Nuclear Energy Fukushima Daiichi I, with early July reactor leak (adapted from TEPCO)

Published on July 8th, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


New Leak At Fukushima Unit 5, Previously Thought Safe (VIDEO)

July 8th, 2014 by  

Fukushima Daiichi I, with early July reactor leak (adapted from TEPCO)(Reactor unit locations highlighted on TEPCO’s website map.)

The Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear power complex at Fukushima 1 has suffered a new and dangerous leak. The flaw is in the fifth reactor unit, not in one of the four originally wrecked in March 2011 in what might still become the world’s worst nuclear accident.

At that time just over three years ago, an offshore level 9 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that killed 18,000 people in Japan and incapacitated the power plant. Fukushima 1 Reactor Units 5 and 6 were offline at the time of the disaster, but the fuel rods in Unit 5, still loaded in its cooling water pond, now threaten disaster within the next week and a half. (VIDEO here.)

Engineers on the Fukushima site have said that apparently about 1,300 liters of highly radioactive water has leaked from a 3 mm-diameter hole near a cooling system flow valve in Unit 5. The leak forced TEPCO workers at around 12pm on Sunday to shut off the cooling water system that was stabilizing the temperature of the spent fuel rod pool.

Russia Today reports that when the cooling system was switched off, the Unit 5 pool temperature was 23 degrees C and increasing by 0.193 degrees per hour. PressTV adds:

“If the system is not repaired in nine days, temperatures will exceed the dangerous threshold of 65 degrees [C].”

This hotter water would increase the possibility of a dangerous reaction and further radiation leaks in the Fukushima power complex.

TEPCO still remains in crisis at these plants due to leakage from corroded and incompletely sealed tanks, groundwater influx from the nearby hills, planned emergency discharges into the Pacific, and tricky fuel rod removal from the blasted Unit 4 reactor. In addition, the ice wall we reported on in June is not working as well as expected, and the Advanced Liquid Processing System for water purification only went back online several weeks ago after numerous false starts. Also in June, an American company, Kurion Inc., contracted with TEPCO to remove the hazardous strontium that ALPS decontamination cannot address with its own first-of-a-kind, truck-mounted at-tank filtration system.

The debate over resuming nuclear power use in Japan continues at a boil. Current President Shinzō Abe and industry officials favor going nuclear again, but opposing party politicians, other leaders, and a growing number of vocal citizens oppose the measure. Meanwhile, Japan has renewable energy options going full speed ahead.

NOTE ON COVERAGE OF THIS STORY: TEPCO apparently held a news conference on-site on Sunday but has not published the news in English on its website yet. The story originally comes from the RT news network out of Russia, usually the first foreign correspondent to publish Japanese news. An Iranian news outlet quickly picked up the story, and at about 5pm EST on Monday Fox News published it in the US, referencing the RT article. Fox also reports in its headline that the situation “threatens dangerous meltdown.” Neither other US media nor the prominent Japanese media-— Kyodo News press agency, Japan Today (internet), or newspapers (Asahi Shimbun, Nikkei, Japan Times)—-had reported on the situation at time of publication here.

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • Frozen

    This is a rather long reply to Bob (comment-1475934593), so I’m posting at the bottom level so it doesn’t double the length of the comment page.  I’m also changing my quote format to make it easier to read (I hope).

    Bob writes:

    Please, let’s not play the “Will it be nuclear or nasty, nasty coal?” game. That’s so worn out that its patches have patches.

    Interesting choice of words.  You say “worn out”, not “false”.  “Let’s not play the Water Is Wet game.  That’s so worn out…”

    Saying something is “worn out” instead of “false” might as well be saying “I don’t want it to be true“.  I refer you to Wikipedia’s list of generating stations in “Green, renewable” Denmark.

    All except the 57 MW Viborg station burn coal.  Germany’s energy program involves… constructing coal-fired plants.  If that’s “worn out”, why does it have so much brand-new supporting evidence?

    Meanwhile, the return of the refurbished Bruce Point CANDU reactors to service allowed Ontario to shut down its last coal-fired plant, at Nanticoke:

    I can understand a dogmatic adherent to Green orthodoxy not wanting to talk about actual results in GHG emissions, because the results totally contradict Green orthodoxy.  I can’t understand anyone who actually gives a damn about the planet not wanting to do so.

    I’m not going to get into a discussion on how bad things are or are not at Fukushima.

    Because anyone doing so would question the orthodoxy?  Because anyone looking at plants with designs and site planning just a few years newer, like Onagawa, would see that they can be built to shrug off such insults with a smile… and did?

