Saturday, December 31, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Reactor Bldgs of Reactors 1, 3, 4 Blew Up Because Blowout Panels Were Welded Shut, Fuku-I Workers Say

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.


Anonymous said...

I felt the quake here in Chiba - stopped everyone. Hopefully, just mother nature sending a reminder to the nuke industry.

Tepco would fail an ISO 9001 audit.

Mauibrad said...


no6ody said...

Blowout_panel : "also called blow-off panels, areas with intentionally weakened structure, are used in enclosures, buildings or vehicles where a sudden overpressure may occur. By failing in a predictable manner, they channel the overpressure or pressure wave in a direction where it causes controlled, directed minimal harm, instead of causing a catastrophic failure of the structure."

If the blowout panel opens, it means something has gone very very wrong. I *think* that the negative pressure the NISA mentioned comes from steam being vented into the condenser and turning back into water--but that would mean the NISA doesn't know the difference between a vent and a blowout panel, or perhaps it doesn't translate well, or it's just another lie.

Anonymous said...

"If what the anonymous workers at the plant say is true, TEPCO was lying .."

They know these reactors produce hydrogen. By welding the panels shut they doomed the building to explosions.

Only one panel popped on building 2, they punched a hole in 2's roof to compensate for the others panels 'not popping'.
Further testimony.

Anonymous said...

This may interest you: a look at the post-Fukushima future, "The zapping point," at -- a slightly offbeat Fukushima blog that looks at stories within stories.

Anonymous said...

Not admitting the fact by the government reminds us of its effort to conceal the horrible truth took place inside the Fukushima plant. We hope this time government will not commit the same mistake.

The Japanese people are not happy.

Many realize a significant portion of Japanese soil is not suitable for habitation. Just last October a leaked Tepco documented indicated the total amount of plutonium and neptunium emitted from the plant. This stuff sticks around for millions of years...

If you haven't seen the dispersion maps for plutonium they are published here:

Anonymous said...

We will have a very poor understanding of what happened until the TEPCO
and Japanese Govt leaders are dragged off to Nuremberg.

Nancy said...

NISA needs to explain why they felt this was worth disabling a way to depressurize the building. TEPCO delays and resists everything NISA tells them, why did they do this without a fight and delays?

We detailed the technical aspects of the venting and air handling at

This just makes no sense from a technical standpoint. The two venting methods at the plant don't solve the need for these panels and why they would disable a low tech passive safety feature even with their excuses of why they did it just does not make sense.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@no6ody, NISA means negative pressure of the building to supposedly prevent air inside the building from escaping in normal times. In Kashiwazaki's case, the blowout panel got dislocated by the quake, not by the high pressure from a nuclear accident, and NISA clearly didn't like the unsightly scene.

@anon at 8:27AM, Fuku-I worker who tweets says hole in the roof is from debris from Reactor 3 explosion.

@Nancy, the operation to weld-shut the blowout panel was not done yet on Reactor 2, therefore it worked as it should. All the other blowout doors in other reactors were welded shut at the time of the accident.

Viola said...

There's a infrared video on YouTube from March11, late evening. Looks as if all the blowout panels are open except#1...

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@viola, those may simply indicate the locations of the blowout panels, not necessarily open.

Atomfritz said...

Welding shut rupture disks just because they caused annoyances is probably not very different from replacing a fuse with a nail because it blows too often. Great safety culture!

Viola, thank you for the video link. Damn interesting! Why is such stuff released only so many months later?

The blowout panel locations are darker. Not sure if they are just colder (because of different construction material) or if they already blew. Need to compare the other photo/video evidence of the first few days.

There is another interesting detail in this video.
The only offgas chimney with bright (warm) output plume seems to be the one of #2.
Could be another indication that the worker's report is correct.

Anonymous said...

It's a very good bet those panels are already blown if that much darker in the infrared.

Anonymous said...

Welding of the blow-out panels is discussed in the ICANPS interim report ( page 246. The politically correct wording is:

"Having learned that the blow-out panels of the R/Bs at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPS had moved easily at the Chuetsu-oki earthquake, the panels at the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS were securely installed to avoid easy removal."

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