Fukushima Daiichi Now: Images and Perspectives

NRC officials tour one of the damaged units at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during their trip in February.
NRC officials tour one of the damaged units at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during their trip in February.
Roger Hannah
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region II

In February, an NRC delegation, mostly comprised of senior managers responsible for reactor oversight, travelled to Japan to see, hear about and learn from the accident there in March 2011.

I was there to record the images and sounds of the trip – from the meetings to the tours of facilities, including the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, and the surrounding countryside. In interviews and conversations, I heard varied perspectives, but my focus was almost completely on people:

  • The people whose homes and businesses and schools now sit abandoned near the plant – some knowing they may never go home again.
  • The people who worked at the plant during and after the accident trying to keep the situation from being worse.
  • The people who now work at the site donning protective clothing each day as they slowly tackle the mammoth cleanup.
  • The people across Japan who continue to struggle with their view of nuclear power.

I wish we had been able to spend more time in the evacuated areas near the plant, but even the hours we were there carved indelible images in my memory. It’s interesting how seeing areas without people made me think about the missing people even more.

When it comes to nuclear safety, the most important people are those working inside or living closest to the plants. There is no stronger evidence than the images we captured during the trip.

It was difficult to distill all we saw and heard into the short video we posted on the NRC YouTube channel, but I hope we were able to show the essence of the trip…and for me, it was all about people.


Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

30 thoughts on “Fukushima Daiichi Now: Images and Perspectives”

  1. No evacuation zone for solar, and the profits to investors are much higher, and get returned much quicker. Kind of a no brainer. Sometimes you can’t teach and old dog new tricks….except for present company of course, LOL

  2. @woodcock
    Sir, your assertations are astounding
    There have been many tests on foods over allowable limits
    The ocean waters have tested at millions of times over allowable limits
    Much of the land has tested extremely high, far over limits at which evacuations were done at Chernobyl

    Not many people are buying the “global warming meme”, climate change, sure, probably more to do with the sun than human activity, and the real risk is climate change and wilder weather accompanied by global cooling which will stress food systems a lot.

    But Sir, you really should look at the facts, as just taking a hardline approach that there are no problems at Fukushima really discredits your agenda.

  3. Yea tell that to all the folks slammed by the Chernobyl accident. After nearly 30 years there is a 20-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl. Nuclear weapons and nuclear plants both leave permanent scars on people and planet earth. Just not worth it!

  4. This report, and some of the comments, are utter nonsense! All objective measurements and studies demonstrate conclusively that the radiation threat to the general public is nonexistent. No one in the general public has died or even gotten sick from radiation. No foods have been contaminated to the extent that they are a threat to human health. No ground has been contaminated to where it poses a threat to human health. Any assertions to the contrary are NOT supported by cold, objective facts and are merely anti-nuclear fearmongering! Nuclear energy is, in fact, the only technology that can supply the huge baseload requirements that civilization on this planet needs both now and in the future. And if it’s Global Warming you are worried about, I point out that nuclear energy generation is essentially carbon-free. A new, modern-day modular design is inherently safe and stable. Let’s try to get away from nuclear hysteria and stick with objective, verifiable facts.
    Gerald Woodcock, MBA

  5. This video is disgusting! It was intentionally meant to present nuclear energy as dangerous and unmanageable! While the tsunami-caused disaster at F-D was a property-damage disaster, there have been no deaths due to radiation, and most people should return to their homes and businesses and resume their lives. The NRC should disband and save all of us a billion dollars a year and improve access to nuclear energy in a safer environment without the “senior staff” you show on this junket. My neutral opinion of NRC competence level just took a step (a big step) lower.

  6. Dear CaptD – the attitude can and schould be changed, the safety of nuclear reactors could be achieved. And if You look into the details of my proposal – it does not cost too much! However the face saving of NRC and IAEA must end! Japan’s Fukushima Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster is too high a cost for that… And the USA should pinch in…

  7. Aladar Stolmar – Please post a link for the expansion project you mentioned above.

  8. Joffy, please “easily demonstrate” that uranium and plutonium were not release in any signinificant quanitities.

    Because the EPA air sampling data showed increases of 2600% of uranium in air. And Plutonium at 2900% to 3500% over background. over a huge air volume, those add up to massive releases.



    But I will be looking forward to your response, please avoid the ad hominem attacks and the banana equivalents, they don’t fly

  9. It’s well established and easily demonstrated that uranium and plutonium were not released in any significant quantities. It’s also extremely well-verified that the pool at unit 4 did not have a fire.

    What is proven about low-level radiation is that the health risks are at least an order of magnitude lower than the demonstrated risks of evacuation as practiced here. The thing that is unproven is that there is any risk at all.

    Note: Some content removed to adhere to comment guidelines.

  10. Aladar Stolmar – Salute for trying to push for improved reactor safety!

    Despite the name calling of some here, many readers are truly interested in reactor safety which includes calling out designs and/or operations that could lead to a nuclear incident or even a nuclear accident, especially if operators fail to implement changes because they don’t feel they are necessary, which is just the attitude that resulted in Japan’s Fukushima Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster.

