Wednesday’s reports out of Japan on TEPCO’s estimates of unit #1 RPV’s complete melt-through to the primary containment floor, is literally full of more holes than the RPV itself. As more detail on the data TEPCO fed into the computer simulation emerges, we find little to hang our hats on. From the information contained in Japan Times and Asahi Shimbun articles posted Thursday, TEPCO based their assumption entirely on worst-case scenarios for the accident event sequence….that never happened! For example, all cooling flow to #1 RPV was assumed to have stopped immediately at the onset of the earthquake and not re-started for “days”, causing the fuel to be uncovered, begin melting down after three hours, and continue to be melted for at least 48 hours. This entirely contradicts control room operator records which show the fuel did not begin to be uncovered until after midnight, more than 8 hours after the earthquake. In addition, there were at least two cooling water injections (~80 tons each) before uncovery…one about two hours after the earthquake and another just after fuel uncovery began. Further, cooling water flow (seawater) to #1 RPV began at 7pm on March 12 and ran almost continuously thereafter, with a few several-hour interruptions through March 15 due to hose damage caused by the #3&#4 reactor building explosions. In other words, the most critical data leading to the TEPCO’s melt-through conclusion are entirely fabricated! Complete fictions!

What makes it even more of a fairy-tale is TEPCO’s statement that the entire core of unit #1 may have melted through the RPV and dropped to the containment floor beneath. If that happened, the hole in the bottom of the RPV would be huge and still gaping, so there would be no way for a measurable water level to exist inside, at this point. Yet, JAIF’s Thursday data report, based on TEPCO data, shows a water level which is ~4.5 feet below the top of what used to be the fuel cell, which is more than 15 feet above the bottom of the RPV. A complete RPV melt-through of the core would result in zero water inside the RPV…there should be no water level to report.

There seems to be a virtual mountain of severe problems with TEPCO’s melt-through announcement for all three units. The above is literally the tip of the iceberg. The entire simulation may well be not worth the paper it was printed on. To add another level of fiction to the mix, Asahi Shimbun says someone (anonymous) with the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization believes the accident was perhaps two times worse than the TEPCO simulation purports. A fiction predicated on another fiction, if you will. But, what makes matters worse are the incessant mentions in the Japanese press of the China Syndrome superstition, supported by TEPCO statements to the news media. All reports say China Syndrome was averted, but each strongly implies it to be an entirely possible reality for the world to fear. Right! So is Godzilla!

  • As if the above isn’t disturbing enough, this morning we find another article concerning the melt-through theory (above), this time citing “experts” other than TEPCO. Some say they agree with TEPCO, while others don’t.  On the positive side, Hiromi Ogawa, a former engineer at Toshiba Corp., said “The simulation
    referred to lots of data collected from many experiments, and thus I think the results are very precise. Still, the situation will have to be confirmed visually.” On the negative side, Kenji Sumita, past deputy chief of the Nuclear Safety Commission, said, “There are many computer simulation methods. I want to see
    simulations conducted by organizations other than Tepco. I don’t believe the fuel got as close as 2 or 3 cm to the steel shell, but I am not sure how credible their details are.” Clearly, distrust of TEPCO runs deep. (Japan Times) We feel it is important to point out something all Press reports fail to mention…the news media tells everyone the corium penetrated within 37cm of the steel shell buried in the concrete, which technically marks the limit of the primary containment floor under the RPV. All reports make appear that if the steel shell would have been penetrated, it would have been China Syndrome. What is being conveniently omitted is the ~8ft of steel reinforced concrete below the steel shell.

Now, for some real updates…

  • The Japan Chemical Analysis Center in Chiba has reported that the concentrations of radioactive Xenon in
    the atmosphere for the first 3 months of the Fukushima accident were above normal. The peak concentration occurred soon after the unit #1 hydrogen explosion, which decimated its refueling deck, at 400,000 times normal. (normal = 3.4 millibecquerels.m3, or 3.4×10-3 becquerels/m3). From March 14-22 the average was 1,300 becquerels/m3. Keisuke Isogai from the Center commented on the potential risk, “Since the detected amount translates into a cumulative external exposure to radiation of only 1.3 microsieverts over the three-month period, it won’t cause a health hazard.” (Mainichi Shimbun) How can something 400,000 times “normal” be safe? That’s a huge number, and huge numbers are inherently scary. First, Xenon is an inert gas that cannot chemically combine with anything. If breathed in, it immediately gets exhaled out and cannot enter the body’s biology. Thus, the only exposure is external. Second, Xenon-133, the primary isotope, is a beta radiation emitter. Beta radiation is non-penetrating. It all gets absorbed by the outer layer of skin. No living tissue exposure whatsoever. Thus, the exposure is essentially innocuous. (The outer three layers of skin are dead cells) In fact, there could have been a billion-billion times normal Xenon levels and there would still be no health threat.
  • TEPCO has released their interim report on the Fukushima accident (in Japanese only…grrr). The report is based on over 250 interviews with plant operators who were at the accident scene from March 11 through the end of May. It begins with what sounds like an attempted shifting of blame as to why the accident was even possible, by saying the government endorsed their existing tsunami protection before March 11. The report also says the utility did everything in its power to stop the progression of the accident events, but workers could not keep up with on-site developments and the meltdowns ensued. It does not, however, contain explanations of what measures the operators at unit #1 took to try and cool their RPV, nor how a massive release of airborne material could have come from unit #2 without a hydrogen explosion. (NHK World)
  • The Tokyo government has announced the independent panel intended to investigate the cause(s) of the Fukushima accident has been expanded to ten people. However, it seems none of them have any nuclear engineering or operating experience. While no new names have been given, the membership is reported to include, “…doctors, a management consultant and a former public prosecutor.” To make matters worse, the committee’s report is not expected before June 2013, which means the start-ups of idled nukes probably won’t happen until next summer…if then. (Yomiuri Shimbun) Anti-nuclear Ex-Prime Minister  Kan’s de-facto nuclear moratorium doth obtain.

Today marks the 69th anniversary of the world’s first sustained nuclear chain reaction, also known as “The Chicago Pile”. (see “Before the Beginning” page, left) Technically, it marked the beginning of the atomic age. It was not part of the Manhattan Project, and was in no way connected to nuclear weapon development, but it did begin the development of what Einstein called “the benign uses of my idea”. Rod Adams of Atomic Insights has posted a fine commemorative essay…