. Given past performance and current behavior, I can’t see a lot of good reason for that.

            I guess what I’m really saying is that if one wishes to get to the point of deciding what to do, then the layer of abstraction to look at isn’t at the level of the engineering, but at the level of media critique and political economy.

            Though I appreciate the lucid technical information, because, as I keep lamenting, the sourcing issues on all this are heinous.

    2. Sanctuary

      And where are you getting this notion that there was merely a one time mystery loss of water? The leaks are ongoing, still unexplained, and dangerous: http://enenews.com/report-rapidly-dropping-water-level-at-fukushima-daiichi-no-4-leak-continues-from-reactor-wellsfpds

      In fact, on Thursday it looked like SFP#4 was careening toward re-criticality. Then TEPCO said there was just confusion between describing Reactor #1 drywell and SFP#4. However, given TEPCO’s numerous lies, this is still dubious. Especially when you compare their own statements such as this one on April 12: http://enenews.com/kyodo-possible-leak-at-no-4-spent-fuel-pool-cooling-system-halted-for-inspection

      and then this one on April 13:http://enenews.com/tepco-press-conference-sfp-no-4-heat-exchanger-restarted-new-photos-released-of-debris-inside-sfp-no-3-reactor-no-1-temperature-started-to-rise-noticeably

      If there was just some confusion between #1 and SFP#4, then why did the temperature go from 28 to 37.6 degrees Celsius in a day? Why are they now qualifying the temperature reading by saying “on the water surface?” The temperature further down is most likely hotter.

      Sorry, your claims just don’t pass even a cursory investigation of the real facts of this calamity.

      1. YY

        The skimmer surge tank business was unconvincing, and Tepco was probably making wild guesses. But it does not appear to be a continuing current problem.

        Re-criticality? Seriously, not a chance.
        Temperatures will rise if cooling stops. Surface temp will always be higher because heat rises.

        Does not these Tepco announcements give you some indication that they are actually monitoring what is going on and that they will announce (some times or most times to their detriment) all this embarrassing stuff? One can see levels of PR ineptitude and mistakes in Tepco’s various announcements but you can’t rely on these statements and then accuse them of constant lying.

        No I don’t read enenews, mostly because Japanese press covers the calamity pretty well. I am just tired of stories that are designed purely to alarm. And they can be spotted as that is how they read. Then you just ask a simple question. Are the folks at Fukushima daiichi that clueless and suicidal?

        1. Sanctuary

          NO the Japanese media do not cover this story very well as Ex-skf.blogspot.com and Fukushima Diary (both run by native Japanese) can attest. The Japanese media mostly engages in the same “ignorance is bliss” attitude in which you and our own media are engaging.

          1. LucyLulu

            And Jamie Dimon is an American, does that make him a reliable witness of the financial industry? Or is Bill Black reliable? They’re both Americans, with conflicting stories.

            Do you know what recriticality is and how it occurs? That it would be more likely that both you and I won the powerball lottery tomorrow than to have recriticality occur in a spent pool fuel, much less one with aged fuel? They wouldn’t even the use the fuel in a reactor anymore it is so “uncritical”.

          2. Sanctuary

            LucyLuLu, you aren’t making any points. When are you going to back up any of your comments?

          3. LucyLulu

            Recriticality or a return to a state where fission has restarted is when production of neutrons is at a rate at least equal to the rate they are being reabsorbed. You need fissionable material, a moderator, and configuration in the correct geometry. Thus if the pool goes dry, you no longer have a moderator because the water in the reactor (or theoretically the pool) acts as the moderator for the fissile reaction, and recriticality can’t occur. In addition, the fuel must be in a certain configuration or geometry. The spent fuel pools have control rods between the fuel assemblies which contain boron which acts to inhibit fission by absorbing neutrons.

            Here are a couple papers discussing scenarios that are conducive to recriticality. I’m sorry but they are technical, which is why I did not post them. I know of none that are not. In addition, most of the material I have collected I do not have online links for and do not know if they are posted on the web or not. I don’t have a web server to post my own links.



