We should learn what lessons from Fukushima?

Lesson #1: People died from forced evacuations, not from radiation

Dr. Kelvin Kemm

A decade has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the name Fukushima is etched into history. But few people know the truth of what happened. The phrase, “the lessons learned from Fukushima,” is well-known. But how do people implement them, if they don’t know what happened, or what lessons they should actually learn?

It was after lunch on 11 March 2011 that a giant earthquake occurred 72 kilometers (45 miles) off the Oshika Peninsula in Japan. It registered 9.0 on the Richter Scale, making it the largest ’quake ever recorded in Japan. The undersea ground movement, over 30 km (18 miles) beneath the ocean’s surface, lifted up a huge volume of water, like an immense moving hill. Meanwhile, the ground shockwave travelled toward the land at high speed. It struck Japan and shook the ground for six terrifying minutes.

The shock wave travelled under 11 nuclear reactors, including two separate Fukushima complexes: Fukushima-Diani and Fukushima-Daiichi. (Diani means ‘Complex 1’ and Daiichi ‘Complex 2’.) All 11 reactors shut down, as they were designed to do, and no doubt all the reactor operators breathed a great sigh of relief. It was premature.

The mound of sea water was still traveling. As the water “hill” entered shallow water, nearer the land, it was lifted up into a towering wave as high as 40 meters (130 feet!) in places.  Then, some 50 minutes after the earthquake, the tsunami struck the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station. Some kilometres away, when water struck the Fukushima-Diani nuclear power station, it was “only” 9 m (30 ft) high, which was not as devastating as at Daiichi. Diani did not make it into the news.

The water jumped the protective sea walls at Fukushima-Daiichi. The sighs of relief from a half hour before turned into concern and dread. Over at the Fukushima Diani power station, 12 km (7 mi) to the south, water also caused damage to machinery, but the reactors were not harmed. There was no risk of radiation release, so the Diani power station was of no interest to the international media. Diani was safely shut down to “cold shutdown” after two days.

As a result, over the past decade, any reference to “Fukushima” has meant only the Daiichi power station and not the other one.

The devastating tsunami swept up to 10 km (6 mi) inland in places, washing away buildings, roads, and telecommunication and power lines. Over 15,000 people were killed, mainly by drowning.

Although all the nuclear reactors had shut down to a state known as “hot shutdown,” the reactors were still very hot and needed residual cooling for many hours after the urgent fast shutdown. People instinctively know not to put their hands on the engine block of a car right after it has been switched off. Nuclear reactors are the same and need to cool down until they reach the safe state known as “cold shutdown.”

A nuclear reactor has pumps that send water through the reactor until it cools. But the Fukushima electrical pumps failed, because the tsunami had washed away the incoming electricity power lines. So the reactor system automatically switched to diesel-driven generators to keep the cooling pumps going; but the water had washed away the diesel fuel supply, meaning the diesels worked for only a short while. Then it switched to emergency batteries; but the batteries were never designed to last for days, and could supply emergency power for only about eight hours.

The result was that hot fuel could not be adequately cooled, and over the next three or four days the fuel in three reactors melted, much like a candle melts.

The world media watched, and broadcast the blow-by-blow action. Japanese authorities started to panic under the international spotlight. The un-circulating cooling water was boiling off inside the reactors resulting in a chemical reaction between hot fuel exposed to hot steam. This led to the production of hydrogen gas. As the steam pressure rose, the engineers decided to open valves to release the pressure. That worked as planned, but it released the hydrogen as well.

Hydrogen, being light, rose up to the roof, where the ventilation system was not working, because there was no electricity. After a while some stray spark ignited the hydrogen which exploded, blowing the lightweight roof off the building right in front of the world’s TV cameras.  The Fukushima news just became much more dramatic. Authorities were desperate to show the world some positive action.

They progressively ordered the evacuation of 160,000 people living around the Fukushima neighbourhood. That was a mistake. As days and weeks passed, it materialized that not one single person was killed by nuclear radiation. Not one single person was even injured by nuclear radiation, either. Even today, a decade later, there is still no sign of any longer-term radiation harm to any person or animal. Sadly, however, people did die during the forced evacuation.

So one of the lessons learned from Fukushima is that a huge amount of nuclear power can be struck by the largest earthquake and tsunami ever recorded, and nobody gets harmed by nuclear radiation.

Another lesson learned is that an evacuation order issued too hastily did harm and kill people.

World Nuclear Association Director-General Dr. Sama Bilbao y León said: “The rapidly implemented and protracted evacuation has resulted in well-documented significant negative social and health impacts. In total, the evacuation is thought to have been responsible for more than 2,000 premature deaths among the 160,000 who were evacuated. The rapid evacuation of the frail elderly, as well at those requiring hospital care, had a near-immediate toll.” [emphasis added]

She added: “When facing future scenarios concerning public health and safety, whatever the event, it is important that authorities take an all-hazards approach. There are risks involved in all human activities, not just nuclear power generation. Actions taken to mitigate a situation should not result in worse impacts than the original events. This is particularly important when managing the response to incidents at nuclear facilities – where fear of radiation may lead to an overly conservative assessment and a lack of perspective for relative risks.”

Thus, a decade later, we can contemplate the cumulative lessons learned. Above all, they are that nuclear power is far safer than anyone had thought. Even when dreaded core meltdowns occurred, and although reactors were wrecked, resulting in a financial disaster for the owners, no people were harmed by radiation.

We also learned that, for local residents, it would have been far safer to stay indoors in a house than to join the forced evacuation. We also learned that governments and authorities must listen to the nuclear professionals, and not overreact, even though the television news cameras look awfully close.

Fukushima certainly produced some valuable lessons. Governments, news media and the public need to learn the correct lessons from them.

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and is CEO of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants, a project management company based in Pretoria. He conducts business strategy development and project planning in a wide variety of fields for diverse clients.

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Earthling2
March 26, 2021 10:30 pm

Don’t build a nuclear power plant at sea level, especially in a tsunami zone. What were they thinking?

Chaswarnertoo
Reply to  Earthling2
March 27, 2021 1:40 am

Yep. The knowledge of tsunamis was there. See the fishing village that survived due to one man’s insistence on proper defences.

Stephen Skinner
Reply to  Earthling2
March 27, 2021 2:03 am

Why not? There was enough knowledge gained from this to improve all the safety and back up systems just as humanity does naturally when allowed to solve any problem. The reaction to this incident was emotive and for the first time many important people decided to run away from nuclear. Germany abandoned nuclear power because of Fukushima which is….I can’t think of the words, but something similar to stupid.

Ron Long
Reply to  Stephen Skinner
March 27, 2021 12:42 pm

Why not is double correct when the facility is located on the east coast and the prevailing wind is from the west. They only need to add a power-less radioactive rod removal system, like angles downward dispersion tunnels. Sure, gets hot, but no critical mass/melting and no hydrogen/steam explosions, however, you lose all of your radioactive rods, a small price to pay.

AndyHce
Reply to  Earthling2
March 27, 2021 4:27 am

And don’t build cities on river deltas or coastal marshes or in hurricane pathways or on flood plains or in earthquake prone areas or near volcanoes
and don’t walk under ladders.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  AndyHce
March 27, 2021 11:22 am

You mean – nowhere?

AndyHce
Reply to  Rainer Bensch
March 30, 2021 3:19 pm

It seems that must be the answer if you want safety. There are, however, some places with exposed bedrock that is billions of years old.

Russ Wood
Reply to  AndyHce
April 6, 2021 3:15 am

Exposed bedrock? But if it’s GRANITE. then it will emit Radon gas that will build up in any closed dwelling. So, to be REALLY safe, one should only sleep under the stars!

David Thompson
Reply to  Earthling2
March 27, 2021 8:46 am

I visited J-PARC shortly before the quake and was astounded that it looked to be literally built on the beach. It’s not like that was the only available land either since the road from Mito city passed some forest and fields. The quake damaged the accelerator by offsetting tunnel sections and delayed the project. A sister project at ORNL helped continue some ongoing science.

