Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Some Observations

IAEA Briefing on Fukushima Nuclear Emergency (19 March 2011, 14:00 UTC)

IAEA Briefing on Fukushima Nuclear Emergency (19 March 2011, 14:00 UTC)

Japan Could Encase Nuclear Plant in Concrete

Japan could encase the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in concrete and sand in a final attempt to stop massive quantities of radioactive material from escaping the site, the facility's operator indicated on Friday (see GSN, March 17).
(Mar. 18) - A girl is scanned for radiation on Wednesday in Japan's Fukushima prefecture. Concrete and sand might be placed over a severely damaged facility in the region in a final effort to prevent major radioactive material releases, the site's operator said on Friday (Ken Shimizu/Getty Images).
Tokyo Electric Power's first reference to the option -- employed in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster -- suggested efforts to prevent materials at the facility's six reactors from overheating might prove unsuccessful, according to Reuters (Saoshiro/Negishi, Reuters I, March 18).
Untreated material could melt down or even re-enter the fission process, potentially resulting in much larger radioactive material releases than have been seen so far from the plant crippled by Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami, the New York Times reported. Officials have said the events probably caused no fewer than 10,000 deaths (Tabuchi/Bradsher, New York Times I, March 18).
"It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete. But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first," Reuters quoted a representative of the operator as saying (Saoshiro/Negishi, Reuters I).
Authorities were spraying seawater into the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors using fire hoses, and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces dropped four water loads into the No. 3 reactor by helicopter, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday, referencing reports by the Japanese government. The U.N. nuclear watchdog noted that damage had occurred to the cores of the three three reactors, but that the situation "appears to be relatively stable" (International Atomic Energy Agency release, March 18).
"The water is likely to have reached the target,
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How nuclear regulators became captive to industry

Can the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- which even Barack Obama called "moribund" -- keep our power plants safe?

Lessons from Dai-ichi

Lessons from Dai-ichi


Last Saturday, I began to form the opinion that one or more of the Dai-ichi reactor cores had experienced a partial melt down. I was by no means sure of this view because it assumed that the explosion had been a hydrogen explosion. My study of reports concerning the Three Mile Island accident had led me to speculate, that if the explosion had been a hydrogen explosion, the most likely source of the hydrogen was a chemical reaction between coolant water, and overheated core materials. I assumed that some core water might have boiled off, uncovered, uncovering the upper part of the core, which then overheated to the extent that it would begin to melt.

When Japanese technicians injected water into the reactor, it came in contact with the partially melted core, and a chemical reaction between Zirconium in the reactor fuel cladding and the oxygen in water molecules, had released hydrogen in the core. The Japanese technicians had vented the hydrogen from the core, and it vented along with hot steam, and then exploded when it recombined with oxygen in the air. This assumption indicated that the Dai-ichi crisis was at least as bad as Three Mile Island, if not worse. The Japanese, given my speculation, would have sacrificed parts of the reactor building, in order to protect the steel containment vessel from rupture caused by excessive gas pressure.

The reality of at least a partial core meltdown in Dai-ichi 1, 2, and 3 could explained by the release of radioactive gases from fuel pellets. When the core was subsequently vented, the release of the radioactive fission product gasses would explain why many spikes of radiation during the Dai-ichi event have occurred. The radioactive gasses, likely to be encountered during a core meltdown are not very dangerous in practice. They are noble gases, very radioactive but chemically inactive. They are dispersed by natural process in air, and very quickly become so diluted, that they pose no danger to human beings. Since noble gases do not form chemical bonds, they do not linger in the human body, thus do not pose health risks. When scientist looked at the human health consequences of the Three Mile Island accident, the realized that the radiation level of air down wind from Three Mile Island was simply not high enough to cause cancer and other radiation related illnesses.

In addition to radioactive gases, some easily vaporized radioisotopes were released by the Three Mile Island accident. Of these Iodine-131 is the most dangerous. Unlike the noble gases, Iodine-131 does form chemical bonds, is solid rather than gaseous at ordinary temperatures, and likely to enter the human body from the food chain. Iodine-131 forms volatile chemical compounds, that vaporize at high temperatures. Iodine-131 does stick around, but only for a short while. It has a half life of a little more than 8 days. Thus if people can be kept out of contact with Iodine-131 for a couple of months it ceases to be dangerous. In addition potassium iodine tablets offer some protection against iodine-131 forming chemical bonds with body tissues.

Three other potentially dangerous radioisotope are in danger of escaping a reactor core during a reactor accident. They are:
We ar talking about some very nasty stuff here, the stuff that keeps people out of the Chernobyl exclusion zones for nearly 25 years. Fortunately not much of these undesirables escaped during the Three Mile Island accident, so the good citizens of Pennsylvania were able to return to their homes. The difference between TMI and Chernobyl was that inChernobyl the core exploded, destroying all containment, and then caught on fire, and quickly began discharging copious amounts of volatile fission products

What the Japanese tecnicians appear to be doing at Dai-ichi is struggling to prevent the sort of fire that would release large amounts of volatile fission products. There has bee some release. How do we know this? Because when an NBC news man came back from Dai-ichi, he had radioactive material on his shoes. Not a lot, but too much to be tracking around.

The same story suggests that maybe not a lot of volatile fission products have escaped yet, just enough to be picked up on the shoes, by newspeople walking on soil that has been lightly dusted with radio-iodine and other nasties., but not at a level yet to be really dangerous.
It is now fairly clear that that some level of meltdown has happened, but that we are not yet at the China Syndrome by any means, but yesterday Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said,
We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.
Is not clear that all of the water in the spent fuel pool is gone, but Jaczko's fears may not be entirely unjustified.
The New York Times has quoted a spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Yoshitaka Nagayama, as saying,
Because we have been unable to go the scene, we cannot confirm whether there is water left or not in the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4.
If the Japanese don't know, how can Jaczko? The answer might be computer accident simulation. I don't know if such a simulation exists, but if Jaczko was not being irresponsible, he needed to be able to point to some back up to his assessment.

