Fukushima update: an unprecedented problem?

Alert WtD reader Spatch has alerted us to the following LA Times Article:

U.S. government nuclear experts believe a spent fuel pool at Japan’s crippled Fukushima reactor complex has a breach in the wall or floor, a situation that creates a major obstacle to refilling the pool with cooling water and keeping dangerous levels of radiation from escaping.

That assessment by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials is based on the sequence of events since the earthquake and information provided by key American contractors who were in the plant at the time, said government officials familiar with the evaluation. It was compelling evidence, they said, that the wall of the No. 4 reactor pool has a significant hole or crack.

Unlike the reactor itself, the spent fuel pool does not have its own containment vessel, and any radioactive particles and gases can more easily spew into the environment if the uranium fuel begins to burn. In addition, the pool, which contains 130 tons of uranium fuel, is housed in a building that Japanese authorities say appears to have been damaged by fire or explosions.

And that…

A breach in the pool would leave engineers with a problem that has no precedent or ready-made solution, said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“My intuition is that this is a terrible situation and it is only going to get worse,” he said. “There may not be any way to deal with it.”

The struggle to cool down stricken nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools in northern Japan entered a second week Friday, with fluctuating radiation levels and blustery winds hampering efforts to douse the most damaged installations with water from military helicopters and firetrucks with high-powered hoses.

We’re all watching these developments…

Now it seems the situaiton as Fukushima has been raised from catergory 4 to 5 (on a scale of 7), and that the Japanese admit they did not move quick enough:

Japan’s top government spokesman said Friday that the country’s leadership was overwhelmed by last week’s earthquake and tsunami, which slowed its ability to respond to the following humanitarian crisis and nuclear emergency.

“The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, according to the Associated Press.

“In hindsight we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster,” he said.

While radiation has just driven workers back:

Efforts to try to restore power to reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex are interrupted as high radiation forces the withdrawal of workers. But it’s unclear whether a return of power will help. Spent fuel rods remain the biggest concern.

Let’s hope we don’t see another Chernobyl.


34 thoughts on “Fukushima update: an unprecedented problem?

  1. Spatch says:


    The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears – as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens.

    After Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cried as he left a conference to brief journalists on the situation at Fukushima, a senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis.

    Deputy director general of the NISA, Hideohiko Nishiyama, also admitted that they do not know if the reactors are coming under control.

    He said: ‘With the water-spraying operations, we are fighting a fire we cannot see. That fire is not spreading, but we cannot say yet that it is under control.’

    And they today admitted that burying reactors under sand and concrete – the solution adopted in Chernobyl – may be the only option to stop a catastrophic radiation release.

    It was the first time the facility operator had acknowledged burying the sprawling 40-year-old complex was possible, a sign that piecemeal actions such as dumping water from military helicopters or scrambling to restart cooling pumps may not work.

    ‘It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete. But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first,’ an official from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, told a news conference.
    But some experts warned that even the concrete solution was not without risks.

    ‘It’s just not that easy,’ Murray Jennex, a professor at San Diego State University in California, said when asked about the so-called Chernobyl option for dealing with damaged reactors, named after the Ukrainian nuclear plant that exploded in 1986.

    ‘They (reactors) are kind of like a coffee maker. If you leave it on the heat, they boil dry and then they crack,’ he said.

    ‘Putting concrete on that wouldn’t help keep your coffee maker safe. But eventually, yes, you could build a concrete shield and be done with it.’


    Good luck on finding anyone to undertake that suicide mission. Besides which, what’s to stop another earthquake damaging any concrete shield that they somehow manage to build?


    Check out the close up pic of the trashed Reactor #4. I can’t see how anyone could possibly encase that mess in concrete.


    To put things in perspective this is the current plan to contain the radiation leaking out of the concrete sarcophagus at Chernobyl.

    The New Safe Confinement (NSC or New Shelter) is the structure intended to contain the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine, part of which was destroyed by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

    The idea is to prevent the reactor wreck from leaking radioactive material into the environment. Originally planned to be in place by 2005, as of 2010 the confinement is expected to be completed in 2013.

    The NSC is designed to contain the radioactive remains of Chernobyl Unit 4 for the next 100 years.

    It is intended to replace the present sarcophagus, that was hastily constructed after a “beyond design-basis accident” destroyed reactor 4 on April 26, 1986.



    “beyond design-basis accident” I like that term, it succinctly describes the Fukushima debacle.

    “A design basis accident (DBA) or maximum credible accident (MCA) is a postulated accident that a nuclear facility must be designed and built to withstand without loss to the systems, structures, and components necessary to assure public health and safety.”

  2. john byatt says:

    Worst case scenario for Fukushima

    this would be China abandoning the planned 27 nuclear power plants and replacing them with coal fired plants

    • JeffT says:

      That’s if China wants to build nuclear reactors over fault lines using 40year old GE technology.
      China doesn’t need to abandon any planned nuclear power plants with coal fired plants using Fukushima as an excuse. China is replacing old coal fired technology with new coal fired technology.