Reply to  Earthling2
March 27, 2021 9:09 pm

What they were thinking is that a wave of that height simply would not happen, and if it did, a core meltdown or three would be the least of their worries.
And they were right. they lost three reactors and no one died of radiation But they lost 15,000 people from a massive wave of water.

Greg
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 28, 2021 11:19 am

There were written warnings that the sea wall was not high enough at least 5y before this event . They were ignored because of the cost.

“splash marks” on the building walls were falsely used to suggest the tsunami was “up to 14m” high, this well above what had been predicted as possible. Clearly the high water mark on a wall is not the height of the wave. Yet they managed to propagate this fallacy throughout the worlds media.

“not our fault, we could never have expected this”, rather than they knew it could happen and chose not to act.

Last edited 16 days ago by Greg
Greg
Reply to  Earthling2
March 28, 2021 11:10 am

The sea defense wall was not high enough. This was known and warned about at least 5y previously and ignored because of the cost of raising it.

Emergency diesel gens were in UNDERGround rooms which got flooded.

With cooling circulation cut off the tanks of spent fuel stored on site inside the reactor buildings also over heated.

Some of the radio isotopes detected after the lids blew confirmed there had been rapid criticality events.

Rory Forbes
March 26, 2021 10:33 pm

That’s the first time I’ve read what happened at Fukushima without the accompanying anti nuclear slant and media hype … just hard (sad) facts. Can you imagine what would have happened to a large solar array or wind farm in the path of that tsunami and earth quake?

Doonman
March 26, 2021 10:45 pm

No No! Melting nuclear cores melt entirely through the and earth and out the other side all the way to China, just as Jane Fonda said. Thats what the China Syndrome is. We know millions of people died because of of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, just as the news reports told us.

tonyb
Editor
Reply to  Doonman
March 27, 2021 2:35 am

Films and TV make an enormous impact on the public and can readily supplant truth. The ones you mention are good examples plus the nonsense that is “Braveheart”, Dickens ” A Christmas Carol” whereby everyone imagines all past winters until now were freezing hells, and not to forget the beyond silly Ophra Winfrey soft as a salad interview of the two biggest woke hypocrites on this planet.

“A lie can be halfway around the world before Truth has got its Boots .on ”

Tonyb

Derg
Reply to  tonyb
March 27, 2021 3:30 am

I wonder how much the Simpsons has set back nuclear 🙁

David Guy-Johnson
Reply to  tonyb
March 27, 2021 3:51 am

Rather unjust on Dickens. A Christmas Carol portrayed a snowy winter as rather nice Colder, more snowy winters were much more prevalent in the 19th century than they are now

tonyb
Editor
Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
March 27, 2021 5:32 am

Hi David

I wrote this a frightening decade ago! A few of the winters of around that era remain the warmest in our record although undoubtedly Dickens formative years were in a resurgence of the Little Ice age . The bitter weather was romanticised

Has Charles Dickens shaped our perception of climate change? – Watts Up With That?

tonyb

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Doonman
March 27, 2021 10:10 pm

The only “theoretical” phenomenon more miraculous than a molten reactor core falling up after having passed through the center of the Earth would be a reactor core melting from California all the way through the Earth to the antipode, and having it emerge in China…when both California and China are in the northern hemisphere.

Seriously, are these idiots actually that ignorant of the geometry of the Earth?

John Endicott
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
March 29, 2021 7:32 am

Who ever said anything about going to the antipode? The phrase “all the way to China,” originates from the children’s pastime of “digging to china”. Expecting logic out of a pastime of little children is rather silly. In short, it’s a silly phrase from ones childhood that doesn’t represent any physical reality (no child has ever successfully dug their way to china, AFAIK. certainly not children living in North America).

Besides, once you’ve fallen to the earth’s core, every direction is “up” (same as travelling north, once you reach the north pole, every direction is South.), so going up to China, after reaching the core, is as likely as any other surface location.

Reply to  John Endicott
March 29, 2021 12:07 pm

>>
Expecting logic out of a pastime of little children is rather silly.
<<

But isn’t that what “The China Syndrome” is about?

>>
. . . so going up to China, after reaching the core, is as likely as any other surface location.
<<

If the theory is that corium (what they call melted-down core materials) is SO dense that it will descend all the way to the center of the Earth, how does it then rise up to reach China?

None of the reactor melt-downs have resulted in a “China Syndrome”–not even close. Only one melted through the reactor vessel–Chernobyl–but it then solidified and is attached to the underside of the reactor vessel.

Jim

John Endicott
Reply to  Jim Masterson
March 30, 2021 2:26 am

>>
If the theory is that corium (what they call melted-down core materials) is SO dense that it will descend all the way to the center of the Earth, how does it then rise up to reach China?
<<

Indeed, hence “as likely as any other surface location” IE not at all likely. Not even “China Syndrome” was seriously suggesting that the meltdown would result in the core melting into the earth and eventually making it’s way to China. It was a using the child’s pastime of “digging to China” as a metaphor that most people (in the US) would be familiar with from their childhood games. I repeat: Expecting logic out of a pastime of little children is rather silly.

Look, as stupid as the movie was, let’s not try to out stupid it by pretending we don’t understand what the metaphor meant or where the metaphor came from.

Last edited 15 days ago by John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
March 30, 2021 9:40 am

First point: any movie with Hanoi Jane in it is going to be really stupid, by definition.

Second point: apparently you don’t know that “the China Syndrome” is an actual theoretical construct. Even Wikipedia (amazingly enough) gets it: “The China Syndrome (loss-of-coolant accident) is a hypothetical nuclear reactor operations accident characterized by the severe meltdown of the core components of the reactor, which then burn through the containment vessel and the housing building, then through the crust and body of the Earth until reaching the opposite end, presumed to be in ‘China.'”

Third point: the antipod of the United States is located in the Indian Ocean thus supporting a comment made earlier in the thread.

Fourth point: why a melted nuclear reactor core that is drilling down to the center of the Earth and survives passing through the liquid core would then know which way to turn to reach China is a mystery.

Fifth point: why a melted nuclear reactor core that is drilling down to the center of the Earth and survives passing through the liquid core would then continue drilling towards the surface against the force of gravity is another mystery.

Sixth point: a melted nuclear reactor core that is drilling down to the center of the Earth upon reaching the molten core would quickly dissipate. And because there are already some radioactive elements already in the core–it’s no big deal.

Seventh point: the actual idea was tested just 12 days after the release of “The China Syndrome” film when a meltdown at Three Mile Island created a molten core that moved 15 millimeters toward “China” before the core froze at the bottom of the reactor vessel.

Eighth point: there are several fanciful terms in physics which have a somewhat infantile origin. Look up the origins of quark, The Big Bang, alpha, beta, and gamma rays, and X-rays. And don’t forget to look up the origin of the China Syndrome term.

Jim

John Endicott
Reply to  Jim Masterson
March 31, 2021 2:19 am

First point: and yet you keep trying to out stupid it.

Second point: Wikipedia?  well done, you’ve succeeded in meeting your first point goal.

Third point: Again, irrelevant. The phrase originate with a children pastime, it’s *never* meant to be taken literally (at least by adults. children might take it literally, but they’re children, they don’t know any better. You’re supposedly an adult, you should know better). Only stupid adults take it literally, the first two points (as well as the following 4) have shown us that you fit that description, congrats.

Fourth & fifth & sixth & seventh & eighth points: The only mystery is why you are so stupid as to take a children’s game so literally. Not even the movie, stupid as it was, took it literally despite using it as the source of the name.

Reply to  John Endicott
March 31, 2021 10:20 am

The theme of this thread is that “The China Syndrome” concept was a stupid idea. I support that idea. I see you agree with my points one through six–that it’s a stupid idea. What are you arguing about? That point seven is wrong? Stupid? That’s strange. I guess you don’t realize that some people actually believe “The China Syndrome” concept is true. Don’t assume that by explaining how stupid it is, that I’m endorsing the concept.

Jim

John Enditcott
Reply to  Jim Masterson
March 31, 2021 2:22 pm

By explaining how stupid a position that no thinking adult actually takes, the only stupidity you are highlighting is your own. When not even the movie (that we both agree was a stupid movie) takes the literal position you are raging against, you know you’re arguing against a phantom position.

