• The government panel investigating the cause(s) of the Fukushima accident has once again pointed to operator error as a possible reason for unit #3’s meltdown. Operators stopped cooling water flow into #3 RPV because emergency battery power was running low. The pumping system was powered by the plant’s emergency battery. Plant personnel tried to use low pressure fire pumps to re-initiate flow to the reactor, but pressures were way too high. Plus, operators could not open the valves necessary for low pressure
    injection since there wasn’t enough residual battery power to make it happen. Cooling water flow was not re-initiated for seven hours. The operators shut off the cooling system without first getting the plant manager’s approval, which the panel believes to be an indication of operator error. (NHK World)
  • In an article from another news source concerning the same unit #3 accident records, we find TEPCO defending the operator decision(s) concerning their actions on March 12th and 13th. The specific operator action of March 13 which the gov’t panel suggests as possible operator error (see above) was taken because battery power was almost depleted and a shift to low pressure fire truck pumps was in order. This was an action that, by prior training and common accident procedure, was officially left to the discretion of the control room operating staff. The Plant Manager was duly informed as soon as the system was turned off. (Mainichi Shimbun) It is unfortunate that the attempt to use low pressure fire truck pumps failed,
    however the battery powering the high pressure system would have run out very soon, regardless. In other words, continued operation of the high pressure system for a few more minutes would not have prevented unit #3’s meltdown! A few months ago when this panel was formed, we said the lack of
    operating expertise within the group could cause major misunderstandings and serious misjudgments. Well…it has happened!
  • Another report from the panel, however, seems to be well within the member’s area of expertise…politics. “Sources” say the interim report due Monday from the Fukushima investigation will show there were severe communication problems between the government’s crisis management center and the Prime Minister which caused poor decisions relative to public protective actions. The Prime Minister was not in the crisis center, but rather assembled a team of bureaucrats and TEPCO executives in his private working room elsewhere in the Diet. These questionable decisions were sometimes made worse because of bad information given to the Prime Minister by the bureaucrats and TEPCO executives in his room, often ignoring what the crisis management team suggested based on computer simulations. Since the group in the Prime Minister’s office was not familiar with the simulations, they literally ignored them. In addition, many of the Prime Minister’s decisions were based mostly in speculation and not on hard evidence. As a result, many evacuees fled to locations within the northwest corridor where contamination was often higher than the areas within the 20km zone which the residents had abandoned. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • In an article from yet another news source, we find that the government panel’s interim report will find the Prime Minister’s evacuation orders were “irrational”. The article states, “The government ordered people living within 20 km of the plant to evacuate, but the panel believes the order led some residents to move to areas where radiation was actually higher and generated mass confusion.” While SPEEDI projections on
    where the highest levels of contamination were available (and correct), the PM’s personal advisors told him the data was “merely a hypothetical calculation result”. Because of this seriously flawed advice, Prime Minister Kan issued the 20km evacuation order based only on distance. SPEEDI projections would have “provided a clear picture of areas with relatively higher or lower radiation levels” and made the evacuation locations realistic rather than “irrational”. (Kyodo News)
  • TEPCO’s most recent data (12/21) reveals airborne radiological concentrations at the Fukushima Daiichi plant boundaries are all non-detectable. Some locations on-site still show detectable airborne contamination, but it now seems that releases to the surrounding environment have essentially stopped.
  • US NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is in Japan and has inspected the Fukushima Daiichi site. He says the three damaged reactor systems at the plant site are in a “very stab e condition”. He added, “The
    temperatures have decreased significantly, the amount of heat that’s being produced from the reactor fuel itself is very, very low now. So it simply doesn’t have the kind of energy, if you will, that’s needed to have any kind of off-site releases of radiation.” (Japan Times)
  • TEPCO has built a massive storage facility for the Cesium-filled “vessels” (containers) produced by the waste water clean-up system at Fukushima. Each vessel remains in operation until the radiation levels being emitted from it are at a pre-determined high level. Then the vessel is replaced with a fresh one. More than 300 vessels have been used, and they are housed in the new, shielded building. The building is ~40 meters wide and more than 120 meters long. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Osaka has become the second municipality that says it will accept tsunami debris from the Tohoku region for disposal. They are planning on using the debris for land-fill (burial). Of course, all debris will have to be proven free of Fukushima contamination before Osaka will accept it. No target date for accepting the material has been set. (Japan Today)

In one of the most horrendous editorials to yet come out of Japan, Mainichi Shimbun says the recent cold shutdown announcement is essentially a scripted government stunt. Their rationale stems from “road map” modifications made over the past few months which The Mainichi says were employed to insure that the time-table for declaring cold shutdown would be met. If a new situational discovery would cause the time-table for cold shutdown to be extended, the condition would be moved to the post-cold shutdown part of the road map. Rather than re-set the
cold shutdown clock, they changed the map. The Mainichi reports, “It is apparent the government is trying to close the curtain on a performance it has written and acted out [in order] to stress to international society that
it has brought the crisis under control quickly.” The editorial’s writer has the audacity to say, “The latest announcement that the goals of the road map have been achieved is merely the result of officials lowering their own hurdles. It reminds me of the time during World War II when the Imperial Japanese Army headquarters called the Japanese army’s retreat a ‘shift in position.’” While all other news media outlets in Japan have published similar accusations, they have at least attributed them to politicians, alleged experts, and local residents. The Mainichi editorial boldly goes where no ethical Press source should go…making bold, provocative, unfounded statements to fulfill what seems to be an administrative agenda designed to condemn the government.

To make matters worse later in the article, the editorial prints “facts” that have been created out of old news stories we now know to have been entirely false. For example, The Mainichi says SPF #4 had boiled away by March 14, but the unit’s hydrogen explosion that day caused water from another pool on the refueling deck to be blown into the SPF and brought water in the pool back to a safe level. Because of this, the fuel bundles in the SPF were saved, preventing another huge release of radiation at some moment in the future. Absolute poppy-cock! The
pool never boiled away…not even close. Where they got the idea that SPF #4 was saved due to water being sloshed in from another pool is a mystery. Did the writer make it up?  A second example is The Mainichi saying a unit #2 hydrogen explosion was averted only because the unit #1 explosion had “forced open a window in the No. 2 building, releasing the trapped hydrogen.” Yes, a large “blow out panel” was discovered to be open on the unit #2 refueling deck in the weeks following the accident, but no-one knows how it was opened…no-one except the Mainichi’s editorial staff, it seems. Did they make this one up, too?