Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC)
Date: May 10, 2011
Memorandum for: Commissioners
From: BRC Staff
Subject: Overview of the Accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Complex
The first two presentations at the May 13th Commission meeting will cover reviews being conducted by the federal government in response to the natural disaster and resulting nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. The purpose of those presentations is to hear from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy about what steps are being taken to review the safety of domestic nuclear reactor and spent fuel storage facilities in light of the events in Japan. This memorandum provides an overview of the accident and the announced plans for recovery and remediation.
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake occurred, with an epicenter approximately 45 miles off the coast of the Tōhoku region of Japan. The earthquake’s magnitude has been estimated at 9.0 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was approximately 109 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor site.
The earthquake was the fourth-largest recorded in the world since 1900, and the largest in modern Japanese history. The earthquake (which has been officially named the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake Disaster) triggered an immense tsunami that devastated large areas of the eastern Japanese coast. Over twenty thousand people are known dead, and thousands more are missing. Damage estimates are unknown at this time but could amount to several hundred billion dollars.
According to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the earthquake and subsequent tsunami affected fourteen nuclear reactors at four sites along the eastern coast – the Fukushima Daiichi site (six reactors), Fukushima Daini site (four reactors), the Ongawa [sic] site (three reactors) and the Tokai site (one reactor).
The most serious damage occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. When the earthquake struck, the three reactors at the site that were operating at the time—Units 1, 2 and 3—automatically shut down. Unit 4 had been shut down about three months before the event and its core unloaded into its spent fuel pool, and Units 5 and 6 had also been shut down well before the event.
Published: March 7th, 2012 at 2:03 am ET