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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Take a ride around the Fukushima reactors

We were pleasantly surprised last night to see a live video feed being posted of the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima. But just as quickly as it was posted, it was taken down. Of course. When one is dealing with the nuclear power and weapons industries, secrecy and deception are the watchwords.

But today we have a consolation prize -- an unprecedented video of a car ride inside the gates at Fukushima. If you're going to watch it, don't wait too long to do so, because like the live video feed, it will probably disappear soon:

Here is an unofficial translation, found on this site:

The guy visiting the plant is Aoyama Shigeharu from the Nuclear Safety Commission in Japan and he is allowed to enter at this stage, as several other specialists. At first he goes to the emergency control center, at the entrance is the decontamination facility and only specifically authorized staff are allowed to open the doors and allow people in and out.

The people working are mostly the staff of the nuclear power plant (NPP), and range from 20 years old to pensioners, some of which have just decided to volunteer, devoted to end the disaster.

He talks to Mr. Yoshida who is the Tepco chief engineer and as far as I can tell, he is the one running the show from the tech point of view. They walk upstairs in the control room, in this entire building the air is filtered and radiation is blocked fully (no details given). It was initially used for workers to sleep at the beginning of the disaster but because they were too many, they then did another center at the Daini NPP. They have around 600 people working in total. During the night there are approximately 240~250 people working at the control room.

They take him for a tour, initially between #2 and #3. The Tepco employees with him are not allowed to step out of the vehicle, because they will max their radiation exposure limit. He is o.k. to step out as he only stays there for a short time. Also, they are not stopping near #3, because the radiation is obviously too high. They move around #4 and further out where it shows the special resin prepared and sprayed on the ground (is that guy's face uncovered? foo...). They then move to the side facing the sea -- turbines -- showing all the wreck from the massive tsunami (nothing important mentioned that cannot be seen). The place they stop for a little is one of the trenches full of super radioactive water and is covered by massive metal slabs, while they say they are trying to remove it.

The vid moves back to Mr. Yoshida, the chief engineer, where he says 1-2-3 are getting stable and his main concern is #2 because of the large volume of contaminated water that needs to be removed. The water is mainly concentrated from the tsunami that has leaked into the plant and then got contaminated, but the process has already started and they are storing it in special tanks. He makes a strong point that if there is another earthquake followed by a tsunami, that would mean "the end." He says that Tepco is highly bureaucratic and he had to make a serious argument in order to convince them to focus on building a new "wall" to prevent this in case it happens. This process has now been approved and is progressing rapidly. As a chief engineer his abilities are limited to a certain extent, and therefore he would have not been able to do all this without receiving a lot of help from all over Japan, but also people from all over the world, participating in containing the disaster.

The vid moves back in the studio showing Aoyama Shigeharu. He says that specialists are now allowed to enter the site, and this means the situation is relatively stable. Then he just explains where he went and where he walked out of the car on the plant miniature. He could also see inside the buildings, and while looking at the rubble he felt that steel structures were damaged so badly by the tsunami as if they were candies. His impression is clearly that the entire disaster is happening due to human error and bad handling, since the reactor structures were intact after the tsunami.

He points at the emergency control center and emphasizes that people come in and out following very strict instruction to the letter and they make no mistakes. He greatly admires the incredible morale and strength of the people working there, while he says their "eyes look different" than an ordinary person. Also, he admires chief Yoshida, who appears to understand the criticality of the situation very well and is doing everything humanly possible to contain the disaster.

UPDATE, 4:43 p.m.: The live feed is back, although at the moment it is showing only gray -- fog, perhaps. Let's hope it's not smoke.

Comments (1)

Great coverage, Jack. Thank you. If you're not careful you could end up with a Pulitzer, or the blogger equivalent, for your Fukushima coverage - if not least for your WTFukushima headline...

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