WSJ publishes NRC transcript: Explosion “leveled the structure for Unit 4 spent-fuel pool all the way down to approximate level of the bottom of the fuels” — “So, there’s no water in there whatsoever”

Published: February 21st, 2012 at 3:31 pm ET


Title: U.S. Was More Cautious in Japan Nuclear Accident –
Source: Wall Street Journal
Author: Peter Landers
Date: Feb 21, 2012

Newly released transcripts of U.S. discussions shortly after Japan’s nuclear accident  […] show that the top U.S. nuclear regulator correctly projected, months before Japan acknowledged it, that the Fukushima Daiichi plant might be suffering from a triple meltdown. […]

U.S. officials were particularly concerned about the plant’s reactor No. 4 […]

“The explosion leveled the walls, leveled the structure for the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool all the way down to the approximate level of the bottom of the fuels. So, there’s no water in there whatsoever,” an NRC official said on March 16, according to the transcripts. […]

“If this happened in the U.S., we would go out to 50 miles,” Bill Borchardt, the NRC’s executive director for operations, told NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko on March 16.

Japanese officials and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. later concluded that damage to the No. 4 reactor’s spent-fuel pool was limited and said the fuel rods remained submerged throughout

Read the report here

Published: February 21st, 2012 at 3:31 pm ET


Related Posts

  1. Report: Tepco sends “emergency” mail about Reactor 4 — Water level decreasing at 5 times normal rate in tank near spent fuel pool — Link to New Year’s quake unclear January 1, 2012
  2. Book: Reactor No. 4 deformed in front of our eyes, says Fukushima worker — Walls morphed like special effects from movie — No large explosion, yet building destroyed April 16, 2012
  3. Tepco: Recent quake caused water level drop in tank next to Spent Fuel Pool No. 4 January 2, 2012
  4. Nuclear Engineer: “You’re done, that’s it” if seal leaks at Unit No. 4 — “You can never pump enough water in to establish a level again in spent fuel pool” (VIDEO) June 27, 2012
  5. Tepco checking debris fallen to bottom of Reactor No. 4 — May move control rods — ROV to be sent into Spent Fuel Pool March 12, 2012

33 comments to WSJ publishes NRC transcript: Explosion “leveled the structure for Unit 4 spent-fuel pool all the way down to approximate level of the bottom of the fuels” — “So, there’s no water in there whatsoever”


    Does this mean the SFRs are not being cooled in a pool? Are they spraying them to keep them from burning up?

    • lam335 lam335

      I can't read the whole story because I don't subscribe to WSJ, but I am left wondering by what is quoted here: is this the actual condition of SFP #4, or is this only their educated guess in the early days of the accident. Has it been confirmed that the SFP was decimated to such an extent that it is no longer capable of holding any water. I thought some sources had subsequently indicated that it is still capable of holding water, though perhaps imperfectly and precariously–if so, then the walls of the thing could not have been blown out so far down in the pool. Does anyone know any reliable accounts of the actual extend of this damage?

    • americancommntr

      It sounds like the horse was out of the barn and long gone at the outset. Sounds like all the hullabaloo, speculation, debate, concern, etc., was completely amiss. How could the structure be decimated, and the rods not blasted to powder and bits, they are surely not any stronger than the structure. It was an undepleted uranium, plutonium and other rich, zirconyl palooza of a burn-up.

  • Kevin Kevin

    Ya sure they were not talking SFP 3?


      @Kevin: I've seen quotes that there are 135 tons of spent fuel rods sitting on top of U4's core. If they lost cooling to this large a mass, wouldn't we be seeing it on the horizon?

  • Sickputer

    Oh I think the fuel was not submerged and they have been running feed and bleed (leaks of coolant water from the building cracks) for nearly a year. They did make some Unit 4 pond progress with the new heat transfer system in October and early November (my opinion only… They never release much in the way of status updates). But I think those cooling gains were lost with the late 2011 earthquake damages and corium fires. So now we have seen the frenetic concrete sork for the past 90 days trying to keep Unit 4 from collapsing. This is my theory and I could be very wrong. But knowing how much lateral and vertical movement occurred with the Great Earthquake makes me think the smaller tremors have hampered repairs.


      @Sickputer: like that "…feed and bleed…". Pretty much captures all the lies and death that awaits…

  • eatliesndie eatliesndie

    what a mess. i guess we'll have lies with that. lots of lies to feed lots of people!

  • many moons

    Does this mean we don't have to worry about the building coming down cause the fuel rods already burned up?

