Fukushima Spews More Radiation … Due to Tepco’s Carelessness

George Washington's picture

Power was lost to the cooling systems to virtually all of the spent fuel pools at Fukushima for more than a day.

Some of these fuel pools have lost containment, and are arguably the top short-term threat to humanity … and America’s national security.

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 ….

Source: Tepco

[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.

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are we there yet's picture

I am surprised rats can survive a life cycle at fukashema drinking and eating high level nuclear contamination, and lethal gamma and X-rays as well as neutrons and other particle radiation. Maybe he was a Japanese Sumo rat.

Westcoastliberal's picture

The glorious Tepco management probably gave their workers a Honda generator and some extension cords.

Amazing, isn't it, that the largest on-going technologic disaster in history (3 nuclear reactors melting down almost at the same time), following the biggest seismic event in modern history (9.0) and a 10 meter tsunami, now gets almost zero coverage in the mainstreem media.  Almost like the media is being ordered to stay away.

Jim in MN's picture

Hi kids.

Here is a presentation on tritium contamination given by a Northeast Utilities Pilgrim Station representative and found at this link: http://hps.ne.uiuc.edu/rets-remp/PastWorkshops/2006/ppt/05%20Ken%20Sejkora.pps#1 

Note: "For BWRs, most airborne tritium results from evaporation from spent fuel pool " 

GW and Gunderson are right (it actually doesn't need to steam to emit radioactive substances, evaporation alone can do the deed, but generally correct as it will evaporate faster when warmer, although frankly not a lot faster).  Element is, well, spouting logical opinions that just happen to be empirically incorrect.  Iodine and xenon contribute most (nearly all) radioactive cesium, my personal concern at Fukushima, through decay.  There's little to stop xenon, in particular, from moving into the air as a vapor component.

For an interesting example of a cloud of cesium-137 see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acerinox_accident


Considering noble gases, EPA scientists suggest that they evirotransport quite easily: "The emission of radioactivity from wet-cooling towers is further complicated by the possible speciation of radioactivity in the circulating water. For example, some radionuclides, such as uranium, cesium, iodine, etc., may chemically bind with minerals or chemical inhibitors, and would thus not be available for release through evaporation. Conversely, tritium and noble gases (e.g., xenon, krypton, argon, radon, etc.), may be most efficiently dispersed by cooling towers, since by design cooling towers work as very effective aerators, allowing enhanced evaporation or vaporization of HTO. Given these various considerations, estimating release rates for radionuclides from wet-cooling towers, either by mechanically-induced draft or natural draft, may have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis." http://www.docstoc.com/docs/7830365/Methods-for-Estimating-Fugitive-Air-Emissions-of-Radionuclides-from


Urban Roman's picture

I suspect that with its half life of 3.818 min, Xenon 137 is not a significant source of atmospheric Cesium. Very little of it would exist in the SFPs. It's one of those things that decays as the reactor is shut down. 

Of course, among the facts that Element is omitting are that Cesium actually has a non-zero vapor pressure at ordinary temperatures, and the fact that in the wreckage of the plant, the distillation of nine-nines pure water is not what is happening. Bits of 'dust' and 'smoke' include particles that did not evaporate but are nonetheless transported into the atmosphere by the inherent violence still going on there. Much less violence than at the moment of the explosions, but still going on. 

Jim in MN's picture

Smart people often 'suspect' many things that they know nothing about....

"Almost all caesium produced from nuclear fission comes from beta decay of originally more neutron-rich fission products, passing through various isotopes of iodine and of xenon.[50] Because iodine and xenon are volatile and can diffuse through nuclear fuel or air, radioactive caesium is often created far from the original site of fission"


Element's picture



"Element is, well, spouting logical opinions that just happen to be empirically incorrect."

OMG! That was desperate there Jimmy.


Exposed SPF, full of water below 65 degrees centigrade, 1 atmosphere.


Those are the conditions that you and Gunderson claim will create a new-wave of radioactive contamination of Japan, is that right? (which personally you claim will be Iodine and xenon) You're lost in the theortical potentials of entirely different conditions to those reported, which have ZERO bearing. FACT: there is no new cloud of radiation.

If you had actually observed radioactive Iodine and xenon emmissions that would be quite disturbing, as it would imply entirely different conditions were present.

But I'm what? "empirically incorrect"? Lay-off the theoretical crack-pipe Jim, I'll gladly take my relevant logical informed opinion over your inappicable and incorrect empiricism and conditions.


