TEPCO Confirms Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool Is Now An Uncontrolled, Open Air Fission Process

Tyler Durden's picture

It had been a while since we had a factual update (as opposed to just lies and spin) from Fukushima. Courtesy of Kyodo, we now know that what was speculated by some as true, and rebutted by most as mere scaremongering, is in fact, fact. "Some of the spent nuclear fuel rods stored in the No. 4 reactor building
of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi power plant were confirmed to be
damaged, but most of them are believed to be in sound condition, plant
operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday."
Naturally, in one month we will learn that most of them are damaged, and in two months, that each and every one has been demolished. "The firm known as TEPCO said its analysis of a 400-milliliter water
sample taken Tuesday from the No. 4 unit's spent nuclear fuel pool
revealed the damage to some fuel rods in such a pool for the first time,
as it detected higher-than-usual levels of radioactive iodine-131,
cesium-134 and cesium-137." These confirm an ongoing fission reaction. In a tremendously ironic development, the No. 4 reactor, halted for a regular inspection before last month's
earthquake and tsunami disaster, had all of its 1,331 spent fuel rods
and 204 unused fuel rods stored in the pool for the maintenance work. Unfortunately, the entire pool ended up being damaged following the quake and the subsequent explosion, in essence nullifying any protection that the containment dome would have provided. As the picture from the Asahi Shimbun below shows, the damage from overhanging structures which have subsequently fallen into the fuel pool likely means that there could well be an uncontrolled, if weak, fission reaction currently going on in the reactor 4 SFP (where the water temperature is currently 90 degrees) unprotected by the elements due to the complete destruction of the Reactor 4 shell.

(picture via of saposjoint)

More from Kyodo:

The cooling period for 548 of the 1,331 rods was shorter than that for others and the volume of decay heat emitted from the fuel in the No. 4 unit pool is larger compared with pools at other reactor buildings.

According to TEPCO, radioactive iodine-131 amounting to 220 becquerels per cubic centimeter, cesium-134 of 88 becquerels and cesium-137 of 93 becquerels were detected in the pool water. Those substances are generated by nuclear fission.

The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the confirmed radioactive materials were up to 100,000 times higher than normal but that the higher readings may have also been caused by the pouring of rainwater containing much radioactivity or particles of radiation-emitting rubble in the pool.

The roof and the upper walls of the No. 4 reactor building have been blown away by a hydrogen explosion and damaged by fires since the disaster struck the plant. The water level in the spent fuel pool is believed to have temporarily dropped.

In the meantime the latest drywell readiation reading in Reactor 1 is still "out of commission"

(Source: METI)

And lastly, a demonstration from Fairewinds' Arnie Gunderson who shows how the Zircalloy uranium pellets mostly likely melted and shattered, possibly penetrating through the floor of reactors 2 and 3.


Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen demonstrates how Fukushima's fuel rods melted and shattered from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

(h/t Robert Breen)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
hambone's picture

Hmmm....nothing matters til it matters.  This melt down, Japan in general, energy costs, deficits, monetization, etc. don't matter...yet.

ZerOhead's picture

They will.

And nothing is ever over until it's over... until the fat lady sings if you will.

As far as we know the Fukushima fat lady may not have even been born yet.

Best to listen carefully to Arnie Gunderson if you really want to know how much we don't know. Unless of course you just don't wish to know.

Chances are you won't like this one bit...


hambone's picture

Once upon a time I was part of the matrix and believed in fairy tales.

Then I was rudely awaken and pulled into reality.  Reality sucks but there is no going back to the old misconceptions.  There also seems little chance of changing reality beyond self immolation or other radical action (likely to be marginalized).

Now I (we) wander among others whom I have little basic commonality of our understandings about the world in which we live. 

The more I know it seems the more unhappy I am.  The more unhappy I am the more I search for answers...which unfortunately only lead me to more unhappy answers. 

How much more do we want to know...do we really want to know it is as fucked up as we think it is???  To what ends?  If we are but pawns, only able to understand but not change the course of events...then what?  Buy, sell, and live on the thin margin between the masses and those gathering inferences from those who know?  What kind of a fucking country is this?

Every man for himself hugging his PM's and seed packs...what a world.

ZerOhead's picture

I don't hug my PM's... however sometimes I do fondle them a bit.


How about 400,000 likely cancer related deaths in a 200KM radius by extrapolating the Chernobyl numbers?