          4. Sanctuary

            Lucy LuLu, you are trying to deceive readers of this blog. You conveniently left out the word “controlled” to make your strawman argument. You are trying to confuse the issue by claiming that which is needed for a stable power plant is what is needed for a fission chain reaction. These are NOT the same things and I’m quite sure you know that. CONTROLLED criticality requires a moderator and control rods and a perfect balance of neutron creation/destruction. That’s kind of the problem here, isn’t it? The water is leaking and some of the fuel assemblies are damaged. Criticality in and of itself does NOT require control rods and moderators or perfect geometries. That’s why we have nuclear bombs. You claim to have an engineering degree and claim to have given yourself a crash course in nuclear reactions yet you are posting wantonly false information? Why is that?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          YY: “Tepco was probably making wild guesses.” OK, then, can you give me some litmus test for determining when TEPCO is guessing wildly, when they’re guessing, when they’re covering up, and when they’re telling the truth?

          * * *

          Up here in the great state of Maine, we’ve been fighting a landfill, and one of the issues is that literally all the data on capacity and composition of the waste comes from the operator themselves, who is incentivized to falsify them. More importantly, the very model for how the landfill has been built over time, and how it should be built, also comes from the operator.

          It seems to me that the situation for the #4 pool (and Fukushima generally) is much the same, with TEPCO and the nuclear power industry in the place of the landfill operator. The technical arguments that you (and Lucy) make remind me powerfully of the landfill situation. You must depend not only for the data but also for the model on what is ultimately an industry “black box” that cannot be assessed by the public, due to lack of transparency.

          For that reason, and exactly as with the landfill operator, I just have to give these technical arguments very little weight. I hope that doesn’t come across as a personal assault, because it’s not meant to be; rather it’s a conclusion I’m forced to by (again) some understanding of the political economy in which we are enmeshed.

          That is not to say that the critics are therefore to be regarded as not tendentious; I’ve expressed my discomfort with EE News elsewhere on this thread.

          I would be far more persuaded not by reams of well-written and internally consistent (well, it would be, wouldn’t it) technical arguments, than by well-sourced evidence of the “ground truth” of the situation. Imagery of the site; radiation measurements; a credible timeline; and so forth. (Transparency, in other words). So far as I can tell, the critics are the only people trying to do this. That speaks volumes. (And I know this is an open invitation to Tobacco Institute-style disinformation by TEPCO, but what can you do but try to do the right thing and move forward?)

          UPDATE Adding, as William Cromwell said: “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

          1. LucyLulu

            I understand completely, Lambert. Here’s the problem. Only Tepco and the Japanese govt have access to the site with the exception of a couple isolated times when they took international experts on a tour. However, even then, it wasn’t as if anybody could inspect the facilities. The radiation exposures are too high. The design specs are public knowledge, they are standard, and the amount of fuel is also public knowledge, all nuclear fuel shipments are closely tracked. Its not possible to inspect the actual fuel inside the reactor vessels, it won’t be for years. Nobody has seen it. There are photos of the buildings and spent fuel pools. And there have been videos taken by our lovely drone technology and robots have been inside the buildings and they’ve released at least some of those videos. Have you been to the cryptochrome site? Its THE BEST source for photos and videos, sorted by date, for all nuclear power facilities. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll spend forever there:


            Here is an October ‘independent’ (pretty reliable) report from the IAEA on offsite remediation work/progress:


            The problem, as I see it, or as I encountered, is that its not a trivial task to check out information, find reliable sources. It requires expensive monitoring equipment, several thousand dollars, to get accurate radiation level readings, for example, and though there were some other entities doing monitoring, they weren’t exactly broadcasting the information.

