Pre-Tsunami Damage At Fukushima Daiichi

There have been numerous reports of damage to the reactors caused by the earthquakes, not the tsunami or subsequent explosions at Fukushima Daiichi. Some of the investigations still contend there may have been enough damage done before the tsunami to change how the disaster is considered to have happened and what this means for other reactors around the world.

We have instituted an ongoing project to document these events in an effort to develop a clearer picture of the true damage at the plant. Below are the instances to date that we have found that reference damage at unit 1 before the tsunami.

  1. “TOKYO: A radiation alarm went off at the Fukushima nuclear power plant before the tsunami hit on March 11, suggesting that contrary to earlier assumptions the reactors were damaged by the earthquake that spawned the wall of water.
    A monitoring post on the perimeter of the plant went off at 3.29pm, minutes before the station was overwhelmed by water, knocking out the back-up power that kept cooling systems running, according to documents supplied by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/earthquake-may-have-damaged-reactor-before-tsunami-20110519-1ev1m.html%23ixzz2OalwauKf
  2. The Weekend Australian conducted a series of exclusive, in-depth interviews with senior workers at Fukushima, including members of the so-called Fukushima 50. Several of the workers said the plant’s No 1 reactor was critically damaged by the quake even before the tsunami hit – a revelation that, if proven, would torpedo Japan’s attempts to swiftly restart its 50 stalled nuclear reactors.
    http://news.nuclear.com/blog7.php/fukushima-unit-1-was-critically#d3xg5cOW2orsAoMR.99
  3. Another worker, who was on site when the quake struck, Kazuki Sasaki, said he could see white smoke pouring out of reactor No 1 well before the tsunami arrived.
    http://news.nuclear.com/blog7.php/fukushima-unit-1-was-critically#d3xg5cOW2orsAoMR.99
  4. The parliamentary investigation still concluded that “TEPCO was too quick to cite the tsunami as the cause of the nuclear accident and deny that the earthquake caused any damage”. “We believe that there is a possibility that the earthquake damaged equipment necessary for ensuring safety and that there is also a possibility that a small-scale LOCA (loss of coolant accident) occurred in Unit 1,” it said.
    http://news.nuclear.com/blog7.php/fukushima-unit-1-was-critically#d3xg5cOW2orsAoMR.99
  5. One worker, a maintenance engineer in his late twenties who was at the Fukushima complex on March 11, recalls hissing and leaking pipes. “I personally saw pipes that came apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There’s no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant,” he said. “There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t know which pipes – that has to be investigated. I also saw that part of the wall of the turbine building for Unit 1 had come away. That crack might have affected the reactor
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/meltdown-what-really-happened-fukushima/39541/
  6. A second worker, a technician in his late 30s, who was also on site at the time of the earthquake, narrated what happened. “It felt like the earthquake hit in two waves, the first impact was so intense you could see the building shaking, the pipes buckling, and within minutes, I saw pipes bursting. Some fell off the wall. Others snapped. I was pretty sure that some of the oxygen tanks stored on site had exploded but I didn’t see for myself. Someone yelled that we all needed to evacuate and I was good with that. But I was severely alarmed because as I was leaving I was told and I could see that several pipes had cracked open, including what I believe were cold water supply pipes. That would mean that coolant couldn’t get to the reactor core. If you can’t sufficiently get the coolant to the core, it melts down. You don’t have to have to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out.”
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/meltdown-what-really-happened-fukushima/39541/
  7. As he was heading to his car, he could see the walls of the reactor one building itself had already started to collapse. “There were holes in them. In the first few minutes, no one was thinking about a tsunami. We were thinking about survival.”
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/meltdown-what-really-happened-fukushima/39541/
  8. A third worker was coming into work late when the earthquake hit. “I was in a building nearby when the earthquake shook. After the second shockwave hit, I heard a loud explosion that was almost deafening. I looked out the window and I could see white smoke coming from reactor one. I thought to myself, ‘this is the end.’
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/meltdown-what-really-happened-fukushima/39541/
  9. When the worker got to the office five to 15 minutes later the supervisor ordered them all to evacuate, explaining, “there’s been an explosion of some gas tanks in reactor one, probably the oxygen tanks. In addition to this there has been some structural damage, pipes have burst, meltdown is possible. Please take shelter immediately.” (It should be noted that there have been several explosions at Daiichi even after the March 11 earthquake, one of which TEPCO stated, “was probably due to a gas tank left behind in the debris”.)
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/meltdown-what-really-happened-fukushima/39541/
