From here on the book has a quote between each chapter. This is the one before chap 5, followed by chap 5;
Chapter Five's Quote of the Day
From Prof. Naoto Sekimura, used by Japanese media for his nuclear expertise, shortly before R1 exploded. Sekimura is head of Sekimura Laboratory,
involved in cutting edge research into radiation embrittlement, stress corrosion cracking and lattice defects in reactor metals.
"No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor. Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction. Even in the
worst-case scenario, that would mean some radioactive leakage and equipment damage, but not an explosion. If venting is done carefully, there will be
little leakage. Certainly not beyond the 3 km radius."
Castles Made of Sand
The internet is such an amazing world. Within minutes after the R1 explosion, Fukushima threads sprang up in forums like weeds in the spring.
Everywhere you looked people were searching for information concerning the condition of Dai-ichi. It seems that nuking the planet gets people pushed
out of shape and hyper excited really quick. Go figure.
I tried to track a number of the sites, but as the disaster progressed, this became impossible. Some of the more informative sites were also the most
popular, and 10 pages a day of posts became common overnight. So I tried to focus as best I could, while still never happy with the information I was
finding, and always needing to search for more.
It was obvious to those educated in nuclear power that Dai-ichi was not only in trouble, but in much greater trouble than Tepco was admitting to. All
signs were beginning to point to multiple meltdowns, with R1 leading the charge.
How could they not. The heat of the rods at scram are hot enough to boil off the coolant to the top of the fuel rods (TOF) in 20 minutes. If accounts
of pipes breaking at R1 are true, and this led to an immediate loss of coolant, radiation could have started being released within 20 minutes, and
meltdown occurring an hour or so later. This would account for the early spike at a monitoring post one mile from R1 at 3:29, right before the first
However, NISA puts the time of meltdown at 8PM on the 11th. Either way, the battle was lost before the day was done.
In fact, it may have been better that water wasn't injected at this point. Within a short period of time the fuel is a mass of lava-like corium;
melted cladding, steel and uranium pellets, at the bottom of the RPV heating up to 2400 C to 2800 C. Adding water at this crucial stage could have
blown the reactor open in a violent steam and hydrogen explosion.
By now the corium is much hotter than the melting point of steel, and capable of eating through the carbon steel floor of the RPV with ease. According
to data from ORNL, it would take 4 hrs to penetrate the RPV. After that happens, the slag of corium will then drop to the cement basemat and begin
eating into the cement, and eventually the steel, of the PCV. If there is a corium cement reaction, it will be through the PCV into the final layer of
cement between it and earth in a matter of days if not hours. Adding water at this point is somewhat meaningless as all it is doing is creating
radioactive steam emissions and pressure while cooling only the tail of the corium which has crusted over.
Tepco was well aware of this fact. They were also well aware of the time it would take for meltdown to begin, and that it had started in two, and
possibly three reactors by the time the sun rose the next day, a day that had already started out unbelievably hard for so many.
But like so many other things Dai-ichi, we may never know the extent of damage that the EQ caused, and if broken pipes were a primary disturbance.
Tepco has never given a full accounting of damage beyond that which was either obvious, or advantageous, to give. All we have are worker accounts from
mostly unidentified sources. And all field worker accounts have painted a similar picture of cracks forming, roads buckling, pipes breaking, explosive
sounds and the hissing of steam.
The reason that Tepco and the nuclear industry is doing everything they can to keep damage from the EQ hidden from sight is because the magnitude of
the EQ that hit Dai-ichi, due to distance from the epicenter, was in the 7 range, which most nuclear power plants in both Japan and the US are
designed to withstand. If this plant failed at that level of disturbance it would force a massive shake up in which plants worldwide would be allowed
to continue operating.
There are three major concerns with an earthquake hitting a nuclear power plant. One is damage offsite to primary utilities, ie power and water. Two
is damage to plant infrastructure, ie broken pipes, cracks in containment or pools etc. And three is disturbing and shaking the fuel and possibly
starting a crticial reaction.
