NHK: Fuel removal at Unit 4 underway — BBC: Concern casks not watertight, rods would contact air — WSJ: Exposure to air can cause sustained nuclear reaction — AFP: Tokyo evacuations if uncontrolled nuclear conflagration? AP: Rods contain plutonium, experts concerned quake to hit during process

Published: November 18th, 2013 at 3:40 am ET


NHK, Nov. 18, 2013: The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun removing nuclear fuel from a storage pool at a damaged reactor building. Workers placed a special fuel transport container in the storage pool […] At around 3PM on Monday, the workers started to hoist the unused fuel units into the steel container […] debris in the pool of the Number 4 reactor building could obstruct the work. […] The removal work requires extreme caution, as any damage to the units could release high-level radiation.

WSJ, Nov. 18, 2013: “We plan to begin the removal process from around 3 pm today, and work until around 7 pm,” said Tepco spokesman Tsuyoshi Numajiri. […] The units are kept in a pool of cool water to prevent exposure to air, which can cause the radioactive material to heat up and could trigger a sustained nuclear reaction.

BBC, Nov. 18, 2013: [It’s a critical issue] whether the casks remain watertight so the rods have no contact with air.

AFP, Nov. 18, 2013: Each rod contains uranium and a small amount of plutonium. If they are exposed to the air […] they would start to heat up, a process that, left unchecked, could lead to a self-sustaining nuclear reaction – known as “criticality”. […] Sceptics say with so many unknowables in an operation that has never been attempted under these conditions, there is potential for a catastrophe. Government modelling in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster […] suggested that an uncontrolled nuclear conflagration at Fukushima could start a chain reaction in other nearby nuclear plants. That worst-case scenario said a huge evacuation area could encompass a large part of greater Tokyo […]

AP, Nov.18, 2013: […] [Experts] raised concern about a major earthquake hitting during the removal work. Japanese nuclear engineers were on Monday preparing to move uranium and plutonium fuel rods at Fukushima […] Experts have warned that slip-ups could quickly cause the situation to deteriorate. […]

Kyodo News, Nov. 18, 2013: Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has said the work requires “great prudence” because the pools are strewn with small pieces of rubble […] “The fuel has to be handled very carefully. There is a need to make sure that a fuel assembly is not pulled out (from the fuel rack) by force when it gets stuck because of the rubble,” he said.

Watch NHK’s broadcast here

Published: November 18th, 2013 at 3:40 am ET


Related Posts

  1. Gundersen: Unit 4 pool can turn into a nuclear reactor as they pull rods up — Bloomberg: Like a “self-sustained chain reaction similar to meltdowns” — NHK: Fuel is 1% plutonium (VIDEO) November 19, 2013
  2. “Nothing like this has ever been attempted” — Yale Professor: “All of humanity will be threatened for 1000s of years” if rods in Unit 4 pool touch and have nuclear reaction during removal process — Tepco: “Not clear” if fuel is already damaged October 27, 2013
  3. Nuclear Physicist on Fukushima: I’m most concerned about a chain reaction happening — Rain leaking in from cracks after a new quake could act as a moderator, and a nuclear reactor will start again (VIDEO) September 1, 2012
  4. Ex-Fukushima Worker: High risk they’ll break fuel rods in Unit 4 pool — Gundersen: Moving fuel risks nuclear chain reaction; You can’t stop it, no control rods to control it August 14, 2013
  5. Tepco Adviser: “Everyone in the world” will be safer if fuel rods transferred from Fukushima Unit 4 — WSJ: Global concern over removal process (VIDEO) November 18, 2013

72 comments to NHK: Fuel removal at Unit 4 underway — BBC: Concern casks not watertight, rods would contact air — WSJ: Exposure to air can cause sustained nuclear reaction — AFP: Tokyo evacuations if uncontrolled nuclear conflagration? AP: Rods contain plutonium, experts concerned quake to hit during process

  • Kashiko Kashiko

    This is a screw up in the making.

  • Sam

    If the casks are leaking, what good are they?

    • mesa777

      Was thinking along the same lines here… Please televise this removal process so if something goes wrong that I can board a plane to South America somewhere. I do NOT trust TEPCO one bit!

