The Press, fueled by the Japanese news media, has been focusing on the faulty temperature monitor inside the PCV (Primary Containment Vessel) of Fukushima Daiichi unit #2. Early Sunday morning, the indication rose to ~82oC, which is above the national guideline of 80oC for maintaining a state of cold shutdown. At 2:20pm, TEPCO informed NISA that the temperature guideline for unit #2 was “no longer satisfied” as stipulated in the “Reactor Facility safety Regulation” as a “condition for Operation”. A ton of liquid boric acid was injected into the RPV, followed by a 3-ton-per-hour increase in cooling water flow. Total injection rose to 17.5 tons per hour. Within a few minutes, the indicated temperature began to decrease. By 3pm, the monitor indicated 79OC, once again below the guideline. But this morning (Monday), the monitor rose to 94oC. Looking at this trend in isolation is being widely purported as “more disturbing news from Japan”.
However, two other detectors in close proximity to the problematic one have been steadily decreasing in temperature the entire weekend. Both of them now read about 33oC, down from about 42oC before this all started. As TEPCO has been increasing cooling water flow, the two temperature decreases have followed completely in-step. While this fact has not been completely ignored by the Press, it has been reported at the very end of each article we have seen, making it a relative “ho-hum” adjunct to the “real story”. In any other industrial facility, if one instrument provides an unexpected change and the others show either nothing or the opposite trend, the problem monitor’s reading is rejected due to obvious malfunction. That is, any industrial realm other than nuclear. Everything in nuclear energy gets exaggerated by the Press to the negative extreme…everything! This is perhaps the most obvious example in Japan since March 11, 2011. By all rational thought, TEPCO’s judgment of a faulty device is correct. At least one sensible voice can be found…”It is unlikely the one showing 91.2 degrees is correct and the other two are incorrect because the other two show almost the same temperature,” Toshihiro Yamamoto, a specialist in reactor safety management at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, told The Japan Times Monday. But, the international Press neglects to mention Yamamoto’s statement.
What makes matters worse, and borders precipitously on the absurd, is the speculation that the materials inside the reactor have moved, creating a localized hot spot. We’re talking about temperatures below 100oC, for crying out loud! That’s not hot enough for any “movement”. However, in the news media’s unquenchable thirst for “balance”, nay-saying voices have been found. “Because we haven’t been able to grasp how the nuclear fuel in the cores has been distributed, it’s impossible to rule out localized high temperature spots,” says Kazuhiko Kudo, a special professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University. (Mainichi Shimbun) So, why hasn’t this hot spot been detected over the past 10 months? Probably because there is no hot spot! All this sort of reporting does is feed the anxiety of a public already paralyzed by the double-whammy of radiophobia and The Hiroshima Syndrome.
Which brings us to a final informational issue…The international Press calls everything inside of or attached to the reactor building “the reactor”. This is as incorrect and misleading as saying your entire house is your kitchen. The reactor is the steel vessel that contains the uranium core, and everything inside the vessel. All structures and material outside the steel container are not the reactor. Just like my kitchen is not my house, the reactor is not the entire power plant!