Enlarged 50-mile evacuation zone by US was because of spent fuel pools, not reactor meltdowns: NRC official

Published: June 2nd, 2011 at 2:24 pm ET


NRC quickly aware, Kyodo, May 28, 2011:

[…] “There were numerous indications of high radiation levels that can only come from damaged fuel at those kinds of levels,” said Bill Borchardt, executive director for operations at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “So we felt pretty confident that there was significant fuel damage at the site a few days into the event.”

The NRC also had “suspicions” about the conditions of the spent fuel pools, Borchardt said after a speech at the Japan Society in New York.

Based on that assumption, he said, the NRC recommended that U.S. residents in Japan stay 80 km away from the crippled power plant, which was far beyond the Japanese government’s recommendation for residents within a 20-km radius to evacuate. […]

Published: June 2nd, 2011 at 2:24 pm ET


Related Posts

  1. TEPCO acknowledges ‘vapor’ is still being seen at Reactors No. 2, 3 and 4 spent fuel pools May 22, 2011
  2. Gundersen: I’m sure there’s a lot of damaged nuclear fuel in Fukushima spent fuel pools — The tubes are cracked — May be completely severed (VIDEO) December 10, 2012
  3. UPDATE: No moving spent fuel at No. 4 until 2014 at earliest — Up to 10 years for removal of fuel from all pools — Reactor building to be demolished (VIDEO) April 17, 2012
  4. 220 Million Bq/liter of Cesium now in No. 2 Spent Fuel Pool — SFP No. 1, 2, & 3 “clearly have significant spent fuel damage” (VIDEO) August 28, 2011
  5. AP: Integrity of Reactor No. 4 building a major concern among experts — Collapse of spent fuel pool could be even worse than 3 reactor meltdowns February 3, 2012

48 comments to Enlarged 50-mile evacuation zone by US was because of spent fuel pools, not reactor meltdowns: NRC official

  • confused californian

    so why wouldn’t the u.s. let their suspicions be known to the japanese people, who to my understanding, are still allowed within 40 km, right?

    • Arizonan

      I think at the time there was controversy in Japan about the difference between the Japanese and US recommended evacuation zones. It’s their country. I just wish we had yet more information….like, how can anyone possibly “shut down” three reactors that are in the process of melting out of their containment vessels? Where are they now? What are the most immediate solutions? Why didn’t Japan start dropping concrete on the damn thing three months ago??!!??

  • icone

    Not being an expert… I’m just wondering are there differences in the type of radioactive contamination coming from spent fuel pools vs. a reactor meltdown. Are there big differences between burning fuel and melting cores? Its the same stuff, right?

    • No…

      Spent fuel is more highly contaminated…

    • Manifest Irony

      It really depends on how burned up the fuel in the reactor is. Because new fuel is mainly made of very heavy elements like Uranium and Plutonium, they don’t travel far if dispersed. As the fuel is used up, many lighter, usually radioactive elements are created. Many of these, like Strontium, Cesium and Iodine, are more easily dispersed and, worse, enter the food web and bio-accumulate. Generally the more spent your fuel is, the worse it is.

      • Pensacola Tiger

        On the other hand, it’s a lot harder for spent fuel to achieve criticality.

        • icone

          Thank you all. I’m slowly starting to get some of the finer points of the crisis – this site and all the comments are invaluable to anyone who’d like to know more or make up their own mind.

          I very much appreciate the open atmosphere of this forum and that I don’t get flamed if any of my questions or comments are kinda basic. -Cheers.

  • CopperTone

    Maybe todays video of #4 shows why.
    The updates are much appreciated and will donate once I have the $$$, but for now I clicked a few ads to help support. Thanks for keeping it going.

  • Its because spent fuel has more radioactive decaying nuclides that essentially have longer half lives, with more hazardous emitters…

  • icone

    The spent fuel pools seemed to be a major concern in the beginning. It seemed that the consensus was that the pools were the most dangerous situation overall. With the confirmation of meltdowns in the last weeks, I haven’t really heard a lot more on the fuel pools/status etc.

    I cant see how they could “fix” anything with remote robots and stuff… thats massive wreckage. Does anyone know what the “plan” is from Tepco?

    With #4 steaming away like a demon right now (and with that bldg. about to topple) what are we looking at for best/worst case if the pools are in fact burning?

    • Its not the Spent fuel pool

      Its the common storage pool…
      There are thousands of nuclear spent fuel cells in the common pools of fukushima reactors 1-6… Were talking 40 years worth of it…

  • Arizonan

    The TEPCO video really has a lot of dramatic changes in steam and light in the darkness of this morning: http://www.tepco.co.jp/nu/f1-np/camera/index-j.html
    You can play it back….

  • IGLOW2

    I think it’s clear from the different evacuation zone recommendations that the Japanese people are capable of handling far more radiation than people from the United States.

  • Moco

    “Yeah, it looked bad.. sounded kinda bad, too. We figure it was bad to be within 50 miles of this badness. Still looks bad, so we will dibble out info on a “need to know badness, basis.”