There are still dangers here, the crisis is my no means over, but the decay of fission products is already begin to slow down, and with it both the radiation and the heat that that decay produces. While it is too soon to imagine that the crisis is over, the fact that the first week of the crisis has passed is a signal that the hope that a disaster will be prevented is fully justified. We cannot be sure that the worst is over, but the odds are beginning to move in that direction.

Nuclear power will survive the events in Dai-ichi. This accident will be studied for some time to come for lessons about nuclear safety. The first lesson, and this is obvious, is to assume that the worst earthquake or tsunami ever recorded for an area is possible again, and build accordingly. The Dai-ichi reactor complex was not designed to withstand a 10 meter plus tsunami, while it probably should have been built to withstand at least a 10 meter tsunami. Earlem College Geologist Wesley Nutter found evidence in 2009 that 10 meter (or even higher) waves had repeatedly pounded the coast of northern Japan over the last 3000 years. The geological record suggests that the tsunami of 2011 was a once in every 500 year event. For most people, once in every 500 years is never. Americans have built the cities of Memphis and St. Louis in a zone in which evidence suggests episodes of multiple great earthquakes - up to magnitude 8 - occure every five hundred years or so. Should people live, let alone build reactors in such a dangerous area? Should people live, let alone build reactors in Japan, California, or anywhere eles along the 24,000 mile Pacific ring of fire?

The second lesson has to do with reactor design. Some new reactors, most particularly the the Westinghouse AP-1000, and the GE ESBWR feature gravity powered emgency water tanks above the reactor core. In the future, reactors designs may be subject to the Dai-ichi test. Could the reactor design survive the Dai-ichi event without core melt down. In the case of the AP-1000 the answer is possibly yes, while in the case of the ESBWR he answer is very likely yes. The ESBWR design sets the new bar for reactor safety, and that bar his high.

A third lesson is that the Dai-ichi demonstrated an impressive seismic performance. They survive an earthquake of a far greater magnitude than they were designed too. No doubt this seismic performance will be the subject of further research.

A fourth lesson is that reactor safety design, should include a method of mitigating any China syndrome incident, in the event of a emergency coolant failure. Devices such as steam explosion proof core catchers will be researched,and perhaps modifications to existing reactor designs considered.

A fifth set of lessons, as of yet largely undefined, will come about as the result of studying what actually happened inside the cores of Dai-ichi reactors.

Finally, I would argue, that the day of the Light Water Reactor is drawing to a close. Several Generation IV reactor technologies would have survived the Dai-ichi incident without a serious incident. These include Pebble Bed Modular Reactors, and Molten Salt Reactors. In the case of Molten Salt Reactor Technology, the safety technology appears to be consistent with lowering nuclear costs. The PBMR can be shudown without core melting, while if a MSR begins to overheat, a plug will automatically melt and the reactor core will drain into a series of tanks that uses a well understood simple and natural technology, the chimny effect, to keep the fuel cool.

I have, in Nuclear Green, repeatedly pointed to the issue of nuclear safety, and the need to develop radical high safety nuclear technology. It is not that reactors are unsafe, but rather that safer reactors are possible without increasing nuclear costs, and we ought to build the safest reactors possible, within our financial limits. Not only are safer reactors possible, but they will be superior to Light Water Reactors in many other respects, including the long term sustainability of their fuel sources, and their scalability. If the Dai-ichi crisis fails to teach us the importance of moving forward on the implementation of a more advanced and safer nuclear technology, it would be a tragedy.

Blog - The Likely Radiation Distribution in Japan

The long term impact of the Fukushima crisis is unclear, but here are some early indicators.
It's still far from clear what the outcome of the nuclear crisis in Japan will be, in part because there is still the potential for a large release of radiation from the plant, so experts are unable to say will impact it will have on Japan.
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The Big Dangers Still Faced at Fukushima

The issues that will determine the long-term impact of the nuclear crisis.
Workers at the severely damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan are trying to prevent two potentially catastrophic outcomes: a complete meltdown, or steam explosion, at the plants nuclear reactors; and a massive release of radiation from stored spent fuel. Workers' efforts over the next few days—combined with events outside their control such as the weather—will determine how much of the surrounding area is contaminated with radiation, and for how long.
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Japan, China, SKorea foreign ministers meet

Osaka (AFP) March 19, 2011 The foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea on Saturday agreed to boost cooperation on nuclear power safety and disaster preparedness, one week after Japan's devastating quake and tsunami. New Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto briefed his Chinese and South Korean counterparts Yang Jiechi and Kim Sung-Hwan on how Tokyo is handling the aftermath of the disaster, which has left 18,000 dead or missing.
The trio also voiced concern over North Korea's uranium enrichment programme and started to lay the groundwork for a three-way leaders' summit to be held in Japan, possibly in late May, according to Kyodo News.
China had earlier this week urged Japan to release "timely and precise" information on the unfolding crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where workers are battling to avert a disastrous radiation release.
Ahead of the wider talks, Matsumoto thanked both Kim and Yang, after South Korea and China dispatched rescue teams to the disaster zone.
"We Japanese feel South Koreans are our true neighbours who offer help when we're in need. I extend my heartfelt appreciation as a representative of Japan," Matsumoto was quoted by Kyodo News as telling Kim in separate talks.
"We've been making all-out efforts to support those affected by the quake and are resolved to overcome this major disaster."
In his meeting with Yang, Matsumoto -- who was named to his post just two days before the 9.0-magnitude quake -- said he hoped Tokyo and Beijing could move forward after a bitter row last September sparked by maritime collisions.