We know that all offsite power was lost, (except possibly one line not in use at the time, but that's for a later chapter), which in and of itself is
a serious effect. And if the following worker accounts are indeed true, then there was also extensive damage to plant infrastructure. Many of these
accountings come from anonymous sources, workers who have asked that their identity be protected. Where no name is given, this is the case.
The most striking accounts revolve around the sound of an explosion, which was heard inside different reactors. If it was one explosion, it appears to
have come from R1. This was the suspicion of Tepco management. But how could an explosion in R1 be heard in the torus of R4. It would have had to have
been a massive explosion, and not something that could be easily hid or erased from the record. And the description of the sound in the torus places
it louder than the descriptions from R3 and R1. The following is from a worker in the R4 torus at the time of the EQ;
"The reactor had been shut down for a major overhaul, and Mr. Tada had been scanning the surface of the suppression chamber...for signs of
corrosion. When the swaying started, then grew more violent, Mr. Tada grabbed at some hanging pipes to hold himself upright. Then came the terrible
boom, magnified in the doughnut-shaped chamber."
Magnified in the chamber. Theoretically, the only sounds you could hear in the torus would be from the RPV or PCV, but R4's reactor was empty. Where
did this boom come from? We will probably never know.
It could have been something going off in the underground complex (UC), as this sound was heard in other places around the plant. Or there could have
been multiple explosions, including ruptured gas lines from the EQ. But there is always only one boom referred to, and it was heard everywhere,
including the north end of the plant.
"Mr. Hoshi was building scaffolding at the turbine in the No. 5 reactor when the earthquake hit...."the walls started crumbling and dust as thick
as black smoke filled the room,'' Mr. Hoshi recalled. "There was a shock, the lights went out, then a boom that sounded like an explosion", he
R4 to R5 pretty much runs the north/south gamut of the plant as far as reactors go. Are these accounts related. A terrible boom in the torus of R4 and
a boom that sounded to workers in the TB of R5 like an explosion somewhere else.
If they are, then it stands to reason that these are as well;
“I was in a building nearby when the earthquake shook. After the second shockwave hit, I heard a loud explosion that was almost deafening. I
looked out the window and I could see white smoke coming from reactor one. I thought to myself, ‘this is the end.’”
Almost deafening. In a building nearby. Not even at one of the reactors. This has to be a single explosion and it appears to be centered somewhere
along murderers row. For only one blast to be heard this loud by so many in the same time frame, moments after the main shake occurred, negates it
being a gas tank, or multiple cylinders, as has been suggested in the media. The idea that a gas tank exploded came from an evacuation order by Tepco
management before the tsunami hit;
"the supervisor ordered them all to evacuate, explaining, “there’s been an explosion of some gas tanks in reactor one, probably the oxygen
tanks. In addition to this there has been some structural damage, pipes have burst, meltdown is possible. Please take shelter immediately.”"
It is not possible for gas tanks to explode in the R1 building and be heard as a terrible boom in the R4 torus. They may not, in fact, even be heard.
This looks to be another Tepco quick cover up. Explosive sounds from R1 may have made it into the R5 TB, but the R4 torus boom is a different event.
Or they are all one event but not from R1. And wherever it was from, it was massive.
The next most striking thing in worker accounts are the broken pipes, gushing water and hissing sounds. But before exploring damaged pipe lines we
need to understand the condition these pipes were possibly in.
Fukushima is an ancient beast in nuclear reactor years. Murderers Row, at least all the reactors and most of the infrastructure, was constructed in
the late 60s and early to mid 70s. Since then there have been reports of shoddy workmanship on coolant piping, possibly by members of Yakuza, and
numerous violations cited.
These practices came to a head in 2000 when Kei Sugaoka, a Japanese engineer who worked at R1, sent the Japanese government a letter, dated June 28,
2000, warning them of serious problems with the piping and quality of work being performed at Fukushima Dai-ichi. In a recent interview he stated
“The plant had problems galore and the approach taken with them was piecemeal. Most of the critical work: construction work, inspection work, and
welding were entrusted to sub-contracted employees with little technical background or knowledge of nuclear radiation. I can’t remember there ever
being a disaster drill. The TEPCO employees never got their hands dirty.”