  10. After the Japanese government forced TEPCO to release hundreds of pages of documents relating to the accident in May, Bloomberg reported on May 19 that a radiation alarm went off 1.5 kilometers from the number one reactor on March 11 at 3:29 p.m., minutes before the tsunami reached the plant. TEPCO would not deny the possibility that there was significant radiation leakage before the power went out.
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/meltdown-what-really-happened-fukushima/39541/
  11. Hitachi guy questions the damage analysis at Daiichi
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2011/12/13/commentary/real-cause-of-nuclear-crisis/#.UVHwXReLa01
  12.  In 2002, whistleblower allegations that TEPCO had deliberately falsified safety records came to light and the company was forced to shut down all of its reactors and inspect them, including the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. Sugaoka Kei, a General Electric on-site inspector first notified Japan’s nuclear watchdog, Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) in June of 2000. The government of Japan took two years to address the problem, then colluded in covering it up – and gave the name of the whistleblower to TEPCO.
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html
  13. “In September 2002, TEPCO admitted covering up data about cracks in critical circulation pipes in addition to previously revealed falsifications. In their analysis of the cover-up, The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center writes:
    ”The records that were covered up had to do with cracks in parts of the reactor known as recirculation pipes. These pipes are there to siphon off heat from the reactor. If these pipes were to fracture, it would result in a serious accident in which coolant leaks out. From the perspective of safety, these are highly important pieces of equipment. Cracks were found in the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, reactor one, reactor two, reactor three, reactor four, reactor five.”
    The cracks in the pipes were not due to earthquake damage; they came from the simple wear and tear of long-term usage. On March 2, 2011, nine days before the meltdown, the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) warned TEPCO of its failure to inspect critical pieces of plant equipment, including the recirculation pumps. TEPCO was ordered to make the inspections, perform repairs if needed and report to NISA on June 2. It does not appear that the report has been filed as of this time. ”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html
  14. The problems were not only with the piping. Gas tanks at the site also exploded after the earthquake. The outside of the reactor building suffered structural damage. There was no one really qualified to assess the radioactive leakage because, as NISA admits, after the accident all the on-site inspectors fled. 
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html
  15. “Worker A, a 27-year-old maintenance engineer who was at the Fukushima complex on March 11, recalls hissing, leaking pipes.
    ‘I personally saw pipes that had come apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There’s no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant. There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t know which pipes – that has to be investigated. I also saw that part of the wall of the turbine building for reactor one had come away. That crack might have affected the reactor.”
    The walls of the reactor are quite fragile, he notes.
    ”If the walls are too rigid, they can crack under the slightest pressure from inside so they have to be breakable because if the pressure is kept inside and there is a buildup of pressure, it can damage the equipment inside the walls. So it needs to be allowed to escape. It’s designed to give during a crisis, if not it could be worse – that might be shocking to others, but to us it’s common sense.””
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html
  16. “WORKER B, a technician in his late thirties who was also on site at the time of the earthquake recalls what happened.
    It felt like the earthquake hit in two waves, the first impact was so intense you could see the building shaking, the pipes buckling, and within minutes, I saw pipes bursting. Some fell off the wall. Others snapped. I’m pretty sure that some of the oxygen tanks stored on site had exploded but I didn’t see for myself. Someone yelled that we all needed to evacuate. I was severely alarmed because as I was leaving I was told, and I could see, that several pipes had cracked open, including what I believe were cold water supply pipes. That would mean that coolant couldn’t get to the reactor core. If you can’t get sufficient coolant to the core, it melts down. You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out.”
    As he was heading to his car, he could see that the walls of the reactor one building itself had already started to collapse. ”There were holes in them. In the first few minutes, no one was thinking about a tsunami. We were thinking about survival.” ”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html
  17. “Worker C was coming into work late when the earthquake hit. ”I was in a building nearby when the earthquake shook. After the second shockwave hit, I heard a loud explosion. I looked out the window and I could see white smoke coming from reactor one. I thought to myself, ‘this is the end’.”

