This information is not confirmed, meaning it is not officially admitted by the national government's agencies and commissions or by TEPCO.
The worker who's been tweeting from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, after watching the late night/early morning TV program on New Year's Day (that I mentioned in my post here) about the plant accident, tweets, as a matter of fact, that:
If the blowout panels in the reactor buildings at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant had opened as designed, there would have been no hydrogen explosion, as one expert on the TV program said.
But at Fukushima, they didn't open except for the one on Reactor 2. Why?
Because all the other blowout panels in other reactor buildings had been welded shut by the order of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency after the earthquake in Niigata Prefecture in 2007, when the blowout panels of the reactor at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant opened.
What's wrong with the blowout panels opening?
From a blogpost and the comment to the post in August, I learn that:
In the Niigata earthquake in 2007, the blowout panels for the Kashiwazaki reactor opened, and that was unacceptable to the government's nuclear regulatory agency NISA. So NISA ordered TEPCO to alter the blowout panels so that they would not open. After the earthquake of 2007 (Chuetsu earthquake), all the blowout panels at nuclear power plants that TEPCO operated were welded shut.
After the March 11 accident, the workers at the plant tried to open the holes to serve as blowout panes that didn't open any more, taking on great risks, but their effort was too late, and the reactors exploded.
The comment to the post was supposedly written by a TEPCO employee who remained at Fuku-I plant after the March 11 earthquake (one of "Fukushima 50"). He also said he feared for his safety and couldn't speak up. The post was written on March 14, 2011, and the comment was written on August 4.
He is saying the same thing as the worker who tweets from Fuku-I. (Maybe they are one and the same? But their writing styles are completely different.)
I still didn't get why it was bad that blowout panels opened, so I asked someone who used to work at a nuclear power plant. He said he didn't know either, except that "if a blowout panel is open, it may look unsightly, giving the wrong impression that radioactive materials may be leaking". If that's the case, it is a pure cosmetic and political reason.
(UPDATE) from the report by NISA (12/19/2007):
The blowout panel was dislocated by the earthquake when the metal hinge that was holding the panel was bent by the quake. The negative pressure necessary to contain radioactive materials from escaping couldn't be maintained because of that, and Reactor 3 of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa was shut down. A cold shutdown was achieved within 13 hours.
Any way to verify this? I am looking to see if I can find any press release from TEPCO or NISA to that effect.
According to TEPCO, on July 16, 2007, the blowout panel of Reactor 3 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuke Plant was "dislocated" (opened), about 5 hours after the earthquake that day.
Regarding the blowout panels at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, TEPCO's explanation has been:
There were blowout panels installed in Reactors 1, 2 and 3, but the reactor buildings were getting filled with hydrogen without raising the pressure enough to open the panel. The earthquake didn't open the panel either, and hydrogen explosions took place. As for Reactor 2, a shockwave from Reactor 3 explosion blew open the blowout panel of Reactor 2, according to TEPCO. (From Shukan Friday 5/27/2011 issue, taken from this blog.)
If what the anonymous workers at the plant say is true, TEPCO was lying through the teeth.
This is a man-made disaster made worse by the incompetence and ignorance of the government regulators and the timid acquiescence of the plant operator who should have known better, at least better than the government regulators. Still, it is to be totally expected from the plant operator who couldn't say no to then-Prime Minister Kan's performance of visiting the plant on the very next morning after the March 11 earthquake, as the reactor cores were melting down and people were scrambling to contain the accident. Following the authority has been quite profitable, so why change, even in the face of the biggest nuclear accident in the Japanese history?
Still, the mystery still remains why Reactor 2, whose blowout panel worked as designed and didn't blow up, released the most amount of radioactive materials.
Or did it? If it's true that Reactor 3 blew up twice in two days and TEPCO/NISA have been hiding it, there may be more radioactive materials escaped from Reactor 3.
Or if Professor Takashi Tsuruda of Akita Prefectural University is correct and the suppression chambers of both Reactor 1 and Reactor 3 were damaged by the explosions, there may be a gross underestimation of the total amount of radioactive materials released from the plant.
Some happy new year... And Japan is being rocked by the first earthquake of the year.