Friday, March 18, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: A Candid Assessment by Japanese Bureaucrat That Got Little Coverage Anywhere

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama held a press conference on March 17 and again on March 18, in which he shared a rather candid assessment of the situation in Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, albeit with high bureaucratic sophistication.

In Japan, only Bloomberg Japan reported on his press conference in detail. Major Japanese newspapers only took what they liked to hear - the part he said this had been a humbling experience for Japan and they would strive to solve the problem with international help. In the US, some of his dire remarks were quoted, but not in detail.

The gap between what's being reported in Japan and elsewhere is growing alarmingly wider, as I've noticed since I started covering the news of the earthquake/tsunami out of Japan a week ago. It's getting to a point where both cannot be right. Somehow, a Schroedinger's cat has to be found by opening the container.

But in this particular case of Mr. Nishiyama's press conference, both the Japanese and the US media reported what they wanted, and stayed clear of what, I think, really mattered in his remarks. Only Bloomberg reported it in length, but it was Bloomberg Japan. Doubly ironic.

Important points from Bloomberg Japan articles about Mr. Nishiyama's press conference on March 17 and March 18 (here and here, in Japanese, 3/17-18/2011) [emphasis added, my comment in square brackets]:

(From his press conference on March 17, 2011):

About the Reactor No.4 Spent Fuel Pool's water level:

"We do not know for sure. There is no white smoke."
About the possibility of no water in the pool:
"It is possible that there's no water. But it is also possible that there is water. It is hard to judge."

"There is a possibility of hydrogen explosion when water is poured in the pool if there is no water [i.e. if the fuel rods are exposed]. But we have to continue to pour water. The risk of spreading radiation [by hydrogen explosion] has been well considered."
About the Reactors No.2 and 3:
"We haven't been informed by TEPCO that it is white smoke (rising from the Reactors)."
About restoring the external power:
"The external power line will go to the Reactors No.1 and 2."

(From his press conference on March 18 - this is the scarier one.)

About whether the "Chernobyl" solution (=burying the plant in concrete) is being considered:
"At this point, it is not realistic."
About the effectiveness of the dousing of the Reactor No.3 from ground and air:
"Just because the radiation level hasn't dropped materially after the dousing, that doesn't necessarily mean the operation has failed."
[So he's saying, in bureaucrat's speech, it has failed.]
About white smoke coming out of the Reactor No.2:
"It is hard to figure out what it is. We will have to see as we proceed with the operation."
As to whether the white smoke out of the Reactor No.2 is from the Spent Fuel Pool:
"It hasn't been determined whether the smoke is from the Suppression Chamber or not."

[Now this gives me chills. He is asked about the Spent Fuel Pool on the Reactor No.2, and he purposefully answers what he isn't asked, and talk about the Suppression Chamber which is on the ground floor. My take: the smoke is probably from the Spent Fuel Pool.]
As to why there was a hydrogen explosion in the Reactor No.4 even if there was water in the Spent Fuel Pool:
"There is no explanation that makes sense."

[It makes sense if there is NO water in the Pool.]
About the risk of an explosion once the external power is restored:
"There is such a risk."
About the on-going efforts in Fukushima I Nuclear Plant:
"We are doing them so that there will be no further expansion of the evacuation zone. 20 to 30 kilometer zone is with ample safety margin. Even if we fail here, the expansion of the evacuation zone may not necessarily happen."
[Fail in what? Oh boy.]


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