    When the worker got to the office five to 15 minutes later the supervisor immediately ordered everyone to evacuate, explaining, ”there’s been an explosion of some gas tanks in reactor one, probably the oxygen tanks. In addition to this there has been some structural damage, pipes have burst, meltdown is possible. Please take shelter immediately.” (It should be noted that several explosions occurred at Daiichi even after the March 11 earthquake, one of which TEPCO stated, ”was probably due to a gas tank left behind in the debris”.)

    As the employees prepared to leave, the tsunami warning came. Many of them fled to the top floor of a building near the site and waited to be rescued. ”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html

  18. The suspicion that the quake caused severe damage to the reactors is strengthened by reports that radiation leaked from the plant minutes later. Bloomberg has reported that a radiation alarm went off at the plant before the tsunami hit on March 11. The news agency says that one of the few monitoring posts left working, on the perimeter of the plant ”about 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from the No. 1 reactor went off at 3:29 pm, minutes before the station was overwhelmed by the tsunami.”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html
  19. “Kikuchi Yoichi, a former GE engineer who helped build the Fukushima nuclear power plant says unequivocally that, “”the earthquake caused the meltdown not the tsunami.” In his recent book Why I’m Against the Nuclear Plants I Helped Build, he explains that poorly maintained water pipes and circulation system failure were the cause of the triple meltdown:
    ”At Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, at first the plan was to use the water coffin approach. In other words, to fill the containment vessels with water and cool down the pressure vessel and ensure a safe and stable state. However, once (TEPCO) understood that the containment vessels had been damaged, they gave up this plan. Because water was probably leaking all over the place from the pipes, from the start this was an unreasonable scenario.””
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html
  20. “Tanaka Mitsuhiko, a former nuclear power plant designer and science writer asserts that at least the Number One reactor melted down as a result of the earthquake damage. He describes it as a loss of coolant accident (LOCA). “”The data that TEPCO has made public shows a huge loss of coolant within the first few hours of the earthquake. It can’t be accounted for by the loss of electrical power. There was already so much damage to the cooling system that a meltdown was inevitable long before the tsunami arrived.””

    He says the released data shows that at 2:52 pm on March 11, before the tsunami had arrived, the emergency circulation equipment of both the A and B systems automatically started up. “”This only happens when there is a loss of coolant.”” Between 3:04 pm and 3:11 pm the water sprayer inside the containment vessel was turned on. Tanaka says that it is an emergency measure only done when other cooling systems have failed. By the time the tsunami arrived and knocked out all the electrical systems, circa 3:37 pm, the plant was already on its way to melting down. ”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html

  21. According to the daily Chunichi Shinbun and other sources, a few hours after the earthquake, extremely high levels of radiation were recorded within the reactor one building. The level of contamination was so high that a single day exposed to it would be fatal. The water levels of the reactor were already sinking. 6 hours and 20 minutes after the earthquake on March 11 at 9:08 am the radiation level was 0.8 millisievert (mSv) every 10 seconds. In other words, if you spent 20 minutes exposed to those radiation levels you would exceed the five-year limit for a nuclear reactor worker in Japan.  (this report may have listed “am” when it should have been “pm”)
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html  This could indicate the meltdown was further ahead than TEPCO claims.
  22. On May 15, TEPCO went some way toward admitting at least some of these claims in a report called ”Reactor Core Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit One.” The report said there was pre-tsunami damage to key facilities including pipes. ”This means that assurances from the industry in Japan and overseas that the reactors were robust is now blown apart,” said Shaun Burnie, an independent nuclear waste consultant. ”It raises fundamental questions on all reactors in high seismic risk areas.”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/MH12Dh01.html

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