And if you actually believe there are otherwise functioning adults who literally believe in reactors melting through the earth and popping up in China, go find them and bring them here for all to see and laugh at, until then the only thing to laugh at is your stupidly arguing against a position no rational adult believes.

Last edited 13 days ago by John Enditcott
Reply to  John Enditcott
April 1, 2021 10:24 am

I appreciate that you called me stupid (twice actually) rather than a liar. As a retired Naval officer, I ascribed to the honor code. I take a greater offense to being called a liar than just being called stupid.

You also make it extremely difficult to find someone who may actually believe in the China Syndrome. A thinking, functioning adult severely limits my choices. I would point to AOC and most of Congress or Hanoi Jane or even the movie’s producer, Michael Douglass, but I’m not sure you would allow them.

I’ve never seen the movie in question, but I have read reviews of it. I believe one character actually stated the China Syndrome–word for word. He then said the likely scenario was it would bore through the reactor vessel, through the concrete foundation, down through the Earth until it hit the water table. There it would explode spreading radiation over all of Pennsylvania.

What’s that statement? If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it?

Have you ever heard the term “nuke” used in reference to a microwave oven–as in “nuke a potato?” When people (thinking, functioning adults) make that statement, do you think they know the difference between ionizing radiation like gamma rays and non-ionizing radiation like microwaves?

How about the “very conservative linear no-threshold hypothesis?” Is it stupid to believe it’s accurate, or is it stupid not to? I’ve seen arguments both for and against it–even on this site.

Jim

RonK
March 26, 2021 11:27 pm

from my understanding one complex was built with the average size of the tsnumani , the other was built with max tsunami in mind

PCman999
Reply to  RonK
March 27, 2021 1:54 am

No such thing as “max tsunami” when the largest earthquake ever hits.

Reply to  PCman999
March 27, 2021 3:38 am

So you are an earthquake expert too?

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 27, 2021 10:16 am

I think the point is there is no way to predict the max tsunami as there is no way to predict the max earthquake at a specific fault location at a specific time

It’s basically a guess I think

Of course, I’m just guessing
😉

LdB
March 26, 2021 11:51 pm

The lesson is bad stuff happens and it’s never as bad as the MSM over-hype.

Editor
March 26, 2021 11:54 pm

Germany and some other countries panicked and their people will pay a price too.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_phase-out

MARTIN BRUMBY
Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 27, 2021 12:40 am

Be fair!
I’m sure Bavarian nuclear plants are at serious risk from Tsunamis.
Just look at a map!
Oooh, wait..

Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 27, 2021 12:51 am

I still have not been able to find data on the size of the Tsunami that the German government’s shut down of their nuclear power was designed to mitigate.
This can’t be what was worrying them because news of this Impact on Skye was only announced in 2017.

Last edited 18 days ago by Philip Mulholland
tonyb
Editor
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 27, 2021 2:39 am

Philip

This was political and surely reflected Germanys past alliance with Japan plus a nod to the powerful Green lobby.

Thankfully Shelleberger, Moore and Lomborg have realised that if we want to function as a 21st Century economy we can’t use 15th Century weather reliant technology and currently Nuclear is the only base power game in town.

tonyb

Luke
Reply to  tonyb
March 27, 2021 7:01 am

Primarily the fake energy lobby. They LOVE crisis and handouts or they wouldn’t exist.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 27, 2021 1:27 am

Actually it is Germany’s neighbours that will end up paying the price of the most self-regarding, self-interested, nation in Europe – just look at what is being revealed about Germany’s gas pipeline deal with Putin. Or ask the Greeks…

Eric Vieira
Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
March 27, 2021 4:26 am

Or ask the retired people who have left Germany to go and live in Bulgaria because Germany’s social security is so miserable … Or ask a medical Doctor who was offering free medical services for the poor in Berlin: he asked for a small amount of money to cover at least his material expenses, but was turned down by the Government because “no money was available”. When one now sees how money literally gets thrown out the window by the German Government to mitigate the plandemic… or to push the installation of wind farms and PV… it’s plain disgusting.

commieBob
March 27, 2021 12:37 am

We also learned that governments and authorities must listen to the nuclear professionals, and not overreact, even though the television news cameras look awfully close.

There’s a huge problem with that. Experts in general have proven themselves to be unreliable. Deciding which experts to listen to, and on what topics, is a non-trivial task and I have no easy answer.

My guess is that holding experts responsible when they are wrong would go a long way to solving the problem. It seems to work for engineers.

Ron Long
Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2021 3:26 am

commieBob, I would go along with “held responsible” if it was limited to intentional deception, like accepting a bribe, or other benefit, to falsify their advice. Otherwise we get a brain-drain in anything with any risk element.

AndyHce
Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2021 4:41 am

Certainly there is a problem at taking some ‘expert’s’ advice without knowing about his/her political agenda but there are often reasonable solutions such as considering the views of multiple, independent learned people. That isn’t perfect as there are often more than a few factors not understood by anyone. However, the chances for some useful information is generally much better than when listening to Gaia lovers, tree huggers, and proselytizingjournalists.

Roger Taguchi
Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2021 5:46 am

The Japanese “experts” who placed the emergency generators where they got flooded and taken out (not on hillsides) paid the price: the Japanese effectively shut down all their nuclear plants, sending the staff including engineers out of their jobs. Japanese group-think meant that they had ignored warnings from historical evidence of the possibility of larger-than-average tsunamis. [I’m of Japanese descent, so please don’t accuse me of unjustified racism.]

Robert Cherba
Reply to  Roger Taguchi
March 27, 2021 8:54 am

“,,, shut down all their nuclear plants, sending the staff including engineers out of their jobs. Japanese group-think meant that they had ignored warnings from historical evidence of the possibility of larger-than-average tsunamis.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the plant staff who designed, constructed and licensed the plant for construction and operation. It was the scientists and government bodies that established the design standards the plant had to meet. I can’t explain why the Japanese earthquake-tsunami experts were wrong, but they were. The plant staff and engineers were there to operate and maintain the plant, so don’t blame them for an obvious design deficiency based upon bad science.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Roger Taguchi
March 27, 2021 10:13 am

Roger
As per many of your posts, you fully buy into the CO2 climate crisis
This event and the reaction to it has done more to worsen the supposed problem in recent years than anything else, with Germany and Japan racing to build plant food extraction units.

I would expect you to have an issue with that?

Mr.
Reply to  Roger Taguchi
March 27, 2021 1:29 pm

Roger, I can’t understand why you mentioned “racism” in your comment.

There was absolutely nothing you wrote that could even remotely be ascribed to “racism”. (By any rational person that is, not loonies who think that even mention of a race constitutes a “racist” attitude).

Barnes Moore
Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2021 6:16 am

As AndyHce said, consulting multiple “experts” (my word, not his) would make more sense. There should effectively be a red team/blue team that is engaged throughout any longer term problem – like the scamdemic. The problem is, the media looks to sell it’s product through hype and fear, and push for immediate, perfect solutions, and don’t allow for waffling or delayed reactions. Uninformed people (those who don’t follow the news) and misinformed people (who do follow the news) have the same expectation – that “experts” should be able to immediately assess any emergency situation and come up with the perfect solution. No one wants to allow any time for iterative analysis and solution determination. In the US, if republicans are in power, they will be subject to a hostile media while the media covers for democrats if they are in power. The only thing truly radioactive is how politicians (dems far more than republicans) and the media respond to real or perceived emergencies.

PMHinSC
Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2021 9:25 am

The decision to shut down Germany’s nuclear energy was approved, if not made, by Angela Merkle who can be considered an “expert.” She has a BS in physics, a PhD in chemestry, and worked as a research scientist. 

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  PMHinSC
March 27, 2021 10:10 am

It was a decision made by emotion not based on science

MAL
Reply to  PMHinSC
March 27, 2021 11:38 am

Kind of explains why she was in government, school must have been a lot easier than work. Here in the US our government is filled will failed lawyers. To the most part politicians are not the best and the brightest. So are very stupid, Gaum capsizing anyone or how about the Mars lander visiting where the astronauts wander around on the moon.

