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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

"Desperate and ultimately futile"

December 14, 2013


TEPCO: Not all pumped-in water reached overheating Fukushima reactors









Fire engines were used in a desperate, and ultimately futile, attempt to pump water to cool overheating reactors during the early phase of the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

According to a Dec. 13 report by the operator of the crippled facility, water was pumped in sufficient quantity to avert core meltdowns in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, but much of it strayed into irrelevant pipes and ended up elsewhere.

In the report, TEPCO singled out 52 issues that had been left unanswered in its June 2012 investigation on the disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The utility said it will find answers to those questions within two years.

The Dec. 13 report covered analysis results for 10 of those issues.

Equipment to cool reactor cores failed and quickly became unusable following the temblors at the Fukushima plant. For this reason, fire engines were connected via hoses to the piping system of the nuclear reactors to pump in water to cool them.

TEPCO said more than seven times the requisite volume of cooling water was pumped into the No. 2 reactor. But the water failed to cool it and the other reactors efficiently, and could not stop the core meltdowns in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

An examination of pipe diagrams and related equipment showed the pipes to the reactors had branches leading off to other areas and devices, such as condensation storage tanks. TEPCO concluded that too much of the pumped-in water leaked into those branches and never reached the reactors.

TEPCO officials said they knew as early as late March 2011 about those leakage routes.

"We should have shared the finding with the public in the belief it would help promote universal safety, but failed to do so," said TEPCO Managing Executive Officer Takafumi Anegawa.

The utility has installed electric valves in reactors at its idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture to avert a similar problem during an emergency, the utility said.

TEPCO also said the high pressure coolant injection (HPCI) system for emergency use lost part of its functions early in the No. 3 reactor, which was rocked by a hydrogen explosion.

The government's investigation committee said a manual shutdown of the HPCI system interrupted the cooling operations, which exacerbated the nuclear crisis.

But TEPCO took exception to that theory and said the HPCI system had already lost part of its functions by the time it was shut down manually, because nuclear fuel had become exposed very quickly following the manual shutdown.

That means nuclear fuel in the No. 3 reactor may be more damaged than an earlier study indicated. This suggests more melted fuel may have fallen outside the reactor pressure vessel, TEPCO said.

The utility added that the sharp pressure drop in the No. 3 reactor at 9 a.m. on March 13, 2011, was likely due to the activation of its automatic depressurization system, and dismissed the theory that the pressure dropped when a hole opened in a key component, such as the reactor itself.


Fire trucks' coolant water did not fully reach reactor cores: TEPCO



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said Friday it is highly likely that coolant water injected by fire trucks immediately after the accident on March 11, 2011 did not fully reach reactor cores where meltdowns occurred.

TEPCO, which has been looking into developments at the plant in the early days of the disaster, said it has confirmed that water supplied by fire trucks flowed into some pipes not leading to cores at the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors.

The utility said the amount of coolant water provided by fire trucks as an emergency measure was several times the amount needed to cool reactor cores, but part of the water was unexpectedly diverted to pipes not connected to the cores.

The company also said workers could not operate valves to keep coolant water from flowing into unintended pipes due to high dose of radiation at the plant.

TEPCO said if the prepared water was fully injected from fire trucks into reactor cores, it could at least have slowed melting of the fuel.

The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered meltdowns as a tsunami triggered by the devastating earthquake flooded electrical equipment and disabled key cooling functions at the units.

The company examined water flow in the pipes as it unexpectedly confirmed the existence of a considerable amount of water at a steam condenser at the No. 2 reactor in late March 2011.

The utility also said it is possible that the amount of coolant water injected into the core of the No. 3 reactor had fallen before workers manually stopped a high pressure coolant injection system.

As for reasons behind a sharp fall in pressure at the No. 3 reactor pressure vessel on March 13, 2011, TEPCO said it is highly likely a valve opened to reduce pressure as the automatic decompression system was turned on by coincidence.

The company had previously pointed to the possibility that the reactor pressure vessel had a hole.

December 14, 2013(Mainichi Japan)

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