Crap almighty!... I sure hope this guy has been smoking something...



hambone's picture

Feel as if we (ZH) are voyeurs with a view to a crime(s) we are witnessing but no one cares, believes, or will act on the evidence we amass. 

Knowing is good but then what...just cynically profit from the crimes (ie, Robo) so we can be among the ever smaller class of haves over the ever growing have nots?

Julia's picture

There is no need to profit from it. I wouldn't even look for a trade on sad information such as this. It's not the point at all. But knowing the facts is important at times of such great uncertainty.

It sounds like you are on overload--what is actually known clincally as ZH Depression. At some point you just don't need to know more. You get too sucked into the negativity. You start to internalize too much of what you read and go into a negative feedback loop. Time to step away from the computer, hambone.

Give your nervous system a break. Watch a comedy, get out of the house, get some fresh air, and breathe. Chill out and realize that this blog does have side effects...some of which are not healthy. 

I've been here a long time. I rarely comment. I often just read the headlines and don't read the content or comments at all. Other times I read every post there is.  But I see you are getting to that ZH Depression state and believe me, many of us have been there. Anyone with a year and a half under their belt here has taken their breaks or they are addicted to the anger that they feel when the learn more to justify their rage.

Find a balance.  

A Man without Qualities's picture

The reason it makes us all depressed is because we are being led by psychopaths..

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''


hambone's picture

Noted - agreed - done.

Thanks and best to you

RockyRacoon's picture

The human mind, like the proverbial vacuum, abhors a vacuum.  When there is a dearth of knowledge we fill the gaps with what we already know, right or wrong.  This leads to faulty thinking in some cases of those who didn't know much in the first place; and it leads to faulty conclusions by those who are simply obstinate.   Oh, the humanity....

Sock Puppet's picture

Where is Trav7777, the comcast employee who moonlights as nuclear physicist and sais eevery thing will be just fine?  It amazes me who much knowlege he has, or maybe we should start calling him Cliff Claven.


One Sock Puppet can always smell another one.

Howard_Beale's picture

He gets paged far too much. Be grateful when he is in his cave.

chumbawamba's picture

The human mind, like the proverbial vacuum...

For sure, there are many vacuous minded people about.

I am Chumbawamba.

macholatte's picture

The more I know it seems the more unhappy I am.  The more unhappy I am the more I search for answers...which unfortunately only lead me to more unhappy answers. 


Well said and a bullseye for your eloquent explaination as to why people love to watch Oprah, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and especially sports. Escape into a fantasy and hide somewhere safe.


Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.
Ayn Rand

Maximus Failius's picture

One we have breached the veil of reality what choice do we have but to travel further into the rabbit hole in search of answers?  Once the veil is breached the "common" world becomes an alien environment filled with souls that physically resemble you but might as well be a different species.  It would seems our choices are to sit in limbo between a greater understanding of reality and the alien world behind the veil, or we can attempt to come to a higher understanding of reality while taking the substantial risk that we may be left searching, never quite finding that higher understanding. It would seem to boil down to a classic choice of "chose your poison".





You put into words a question that i have been asking for years and never quite firgured out how to phrase.  It seems that higher understaing may indeed be a Faustian bargian.  For me this leads to the questions "what is the point" and "how does one define happiness when your family and friends exist in the same physical world but percieve a completely different experience from the same events".

RichardP's picture

Not for nothing is there a cliche ignorance is bliss.

goldfish1's picture

''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities..."

We create realities also. There are many more of us.

Landrew's picture

Tyler, a personal thank you to you for creating a community of people who don't always agree, but, are active, passionate and great human beings!

I owe you more than I can say.


mogul rider's picture

then donate regularly as the costs are significant to them. We all contribute as often as possible. We may get pissed at each other but this community is vital to the survival of our species as almost every other source (Turd you're OK) of information is BS.



DollarMenu's picture

I donate, but get no acknowledgment of receipt.

I hope the money goes beyond PayPal.

dark pools of soros's picture

fuck paypal..  give me an address and I'll send some silver

reader2010's picture

Or you can use Amazon Web Payments. Unlike Paypal, Amazon doesn't charge fees.




topcallingtroll's picture

Interesting community for sure.

Confuchius's picture

We all are indebted to Tyler et. al. for keeping us aware.

Useful reading is also found at:


They have a fukushima thread on their home page.

destiny's picture

Check the CRIIRAD.ORG site, they ve been warning on this right from the start.  They have dealt with over a thousand dossiers since the creation of this body.