It took the Japanese government more than two years to act on that warning. And not only did the government take over two years to address the
problem, while helping cover it up, they gave the name of the whistleblower to TEPCO. That's how much the Japanese government cares about safety at a
nuclear power plant.
Finally, in 2002, allegations that TEPCO had deliberately falsified safety records came to light and the company was forced to shut down all of its
reactors and inspect them, including the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant.
Then, in September of 2002, TEPCO admitted to covering up and falsifying data concerning cracks in critical recirculation pipes. In their analysis of
the cover-up, The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center writes: “The records that were covered up had to do with cracks in parts of the reactor
known as recirculation pipes. These pipes are there to siphon off heat from the reactor. If these pipes were to fracture, it would result in a serious
accident in which coolant leaks out. From the perspective of safety, these are highly important pieces of equipment. Cracks were found in the
Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, reactor one, reactor two, reactor three, reactor four, reactor five.”
The cracks in the pipes were not due to earthquake damage; they came from the simple wear and tear of long-term usage. Radiation messes steel and
other metals up real bad.
Katsunobu Onda, author of TEPCO: The Dark Empire notes, “I’ve spent decades researching TEPCO and its nuclear power plants and what I’ve
found, and what government reports confirm is that the nuclear reactors are only as strong as their weakest links, and those links are the
During his research, several engineers working at Dai-ichi told him that often piping would not match up the way it should according to the
blueprints. In that case, the only solution was to use heavy machinery to pull the pipes close enough together to weld them shut.
They also told him that inspection of piping was often cursory, while the backs of the pipes, which were hard to reach, were seldom inspected at all.
Repair jobs were also rushed as no one wanted to be exposed to nuclear radiation longer than necessary.
“When I first visited the Fukushima power plant it was a web of pipes. Pipes on the wall, on the ceiling, on the ground. You’d have to walk
over them, duck under them—sometimes you’d bump your head on them. It was like a maze of pipes inside.”
“The pipes, which regulate the heat of the reactor and carry coolant, are the veins and arteries of a nuclear power plant....you can’t cool a
reactor core if the pipes carrying the coolant and regulating the heat rupture—it doesn’t get to the core.”
The following post in an early Fukushima forum is possibly the best analysis of the conditions that probably existed at the time of the EQ.
"I have engineered nine US Mark I BWRs, like Fukushima.....There is critical piping in every nuke, piping vital to plant safety. It is subject to
operating conditions: pressure, temperature, movement, corrosion, etc. but also seismic loadings. Proper alignment, and welding at joints, is crucial
to establishing the necessary margins to survive and function. This is extremely difficult, costly, and time consuming. Very few welders are qualified
to do this work; they are the cream of the crop. Each weld is carefully inspected, and the inspection records are kept on file.
If the workers cheat, force fit up of non aligning sections, do not make full penetration welds, skip inspections, falsify the reports, then two
things happen. A culture of corruption spreads, as unacceptable work is bought off. And the plant is weak, incapable of surviving maximum loadings.
Neither can exist without management and regulators looking the other way.
There is no question that the loss of emergency power, for a long period of time, from the tsunami damage doomed the plants. But...ruptured cooling
systems may have doomed the cores, long before the flood came."
And to highlight all of the above concerns, on March 2, nine days before the meltdown, the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) gave TEPCO a
warning on its failure to inspect critical pieces of equipment at the plant, which included the recirculation pumps. TEPCO was ordered to make the
inspections, perform repairs if needed and give a report to the NISA on June 2.