Reply to  MAL
March 27, 2021 12:51 pm

My favorite comment is: “Why don’t they move deer crossings to where there is less dangerous traffic?”

Jim

TonyG
Reply to  Jim Masterson
March 28, 2021 11:08 am

That originally came from a local radio talk show. I’ve heard a recording, it’s pretty nuts.

Philo
Reply to  PMHinSC
March 27, 2021 3:33 pm

The only criteria for Merkle should be the quality of research she did. That would indicate her effectiveness as an Expert. It is not a high bar.

The scientists and government bodies that established the design standards the plant had to meet obviously did a bad job. The first thing I thought when I heard the news was
Why were the emergency generators in the basement in an area that can flood?
Other than some costs it would have been an obvious safety step. Kind of bewildering why “experts” would use cheap rather than safe as q criterion,

Vincent Causey
March 27, 2021 12:41 am

The lesson is how easily politicians panic. We have seen it again. No lessons will ever be learned, except the opposite of what should be learned.

Iain Reid
March 27, 2021 12:56 am

so it is the new wonder ‘fuel’ hydrogen that exploded, I don’t suppose that was ever reported in the media?

RicDre
Reply to  Iain Reid
March 27, 2021 6:03 am

I don’t suppose that was ever reported in the media?

I remember reading about the hydrogen explosion at the time and also it was mentioned in the PBS “NOVA” program about the tsunami and its aftermath.

Chuck no longer in Houston
Reply to  Iain Reid
March 29, 2021 11:26 am

Hydrogen also involved at Chernobyl.

John V. Wright
March 27, 2021 12:57 am

Germany abandoned its nuclear power plant programme “because of lessons learned from Fukushima”. As I remarked to my wife “Can’t say I blame them when you consider all those tsunamis which regularly occur in northern Europe, crashing inland on a regular basis and causing devastation throughout Germany. Don’t you just hate it when that happens”.
Some political actions and statements are so million d-bogglingly stupid that they defy belief.
By the way Charles, this is a beautiful piece of writing – thank you.

Richard A. O'Keefe
March 27, 2021 1:00 am

“Actions taken to mitigate a situation should not result in worse impacts than the original events.”
Of course that doesn’t apply to *epidemiological* events, does it?

RicDre
Reply to  Richard A. O'Keefe
March 27, 2021 5:59 am

Of course that doesn’t apply to *epidemiological* events, does it?

Or to *Climate Change*?

March 27, 2021 1:16 am

“Then it switched to emergency batteries; but the batteries were never designed to last for days, and could supply emergency power for only about eight hours.”

So there was an 8 hour window in which to fly in an emergency generator and hook up a back up system to power the pumps? I seem to remember something about the diesel generators being located in a flooded basement.

PCman999
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 27, 2021 2:00 am

How can you fly in an emergency generator in the middle of the devastation? They either have to build away from the shore (and pipe in cooling water or use evaporation towers) or use inherently safe designs that can’t melt (fuel is mixed with carbide if memory serves)

Reply to  PCman999
March 27, 2021 2:56 am

So your policy is to do nothing?
The whole point about risk mitigation is to take a scenario and devise a solution. Once again we have here a failure of imagination. The failure to appreciate that flood water ponds in basement areas, the failure to ask why 8 hours of battery supply is enough. Precisely what did you plan to do in those 8 hours? What addtional resources are available and who has the authority to act at the local level and above all the ability to act with courage?

Last edited 18 days ago by Philip Mulholland
Chris Wright
Reply to  PCman999
March 27, 2021 7:22 am

“So the reactor system automatically switched to diesel-driven generators to keep the cooling pumps going; but the water had washed away the diesel fuel supply, meaning the diesels worked for only a short while.”

If this is correct then the generators were working but they ran out of fuel. Surely fuel could have been brought in by helicopter. Of course, all available helicopters were probably already working to help the survivors of the tsunami, but surely one helicopter could have been diverted due to the urgent situation at the power station.
Chris

Reply to  Chris Wright
March 27, 2021 9:30 pm

IIRC the sequence of events were – massive earthquake, reactors scrammed, loss of electrical grid power, diesels start up, then tsunami hits

Many posters here asking ArtStudent questions ‘why didn’t they design it better’?

The answer lies in the facts. It met the specifications that were extant. In the end the loss of coolant only resulted in the loss of the reactors – old and nearing the end of their useful life anyway. The fact that they died prematurely was cost effective compared with buldimg in elaborate safety measures. The final belt and braces design feature was secondary containment, designed to do what it did: contain a completely molten core and prevent radiation from escaping. It worked as it should.

In short there was no engineering failure. The plant worked and failed as it was designed to do. Anything that could overwhelm the flood barriers and take the reactiors out (with no release of lethal radiation) was obviously an event of such a magnitude that the loss of a reactor would be trivial in the overall scheme of things.

THAT is the engineering story. You dont build reactors to survive a tsunami that kills the population it was designed to serve…

The failure was in the end political. With nothing to fear except fear itself, the Japanese authorities behaved like headless chickens. And let the world media make the loss of four reactors a ‘disaster’ whilst completely ignoring a tsunami that killed 15,000.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 28, 2021 3:38 am

whilst completely ignoring a tsunami that killed 15,000.

Exactly.

MAL
Reply to  PCman999
March 27, 2021 11:41 am

The real problem this was either a second of third generation nuclear reactor, the last generation don’t need power to shut down or keep themselves cool. Those reactors should have been replaces years earlier, but the anti nuke forces keep that from happening.

Jean Parisot
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 27, 2021 7:25 am

They didnt ask until it was too late. USAF Red Horse units in Korea could have had the assets there in time.

Reply to  Jean Parisot
March 27, 2021 7:46 am

Thanks Jean,

That is so sad. So it was a failure of courage.

Philo
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 27, 2021 3:47 pm

I think, considering Japan, it was more a failure of Pride- the wish to not lose face.
In the past that was a big source of their, especially the government’s, tendency to make mistakes.

March 27, 2021 1:30 am

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and is CEO of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants, a project management company based in Pretoria. He conducts business strategy development and project planning in a wide variety of fields for diverse clients.

More from Dr Kemm

griff
March 27, 2021 1:37 am

Nobody was killed: yet the radiation levels around the reactor were such that they were outside the limits for safe continued occupation. People had to be moved out and couldn’t go back. Some of them still can’t go back.

the effects of a nuclear reactor accident are always going to be the need to evacuate and keep evacuated for many years the area around any failing reactor.

In the UK that could mean evacuating major cities.

Reply to  griff
March 27, 2021 5:21 am
Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  griff
March 27, 2021 6:56 am

No law requiring us to build a reactor near a city. Newer designs are much safer. Windmills kill things too, sometimes people, mostly birds and bats. Nuclear is our only proven technology that can produce power without your dreaded plant food regardless of whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. The poor people of this planet deserve reliable and affordable power to get them out of the stone age. Your policies kill them.

Meab
Reply to  griff
March 27, 2021 9:18 am

Completely false. The only nuclear accident that released enough radioactive contamination to require an extended evacuation over a very large area was Chernobyl. That was a highly flawed reactor design with insufficient containment and insufficient engineered accident mitigation measures. There are no such reactors that operate in Britain. Fukushima was also a weak design that didn’t have sufficient containment but the release of radioactive contamination was still quite small as compared with Chernobyl.

Evacuations are likely just precautionary and it is extremely unlikely that any evacuation around any modern reactor will cover a large area and last years. Look at Three Mile Island. People within 10 miles of the plant were told to stay indoors and only pregnant women and chlidren were evacuated. The evacuation lasted just 10 days and no one was harmed by radiation. Again, the only people that were harmed were harmed by the evacuation.

Griff, most of us know that you’re a goddamn liar. The only reason I respond to your dishonest posts is to make sure that no one misses out on that fact.

MAL
Reply to  Meab
March 27, 2021 11:45 am

Funny in Japan they have two cities that had a uncontained nuclear reactions occurred right above the city centers, people never left them. Not that I want to see nuclear weapons used again, but it speaks volumes about the present state of fear people needless have today.

