Published on November 23rd, 2013 | by Important Media Cross-Post


TEPCO President: Fukushima Was “A Warning To The World”

November 23rd, 2013 by  

Originally published on Planetsave.
By Sandy Dechert

TEPCO workers are using a 91-ton cask to transport nuclear fuel from the damaged secondary containment pool at Reactor Unit 4. (Photo: TEPCO.)TEPCO workers lower the 91-ton shielded transfer cask in preparation for relocating unused nuclear fuel. (Photo from TEPCO.)

Today, officials at Tokyo Electric Power Company could breathe a sigh of relief. Using remote-controlled cranes, workers at Fukushima Daiichi cleared some of the dangerously radioactive uranium fuel rod racks from the upper-story cooling pond of damaged Reactor Unit 4. You can see TEPCO’s video of parts of the operation here.

Technicians loaded unused fuel assemblies underwater from the unit’s secondary containment into a specially designed steel-walled canister (see photo), which looks like a huge home hot water heater and must be decontaminated every time it is transferred from radioactive water to air. At 1:20 this afternoon (Tokyo time), the operators began the process of moving the cask onto the truck that would carry it to a safer storage location at ground level nearby. TEPCO has reported that the transfer has gone smoothly so far. After the fresh fuel rods are removed, the company will tackle the problem of moving the reactor’s spent fuel, which is hotter and more dangerous than fresh fuel.

“TEPCO has worked out individual scenarios to deal with stoppages of pool cooling, water leaks from the pools, a massive earthquake, a fire, and an accident involving the trailer, but not for dealing with a situation in which two or more incidents occur simultaneously. Therefore it must proceed in an extremely careful[ly] manner,” the Japan Times reported earlier today.

TEPCO president acknowledges miscalculations

The president of the utility, Naomi Hirose, told The Guardian this week that “What happened at Fukushima was, yes, a warning to the world.” Hirose stated that “We made a lot of excuses to ourselves” and unwarranted assumptions that others had discussed adequate “counter-measures” for large tsunamis.

“We tried to persuade people that nuclear power is 100% safe….But we have to explain, no matter how small a possibility, what if this [safety] barrier is broken? We have to prepare a plan if something happens.… It is easy to say this is almost perfect so we don’t have to worry about it. But we have to keep thinking: what if.…”

International oversight visit

Adequacy of international consultation has been an issue since the incident occurred. Concerns have increased since the revelation of TEPCO’s apparent bravado and inattention early in the process. Although TEPCO has performed nuclear fuel transfers before without incident, this is the first time the company has had to deal with a reactor damaged by earthquake, flooding, and explosions.

Apprehension will be mitigated somewhat when 19 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency visit the site from November 25 to December 4 to assess the success of this week’s mission and the current state of TEPCO’s efforts to prevent contaminated water from leaking out of multiple storage tanks. The Japanese government requested the visit. Hahn Pil-soo, the IAEA’s director of radiation, transport, and waste safety, will be on the team.

IAEA, the world’s clearinghouse and watchdog for nuclear operations, formed in 1957 as energy firms began installing nuclear plants across the world on a wide scale. Vienna is the agency’s headquarters. IAEA’s goal is to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

Next step in decommissioning

Japan News describes the second phase of the reactor decommissioning process, which will begin when the Unit 4 work has finished, possibly as early as 2015. The company then needs to tackle the problem of recovering spent fuel from Reactor Units 1-3.

These reactors were online at the time of the magnitude 9 Great East Japan subsea earthquake, tsunami, and explosions that killed more than 18,000 people in March 2011. They present unique challenges because at least some of their fuel melted down, the molten fuel’s location below the reactors is presently unknown, and its chemical composition is likely more toxic because it contains more plutonium and unstable isotopes. The tricky core meltdown work will probably start around 2020.

In a word of caution to the developers of eight proposed British nuclear generating stations and of similar facilities across the globe, TEPCO president Hirose offered the following advice:

“Try to examine all the possibilities, no matter how small they are, and don’t think any single counter-measure is foolproof. Think about all different kinds of small counter-measures, not just one big solution. There’s not one single answer.”

Hirose now feels that Japan will achieve its best electric power results through energy diversification, using oil, gas, and renewables as well as nuclear generation. Before the disaster at Fukushima, Japan had planned to expand nuclear power to supply half the nation’s energy needs. TEPCO’s official position, stated on its website, is that “Nuclear power generation has excellent long-term prospects for the stable procurement of nuclear fuel and for effectively countering global warming problems.” Forty percent of the company’s revenues have historically come from nuclear power generation.

Presently, all 50 of Japan’s nuclear plants (17 of which are owned by TEPCO) have been shut down. Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4 are unusable, and the company has just bowed to a government request that the other two reactors (5 and 6) on the site be mothballed. Many in Japan, from ordinary people to three high former government officials, believe Japan should abandon nuclear power completely. Uncertainty about nuclear renewal and the high cost of using carbon-based technology to fill in for the power previously generated by nuclear plants (one third of Japan’s electricity) forced the country this week to renege on an earlier promise and greatly lower its climate change goals.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

-- CleanTechnica is one of 18 blogs in the Important Media blog network. With a bit of overlap in coverage, we sometimes repost some of the great content published by our sister sites.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    It would nice to have close up video footage from the damaged reactor buildings. It should be possible to send a drone with video camera there.

