2011 Fukushima Updates


Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen introduces the Fairewinds Fukushima Nuclear Timeline from a distance. Arnie is in the United Kingdom this week to commemorate the tragic triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011 by speaking to the House of Commons and several other venues about the disaster.

Useless helicopters

1:07 -  1:23
JK: “They need to get water up here, somehow, too cool these spent fuel rods.  They were thinking about using helicopters.  Good idea or bad idea?

AG:  “That’s a really bad idea, and I’m really glad they took it off the table.  The problem is that the gap between the fuel is really, really critical

1:48- 1:55
AG: “The fuel pool itself could begin to have a chain reaction if the water hit it too hard  and pushed the fuel to close together.”

Hole in containment UNIT 3, leaking radiation

00:44 – 00:60
“Apparently on Unit 3 they were able to get some water in because they saw lots of steam coming out.  The steam is not a good sign.  It means there is a hole in the containment and radiation is leaking out, and lots of radiation is leaking out.”

Damaged Fuel

4:11 – 4:24
“When they squirt water in, steam is going to come out, because now the containment has a hole in it and that steam is also going to carry radioactivity because the fuel is damaged.”

Decommissioning costs

5:35 -5:40
“A clean nuclear plant like Oyster Creek or Vermont Yankee or Pilgrim costs about 750-million $ to clean up, but a dirty plant like TMI cost billions, and there’s six dirty plants.”

“Ultimately when they get in and remove those plants, it is probably a 20-billion-dollar proposition to remove those six plants after they have been stabilized, and the stabellization could easily be a 10-billion dollar problem.”

"Worse than Chernobyl”

4:08 – 4:22
“TEPCO… didn’t tell enough information soon enough.”

4:23 – 5:03
“JK:...Secretary Chu called it worse than Three Mile Island...
Arnie: “I actually think it’s at Chernobyl level right now…100 time worse than the worst case we imagined a year ago.”

Long-term environmental contamination

3:46 - 3:58
“It’s pretty clear to me that the area immediately outside the plant will be contaminated for a long, long time, and I would not imagine people returning to their homes anytime soon.”

Chernobyl on Steroids

2:02 - 2:15
“This is Chernobyl on Steroids….“This is worse than Chernobyl.”

Contaminated water leaking into ocean

2:53 - 3:03
“...enormous quantities of of highly radioactive water have been found outside the containment.  That means the containment isn’t containing."

4:34  - 4:37
“I think that water is leaking into the ocean.”

TEPCO concealing extent of core damage

5:08 -  5:13
“...the core damage appears to be minimized by Tokyo Electric.”

6:18 -  6:23
“more decay heat plus very little cooling tells me that the damage inside that core is enormous."

6:31 - 6:52
 “what that means is that it falls to the bottom of the reactor as slag…and a melt down is possible."

Loss of shielding

1:33 -1:35
“It appears that the pools boiled dry.”

“The water has two purposes: cooling but also shielding.  That means that the nuclear fuel is unshielded.”

4:04- 4:12
“The other thing it means to me is that the nuclear fuel is extraordinarily hot, and the plutonium inside can become volatile.”

4:38 -  4:49
“I would recommend, based on this, that the evacuation zone should be pushed back further because of these heavy elements being released, as well as the cesium that was also in those racks.”

More evacuations necessary; fuel significantly damaged

1:35 – 1:47
“There are some indications offsite that the releases are significantly large…  The fuel is significantly damaged…and of course, the releases are going to be very large.”

2:37- 2:49
“There are places well beyond where the Japanese are evacuating  that should be evacuated, based on deposition of radioactive materials nearby.”

3:54 – 3:57
“It’s clearly leaking from the trenches into the ocean.”

4:17 -  4:21
“It’s reasonable to expect that the ocean is going to be polluted.”

5:38- 5:51
"In the Fukushima vicinity, exposures are probably 500 to 1,000 times higher than anticipated in the accident analysis that was reasonable a month ago.”

Hot Particles

1:06 – 1:53
“JK:  You’ve seen evidence of  what’s called ‘hot particles’  showing up on the U.S. West Coast, in Seattle for example.  What are we talking about and how worried should people be?”

AG:  “Well, the radiation initially comes out as a big cloud of gases, and that’s what you can measure with a Geiger counter.  But now what we’re finding are these things called ‘hot particles’ and in the industry we call them ‘fuel fleas’ because they are incredibly small.  They’re smaller than the thickness of your hair. In Tokyo, measurements indicated that there are about ten hot particles per day in what a normal person would breathe.  And…it’s interesting because in Seattle it didn’t go down that much.  It was about five hot particles per day.”

2:07- 2:21 
“These ‘hot particles can lodge in your lung or in your digestive tract or your bone and over time cause a cancer, but they are way too small  to be picked up on a large radiation detector.”