Governments Have Been Covering Up Nuclear Meltdowns for Fifty Years to Protect the Nuclear Power Industry

Governments Have Been Covering Up Nuclear Meltdowns for Fifty Years to Protect the Nuclear Power Industry

from Washington's Blog

Daily update from Japan

Saturday, March 19, 4:30 p.m. ET, Tokyo
Press conference: Confirmed reports of first food contamination of spinach (from Ibaraki prefecture) and milk (from Fukushima prefecture). More sampling is needed to determine how the food contamination is spread. The level -- although it is beyond food safety standards -- is still not harmful to public health; the total exposure level is about one CT scan (around 6.9 millisieverts) if consumed over one year.

From the Bulletin Archives: Containment of a reactor meltdown

From the Bulletin Archives: Containment of a reactor meltdown

Any good scientist or engineer believes implicitly in Murphy's law: "If something can go wrong, sooner or later it will go wrong." The US Atomic Energy Commission, which until 1975 had the responsibility for ensuring the safety of US civilian power reactors, had many good scientists and engineers involved in its work. And during its history it repeatedly considered the consequences of all the safety systems in a nuclear reactor failing, the fuel melting and the volatile radioactive isotopes in the fuel being released to the atmosphere.

In this nuclear world, what is the meaning of 'safe'?

In a nuclear crisis, life becomes a nightmare for those people trying to make sense of the uncertainties. Imaginably, the questions are endless.

Fukushima and the Seoul 2012 Nuclear Security Summit

In considering the implications of Fukushima for the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, many experts in the United States would probably argue that there are none -- their fundamental point being that it is a security summit, not a safety summit.

However, it is undeniable that Japan's nuclear disaster has sounded alarm bells around the world. The words "nuclear reactor," "radiation," and "safety" have new resonance. Fear is inescapable.
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Fukushima: How Can It Be So Hard to Keep Water in a Pool?

Fukushima: How Can It Be So Hard to Keep Water in a Pool?

It's hard for non-techies to understand why keeping fuel rods covered with water is a problem.

For Clue to How U.S. Would Respond to Its Own Fukushima, Look at Financial Crisis

For Clue to How U.S. Would Respond to Its Own Fukushima, Look at Financial Crisis

Will Fukushima be a "teaching moment" for the United States?

Japan: One Week On, What Have We Learned?

The Market Ticker - Japan: One Week On, What Have We Learned?

Power Reconnected To Reactor 6, Reactor 3 Being Showered With Water Constantly

Power Reconnected To Reactor 6, Reactor 3 Being Showered With Water Constantly

from Clusterstock

With a Mighty Hand

With a Mighty Hand

The Japanese government’s influential and manipulative role in commercial nuclear power.

Will Japan Radiation Pose Health Risk? - John Matson, Scientific American

How Far from Fukushima Will Fallout Pose a Health Risk?

Amid conflicting evacuation recommendations, radiation experts say that exposures to date have been relatively low outside the power plant and that people in the U.S. will not face any danger

Safeguarding Iran's Nuclear Program - Arms Control Association

Lifting the Veil of Nuclear Catastrophe and Cover-up: A Doomsday Scenario Unfolds With Characteristic Foolishness

Nuclear Apocalypse in Japan

Lifting the Veil of Nuclear Catastrophe and Cover-up: A Doomsday Scenario Unfolds With Characteristic Foolishness
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A legacy from the 1800s leaves Tokyo facing blackouts

A legacy from the 1800s leaves Tokyo facing blackouts

A decision made at the dawn of the electric age is complicating Japan's efforts to keep the lights on

Update to Information Sheet Regarding the Tohoku Earthquake The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) Washington DC Office As of 12:30PM (EST), March 19, 2011

Update to Information Sheet Regarding the Tohoku Earthquake
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) Washington DC Office
As of 12:30PM (EST), March 19, 2011
  • Radiation Levels
    • At 10:30PM (JST) on March 19, radiation level outside main office building (approximately 1,640 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 2,854 micro Sv/hour.
    • Measurement results of ambient dose rate around Fukushima Nuclear Power Station announced at 4:00PM and 7:00PM on March 19 are shown in the attached two PDF files respectively.
    • For comparison, a human receives 2,400 micro Sv per year from natural radiation in the form of sunlight, radon, and other sources. One chest CT scan generates 6,900 micro Sv per scan.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor
    • At 4:50PM on March 19, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.205MPa.
    • At 4:50PM on March 19, water level inside the reactor core: 1.75 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 4:50PM on March 19, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.18MPaabs.
    • As of 9:00PM on March 19, the injection of seawater continues into the reactor core.
    • Recovery work of power supply is to be scheduled.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor
    • At 9:05PM on March 18, access to the substation for reserve power supply from external transmission line was completed.
    • As of 1:30PM on March 19, the work for laying the electric cable from the substation to the load site is being carried out.
    • At 4:30PM on March 19, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.009MPa.
    • At 4:30PM on March 19, water level inside the reactor core: 1.3 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 4:30PM on March 19, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.135MPaabs.
    • As of 9:00PM on March 19, the injection of seawater continues into the reactor core.
    • Activities for connecting the commercial electricity grid are underway.  
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor
    • At 0:30AM on March 19, Tokyo Fire Department began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, continuously until 01:10AM.
    • At 5:25PM on March 19, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.050MPa.
    • At 5:25PM on March 19, water level inside the reactor core: 1.85 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 5:25PM on March 19, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.210MPaabs.
    • At 5:30PM on March 19, Tokyo Fire Department began to shoot water continuously aimed at the spent fuel pool.
    • As of 9:00PM on March 19, the injection of seawater continues into the reactor core.
    • As of 9:00PM on March 19, activities for recovering the external power supply are underway.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor
    • No official updates to the information in our March 19 update have been provided.
    • As of 9:00PM on March 19, activities for recovering the external power supply are underway.  
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor
    • At 5:00AM on March 19, pump for Residual Heat Removal (RHR) started up  and  cooling of spent fuel storage pool has started.
    • At 6:00AM on March 19, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at  155.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • At 9:15AM on March 19, making 3 holes in the roof of reactor building to prevent hydrogen from accumulating has been completed.
    • At 6:00PM on March 19, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at  118.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor
    • At 4:22AM on March 19, the second unit of emergency diesel generator started up.
    • At 5:11AM on March 19, Fuel Pool Cooling (FPC) pump started to circulate the water of spent fuel pool.
    • At 6:00AM on March 19, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at  151.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • At 9:15AM on March 19, making 3 holes in the roof of reactor building to prevent hydrogen from accumulating has been completed.
    • At 6:00PM on March 19, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at  152.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool
    • At 11:19AM on March 18, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 131.0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our official sources are:
  • Office of The Prime Minister of Japan
  • Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Press Releases
  • Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)