  • mungo mungo

    the BBC do not say the casks are not watertight….

    quote "experts say it it vital that the casks are watertight so the rods have no contact with air – which risks overheating and possible contamination."-

  • cschlote

    Wow. Several news agencies report the same confused bullshit.

    No, the lack of cooling or contact to air _won't_ start any criticality in the uranium. Without cooling the already used and radiated fuel might just heat up until meltdown, releasing it radioactive contents into atmosphere.

    Criticality can happen, if fuel assemblies get deformed and the contained fuel rods get too close to each other.

    Same might happen, if the fuel should melt due to a lack of cooling – the melted blob is just another variant of fuel getting to close and therefore critical.

    Both issues are completely separate issues.

    Mass media seems to report either bullshit or nothing at all.

    • mesa777

      What I want to know is what is the time required from removal to cask to placement into the spent fuel pool that could cause nuclear fission to begin. Are we talking about right away or is there a window of between 10-15 mintues to get these fuel rods back into the water? I assume that there is some sort of a time gap here that were not being made aware of.

  • AllenH AllenH

    What is this shiny building with the clean fuel pool and perfect floor we see in the videos, it cannot be building 4 ? Is it ?

  • dosdos dosdos

    The part that worries me is the severe deterioration of the boron sheets between the assemblies. I'm not as worried about the new (cold) assemblies that haven't been radiated yet. I figured they would be the first to be removed, and it seems that they are. The ones that worry me the most are the hot, fresh ones that were active in the reactor before it was shut down.

  • Flapdoodle Flapdoodle

    Every time I see removing the rods from SFP-4 mentioned, I have the urge to cover my ears.

  • markww markww

    Japan has never and will not ever listen to Reason. They are a suicidal nation anyway and will never heed to anyone.

    Instead of asking for help in the beginning.

    ARE YOU LISTENING IN JAPAN, people tried and wanted to help with this disaster but you listen to GHOSTS of your DEAD ancestors and people that have no consideration for human life. YOUR Government and the TEPCO should be in a world court and held for MURDER of BILLIONS


    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

      The Japanese people have done a better job of mass, public demonstrations against nuclear power than in the US.

      • flatsville

        We here in the US have over time closed either 23 or 25? units to date.

        Pre-Fuku Japan did not have a large nuclear movement.

        I still don't think they have a large movement…big demonstrations…no large movement. There is a difference.

        • Angela_R

          hi flatsville,
          I think you will find that all of the nuclear power plants in Japan were shutdown after the earthquake in March, 2011. While two units were reopened in 2012, after a demonstration by some 9000 people, I believe they were again closed. I do not think that the Japanese people wish any to be reopened. However, even when decommissioned, there can still be problems. See Hanford in Washington state, USA.

          • flatsville

            Yes. I know they're shuttered. It was a function subsequent to the natural disaster.

            Without a "movement" they'll not stay that way. Largr demonstations are a start.

      • ftlt

        Anne: Thank you

    • Angela_R

      This link has already been given on an earlier thread but it is worth repeating. It links government actions, which were done without the knowledge of either the Japanese or US citizens and possibly unknown to most of the Parliamentarians of that time.

    • Socrates

      Japan in fact had a nuclear weapons program during WW II. At the close of the war, a German sub delivered more uranium, although uranium mining was prevalent in Japan.

      Immediately after WW II, most Japanese abhorred nuclear activities of any kind. There were certain individuals who still embraced a militaristic stance, including nuclear-based ambitions.

      Japan's culture as well as its peoples' attitudes values, and beliefs must be understood by knowing of the Samuri class of warriors in the context of the Meiji Restoration.

      The Atoms for Peace program emcouraged the use of nuclear energy to supply Japan(s needs.

      Today, Japan has one of the largest military budgets. Japan is expected to play a pivotal role in confronting China. Japan was an ally during.WW I.

      There is no intention to abandon nuclear energy at present in many quarters.

      • ftlt

        Socrates: Shotgun history or Shogun history????..

        Japan military history/tradition is not that much different than ours – is it???

        We have have put up more Nankings or Manilas on the military scoreboard than they have ever even dreamed about..

