Sunday, April 15, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 4's Slowly Changing Look: Photos from March 2011 to March 2012

It's so slow that nothing seems to have been happening.

March 15, 2011, the day Reactor 4 had an explosion. At that time, "fire" was emphasized not "explosion", and the condition was described as "a hole in the wall, and damage to the ceiling". More accurate would have been "8-meter hole in the wall that is crumbling, and no ceiling except for steel beams."

March 16, 2011:

March 22, 2011:

March 24, 2011:

April 10, 2011:

June 10, 2011:

June 29, 2011. Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool when it was still "warm", before the heat exchanger was installed:

June 30, 2011:

September 29, 2011:

September 22, 2011:

January 5, 2012. This photo caused some bloggers and sites to claim Reactor 4 is falling apart. For more about the demolition/cleanup work that was being done, see my post from December 2011:

February 24, 2012:

March 5, 2012:

Photos are from TEPCO's "Photos for Press" page for Reactor 4.

Long, long way to go.

Ironically, the cleanest photo of the recent Reactor 4 building was presented by Asahi TV's "Morning Bird" program on March 8, 2012 that seems to have introduced many Japanese (and non-Japanese) to the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool danger for the first time after more than 1 year since the start of the accident, however erroneously. The aerial photo of Reactor 4 building was presented as "walls all gone, they were all blown off in the explosion". Well not really. That photo was after the clean-up of removing most of the crumbling wall panels and part of ceiling beams to remove the crane:


Anonymous said...

US warned not to go down this road.

"A nuclear design that explodes is not considered clean, safe or reliable. Yet all of the significant design features in the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 were identical to those at VY, except that Fukushima was designed to withstand a stronger earthquake."


Anonymous said...

Looks like there is a big crane there doing something, so that is progress, hopefully. The building is level and reinforced, but Tohoku university is not so optimistic about the chances!

Tepco’s Cheapskate Tactics Put Entire World At Risk
While 'Fifty-Year Battle' To Save Japan Rages On

Japan’s Near Miss
Large Scale Nuclear Catastrophe and the Ongoing Crisis

elbows said...

Here is an image showing how it looked after the large bridge that held the building crane was removed.

Here is the most recent image I could find of reactor 3. As you can see progress here has been even slower, with the most obvious work consisting of damaged building/rubble removal to the north of the reactor, and the construction of a structure that gets near to the north-east corner of the building:

These two were apparently taken on March 11th 2012 for Kyodo.

elbows said...

And here are the most recent helicopter videos I could find:

And a shorter but slightly more recent (after reactor 4 crane bridge removal) snippet of video at the 33 second mark of this video:

elbows said...

Oops my second video link was the same as the first one, should have been this one:

Nancy said...

A couple of things on 4's condition. The top floor(s) that are the level above the refueling floor are/were at a detectable angle and lean. This was due to the damage to the roof and the upper walls. From the TBS cam you see the top levels of the building. At that point in time TEPCO had not released any full images of unit 4. What could be seen via TBS did/does have a skew to it. What started out as "the building is leaning" was quickly reinterpreted around the web as "it is falling down right now". The lower levels appear mostly vertical but there is some serious structural damage. There also seems to be a miss-perception going around that the outer walls would mean the entire building would fall down in the manner a framed home or similar building would fall down. The nature of how the reactor buildings are constructed mean that will not happen. The outer walls that help support the spent fuel pool are quite critical to safety. TEPCO again has failed to make the status of the building clear to the public leaving open speculation. There have been some technical analysis done on the building stability but those have not been clearly conveyed to the public.

Anonymous said...

@Laprimavera, thanks for the photos. It's surprising that you find these images even the least bit promising. I gather you're located in the U.S., but do you know whether the general public, in Japan, is aware that things still look that bad at unit 4?