The Bikini islands are still uninhabitable because of the makeup of the atolls and what was in the sea water and the size of the blast. They are the worst case, reactor accidents are not close to what a atomic or hydrogen bomb can do, but don’t tell our media that.

Last edited 17 days ago by MAL
Reply to  MAL
March 27, 2021 9:41 pm

Oddly enough I did some research. potentially a reactor leaves more contamination than an atomic bomb, especailly an air blast like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

(Ground bursts kick up irradiated dust)

However that is only potential. Except in the case of Chernobyl RBMK style reactors all recators were designed to contain the radiation in the event of loss of coolant and a meltdown.

At Fukushima the spent fuel ponds were far more a problem than the reactor. Again politics. Fuel was stored on site because Japan did not have a coherent policy for radioactive waste disposal.

niceguy
Reply to  griff
March 27, 2021 5:39 pm

Please give a reference mentioning a single place (town, village, home) where ambiant radiation causes a measurable health risk.

Reply to  griff
March 27, 2021 9:34 pm

The radiation levels around the reactor were not such that they were outside the limit for safe occupation griff.

They were less than the radiation levels on Exmoor.
The evacuation was entirely unnecessary, and was politically motivated.

Chaswarnertoo
March 27, 2021 1:39 am

Don’t build nukes in Earthquake zones?

Derg
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
March 27, 2021 3:34 am

I am sure it can be done

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
March 27, 2021 10:04 am

That is the entire country of Japan

Earthling2
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
March 27, 2021 10:27 am

More like the entire Ring Of Fire, and then some as there are a lot of earthquake zones around the world. The lesson has to be don’t do stupid things that are common sense decisions, such as ensuring that a nuclear reactor can never be subjected to a 1-100 tsunami event. Even if the fuel tanks for the diesel generators had not been swept away which led to the meltdown, there would have still been substantial damage to the infrastructure, which could have been avoided if the nuclear reactor had been built a few hundred feet above sea level. Fukushima survived the earthquake intact…proving that nuclear plants can even be built in earthquake zones, but can’t be breached by a rogue tsunami.

Climate believer
March 27, 2021 1:40 am

The MSN are just ambulance chasers, they’re really quite disgusting people.

I follow a guy on you tube called Tev-Ici Japon who lives over there and recently filmed a “10 years after” video in Fukushima.

It’s in French unfortunately but you could try the google translate if you can bear it.

Even so just the images are truly amazing, and to see the transformation in just 10 years after such devastation is remarkable.

An important part of the video is him checking the radiation levels, which are pretty much non existent, and the vast deployment of solar panels over the polluted land.

proeng
Reply to  Climate believer
March 27, 2021 4:59 am

He talked too fast. seems like young people all around the world are taking too fast. 75% speed is better -that worked. Unfortunately the sub-titles did not work. that could have helped. Said that people have not gone back.

Reply to  Climate believer
March 27, 2021 7:02 am

If you know of a way to get Google to translate YouTube auto-generated sub-titles then please share

Stephen Skinner
March 27, 2021 2:04 am

Here are the numbers:
Tsunami = 15,899 deaths, +2 (Overseas), 6,157 injured, 2,529 people missing
Fukushima = Deaths – 0 from radiation, 2,202 from evacuation, 37 with physical injuries, 2 workers taken to hospital with radiation burns

niceguy
Reply to  Stephen Skinner
March 27, 2021 5:35 pm

Cardiac arrest when working under a suit doesn’t count as radiation related workplace risk?

Stephen Skinner
Reply to  niceguy
March 29, 2021 1:17 pm

No. It doesn’t

Rod Evans
March 27, 2021 2:16 am

The future fuel of choice the Green energy go to saviour of the planet is Hydrogen!. For proof of how effective hydrogen is, consider this. It has managed to convince governments across the world, most notably in the third and forth largest economies on the planet i.e. Japan and Germany to close down their nuclear generation plants permanently.
That is how effective hydrogen is a power source……
On a more serious note.
Thousands of people, literally thousands die each and every year in the northern countries from cold and lack of energy affordability. It is highly likely, thousands of those deaths happening in Germany, are a result of high electricity prices caused by the shutting down of nuclear power plants. The Greens will no doubt be calling those premature deaths from old people with little money to fund heating, as Fukushima related. They have that depth of dishonesty.

Nick Graves
March 27, 2021 2:43 am

That was a well-written informative read by Dr Klemm.

Minor correction – ichi means one and ni two in Japanese.

So the old joke about the libtard who thought an Ichifani was a Japanese motorcycle very nearly makes sense.

John McCabe
March 27, 2021 2:43 am

Sorry to be pedantic, but these – “Fukushima-Diani and Fukushima-Daiichi. (Diani means ‘Complex 1’ and Daiichi ‘Complex 2’.)” – are the wrong way round; Daiichi is #1.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  John McCabe
March 27, 2021 9:52 pm

agreed a quick check with google confirmed.

AntonyIndia
March 27, 2021 2:45 am

Again, any system is only as strong as its weakest link: at Daiichi it was the too low location of the diesel back up fuel tanks.
The other weak links: MSM press fear mongering and consequently bureaucratic over/mis reaction, same as now with Covid-19 – locking down all instead of only those with weak immune systems.

Philo
Reply to  AntonyIndia
March 27, 2021 4:08 pm

Finally someone else who has grasped the problem. I’ve been pointing this out in comments every site I go to.

The supposedly greatest minds in the world are tackling this problem and apparently have never heard of epidemic containment that was used for years and years.

Eric Vieira
March 27, 2021 4:02 am

We should learn what lessons from Fukushima? … Hopefully, one day we will be able to read:We should learn what lessons from the “Corona Pandemic”? Overreaction has led to much more damage to human health (depression, suicides, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, uncounted urgent life-saving operations which were too late or not performed etc…). Unfortunately, many politicians have leaned themselves too far out the window, and will never admit having done something wrong in their reckless flight forward…

Gerald the Mole
Reply to  Eric Vieira
March 27, 2021 4:42 am

I agree. The UK’s reaction to COVID-19 is a classic example of one step thinking. In a few years time the final score sheet will not make happy reading. When no member of the Cabinet has any scientific/technical qualification and expertise what do you expect.

AndyHce
Reply to  Eric Vieira
March 27, 2021 5:00 am

The king can do no wrong. If someone else can be sold to the public as the one to blame, some errors might be admitted, but when the ‘crisis’ is just a useful excuse for pursuing some totally unrelated goal, the only useful remedy is rope and lamp posts.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Eric Vieira
March 27, 2021 3:08 pm

They were merely practicing an abundance of caution – can’t fault them for that.

Philo
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
March 27, 2021 5:04 pm

WE can fault THEM, whoever they are, continuing for making continuing errors and not owning up to them or blaming them on others.

They wanted the job enough to take it. They also have to take the consequences of how they handled it.

March 27, 2021 5:14 am

Our Greens in Germany have still problems to communicate the truth, that the victims where caused by the Tsunami, not by the reactor.

lbeyeler
Reply to  Krishna Gans
March 27, 2021 6:08 am

Probably with hundreds of MSM articles and Utube films ‘proofing’ the radiation deaths.

March 27, 2021 5:46 am

Do not build high pressure water cooled nukes….try MSRs instead. All nuclear accidents….(and there are far too many accidents because man is a klutz)…are due to man. Fukushima melt down could have been avoided if man had located the backup generators nearby on higher ground.

Rich Lambert
March 27, 2021 6:20 am

There is a good YouTube video by the Illinois EnergyProf about the Fukushima accident.

Jan Fluitsma
March 27, 2021 6:22 am

Just a textual error, daiichi is number 1, daini is number 2.

Stu-in-Flag
March 27, 2021 6:23 am

It would be helpful to add to this article the detail about why nuclear reactors stay hot and need cooling following shutdowns. The fission product daughters of Uranium or Plutonium are unstable. When these daughters decay, they emit radiation which continues to heat the reactor. This continued process goes one for quite a while and is dependent on how long and at what power levels the reactor was operating prior to shutdown.

It’s not just that the reactors are big chunks of heated metal, but that they continue to heat themselves that drives the need for continued cooling.