        Can you explain the American peoples' attitudes, values and beliefs towards our military tradition, our genocides, our endless war for profit and our drive towards nuclear hegemony as clearly as you have that of the Japan's..

        Yes, I think you are right, the Japanese as many other so called non nuclear armed industrial countries have the means and programs in place for the rapid production, assembly and delivery of nuclear weapons and mean to keep those capabilities..

        I would like to point out, we have a huge beam in our our own eye, while we are quite busy trying to remove motes from Japan's or Iran's eye..

        FUFU could have happened anywhere!… Last year in the USA, it almost happened in numerous places… The list is long all across the nation.. Storms, floods, earthquakes and design/engineering problems threatened us with our very own FUFU…

        What is it with the American people that allows us to accept this condition and threat – While, we happily go about taking part in the killing millions of innocents worldwide every decade and have done so for decades on end…

        While you answering that, please toss in our refusal to address world changing climate change along with the carnage of guns in our…

        • ftlt

          Con't: Please, touch on our refusal to take international responsibility for the gulf spill, other massive global pollution and the like..

          And on our violent overthrows and con't attempts to do so to duly elected regimes around the world – for over a century and a half now… Just business??

          Our support of the some of the most aggressive, reactionary and repressive regimes worldwide to facilitate our access to profits and insure the American way of life regardless of the human costs…

          What is it in the American character that allows these things to go on over and over in our name unchallenged???

          Please don't tell me Freedom and American Family Values

          • Socrates

            You are preaching to the choir about American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny.

            All of this nuclear stuff is an extension of the desire to create an empire.

            America has encouraged Japan to forego expansion in serch of oil reserves in the Dutch West Indies and in the Pacific area in exchange for the peaceful atom program with reprocessing activities.

            The idea of fighting communism has resulted on restoring power to those in the military class. Germany too has factions who wish to demilitarized.

            My comment was not meant to imply the Japanese people are more militaristic than some Americans.

            The problem is universal and a failing of our species. Many people in all countries abhor violence while others promote it.

            I see the problem in terms of economic anthropology – an obscure but important discipline. The Alpha male phenomenon leads us to our own destruction again and again since people are too often followers and violence carries a.certain.seduction. Combine tthat with technology and the world sits upon a nuclear tinderbox.

            • Socrates

              Re-militarize in Germany.

              The Gulf spill is the same deal.

              Jane Goodall observed primate behavior for decades. Her work, Through a Glass Darkly, sheds light on our inherent nature.

              As soon as the stone ax was invented, one caveman immediately clobbered the next guy.

              Using pollution as a model, those Alpha male types are deadly. Dick Cheney was the champion of the neocons using oil for control, etc.

            • ftlt

              Soc: Good job…

              Yeah, the fascists won the WW in the end didn't they.. It was really just one set of fascists fighting another set in the end…

              """You want to see my new stone ax, Soc… Come over here and I'll show you what it can do.."""

              FUFU is just the end of a long line of new stone axes.. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAA

              • Socrates

                If you can rule by manufacturing consent, the governed go along more willingly.

                The US had the Madison Avenue advertising background with its psychological underpinnings to help promote the smiling face to conceal the iron fist concealed in the glove.

                We have had it good until recently. By we I mean those with opportunity. Now the glove is coming off a bit and the fangs are showing, even for the middle class.

                Whether control will be implemented by the computer, or whether that will work against it is unknown.

                Six companies control the MSM. Two political parties are divided over social issues, not how the economic pie is divided up.

                I just stick around to see what they dream up next.

                The oligarchy has controlled since the days of Greece. Plato laid it out in the Republic.

                Check out who owns most everything.

      • flatsville

        >>>There is no intention to abandon nuclear energy at present in many quarters.<<<

        That's the way I'm reading it in Japan. The demonstrations impressive, but there's no wider shift yet.

        I can't imagine ehat it will take.

        Geographically speaking they don't have room to accomodate widespread contanination from the on-going catastrophe or another "incident."

        • Socrates

          Very top down society. The present government is a coalition of those who want Abe-onomics and those who want to restart nuclear power plants for economic prosperity. The status quo is preserved for the sake of "prosperity."