    Because anyone looking at the current generation of plant designs would realize that we have much bigger and far more likely worries than some remote possibility that a freak combination of events could cause a meltdown, and a Fukushima-scale evacuation is piddling compared to what’s already baked into the climate-change pie?

    I won’t take James Hansen seriously. I think he fucked up major time by jumping on the nuclear band wagon.

    Putting results before orthodoxy makes him a heretic.  Got it.

    While he’s an expert in climate science he apparently knows little about renewable energy. He’s made claims that are simply laughable, the sort of stuff one would hear from a freshman in Energy 101.

    You appear to laugh at things that are true beyond dispute.  Examples include Denmark’s substantial reliance on coal, and the historical (also beyond dispute) rates of expansion of nuclear generation compared to renewables:

    The historical record is that nuclear power has grown to 7 MWh/capita/yr in 11 years in several countries (very repeatable), while Germany (one of the richest countries on earth) has managed to eke out 1 MWh/capita/yr over 11 years from renewables.  Denmark is similar to Germany.

    I’m not sure whether your mantra is “This time, it’ll be different” or “it must be done Our Way or not at all.”  Einstein is reputed to have said “Insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results.”  If you expect to get more than 1 MWh/capita/yr from renewables in a decade, that’s looking an awful lot like insanity.  If you are more concerned with the purity of your Green devotions than the climate, I leave you to your monastic pursuits.  I just wish you’d leave the engineers to the business of solving problems.

    Why don’t you give this a read?

    The lecturing tone is firmly established by the end of page 1, and gets deeply into canards by page 2 (contradicted by the on-time and on-budget records of both China and KEPCO).  No need to guess why; the main page shows that NIRS is just another anti-nuclear activist site, dealing in nothing more reliable than cherry-picked tertiary and quaternary sources (scientific paper to news item to commentary to NIRS aggregation).  It cites other organizations in the anti-nuclear echo chamber, such as UCS.  And claims like cost overruns being “an inevitable feature of nuclear power construction” are historically false; they only appeared in earnest after the creation of the NRC and its regulatory micro-management.  An entire chapter of a book was written about that alone.

    Last, it assumes that experience has taught the nuclear industry nothing… yet experience is supposed to make wind and solar our saviors, even the experience with the need for massive amounts of storage that is simply not available except at eye-watering prices that make nuclear power look downright cheap.

    Elsewhere on NIRS I found this:

    It’s an interesting piece of hand-wringing which laments that if nuclear power is treated the same as other energy sources for carbon abatement, it will become relatively cheap (what happened to all those alleged cost overruns?) and developing countries will build a lot of it.  Well, which is it?  Is nuclear too expensive to consider, or so cheap and reliable that it will shove renewables out of the market if they are all treated the same under carbon-abatement rules?  It can’t be both.

    Last, I’ll just mention that a number of countries on the Arabian peninsula are aiming to build nuclear power despite their abundance of both FFs and sun, including Abu Dhabi (4 x 1400 MW(e) plants built by KEPCO) and Saudi Arabia (aiming at 17 GW(e) by 2032).

    And how about spending some time thinking whether you might have climbed aboard the wrong horse?

    Show me a country that’s used wind and solar to beat Sweden’s per-kWh figure for carbon emissions (including externalized emissions for hardware, batteries, concrete and steel), and I’ll jump on that horse.  I don’t see that happening; 23 grams of CO2 per kWh is such an impressive figure, even Hansen holds Sweden up as the role model:

    • Bob_Wallace

      This will be a rather short reply.

      Renewables are cheaper than nuclear, faster to bring on line, and do not create unnecessary dangers for us and those who follow us.

      We can build ~100% renewable grids for the entire world. There is absolutely no shortage of renewable resources anywhere.


    • A Real Libertarian

      It’s an interesting piece of hand-wringing which laments that if nuclear power is treated the same as other energy sources for carbon
      abatement, it will become relatively cheap (what happened to all those
      alleged cost overruns?) and developing countries will build a lot of it. Well, which is it? Is nuclear too expensive to consider, or so cheap and reliable that it will shove renewables out of the market if they are all treated the same under carbon-abatement rules? It can’t be both.

      is 15 years out of date.

      In November 2000, the Parties to the Climate Change Convention will meet in The Hague for further negotiations on the shape of the Kyoto Protocol.

      Pages 28-29 show how much nuclear plants go over budget.

      That’s all you nuke pushers have.
      1. Utterly obsolete stats (From the Clinton Administration? Eh, how much can the world change since then?).
      2. Assumptions (We should use the very serious EIA projections, not the unserious DOE measurements of what energy costs in real life).
      3. Inability to learn (You’re going to hand-wave this and continue going on about how only nuclear can possibly work).