MAL
Reply to  Stu-in-Flag
March 27, 2021 11:58 am

The latest generation of reactors don’t need power to cool themselves. The problem has already been solved! The Fukushima plants should have been replace long before the tsunami , but were not due to anti nuclear forces.

ETHAN BRAND
March 27, 2021 7:17 am

Dr. Kelvin Kemm, thank you for this well written article.

The truth is that most people seem to focus on the Fukushima core melt event (which demonstrably resulted in no deaths), and shrug off the 15,000 people who died as the result of the Tsunami itself. The resulting actions taken by Japan (shutting down most of their nukes) will do nothing to lower the death toll of the next inevitable Tsunami. That this result seems to result in almost no introspection is sad.

I have been involved with commercial nuclear power for much of my working life (over 20 years). The over all “public” perception of the risk of commercial nuclear power is grossly at odds with the reality. Commercial nuclear power has been operating for nearly 80 years. There is no lack of concrete data that it is one of the least risky endeavors that humans engage in, yet this seems to have little impact on global nuclear policy. I have been asking myself why this is for decades. I don’t really like the most obvious answer, but, to paraphrase Willis Eschenbach, too bad!

While many of us malign politicians and policy makers for what we consider misguided and or irrational actions, the simple truth is that if you want to make changes to complex technology policy, you have to figure out how to make it as interesting as the latest lip gloss color. The “good” ones, in my opinion, are the ones that can do that with a straight face. Unfortunately, the “bad” ones are also extremely good at this tactic as well.

Regards,
Ethan Brand

Jerry
March 27, 2021 7:21 am

Lesson #1: Don’t hire outside firms to manage security at nuclear sites:

https://humansarefree.com/2014/02/fukushima-was-an-inside-job-the-sabotage-exposed.html

Beta Blocker
March 27, 2021 8:25 am

Several years prior to the 2011 earthquake event, TEPCO had been warned by an independent safety review team that the Fukushima seawall could be breached by a high wave tsunami, and that an earthquake which could produce a high wave tsunami was a high probability event.

TEPCO’s management did absolutely nothing to prepare for a high wave tsunami. Not even something as simple as maintaining sixty hours of battery backup for the reactor cooling system control valves, and making preparations for bringing in emergency power from offsite if the backup generators were damaged by seawater intrusion.

Implementing these relatively quick and inexpensive measures would have allowed plenty of time for a long-term facility enhancement project for moving the backup generators to high ground, for running armored cables from the generators down to the reactor cooling pumps, and for hardening the electrical distribution and control systems inside the reactor buildings against seawater intrusion.

It’s another example of what happens when the top people in charge choose to ignore clear warning signs that serious trouble is on the horizon and foolishly decide to do nothing to deal with it.

Last edited 18 days ago by Beta Blocker
Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 27, 2021 9:56 am

All they had to do was locate the emergency diesel generators to higher ground behind the plant
That is it
There would have been no Fukushima disaster at all

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
March 27, 2021 10:30 am

Not quite. Relocating the emergency generators to high ground, but also doing the other upgrades to the power distribution and control systems needed to ensure reliable cooling pump operation in a flooded reactor building, might have required the reactors to be offline for two or three months while the new systems inside the buildings were being installed and tested. Not exactly cheap, but relatively easily done.

Last edited 17 days ago by Beta Blocker
MAL
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 27, 2021 12:02 pm

How about just replacing the old reactors with a new reactor design that does not need power to cool the reactors after shutdown! Of course all of us know in this political environment that not possible.

Robert Cherba
March 27, 2021 9:21 am

I have only read the first few pages of comments, but most of them are based upon inadequate or poorly understood information. Most of them include an element of truth, then wander off into the unknown. We do know the tsunami greatly exceeded the plant design specifications which led to safety system failures, meltdown and hydrogen explosions. Obviously, the Maximum Credible Accident was greatly underestimated. The Fukushima lesson is the same as that learned from every other nuclear plant accident: the public overreaction caused by excessive fear of radiation leads to more deaths and destruction than the nuclear accident itself.

PMHinSC
Reply to  Robert Cherba
March 27, 2021 10:01 am

IMHO, the value of this article is that it articulates in the clearest, most concise, and cogent way that “the public overreaction caused by excessive fear of radiation leads to more deaths and destruction than the nuclear accident itself.” Without explaination that the average person understand, statements of fact alone are inadequate. This article provides that explaination.

Pat from kerbob
March 27, 2021 9:52 am

Recently on a calgary call in radio show they had someone on correctly pointing out nuclear is the only answer if CO2 is an actual problem.
A caller suggested the guest should show his dedication by going and eating seafood caught near the Fukushima plant.
I suggested I would gladly take that bet, in return they would need to eat something captured near a Chinese rare earth processing plant, assuming you can find anything alive in the area.

Sound of crickets ensued.

I was working with some Hitachi engineers in an Alberta coal generating plant that summer, they were from the Fukushima area and they weren’t concerned about radiation

Last edited 17 days ago by Pat from kerbob
R Winslow
March 27, 2021 10:09 am

I worked as a Mechanical / Systems Engineer at one of the Fukushima sister plants in the US. The potential diesel fuel supply tank risk was identified in the early 90’s and was rectified in the US, Japanese operators evaluated correctly that their installation could handle a 10 m ocean surge. They couldn’t justify, at the time, preparation for a risk that had never happened (>10 m ocean surge). The plants did survive a 9.0 shaker, having done a lot of seismic work on this design, that is a real credit to the designers, fabricators, and operating maintenance crews. Maybe the real lesson for those in the business is that risk analysis and evaluation process needs to be re-examined.

hiskorr
March 27, 2021 10:15 am

This post allows me to pose a question that has bothered me for years. We are told that earthquakes are the result of the accumulation of stress in rock formations deep within the earth (30 km deep near Fukushima) that build up over decades to the point that solid rock can fracture and displace by up to several meters, releasing enormous energy in a very short time. Shift for a moment to the Kola Borehole project which attempted to go as deep as possible in solid rock. From 1970 to 1992 they managed to bore 12,000+ meters deep, encountering very high pressures and unexpectedly high temperatures. They could go no deeper; as Wiki puts it “The unexpected decrease in density, the greater porosity, and the unexpectedly high temperatures caused the rock to behave somewhat like a plastic, making drilling nearly impossible.” As was described, by the time they withdrew and replaced the bit, the lower part of the hole had squeezed shut.
Now my question: How is it possible that rock formations that exhibit plasticity at 12km can accumulate stress over decades without deforming slowly to release the stress at depths of 30, 50, or 100 km, with correspondingly greater temperatures and pressures?

Reply to  hiskorr
March 27, 2021 9:50 pm

I don’t think that crustal geology is homogeneous: what is true around the ring of fire is not generally true elsewhere, for example.

kola borehole is very much not a plate boundary nor a subduction zone. I am not sure that we should extrapolate from it to those.

hiskorr
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 28, 2021 7:25 am

Very good point. However, I find it difficult to imagine that the “ring of fire” or subduction zones represent temperature and pressure conditions more conducive to rigidity than the plasticity of the “solid rock” Borehole.

Kevin kilty
March 27, 2021 10:16 am

Just as in the U.S., a major facility like this in Japan has to involve a study of natural hazards. Of course one has to set a limited time period over which we look at historical hazards. It was known that a tsunami had inundated the site (in the 700s CE as I recall), but the study period was organized to begin just after this historical tsunami.

I had a retired GE nuclear engineer as an office mate from 2010 to 2013 who taught our nuclear engineering courses. His contention was that the biggest problem with Fukushima, and Chernobyl as well, was groupthink.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Kevin kilty
March 27, 2021 10:49 am

There are hazards, and then there are hazards. The Three Mile Island meltdown was the result of an accumulation of a number of smaller problems and issues which coalesced under the right set of conditions into a larger triggering cause for a meltdown.

On the other hand, both the Fukushima and the Chernobyl meltdowns were a consequence of easily predictable root causes, ones which could have been easily avoided through appropriate actions taken by the corporate or government managers in charge of those reactors.