  11. Those placed in front of the voters, and the opinion of the voters are two different matters. I speak Japanese and I speak to the Japanese people. I ask them, do you understand how bad Fukushima is, and there are put back a bit, as their answer is we ALL know.

    And yet they protest with 50,000 to 100,000 people even though Japan traditionally follows the government with little objection or noise of any sort.

    The Japanese like clean, entire vacations are built around trips to the onsen hot springs for cleaning up and eating good clean food. Nothing is more unclean than a Radioactive meltdown. They hate it.

  12. Over 3 yrs. later, still no safer from Fukushima radiation outcomes.
    Still no US public announcements for safety measures regarding foods, farming & fishing.
    No governmental accountability for health & safety of our citizenry.
    How can we, collectively, be such slow learners, scrambling to save a proven dangerous & out-dated energy industry from its “death throes”?

  13. CaptD – There is a 2 Unit expansion project in Paks NPP with Rossatom and I will work on implementing these improvements here. It is only the US NRC, which is not listening – and did not listen in 1987 as well…

  14. The Unit 4 is lost, also due to the damages to the building.

    This colorful choice of words describes the best the actual chemical process. It is an ignition and a firestorm, not the slow exothermic Zirc-steam reaction as modeled in the computer codes of Relap and MAAP, but the PBF SFD Scoping test was showing the real process. In TMI-2, in Chernobyl-4 and indeed now in the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1, 2 and 3 reactor cores – in all nuclear power plant severe reactor accidents ignition and firestorm hapened. Would not be the time that the NRC and IAEA also recognize this?!

    I also propose to design only demonstrated safe reactor systems, which means that the reactor must be placed in a containment designed for the consumption of the entire Zirconium inventory and the worst detonation of the Hydrogen produced from that (1000 kg in 10 seconds for PWR and 1800 kg in 10 sec for BWR) in the containment. Even if we prevent the ignition of the firestorm in the core.
    Only such a doubled safety could be considered real safe nuclear power plant design.

    The details for the PWR design must include a syphon-free connection of the Reactor head top to the Pressurizer steam volume from where the venting of steam, depressurization is performed, a checkvalve int he connecting to the hot leg line, and for the BWR a direct venting of the downstream steam after the ECCS turbine driven pump (RHICS) to the environment in order to utilize the available coolant reserves. In both cases the three events when the core damage prevention depressurization starts are: 1. no information about the state of the reactor, 2. failure of forced coolant circulation through the reactor core and 3. the connection through heat transfer mediums from the core to the ultimate heat sink is severed.
    Water reseves must be available for gravity injection for achieving the cold shutdown.

  15. Thanks for your prompt response.

    I was referring to the accident dose limits for whole body and thyroid delineated in 10CFR100.11, and am still curious as to whether they were exceeded at Fukushima.

    Of course, Dr. Jaczko made recommendations for Americans in Japan at the time that I think are now seen by many as unnecessarily conservative.

    Finally, I haven’t visited this blog in quite a while – it seems to have become a magnet for certain radiophobic [individuals] who have decided to take up residence here. My condolances to the moderator.

    Some verbiage removed to adhere to the blog comment guidelines.

  16. To say that ‘The people across Japan who continue to struggle with their view of nuclear power’ is really misleading when one considers that no anti nuclear candidates has been elected since March 2011. People near the nuclear plants want their nukes back.

  17. Really scary. When you think that there are at least 100 or more places on this planet where radio activity is higher than Fukushima.

    Shame on you NRC for spreading fear.

  18. I know, if it a coordinated full court press to “prove” that there wasn’t and isn’t any danger from Fukushima. The powers that be that control Forbes were printing that not a single death or cancer will result from Fukushima. 1.79 E20 Inventory Bq at Fukushima and not a single cancer.

    Hmmmmmmmmm, seems like an agenda from a struggling industry.

  19. “Unproven risk” now that is funny. Did you see the video of Reactor 3 blowing skyhigh? 50 tons or more of uranium and thus plutonium were aerosolized. And Reactor 4 Building also, even though the reactor itself was emptied and they were installing the new shroud to allow the load of MOX sitting in the equipment pool at 4 to start burning MOX…that blew sky high also, with a melt out fire.

    That is a pretty sadistic viewpoint….let them sit in the radiation until it is “proven”.

  20. According to our EP staff, while Part 100 does not actually apply to accident situations (it applies to applications for site approval), the radiation levels in areas around Fukushima do not exceed limits specified there. However, some areas do exceed EPA guidelines for relocation. Japanese regulations, though, are the relevant reference for current actions by the Japanese government.

    As for the second part of your comment, it’s important to understand the NRC would review the protective action recommendations a plant would provide to the state and local officials, but we do not make our own recommendations. We are always available as a consultant, though, for those officials who have the authority determine what actions residents in the potentially affected communities should take.

    Thank you for taking the time to watch the video.