      • john byatt says:

        Do you lot ever stick to the one story, your lot have been all over the place claiming that Australia’s CO2 savings will be overwhelmed by China’s new coal power stns coming on line within six months,

        thick as a brick you are , a flaming wombat ,

      • john byatt says:

        All japanese reactors are built to withstand earthquakes, fukushima was built also to withstand a 6.5 metre tsunami .

        the ten metre tsunami was a one in two thousand year event ( latest update}

        Japan did not continue to build old technology reactors,

        the design fault was not protecting the internal emergency power nor the fuel supplies which where washed away in the tsunami,

        if you want facts go to Bravenewclimate or Japan today,,

        you lot bailed out on nuclear at the first whiff of smoke
        so it looks like all the claims from the deniers,” we want nuclear, the greens don’t” where only as a means to bash the greens ,


  3. Jeremy says:

    I am so glad that I found your blog.

    I am an AGW sceptic. I’ve thought about it for a long while now, and read as much as I can, and I can’t see why we should be worried.

    I have a genuinely open mind, and am open to persuasion. The problem has been finding someone who will talk me through the science, to show me why this is indeed a problem, and then to talk through the policy responses, to demonstrate why abatement is the best response.

    Would you be willing to engage in a discussion? Happy for you to put it in your posts.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      There are plenty of resources, the evidence if rather compelling.

      It depends if you are going to frame the issue as a “conspiracy”.

      Otherwise, start with the last IPCC report. Covers the basics.

  4. john byatt says:

    No one will try to persuade you Jeremy, this is up to you to sort out, i am sure that many here though would be willing to help, for a real sceptic, then Skeptical science has a list of the claims of the sceptics with links to papers that address those concerns, Real climate has a start here section and also sitting in on thread discussions is a great benefit as you learn ,

    wish you well in your pursuit of facts

    • JeffT says:

      OMG, John Byatt,
      Do you honestly believe John Cook’s Skeptical Science represents anything but another warmista / carbonista site ?

      Part of the header on that site states:
      “So this website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?”

      That sets the scene of the S.S. website.

      Jeremy, I do hope your fields of investigation go much wider than the above.

      • john byatt says:

        Geoff , one post you claim its cooling
        another you claim we are heading into an ice age
        then you claim its warming
        then you say that because its warming does not discount we are heading into an ice age because Estonia bought a new icebreaker
        you now have to accept the warming but redefine it as runaway warming, makes you look like a moron

        anyone looking in on you blog will see you for the self contradicting
        uninformed lier that you are

  5. john byatt says:

    another classic at The climate kleptics blog

    Geoff ” climate change must be more scarier than Global warming because a survey showed that more people believed in climate change as opposed to global warming”

    yer geoff because belief in climate change would include all your goons

    at TCS

    I have written before how the deniers of science, the Warmistas, began to use the deceptive term climate change instead of Anthropogenic global warming when the runaway warming didn’t happen. It seems that it is working for the Warmista deniers. There has been a new study by the University of Michigan

    then at the bottom of the post Geoff announces that he believes in climate change proving my point,

    • john byatt says:

      A couple of days ago at TCS

      Geoff “the fact that it is warming”

      • JeffT says:

        A couple of days ago, there are some hilarious posts on Watt’s Up With That by someone who thinks they’re a Wombat.
        Wouldn’t be a Queensland Wombat by chance ?
        Watt is better reading is the comments section as answers to this Wombat.

      • john byatt says:

        Geoff sees him here
        he sees him there
        he sees that JB everywhere

        I affect people that way

        its a gift

  6. john byatt says:

    climate change acceptance

    The rate of concern among Americans has fallen steadily since then to 60 percent in 2009 and 52 percent last year.

    The poll also found that for the first time since the late 1990s, a minority of Americans — 49 percent — believe global warming has already begun to impact the planet, down sharply from more than six in 10 Americans who three years ago said climate change was already impacting the globe.

    “The reasons for the decline in concern are not obvious, though the economic downturn could be a factor,” Gallup analysts say, citing a poll from two years ago that shows that in the minds of Americans, economy takes precedence over environment. [Desdemona blames relentless propaganda from the fossil fuel industries.]

    The pollsters also found that a plurality of Americans — 43 percent — think the media exaggerates the seriousness of global warming, and that how Americans view climate change and its impacts varies widely depending on their political beliefs.

    Just over a quarter of Americans believe reports in the press about climate change are generally correct, while nearly three in 10 believe the US media understates the effects of global warming.

  7. Jeremy says:

    That’s a shame.

    Much better, I think, to get out and talk to the people one disagrees with than to merely ‘watch’ them and laugh at their ‘nuttiness’.

    However, it’s your choice.

  8. john byatt says:

    This did not last long

    john byatt (02:28:01) :
    Geoff , one post you claim its cooling
    another you claim we are heading into an ice age
    then you claim its warming
    then you say that because its warming does not discount we are heading into an ice age because Estonia bought a new icebreaker
    you now have to accept the warming but redefine it as runaway warming, makes you look like a moron

    anyone looking in on you blog will see you for the self contradicting
    uninformed lier that you are

    Geoffs latest post “the warming has stopped’

    now jeremy why can’t i laugh at that nuttiness

  9. JeffT says:

    Ah John Byatt,
    “The Age”, what a fantastic source of warmista information. LOL

    “Estonia buys a new ice breaker” – well why not, when you consider that even today 20/3/11 the Baltic Sea still has about 30% still iced up, The Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland are still ~ 50% sea ice. And Estonia’s northern border is the Gulf of Finland.
    Over the last 2 months, most of the northern section has been iced up, locking in any shipping to or from these gulfs.
    Source – AMSR-E

    Now why would you suppose they would buy a new ice breaker ?