Cancer risk from midlevel dose of radiation can depend on age, genetic makeup

Links to websites providing information on the accident at Fukushima Daichii NPP in Japan

1) JAIF (Japan Atomic Industrial Forum) website:

2) TEPCO Press Releases:

3) NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency) website:

4) IAEA website:

5) World Nuclear News:

6) Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) website:

7) MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) website:
http://www.mext.go.jp/english/ (provides data on radiological monitoring)

8) Japan broadcast services: NHK World live stream:
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/ and Kyodo News: http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/japan_nuclear_crisis/

9) Wikipedia pages:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Fukushima_nuclear_accidents ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_nuclear_accidents

The Evacuation Zones Around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant

ANS outreach via members to Congress

The American Nuclear Society has sent the following letter to its members.  The full text follows below.  A PDF attachment in the original is now hosted at Google DOS and has been converted to a link.  You may share the link, below, to it with anyone.

Dan Yurman 
Blog: ANS Nuclear Cafe   Twitter: @djysrv
Google Voice: 208-419-3881


March 19, 2011
Dear ANS Members,
We are all saddened by the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the resulting damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station.  As we move forward, it is critically important that we work together to ensure that our federal policy makers have accurate information about nuclear technology and radiation.
Your Senators and Members of Congress are returning to their States and Districts next week, and I encourage you to schedule a meeting with them while they are back home.  They need to know they have constituents with nuclear related technical expertise who can help them make sense of this very complex and dynamic situation in Japan.
I suggest you take these steps:
1. Find the phone numbers of your Senators' state offices by accessing their website here <http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm>.  You can find your Member of Congress' district office by clicking here <http://www.house.gov/zip/ZIP2Rep.html>.
2. Call their scheduler and ask for an appointment.  Let them know you are a constituent and a member of the American Nuclear Society with knowledge relevant to technical aspects of the situation in Japan.  If you are offered a meeting with staff, accept.
3. Once you have an appointment, arm yourself with information.  Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with up-to-date talking points since the situation itself is so fluid. Instead, your role is to help the member understand some of the many technical issues, learn about their concerns and share your expertise. Below are some reliable sources of information, which are being updated regularly:
* American Nuclear Society Japan Page ansnuclearcafe.org
* Nuclear Energy Institute www.nei.org
* World Nuclear News www.world-nuclear-news.org
* ANS Radiation Dose Chart www.new.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/ 
* NHK Television www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/index.html
* Japan Times www.japantimes.co.jp
4. On the day of the meeting,
* Be prompt and patient. It is not uncommon for a member of Congress to be late or to have a meeting interrupted due to a crowded schedule.
* Be grateful. Make sure you open the conversation by thanking the members/staff for his/her time, and send a handwritten thank you note afterwards.
* Be honest. The situation in Japan is a difficult one.  Don't feel the need to provide "spin." Stick to the facts as you know them and don't be afraid to say that you do not know the answer to a question.  The goal is to be a technical resource for them to contact in the future and let them know your support for NS&T in general.
* Be responsive. Make sure you follow up promptly if the member/staff has asked you to provide any additional information or analysis.  Contact us at japanfacts@ans.org if you need help.
Again, your goal is to be a technical resource to your Senators/Representative and their staffs, providing perspective and correcting misperceptions without sugarcoating the situation.
Finally, we encourage you to send ANS a message to let us know how your meeting went.  Send an e-mail to japanfacts@ans.org with the subject line "MEETING."
Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Joe Colvin
ANS President
Attachment: Information About Conditions in Japan, March 18, 2011  http://tinyurl.com/ANSJPINFO

WebinarThe Facts About Japan's Nuclear Situation"

Webinar - the facts about Fukushima


This is a briefing set up by the Nuclear Fabrication Consortium (NFC) and the Greater Cleveland Partnership.  Both groups promote the interests of U.S. businesses that manufacture components for nuclear power plants.  See web site for more information, list of members, etc.  http://nuclearfabrication.org/

See my coverage of NFC's annual meeting in Fuel Cycle Week last September.

You may share this invitation with others in the nuclear industry, and especially those organizations involved in making components for reactors, but please be selective. I ask that you do not "broadcast" this invitation on a blog, web site, or by other means.  The primary audience is the business community.


Event: “The Facts About Japan's Nuclear Situation”
Time: Tuesday, March 22th at 2:00pm Eastern
Listening method: Phone + Web Simulcast

Phone number: (614) 384-5247
PIN Code: 029468#


David Blee - Nuclear Infrastructure Council
Lake Barrett – Former Deputy Director, Office of Radioactive Waste Management
Marc Goldsmith – Principal, MGA LLC & Former VP, Stone & Webster
Edward Davis – Former President, American Nuclear Energy Council
Dan Yurman - American Nuclear Society

Note that while I am a speaker provided to the webinar by the American Nuclear Society, I am not speaking in an official capacity for the society. The views expressed during the webinar will be my own responsibility.

Lessons Learned or Lessons Forgotten?

