Conditions at the plant have remained a challenge and appear they will be in the future. TEPCO started off on the wrong foot by trying to blame the public for their lack of disclosure and failures at the plant. A TEPCO official did admit that the plant is still very much out of their control. Deceptive information has still been a common occurrence like this pair of radiation maps of the plant. One showed lower readings on the English map than on the Japanese map.
While TEPCO has taken considerable heat for the failures at the plant, little has been given to the contractors doing most of the work at the plant. We researched what contractors are doing the major work and profiting off the disaster. GE-Hitachi was a major contractor in charge of much of the ongoing maintenance at the plant and were the original designers of he reactors. They now reap a large portion of the profits for the work at the plant.
One aspect that has helped move things ahead at the plant has been the involvement of IRID. The research authority combines government, industry and academic experts to try to form solutions to deal with the plant. There have been two open calls for proposals with suggestions on how to resolve the problems at the plant. Our research team has submitted nine proposals to IRID. Many of our proposals for the contaminated water issues were moved on to research or implementation phases. Proposals related to decommissioning of the reactors are still being reviewed. Workers pointed out how complex these tasks will be considering the hundreds of penetration holes in the building basements. Another one of our suggestions was implemented in late 2013 as TEPCO began reducing the amount of water injected into the reactors. They were able to somewhat reduce the amount of water injected into the reactors without seeing increases in radiation or hydrogen. This should help to reduce the volume of contaminated water generated each day.
Rats continued to plague the plant with power outages. The rats have been found inside power panels and boxes, attracted by the heat and shelter. Workers attempting to install wire mesh in an active power panel to keep the rats out, caused the panel to fail. This took out cooling for unit 3’s spent fuel pool until the panel could be repaired. Two rats were found dead in a power panel in April. The panel had to be shut off to install more blocking materials. TEPCO still found the rats a challenge, using insufficient materials such as plastic sheeting to try to keep them out of equipment. In July rats took out a portable generator truck on site. In November rats pee’d on an alarm wire in the electrical system, setting off a warning alarm. In December rats again set off an alarm after eating through the foam used to seal openings in the power panels.
TEPCO announced they plan to take the current cover off of unit 1 this fall in order to install a defueling building. TEPCO claims this won’t raise radiation levels nearby considerably. A detailed reason for the hurried installation of the cover in the first place has never been given.
We documented the existence of a sophisticated surveillance system at Fukushima Daiichi. This system, even if damaged likely sent some usable data to servers that could be retrieved. TEPCO to date has not done anything about making any of this data public.
TEPCO plans to build a to scale reactor model to test technologies needed to decommission Daiichi. Later in the year it was announced that they would scrap units 5 and 6 on site. Unit 5 will become a “test” reactor to try work before attempting the same work in the damaged unit. The US Department of Energy suggested TEPCO should fill the reactors with concrete and leave them on site. This option ignores the high rate of groundwater flow through the site. We looked at the DOE track record on decommissioning in the US. TEPCO also announced they planned to create a decommissioning division that would operate separate from the rest of the company.
Highly radioactive debris pieces were found in Naraha 15km from the plant. It was suspected they came from the explosions at the plant. Further investigation showed that they did.
Radiation alarms began going off at the plant randomly. The first incident was assumed to be contaminated water in the misting system to keep workers cool while they waited for busses. It happened a second time after the misting system had been disabled. This continued to happen in a line with the anti-seismic building. TEPCO has yet to admit a source for this but they did happen while work to remove debris went on at unit 3 though no direct connection has been made.
A very weird set of statements out of TEPCO, one of their consultants and the NRA left people wondering what they were talking about. They all hinted at much bigger problems at the plant but nobody would admit what they were talking about.
In late August Masao Yoshidia died after fighting esophageal cancer and a stroke. The leader of the Fukushima 50 was at times blamed by TEPCO for the issues at the plant. Yoshida’s interviews while he was still in charge at Daiichi and later with a journalist showed otherwise. The man who knew more about the disaster than any other may have taken much of that information with him to his grave. His efforts at times defying TEPCO’s corporate office were key in keeping the disaster from spiraling further out of control.
One of the large construction cranes on site failed in September. TEPCO cited cracked steel as the cause for the failure.
As more academic studies of the radiation releases from Fukushima Daiichi came out we reviewed these studies to create a range of possible radiation releases. We found that most of these studies estimated much higher than TEPCO and the Japanese agencies did. One study that used CTBTO station data to compare against other studies found on the high end a huge discrepancy from most of the estimates. More research is obviously needed to fully understand the extent of the releases. Peter Melzer also took a look at some factors related to the reactor venting systems that may have played a role in their function during the disaster.
TEPCO released a new decommissioning schedule that has all of the spent fuel to begin being removed from the reactor buildings by 2017.
A startling admission in December from TEPCO that cooling water that was being so desperately injected into the reactors to try to prevent meltdowns in 2011 did not make it into the reactors. The water was back flowing into pipe systems in the turbine buildings. A lack of check valves and valves along the system that failed open when the power went out created this situation. This may be one of the biggest revelations of the last year that could change many of the assumptions and computer models of the meltdowns.
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