    Roger Hannah

  21. We all need to think about the willingly and knowlingly human errors of greed and denial that led up to this greatest industrial tragedy of all time. And the fact that those human traits are never going away. maybe the only pretty safe nuclear reactor is 93 MIllion miles away, although that one could through as a huge CME that would cause 50 nuclear plants to melt down (aka Carrington Event)

  22. RE: “When it comes to nuclear safety, the most important people are those working inside or living closest to the plants.”

    Fukushima proved that Nature can destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime 24/7 and yet the NRC has just recently decided that those living close to all US nuclear power plants (including those being decommissioned) don’t really need detailed Evacuation plans, which points out the great void between actual reality and NRC Safety Planning.

  23. The video is interesting in a number of respects, although anyone looking for an update on plant status will come away disappointed.

    One thing I found disturbing was the attitude of the NRC representatives when exclaiming over the abandoned communities, They seemed oblivious to the fact that what they were looking at was the consequences of a regulatory action – a government choice to forcibly uproot thousands of people from flourishing communities on the basis of an unproven risk. The lives of those people were impacted and the social and economic value of their communities was lost with absolute certainty, and people’s health suffered as a result of that regulatory decision. The balance of action based on realistic risk consequences was completely lost in the imperative to avoid this low-level radiation – and in many cases not even that, only the potential for low-level radiation.

    A more holistic view of the consequences of this sort of action is required, but I see nothing in the NRC that makes me think that this human-centered view has even occurred to them.

  24. Perhaps you can tell us all why the Japanese refuse to allow independent journalists and scientists to also tour Fukushima? The lack of independent inspections makes everything that the Japanese say about Fukushima suspect, and now that doubt also applies to the NRC and what they say about Fukushima, since the NRC has a vested interest in downplaying anything BAD about Fukushima.

  25. Aladar – Your proposed change is a good step in the right direction but it probably will never happen because it would require the NRC/nuclear industry to actually accept that there may be a meltdown/melt-through in the future and that does not fit with their concept as they struggle to rebrand New Nuclear PR image as safe, plus it would make constructing reactors even more expensive, which means they would be even less competitive in todays marketplace…

  26. A few questions for the author, Mr. Hannah – how much of the evacuated territory received contamination above 10CFR100 limits at the time of the releases? How much remains above those limits today?

    Knowing now that there were several hundred fatalities from the evacuation, but would have been none from the releases, and given the new data from the SOARCA, what would the NRC evacuation recommendations be to local authorities if a similar (incredibly unlikely) release were to be occurring today?

  27. “After Fukushima and the additional 4 (four) reactors lost” – three cores were damaged, units 1-3. Unit 4 was defueled.

    “the ignition of firestorm in the reactor” – that’s a colorful choice of words for the exothermic Zirc-steam interaction, especially for a scientist such as yourself.

    “can and should be prevented by venting of steam and rapidly depressurizing the reactor” – that’s exactly what the Fukushima operators were ready to do, while they still had DC control power available, but were prevented from doing so in a timely manner by political interference of PM Kan and his advisors. See the narrative at hiroshimasyndrome(dot)com for details.

    In addition, PWRs already have the option to “feed & bleed” on loss of all feedwater, or intentional depressurization to allow low pressure coolant injection, built into their Emergency Operating Procedures, which seems to be what you are advocating.

  28. Nuke plant accidents leave a scar on planet earth. Almost 30 years after the Chernobyl accident there is still a 20-mile exclusion zone around the plant. No other man-made disaster leaves such lasting scars. Trouble is, even though we should live without the constant threat of nuke power plant accidents, we are being forced to live with it. We are stuck with nuke power just like we are stuck with nuke weapons.

  29. The fact is that there is a common cause in all of the severe nuclear reactor accidents which is not acknowledged, disregarded, even covered-up by the very NRC and IAEA, suppose to be the government and inter-governmental bodies charged to prevent the disasters in nuclear power plants. When I raised as a Safety Concern the issue of the cladding -coolant interaction in 1987(!) in Westinghouse as being misrepresented in the computer codes, I’ve been denied even the possibility to defend myself from ridiculous accusations…
    Now I’m proposing a solution to prevent the ignition caused by any diverse initiating events. After Fukushima and the additional 4 (four) reactors lost for the same common cause I’m proposing the following regulation changes:

    What I’m stating that the ignition of firestorm in the reactor core can and should be prevented by venting of steam and rapidly depressurizing the reactor, and indeed staged all the way to the gravity flooding of the core. Which means that the non-design basis events will be prevented, the fuel will remain intact in any event.
    I also propose to design only demonstrated safe reactor systems, which means that the reactor must be placed in a containment designed for the consumption of the entire Zirconium inventory and the worst detonation of the Hydrogen produced from that (1000 kg in 10 seconds for PWR and 1800 kg in 10 sec for BWR) in the containment. Even if we prevent the ignition of the firestorm in the core.
    Only such a doubled safety could be considered real safe nuclear power plant design.

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