Fukushima nuclear accident: Saturday 19 March summary

Fukushima nuclear accident: Saturday 19 March summary

Barry Brook | 20 March 2011 at 12:04 AM | Categories: Hot News, Nuclear | URL: http://wp.me/piCIJ-15h
Last Saturday the the crisis level at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station was rapidly on the rise. Hydrogen explosions, cracks in the wetwell torus and fires in a shutdown unit's building -- it seemed the sequence of new problems would never end. A week later, the situation remains troubling, but, over the last few days, it has not got any worse. Indeed, one could make a reasonable argument that it's actually got better.
Yes, the IAEA has now formally listed the overall accident at an INES level 5 (see here for a description of the scales), up from the original estimate of 4. This is right and proper -- but it doesn't mean the situation has escalated further, as some have inferred. Here is a summary of the main site activities for today, followed by the latest JAIF and FEPC reports. You also might be interested in the following site map:

Another large cohort of 100 Tokyo fire fighters joined the spraying operation to cool down the reactors and keep the water in the spent fuel ponds. They have set up a special vehicle called 'Hyper Rescue' for firing a water cannon from 22 m high (in combination with a super pump truck), and today have been targeting the SNF pond in unit 3. About 60 tons of sea water successfully penetrated the building in the vicinity of the pool, at a flow rate of 3,000 litres per minute. Spraying with standard unmanned vehicles was also undertaken for 7 hours into other parts of the the unit 3 building (delivering more than 1,200 tons), to keep the general containment area cool. The temperature around the fuel rods is now reported by TEPCO (via NHK news) to be below 100C.
Conditions in unit 3 are stabilising but will need attention for many days to come. Promisingly, TEPCO has now connected AC cables to the unit 1 and 2 reactor buildings, with hopes that powered systems can be restored to these building by as early as tomorrow (including, it is hoped, the AC core cooling systems), once various safety and equipment condition checks are made.
Holes were made in the secondary containment buildings of Units 5 and 6 as a precautionary measure, to vent any hydrogen that might accumulate and so prevent explosions in these otherwise undamaged structures.  The residual heat removal system for these units has now been brought back on line and these pools maintain a tolerable steady temperature of 60C. More here. These buildings were operating on a single emergency diesel generator, but now have a second electricity supply via the external AC power cable.
Read more of this post

Three Mile Island (TMI-2) Recovery and Decontamination Collection Engineering Library

Three Mile Island (TMI-2) Recovery and Decontamination Collection
Engineering Library

3/19/11 NISA News Release

3/19/11 NISA News Release

Unit 4
・ It was confirmed that a part of wall in the operation area of Unit 4 was
damaged. (06:14 March 15th)
・ The fire at Unit 4 occurred. (09:38 March 15th) TEPCO reported that
the fire was extinguished spontaneously. (11:00 March 15th)
・ The temperature of water in the Spent Fuel Pool at Unit 4 had
increased. (84 ℃ at 04:08 March 14th)

Earthquake Facts and Statistics

Insight to Fukushima engineering challenges

Insight to Fukushima engineering challenges
18 March 2011
CORRECTION: 4.09pm GMT Correct size of tsunami below, plus altitude difference between Daini and Daiichi

Official notices of the accidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plants give insight into the challenges faced by power plant engineers in the aftermath of last week's natural disasters.

Elena Buglova, March 2011 (IAEA) small 
Elena Buglova, acting head of the IAEA
Incident and Emergency Centre at a
press briefing yesterday
Eight separate ratings on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) have now been logged with the International Atomic Energy Agency by the Japanese government. One covers the effect of the earthquake on Japan's nuclear power plants as a whole, putting it as level 3 - a 'serious incident' - because of the eventual need to declare technical emergencies at Fukushima Daiichi and Daini.
The remainder of the nuclear crisis has its origins specifically in the tsunami that followed. Information accompanying the ratings gives insight into the starting point of the crisis and the technical challenges faced by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.

Fukushima Daini

At the Daini plant, all three large boiling water reactors were operating at full power ratings of 1100 MWe when the earthquake hit. They shut down automatically and began using diesel generators to power core cooling systems.

One hour later the plant was inundated by a tsunami said to be seven metres in height, compared to design basis surge of 6.51 metres. Unit 3 was undamaged and continued to cold shutdown status, but the other units suffered flooding to pump rooms where equipment transfers heat from the reactor circuit to the sea - the ultimate heat sink.

With these out of action, the challenge for engineers was to manage the heat and pressure inevitably building within power plant systems until the seawater pumps could be brought back online.

Core cooling systems continued to work and these were complimented by a high pressure coolant injection (HPCI) system, powered directly by steam emerging from the main reactor system. Separate from the large steam turbine used to generate power, the HPCI is connected only to a pump which injects cooler water from the large torus suppression chamber beneath the reactor as well as a water storage tank.

Click to enlarge 
The boiling water reactor system
In addition, pressure can be controlled by venting steam from the reactor pressure vessel to the torus, which then condenses to reduce pressure in the main circuit.
However, all the systems rely on a finite source of water within the plant, which gradually heats up. The HPCI and torus venting systems also rely on a difference in temperature between the reactor system and the torus. When the temperature in the torus heats up to 100ºC, the system, including the injection from the HPCI, becomes ineffective.

When this occurred at Fukushima Daini 1, a technical emergency was declared. Today's INES ratings reveal that the same sequence of events happened at units 1, 2 and 4. These were each rated at Level 3 - 'serious incidents'.

Site workers were able to repair some equipment in pump rooms and restart operation. Going from one unit to the next they were able to achieve cold shutdown status for all of the units.

Fukushima Daiichi
In happier times: The Fukushima Daiichi plant

Fukushima Daiichi

Similar problems occurred at the Daiichi plant. Units 1, 2 and 3 were operating at full power but shut down on the earthquake. They too were flooded by the tsunami and lost their sea water pumps - but this was exacerbated by the loss of emergency diesels as well. One factor in this could be that the Daiichi plant is at a slightly lower altitude than Daini, making the tsunami relatively more powerful.