      • Bob_Wallace

        That’s the point at which I gave up reading.

        Renewables don’t get any special financial treatment in the US because they reduce carbon output. They get some subsidies, but nuclear gets more. There’s no “carbon tax” with the proceeds shoveled out to wind and solar while poor unloved child, nuclear, doesn’t get a share.

        Nuclear is simply expensive. Even before cost overruns nuclear is expensive. Nuclear has always been expensive. The industry has worked for 60 years to make nuclear affordable and they have failed to do so. If there was some whiz-bang GenX reactor that would produce affordable electricity then big money (GE, France) would be building them.

        • Frozen

          Bob, the vast majority of what the Green echo chamber considers “nuclear subsidies” is defense spending and Cold War-related cleanup.

          Further, if you “stop reading”, can you really be interested in the facts rather than Green orthodoxy?  Just asking for honesty.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Funny you should be asking about honesty.

  • Steven F

    This article doesn’t appear to be true to me. For starters the water in a cooling pool is not radioactive. The fuel in the pool is but not the water.

    Also the fuel rods will not be damaged until they reach a temperature of at least 1500F. At that temperature the metal cladding of the fuel rode may stretch due internal pressure or burst. All fukushima reactors are boiling water reactors and in normal operation the rods are at a temperature of 285C. A temperature of 65C is not dangerous and will not breach the metal cladding of the fuel rods and will not cause the release of radiation.

    Also these fuel rods are about 4 years old. Some are even older. They don’t generate a lot of heat at this age. At 5 yearssome reactor operators move the rods into dry cask storage. Dry cask storage means the rods are air cooled not water cooled. The fuel rods in reactor 4 about the same age and are safely being put into dry cask storage.

    So in short the water is not radioactive, 65C is not enough to do damage or boil water, and air cooling is now sufficient to cool the rods.

    • jeffhre

      Thank you Steven F, that is comforting. Can you please comment on the 3mm hole in the unit 5 cooling system and whether the potential 0.193 degree C. per hour temperature rise will affect the movement of spent fuel rods to dry cask storage?

      • Steven F

        There are 6 reactor at Fukushima and each has a spent fuel pool. Unit 5 ( the subject of this article) and unit 6 were off line at the time of the earthquake and suffered minimal to no damage. There is no risk in leaving the fuel in unit 6 and 5 where it is for now. Tepco is focusing its efforts on Units 1, 2, 3, and 4.

        Unit 4 had more spent fuel in its pool than any of the others and the building had significant structural damage. No mater how you looked at it the removal of the fuel from unit 4 pool was priority. Removal of unit 4 fuel is currently in progress and was not affected by the small leak in in unit 5. The work at unit 4 should be completed late this year.

        Unit 1, 2, and 3 have a lot of debris in and above the fuel pools. The removal of fuel from these pools will be more challenging. Removal of the Debris, and planning for removal of the fuel in these reactors is in the planning and preparation stage.

  • Frozen

    Bad news for the fear-mongers!  TEPCO announced that the cooling in the Unit 5 SFP was resumed at 15:40 hours on July 8.  Even worse, if the pool had heated up to the point of evaporative cooling, a garden hose would have provided sufficient make-up water… and it’s been impossible for the fuel to heat up to temperatures sufficient to cause damage for more than 2 years even if the pool went completely dry.

    Even worse, TEPCO has removed 1188 out of 1331 spent fuel assemblies from the Unit 4 SFP without a hitch so far.  That leaves just 143 to go before they’re all gone, and Harvey Wasserman proves to be a complete fraud.

    That means you’ll have to find something else to be scared about.

    • James Elliott

      That’s good to hear, but source please?

      I don’t see an announcement on the TEPCO page, but maybe it will be included in today’s status report, which seem to come out 3pm daily.

      • Frozen

        Links in the text, you’ll have to mouse over to find them because someone screwed up the link colors in this site’s style sheet.

        • James Elliott

          Got it, thanks. I guess I should have been looking at the English press release pages, instead of the Japanese ones.

    • JimBouton

      I guess congratulations is in order.

      I mean, aside from all those children developing thyroid cancer, things are just peaches and cream at Fukushima these days.

      • Frozen

        What children developing thyroid cancer?  “no discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima
        nuclear accident”.

        “Data from similar screening protocols in areas not affected by the accident imply that the apparent increased rates of detection among children in Fukushima Prefecture are unrelated to radiation exposure.

        (The Fukushima children actually have a lower rate of sub-clinical nodules than children outside the contamination zone.)