This was the condition of infrastructure, especially critical piping, at the time the EQ hit. Is it any wonder there are worker accounts like these
One worker, a maintenance engineer in his late twenties who was at the Fukushima complex on March 11, recalls hissing and leaking pipes. “I
personally saw pipes that came apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There’s no doubt that the
earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant," he said. "There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t know which pipes – that has to be
A second worker, a technician in his late 30s, who was also on site at the time of the earthquake, narrated what happened. “It felt like the
earthquake hit in two waves, the first impact was so intense you could see the building shaking, the pipes buckling, and within minutes, I saw pipes
bursting. Some fell off the wall. Others snapped. I was pretty sure that some of the oxygen tanks stored on site had exploded but I didn’t see for
myself. Someone yelled that we all needed to evacuate and I was good with that. But I was severely alarmed because as I was leaving I was told and I
could see that several pipes had cracked open, including what I believe were cold water supply pipes. That would mean that coolant couldn’t get to
the reactor core. If you can’t sufficiently get the coolant to the core, it melts down. You don’t have to have to be a nuclear scientist to figure
So there is a very real possibility that the flow of coolant was stopped at any or all of the reactors before the tsunami even hit. Once again, we
will probably never know the truth. However, an engineer who helped design R4's pressure vessel, Mitsuhiko Tanaka, and Atsuo Watanabe, former designer
of containment vessels at Toshiba Corp, took things one step further and stated flatly that broken piping caused the R1 meltdown.
According to them, the story that the emergency cooling system was turned off because of a rapid drop in temperature is bogus. Tepco said it stopped
the emergency condensers after the quake but before the tsunami hit to stop the temperature of the pressure vessel from cooling faster than 55 C per
hour. This, it said, was strictly in accordance with the instructions contained in the operating manual.
According to Tanaka, this was not the case. He said the 55-C-per-hour is a figure used in ordinary plants in a non-emergency situation just prior to
cold shutdown. This was an emergency situation with no cold shutdown anywhere in site. Cooling the reactor in the short term will always take
precedence over long term wear and tear on piping. And considering that Tepco has never shown any concern for the health of their piping, to all of a
sudden place it above saving a reactor is a ridiculous notion that doesn't fly. Not with Tanaka and Watanabe.
Other interesting reports of EQ damage are as follows;
One worker told NHK World he was working at unit 4 when he heard a "roar" and the lights cut out. He said the water in the spent fuel storage pool
drenched everyone....the earthquake created waves within the storage pools that washed over the workers standing near the pools....and were soaked
with highly radioactive water.
Kenji Mougi and Matsuo Watanabe saw asphalt split and cracks open in the roads threading through the complex, some so deep that Mr. Mougi had trouble
getting back to three other members of his crew.
Hiroyuki Nishi narrowly escaped death...when a 200-ton hook on a crane came crashing down a mere two meters (6 feet) from him during the convulsions.
"Then some kind of white smoke or steam appeared and everyone started choking," Nishi said. "We all covered our mouths and ran for the door."
Unfortunately the door was locked (no electricity) and the radiation detection unit wasn't functioning (no electricity) and the regulations state that
no one can leave a reactor building without first showing that they have no rads attached to them. So the R3 supervisor refused to let the workers
leave, even as aftershocks that were almost as strong as the initial quake began to strike, forcing them to individual hand monitored radiation
inspections. Workers started screaming to be released.
Nishi recalled angry shouts from among the workers including expletives from a couple of Canadians. "We were shouting that the reactor structure
was going to collapse or that a tsunami might come," Nishi recalled. Radiation exposure was the last thing on their minds. Eventually, TEPCO workers
tested about 20 people before giving up and throwing open the doors.
Location, Location, Location
There is another issue that needs inclusion into this discussion, one that Tepco and the nuclear industry have done their best to hide, the site that
Dai-ichi rests upon. All nuclear power plants in Japan are built on bedrock or granite, except Fukushima Dai-ichi and Daini. These are built on deep
layers of sand, clay, mud and Neogene sedimentary rock.
The NRC doesn't even allow building a nuclear power plant on Neogene sedimentary rock that is in earthquake country. And Japan is arguably the most
seismically active area on this whole planet.
But that is exactly what Dai-ichi rests upon, sand, clay and Neogene sedimentary rock going down hundreds of meters. Easy to dig tunnels in, but very
bad if there is an earthquake. Very, very, bad.
edit on 8-2-2012 by zworld because: (no reason given)