@Nancy at 5:56 AM, you said: even though the walls are blown out on unit 4, and even though "the building is leaning" and even though "there is some serious structural damage" -- "The nature of how the reactor buildings are constructed" means that the entire building will not fall down like a regular building would. So, what force of nature would it take for it to fall down like a 'non-regular' building I wonder?

You also said: "There have been some technical analysis done on the building stability but those have not been clearly conveyed to the public". If TEPCO had some good news there, don't you think they would be shouting it from the rooftops. Well maybe not the rooftops, since the roof is gone.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Thank you elbow and Nancy.

@anon at 9:52AM, people in Japan behave as if they've seen Reactor 4 for the very first time on Asahi TV's program in early March this year. Many of them fully believe some US experts' idea that "Reactor 4 is falling down" or "leaning like the Tower of Pisa".

As to why TEPCO is not shouting the good news, as many have said here and elsewhere, "Why should anyone trust what TEPCO says?"

elbows said...

On issues such as this TEPCO are pretty much damned if they do and damned if they don't, its one of the very few areas that I even have some sympathy for them. I don't think there is any way they could compete effectively with the very silly 'reactor 4 is leaning' stories that were popular on the net back in the day.

I shall not complain too much that at least one of the people who helped perpetuate the exaggerated reactor 4 leaning stories back in the day appears to have been reborn as a moderate. Instead I shall say welcome back to reality.

Anonymous said...

@elbows, who is the person who has been "reborn" re Reactor 4?

elbows said...

I was talking about Nancy. Although to be honest now that I reread the above comment by nancy, its not quite as moderate as I had suggested. But its still an improvement on the simply terrible analysis of the building done last year, which involved a failure to take into account perspective, or long-distance camera distortion, or the difference between bits of wall debris hanging off at angles as opposed to the whole building leaning. Also involved stupid words saucy as 'sinking' and 'falling over' and a claim that inside sources were used. By comparison to this rubbish, Nancys comment above is moderate I suppose.

Anyway back on planet earth the plan for building a structure for removing fuel from reactor 4 is available in English:

I groan with the anticipation that someone who is interested in hyping up the poor state of reactor 4 will find a way to suggest that the 'improved foundation' shown on one of the diagrams is proof that the foundations of reactor 4 building and knackered. Maybe I shouldn't give them ideas as I hate this stuff so much!

elbows said...

Oops my spellchecker mangled my words again.

The word 'saucy' in my above comment is supposed to be 'such as'.

Anonymous said...

@Laprimavera at 10:50 am...

You frequently express annoyance and contempt for "people in Japan" and what you have elsewhere characterized as their gullible belief in the authority of "US experts". What "US experts" are you seeking to impugn here with this remark? The harping on these unnamed "US experts" is cowardly and petty and it doesn't advance the discussion.

Furthermore, how can you write such judgmental sweeping generalizations about prevailing, street-level opinion among the general public in Japan? Yes, you may speak Japanese. But you aren't there. Have you even visited since the meltdowns? At best, your information is second-hand, which pretty much puts you in the same boat as the rest of us.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

You can easily google who has said Reactor 4 is leaning or listing like the Tower of Pisa yourself. Thank you for labeling me as coward. There's always something new, and I appreciate new things.

Atomfritz said...

LaPrimavera, thank you for this photo time lapse!
But, as to why TEPCO is not shouting the good news, I somehow believe that proudly celebrating about reactor ruins images wouldn't be good PR :D

elbows, thank you very much for these interesting photo links!

But I'd like to ask you, do we really know enough about the stability of the lower pillars bearing the load of the SFP to be sure that there is no potential for mayhem?

Tepco hasn't shown close-up images to the pillars since their first visit to #4 floor iirc.
The pictures taken from the lower floors actually don't impose much trusting in the remaining stiffness of the more or less cracked pillar and floor joints.
Especially in case of a new big earthquake, could there be the possibility of these joints loosening and moving, ripping off the SFP from its building core attachment, or at least cracking it?
The way Tepco implemented the reinforcement of the pool support at least puts some load away from the pillars, toward the core.

