Nuclear newspeak

Here is the most recent press release from TEPCO, the Tokyo Electricity Power Company that manages the Fukushima Daïchi nuclear plant, where experts believe several reactors may have already melted:

Press Release (Mar 13,2011)
Plant Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (as of 9am March 13th)

All 6 units of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have been shut down.

Unit 1(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down. However, the unit is under inspection due
   to the explosive sound and white smoke that was confirmed after the big
   quake occurred at 3:36PM.
- We have been injecting sea water and boric acid which absorbs neutron
  into the reactor core. 

Unit 2(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down and Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System has
  been injecting water to the reactor. Current reactor water level is lower
  than normal level, but the water level is steady. After fully securing
  safety, we are preparing to implement a measure to reduce the pressure of
  the reactor containment vessels under the instruction of the national
  government. 

Unit 3(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down. However, High Pressure Core Injection System
  has been automatically shut down and water injection to the reactor is
  currently interrupted. We are examining alternative way to inject water.
  Also, following the instruction by the government and with fully securing
  safety, steps to lowering the pressure of reactor containment vessel has
  been taken. Spraying in order to lower pressure level within the reactor
  containment vessel has been cancelled.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage inside
  the reactor containment vessel.

Unit 4 (shut down due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and sufficient level of reactor coolant to
  ensure safety is maintained.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage inside
  the reactor containment vessel.

Unit 5 (outage due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and sufficient level of reactor coolant to
  ensure safety is maintained.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage inside
  the reactor containment vessel.

Unit 6 (outage due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and sufficient level of reactor coolant to
  ensure safety is maintained.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage inside
  the reactor containment vessel.

I find it amazing it is written in such a surrealistic remote tone, given what is currently happening in this plant!

9 Responses to “Nuclear newspeak”

  1. Krys asks: “How was the MIT “expert” wrong ?”

    The tsunami wave was 16 meters high. Fukushima Daini, with four units, had a dike that could sustain a 5 meter wave I believe.Fukushima Dai-ichi had six units and could sustain a 6 meter high wave. Daini eventually was a non problem while Dai-ichi was one. Only time will tell why the electric generation on site got destroyed in one case and not the other.

  2. The situation is still serious at Fukushima but I wanted to come back to this thread because as the situation is beginning to clear up there is the beginning of an explanation coming out of measurements done on the plume at University of Washington and Berkeley (some sort off indirect measurement). Here is a summary of what we can infer so far from these measurements:

    http://phronesisaical.blogspot.com/2011/04/fukushima-threat-down.html

    Let me be very clear that while Christian’s annoyance was focused on the lack of good communication from TEPCO, it was also pretty clear that they had “other problems”. We still don’t know the extent of the damage of the rods for the 5 situations (reactor 1, 2, 3 and pool 2 and 4) and we won’t know until we have some visuals which may take a few months if not years.

    And so while we all aspire for the best communication from either TEPCO and other utilities, even in accidents, entities like the NYT ended up part of the problem. The map of the NYT seemed to have “contaminated” the Nuclear Regulatory Commission even though, there was really no data backing their claims (they also misrepresented -probably in good faith- dose and dose rates).

  3. David Spiegelhalter, Bayesian statistician, one of the creators of BUGS, and Professor of Risk at Cambridge, has written a very relevant tribune (as always!) on BBC news about the psychological anxiety created by the Fukushima nuclear accident, compared with its actual impact on the Japanese population related to the overall impact of the tsunami.

  4. Frankly, I find the level of description provided by the authority in charge of those plants totally appaling: they do not even acknowledge the explosion that took the roof and walls off from the first reactor: “the unit is under inspection due to the explosive sound and white smoke that was confirmed”. This does not lead to a lot of trust in the other minimal items of information provided in the report.: “we do not believe”, “we are preparing to implement a measure to reduce the pressure”, &tc. I fully understand the critical situation faced by the technical teams on-site and also believe the situtation has little to do with Chernobyl, But distilling information the way TEPCO does is helping bystanders to build scenarios from scratch!

    • The situation is not just serious at Daichii, they have taken offline about ten nuclear power plants, that’s about 10-14 GWe loss to the rest of the grid. They also stated that they took out quite a few thermal plants. Having in mind that the parts of the country that needs power the most is probably the one with the shakiest power network. Given all that I see your point but I think they have other problems.

      On top of all this, I am not sure that part of that newspeak is not a by-product of bad translation.

      In the latest press release,
      http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11031312-e.html

      they hint that the explosion might be a result of the quake

      “..Reactor has been shut down. However, the unit is under inspection due to the explosive sound and white smoke that was confirmed after the big quake occurred at 3:36PM. ..”

      as noted earlier, it might be because hydrogen was generated and got stuck at the top of the building. The quake probably allowed metal to metal contact igniting the gas…. But this is all speculation, while the most important aspect of this process is to simply cool the thing.

  5. For that, you’d have to believe the “experts” the NYT asks, when in fact these experts have nothing more to go than this press release.

    Second, they use the word melt, but nobody knows that for a fact. I think the release seems to show pretty much their level of effort and perhaps even their level of understanding. Before any of these rods melt, they first have to be damaged.

    • Krys Latuszynski Says:

      Is the MIT “expert” using his supersmarts now to explain why he was wrong?

      And as for the original post, TEPCO has a long story of not reporting minor events and of data falsification.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.