            I found a Japanese oceanic research group just south of Tokyo as one source, a university not far off, and some locals who sent soil samples to a big name French lab, but digging this stuff up isn’t trivial, esp if you don’t speak Japanese (I learned to read a little). I knew about the release on March 15 when it happened from my sources, levels spiked 50 km south of Fukushima from 80 to 4000 microSv, before they publicized it. It almost turns into a full time job. I also found somebody else online who was equally obsessed who was really good at finding sources too, and we worked together. Like I said, I wish I had saved more of what I found, but it was a hobby, for my own curiosity, and I didn’t think I’d ever have a need for it.
            But even the NRC was complaining they were being kept in the dark as far as what was going on. And the final complication was that nobody really knew what was going on in Japan either. Nothing like this had ever happened before, and like I said, you can’t visually inspect anything, and much of their monitoring equipment was either broken or suspect, nor was it designed to work in fields with the levels of radiation they were experiencing.

            The Japanese are fighting battles on multiple fronts there. And recall that they simultaneously experienced a tsunami that wiped out a large part of their island. They have large numbers of people who are still homeless and they’re trying to clean up that mess and rebuild. Transparency is probably not a big priority…… not that it likely would have otherwise been. Culturally, the Japanese are proud and ‘discreet’ people and refuse outside help. But I understand your frustration. It’s like trying to get a current detailed financial statement from the Federal Reserve.

            But some of these sites make claims that are so improbable that experience has taught me to ignore them. For example one posted here is a blog by a “nuclear professional” who has calculated from RadNet data that 195 tons of uranium was released into the atmosphere. Assuming the release was 100% uranium, which it would not be, uranium would be a small percentage, 195 tons would be the entire load of a reactor. Now that would be apocalyptic!

            And I really have other stuff I need to do. But I do like this topic and have enjoyed the diversion!!!

          2. Up the Ante

            Here’s more ‘source integrity’ demonstrating Japan’s “need” for nuclear energy,

            “Apr 15, 2011
            Tokyo Electric Power Co said it will be able to supply more electricity than previously expected during the peak summer months by using gas turbines and tapping hydro power, ..”


            Here’s your death knell for these freakin’ nukes,
            3 gas turbines producing a total of 1,520 MW,


            And THAT is End of Discussion.

            The nuke re-starts did not happen, and there were no reported blackouts.

        3. Up the Ante

          “.. and Tepco was probably making wild guesses. ”

          And now we feel to question TEPCO’s integrity, ‘source integrity’ ? Got it.

      1. Up the Ante

        “US seaweed with 8day half life”

        And then the other iodine isotope, much longer half-life.

  31. LucyLulu

    YY knows what he (I’m assuming you are a “he”) is talking about. The Japanese have been living with frequent earthquakes forever. They know how to design structures to cope with earthquakes. The one last year was the largest one in history, ever, and even that one only caused minor damage. Their seismic design capabilities are superb. If they’ve reinforced the pool structure, that is the ONE thing I wouldn’t worry about.

    I agree with YY about Gunderson. He IS knowledgeable but he’s biased. And I disagree that he’s been consistently right over the last year. He hasn’t. I’d have to go back and look, I don’t remember everything now, but I know he said he found Americum in N. England, which is preposterous, its a heavy metal and never would have traveled that far (plus has been found nowhere else), and when challenged to come up with the sample, he never did. Enenews is consistently a fearmongering site that reports falsehoods. Caldicott is going to evacuate New England? Where the hell is she going? Venus or Mars? And I can’t believe Alvarez was talking about 11,000+ spent fuel rods, he knows better. 8000-9000 are over 5 years post-discharge and could be air cooled now and put in casks. No way they would catch fire. I also don’t know what he was talking about with new information about the fuel in pool 4. There’s no new info about the fuel. And its now been 17 months since the freshest fuel has been discharged, so that pool doesn’t have nearly the heat that it originally did, which was less than 75% of what a US pool has, even with having a full load of fresh fuel. And the pool is racked less densely than our pools too, having only 1300 or so fuel rods instead of close to 4000. If there were a quake, they could also spray the rods with fire hoses, an emergency set up some of our PWR plants have built in as an emergency feature for this contingency.