TIP:  fake data supports fake claims waaaay better, than having nothing at all. ;-)


Jim in MN's picture


Rambling BS.  Your better line would be that the pools didn't heat up that much during the outage, so there wouldn't much of a delta during that time. 

But saying these pools CAN'T emit dangerous radioisotopes is, again, simply incorrect.  They can, and they do, every day.  Why do you think hydrogen and noble gases behave the same as particulates and salts in water?  Are you just that dim?  Hard to say as you failed to address the refutation of your central point.

Incidentally your debating tactics are generally laughable.  I have a feeling that you aren't checking the plant monitors over there very often yourself to personally assess the nonexistance of radioisotopes :*) if that is your standard for veracity....LOL...shall we begin to examine the current levels?  Oh, drat, the post is off the front page.  Not much point now is there?

Good luck!


Reptil's picture

exactly, there's release of radio isotopes despite the water.
this is proven by measurements taken in flooded areas inside the reactors, just above the waterline the radiation was highest (higher than in the water itself because the water shields it). so the argument "the cores are submerged so there's no radiation" is bogus.

multiple 100% liquified cores is "uncharted waters". with added packed SFPs on top. (the cherry)

Chernobyl's molten core is still making it's way down through the earth. I mention this because there's an air of "complacency" about the reporting on Fukushima (or Chernobyl) in general. Once control over a fission process is lost, it's out of control. Nothing that we know of can stop it. As simple as that.


I've not seen any updates on this blackout, I hope it's under control, because if the water in the SFP is gone, they have to perform a magic trick to get those rods cooled.

The incompetence at the management level is stunning, they're still cutting cost factors to do this "containment" of 3 melting cores and SFPs as cheap as possible.

espirit's picture

Might as well add my .02 US here, as quite a few of us discussed this ordeal in detail in GW's articles when the story broke.

First of all, the authorities (inclusive) lied and continue to lie about the dangers of breach of containment in all Fukushima Daiichi reactors.  If anyone has been following the seal deaths in Northern Alaska from a "mysterious" illness, or the dolphin deaths in Chile - there should be no doubt other Pacific marine animals will succumb to questionable illnessess.

Two years later, another round of outraged people will quietly fade away - unable to change the outcome of this disastrous event.

Interested persons should go back to GW's first posts, and realize how their lives have changed when the air they breathe, and the food / water they consume has been compromised.

Westcoastliberal's picture

100's of very sick seal pups are currently appearing along the coast of Socal, so many the marine animal hospitals can't handle the load:


I also recently heard about a flood of sick crabs, lobsters, etc in S. America.

are we there yet's picture

The spent fuel rods are dangerous because they are too close together if the water level is goes down.  Half or more of the rods need to be robotically removed one at a time and placed in well spaced air storage containers until they slowly decay down.

Otherwise Tepco is a drunk truck driver on a nrrow dark winding mountain road on a rainey night waiting for an accident.  Also, Tepco lies a lot.

willwork4food's picture

We shall soon see when the trade winds from Diiachi start blowing south over Tokyo.

medium giraffe's picture

I read somewhere that Tepco 'couldn't rule out the possibility' that a dead rat found in a junction box caused a short, so they've changed their story. 

Imagine the headline:

'Vermin Facilitates Global Destruction (and this time it isn't an American President)'

Joebloinvestor's picture

The single point failure is TEPCO.

The Yakusa of electricity.

NotApplicable's picture

George, you need to change your opening, as it contains a glaring error which totally discredits your reporting on the subject.

When you state that the "fuel pools have lost containment," you are confusing the SFPs (which never had containment) with the reactor cores (which did up until the disaster).

Please realize that even though I'm always harrasing you for your incoherent view of statism, I'm on your side here. In fact, as soon as the weather breaks, I'll be putting up my Fukushima Dome 3.0 (my high tunnel hoop-house where I grow my veggies cesium free).

As for Element's discussion of evaporative distillation, well, I'm building a unit for exactly that reason.

Not Too Important's picture

Cesium free?

Where do you get your 'cesium free' water?

George Washington's picture


The "containment" for the spent fuel pools is the water which is supposed to cover the spent fuel rods.  Fuku lost  water covering right after the March 2011 accident, and there have been periodic leakages ever since.

Urban Roman's picture

Interestingly, 93 billion becquerels is not that much Cesium. About .034 grams of 137CsCl by my calculation. Cs-137 is nasty stuff, and a little goes a long way. If Tepco can keep their leakage down to 93 billion becquerels, they are doing a splendid job. 