        • Offgridmanpolktn

          Maybe because the ones not swept away by the typhoon were immediately moved out of the area? There has been an evacuation area around Fukushima ever since this incident (such a small word to describe this disaster)

          • Frozen

            Then how would you explain the lower rate of sub-clinical thyroid nodules than the controls?  Some protective vapor brought in by the tsunami, perhaps?  A blessing from the earthquake gods?

            I don’t mean to be too sarcastic, but to fit the actual evidence out there you literally have to reach about that far.

        • JimBouton

          “The 2005 Japanese national incidence rate for thyroid cancer aged 0-18 is given in a recent peer reviewed report as 0.0 per 100,000. That is to say there are no cases. Let me be generous and say that the annual rate per 100,000 is 0.05. That means in the last two years we would expect 0.18 cases: we actually see at minimum 12 cases but most likely 27 cases.”

          So, 150 times what is the expected rate.

          Of course, now the confirmed total is up to 90 children. I am sure this is all just a simple coincidence.

          So, would you feel safe to move your family to where there are children located near Fukushima today?

          • Frozen

            You’re making me laugh.  You trust the Russian government when they hype Fukushima to downplay Chernobyl, and an anti-nuclear fearmongering site when they breathlessly cite numbers contradicted by comparative studies of unaffected populations.

            What you are doing is helping to use radiation as a terror weapon:


          • JimBouton

            I guess you missed the empirical data:

            Two year historical expectation of less than one case per 100,000 Japanese children, and here we are with 90 documented cases out of 230,000 already.

          • Frozen

            You missed the details that even the slanted ENEnews piece mentioned:

            0.7% with nodules 5.1 mm or larger or cysts 20.1 mm or larger… which is the threshold for clinical detection without the extraordinarily sensitive gear being used for this survey.  And note, those are nodules or cysts, not cancers.  Apparently most of them disappear spontaneously.

            The rate of such nodules remains lower in the Fukushima sample than the controls.  Whatever causes them, the meltdowns have nothing to do with it.

          • JimBouton

            I’ll never understand you nuke fanboys. These size nodules and cysts just don’t happen in such a large number to a population that has simply not had these cancers prior to this fallout.

            Instead of trying to making the argument that there are ways to make nuclear safer and less expensive, you seem to concentrate your efforts on distorting a catastrophe rather than simply admitting that nuclear accidents can be a very dangerous thing.

            I find it disgusting that you seem to take some sort of ghoulish glee in this accident, with terms like “howler” and “you’re making me laugh.” We are talking about children’s lives in this discussion.

            The world (and especially many Japanese) will be living with this “accident” for decades at the minimum. You are no better than the fossil fuel folks that try to ignore climate change.

            I guess this is how you earn your money, so I guess we will just have to live with your “nuclear is safe” schtick.

          • Frozen

            Your RT Today piece included this howler about the Unit 4 fuel pool:

            “no doubt twisted and melted a large proportion of
            the remaining spent fuel.”

            This is the same spent fuel you can see in TEPCO video, being pulled from the racks in very fine condition:


            You’ll notice that the lifting rings on top of the fuel assemblies, which would be the first things to be damaged by anything falling on them, are untouched by anything except a bit of oxidation.

  • James Elliott probably got it off the TEPCO website under the Press Releases section. TEPCO seems to be including the status of the #5 and #6 reactor pools in the daily status reports. Interestingly, it looks like the cooling system for reactor pool #6 has been shut off as well.

    It’s hard to tell what to make of this. The tone of the status reports doesn’t sound particularly urgent. It sounds like they shut them down to better find the source of the leak, and now are planning how to correct it. They note they have 9 days at the current rate of heating before the pool reaches 65′ C, which is the upper limit of (normal) operating temperature, but that doesn’t mean anything particularly bad happens at that point. Presumably it would need to get up to 100′ to start boiling off the cooling water, and things would get bad after that. But then again, they could always just start dumping in more water at that point.

    • Offgridmanpolktn

      It really isn’t that hard to tell what to make of this because at the 65°C point of the cooling pond it will be plenty warm enough to lose major quantities of the water through evaporation no matter what the ambient humidity of the air. Thus the concern about that temperature and not the boiling point of water, along with possible releases of radioactive vapor and the radioactive material beginning its own reaction without enough cooling water around it and then a meltdown as has happened at to many other of these ‘safe’ nuclear sites
      With humanities propensity for accidents and mistakes that I have been living with since Three Mile Island, then just as a personal point of view there seems to be no reason that is good enough to count on nuclear as a source of energy.

      • James Elliott

        That’s a good point about normal evaporation at 65′, so I stand corrected.