          They are one big earthquake away from eternity and so are we. That assumes that the NRC documents were wrong, i.e., that the fuel is still in sfp 4. If not, then the worst has happened already. I doubt that is the case.

          This technology is inherently unsafe. I do not like to depend of others when they play with fire or guns. It makes me nervous. If they are human or robot, Murphy's Law applies – when nothing can go wrong, it will…

          A drone crashed into a US Navy ship. The world has become one big accident waiting to happen.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    People will have to decide if, when, and where to evacuate this time, as we know we can't trust anyone else.

  • ToBeExpected ToBeExpected

    The 'event' has made it to the pages of Yahoo, albeit somewhere near the bottom of the pile.. but it made it, nevertheless. A good thing….? Only time will tell.–finance.html#AcppTmO

  • Usefulbreather

    I have a question maybe someone here can answer for me. Under a worst-case scenario for someone living in the Northern Hemisphere with no resources for relocation to the Southern Hemisphere, where there is an open-air criticality that causes the abandonment of the entire site, what can a person like me expect to experience? Under a worst-case scenario, how long would it take for the radiation to contaminate North America, to what degree would it be contaminated and how long can we expect to survive? Considering the social breakdown it will incur, and the toxic air and water, how long can we expect to live under those conditions?

    • Socrates

      That is a question of degree. In.a worst case scenario, atmospheric contamination takes about eight days for the initial plume to hit. If it is highly radioactive, radiation.sickness would ensue. Probably, the plume would tecircle the globe on the Northern Hemisphere.

      Panic and food and water shortages would immediately follow. Entombment by sarcophagus would likely be the only means of containment.

      The next vector would be by water. Meanwhile, aerosolation of highly radioactive particles would traverse the Pacific Ocean and would be inhaled. Many cancers would form after two years or many decades. Economic collapse would certainly occur. Medical facilities would overflow.

      There would be a rush to the Southern Hemisphere. Precipitation would cause cesium deposition and noble gasses would cross the Pacific Ocean carrying radioactivity. All hell would break loose….

      Many people would not want to survive. This would result in optional euthanasia programs, again depending upon degree. The air would circulate to the Southern Hemisphere inevitably. You would have a chance down under.

      • flatsville

        Pull back brother.

        You aren't really retied and I'm convinced that day will never come for me.

        Paralytic despair is an occupational hazard for many of us.

        • Socrates

          He asked for a worst case scenario…

          We all must be prepared to cover that base. Some people do not know what to do in that event.

          I believe that Fukushima is not the end. I am just as convinced that the nuclear priesthood will keep pushing their product until they have one final catastrophe, probably from the cumulative effects of many reactors all over the globe with one or more in meltdown.

          Human error and Mother Nature with her unpredictable fits, maybe inadvertent wars… Take your pick.

      • Socrates

        If the recriticalities are of short duration, and there are no prompt criticalities causing detonations, the precautions against iodine 131would provide about 70% protection against tyroid cancer. Have potasium iodine available for those who are not allergic to iodine. Very small children should not be given potassium iodine. Consult a physician in advance.

        Respiratory protection with HEPA or better ratings would protect against a shower of hot particles. Have an emergency radio and supplies of fresh water and food.

        There are other precautions to take. You can find checklists on the web. Avoid milk during criticalities because of the iodine. Cs 144/137 tends to be deposited by rain and precipitation. Stay out of the rain for sure

        • Songie Songie

          socrates says, "If the recriticalities are of short duration…Have potasium iodine available….."

          socrates, is this your best-case scenario, then?

          • Socrates


            At a minimum we are in for a year of rod-pulling drama. We know the fuel rods are damaged and squeezed into the pools with embrittlement of metals and deformations of rods.

            I see no way to avoid some criticities along the course of action planned.

            We are between a rock and a hard place. If the fuel rods are left in place, we risk an earthquake. If the rods are pulled, we risk criticalities or worse.

            Damned if we do, and damned if we don't. Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

            On the horns of a dilemma.

            I wish it were otherwise. Governments do not want panic, but we must take minimal steps to protect ourselves and prepare. I am not a prepper. But had they been truthful about triple melts on 3-11, I would have been in Rio. They even thought there were total burnups of SFPs and they kept that secret, too.