This meant that heat was building up in the power plant in the same way as at Daini 1, 2 and 4, but that core cooling sprays could not be powered.

At Daiichi 1, 2 and 3, the steam-driven HPCIs were left as the only cooling system, which eventually heated the units' toruses to the point that they stopped working. Pressure from the reactor vessels built several times to the point that it required release. Separately, gas in the containment vessel was vented and this was enough to raise radiation levels at the site boundary to 0.5 millisieverts per hour.

Japanese officials reported that for each unit, "The behaviour of the pressure of the reactor vessel and the containment vessel, and the behaviour of the water level of the reactor were complicated. Some measurements were not possible because of failures of measuring equipment. As a result, a detailed estimate cannot be done." However, they said, the radiation signature of the releases matched a theory that a few percent of each reactor core had suffered damage.

Enough hydrogen was also produced within the reactor vessel by the interaction between water and hot fuel to cause an explosion at each unit when this was vented to the secondary containment. For units 1 and 3 this removed the top part of the reactor building. At unit 2 this may have taken place in the torus, causing damage there.

Core damage is rated at Level 5 on the INES scale, an 'accident with wider consequences'. This is applied to units 2 and 3, while unit 1's INES Level 5 rating is attributed to the abnormal rise of radiation dose at the site boundary.

After the total failure of plant cooling systems, seawater is being pumped into the reactor cores of units 1, 2 and 3 to prevent overheating and further core damage. This will likely continue for some time, although plant cooling systems may come back into operation once external power is restored.

Fukushima Daiichi 4

While Fukushima Daiichi 4 was fully defuelled for maintenance, it suffered the loss of seawater pumps and 'electricity rooms'. This led to the loss of cooling and water supply functions to the cooling ponds.

Eventually the water boiled, hydrogen was produced by the interaction of water and hot fuel and a hydrogen explosion wrecked the building. This event was was rated at INES Level 3 - a 'serious incident'.

Fuel pond work at Fukushima

Fuel pond work at Fukushima
19 March 2011
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11.38am GMTCORRECTION: 1.16pm GMT Correct number and size of holes. Clarity on hydrogen production
Recent work at Fukushima Daiichi has included making holes to vent hydrogen in units 5 and 6, while unit 3's fuel pond is said to have stabilised.

An announcement of stability at unit 3's pond came from chief cabinet secretary Yukiyo Edano. This follows the deployment of Hyper Rescue, a truck featuring a 22 metre arm that pumps some 3000 litres of water per minute, in combination with Super Pump Truck. Together the machines sprayed seawater through the holes left in the sides of the reactor building.

Police riot trucks and army fire engines had already been working on the job. Helicopters were tried two days ago, but this approach was not effective.

Edano made clear that unit 3 remains a concern and that spraying may continue.

Units 5 and 6

Elsewhere on site, two diesel generators at unit 6 are now providing power to units 5 and 6 to circulate water in the fuel ponds.
Engineers have also brought back the residual heat removal system of unit 5 allowing heat from its fuel pond to be removed to the sea, which is the ultimate source of cooling for any thermal power plant on the coast.

Holes have been bored through the roofs of reactor buildings 5 and 6 in an 11-hour operation to ensure that hydrogen can vent naturally. Each unit has three holes measuring seven centimetres.

Tokyo Electric Power Company said the temperature of fuel ponds in units 5 and 6 was about 60 degrees. They did not say that hydrogen was being produced but that the move to bore holes was a precaution.

NRC to hold public meeting on NRC response to Japan


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be briefed by its staff on the NRC’s response to the ongoing nuclear event in Japan in a public meeting on March 21 at 9 a.m. at NRC Headquarters, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md. The commission meeting will be open to public observation and will be webcast at:

Due to limited space availability, the meeting will be set up for a CBS broadcast network pool camera crew. Broadcast media outlets interested in receiving the feed should contact the network pool at 202-457-444. For still photographers, this meeting will be pooled with AP, Reuters, AFP and Getty only.
In order for us to try to ensure sufficient seating for reporters, please notify the Office of Public Affairs at the contact information above if you plant to attend. There will be additional space available in our auditorium on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Pool photographers will have limited space at the meeting in which to take photos. Movement must be kept to a minimum so as not to be distracting and entry into the inner well closest to the Commission briefing table is prohibited. Plan to arrive in advance of the meeting at the Marinelli Road entrance of the NRC with proper media credentials. The NRC offices are located across the street from the White Flint Metr

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Breaking News Japan finds elevated radiation levels in food

Japanese authorities have discovered milk and spinach with elevated radiation levels, the latest worrying development in the nuclear crisis that resulted from the devastating earthquake and tsunami which hit the nation eight days ago.

On Saturday, the country's top government spokesman, said monitors had found traces of radiation higher than the legal limit under Japan’s food safety laws. While Yukio Edano insisted there was no threat to human health, the results mean Japan faces a possible food safety scare on top of the nuclear crisis.

The news came as firefighters resumed spraying water on to the No 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where engineers and emergency workers are working day and night to tackle problems at six nuclear reactors.

“We can’t say anything definite at this point, but it appears that we were successful in getting some water to the pool [at reactor No 3], and the situation is stable,” Mr Edano said.

Speaking about the contaminated food, Mr Edano said monitors had found radiation above the legal safety limit in one sample of milk from a farm in Fukushima prefecture on Friday evening. On Saturday, elevated levels of radiation were discovered in six samples of spinach from Ibaraki prefecture, which were taken more than 30km away from the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant.

