Kyodo: Ceiling at Japan reactor catches fire — Burns 110 m² area in two hours — Just 100km from Fukushima

Published: December 21st, 2011 at 8:51 am ET


Research reactor ceiling catches fire, Kyodo, Dec. 21, 2011:

According to statements made by the plant operator and government:

  • A fire Tuesday partially burned the ceiling of a building housing a nuclear reactor
  • In Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture [About 100 km south of Fukushima meltdowns]
  • At around 9:30 a.m.
  • Extinguished two hours later
  • 110-sq.-meter area of glass-fiber acoustic absorbent covering the ceiling was burned
  • There was no change in the airborne radiation levels inside and outside the building
Published: December 21st, 2011 at 8:51 am ET


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27 comments to Kyodo: Ceiling at Japan reactor catches fire — Burns 110 m² area in two hours — Just 100km from Fukushima

  • maaa

    Ceiling or reactor catches fire?

  • aigeezer aigeezer

    “Ceiling at Japan reactor catches fire”

    Hey, ceilings catch fire all the time. Move along, nothing to see here.

  • aigeezer aigeezer

    “There was no change in the airborne radiation levels inside and outside the building.”

    I’m so reassured. How ’bout you?

    Do we, um, know what the actual number might be?

  • Whoopie Whoopie

    China Wukan Village Wins Rare Government Compromise After Protests

  • jec jec

    Airborne radiation levels okay? Right..why not facility/containment area, workers, water, soil mentioned..just saying…..we do know how the media is worked by the government. NO mentioning may mean other types of contamination, just radiation not released to the air. See if they say NO radiation release anywhere..not just the air…

    • Whoopie Whoopie

      Feynman discovered a history of “cost-savings” that compromised security, and even that some in management did not understand the complex science. In informal discussions with technicians and engineers, he learned about the problem of the o-ring.

      • aigeezer aigeezer

        Feynman was an idol of mine – fascinating guy. He was also a key player in the Manhattan Project, which brought the first round of atomic devastation to Japan.

        His life is a nice reminder that it is simplistic to label one person/group/nation “evil” and another “good”. They are what they are.

        Regardless, let’s now shut down all nuclear power and weaponry. “We” built it – “we” can shut it down.

  • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

    Fire burns ceiling of Tokai village nuclear reactor building

    “A fire partially burned the ceiling of a building housing a nuclear reactor at the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Tuesday, the prefectural government and the reactor’s operator said.

    “The fire broke out at around 9:30 a.m. and was extinguished two hours later, they said, adding the blaze at the research reactor facility did not result in any leakage of radiation into the environment. No one was injured.

    “The ceiling under the steel plate roof of the building was set alight by sparks during welding work on the roof, Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

    “A 110-square-meter area of glass-fiber acoustic absorbent covering the ceiling was burnt, it said.

    “The reactor core is located in the underground section of the 22-meter-high building. The reactor has been undergoing a periodic check since September.

    “There was no change in the airborne radiation levels inside and outside the building, it said.

    “Part of the roof was corroded and “there is a high possibility that the sparks fell through that part onto the ceiling,” an agency official said.

    “The agency started operating the reactor in 1975 for research on nuclear fuel safety. It suspended operation in February, before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, north of Ibaraki.
    (Mainichi Japan) December 21, 2011

    • aigeezer aigeezer

      Interesting details in your post, anne.

      “Part of the roof was corroded”. That’s an odd bit, it seems to me. Come to think of it, the story doesn’t reveal why they were welding on the roof in the first place.

      There’s such a culture of lying with partial truths that one winds up parsing every little nuance.

      Cops like to say “there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop”. Is there such a thing as routine welding of a corroded roof in a nuclear reactor building?

      The more you dig the deeper it goes. “The reactor has been undergoing a periodic check since September.” Really! Check by whom and for what? Have we heard about this before?… and on and on.

      It’s really hard to tell when something is The Big One and when it’s just “routine”.

      • Johnny Blade Johnny Blade

        I don’t have the link or bookmarks anymore since my PC was “wiped out” 3 times in 6 months including last night-but that’s another story…However,regarding “corrosion on a reactor ceiling”-if you look up the pics from the last inspection/tour of Fukushima NPP before 3/11 you will find it was also mentioned there as well. I think it was brought up as an example of the age & condition of the reactor buildings showing signs of deterioration despite retrofitting projects & upgrades taking place on some area’s of the NPP while others showed signs of decay which called their maintenance efforts to question. I wish I would’ve backed up my PC with an external HD though,I lost a LOT of good stuff that also vanished from the websites I’d found them on back as early as the 3rd week of March that were gone from the web by mid-April-replaced with “HTTP Error #404 or 501″etc.! I bet ifI wasn’t so tired & under the weather tonight I could find the rusty roof pics of Fuku R3 & R4 bldg. over the SFP’s?! Anyways,it seems it’s more common than one would think would be the case and with that I’ll wish you a good night AIG & the ENE group. ~PEACE~ (& Happy Holidays 2 btw) 73’s Blade is 10-7

  • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

    日本原子能研究所(Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, JAERI)

    *President : Masaji Yoshikawa
      ”Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI), the central comprehensive nuclear energy research organization, was established in June 1956. Since then, JAERI has endeavored to be a pioneer in the nuclear field by engaging in advanced research and development activities.