  • tony wilson

    An Angry Japanese Housewife in Fukushima City: “We’ve Had It, and We’re Leaving”

    parents like her were ridiculed, and often scolded, for “overreacting” over “nothing”. Or worse, they were called “traitors” for leaving the contaminated areas.


    we really are doomed folks, a women trying to protect her children is called a traitor for not keeping her mouth shut and not going along with the lie.
    it is a shame that plutonium ingestion cannot change such inward backward attitudes.

    the live on sight video stream is proof of no or very little activity.

    we can storm into libya to protect 1 city some nice quality oil and gold.
    how about japan not for japanese adults they are mindless automotans but for the children and the rest of the world.

    • blackmoon

      I hope that a large number of people will see that we can NEVER TRUST THE GOVERNMENT, and I mean ANY government.

      Here are two (among countless) incidents:

      9/11: People who left the towers after the first plane hit, were told to GO BACK TO WORK. I heard one interview with a 911 operator who was in tears because HER BOSSES had giver her these instructions.

      9/11: Those brave first responders were told THE AIR IS SAFE. IMHO this was not because the first priority was to look for survivors, but to facilitate getting WALL STREET function as quickly as possible, and to clean up the EVIDENCE, so that it could be shipped overseas.

  • Manifest Irony

    The NRC knows good and well that spent fuel pools are a greater threat than meltdowns from a radiological point of view. First is there’s a lot more fuel in the pools than in the reactor. Second the spent fuel is full of “hot” fission products. Third is that the fuel assemblies are packed in like sardines.

    But, and the NRC knows this too, is that this is a much bigger problem in the U.S. than elsewhere. We re-rack our pools to hold more fuel than anyone else. And U.S. sites typically store much more material in total than just about anywhere else.

    • confused californian

      so if a earthquake or some other mishap causes a meltdown or breakdown to one of the u.s. many nuclear reactors, the areas there are pretty much done for, right?

      • Manifest Irony

        Yes, same issues in Japan we face here at all our plants. There was a near miss at Browns Ferry NPP in Alabama during the tornado outbreak in late April. An EF-4 tornado came within two miles of the plant. It killed offsite power to the plant just like the earthquake did in Japan. If the tornado had hit the plant directly, it could have taken out cooling systems or Backup generators, just like the tsunami did to Fukushima. Meltdown is the result. Not too hard to think of other examples like this.

    • Manifest Irony

      Oh, almost forgot. There’s no containment around spent fuel pools. One accident there and its out into the environment.

    • Red Mercury

      ‘I leav’n on jet airplane, don’t know when I’ll be back again’….

      Death in the afterglow or Spent fuel…? Oh that ?

      The culture of the glow boys and girls – the secretaries, autocad jockeys, engineers and physicists that work for the nuke tycoons and their banksters all treat the work as an intellectual exercise where slight human errors in their work are ok as long as all the supporting interlocking technologies work perfectly….

      The banksters and tycoons see the population as expendable insects and expect the politicians that they bought to shield them from the angry mob WHEN things go wrong.

      Ask any long term account exec that supplies personnel to the industry for the details of the whole incestuous perverted criminal enterprise.

      All elected public officials should have to live next door and downwind from the nuke closest to their respective constituency.

  • blackmoon

    Off Topic:

    Meanwhile on the home front:


    And the solution to all of this which no one wants to hear; your MONEY is the ONLY thing the powers that be respect (at least for now:)


  • jamie

    Complete BS.

    The US evacuated based solely on the contents of the radiation cloud emitted from whatever blew out of #3 on the morning of March 14.

    Just a few minutes after the explosion, a helicopter returned to the USS Reagan hot with radioactive material. (The US news reports of this incident say it happened on the 13th. Because of the time change it was the night of the 13th in the US, and the morning of the 14th in Japan.

    That set off a chain of events that caused a major diplomatic wrist slapping from the US to Japan.

    It also contaminated the air and the water supply on the ship and caused them to do an emergency course change to get out of the radioactive cloud.

    What was in the cloud? Plutonium from MOX possibly? We don’t know – but the US government knew immediately and took action.

    That does not mean that the spent fuel pools aren’t dangerous – but they didn’t cause the US government to do what they did.

  • blackmoon

    On the live-cam, reactors 2 & 4 smoking like chimneys!

  • blackmoon

    Something very dangerous looks to be going on at the Plant. It seems to be shrouded in thick smoke.

  • blackmoon

    I’m wondering if the Plant has been totally abandoned?

    • You’re probably right. Robots are there blowing up gas canisters by beloved & leaning Reactor 4 though…. good thing the robot didn’t knock over the building.

  • SteveMT

    I don’t see much happening either, except smoke rising.

    Where is everybody?

    tocomagrove’s prediction of Fukushima being abandoned by TEPCO occurring about the middle of June…perhaps happening earlier than expected due to the recent typhoon.

    • blackmoon

      Yes, as bad as it seems tocomagrove’s synopsis of the situation seems spot on. Those poor souls who were left in that hell hole seem to be getting no outside help. If as tocomagrove postulated, the radiation level has gotten so high that no one can get near the reastors… it’s game over. Unless Jehovah intervenes.

      I don’t see those machines that were pumping water into the spent fuel pools either.

  • blackmoon

    Well, it looks as though that animal has finally died! Is this an omen?

  • blackmoon

    Those reactors look as though they are in re-criticality.

  • Heart of the Rose

    Center..under the raised rectangular piping.

  • blackmoon

    Is the smoke that is rising from the front corner of reactor 1, coming from the spent fuel pool?