Remember, a very small crack, invisible in photos/videos, might make the liner crack and drain the pool.
This doubtlessly could create a difficult situation.

Didn't the government express discomfort with the original schedule to begin fuel removal in 2014, so that Tepco moved this forward to late 2013?

I am quite sure Hosono & Co are no "panic mongers", but if they press Tepco to hurry up, they might know of things that aren't intended for public consumption (yet).

elbows said...

My dislike for hysteria should not be confused with denying theoretical risk. There exist all manner of theoretical problems that could occur at the Fukushima plant which could cause all manner of problems, some with small implications, others with huge implications.

I dont assume that luck will continue, but neither do I see the value in making too much of a horror story out of all the possible things that could go wrong.

Some of these issues of how we talk about this stuff comes down to a classic internal conflict with how we deal with and perceive risk. One rational way to look at risk is by estimating the probability that the bad thing will happen. But what matters most to people is the question 'is it actually going to happen, and when'. Nobody has a crystal ball to answer that question, but this doesn't stop scaremongers from trying. I do believe that people should be alerted to risks in an honest manner that does not hide the dangers or magnitude of problems for them. But this sort of information can still be hard to deal with for people, they want to know more than can be known, they want to know how much they should worry, whether they should run away. And I believe that people who hype the risk therefore do a disservice to people when they pretend they have answers, or they blow risks up to giant attention-seeking headlines.

It is natural for humans to simplify and exaggerate in order to have conversations that are not the length of encyclopaedias. Its inevitable, and its inevitable that people will get carried away at times. The solution is not to expect that this phenomenon will ever be cured, it is to speak out from time to time in a manner that attempts to balance the issues more sensibly, without going to the other extreme and pretending everything is fine, or lying, or treating people like idiots.

One of the consequences of authorities lying and covering things up is that people lose faith in their words, and they look to new soured to provide information credibly. There is always danger that in the grip of such a situation people will go too far the other way, and swap one kind of lies for another. We see this with forms of conspiracy theory, where understandable cynicism about many aspects of the modern world can drive some people towards other belief systems which are just as false, if not worse.

Some people probably once hoped that 'science' and 'rational thinking' would help free humans from some recurring failings of thought and belief. But sadly science has given us new technologies such as nuclear which comes with new horrors, new areas for people to either be scientific or superstitious and sloppy about.

Take for example the invisible nature of radiation, that aspect alone offers new fears, an invisible threat. And my how we love to see reality for ourselves, so that we get a sense that we are judging a situation ourselves, and can believe what we see. So with Fukushima we have seen a great fixation on all of the visual images we can see, and we can use these images in many ways, to reassure, to learn, to get scared. But at the end of the day some of the most significant realities at Fukushima are not visible, and one side-effect of this is people spending more time than is really fitting on the few things they can see. Reactor 4 building is a good example of this, though certainly not the only one.

Anonymous said...

Paul Gunter, Director, Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project: Unit 4 is looking more and more like the leaning tower of Pisa right now
The whole building is listing… structurally listing

Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Associates: In a severe earthquake M7.0 or better, it’s likely to break. Whether break means collapse and lay on its side like the leaning tower of Pisa, or the pool itself just shatters I don’t know

Anonymous said...

He's been writing this blog since the day one, every single day, and an anon reader call him a coward. Can't beat that. Oh and calling information second-hand. Right. Why don't you go to Fukushima and report directly from there for the rest of us?

What an insult.

Anonymous said...

Oh, isn't insinuation a cowardly tactic? If Laprimavera has a problem with certain "U.S. experts", he should have the gumption to call them by name and tell us how, and why, they are so thoroughly wrong about everything. Leaving that task to other commenters isn't exactly a ballsy strategy either.

We've seen the pictures of unit 4 today, "listing" and "leaning" are the nicest things you could call that hot mess. I'm all for saying it's f*****d six ways to Sunday. Is that better?

Anonymous said...

@anon at 5:42PM, GET LOST.