ReeferMac's picture

LOL! Your writing is at times unparalleled Sir!

MSimon's picture

I-131 is not at this point in time evidence of ongoing fission. Especially at the "low" levels  noted. If there is still a significant level of I-131 in two months that would be evidence.

Half live of I-131 = 8.02 days. Ten half lives = a reduction of activity by a factor of 1024. Say 1,000 to make it easy. Twenty half lives (160 days roughly) = a reduction of activity by a factor of 1,048,576. A million is close enough.

Tyler. You should run your posts on this past a nuke to get the details right.

I'm a former US Naval Nuke Reactor Operator qualified. (unlike that idiot Carter).


Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Tyler quoted Kyodo, "Japan's Leading News Network", who in turn quote TEPCO. So are you saying Tyler should have a professional and paid 'nuke' on retainer for the duration to confirm all news releases made by TEPCO and Kyodo? Because if he just uses a volunteer 'nuke' he is leaving himself open to other criticisms.

If you want a professional 'nuke' on retainer here at ZH I suggest you donate a few thousands bucks to ZH to help pay for the professional 'nuke' for a week. Otherwise you will just have to settle for the TEPCO experts and Japans' mainstream media outlets for fact checking.

TEPCO confirms damage to part of No. 4 unit's spent nuke fuel
MSimon's picture

I'll work for free.

I wonder if being a former Naval Nuke Reactor Operator qualifies me as a professional?

Gmpx's picture

Usually operators have little understanding. Car driver usually knows nothing about the car design - my mum for example.

Stormdancer's picture

You haven't got a clue what training naval nukes get.  I can assure you they get far more than just learning how to push the right buttons at the right time.  Do a little studying on Adm. Hyman Rickover some time and you'll probably get a little insight on just how high the bar is in the naval nuclear program.

ZerOhead's picture

That's about what you'd be worth I fear.

BTW... how did your meltdowns turn out?

No insult intended... but if it's all the same to you I think I'll go with Arnie for the time being!


Stormdancer's picture

Arnie has been a breath of fresh air from day one and part of the reason for that is he's studiously avoided sensationalism.  And over time he's been proven right in every materially important assertion he's made so far.

Ident 7777 economy's picture

I'll work for free.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I'll take your input; ignore the clpwns and post away ...

Stormdancer's picture

CD I am one who feels a great debt to ZH for the information, the analysis and insights I have never found anywhere else.  But the Tylers are not perfect, they're human.  A little fact checking in technical areas outside their normal expertise wouldn't hurt anything.

There are tens of thousands of people looking for factual information and understanding from which to make life or death real life decisions about what to eat and where to live.


Tepco has (belatedly as always) confirmed fuel rods in SFP 4 are damaged.  They haven't "confirmed" anything like the headline on this article suggests.

The assertion that things falling into the pool is somehow evidence of subsequent fission in the pool is false.  It darned sure makes getting at those fuel assemblies for some kind of final disposition a lot harder...but it doesn't mean they somehow spontaneously went critical again.

Even the update betrays technical ignorance.  "Zircalloy uranium pellets"?  C'mon...we can do better than that.  And for the sake of people who need to be able to base life changing  decisions on real information we need to do better than that.

I'm not trying to minimize the seriousness of this whole mess.  When Tyler writes "Shit -> fan" I'm in full agreement.  But overstating is just as bad as Tepco's continual lying and downplaying.

If I were in Tokyo I would be moving heaven and earth to get out.  Not because I believe Tokyo is immediately dangerous, but because this is far from over and Tokyo just might become dangerous in the future if just a few things go wrong from here and the wind blows the wrong way.  If there ever is a rush to get out of the Tokyo area and you're not gone already you probably won't get out at all.  You just can't mobilize 30 million plus people at one time.

Just a few hours ago there was another 6.1 quake...luckily well over 100km from the plant.  But that was followed by a 5.7, a 4.9 and a 5.2 just a few dozen km from the plant.  None of those likely to severly affect the situation but certainly a reminder that the seismic situation is horribly unstable and we're just one unfortunately placed aftershock from a descent into true chaos with this whole thing.


Nevertheless, truth matters.


Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I never said Tyler was perfect nor completely accurate. Just that he was quoting a news outlet and the nuclear operator itself. I also want correct information and at times I also find ZH articles to be a bit short on facts. But I'm not looking at a free volunteer organization such as ZH in the mouth. Contrary to what many people think about ZH I don't see evidence of many Tylers, at least not any more. And considering that Tyler puts out 12 to 20 articles each day 7 days a week I am amazed Tyler gets it right as often as he does.