      ”JAERI has promoted diverse research and development of safe nuclear fusion, radiation applications, etc., and has established basic studies related to these activities, along with the development of fundamental technologies. Through these activities, JAERI has contributed greatly to the establishment of nuclear technologies and to the progress of science and technology.

     ” Further, JAERI has opened its large research facilities, such as accelerators, research reactors, and test reactors, to promote extensive research and development activities at universities, national research institutes, and other establishments. JAERI also actively promotes effective international research cooperation.

      ”Recently, JAERI has emphasized the following: (1) completion of the construction of the High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR), which aims at the utilization of high temperature thermal energy (nearly 1000) produced by nuclear energy, with the first criticality in 1997, (2) the research and development of a nuclear fusion reactor, which is expected to be an inexhaustible energy source, and the participation in the Engineering Design Activities for the International Thermonuclear.


    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

        ”Experimental Reactor (ITER) Project, (3) the promotion of neutron science research, which is expected to make breakthroughs in basic science, applied science and nuclear energy, and charged particle research (mainly ion irradiation research) and the promotion for the most advanced basic research in the nuclear field by reserchers from both Japan and abroad, (4) the construction of the large synchrotron radiation (SR) facility (SPring-8) to be completed in 1997, in cooperation with the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), to promote research through the utilization of ultrahigh brilliance Synchrotron radiation.

        ”In addition, in 1995 JAERI inaugurated the Kansai Research Establishment for conducting advanced research on the science of light quanta, such as the X-ray laser, and the Center for the Promotion of Computational Science and Engineering to enhance studies on advanced computational science and engineering (such as parallel computing) and to promote research in cooperation with related research organizations.

        ”Through these activities, JAERI is seeking to become one of the most valued research organizations in the world. JAERI will continue its leading role in nuclear research and development in Japan with the objective of enhansing the quality of life in our society.

      “■Main Facilities
        —JRR-2 [Tokai] Neutron beam experiments, Fuel and material irradiation, Radioisotope production, Boron Neutron Capture Therapy.
        —JRR-3M [Tokai] Basic research (beam experiments), Fuel and material irradiation, Radioisotope production.
        —JRR-4 [Tokai] Fundamental shielding and engineering studies, Irradiation of test samples, Educational training, Research and development.
        —NSRR(Nuclear Safety Research Reactor) [Tokai] Experimental studies on reactor safety. …

    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

      “*Critical Assemblies
        —VHTRC (Very High Temperature Reactor Critical Assembly) [Tokai] Research on reactor physics related to High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor.
        —TCA (Tank Type Critical assembly) [Tokai] Research on thermal reactor physics.
        —FCA (Fast Critical Assembly) [Tokai] Research on Fast Reactor Physics.
        —STACY (Static Experimental Critical facility) [Tokai] Research on nuclear criticality safety related to reprocessing facilities.
        —TRACY (Transient Experimental Criticaly Facility) [Tokai] Research on nuclear criticality safety related to reprocessing facilities.
        —Van de Graaff [Tokai] Fundamental studies on material physics , etc.
        —Tandem Van de Graaff [Tokai] Research on solid state and nuclear physics using heavy ions and fast neutrons.
        —FNS (Fusion Neutronics Source) [Tokai] Research on fusion reactor neutronics.
        —Co-60 Irradiation Facility [Tokai] Studies on irradiation damage and radiation chemistry, …”

  • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

    Criticality accident at Tokai nuclear fuel plant (Japan)

    “On September 30, 1999, a criticality accident occured at the Tokai nuclear fuel plant, Tokai-mura, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. The plant, operated by JCO Co. Ltd., a 100% subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. , converts enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to uranium dioxide (UO2) for use in nuclear fuel. Criticality accidents involve a self-sustaining chain reaction caused from handling of too large amounts of enriched uranium. The chain reaction continued for around 20 hours, before it could be stopped.

    “The uranium processed was enriched to 18.8% of uranium-235, rather than the 3-5% used for commercial light water reactor fuel. Material of this high enrichment grade was being produced for the experimental Joyo Fast Breeder reactor.
    The plant has an annual production capacity of 715 tonnes of uranium for light water reactors, and 3 tonnes of uranium for fast breeder reactor….”

  • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

    Tokaimura Criticality Accident
    • “In 1999 three workers received high doses of radiation in a small Japanese plant preparing fuel for an experimental reactor.
    • The accident was caused by bringing together too much uranium enriched to a relatively high level, causing a “criticality” (a limited uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction), which continued intermittently for 20 hours.
    • A total of 119 people received a radiation dose over 1 mSv from the accident, but only the three operators’ doses were above permissible limits. Two of the doses proved fatal.
    • The cause of the accident was “human error and serious breaches of safety principles”, according to IAEA.

