APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday evening update.... Fukushima Daiichi

Not much new to report coming out of Fukushima Daiichi. NISA is tardy with its reports, as is TEPCO. However, JAIF is a bit more forthcoming with data, and here is the 10:00 Tokyo time JAIF status report.


There's really nothing to report here. The probable reason for there being no further activity is the fact that TEPCO got "busted" for not having every single man onsite wearing self-reading, self-alarming dosimetry. This is a government rule there, as here, and frankly TEPCO might in the earliest days have been forgiven this knowing how dangerous the reactors were at that point (they needed action immediately) but after a short while surely somebody realized it was time to bring in some more dosimeters. TEPCO reported only having about 300 plus at the site, which normally as about 5000 available. TEPCO has said it would limit work to ensure every man had dosimetry. I'm also pretty sure they're giving more thorough briefings and debriefings due to the heat being on, as it were; it seems as if TEPCO's management of the situation is just slightly unraveling and the increasing number of not necessarily positive statements about this management by NISA officials means they think so too. Again, the TEPCO people are working under the worst conceivable conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, but personnel safety has got to be top priority.

Moving to this side of the ocean, I notice today that GE, at its website, has launched a very vigorous defense of various aspects of its business -- design and construction of the old Mk I containments being primary among its sticking points. Apparently GE is taking the New York Times to task about an article, or rather a set of graphics viewed in slide-show form, and the accompanying narrative. GE doesn't like the Times' representations of the plant designs.

Now I'll tell you all something... I was contacted by a NY Times graphics editor for some help in locating plant features on an aerial photo. They seem to be trying to do their homework, and it sure looks to me like if anything the Times might be guilty of misinterpretation of fact, at the worst. GE has a point when it contends that the Mk I containments have been licensed and continued to operate safely and pass vigorous inspections and computer-developed accident scenarios for decades. But there were some definite features .. remote possibility type things, but definite features .. of the Mk I containment that caused the design of the Mk II and then later the Mk III.

The point of my bringing this up is to really say this: GE doesn't need to spend that much time defending one of its (oldest) designs against what is truly one of the most horrific natural disasters this generation is likely ever to see. Certainly, GE must feel its business position and reputation threatened by misinformation in the press; my gut feeling is that how this interrelationship plays out will help steer the course for the future of nuclear energy in this country. If the press can be objective enough without giving anyone a free pass, and the manufacturers and utilities can be fully forthcoming with information without being completely defensive, the type of information exchange can and will be achieved that allows the general public here in this country to finally learn something about nuclear energy and thus be able to help make rational decisions about its use in the future.

That's the fight I've been fighting here for some time now.

What cannot be argued away is the massive nuclear accident in progress halfway back around the world; we must get that situation under control before any sort of future for nuclear energy for GE, for utilities, for media discussion, for our daily use can be discussed or debated.

With that, I turn my focus back around the world to Japan.

11:00 PM Eastern Thursday 3/31

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