I would be surprised if the actual figure is that small, since the SFPs have, what was it, petabecquerels of the stuff? A rough calculation I saw right after the incident estimated that they had around 2 metric tons of Cs-137 in the SFPs, based on the plant's power output and how long it had been operating. 

The actual leakage into the ocean will never be accurately measured. 

MOLONAABE's picture

Hello Mr. Applicable please tell me more of your high tunnel loop house...and is cesium a problem here in the U.S. for growing a garden? just planted mine....thank you...

kaiserhoff's picture

Just remember NA, the Fed limit is 5 gallons per year for "medicinal purposes."

So your inventory should never exceed...


Rusty Diggins's picture

Your arguments works for a designed and controlled distilation apparatus, your neglect of unknown geochemical, geomechanical, thermal and biological processes on the discussed material, in the ground, is bothersome matey.


(for Element)

Element's picture



"neglect of known"

Do not equate "neglect", as you put it, with not mentioning, or a lack of knowledge. If you think there's some other factor here that alters my challenge to Gundersens claim then spit it out, don't resort to smearing or slur tactics.

Are you feeling "bothersome" about what Gundersen said?

(given you imply you're knowledgeable of geomech-geochem-bio-kinetic/thermal factors)

Rusty Diggins's picture

if your assertions are based on live distilled steam released by a pressure valve you are correct.  if steam generated meters (an unknown you fail to address) under ground, escaping to the atmosphere after passing through god knows what type of gravel, dirt, rock, mud, corium etc, cooling and condensing as it goes.  There is a very good chance that activation products, not to mention all the shit left behind as the cores melted their way down will be re-entrained in that column of warm steam.  So George may not be technically "golden" on this one, your assertions that the product coming out of the ground "is right as rain" also bullshite.  go swab a deck and chill out.

Element's picture

lol ... before I get my mop, ... where is the assertion I made that;

" ... your assertions that the product coming out of the ground "is right as rain" ..."

What "product"? What "steam" out of the ground?

Steam is not vapor. Steam is molecular water in gas phase.

Vapor is water drops distilled from gaseous molecular H2O.

So when you say:

"There is a very good chance that activation products, not to mention all the shit left behind as the cores melted their way down will be re-entrained in that column of warm steam."

No, 'warm' steam, as you call it, at ~100 degrees C, would not entrain much of anything.

But, super-heated steam, at 1,200C, formed due to water suddenly coming into direct contact with an incandescent exposed corium, may do that (if there is both enough water volume and enough corium mass), as the steam would then tend to erupt explosively, as a steam blast.

In several posts almost 2-years ago I said the primary danger was a melt coming up beside a foundation of one of the reactors. I pointed out that geo-mechanically, it will not sink though solid rock. It will move horizontally, if at all, out of the foundation, to the area of lowest pressure. i.e. the open air beside a foundation. I pointed out that rain would then create a contamination catastrophe, and this would get into the ocean and littoral clays, and thus into the food chain.

The other danger was from a fires, from a dry or else collapsed SFP. I think Trav7777 was one of the first to point this out at zh.

I also said, very early on (and repeatedly), that by far the greatest hazard was brine-water containing radioactive metal solutes in solution spreading throughout the complex's lower level, and getting into the ocean and marine clays on the Japanese littoral. Plus into the ground water.

Which is what subsequently happened.

But this discussion today is about a tepid open SFP condensing water vapor from water below 65 degrees Centigrade, and @ 1 atmosphere, and whether that can create a new wave of radioactive contamination, as Arnie Gundersen has ridiculously asserted.


Falsely based critiques, especially in 20-20 hindsight years later, without actual quotes, is a cheap-shot and you making slurs.


Get ya mop bitch! LOL

Rusty Diggins's picture

well mop you must, but you're down for a double ration of grog tonight.


George may not be spot on,  and this may be hypocritical, and as a forkin pirate I'm at peace with it.  any raising of awareness of in the absolute void of information or news on this dire situation is ok with me's.

Element's picture

I'm up for the rum, :D ... swabbing - pass ;-)

MSimon's picture

I like this guy for Fukushima news:



Element's picture

I do as well, I think he's obviously the go-to-guy on Fukushima, one of the very few objectively tracking it in detail, and he's a fellow zh-er (username: Lapri).

Element's picture

George, are you going to agree that what Gundersen is saying is patently misleading and designed to spread fearmongering propaganda among the ignorant (which clearly it is doing)?