    The US is always ready to say something abstract in their favor…we would have taken better care of our people…would have made a 50 mile evacuation…are they forgeting the US goverment turned OFF the radnet so people wouldn't know what's coming across the pacific….????

  • moonshellblue moonshellblue

    Dear Akio –
    This photo is quite sobering. As you know the pool at Unit No. 4 contains 1,538 fuel assemblies, including a full core that was freshly discharged prior to the accident.

    The Fourth Reactor at Fukushima. The yellow area is the containment vessel. – Asahi News
    As I might have mentioned, based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy, a spent fuel assembly from a typical boiling water reactor contains about 30,181 curies ( ~1.1E+12 becquerels) of long-lived radioactivity. So the Unit No. 4 pool contains roughly 49 million curies (~1.8E+18 Bq), of which about 40 percent if Cs-137. (Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Final Environmental Impact Statement, for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada, 2002, Appendix A, Tables A-7, A-8, A-9, A-10, BWR/ Burn up = 36,600 MWd/MTHM, enrichment = 3.03 percent, decay time = 23 years.)
    As you know, the risk of yet another highly destructive earthquake occurring even closer to the Fukushima reactors has increased, according to the European Geosciences Union. This is particularly worrisome for Daiichi’s structurally damaged spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4 sitting 100 feet above ground, exposed to the elements. Drainage of water from this pool, resulting from another quake could trigger a catastrophic radiological fire involving about eight times more radioactive cesium than released at Chernobyl.
    Best Regards,
    Bob Alvarez

    Dear Bob:
    I thank you very much for your comments on the photo of the Fukushima reactor unit 4.
    You and Dr. Gordon Edwards of Canada used the same word, “sobering,” when you saw the photo.
    My great concern is what Dr. Hans-Peter Durr, former Director of Astrophysics at the Max Planck Institute in Germany told me ten months ago. Japan had not yet admitted the core had melted down, but Hans-Peter knew that Fukushima was close to bringing us beyond the limits of

    • HoTaters HoTaters

      I'm not sure what picture you were looking at, but here's a good picture of No. 3. Feeling like it's almost academic at this point – whether damage is to SPF 3 or 4 (or both). This pic of #3 looks so bad IMHO it would be a miracle if there were much left at all, of the SPF. Since that was the reactor with the MOX in it, what's the diff?

      Yeah I know, there are/were a LOT more spent fuel rods in #4, but the contamination from the 3 reactor meltdowns plus fires in #4, explosions in #4, and a possibly vaporized SPF 3 are probably enough to put the icing on whatever kind of unhappy birthday cake you could possibly want.

  • moonshellblue moonshellblue

    My great concern is what Dr. Hans-Peter Durr, former Director of Astrophysics at the Max Planck Institute in Germany told me ten months ago. Japan had not yet admitted the core had melted down, but Hans-Peter knew that Fukushima was close to bringing us beyond the limits of our scientific knowledge and strongly suggested that Japan’s government should create an independent assessment team to bring the best minds of the nuclear scientists and structural engineers to seek the best solution. In such circumstances, Dr. Edwards accurately said, “It is important to seek the advice of experts who are genuinely independent having no conflict of interest and no need to save face. National pride makes it understandably difficult to seek help from outside, but sometimes it is the best thing to do.”

    I have to admit that my country’s strong national pride makes it unrealistic to see an independent assessment team form soon enough, and so I now turn to rely on U.S. leadership to act out of the need for common, global security before a strong earthquake comes in the near future.  If the reactor unit 4 building collapses, we will face a global environmental and human catastrophe larger than ever before.


    I ask you and your colleagues to help bring this to the attention of U.S. senators and representatives so we may overcome the political hurdles and find a constructive solution.

    Yours truly,


    • Time Is Short Time Is Short


      The US government already knows Fukushima, and all of Japan, is a lost cause. They are now preparing for the awakening of the US and Canadian West Coast to the realization we are only 4-6 months behind the medical catastrophe that Fukushima has wrought. Infant mortality rates way up, television showing women how to self diagnose for thyroid and other cancers (in them and their children). What you see now, we will see soon.

      An even greater, more imminent problem, is the global realization that the yen carry trade is over, that very very soon the yen will be worthless as an international currency. Nobody wants the currency of a dying country.

      I would suggest asking Dr. Durr what to do when the world's governments turn a blind eye to what is occurring in Fukushima. If the world cared, Canada wouldn't be refusing to grant refugee status to Japanese fleeing the radiation. This is the same as the world refusing to take Jewish refugees when the Nazis came to power in Germany. They all turned a blind eye, and are now doing it again.