        Still, it’s not clear that it will get to that point, or what options they have even if it does. Can they run the cooling system for a while to bring the temperature back down if it starts to get too high? Can they put in a quick fix on the leak, run the cooling to bring the temps down again, then turn them off again to fix the leak more permanently? Can they just dump more cool water into the pool to compensate for any evaporation?

        I live in Tokyo and I am not a fan of nuclear power, but I do like to see reasoned evaluations of the news.

        • Offgridmanpolktn

          For the sake of this discussion my concerns are for you as you live much closer to this plant than I do any here in the US, but in reality it is for all of the citizens of Japan and the world.
          It is my sincere hope that this situation has been, or will be brought under control as Frozen has just quoted above. Though there is some confusion as to what the rod removal in a different pile has to do with the cooling emergency at this one.
          I have been living in fear of the power of the atom ever since my government taught me to hide under our school desks in case of an attack, while simultaneously showing us pictures of the cities they destroyed using it.
          As a rough paraphrase from Albert Einstein ‘we have absolutely no comprehension of the power we have released, nor of a means to control it’
          For you and the people of Japan, and the affects it will ultimately result on having to the rest of our world my hopes are that this situation will be controlled and eventually removed. It is primarily with those that let their greed be in control so that these kind of plants could be built in the first place while their homes were sure to be far away that my anger lies.

          • Frozen

            There wasn’t a “cooling emergency”.

            All the fear-mongering about the Fukushima fuel pools got the science types to dig through their research.  What they found is that, even in a fully-packed fuel pool, the spent fuel’s heat output falls too low to cause fuel damage in just 107 days even if the pool goes completely dry.  It is now YEARS too late for any such accident to be possible.  In other words, even if the pool was left with no cooling or make-up water for a year, you would only have a dry pool that you couldn’t approach from the top until you filled it with water again.  That’s not an emergency.

          • Offgridmanpolktn

            When you are willing to take up residence in one of the abandoned homes that is near this site for several years and prove how safe it is, then it will be possible to believe you. Until then you are just spouting the efficacy of safety that we have been hearing from the nuclear industry for generations.

          • Frozen

            I’ll do it if you’ll pay for my visa, transportation and other expenses, how about that?  Plus a fat bet on top of that if I stay two full years (minus reasonable travel—if I’m going to be in Japan, you have to let me at least look at the place).

            Rod Adams is an ex-Navy nuke and wants to go to Fukushima himself:


            Wade Allison says there’s no reason to fear low levels of radiation:


            There are places where you can get several times the rate of radiation exposure you get now in Fukushima.  Guarapari in Brazil is one of them.  I’ll be happy to spend a month there on the same basis, proportionally lower expenses and bet required to make it worth my while.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Do you ever stop and think that you’re spending time and energy defending the only technology for producing electricity that can really screw up and cause massive, long lasting damage?

            Do you ever ask yourself why you bother when there are so many safe and cheaper ways to make electricity?

          • Frozen

            Bob, there is nothing on this earth that can cause massive, long-lasting damage like digging and burning carbon.  I took the Coursera class on climate change; it takes a million years for CO2 to re-equilibrate via weathering.

            What’s really screwed up in Japan is the government and public reaction to what’s actually a non-hazard.  The levels of radiation around Fukushima are a fraction of what people get in natural hot springs that they voluntarily travel to and bathe in—which apparently improves their health!  In short, there is no safety issue there.

            If you won’t take me seriously about the climate issue, maybe you’ll believe Dr. James Hansen:


          • Bob_Wallace

            Please, let’s not play the “Will it be nuclear or nasty, nasty coal?” game. That’s so worn out that its patches have patches.

            “Coal or nuclear?”

            “Neither, but thanks for asking.” “Not.”

            I’m not going to get into a discussion on how bad things are or are not at Fukushima. What I know is that things could easily have gone a bit worse and winds could have been blowing toward Tokyo rather than out to sea and we would have a horrible mess on our hands.

            A wind turbine tossing ice or a solar panel shining in someone’s eyes – those are risks we can live with.

            And, no, I won’t take James Hansen seriously. I think he fucked up major time by jumping on the nuclear band wagon.

            While he’s an expert in climate science he apparently knows little about renewable energy. He’s made claims that are simply laughable, the sort of stuff one would hear from a freshman in Energy 101.

            Why don’t you give this a read?


            And how about spending some time thinking whether you might have climbed aboard the wrong horse? I rode the nuclear steed at one time and they let me switch rides when I realized there was a better mount….

          • Frozen
  • patb2009

    this was I think first published at

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