    China Syndrome was a movie, it doesn’t exist, and 1% of reactors blow up or melt down???? Fukushima is exactly the third incident. Three Mile Island was quickly contained (though I think there was a coverup and some people were exposed). We have over 100 nuclear plants just in the US. I think there are about 400 in the world. We use oil and coal, which have caused far more illness and deaths than nuclear energy has. And no, I don’t work in the industry, I’m a nurse who holds an engineering degree, in computer science, who got obsessed with Fukushima. It led me to a crash course in nuclear physics and nuclear plant design, and to meet up with an international nuclear regulator, antiproliferation expert, as well as people who work here domestically in nuclear power plants and somebody in the radiation detection business who traveled frequently to Fukushima in the early months supplying them with equipment. I’m not particularly for OR against nuclear energy, as long as it is sufficient regulated and operated transparently.

    I’m not saying that there hasn’t been a cover-up, absolutely there has. The Japanese withheld information as long as they possibly could, every step of the way, and if I were a Japanese citizen I’d be furious at my government. The IAEA assisted in the coverup. I suspect the NRC too, but I can’t say that for sure. Never mind, I take that back. (EPA too, the highest reading in the US was never made public.) But don’t forget that early on our govt called for a 50 km evacuation of our military when Japan had only issued 12 or 20 km. causing a serious diplomatic incident. Our relations with Japan were very rocky for 3 weeks, almost ending in breaking off all ties. When US diplomatic officials went to Japan, their top guys wouldn’t even meet with them, the Japanese sent in their peons and made them meet in some broom closet. In light of that, do you think that if the situation at Fukushima were apocalyptic, we’d be sitting back and doing nothing, and let them destroy the world? Sheeeet, we’re ready to go to war with Iran over an imaginary threat. Yes, there’s still some misinformation being spread about. And yes, its a mess over there. There is lots and lots of contaminated water everywhere that has to be filtered, on a scale that has never been attempted. Cleaning it up is complicated and will realistically be a 30 year project. The area within a 20 km radius will be uninhabitable for generations. There will be other isolated hotspots scattered about, including some in Tokyo. Things like rain may cause them to shift about. The risk remains that groundwater could get contaminated from the site and travel. More will probably end up in the sea. If I had children, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere on that island. Older people will be fine, cancers won’t show up for 20 years or more. Workers are NOT the walking dead. About 100 have suffered significant exposures that we know of. It’s possible that is an underestimate but allegedly all have been tested, so I doubt the number is TOO much higher. The ‘significant exposures’ have increased likelihood of cancer later in life, but except for a couple who got pretty stiff doses, most still won’t get cancer (unless they live to 90’s when almost everyone ends up with cancer). Their exposures were akin to maybe 2 full body MRI’s.

    And the Japanese have a need for nuclear power right now. Nuclear power normally provides 80% of their power. In the summer, and winter, they are on rotating schedules for power. They don’t have any oil or coal or natural gas. We complain about energy prices here. We are currently paying $2 for 1000 cu3 ft of natural gas. They pay $16. They get much of their oil from Iran. We’ve given them an exemption from the sanctions but they’ve had to promise to cut back by 20%. They pay five times as much for gasoline as we do. And we expect them to not restart their plants when we are running ours, and we have the exact same designs in our country? We may not have as many earthquakes but they don’t have people flying airplanes into buildings like we do. Do you think our spent fuel pools would hold up as well?

    If people want to walk around like henny-penny saying the sky is falling, and believe those that want to spread doomsday scenarios to get their moment in the sun and promote agendas, then that is their right. But reality is some of this stuff is so outrageous its incredible, and that unless you live in Japan, you are living with other risks that are far greater, and plenty of them. If you don’t know, there is radiation present everywhere, you can’t escape it. It’s present in nature, higher in some places than others (e.g. Colorado has much higher levels naturally). If you get an MRI, you’ll be exposed to much higher levels than you’ll get in this country from Fukushima the rest of your life.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Let me take the major assumptions in the first paragraph:


      The Japanese have been living with frequent earthquakes forever.