      Welcome to the New World Order (as short as it's going to be). It doesn't include us.

    • HoTaters HoTaters

      Akio, there is a shut down reactor in Eureka, CA, sitting near a bunch of earthquake faults. Unless I'm mistaken, it still holds a large number of spent fuel rods. The reactor sits near the Mendocino Triple Junction earthquake zone and may experience a 9+ earthquake. The area near Eureka is part of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. If there is a large EQ there, we in the US could experience our own little mini-Fukushima debacle. Is anyone doing anything about it? No, out of sight is out of mind.

      Reactors and nuke research centers in Oregon and Washington have the same issues — possible accident if there were a large EQ on the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

      Not pretty.

    • dharmasyd dharmasyd

      moonshellblue & Time Is Short–The correspondence between Alvarez, Durr, and Akio Matsumura is extremely important. wondered about the timing, dates, and references. Google came up with this:
      …and more.

  • americancommntr

    Here's what I'd do if indeed there is any spent fuel left in this or any of the other pools, or blobs of corium below them:

    I'd get off my proud ass, overnight make a mostly mechanical robot, with a flamethrower hooked up to a very large Brown's Gas generator, and I'd flame that crap until it was reduced in radioactivity.

    Not sit around wringing my hands. If we're going to burn up spent fuel, it might as well be made non-radioactive, so only the U and Pu have to be dealt with.

  • James2

    I think they later said this information about the #4 SFP walls being blown out was incorrect.

    They have some pretty detailed pictures of structural work completed last July to shore up the floor of SFP4 in a document called "Progress Status classified by Issues" Page 35. They installed a bunch of heavy steel "column jacks" under the floor of the pool and built at least one structural wall.

    I personally don't think all the SFP walls blew out in the explosion, but I know there was quite a bit of evidence that some melt out occurred. At the time I remember being shocked at the site of what appeared to be black tar nuke fuel oozing out of the SFP 4.

    I suspect there were holes they plugged up and they've had water on it for quite awhile.

    I do believe something significant started happening in the aftershock January 1 and culminated with a very large fire the third week of January – which for all we know is still burning.

    • HoTaters HoTaters

      Thank you, James. I was beginning to think things were worse than we realized. Maybe they were talking about SPF #3 after all?

      • James2

        No someone sent them a report that said #4 SFP had blown up. Of course they didn't report this to congress or the public. I think they got a bad translation or something.

        You know that I will tell you it's not about #3 SFP either – it burned down starting the beginning of December.

        • HoTaters HoTaters

          i knew #4 in trouble starting in December — and no end of problems in sight. Appreciate your observations and Nuckelchen's too. Has helped keep me informed as to whatever's probably happening. I remember the webcam and pics showing the guys swarming all over #4 back in December or early January. Broken pipes, earthquakes, lots of issues.

          No, the news is not good, however you look at it. 'Pretty obvious there hasn't been water much of the time (or only sporadically) since December. I wish I had been able to follow what's going on with the webcams. Are you saying the structure has actually burned up (or down) over the past couple of months? Do you think it's disintegration caused by the heat? Many people have commented on what's going on with the walls, but it's hard to follow unless you keep track of it almost daily.

          What's your take on what's going on with #4 now? Have been really busy with F/T studies and haven't had much time to check on the webcam forum & so forth.


    • HoTaters HoTaters

      "Which for all we know is still burning." Yes, for all we know.

  • Alice Alice

    So if there's no water in there, what is?


  • parwie

    Btw, what's all that "if … then …" about?
    I understand that a lot of things can happen to No. 4, but we already have the worst case, the nuclear explosion at No. 3: Even plutonium has been spread around and now can be found far, far away from Japan. Not no mention all that Cesium, Strontium etc. that can be detected everywhere in the country and is spread anew each day! You can only hope that you don't inhale one of those particles while going to work.
    And: Why do you still care about measurements conducted by Japanese "authorities"- not done on the ground, in order to conceal what's lying around everywhere but done 10 meters above it? Once again: Measuring background radiation is not necessary! It doesn't get hot particles on the ground. Okay, sometimes there's one of those particles flying around next to the counter while going for a walk but that's just good luck. Bad luck.

    And: The burning and dumping of radioactive waste throughout the country only makes things worse! And Tokyo's officials' response to concerned citizens is: "Shut up!"

  • StillJill StillJill

    I agree with parwie,…moot points now-ALL.

    The difference between living 18 more months,…or only 3 or 4, (if the news keeps getting worse)-IMO