Power was lost to the cooling systems to virtually all of the spent fuel pools at Fukushima for more than a day.
The loss of cooling increased the radiation output from the pools. And the loss of power was due to carelessness by the operator of the Fukushima reactors. As nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen notes:
Is TEPCO doing an adequate job of keeping the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power site safe?
We don’t think so.
To have such a massive power failure last almost 24 hours is unconscionable. Because this problem lasted almost one day, and because several cooling systems were simultaneously disabled, Fairewinds believes that a common electrical component is the equipment that failed, likely a junction box or a transformer. Nuclear plants are supposed to be built to be single failure proof, meaning that if one component fails the systems still remain operational via other equipment. The loss of spent fuel pool cooling simultaneously in three nuclear reactors means that a common mode failure, or worse yet a single failure, was somehow allowed to occur in TEPCO’s jury-rigged design. This simply should never happen.
TEPCO claims that there was no radiation release from this recent power failure, but that is a scientific impossibility. When power is lost in a spent fuel pool, the radioactive fuel rods heat the pools up. As the pools heat up, evaporation increases resulting in a white “smoke” (steam). That steam is radioactive, containing some of the radiation that was previously in the pool. As the water warms up, radiation releases will increase.
Yesterday’s power loss is further proof that the conditions at Fukushima Daiichi are still unstable, despite what TEPCO and the Japanese and US governments say.
The New York Times wrote:
The latest problem raised new fears about the continuing vulnerability of the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown two years ago and still relies on makeshift equipment.
The latest troubles also underscore the continuing worries about the safety of the plant…. In particular, experts have warned that the makeshift cooling systems could be knocked out by another large earthquake.
With the company as the only source of information, it was impossible to independently assess the conditions at the plant, which sits in a contaminated zone that is closed to the public.
Indeed, Yomiuri Shimbun reports that :
Monday’s power outage at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant highlighted the utility’s management defects at the crippled facility….
TEPCO officials inspected the temporary power distribution panels ….
[The] power panel in question … was exposed to the weather while left on the back of the vehicle.
Prof. Masanori Aritomi of Tokyo Institute of Technology said, “Due to the recent strong wind, seawater and sand from the nearby beach might have been blown into the power panel.”
“Salt in the sand and seawater could have caused the power panel to short out,” the reactor engineering expert added.
TEPCO was in fact aware of the vulnerability of the temporary power panel that had been exposed to the elements.
Tepco admitted mismanagement to Yomiuri Shimbun:
This is the first time that operation of the cooling system was halted for such a long time at several core facilities all together. If you say we were complacent about making our decision and dealing with the situation, I can’t deny that.
In related news, Japanese experts say that Fukushima is currently releasing up to 93 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium into the ocean each day, the reactors have lost containment, and groundwater is flooding into the stricken reactors (delaying clean-up).
And in news which may or may not be related: “A historic number of sea lions is washing up in Southern California — Has reached ‘epidemic proportions’ — Center declares state of emergency — Feds: ‘There’s something going on oceanographically’.” See this and this for possible background on how this might be related to Fukushima.