    “Safety in the nuclear fuel cycle has always been focused on reactor operations, where a huge amount of energy is released continuously in a small volume of material, and where there are substantial amounts of radioactive materials which would be very hazardous if released to the biosphere. A secondary focus is then the high-level wastes from the reactor, which comprise all the potentially hazardous materials from the reactor core.

    “Other parts of the nuclear fuel cycle have much less potential for widespread harm to people or the environment. They are correspondingly less regulated in some countries, such as Japan.

    “The Tokaimura plant

    “The 1999 Tokai-mura accident was in a very small fuel preparation plant operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion Co. (JCO), a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. It was not part of the electricity production fuel cycle, nor was it a routine manufacturing operation where operators might be assumed to know their jobs reasonably well.

    “The particular JCO plant at Tokai was commissioned in 1988 and processed up to 3 tonnes per year of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235, a much higher than for ordinary power reactors. The plant supplied various specialised research and experimental reactors. It uses a wet process.

  • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

    “The approved nuclear fuel preparation procedure involved dissolving uranium oxide (U3O8) powder in nitric acid in a dissolution tank, then its transfer as pure uranyl nitrate solution to a storage column for mixing, followed by transfer to a precipitation tank. This tank is surrounded by a water cooling jacket to remove excess heat generated by the exothermic chemical reaction. The prevention of criticality was based upon the general licensing requirements for mass and volume limitation, as well as upon the design of the process. A key part of the design was the storage column with a criticality-safe geometry and allowing careful control of the amount of material transferred to the precipitation tank.

    “However, the company’s work procedure was modified three years earlier, without permission from the regulatory authorities, to allow uranium oxide to be dissolved in stainless steel buckets rather than the dissolution tank. It was then modified further by the operators to speed things up by tipping the solution directly into the precipitation tank. The mixing designed to occur in the storage column was instead undertaken by mechanical stirring in the precipitation tank, thus bypassing the criticality controls. Also there was no proper control of the amount tipped into the hundred-litre precipitation tank, and its shape (450 mm diameter and 660 mm high) enhanced the likelihood of criticality within it.

    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

      “The accident

      “On 30 September three workers were preparing a small batch of fuel for the JOYO experimental fast breeder reactor, using uranium enriched to 18.8% U-235. It was JCO’s first batch of fuel for that reactor in three years, and no proper qualification and training requirements had been established to prepare those workers for the job. They had previously used this procedure many times with much lower-enriched uranium – less than 5%, and had no understanding of the criticality implications of 18.8% enrichment. At around 10:35, when the volume of solution in the precipitation tank reached about 40 litres, containing about 16 kg U, a critical mass was reached.

      “At the point of criticality, the nuclear fission chain reaction became self-sustaining and began to emit intense gamma and neutron radiation, triggering alarms. There was no explosion, though fission products were progressively released inside the building. The significance of it being a wet process was that the water in the solution provided neutron moderation, expediting the reaction. (Most fuel preparation plants use dry processes.)

      “The criticality continued intermittently for about 20 hours. It appears that as the solution boiled vigorously, voids formed and criticality ceased, but as it cooled and voids disappeared, the reaction resumed. The reaction was stopped when cooling water surrounding the precipitation tank was drained away, since this water provided a neutron reflector. Boric acid solution (neutron absorber) was finally was added to the tank to ensure that the contents remained subcritical. These operations exposed 27 workers to some radioactivity. The next task was to install shielding to protect people outside the building from gamma radiation from the fission products in the tank. Neutron radiation had ceased.

    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

      “The radiation (neutron and gamma) emanated almost entirely from the tank, not from any dispersed materials. Buildings housing nuclear processing facilities such as this are normally maintained at a lower pressure than atmosphere so that air leakage is inward, and any contamination is removed by air filters connected to an exhaust stack. In this case particulate radionuclides generated within the conversion building were collected by the high-efficiency particulate air filters, though noble gases passed through the filters. A smoke test on 5 October confirmed that the negative pressure had been maintained (ie the structural integrity of the building was satisfactory) and that the ventilation system was working. However, owing to the detection of low levels of iodine-131 being released to the environment through the exhaust, it was later decided to stop ventilation and to rely on the passive confinement provided by the building.

      “Five hours after the start of the criticality, evacuation commenced of some 161 people from 39 households within a 350 metre radius from the conversion building. They were allowed home two days later after sandbags and other shielding ensured no hazard from residual gamma radiation. Twelve hours after the start of the incident residents within 10 km were asked to stay indoors as a precautionary measure, and this restriction was lifted the following afternoon….”

  • americancommntr

    Riggghhhhhhhtttttttt t. Glass fiber caught on fire.

    Hope they don’t use insulation like Brown’s Ferry.

    Hope the NRC has done made Brown’s Ferry rectify it’s high-rolling control-wires-in-flammable-insulation situation.