As I said in the comment above exactly how do you expect Tyler to "fact check" information about the Fukushima disaster without engaging an expert? If he uses volunteers he is setting himself up for the same criticism as if he did it alone. This web site lives off donations and add revenue. Anyone who thinks Tyler is making money of an quantity off this site is wrong (in my opinion) so how is Tyler supposed to "fact check" these nuclear stories since it is out of his field? He shouldn't avoid the story because it clearly affects his expertise, the financial world.

Does he over reach at times? Yes. Should you expect him to be expert on the Fukushima story? No. I'm suggesting that we reel in our expectations a bit and understand the limitations Tyler is dealing with. ZH is not a one or two article a day blog. The ZH blog is prolific so if it gets it a bit wrong on subjects at times I'm not going to be angry. I get what I pay for and the last time I checked I pay nothing other than donations. 

Just my opinion and there is no anger between us. I respect what you are saying.

Stormdancer's picture

No anger here either CD and your points are well taken.  I'm not angry with Tyler either...all the points you make are valid.

Still, I'll try to correct those isolated (and understandable) occaisional errors.

I'd much rather have a bit of overstatement than the consistent lying, minimizing and obfuscation we've seen from those in charge until now.  Panicking and leaving the area are much more sensible actions right now than sitting tight and trusting the government or Tepco to tell the truth in my opinion.

Still....truth matters :)

samsara's picture

"Just a few hours ago there was another 6.1 quake...luckily well over 100km from the plant..."

And just a little while ago Nevada has had a series of quakes just up the road a piece from Yucca Mountain(the empty site).  Safe place for Centuries right? 

Mag's were 4.4,  4.2   and a few 3.+


Also take a look at the Virgin Islands.   SOMETHING is going to happen there I believe.  (or somewhere close)  They look like the run up to Japan's quakes.


Bicycle Repairman's picture

"I'm a former US Naval Nuke Reactor Operator qualified."

Hi, have you been on site at Fukushima to collect data to make these judgments?

No?  Well I'm a licensed OB/GYN and I wouldn't comment on your wife's patootie without examining it first.

MSimon's picture

Well I'm glad to have an obgyn commenting on the subject. I'm sure you are much better qualified to comment on nuclear reactor accidents than I am.

All I can go by is the evidence given. Same as Tyler. However the "news" people in Japan have no clue on interpreting the evidence they are given. Evidently they do not have a nuke on staff. By evidence of course I do not mean "words". I go for the numbahs.


Gmpx's picture

Whatever they say is to calm people down. The truth is unimaginable.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

"Well I'm glad to have an obgyn commenting on the subject. I'm sure you are much better qualified to comment on nuclear reactor accidents than I am."

Since neither of us has any first hand data or any experience with a category 7 nuclear disaster a OB/Gyn is as good as anything.  If it makes you feel better, your comments are just as pertinent as those from TEPCO's upper managment.

Here's something we can both feel comfortable commenting on: cesium 137 is not good for your wife's patootie.

MSimon's picture

Some one deleted my dup post - it wasn't me. Maybe Tyler is paying attention.

If so - good on ya mate.

destiny's picture

Check the CRIIRAD.ORG info, at least it is an independant Lab on radioactive research and information operating away from the nuke lobby.  They publish real facts.   Fact is, no gvt is willing to provide REAL data...

Confuchius's picture


Perhaps you are unaware, due to your overeducation in these matters, that the heat source in fukushima's fragmented reactors is from fission.

If you disagree, then you are suggesting the heat is from fusion.

The fission will continue virtually in perpetuity, at an ever reduced rate.

The farms around fukushima will no doubt produce edible produce once more beginning in 2387 AD.


Ident 7777 economy's picture

 that the heat source in fukushima's fragmented reactors is from fission.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

... how wrong can you can be ...

A) We're talking the (spent) fuel pond here in #4 building

B) After Uranium 'fissioning', there are 'products' that continue to produce heat that must be removed  ... ALL THIS HAS BEEN COVERED.


malikai's picture

Xenon or Krypton would be definitive proof. Iodine decays too slowly to categorically say that fission is ongoing yet. I agree with MSimon. These posts should be proofed for technical accuracy.

There are too many people here who believe everything they read. If it is wrong, you risk misleading people and damaging your credibility.