The reality of the situation does not need propaganda to up its gravitas rating, the truth about the contamination is quite sufficient.

Do the right thing, the truth.

Kassandra's picture

Maybe I am not remembering this correctly, but isn't there usually a condensation nuclei in evaporation or steam and would it not be possible for that nuclei to be radioactive? If, in fact, the cooling ponds overheated and steamed?

Element's picture

Follow the link given at the top and go from there.

You're thinking of vapor to raindrop formation, I suppose. Often vapor will form around micro salt particles (it's beside the sea and these are very abundant in marine are) and dust in the air. Lots of dust around, some is radioactive, though that would be called remobilisation of the pre-existing contamination, not new material coming from SFPs.

The nucleus of a vapor drop does come from the original liquid though. Thus the vapor is not radioactive (unless the dust already is).

the grateful unemployed's picture

i've seen in rain mud so thick that people without fluid in their windshield washer had to pull over.

Element's picture

So have I, in a red (iron oxide) sand-storm in the West Australian Pilbra, towards the end it rained, a very heavy mud rain.

But not from Liquid --> steam --> vapor --> mud

And not quite the conditions above an open SFP below 65C at 1 atmosphere.

willwork4food's picture

I have witness people that were burned from the Chernoble accident personally. They said the community was outside celebrating May Day in the rain-days after the accident but still during rumors something was wrong.

As one suggested earlier, wouldn't a super heated plume of vapor necessarily bring along many raidoactive particle with it?

Element's picture

Chernobyl (the correct spelling) involved a protracted graphite fire around the reactor core area after an initial superheated steam blast. Thus the Radionuclides spread so far because the explosion and super intense exposed core containment fire, lofted the particulates as SMOKE to high altitudes, caught by winds, dispersed and fell out over a large area (mostly as smoke particles within falling rain drops BTW).

willwork4food's picture

@Element-Admittedly I am out of my league here but  why would Gunderson, who has nuc  experience & credentials risk his credibiity on something like this just to spread panic propaganda?

Thanks again for your comments on the matter.

Element's picture

That's a good question isn't it. Relevance deprivation syndrome?

You consider it.

tony bonn's picture

this is a dress rehearsal of the 2d vial...the japanese and the nazi banksters have brought this about....i would throw all of them into the nuclear core....

Peter Pan's picture

We seem to forget that by some incredible combination of miracles this world float and spins in the heavens and instead of taking joy from this wonder we are intent on destroying it and each other as if this was a disposable world and as if fellow human beings were nobodies.

The Japanese government is hiding the truth but then again which government isn't hiding some serious truths from its people.

Peter Pan's picture

This story reminds me old saying.......he who pisses in ocean is sure to get it back in the salt.


Lord Koos's picture

The latest troubles also underscore the continuing worries about the safety of the planet...


There, fixed it for ya...

MyBrothersKeeper's picture

Interestingly enough, "Frontline" has a show last night about the entire disaster.  So much radiation has been leaked that many miles in and around the facilitty will be uninhabitable for decades. Japan is in big trouble economically and having shut down all nuclear reactors has made it worse.  Abe has said he is open to using nuclear energy again but i'm not sure the Japanese or int'l community will stand for it.

Element's picture

Their EEZ marine zone contamination is even worse.

suteibu's picture

In fact, TEPCO does blame a smoking rat.

Rat suspected of causing power problem at Fukushima plant

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said Wednesday it suspects a rat-like animal of causing a short circuit in a switchboard that may have led to the power outage at the plant, disabling cooling systems for spent fuel pools earlier this week.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it found burn marks on a makeshift power switchboard on Wednesday and a dead animal nearby. The utility suspects excess current caused by an unknown reason led to the blackout.

Oops...sorry, Reptil.

Evil Bugeyes's picture

Mmm... Roasted, radioactive, rat-like animal.

WTFUD's picture

Why are these criminal executives of mass destruction NOT in jail alongside the paid off politicos with their public health&safety zero standard stick your finger into the hole in the wall and the pressure wont build up for another 6 months, leaky bandage practices? The zombie japanese economy with leadership across the board deciding to stick their heads in the sand rather than admit failure have chosen russian roulette with the peoples lives.
Very sympathetic on the disasters but Cost Cutting on Nuclear Safety! If Any of those International Energy Bodies had one ounce of integrity they should immediately suspend the Japanese from All nuclear forms of energy production, today.