Corporate managers have a tendency to see their huge stack of safety analyses — for which they’ve paid millions of dollars — as being an impenetrable wall between themselves and disaster. What this amounts to is nuclear scale hubris.

MAL
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 27, 2021 12:28 pm

The Three Mile Island meltdown was the result of an accumulation
of a number of smaller problems and issues which coalesced under the right set
of conditions into a larger triggering cause for a meltdown.” Sorry, that
may be wrong, it was due to inadequate operator training.

The operator had been a nuclear power plant had been an operator on a naval vessel nuclear power plant but in shutdown of a Naval reactor heat is not a big problem, the reactor is much smaller. The operator shutoff the cooling pump because he was worried about the vessel that keep track of the water level in the reactor would fill up, he was taught in the Navy that that was bad. 

As bad as it is, in a commercial power plant the overriding consideration should have been keep the reactor cool, what happen in the monitoring vessel should have been a secondary concern and keep the pump on and the reactor cool no mater how much flooding you have was the proper course, instead he shut the pump off as he was trained to do in the Navy. Yes, flooding in a naval vessel is a problem but not a reactor on land, last, I check you cannot sink on solid land.
 
The failure was not the plant or its engineering or maintenance (I thought for a long time the report back them, it was due to a value being left open which may have been true but that was not an insurmountable problem) it was human, on many levels, most of it was a lack of training or understanding how the Naval training may conflict with the necessary training a commercial plant operator should have.

Now granted I got this from a TV documentation presentation and how accurate it is anyone guess but to me it made sense.

Reply to  MAL
March 27, 2021 2:03 pm

>>
Now granted I got this from a TV documentation presentation and how accurate it is anyone guess but to me it made sense.
<<

Here are just three bullets from a commentary by Dr. Lawrence Weinstein:

  • At 4 o’clock in the morning, the secondary coolant water flow was interrupted. This was probably caused by system maintenance. There was an emergency shutdown of the reactor, and the control rods were inserted. This is called a scram. The chain reaction (fission) was stopped, and the emergency backup pumps were started.
  • The problem was that the emergency backup pump valves were closed for maintenance. This was the key failure. The operators didn’t notice this. The primary coolant–the water–heated up and turned to steam. A relief valve opened to vent the steam from the primary coolant. The relief valve stuck open, but the indicator for the valve in the control room showed that it was closed, so the valve stayed open for 2.5 hours. During this time, the coolant boiled off.
  • There was a lot of confusion in the control room. There were more than 1000 dials, gauges, and indicators; 600 alarm panels; and hundreds of switches. A minor problem would cause alarms and blinking lights, and there could be 50 alarms at a time. The temperature of the fuel increased, and the fuel melted down.

It sounds like your TV documentation was a hit piece on Navy operators. I bet his mother wore Army boots too.

Jim

William Astley
Reply to  Jim Masterson
March 27, 2021 4:53 pm

In reply to Jim.

The blaming the operator is BS… And it hides the real problem. The reason why fuel rod, water cooled reactors are not being installed today in all of the CAGW crazy countries.

Pressure water reactors are dangerous as hell, if there is a wiring error, if backup pumps are not available, if electrical power is lost, and so on.

Pressure water reactor are inherently dangerous, because they operate at 130 atmospheres. Water boils at 100C and the reactor is operated at 315C.

Pressure water reactors have had problems that were close to loss of pressure vessel integrity because of human ‘maintenance’ errors.

An example, is a refuel in which the wrong grade of studs was used to replace the reactor lid studs when it was taken off. The studs expanded sometime after start-up and a large amount of water was lost…. however the human operators were able to shut the reactor down before loss of cooling water.

The fuel rod fission reactors key safety problem, is that …

The fuel rods melt, if the cooling water stops, in 12 minutes. Heat is continued to be produced in the reactor (7% of thermal output before emergency shutdown for 48 hours) after fission is stopped, by the very short lived highly radioactive fission byproducts.

The water cooled, fuel rod reactor blows up if a pipe breaks or a pump breaks if the emergency bypass systems fail.

There is a ‘new’ fission reactor design that solved all of the water cooled, fuel rod safety problems.

A fission reactor does not need a 1000 dials and gauges, 600 alarm panels, and hundreds of switches. dangerous. Water cooled, fuel rod reactors are very, very, complicate and inherently dangerous.

There is a fission toaster design …. A fission reactor that is 13 feet in diameter and 27 feet long…. (See next below comment for details).

Truck to site. Cheap as a coal plant to build. Can compete with coal because it cheaper to build because it does not have the safety problems that fuel rod, water cooled reactors have.

The optimum fission reactor, produces 440 MW, at 600C.

It does not have level control or pressure control. It does not melt down if cooling is lost. It is walk away safe if all operators were to just walk away and all power was lost and all of the control equipment stopped working.

The optimum fission reactor operates at atmospheric pressure. It is partially filled (small air gap on top) with a salt that melts at 400C and boils at 1400C

Think of the ‘control’ panel for a molten salt reactor.

What is there to control?

The molten salt reactor, has six, internal heat exchangers in the reactor take heat away. There are six 35 horsepower screw pumps on top of the reactor which help the natural convection circulation in the reactor.

The level in the molten salt reactor does not change with load. The pressure in the molten salt reactor does not change with load.

The molten salt reactor naturally follows power load. That is not true for fuel rod water cooled reactor. They can absolutely become a bomb in minutes because of an overpressure problem caused by an abrupt change in load or a crack in piping or if the backup cooling system is required and it does not work.

The molten salt reactor does not have any of the catastrophic safety issues, which are specific to fuel rod, water cooled reactors.

Molten salt reactors, naturally follow power load.

The molten salt expands if temperature rises in the reactor which slows down the fission reaction in the core of the reactor. The molten salt contracts, if load the reactor feeds, increases and temperature drops in the reactor, increasing the rate of fission and the temperature falls in the reactor.

The molten salt reactor of course has control rods.

The molten salt control rods control one variable, reactor temperature.

In a fission reactor the radiation (both gamma and particle) breaks the water bonds and produces hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen must be continually removed or there will be an explosion. And in addition the zircon cladding on the 50,000 fuel rods, reacts with water vapour to produce hydrogen and loses it integrity, if the fuel rods are exposed to air.

John Endicott
Reply to  William Astley
March 29, 2021 3:36 am

You keep pushing the vaporware. Again, I have to ask (and again, I’ll get crickets in return) show me *ONE* (just one, surely that is not too much to ask for) of these miracle molten salt reactors in commercial operation so we can compare the reality to your hype.

John Doran
March 27, 2021 10:21 am

A fine article, thank you, KK & WUWT.
A book I highly recommend by Robert Zubrin, nuclear PhD engineer: Merchants Of Despair.
Exposes the “environmental” movement as the Nazi, depopulationist, Malthusian & Darwinian eugenicist abomination it is.
Compares coal,oil, nuclear +++ .
A realist’ view.
JD.

William Astley
March 27, 2021 11:49 am

“lessons from Fukushima?’
Why are we talking about an obsolete fission reactor design? There is a ‘new’ fission reactor design that solves all of the problems of the water cooled, fuel rod reactors.

The US built built and tested the optimum fission reactor design 50 years ago. Which is the molten salt, burner design.

A Canadian company, Terrestrial Energy, has copied and optimized the US molten salt reactor. Their 440 MW burner reactor is small, truckable to site. It has six internal heat exchangers and six 35 horse power screw pumps and a carved graphite core which is the moderator.

The ‘new’ fission reactor design does not require a containment building, to contain explosions. This is a technical explanation of that design by their senior technical designer.

Terrestrial IMSR Good Summary 11 minutes
 

 
The optimum fission reactor was no catastrophic failure modes. It is walk away safe. All of the human operators could die and there is no possibility of a catastrophic failure.

And the optimum fission reactor is sealed. So it possible to have absolutely zero radiation leaks to the environment from this reactor design. That is not true for a pressure water reactor. The water which cools the pressure water reactor can and does pick up radioactive noble gases and water soluble radioactive fission by-products, if there are crack in the fuel rods.