      Making the reaction of the Japanese presenters at [5:04 – 5:07] all the more credible, then. To put this another way, you can’t claim that “the Japanese,” culturally, are better equipped to recognize earthquake risks than we are, and then dismiss their reactions when they’re presented with a risk that clearly horrifies them. The same argument also applies to the several ambassadors who’ve been trying to alert the world about this. (One might also, by your own argument, regard the ambassador critics as more credible than all TEPCO sources, since they share with all of “the Japanese” a cultural understanding of earthquake risk, and aren’t incentivized to defend their own industry or their jobs.)


      They know how to design structures to cope with earthquakes.

      Well, er, Fukashima turned out to be a little bit of a problem, no?

      The one last year was the largest one in history, ever, and even that one only caused minor damage. Their seismic design capabilities are superb.

      I agree the Japanese design is great and that structures like skyscrapers withstood the earthquake.

      If they’ve reinforced the pool structure, that is the ONE thing I wouldn’t worry about.

      Well, you’re shifting from design to construction here. Clearly, the #4 pool reinforcements aren’t the product of superior Japanese buliding codes. They’re an improvised structure, built in a lethal environment, probably by contract labor. So, first, show me evidence that the Japanese build this kind of structure well. (Probably true, but I want evidence.) Second, there seems to be a sort of intellectual bias, a deformation professionelle, that all engineering problems are soluble. Perhaps the situation at the #4 pool is not soluble. Again, if it were solved (where “solved” means it can withstand an earthquale, I would expect every effort to have been made to show that to be the case. Can you give me links to show that?

      * * *

      I have to go, so can’t address the remaining points. Not to put down the expertise, but the worldview seems to boil down to “We can engineer our way out of this.” Maybe. I think that the real point of both the show and my post is values:

      [6:42] They talk about resuming the operation after gaining understanding from local communities. [6:45] But for this issue, I think the whole country of Japan, or the whole area including the neighboring countries, is a “local community” that would be affected. [6:51] We should keep in mind that it’s not only the sites of the plants that should be considered as “local communities.”

      I really don’t think it’s helpful to characterize people who have gained that sort of perspective as “henny penny.” Or to take the view that only those with expertise in nuclear engineering — and not, say, ambassadors — have anything to say on this issue.

      Adding that alas, the focus on the technical has obscured a key point: Regardless of how bad the situation at the #4 pool is (and I think all on the thread would agree that it is, to use the term of art, “really bad”) the whole country of Japan is impacted, and so the whole country of Japan needs to be involved in the decision making. Clearly, it has not been.

    2. Sanctuary

      You are just not telling the truth now. China syndrome is of course real. It is the melt through of the radioactive core (corium) through the reactor and the containment vessel into the earth. That has occurred with 3 of the reactors already. As the corium melts through the earth it hits the water table causing a massive steam/hydrogen explosion and keeps doing so as it hits more water further down.

      And this nonsense you are saying about less radiation than an MRI? Who are you trying to fool here, me or you? If that was the case, which it most certainly is not, then why do 1/3 of Fukushima children have tumors on their thyroids only 1 year after the disaster began? Why heavily radioactive foodstuffs being found all over Japan? Why are their hotspots of many milisieverts in Tokyo and other prefectures many hundreds of km away?

      1. Up the Ante

        “.. this nonsense you are saying about less radiation than an MRI? ”

        And that’s the “former diplomat”s way of saying what to us ?

        It could be the other tasked personna. I’m sure, Sure, they’ll be forgiving if so.

