(I must apologize to everyone for making a stupid mistake. Since last week, I have been reporting the decay heat levels in the stricken reactors. I based these ballpark numbers on the megawatt outputs of the turbine-generators. I should have been using the thermal megawatt output of the reactor fuel cores, which is about three times more than the electrical ratings. I have changed the previous values in all prior updates accordingly. However, it does not change anything else I have written.)
Before today’s informational update, I must re-emphasize the inexcusably poor informational flow from TEPCO. As we shall see, there has been, and continues to be a huge amount of information TEPCO could be sharing with the world, but this has not been the case. The intense, feverish work that has been, is, and will be done by emergency workers and operational staff since this all started, ought to have provided a constant, voluminous flow of “what is happening” information, no matter how mundane or un-exciting it might seem. Not all of it will “look good”, but that is a horrible reason for irresponsible restraint!.With an emergency situation covering 6 entire industrial facilities (Units 1 thru 6), there has unquestionably been an enormous volume of possible reports that could have been made. Why wasn’t it?
On this, I can only make an assumption based on my 5 years in nuclear information services. Most of the nuclear industry spokespersons, and nearly all of the information executives, have no nuclear experience whatsoever. They are what might be termed “media experts” or “information specialists” who’s only nuclear experience is writing press releases and explaining them since they got their nuclear jobs. There were numerous crucial items of information I could have shared with the local media, but I was told it was either “too technical” or “too different from what the public believes”. I hated such internal censorship three decades ago, and even more-so now. It is the reason I have created this website. I was censored back then, but not any more. It’s time for the nuclear community to grow up and treat the public with intellectual respect. There is nothing too technical for the world to understand if explained in clear, everyday language. They spend billions on power plants, so spend some money on getting the world educated…and it cannot be done through the news media!
Press statements should be numerous and filled with timely information, not merely cut-and-paste efforts containing little or no new information. A cursory reading of several days of TEPCO press releases on “Fukushima Daiichi” makes this foul practice abundantly clear. Further, the spokespersons interacting with the news media must have the technical expertise to answer any and all questions from the press, as well as make understandable explanations of the “too technical” stuff like decay heat or why it is impossible for reactor-grade uranium and Zirconium to explode. This will be a hard lesson every electric utility that runs nuclear power plants in the world to learn. Will they do the right thing, or continue their illogical and unprofitable “business as usual”? You don’t want to know how I would answer that!
Back to Fukushima…
Since yesterday, the following events have occurred (TEPCO)…
- The Unit No. 3 Fuel Pool Cooling and Filtration System has been started and is operating, keeping the Unit No. 3 fuel pool filled with water and removing the decay heat still emanating from the stored fuel cells.
- The temporary Seawater Residual Heat Removal Pump for Units 5 & 6 automatically stopped when the power source was switched from the emergency diesel source to the emergency cable supply. Before restarting, the exceedingly low production of decay heat in both Units allowed the operating staff time to inspect the pump and repair anything that might have been damaged.
- All four Fukushima Daini nuclear power Units are in the totally safe condition of cold shutdown, and have been for more than a week (# 1 and #2 on March 14, #3 on March 12, and No. 4 on March 16). This has been in the TEPCO press releases all along. Fukushima Daini is 10 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Daiichi. The tsunami there seems to have been about 20 feet high, thus their emergency power systems were not totally flooded (diesels), and those that were partially flooded were recovered before any fuel damage could occur. (Where has this news been in the western news media? Is it frightening? Is it ominous?)
- Electric power has been restored to the Unit #1 control room. All that has been re-energized is the lighting, at least this is all that is in the TEPCO release. Asahi Shimbun adds, however, that power to the reactor monitoring equipment was restored mid-day Wednesday for Unit #4, and early Tuesday for Unit no. 1. This allows for at least some reactor temperature and water level readings for the first time. I can’t find this ifull-disclosure-necessary information anywhere in the past 2 days of press releases. Inexcusable! This indicates that TEPCO is cooperating with Japanese reporters to a much higher degree than with western reporters, especially American and European. Blame them?
- Operators are preparing to restart cooling equipment for the reactor and spent fuel pools at Units #1 and #4. However, the seawater spraying of Unit #2 has been slowed because the equipment has been drenched with seawater. (Asahi Simbun)
- Japanese Cabinet Chief Yukio Edano has officially denied the radiation levels could pose an immediate risk to human health, saying that in order to receive a half-year’s normal radiation dose, one would have to consume 100 grams of the most radioactive plant yet found daily for over 10 days, NHK World reports (Japanese news source).
- IAEA reports that some of the vital instrumentation in Units 1, 2 and 4 have been re-energized, but not Unit # 3. The amount of data coming in is more than IAEA “experts” can assess. (What? The IAEA is getting too much info?) They also report that as water is injected into the Unit No. 1 reactor pressure vessel, pressure increases, rather than decrease due to the condensing of steam from an overheated condition. IAEA seems confused on this one. However, this info strongly implies that the Unit #! reactor vessel is full of water, and the inner fuel cell is, and has been completely covered for at least a day. (C’mon, IAEA…even a mere former nuclear engineer can figure this one out.)
- IAEA concludes that no significant risk to human health has been identified. This kind of statement leaves the door open for nuclear-phobic speculation. It allows for the possibility of less-than-significant risk, and continues the illogical and unscientific practice of using the Linear, No Threshold model for radioactive risk estimates. TEPCO is saying there is currently no health risks, period! TEPCO may be thin in what they are telling the world, but at least they get it right!
- IAEA reports that all of the fuel cells had been removed from the Unit #4 reactor before the tsunami hit. That’s “news” to this reporter!This would mean the spent fuel pool of Unit # 4 would have had many, many times greater decay heat production than the other three. Where’s the “white smoke” (e.g. steam) from the most rapidly evaporating pool? Plus, where did the hydrogen come from in sufficient quantity to blow the building’s roof off? Let’s wait and see, on this one. However, if it is true, than there was never any possible way Unit #4 could have experienced a “catastrophic meltdown”, if you will.
All of the 9 items of today’s available information, summarized above, ought to be coming directly from TEPCO! However, much, if not most of it is not! There’s more than enough info available to allow TEPCO to no longer fill their press releases with cut-and-paste redundancy. Be timely. Embrace full disclosure. TEPCO has everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing so. But (as demonstrated by The USSR at Chernobyl) they risk losing everything by being less than transparent.