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Tsunami and after effects and earthquake after shocks are bigger threat than nuclear power plants

Tsunami and after effects and earthquake after shocks are bigger threat than nuclear power plants

BBC News - Even under this worst case, though, the direct health consequences of the nuclear accident would be very small compared with the thousands already killed by the earthquake and tsunami, let alone the continued suffering of the survivors (by David Spiegelhalter Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, Cambridge University.

The Daily Mail science editor, Michael Hanlon, has already boldly claimed that "what has happened in Japan should in fact be seen as a massive endorsement of nuclear power", given the success of most Japanese plants at withstanding a disaster they were never designed for, but others will use exactly the same information to reach the directly opposite conclusion.
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Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reported in stable condition

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reported in stable condition


Reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are in stable condition, with workers continuing to provide seawater cooling into the reactors. Containment integrity is believed to be intact on reactors 1, 2 and 3, and containment building pressures are elevated but are within design limits.

Site radiation doses have been decreasing since March 16. Radiation dose rates are fluctuating based on some of the relief operations, such as adding cooling water to the used fuel pools. Recent readings at the plant boundary are about 2 millirem per hour. Radiation dose rates at reactor 3 range between 2,500 and 5,000 millirem per hour.

The Japanese Self-Defense Force restarted cooling water spray into the Unit 3 reactor building and spent fuel pool at around 1 a.m. EDT on March 18. Plans are to spray 50 tons of water on the reactor 3 reactor building/spent fuel pool using seven fire-fighting trucks.

A diesel generator is supplying power to reactors 5 and 6. TEPCO is installing high voltage cables from a nearby transmission line to reactors 1 and 2. Once electricity supply is re-established, priority will be given to restoring power to reactor heat removal systems and cooling water pumps. Workers are seeking to install electrical cables to reactors 3 and 4 components in about two days.
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One Plus One - Fukushima's legacy Barry Brook

One Plus One - Fukushima's legacy

Barry Brook | 19 March 2011 at 4:59 PM  URL: http://wp.me/piCIJ-159
There have been some slow but positive developments in Fukushima Daiichi today (Saturday 19th March), despite the ongoing seriousness of the situation. Engineers are now on the brink of getting external AC power restored to parts of the site, and water dousing operations on the spent fuel ponds continue, as does cooling by sea water at reactors 1 to 3. I will provide a full update on the situation at the end of today.
Meanwhile, follow the comments in this thread for the real-time updates by commenters.
Below is a 10 minute interview with me that was shown on ABC TV (Australia's national television broadcaster) during the weekend, on the conversation magazine-style program "One Plus One". I'm interviewed by Mike Sexton.
Please watch this if you really want to understand where I'm coming from on all of this (including my background and motivations), and for my speculation on what the legacy of Fukushima might be, if rational and logical heads are not kept.
For readers in Australia, you can also watch this on ABC iView.
For other videos on the BraveNewClimate YouTube channel, see here. For my 16 x 5-min audio podcasts (and ongoing), which cover nuclear power and climate change, see here. This one is a good starter: Integral Fast Reactor nuclear power - what is it and why should you care?

Press Release (Mar 19,2011) Status of TEPCO's Facilities and its services after Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki Earthquake (as of 1:00AM)

Press Release (Mar 19,2011)
Status of TEPCO's Facilities and its services after Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki Earthquake (as of 1:00AM)
Due to the Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki Earthquake which occurred on March 11th 
2011, TEPCO's facilities including our nuclear power stations have been 
severely damaged. We deeply apologies for the anxiety and inconvenience 

Below is the status of TEPCO's major facilities.
*new items are underlined

[Nuclear Power Station]
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station:
    Units 1 to 3: shutdown due to earthquake
    (Units 4 to 6: outage due to regular inspection) 

* The national government has instructed to evacuate for those local 
residents within 20km radius of the site periphery and to remain indoors 
for those local residents between 20km and 30km radius of the site 

* Unit 1
The explosive sound and white smoke was confirmed near Unit 1 when the 
big quake occurred at 3:36pm, March 12th. We have started injection of
sea water at 8:20 pm and then boric acid into the reactor afterwards. 

*Unit 2
At 1:25 pm, March 14th, since the Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System 
has failed, it was determined that a specific incident stipulated in 
article 15, clause 1 of Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear 
Emergency Preparedness occurred (failure of reactor cooling function).

At 5:17 pm, while the water level in the reactor reached the top of the 
fuel rod, we have restarted the water injection with the valve operation.

At approximately 6:14 am, March 15th, the abnormal sound was confirmed 
near the suppression chamber and the pressure inside the chamber decreased 
afterwards. It was determined that there is a possibility that something 
happened in the suppression chamber. While sea water injection to the 
reactor continued, TEPCO employees and workers from other companies not 
in charge of injection work started tentative evacuation to a safe 

Sea water injection to the reactor is still under operation.

As of March 18th , power from offsite transmission line has received
until temporary substation for backup power. Now, cabling to unit
receiving facility is underway.

*Unit 3
At 6:50 am, March 14th, while water injection to the reactor was under 
operation, the pressure in the reactor containment vessel increased to 
530 kPa. As a result, at 7:44 am, it was determined that a specific 
incident stipulated in article 15, clause 1 occurred (abnormal increase 
of the pressure of reactor containment vessel). Afterwards, the pressure 
has gradually decreased (as of 9:05 am, 490 kPa). 

At approximately 11:01 am, March 14th, an explosion followed by white 
smoke occurred near Unit 3. 4 TEPCO employees and 3 workers from other 
companies (all of them are conscious) have sustained injuries and they 
were already dispatched to the hospital by ambulances. 

As the temperature of water in the spent fuel pool rose, spraying water 
by helicopters with the support of the Self Defense Force was considered, 
however the works on March 16th was cancelled.