The optimum fission reactor design, does not and cannot produce hydrogen gas. There no internal chemical reactions that could cause an explosion. The optimum fission reactor uses a salt that melts at 400C, the reactor produces heat at 600C, and the salt boils at 1400C. The maximum temperature for a water cooled reactor is 315C.

It cannot fail like the three reactors did in Fukushima or the reactor at Three Mile Island or the Russian reactor. The optimum reactor cannot have an overpressure event, it operates at atmosphere pressure rather, than 130 atmospheres.

It is six times more fuel efficient than a pressure water/boiling water fuel rod reactor and produces nine times less high level radiation. Because is so efficient in burning all of the fissionable uranium and produced plutonium.

Fuel rod reactors are inefficient because the fuel rods must be replaced before they crack and the because there is uneven burning of the fuel because the fuel does not circulate through the core of the reactor where there are the most neutrons.

The molten salt reactor, because it does not use zircon clad fuel rods and because it does not require internal steel supports both of which absorb neutrons, requires three times less fuel than a pressure water reactor, to produce the same output power.

Fission reactors when fission is stopped…. Continue to produce heat (7% of the maximum thermal output just before emergency shutdown) from the very short lived fission products, particular for the first 48 hours.

The Terrestrial reactor uses unmelted salt which lines a cavity that the reactor sits in to provide a fail safe, passive method to dissipate heat in event that the back-up cooling system which is cooling of the unmelted salt failed.

The burner reactor has a life of 7 years. (It can produce power continually as there are no fuel rods to replace. When it reaches the end of its life, it is drained. The drained reactor is not high level waste and can be disposed of without issue. The old reactor is replaced with a new reactor, every seven years.

It is six times more fuel efficient than a pressure water/boiling water fuel rod reactor and produces nine times less high level radiation. Because is so efficient in burning all of the fissionable uranium and produced plutonium.

The covering on the fuel rods (zircon) and the steel required to hold the 50,000 fuel rods…. In a typical water cooled reactor, absorb neutrons.

The molten salt reactor does not have fuel rods to absorb neutrons and as it operates at atmosphere pressure so it does not need the enteral supports that are required for a pressure water reactor that operates at 130 atmospheres.

A pressure water reactor ‘s fuel rods will start to melt in 12 minutes if cooling water flow is stopped.

The optimum fission reactor design, does not use water to cool…. the reactor. The optimum fission reactor has no catastrophic failure modes. It is walk away safe even if there as an earthquake or tsunami.

The world media watched, and broadcast the blow-by-blow action. Japanese authorities started to panic under the international spotlight.

The un-circulating cooling water was boiling off inside the reactors resulting in a chemical reaction between hot fuel exposed to hot steam. This led to the production of hydrogen gas.

As the steam pressure rose, the engineers decided to open valves to release the pressure. That worked as planned, but it released the hydrogen as well.”

John Endicott
Reply to  William Astley
March 29, 2021 3:42 am

Sounds great, where can we see one of these portable nuclear molten salt reactors in commercial operations? what’s that? there are none in operation, they’re still being “developed”? color me not surprised.

Jon Salmi
March 27, 2021 11:59 am

“it is important that authorities take an all-hazards approach.”, said Dr. Bilbao y Leon. This would have been a good way to approach the Chicom virus. I hope our government learns to do this for future crises. I am afraid, though, that this is wishful thinking.

March 27, 2021 5:52 pm

I think we solved this problem in 2015:

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/05/26/claim-new-chinese-nuclear-plants-are-unsafe/#comment-1527845

Fearless Fukushiming Leader:
We’ll put the emergency cooling water systems down near the beach – what could go wrong?

Newby on Team:
What about tsunami’s?

Fearless F’ing Leader:
Screw it! It’s time for lunch. Are you a team player or not?

Team:
Hai ! ( OK! )
….

Later…

Team:
Oh Fukushima!

griff
Reply to  ALLAN MACRAE
March 28, 2021 3:12 am

Here’s a leading Chinese scientist commenting on Chinese nuclear safety
China warned over ‘insane’ plans for new nuclear power plants | China | The Guardian

Reply to  griff
March 28, 2021 11:20 am

Griff: Your article is from 2015 – “President Obama says…”

It is true though that Chinese environmental, safety and operating standards leave something to be desired, for example:

A little-known story concerns “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan biological weapons lab (being done under contract to a US government agency, because this work was outsourced to China after it was made illegal in the USA). Seems the lab-manufactured virus “jumped or was pushed” out of the lab, and caused all sorts of havoc all over the world. The virus was only fatal to the very elderly and infirm, but it was deliberately overblown into a very-scary “killer” virus. Then, tried-and-true emergency plans were shelved and a bunch of quacks were put in charge, who implemented ineffective and extremely costly-and-harmful year-long lock-down policies for the low-risk workforce and student populations. The cost to society of these lock-downs in terms of lives-harmed-and/or-lost is estimated at ten to 100 times the harm caused by the illness.

Actually, the story must be a fiction – no rational person or group could be this stupid for this long.

Greg
March 28, 2021 11:04 am

it materialized that not one single person was killed by nuclear radiation. Not one single person was even injured by nuclear radiation, either.

Of course , none of the “samauri” volunteers at Fukupshima had the slightest ill-effect and none of the Russian soldiers fighting to confine Chernobyl leakage even got so much as a runny nose.

Radio-activity is less dangerous than CO2, in fact its really good for you.

Greg
March 28, 2021 11:12 am

The undersea ground movement, over 30 km (18 miles) beneath the ocean’s surface, lifted up a huge volume of water, like an immense moving hill.

Right, well I think we can see the level of understanding our nuclear physics expert is going to provide here.

Thanks. Good night.

barn E. rubble
March 28, 2021 3:24 pm

When there was some concern about the Chalk River Nuclear plant (Ottawa Valley, Ontario) being built on a known fault line, residents were told not to worry because any earthquake strong enough to damage the reactor would break the dam before that happened. Yes. Don’t worry about radiation because you’ll be under water.

Clyde Spencer
March 28, 2021 3:44 pm

(Diani means ‘Complex 1’ and Daiichi ‘Complex 2’.)

I think you have these switched.
ichi = one
ni = two

And, the first one should be Daini, not Diani.

Last edited 16 days ago by Clyde Spencer
Kit P
March 28, 2021 6:03 pm

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and is CEO 

So pretty much clueless when it comes design, and operations of commercial power plants. Also emergency planning.

Fuel damage is an economic loss covered by insurance in the US. Not a safety issue.

We design nuclear power plants for natural occurrences that we can reasonably expect to happen during the life of the plant.

We have emergency plans to deal with things that we do not expect.

Comparing a decision for evacuation to prevent radiation exposure in the face multiple expected deaths to hindsight is BS. Justifying your hindsight with ‘premature death statistics’ is BS^2.

TRM
March 28, 2021 8:15 pm

Don’t run stuff well past its best before date?
LFTR is better?

Kit P
Reply to  TRM
March 29, 2021 1:23 pm

My sailboat is 40+ yo. It has seen better days. Just bought a new head sail and a couple quarts of non-skid paint.

My 2-seat convertible sports car is 26 yo. Seen better days. Has new tires and brakes.

The diesel pusher Class A I live in is 23 yo. It has seen better days.

It has something in common with older LWR. Large components were installed and the building around it. My ammonia refrigerant fridge stopped working. It was too big to fit through the door.

My last start up before retiring was a PWR in China. It had a really big equipment hatch. The reactor vessel could be installed after the containment building was built.

Many of the BWR (including designs used in Japan) and PWR I have worked on produce more power and last longer than the orginal design.

That is better.

Of course part of new design is improvements based on experience.

I priced a new German 2-seat convertible sports car on line. I can pay cash. That is because I can keep things running long after the ‘best before date’.

Bottom line is safety criteria must be satisfied. Best is not a criteria.

And of course there is always the fear of the unexpected. Every so call advanced reactor will still have an emergency plan. The fear mongers will always call for an evacuation.

Steve Z
March 29, 2021 8:07 am

From the photos I’ve seen of the Fukushima site, the reactor was located in a depression along the beach between two hills, which probably helped channel the tsunami water into the reactor. Maybe one lesson to be learned is to build nuclear reactors on higher ground in an area prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

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