    I know, so they will have the flashy new ice breaker ?

  10. JeffT says:

    John Byatt,
    Further to the above:

    Doesn’t look like open water to me, or the Russians or the Estonians.

    Just goes to show you’re off the planet, when it comes to admitting anything.

  11. john byatt says:

    Look up the word winter .

    they are now only three weeks into spring, the ice is now melting geff

    geff , geff used the fact that they are buying a new icebreaker to declare that we are heading into an ice age,

    geff is a dill, now don’t forget the sensible cardigan ,

    i can see the headlines now


  12. john byatt says:

    Geff we are not here to educate you, read up on internal variability AO

    no one is expecting a record low arctic sea ice event this summer ,
    the ice will melt slowly up till july we may see fairly fast melting from early august

    February 2011 compared to past years
    February 2011 tied February 2005 for the lowest ice extent for the month in the satellite record. Including 2011, the February trend is now at -3.0 percent per decade.
    Through most of January, the Arctic Oscillation (AO) was generally in a strongly negative phase, similar to the pattern that dominated the winter of 2009 to 2010. This led to very warm temperatures over the eastern Arctic, helping to account for the low ice extents over the Labrador Sea and Gulf of Saint Lawrence. However, toward the end of January, the AO returned to a positive phase, and ice began to grow in the Labrador Sea and Gulf of St. Lawrence. For more information on current AO conditions, visit the NOAA Climate Prediction Center Web page.

    • JeffT says:

      John Byatt is side stepping again.
      Maybe you should take up square dancing.
      What is you excuse for last year and the year before that ?

      I use ice prediction services, and daily view sea ice cover, but you came up with a lot of bovine excreta when I posted and listed them.
      JB says:-
      “no one is expecting a record low arctic sea ice event this summer ,
      the ice will melt slowly up till july we may see fairly fast melting from early august” –
      Come on John boy, I don’t believe you posted that.

      Part of you statement above echoing some other post as a goad –
      “then you say that because its warming does not discount we are heading into an ice age because Estonia bought a new icebreaker”

      Maybe the Estonia government isn’t listening to the IPCC.

      You do know that the Arctic sea ice cover is receding at present, just like it has before – every year.
      If you look at the archives 2009 March 20, there is less sea ice in the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, Gulf of Finland than there is today.
      Didya like the picture?

      • john byatt says:

        You really do not understand any of this at all do you?

        global warming does not mean that global temperatures break a new record every year, the global decadal trend increases. as its has been doing

        global warming does not mean a a new record low sea ice extent will be achieved every year, again it will produce a decadal trend which is -3% per decade at present

        you are wasting your time looking at pictures and watching videos of ice flows every night, you will not pick up a decade trend up or down doing that, what makes you so obsessed with this,

        do you believe that it is all a conspiracy that only you can see by looking at photos of sea ice ?

        less ice in 2009 than there is today in the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, Gulf of Finland

        that should make world headlines geff , get onto the ABC

  13. john byatt says:

    I think that it is the yearly averages that confuse them


    2 3 2 5 = average equal 3

    1 2 1 8 = average equal 3

    9 1 1 1 = average equal 3

    so we have three sets all with the same average but a new high is reached every year

    eg 5 8 9

    now yearly average is from 365 days so you can, like 2010 have temperatures very high for the first ten months of the year then the last two months dropping to give an average equal to 2005

    the differences are very small , global warming is slow and insidious but has accelerated since 1970

    at about .6Degc per decade for the twentieth century , it has now doubled that rate since 1970

  14. john byatt says:

    oops at .06degc per decade giving total of .6 degc total for twentieth century

  15. john byatt says:

    to put that into perspective for them then add in earlier time series

    I think that it is the yearly averages that confuse them
    3 prior periods
    2 3 3 1 = total 9 average 2.25 high 3

    4 2 3 1 = total 10 average 2.5 high 4

    5 2 1 3 = total 11 average 2.75 high 5

    2 3 2 5 = average equal 3

    1 2 1 8 = average equal 3

    9 1 1 1 = average equal 3

    if you want to a cooling list then reverse the order

    • JeffT says:

      John Byatt,
      No matter what you put up as proof,
      as the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding”

      And that was to do with your –
      ” heading into an ice age because Estonia bought a new icebreaker
      you now have to accept the warming but redefine it as runaway ”


    • JeffT says:

      The data is there on AMRS-E archive smart ass.
      Baltic, Gulf of Bothnia, Gulf of Finland, sea ice is less in 2009 than 2011 at that date.
      Check it out unless your too lazy.

  16. john byatt says:

    reports coming in from USA poisons centres, people in US overdosing on anti radiation pills,

    only in america

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