Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Early Days of Confusion and Mistakes at the Plant Being Revealed

The Kan Administration set up a fact-finding commission in late May to figure out what went wrong at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant that led to the catastrophic accident, even if the accident is still ongoing as of August.

There were many critics who said "First thing first", which was to stop the emission of radioactive materials from the broken reactors and do whatever possible to reduce the amount of the contaminated water, and .. (list is endless). But the government, who is always eager to paint a positive picture that everything is according to schedule and going well, wanted the commission to "investigate" the accident to learn from the mistakes.

What better way to give the impression that the accident is over, than to form a commission to investigate the accident?

Still, the commission led by a Tokyo University professor (emeritus) and including 3 attorneys (one of them a UN committee member fighting for equal rights for women) and one novelist, has been interviewing (or "interrogating" is the word used in the Japanese press) TEPCO managers at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, and part of their findings have apparently been leaked to Mainichi Shinbun. The commission meetings are not open to the public.

From Mainichi Shinbun (2:31AM JST 8/17/2011), what TEPCO managers at the plant is saying:

About the explosion of Reactor 1 building at 3:36PM on March 12:

関係者によると、事故調に対し、東電側は原子炉や格納容器の状態に気を取られ、水素が原子炉建屋内に充満して爆発する危険性を考えなかったという趣旨の発言をし、「爆発前に予測できた人はいなかった」などと説明しているという。

TEPCO was preoccupied with the condition of the reactor and the Containment Vessel, and didn't think of the risk of hydrogen explosion. "There was no one who could have predicted the explosion."

 また、ベントについては、マニュアルがなかったため設計図などを参考にして作業手順などを検討。全電源が喪失していたため作業に必要なバッテリーなどの機材を調達し始めたが、型式などの連絡が不十分だったこともあり、多種多様な機材が運び込まれて、必要なものを選別する手間が生じた。

There was no manual for the vent operation. They figured out the procedure by studying the blueprint [of the reactor and Containment Vessel]. After station blackout, they started to collect equipment for the vent, but since there was no detailed information as to what type of equipment was necessary, a wide variety of equipment was brought in, and they wasted time choosing the right equipment.

 さらに作業に追われる中、機材が約10キロ南の福島第2原発や作業員らが宿泊する約20キロ南のJヴィレッジに誤って配送され、取りに行かざるをえない状況になった。ある社員は「東電本店のサポートが不十分だった」と話しているという。

Then, as they prepared for the vent, some of the equipment was delivered by mistake to Fukushima II Nuclear Power plant (10 kilometers south of Fukushima I) or to J-Village (20 kilometers south of Fukushima I), and someone had to go there to get the equipment. One TEPCO employee at the plant said "There was not enough support from the TEPCO headquarters."

 一方、1号機の炉心を冷却するための非常用復水器(IC)が一時運転を中断していたものの、吉田所長ら幹部がそのことを把握せず、ICが稼働しているという前提で対策が検討されていたことも判明。事故調の聴取に吉田所長は「重要な情報を把握できず大きな失敗だった」などと話しているという。

General Manager of the Plant Yoshida and his men planned the accident countermeasures, but they weren't aware that the isolation condenser (IC) that cooled the fuel core of Reactor 1 had stopped temporarily. Yoshida said to the Commission, "It was a huge mistake not to have had this vital information."

Prime Minister Kan's visit March 12:

「目的が全く分からない」

"We have no idea why he came."

菅首相からの「なぜこんなことになるのか」との質問には、「自由な発言が許され、十分な説明をできる状況ではなかった」

As to Prime Minister Kan's question of "What's going on?", "it was not the atmosphere where we could speak frankly and give detailed explanation."

About Self Defense Force helicopter dumping water on the Spent Fuel Pool:

「ありがたかったが、作業効率が極めて低いと感じた。プールに入っていないと思われるケースが多かった」

"We were grateful, but we felt it was not efficient. Most of the water didn't seem to go into the SFP."

Well, the dumping of water from the SDF helicopter was just for the visual effect to impress Americans, as it would look as if the government was actually doing something. That, along with having its soldiers irradiated and injured when the Reactor 3 building blew up, is said to have alienated the SDF from the administration.

10 comments:

Viola said...

Hopefully the findings will be made fully available soon...
Maybe the "Law Concerning Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs"(行政機関の保有する情報の公開に関する法律) might be a means to fight for that? Is it similar to a "Freedom of information act"? Might pay off to take a look there...

Concerning the helicopter flights:
It's awful, but I don't think they did it to impress anybody. The spent fool was the major threat during that time. It was like grasping at straws, taking any possible way to get water into there. This reminds me of the attempts at Chernobyl to get sand, boron, dolomite and lead into the core to stop the fire - in vain.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Viola, sadly either the Minister of Economy Banri Kaieda or PM Kan was on record saying the helicopter would look good on TV.

Anonymous said...

"TEPCO was preoccupied with the condition of the reactor and the Containment Vessel, and didn't think of the risk of hydrogen explosion. "There was no one who could have predicted the explosion." "

Really?? Grigori Medvedev of the Chernobyl incident would probably say otherwise. He would probably also say something about "incompetents".

"SDF .. having its soldiers irradiated and injured when the Reactor 3 building blew up .."
Any details?

Bruce Hayden said...

The Japanese leadership should have accepted Russia's offer of assistance early on instead of adhering to the 'old school' notion of 'saving face.' I would hazard a guess that the Japanese engineers and technicians who actually know something about nuclear physics were hamstrung by the ridiculous posturing of the government and TEPCO officials. Politicians and corporatists care about money and image first and the welfare of the people is down the list
somewhere At least the Yakuza brought in truckloads of food and supplies for the refugees. I shudder to think of what the situation would be like if this had happened in the US as the moneyed elite here are worse than Japan's.

nika said...

Bruce - I would love to see a link about the yakuza bringing relief - had not heard that one

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@nika, here you go. One of the earliest relief effort was by them.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/mobsters-on-a-mission-how-japans-mafia-launched-an-aid-effort-2264031.html

nika said...

Many thnx for the link!

Anonymous said...

".. the Japanese engineers and technicians who actually know something about nuclear physics were hamstrung by the ridiculous posturing of the government and TEPCO officials."

Exactly. Medvedev's book on Chernobyl goes into some detail. Incompetents, not nuclear engineers, were in charge. A string of mistakes because of lack of knowledge allowed the reactor to run wildly out of control. They disabled the emergency core cooling system, ramped up power when they should have reduced, etc. The guy in charge did not even know what was happening when explosions were occurring one after another, violent shockwaves rocking the control room.

The same happened in Fukushima, except those in charge really did not seem to care, there is nothing unexpected about hydrogen explosions. They've happened before in other parts of the world under less extreme conditions.

TEPCO was ready to abandon the reactors to out-of-control meltdowns into the future. They appear to be a special breed of lawless.

Anonymous said...

More lies,

"TEPCO officials say they were aware that a core meltdown could cause a hydrogen explosion, but had never considered the possibility of a blast outside a reactor."

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/17_19.html

Marc Sheffner said...

The video of helicopters spraying water in the general vicinity of the reactor did not look good on TV. Anyone could see that very little of the water was actually hitting the reactor. Most was blowing away in the wind. Recalls Gavan McCormack's immortal phrase "desperate attempts with fire hoses and buckets."

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