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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Nuclear Energy in Japan: May 4, 2012


It's been some time since I've provided detail about the situation of nuclear energy in Japan - mostly because the situation, other than the continued shutdown of all remaining nuclear plants for inspection (so far with no restart permission) has been very quiet. Indeed, events here (in particular the steam generator problems at San Onofre) have dominated attention.

Having said this there have been a few things that have cropped up behind the scenes over the past several weeks - I've received many e-mails about a number of situations at the Fukushima Daiichi site that are being spread by uninformed media sources who don't vet or fact check their sources. One of these which is gaining wide traction is the myth that the spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi are a real danger, particularly that at 1F-4. This is not the case.

In a move that can only be described as a clear response to these simmering stories that seem not to go away, Tokyo Electric Power Company has constructed what essentially amounts to a "mythbuster" page. You can click here to see it.

In brief, this page states (and with data supports) the following statements:

1. The spent fuel pool at 1F-4 is not in any danger of collapse, even in event of another earthquake.
2. The reactor buildings will not collapse even in event of another earthquake.
3. Even though 1F-2 has a lower than expected water level in the primary containment, the plant is presently safe.
4. At no time did TEPCO consider abandoning the 1F nuclear generating station site.

I will point out that the next issue was correctly analyzed on this site immediately - long before any other media believed it.

5. Rising temperatures in February at 1F-2 were due to failed equipment.

There are a couple of other issues addressed at this page, but those above listed in 1 through 4 are those that keep getting new life through the work of paid anti-nuclear activists, often funded by 'environmental' non-profit organizations. Further ridiculous hyperbole about the supposed ability of materials at the site to cover the earth in event of specified or yet unspecified further imaginary disaster is sheer rubbish - if events such as the rougly 10 megaton Ivy Mike shot and the 15 megaton Castle Bravo shot set off during the years of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests didn't spread "nuclear death" all over the planet (and neither did the numerous other multi-megaton shots we set off - and the Soviet Union set off) then nothing that can occur at Fukushima Daiichi can do that either. It hasn't and it won't.

ONE OTHER item that we might mention under "Nuclear Energy in Japan" has not to do with nuclear plants built in Japan, but rather nuclear plant components exported. Meredith Angwin recently made a highly popular guest post here at APR which followed another popular post on the steam generator situation at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California. Meredith predicted, in that post, that derating the plants would be the most likely course of action but that the plants would both start up again. News over the last 48 hours has indicated just exactly that set of events will occur - SoCal Ed will apply to the NRC to restart the plants and operate them at a reduced power level for a testing period, after which they will be shut down and reinspected. Of course, at the center of this problem (and the relation to Japan) is the fact that the steam generators were built in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, are supposed to be improvements over the previous generators, and of course are warrantied. Not too much of a concrete manner has yet come out about who will pay a total of what, for what, but we can all bet that SoCal Ed would like to recoup much of its operating losses - and costs for the replacement work - from Mitsubishi, who apparently didn't guarantee any warranty coverage for outage (lost power generation revenue) on this job.. so far as this author can discern from reports at this time.

Of course, Mitsubishi might claim (and would hope to prove) that SoCal Ed operated the steam generators outside guaranteed (and thus warranty covered) parameters, while SoCal Ed would hope to prove that it operated the equipment exactly as specified and agreed to and that no operations it performed were outside the agreed performance parameters of the equipment as specified and ordered. These are sensible speculations on the part of this author and don't represent anything official from SoCal Ed or from Mitsubishi.

For information on how SoCal Ed tests steam generators, click here.

This set of events is likely to become highly involved, in a technical sense, moreso and more widely printed than heretofore and APR will continue to keep up on events. And continue to consult Meredith Angwin and her band of experts as required.

Note: Previously APR carried a press release from SoCal Ed on a new seismic study being performed for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Click here to see a new fact sheet from SoCal Ed on seismic testing.

9:00 PM Eastern 5/4/2012


  1. It's odd how much scare play the Fukushima evacuations have gotten but so little of this:

    And unlike Fukushima resides who can go home right now, these Gorges residents can't go back unless they continuously live in SCUBA gear.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  2. Thanks for your kind comments Will. Have added you to my Blog at LFTRs to Power the Planet.

  3. From what I read, the last thing TEPCO would want to do with the used fuel rods is to leave them in building 4. To me it would make sense to have a plan to remove the fuel rods from #4 and place them in the shared fuel pool ASAP. Maybe it might be possible to even put some older fuel in dry storage. Arnie Gundersons plan was to use a smaller version of a cask to remove a few assemblies at a time to place in the other pool. Building another building around unit 4 might take too much time. The building had to be "traumatized" by the earthquake/tsunami and the salt water could not do the concrete any good. Also, it looks like some of the bottom 2/3 made out of concrete is gone and it certainly looks bad - is the fuel pool behind there? The others, it looks like just the metal part is gone. Hopefully, the shared pool is in the ground and not 80 feet up there. My question is why are they getting the fuel out of there NOW?