            They cannot afford panic. Fine. But protect yourself in case things get bad. Look into sheltering.

            If I told you to fasten your seatbelt, you would understand that. At least fasten your seatbelt.

            • Songie Songie

              Socrates, thanks so much for the reply! Judging by some of your other posts, you seem familiar with the industry. So, I appreciate your sage counsel without the fear mongering or sensationalism.

              Living in the PNW, it is tough to hear you and others say stay out of the rain. Sometimes it rains for weeks and months at a time. I have my family on vit c and zeolite. have potassium iodide just in case. Bought a geiger counter. If the grown children would go, I'd be in Uraguay by now. Alas, most family and friends think I've gone over the edge.

              It is my understanding that the radioactive isotopes that get aerosolized and swept up into the jet stream go round and round the North Hem every 40 days or so. If sheltering becomes necessary, seems to me that would mean sheltering FOREVER.

              • Socrates

                Well, the rain is hot. It can be measured. It is not getting better yet.

                What is past is past.

                The NRC meets tonight. They want on the record comments about the Waste Confidence Rule.

                Given the events at Fukushima what environmental impacts might there be?

                No place to store the waste since Yucca Montain is not funded.

                The NRC needs to make rules for waste confidence generic environmental impact statement (GEIS).

                What should we tell them?

                • Songie Songie

                  @Socrates, we should tell them to dry cask it and ship it to Fukushima and other areas in Japan that are too contaminated to live in any longer.

                  In exchange, each country who sends its dry-casked nuke waste to contaminated areas of Japan, will accept a certain number (to be determined) of Japanese citizens in need/desire of relocating out of contaminated areas.

                  If/when Tokyo becomes contaminated, that might not be a bad idea……

                  • Songie Songie

                    of course, methinks Tokyo may already be significantly contaminated, but, I mean when it becomes main stream…

                • Au Au

                  Socrates, do you know anything about the Baser high particle beam that Shui Yin Lo Phd, particle physicist and the University of Melbourne, Australia (joint patent filed) developed? The university withdrew from owning part of the patent and Yin's patent attorney was visited by the Australian Secret Service and was told that the invention had just become "Top Secret" and any disclosure would be a violation of the Australian Treason Act.

                  This particle beam had the potential extreme high energy levels and was invented for the purpose of destroying nuclear waste. When the patent was filed in the USA he also got a visit from the US State Dept. as the project was moved to Pasadena near Caltech. I read this in the book Double Helix Water by Gann and Lo p. 7-8.

                  Lo, besides being a particle physicist, is also a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor and is currently doing studies on the effects of Double Helix Water, stable water clusters, that he theorizes might be the precursor to DNA. He probably was attracted to the healing field as he strikes me as a brilliant, kind and enlightened person. Probably had a gut full of the secret service crud.

                  Talked to Kevin Kamps (Beyond Nuclear) about using something like the Baser at Fuku but his opinion was a no-go. He knew about transmutation. Expensive and can't remember what else he said- sorry! The point is that there is technology that could get rid of nuclear waste. I wonder why they don't use it.

      • Angela_R

        "On The Beach" filmed in Australia, view here: , way back in the 1950's, they could see the nuclear problems even then..

        • Socrates

          Right, Angela.

          We could all die by accident or mistake. The nuclear industry is packing our parachutes. They are human and that is scary!

      • obewanspeaks obewanspeaks

        Yes, that would be about right… 🙁

        Wonder where all the "wise ones" are hiding these days?

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    They are worrying about an earthquake?
    Are they worrying it might move the traffic cone..or something?

    Photo: Duct tape, upside down orange traffic cone used to manage leaking material at Fukushima Unit 4
    May 29 2013

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    Guh..I blew my own rant..
    The photo above is Unit 5..
    Nothing to see here..move along.

  • eternal tao eternal tao

    I can't believe this is happening. I've been reading for months the dangers and how impossibly difficult the task is, that a criticality is all but assured. I assume that one will occur, solely on the info from ENE. Blessings to you all, we will all need it

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    A lot of pictures are being posted on the web..concerning the removal..
    Like this one from I assume Unit 2 Daini.

