Monday, September 8, 2014

Video Showing #Fukushima I NPP Reactor 3 Operating Floor's Heavily Damaged Northwest Section

I happened on this 25-minute video in TEPCO's video archive (Japanese), instead of the usual Photos and Videos Library. There is no document explaining the purpose of the video or the findings from the video.

It focuses on the heavily-damaged northwest corner of the Reactor 3 operating floor, as you have seen in this aerial view (from TEPCO's photos and videos library, 2/14/2014, red circle added, click to enlarge):

The video camera dips below the shredded metal bars and concrete of the operating floor:

In the video, the section that is covered with metal sheets is where the Spent Fuel Pool is. TEPCO plans to construct a structure over the Reactor 3 building to install the crane and the fuel handling machine to remove the spent fuel assemblies. This video survey is probably related to the plan, to assess the structural integrity of the section in order to build the structure around the building.

Or so I thought at first, until I remembered a togetter I read in August.

What was beneath the operating floor in the northwest section?

One of the people who have diligently followed the news and press conference on the Fukushima I NPP accident, @mtx8mg "koajisashi", has the answer in his/her togetter from 8/10/2014: PLR-MG, or Primary Loop Recirculation System Motor Generator, which occupied almost the entire length of the west side of the Reactor 3's 4th floor:

(H/T @pluedro)

(H/T @mtx8mg)

And what happened there?

"koajisashi" reminds us in the togetter of the March 23, 2011 fire in the Reactor 3 building, with black smoke seen rising vigorously (see my post on 3/23/2011; TEPCO called it "gray smoke"). At that time, the exact location of the fire was not reported, and the time and date when the fire started was not known (or reported) either. Black smoke was seen rising from the Reactor 3 building on and off until the evening of March 23, 2011.

But in the meeting on March 24, 2011, the location of the fire was identified as PLR-MG in Reactor 3's 4th floor. It was never reported by the media, as far as I know. Reading what was reported in the meeting now, I can see why it was not reported back then. According to the meeting report on March 24, 2011 in the NISA archive (translation is mine),


・黒煙の原因と考えられているオペフロ下の MG セットから隣接している SFP の壁まで2m程度。黒煙発生時の熱によって壁の強度の劣化が懸念されるため検討を行った。SFP 壁は厚さが185cm、RC 造で、鉄筋は壁表面にもっとも近いもので8cmの深さにある。鉄筋は300-400℃で影響を受け始めるが、学会の耐火試験データに基づき評価したところ、350℃に達するのは4時間程度の時間が必要であり、壁の強度に大きな影響はないものと評価した。

At 11PM last night [3/23/2011], conducted visual survey and thermography measurement and concluded that the burning had subsided.

The cause of the black smoke is considered to be the MG set [PLR-MG] beneath the operating floor. SFP is about 2 meters away from [part of] the MG set. As there was a worry about deterioration of the SFP wall strength due to the heat generated when the black smoke was rising, we evaluated the data. The SFP wall is 185cm (about 6 feet) in thickness, made of reinforced concrete. The reinforcing bars closest to the surface of the wall are at 8 centimeters from the surface. The reinforcing bars start to be affected by heat at 300 to 400 degrees Celsius. According to the fire-resistance data by the [relevant] scientific society [no mention of which one], it would take about 4 hours [of burning] for the temperature to reach 350 degrees Celsius, and we concluded there would be no major effect on the strength of the SFP wall.

As I wrote above, no one knows exactly how long the MG was burning. In fact, the same NISA meeting report, on March 23, 2011, says the black smoke started to gush out at 4:20PM on March 23, 2011, and as of 9:30 the black smoke was still rising. So the fire may have been burning for at least 5 hours on March 23, 2011.

The news, if the details like these had been reported by the media at that time, should have made people very nervous. And this is probably why TEPCO video-surveyed the area in detail, and also why TEPCO seems very eager to remove the spent fuel assemblies from the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool, despite the mess and damage of the Reactor 3 building.

The structural integrity, not of the northwest section per se, but of the Spent Fuel Pool itself, may be the issue that concerns TEPCO.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP Reactor 3 SFP Debris Removal: Crane Dropped Fuel Handling Machine Console into the Pool

Or rather, workers employed by the general contractor Kajima, manipulating the crane from a remote location using cameras, dropped the console into the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool.

TEPCO started removing debris from the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool in December 2013, and the removal of the Fuel Handling Machine started in May 2014.

The object (FHM console) drops at about 11 seconds into the video:

I sure hope there are more cameras that are available to the workers to better control the crane and awkward attachments to cut and grab debris.

Inside the pool, the spent fuel assemblies are now covered with sheets to protect them from accidental or unintended dropping of debris. TEPCO says there was no change observed in radiation monitoring.

Removal of the Fuel Handling Machine, weighing about 35 tonnes, is clearly behind schedule. According to the updated Roadmap (4/24/2014), it was scheduled to be finished by the end of June. (For more about the Fuel Handling Machine removal, see my post on 5/10/2014.)

40-Year-Old Minister of Economy Declares "Contaminated Water Is Under Control", and "Effect of Radioactive Materials Is Completely Blocked" at #Fukushima I NPP

dutifully parroting her boss, PM Shinzo Abe.

Thanks to the recent cabinet reshuffle by PM Shinzo Abe, Ms. Yuko Obuchi (link in Japanese) became the Minister of one of the most powerful ministries in Japan, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), at an extremely young age (for the Japanese politics) of 40. She is the daughter of the former LDP Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi who died in 2000. Right after his death, Ms. Obuchi "inherited" her father's constituency and was elected to the Lower House at the age of 26.

So far, she has already pledged to restart nuclear power plants in Japan by "making safety our priority." She visited Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on September 7, and gave us her expert assessment of the situation.

From Reuters Japan (9/7/2014):


Minister of Economy Obuchi says contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuke Plant "is under control"


Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yuko Obuchi visited Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant for the first time since her appointment. She spoke with the reporters after the visit, and answered the question of whether the problem of contaminated water was under control. She said, "Overall, I think the situation is controlled."


Minister Obuchi said "individual incidents continue to happen, but looking at the result of the monitoring, the effect of radioactive materials inside the plant harbor is completely blocked."


One year ago at the International Olympics Committee in Buenos Aires, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a speech for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and said the contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was "under control." Ms. Obuchi, who became the Minister of Economy on September 3, thus follows the official view on one of the top priorities for the Abe administration.

The effect of radioactive materials is blocked, not radioactive materials themselves. Whatever that means.

The approval rating of the Abe administration jumped as much as 10 points after the cabinet reshuttle. Ostensible reasons include a number of female ministers, including Ms. Obuchi, as if it is a good thing.

Taro Yamamoto, who won the seat in the Upper House on his appeal to anti-nuclear, anti-contamination voters, has an astute observation (link in Japanese) about the Abe administration doing something to boost popularlity and the possibility of Abe dissolving the Lower House and calling a snap election in fall. Yamamoto thinks that may be the only way that the Abe administration can gloss over the failure of "Abenomics" and survive. He says LDP and Komei may be the only parties with enough organization and money to prepare for an election with very short notice.

I think he may be right. I for one just cannot imagine Ms. Obuchi controlling (or pretending to control) the bureaucrats in the most powerful ministry, or overseeing (and pretending to control) TEPCO in the decommissioning of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. I think she (and other female ministers) are for show, to boost the popularity of the Abe administration in preparation for a snap election soon.