    3. YY

      80% of power, I hope is typo. Many say 30% but that’s been proven wrong in practice. It is more likely between 15% and 20% at peak with nuclear being good portion of base. This is because the thermal side has had the flexibility built in.
      However summers are getting hotter and there is still difficulty in sharing power between west and east. So basically the country is facing a hot and expensive (import LNG)test.

        1. YY

          Oi is not Tepco. I would doubt any Tepco facility will restart within the year. I thought I saw a recent NHK poll that had slightly different results. The point maybe not so much what people think now but how this is going to evolve.
          The politics of it is getting pretty rancid, as the issue becomes a populist theme. The economics of it that drives it are not necessarily the same as the politics. So one may find the most vocal anti-nuke forces win only to compromise the very stance they took. For example, I would not trust resurgent Osaka mayer (makes Scott Walker look tame) for a minute with his opportunism on the issue.

      1. Anonymous

        I’ve always heard Japan is 80% nuclear power. The US is 20%.

        Japan also has the two first, and perhaps only, Gen 3 nuke plants in operation since 1998. These are a little over 1GW a piece. These are supposed to be more failsafe and they don’t generate as much nuclear waste.

        They have been importing a lot of mobile emergency generators from anywhere in the world they can get them.

        The fastest kind of full size plant to build new is NG – about 2 year construction time, plus design and site location/permitting. If they got LNG ready ports, that would be the fastest path to changing the infrastucture, but still a pretty long way off.

        1. YY

          Just as well it’s nowhere near the what may have been the long term target of 80%. Air conditioning is not necessarily a luxury if urbanization, building designs and ambient temperatures conspire to make it really hot. Transport, food refrigeration, life support, not to mention reading and video games, may not always be luxury. While many feel nuclear is not their problem because they did not positively vote for it or that they were “duped”, the tie is in reliance. Just as it would be unreasonable to expect immediate lifting of the foot from the accelerator by the populace because of BP Macondo, it is not that realistic to immediately turn off in total nuclear. Just as a driver is voting with his foot for gas a citizen is voting for electricity by use. Eastern Japan actually got away last year without huge shortages in power, even with the majority of the nukes being out. Weather patterns allowed it so it is mostly luck.

          1. neslo

            Bully, it was not “mostly luck”
            weather was not much cooler last year, they simply turned off a bunch of lights and ran the aircon less.

            that is all that it takes to eliminate nuke from killing us slowly and quickly.

    4. Up the Ante

      Lucy, aka Personna-on-Point, do you have a source for these numbers ? Rather specific, “We are currently paying $2 for 1000 cu3 ft of natural gas. They pay $16. ”

      Just want to know you’re not pulling them out of your Game of Monopoly tophat.

    5. Anon

      If you don’t know, there is radiation present everywhere, you can’t escape it. It’s present in nature, higher in some places than others

      Oh, please. This is a six-reactor nuclear power plant with spent fuel pools containing thousands of spent fuel rods dating back decades.

      The pools are now exposed to the open air in the ruins of buildings that have been blown apart in huge fucking explosions.

      These ruins are not protected against future earthquake or tsunami. They should not have been built where they are.

      This is not “radiation that is present everywhere”. This is a legacy event of the nuclear insanity of the Cold War: yet more evidence, as if we needed it, that Glenn Seaborg, the prince of plutonium himself, and his little friends at Hanford were nuts.

      Don’t you get it? There is no way back from this. Japan is gone. Japanese exports are gone. No one in their right mind will buy stuff from there any more.

      PS Caldicott said clearly that in the event of SPF4 collapse, she is evacuating back to Australia, because it’s in the southern hemisphere.

      Google the pics of teratogenesis in children from the Yablokov report on Chernobyl, and you might understand her reasoning.

      But you know all this.

