Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Telephone Game" over #Fukushima Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool

It all started with the editorial that appeared on Japanese Mainichi Shinbun on April 2, 2012.

In the column titled "Spent Fuel Pool Up in the Air" (「風知草: 宙に浮く燃料プール), the columnist Takao Yamada wrote:

「福島原発事故独立検証委員会」(いわゆる民間事故調)報告書は、原発事故の「並行連鎖型危機」の中でも4号機プールが「もっとも『弱い環』であることを 露呈させた」と書く。政府がまとめた最悪シナリオ(同報告書に収録)も4号機プール崩壊を予測。さらに各号機の使用済み燃料も崩壊し、首都圏住民も避難を迫られるというのが最悪シナリオだ

Here's my translation, as carefully as I can:

The report by the "Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident" (so-called "Minkan Jikocho" [private investigation commission]) says that the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 has turned out to be the "weakest link" in the "parallel chain-reaction crises" of the nuclear plant accident. The worst-case scenario compiled by the government [the administration] (which is included in the report by the private commission) assumed the collapse of the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool. According to this scenario, the spent fuel [Spent Fuel Pools?] in other reactors would then collapse, and the residents in Tokyo Metropolitan areas would face evacuation [or be forced to evacuate].

Here's how Mainichi Daily translated this paragraph (from this site, as Mainichi Daily doesn't have the link to the article any more):

A report released in February by the Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident stated that the storage pool of the plant’s No. 4 reactor has clearly been shown to be “the weakest link” in the parallel, chain-reaction crises of the nuclear disaster. The worse-case scenario drawn up by the government includes not only the collapse of the No. 4 reactor pool, but the disintegration of spent fuel rods from all the plant’s other reactors. If this were to happen, residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area would be forced to evacuate.

The problem is the last sentence. Up to the sentence, it seems a faithful translation of the original Japanese. But the last sentence can be construed as if it were the opinion of the columnist, while in the original Japanese it is clear that the columnist is citing the scenario that the Kan administration received from the head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Japan.

The overseas sites which relies on the English-language news coming out of Japan did seem to take the Mainichi Daily's sentence as the opinion of the columnist, and ran with it.

At the site that I took the Mainichi Daily's quote, the article title is "It's Not Over: Government Plans for the Worst: Forced Evacuation of Tokyo". The article says:

Even more alarming is that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and other agencies have warned that the nuclear storage pools (the containment units that are being used to cool the nuclear fuel) have been damaged and may collapse under their own weight.

Such an event would cause widespread nuclear fallout throughout the region and force the government to evacuate the nearly 10 million residents of Tokyo and surrounding areas, a scenario which government emergency planners are now taking into serious consideration.

From what I can tell, this claim is based only on the Mainichi Daily's article, on that particular sentence. On the assumption that if the government had the worst-case scenario it must be planning for the worst-case. Well. No, it wasn't planning for anything. But that was known only in Japan and to the readers of this blog.

Then, there is a site that links to the above site, and the title of the article is "Fukushima Forcing Tokyo To Evacuate!" The content of the article is even more escalated:

If the storage pool were to fracture, the nuclear fuel would immediately heat up and explode. Radioactive fallout would be dispersed over a wide and uncontainable area. At this time now, the Japanese government are creating blueprints for forcibly removing 39 million people from the Tokyo metro-area.

This site also has the information that I have no idea where he got from, right before the above paragraph:

They have been incarcerating residents in psychiatric hospitals when they voice concerns about their radiation contact.

The sad thing about all this is that the Japanese government does not have any plan. If it does, it's been extremely good hiding it for more than one year. On receiving the worst-case scenario from the head of the Atomic Energy Commission in late March, 2011, the Kan administration decided to keep it hidden, and banish from their memory so that they didn't need to plan for any such scenario. It remained hidden, off the official government document list, until January this year. If you read Japanese, here's the scenario.

Gresham's Law. Or Telephone Game. Either way, It's harder and harder to get the real information, not easier, after more than 1 year since the accident started.

(H/T Helios for the English articles)


Anonymous said...

"the Japanese government does not have any plan"

And? It couldn't go better for them. The tide of time will settle over the issue and people are ready to forget. In fact, we are entering a time where they want to forget; they don't want to be reminded of "these problems", live normally again. Certainly for the government, the worst seems to be over. Should people get ill in a few years, they will be a statistic. If it is you or your child, too bad and I'm lucky , if me then it is the other way round. But overall, little will change… unless… something else happens or we make change happen.

Not bad for not having a plan.

vastman said...

Radio Ecoshock has a program up right now on this scary situation...