  • siyousyanamae .

    Atomic mafia ‘cleans up’ Fukushima, neglects basic workers’ rights

    November 20, 2013 Russia Today

    A former Fukushima worker said that they were given no insurance for health risks, no radiation meters even. At first they were promised a lot of money, even offered a long-term contract but they were kicked out when they received a large radiation doze. They could have exposed themselves to large doses without even knowing it.

    According to government data, there are 25 percent more openings for jobs at Fukushima than applicants. These gaps are often filled by the homeless and the desperately unemployed. Many of the workers were brought into Fukushima by Japan’s organized crime syndicates. It may take another 40 years to completely liquidate the aftermath of the disaster, the lives of millions could be affected.

    • Dave

      The workers should do a class action law suit. That would stop Tepco from acting like the typical sociopathic 1% that they obviously are.

  • Will E

    What about WAR.
    The Bombing of nuclear facilities in a war situation.
    the best strategy should be
    for example
    help Iran to build there nuclear energy facilities
    and then bomb the hell out of these facilities.
    Will have double effect.

    • cmeyer

      I’m sure that would make us super popular with the rest of the world!

      • Burnerjack

        We are now?

        • A Real Libertarian

          Considering America isn’t treated like a nuclear-armed Joker, then yes, I would call you “super popular with the rest of the world” compared to how you’d be treated if this was done.

    • dave

      ‘Their’ not ‘there’. Your statement loses impact when you come off as uneducated.

      • Burnerjack

        I think the ‘take away’ here isn’t grammatical in as much as you can redesign for earthquakes, tsunamis, coolant failure, etc. To design a reactor to be invulnerable to attack maybe significantly difficult.

        • Bob_Wallace

          What’s hardest to design for is the unknown unknown.

          We built a reactor in NoCal. Then we discovered it was sitting on an earthquake fault.

          The monster tornado that ripped apart Joplin Mo a couple years back wasn’t far from the Fort Calhoun reactor. Had it come down and tracked differently it could have hit the reactor.

          The reactor was designed to take a major tornado hit but the grid that fed the reactor during shutdown would have been obliterated. They designed for that as well. They installed a backup generator.

          Problem. The backup generator was located in a normal non-toughened metal building. A F4 or F5 would have wiped out the backup generator.

          We would have had our own Fukushima style meltdown right in the Midwest.

          To design against a clever and dedicated enemy, to totally control all access? I can easily see a “Oops, we didn’t think of that”.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Does any country have just cause to believe they are likely to come under nuclear attack from Iran? No, they do not. So the bombing of nuclear facilities in Iran would not be self defence, it would be murder. And I am personally against murder, although I am aware that opinions differ on this. If bombing Iran at this point is self defence, then Sydney should also be bombed, as while it has no nuclear weapons Australia maintains the capacity to build them. (Just look at all those uranium deposits and manufacturing capacity considerably advanced on what was state of the art in 1945.) Or you could bomb Russia which at this moment has the capacity to devastate the United States. There’s no need to wait for it to develop anything, it has the ability right now.

      • Bob_Wallace

        This discussion may have become inoperative. Within the last couple of hours Iran and the “six major countries” came to an agreement that, if followed, will take Iran out of the nuclear bomb business.

        Now, back to the discussion…

        IMO, the problem is not so much the current government of Iran having and using a nuclear weapon, but there are people/organizations in the area who might well set one off if they could get their hands on one.

        People who believe that being suicide bombers gives them an express trip to 72 virgins/whatever are likely capable of cobbling together some rational about how getting themselves toasted is worthwhile if they get to toast Israel/France/Britain/US/”those other Muslims”/whomever first.

      • mds

        “Does any country have just cause to believe they are likely to come under nuclear attack from Iran?”
        What about Isreal Ron?

        • mds

          Sorry: Israel not Isreal

        • Ronald Brakels

          If you have evidence that Iran is planning a nuclear attack against any country please point me towards the evidence. Note that I’d like actual evidence. A few quotes intended for domestic consumption from a politician who isn’t even in power anymore may be good for feeding paranoia, but isn’t a good basis to commit murder on. And I have to say that as an outsider seeing the elephant that crushed Nazi Germany, destroyed Imperial Japan, and buried the Soviet Union jumping at the mouse squeaks of a regional power with an aging population and a Peru level economy would be quite amusing if the potential for tragedy wasn’t so high.

          Then, once you’ve shown me that evidence, if you think bombing is the solution, please present evidence that it is the best solution. After all, we don’t want to go jumping straight to the murder bombs if there are better options available. If the evidence is good that Iran is planning a nuclear attack practically every nation on earth would unit against them making it easy to attempt diplomatic solutions and would make economic threats plausible. Also, there’s balance of terror. Remember that? It used to be all the rage. Threaten to murder bomb anyone who dared to murder bomb you. But now apparently people are so scared they want to jump straight to murder bombing people before they murder bomb anyone. I think some people badly need to see the Wizard of Oz in order to get something they’re missing. (Maybe make it a twofer.)

Back to Top ↑