    Fukushima plant readies for removal of dangerous fuel rods

    • AllenH AllenH

      I have this thing for wording, and what struck me straight away was this little jem, right at the beginning to try to calm a persons thoughts by saying that the reactors are now under control, Hahaha.

      " Nuclear engineers in Japan are readying to move uranium and plutonium fuel rods at Fukushima in their most difficult and dangerous task since the plant’s runaway reactors were brought under control two years ago."

    • bo bo

      It looks so shiny and clean…

      • AllenH AllenH

        Whats that supposed to mean?

        • bo bo

          As rose points out – they use pic of undamaged unit instead of actual SPF 4

          • Hmmm… They built that whole new Attach-o-Building for this thing, and once they'd removed the rubble and junk (and ruins of what used to be a building) over the pool, it's not hard to sweep the thing. So it could be a real pic of the #4 'test' removal of unused fuel. I can't think of many places outside Daiichi that would require full suits and respirators just for casking some assemblies new or used…

            • JoyB, seems to be two factions here. I also believe they built a new facility over the old. There are thousands of workers on site. They cleared off the top story or two and had a news conferance on the lowered structure over a year ago. Installed new cranes and foundation and shrinkwrap containment structure so yeah its gonna look new and the event is being reported. Respect Bo and others opinion but must with due respect disagree. But some fuel might be warped or distorted. I predict some fuel will be left behind and buried down the road when its cool enough. Wouldnt be surprised if tepco realizes all fuel wont be moved. Finally salt enteted entire system so I wonder how stable the common spent fuel pool is. That structure Im sure is not earthquake proof and the boron between the plates must also be damaged by salt water. They should be dry casking everything they can now.

              • bo bo

                Hi mark, you have been following this much longer than me so I respect your opinion. I just saw it said F2 on the pic, and just guessed fukushima #2 (daini). (I personally don't know if F2 means that but that's how I jumped to the conclusion prematurely)

      • bo bo

        Is this what it feels like to live in North Korea? Complete distrust of news and constant paranoia from having to always guess what is really happening

  • flatsville

    So much for this whole internet thing, eh?

  • obewanspeaks obewanspeaks

    eh? Glad your here.. 🙂

  • weeman

    It's in the hands of probability now, off course it always was.
    For the sake of mankind, tepco better finally get something right,
    But what is the good if they remove fuel and put in common pool and we have to abandon site, which looks more likely all the time, why are they not moved further from plant? And since criticality is probable, it fails to compute in my meager brain?
    Don't worry the boron wafers were just there for show and not required? Please explain. Ha.

    • Socrates

      It is really beyond comprehension.

      It is a known unknown.

      If radiation caused harm immediately in smaller doses.and you could see it like a tornado, then it would be easier to get your head around.

      Small pox and nerve agents seem like a remote thing until the effects manifest.

      Falling out of a building is not so bad until you hit the ground. Our lives depend on TEPCO and chance.

      Ain't globalization grand!

      • flatsville

        If radiation were not invisible and a color-like shades of acid purple-the danger would be evident.

        We are visual creatures.

        As it stands now…

        "Everyone smiles with that invisible gun to their head."

        Chuck Palahniuk

        Likely out of context, but a great quote.

  • 富岡_Blue_Heron 富岡_Blue_Heron

    I wonder if it's a 24/7 operation, or if they need daylight.

    • mesa777

      It can be a 25/7/365 operation as long as the lighting is there. The pool, from the media aspects, pictures and video, appear clean and ready to go. We just need there to be no serious earthquake activity during this process……GW

  • mesa777

    AFP: Tokyo evacuations if uncontrolled nuclear conflagration? >> Not a good situation indeed. Hopefully we have no major earthquakes over 6.0 when the removal process begins. I assume the assemblies are removed via robotics? IMHO, if I was anywhere in Japan right now I would be a the airport waiting to get the hell out of dodge as we all know that something is going to happen here. TEPCO has no way to pull this off without some sort of a hangup or major disaster happening. God help us all!

  • Songie Songie

    mesa777–agreed. I would grab whatever I could and get the heck outta there fast if I was in japan. have never heard or seen and "evacuation plan" for toyko….

    i'll bet there is no plan…..