And , anonymous... it's a rediculous plan...this IS NOT going away and we are playing with global disaster...shoving your head in the sand is denialism at it's worst!

Atomfritz said...

It's not having a plan.
It's a thing that is just unplannable.

If there are any problems with SFP 4 drying out (which can be caused by numerous things, not only cracking/leaking, not necessarily crashing of SFP 4), then the common spent fuel storage will be no longer accessible for "carbon-based robots".
(Maybe except of the kamikaze version. But, are these still available nowadays? And, if still some kamikaze are available, are there enough of them to manage such a situation?).

So, any serious problem with SFP 4 with its 1300+ spent fuel assemblies will result in the common spent fuel storage pool burning off, too.
This would in turn result in more than 7600 spent fuel assemblies burn off in open air, more than 20 (twenty) reactor cores.

If such happens, this in comparison would dwarf Chernobyl to a marginal incident.
A such accident would be just UNMANAGEABLE.
So it would be quite pointless to attempt planning in advance, I guess.

It would mean the end of Japan as a sustainable nation.
And, to be honest, where should 30 million Tokyo inhabitants be moved to?

So, it's just unmanageable, and there is no point trying to plan for such an "incident".
All just bet on the hope that such won't happen.

If it happens, central Honshu will become some kind of nuclear Auschwitz which nobody is allowed to escape.

China, Korea, Russia and USA would use their marine fleet to shoot down any of the radioactive Japanese boat people who try to escape the Japanese nuclear wastelands.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, not that Asahi TV video again...

Anonymous said...

I think Fukushima Diary or EneNews said something about people being diagnosed with a mental illness for worrying about radiation. Not sure if that's the same thing or if it's actually happening, but I wouldn't be surprised. Anything that impairs a person's ability to perform as any government desires seems to be considered a mental illness.

Anonymous said...

@anon at 2:47PM, even if FD or Enenews said that (which looks like either a mistranslation or translation of genuine baseless rumors on the Japanese twitter), that's vastly different from "being incarcerated".

Anonymous said...

That's why I said "not sure if that's the same thing". Describing it as "incarceration" sounds like they tried to add more shock value.

I wouldn't be surprised if they actually incarcerated some people either, though. But I wouldn't go around stating it in news articles unless I had absolute proof.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

There are people going around with "leaked documents" that the Japanese government has been supposedly hiding, and they show the government knew it was earthquake that damaged the plant.

The "leaked documents" have been "leaked" for nearly 10 months now, by Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency itself on the government website.


Anonymous said...

I was just reading an article that talks about how burning the debris will poison the rest of the world. It seemed to quote Arnie Gundersen a lot, and I began to wonder... why does it seem like it's always the same few people quoted? It doesn't seem like anyone's debating the issue, either. It's more like... people are pretending there isn't a problem and are hoping it'll just go away? Is that what's happening? Or I am simply not reading enough different sources?

Anonymous said...

@anon at 3:15PM, it's getting to be like an echo chamber. Same people get amplified.

Is there a wider debate? As far as the debris burning goes, yes, very active debates taking place all over Japan and on twitter.

Anonymous said...

there was spent fuel pool that was blowned up on reactor 3, were there more rods than there is on reactor 4 spent fuel pool?
Because if there was more, why would less rods of the spent fuel pool 4 create more damage?
I suppose there are much much more spent fuel rods in number 4 than there was in number 3.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

SFP in Reactor 4 has more fuel rods than in Reactor 3.

kintaman said...

This may sound ridiculous but could not they dig a very deep and very thickly lined concrete pool in the ground directly beside Unit #4.

Then set up an extremely re-inforced slide under the pool going right toward the pool in the ground.

Finally blow out the bottom of the SFP and let the contents all slide directly into the new pool on the ground?

I imagine though that this would be far too risk as if any of the contents did not make it into the pool on the ground it would be game over. So could they not at least make something similar in case the pool does collapse? There has got to be something that can be done.

Anonymous said...

I agree, kintaman. There ARE things that can be done, things to be done. It is not rocket science, pardon the expression. The site does have severe defects for any mitigation scheme, but these are defects not probibitions. Japan needs to take the rest of the world on board and get the best advice it can. It seems that both parties are waiting for the other to make the first move. How to unjam this? I haven't a clue.

Anonymous said...

If they spent enough time and money they would probably eventually find a way to render radioactive materials harmless. Have they even tried to do that? They've probably spent more time and money turning them into weapons like DU.

Anonymous said...

Some things just can't be reversed. If you have children it is time to say something locally. Don't let them build more.
If, this is not a world disaster the next one may be.

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