Anonymous said...

Isn't posting anonymously to attack the blog writer a cowardly tactic?

Anonymous said...

@anon 5:53

Wow, pot have you met kettle? Did you just notice that you posted anonymously to call another anonymous poster a coward for posting anonymously. I guess its different when you do it right? Genius!

Anonymous said...

Yeah same to you, anon at 6:17PM, it's different when you do it right? Genius!

Anonymous said...

Elbows said,

"most significant realities at Fukushima are not visible"

Could you explain this more, please.

Thank you for the information. Great Blog.

elbows said...

What I meant was that although the fuel pools are a risk, the reactors are the main source of horror up to this point. And its very hard for humanity to learn more detail about the state of the melted fuel in those reactors, we are going to have to be patient.

Meanwhile I would suggest that the existing contamination around Japan is a bigger story than the fuel pools. We should still keep an eye on the progress or issues at the pools, but keep them in perspective.

Aigars Mahinovs said...

Structurally most of the walls, the whole ceiling and all the beams that support it are more like a thin concrete tent built on top of a thick concrete cube of the actual reactor building. Almost all of the damage is to the thin, non-structural parts. The parts that actually support the spent fuel pools and the reactor cores are several meters in thickness. They have to be, even just to stop the radiation penetrating into the control rooms. Those walls are still there and standing strong.

Anonymous said...

Anyone posting here getting paid for comments? Just curious..
I guess I am just one of many observers..who is getting more and more concerned/worried about the AMOUNT OF RADIATION being released into the atmosphere and oceans due to Fukushima. If we ever had a "slush" fund for nuclear accidents..we have used it up. NO more radiation can be released. Really the situation of Reactors the status--if the radiation was not continuing to pour out--we would not have as much of a problem internationally. But RADIATION and fallout continues. Don't hear much about THAT from TEPCO or Japanese Government.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Elbows,

It is great to see concern from those with some knowledge of what happens in these situations.

More of this would be good.

Anonymous said...

At what stage will we know the state of the melted fuel in those reactors?

elbows said...

Hard to predict when we we learn more about the state of the melted fuel. If there is not sufficient technological progress, or if something goes wrong on site and forces them to change plans, we may never find out. We are probably looking at years or decades.

To the anonymous poster who thanked me, thank you. I only know anything because I spent a lot of time reading detailed stuff on the internet after the disaster, including various research papers from the past which looked at likely scenarios if fuel melted at mark 1 BWR reactors. I am not an expert, and it annoys me that most experts who should know much more than I do are not exactly contributing much to the online discussion. There are people whose brains should be much better at understanding and describing this stuff than I could ever be, but they aren't joining in.

elbows said...

Two ways that we might learn about the state of melted fuel more quickly than I just indicated in my last post:

1) Get lucky, eg when they looked inside reactor 2 containment I don't think we learnt anything that really helped understand the details of the melted fuel there, but in future there could be better clues.

2) Something bad happens which ends up telling us something about the state of the fuel.

Stephen W. Anderle said...

Has anyone thought to review the Three Mile Island results? Core melted, top half, yet none escaped the reactor vessel itself. as far as the large amounts of radiation outside of the reactor vessels look at the video of T M I, where the engineer goes down to the base mebt to get a sample of water from the CORE. look at what he got out! That is with fresh water. Now think what all the various salts one to the dissolved in seawater would have done to the fukushima cores. ALL that radiation could have gotten out in the water leaks without any molten material leaving the reactor vessels. I will not be too surprised if it is later found that none of the reactor vessels were melted through and all the solid material stayed inside. The dissolved solids being in solution would have leaked with the seawater, and with seawater so corrosive this could have amounted to a very large amount, Possibly as much as 5 or 10 per cent of the original fuel load., Although I would think more like 1 or 2 %per cent which would be quite a very large amount of radioactive material.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

FUCK, it's the ALL CAPS Finnish troll again!!!

Post a Comment