At 6:15 am, March 17th, the pressure of the Suppression Chamber temporally 
increased, but currently it is stable in a certain range. Monitoring will 
be continued.
In order to cool spent fuel pool, water discharge by helicopters has been 
conducted on March 17th with the cooperation of Self-Defense Force.
At approximately past 7:00 pm, March 17th , Self-Defense Forces and the 
police had started water discharge by water cannon trucks upon our request 
for the cooperation. At 8:09 pm, March 17th, they had finished water 
At 2:00 pm, March 18th , water discharge by fire engine has started with
the cooperation of Self-Defense Forces and Military of United States of
America. At 2:45 pm, March 18th , they had finished water discharge.
At 0:45 am, March 19th , water discharge by hyper rescue troop has
started with the cooperation of Tokyo Fire Department. At 1:10 am, March
19th , they had finished water discharge.

* Unit 4
At approximately 6:00 am, March 15th, an explosive sound occurred and 
the damage in the 5th floor roof of Unit 4 reactor building was confirmed. 
At 9:38 am, the fire near the north-west part of 4th floor of Unit 4 
reactor building was confirmed. At approximately 11:00 am, TEPCO employee 
confirmed that the fire was off. 

At approximately 5:45 am, a TEPCO employee discovered a fire at the 
northwest corner of the Nuclear Reactor Building. TEPCO immediately 
reported this incident to the fire department and the local government 
and proceeded with the extinction of fire. At approximately 6:15 am, 
TEPCO staff confirmed at the site that there are no signs of fire. 

*On March 18th, regarding the spent fuel in the common spent fuel pool, 
 we have confirmed that the water level of the pool is secured. A detailed 
 inspection is under preparation.
  *common spent fuel pool: a spent fuel pool for common use set in a 
   separate building in a plant site in order to preserve spent fuel 
   which are transferred from the spent fuel pool in each Unit building.

*On March 17th, we patrolled buildings for dry casks and found no signs 
 of abnormal situation for the casks by visual observation. A detailed 
 inspection is under preparation.
  *dry cask: a measure to store spent fuel in a dry storage casks in 
   storages. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station started to utilize 
   the measure from August 1995.

*We will continuously endeavor to securing safety, and monitoring of 
the surrounding environment. 
Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station:
    Units 1 to 4: shutdown due to earthquake
*The national government has instructed evacuation for those local 
residents within 10km radius of the periphery.

*In order to achieve cold shutdown, reactor cooling function was restored 
and cooling of reactors was conducted. As a result, all reactors achieved 
cold shutdown: Unit 1 at 5:00 pm, March 14th, Unit 2 at 6:00 pm, March 
14th, Unit 3 at 0:15 pm, March 12th, Unit 4 at 7:15 am, March 16th. 

*Since March 12th, we had been preparing measures for reducing the 
pressure of reactor containment vessels (partial discharge of air 
containing radioactive materials to outside), but on March 17th, 
we released such preparation in all Units.

* (Unit 1)
As it is confirmed that the temperature of the Emergency Equipment Cooling 
Water System *1 has increased, at 3:20 pm, March 15th, we stopped the 
Residual Heat Removal System (B) for the inspection. Subsequently, failure 
was detected in the power supply facility associated with the pumps of the 
Emergency Equipment Cooling Water System. At 4:25 pm, March 15th, after 
replacing the power facility, the pumps and the Residual Heat Removal 
System (B) have been reactivated.

* (Unit 4)
As it is confirmed that the pressure at the outlet of the pumps of the 
Emergency Equipment Cooling Water System*1 has been decreased, at 8:05 pm, 
March 15th, we stopped the Residual Heat Removal System (B) for the 
inspection. Subsequently, failure was detected in the power supply 
facility associated with the pumps of the Emergency Equipment Cooling 
Water System. At 9:25 pm, March 15th, after replacing the relevant 
facility, the pumps and the Residual Heat Removal System (B) have been 

*1:emergency water system in which cooling water (pure water) circulates 
   which exchanged the heat with sea water in order to cool down bearing 
   pumps and/or heat exchangers etc.

Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station:
   Units 1, 5, 6, 7: normal operation
   (Units 2 to 4: outage due to regular inspection)

[Thermal Power Station]
Hirono Thermal Power Station Units 2 and 4: shutdown due to earthquake
Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station Unit 1: shutdown due to earthquake
Kashima Thermal Power Station Units 2, 3, 5, 6: shutdown due to earthquake
Higashi-Ohgishima Thermal Power Station Unit 1: shutdown due to earthquake

[Hydro Power Station]
* All the stations have been restored.

[Transmission System, etc.]
All substation failed due to the earthquake have been restored.

[Blackout in TEPCO's Service Area]
Total of approximately 2,600 households are out of power (as of 9:00PM, 
March 17, 2011).
Tokyo: 0
Kanagawa Pref.: 0
Tochigi Pref.: 0
Chiba Pref.: 0
Saitama Pref: 0
Gunma Pref.: 0
Ibaraki Pref: 0
Yamanashi Pref: 0
Shizuoka Pref: 0 (east of Fuji River)

[Supply and Demand Status within TEPCO's Service Area to Secure Stable Power
Backup supply from Shinshinano Conversion Station: 600MW
Backup supply from Sakuma Conversion Station: 300MW
Backup supply from Higashi Shimizu Conversion Station: 100MW

Considering the critical balance of our power supply capacity and expected 
power demand forward, in order to avoid unexpected blackout, TEPCO has 
implemented rolling blackout (planned blackout alternates from one area to 
another) since yesterday. We will make our utmost to secure the stable 
power supply as early as possible. 
For customers who will be subject to rolling blackout, please be prepared 
for the announced blackout periods. Also for customers who are not subject 
to blackouts, TEPCO appreciates your continuous cooperation in reducing 
electricity usage by avoiding using unnecessary lighting and electrical 

Please do NOT touch cut-off electric wires.
In order to prevent fire, please make sure to switch off the electric 
appliances such as hair drier and to shut down the breaker of distribution 
board when you leave your house.
For the customer who has in-house power generation, please secure fuel for