  32. YY

    While just as capable as any to blame Tepco for every evil under the sun and more, looking at the problem as if there is this conscious and dumb entity with evil at its heart is to perceive things in such a warp that it is not all that useful. There would have been a time (let’s say before accident) when Tepco would be equivalent of a Con-Ed as found in Johny Carson monologues. It is just a fucking utility company. Heavily regulated, given monopolistic territory, and subject to national consensus as to energy policy. It would be run by (as demonstrated recently) feckless executives who in no way were shaping the future as leaders of anything.
    At the time of the accident the CEO went AWOL and then soon checked into the hospital. It did not matter because those on the ground in Fukushima were in fact cut off (literally) from head office both in comms and power in first days and were dealing the pressing problems where they were. If anybody is under the illusion that top executives were in fact in charge, they not only have not paid attention but are also pretty ignorant as to how organizations (less so in the US ironically) behave and the autonomies that exist within. The most that people saw of Tepco were the face of the PR people. It would not be an understatement to say that PR is not their forte. But then again it is just a utility company. These non-slick spokespeople for Tepco have turned out to be quite honest and certainly bad at telling lies. Mis-information and bad information there has been plenty, but very little actual conscious untruths.

    Tepco bashing while fun is not all that constructive. Any Japanese watching would have long ago figured out that the important things happening are at lower levels of the organization and not at the top. And when you get to the level of people actually dealing with real problems, there is a sense of trust because there is a reasonable level of uniform competence that is expected by members of society.

    The suggestion that the military (Michio Kaku) or outside experts (other than the usual gang at Toshiba or Hitachi?)
    would bring salvation is not just unrealistic but probably a formula for total failure.

    The government understands this very well and are not about to hurry the total take over of what is in fact financially a non-entity.

    The only difference to Macondo I would draw is that Macondo was probably more top down and was trying to financially preserve BP. With Tepco one is assured there is no possibility of preserving the corporate interest as it will be reorganized at some point. And no one gives a shit about who are on the board at Tepco.

    1. neslo

      Plenty of complete mistruths.

      self serving to protect their position and pensions.

    2. Up the Ante

      And still YY can not directly say TEPCO is a govt. front company. A “non-entity” yet “bashing” them is non-productive, or whatever internally inconsistent term YY used.

      1. Sanctuary

        LOL, exactly. I hope anyone stumbling upon this story and the comments exchanged sees the brazenness of these trolls for the nuclear industry. THey are obfuscating and telling out and out lies. The deceitful exchanges from Lucy LuLu and YY are small bits of evidence of why we don’t hear any of the truth about Fukushima in our press.

        1. Up the Ante

          I’m sure you and several others (!) have noted it, they are so openly contemptuous they have been literally contradicting themselves from comment-to-comment while regurgitating technical aspects and timelines that only someone who has been tasked would do *while refusing to take the thinking to its normal and logical conclusion*.

          They know you’ve noted it, too. Contempt.

    3. Sanctuary

      Oh YY. You just gave yourself away. “Any Japanese watching would have long ago figured out that the important things happening are at lower levels of the organization and not at the top.”
      That is nothing more than bankster-level garbage excuse making. If this isn’t proof you are some kind of industry stooge (nuclear, wall street, both) I don’t know what is.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      C’mon, YY, let’s be reasonable, here. Nobody’s blaming TEPCO for “everything under the sun.” They’re blaming TEPCO for a catastrophic meltdown, shoddy engineering, and a cover-up that even your sidekick admits.

      So, would you like a match for that straw man? Or possibly a shovel and a wheelbarrow for the b******t?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      George Washington has a great post on Wyden’s trip, that I added to this morning’s (forthcoming) links. The money quote: “A small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.” Ground truth is so important….

      1. Sanctuary

        Lol, exactly. Lambert please, PLEASE keep posting about this story. No one else really is and this is so deadly serious.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          What would be really helpful would be a labeled list of tropes used by nuclear industry apologists. Then we could refute the tropes once, and simply refer to the list in future….

          Not to say that nuclear critics are perfect, but last I checked, Clusterfukashima did melt down, despite all that really super Japanese engineering…

  33. chitown2020

    These tragedies always happen on the 11’s. Google or you tube search HAARP. These psychopaths think they are God.

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