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TEPCO tardy on N-plant emergency : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's blood must have run cold around 10 p.m. on March 11, the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake, when he received the first report on the terrible situation at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The report from the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry predicted reactor cores at the nuclear power plant--where power and all functions to cool the reactors were lost in the quake and tsunami--would be exposed to air, and that extreme heat generated by fuel rods would damage their encasing tubes later that night.

Fuel rods would melt down, and the following morning the pressure inside the reactors' containment vessels would reach the maximum allowed for by the facilities' designers, the report predicted.

Kan and everyone at the Prime Minister's Office understood the seriousness of the situation described by the report.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Apr 11th, 2011 at 08:32:28 PM EST
Some new details on the mobile generator story, but without an ending:

TEPCO tardy on N-plant emergency : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)

....tsunami destroyed 12 of the 13 emergency generators.

"Round up all the power-supply cars and send them to the plant right now!" shouted a TEPCO supervisor at the utility's head office in Tokyo.

...TEPCO dispatched power-supply vehicles from various power stations around the country to the crippled nuclear plant. However, the vehicles had to travel very slowly because of damage to roads in northeastern Japan. The first power-supply car did not reach the plant until 9 p.m. on March 11.

Once at the site, the lack of preparation became apparent. Cables needed to connect the vehicles' high-voltage electricity to plant facilities were not long enough. TEPCO immediately ordered additional cables, but precious time had been wasted. Power would not be restored at the plant by midnight.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 04:56:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two things become apparent from this:

1.) TEPCO sought to respond with its own assets -- regardless of the consequences. The reactor cores had likely already suffered serious damage while they were failing to bring in power trucks from other areas and failing to be able to connect them to the load. Promptly air-lifting in package 500 or 800Kw generators with sufficient cable to reach the reactors from high ground generator sites could well have averted much of this damage. Power was only restored when TEPCO repaired grid distribution sufficiently to bring in grid power and only then did they appear to start work on distributing that power to all reactors.

2.) No drills had ever been conducted to test the feasibility of bringing in such power trucks or the connection problems would have been identified and remedied. This was likely compounded by insistence on self-reliance and unwillingness to admit lack of preparation, as it is hard to imagine that cables and connectors were not available anywhere in Japan to be delivered by helicopter upon request to the Japanese SDF.

TEPCO seems in need of a face transplant.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 11:33:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TEPCO sought to respond with its own assets

Hm? What makes you think that other assets were offered and rejected? The story I see is one of a serial failure to foresee problems. You would have requested an airlift if you realised that the land route will be blocked, which TEPCO didn't. Which is a failure of another kind on TEPCO's part. Then again, as with all of TEPCO's lack-of-preparation problems, it is also a failure of government-side nuclear safety oversight.

The reactor cores had likely already suffered serious damage while they were failing to bring in power trucks

No, the core suffered serious damage when the steam-powered backup-of-backup cooling systems failed a few days later. The article doesn't make clear why the mobile generator route failed – were they still waiting for cables to be delivered (whether from TEPCO's own stock or external they don't say) or were there other issues.

Power was only restored when TEPCO repaired grid distribution

And then it was already too late, with installed cooling systems damaged.

No drills had ever been conducted to test the feasibility of bringing in such power trucks or the connection problems would have been identified and remedied.

Probable, but not certain. I can imagine that they made drills according to a mobile generator concept that foresaw the trucks parking in the area that was then flooded by the tsunami and made inaccessible by the debris left behind.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 12:06:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That TEPCO sought to respond with its own assets is my surmise based on events as reported. Rejecting offered assets is not the only possible failing. Do you see any evidence that they asked for such assets? I find it hard to believe that they would be refused, given the circumstances.

I find it stunning that, even when the first power truck arrived and was unable to be used effectively, that they did not convene a strategy session with the Japanese government to see what COULD be done immediately. As you note, they had a few days before the steam driven pumps failed, but they could have used local power during that time to great advantage, even if just to restore instruments.

With the human resources they had available, both from TEPCO and from their sub-contractors, and with the time they had until the steam driven pumps failed, given the urgency and the consequences, I find it hard to understand why many preparations were not done in parallel, such as routing cables from the grid connection point to each reactor connection point while the line was being repaired. Meanwhile, portable generators and switch gear could be located adjacent to reactors or at the grid connection point. It might have been possible to save some of the primary cooling systems were power available earlier, but we may never be certain now.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 01:01:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rejecting offered assets is not the only possible failing. Do you see any evidence that they asked for such assets?

I also questioned your assumption that asking for external assets had to be a priority and one obvious to TEPCO emergency staff.

I find it stunning that, even when the first power truck arrived and was unable to be used effectively, that they did not convene a strategy session with the Japanese government to see what COULD be done immediately.

They asked for cables.

As you note, they had a few days before the steam driven pumps failed, but they could have used local power during that time to great advantage, even if just to restore instruments.

I don't think we know enough about the decisions taken and problems faced regarding power connection during that period to judge. The quoted article doesn't say, the info we saw earlier (at least in English) is practically nil. It's quite likely that there were some bad decisions taken and good decisions not taken, but without data, it's all just speculation. And, again, the problems could have been originated in safety preparations rather than in emergency management.

The one thing we know about this period, from this article, is that the government tried but failed to get TEPCO to take quick action on venting.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 01:16:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the problems could have been originated in safety preparations rather than in emergency management.

Got to agree. A retired Toshiba engineer was quoted to have asked his superior 40 years ago about the emergency power generators (which were washed away by the tsunami) "What if a much bigger tsunami than the assumption comes?", to which the superior replied "Don't worry about once in several hundred years event."

It was certainly feasible and not very expensive to install the emergency power generators at a higher ground where the emergency operation center is currently housed unharmed. It was not a question of insufficient technical assessment but a question of common sense to take extra caution to preserve the last resort.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Wed Apr 13th, 2011 at 03:30:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The main story of the article is how the government first realised the need to open the valves, then asked, then ordered TEPCO to do it. Apparently, the situation was more problematic and dramatic than we thought:

The three [PM Kan, economy minister Kaieda, Nuclear Safety Commission chairman Madarame] urged TEPCO officials to vent the steam as soon as possible. But TEPCO officials said there was no way of opening the valves because there was no power supply.

Exasperated, Kaieda called the utility's head office in Tokyo and the accident headquarters at the plant every hour, pressuring them to open the valves immediately.

TEPCO workers tried to open the valves by manually overriding the automatic system, but struggled to make progress because they had to work in darkness.

After that, the article tells of increasingly exasperated government officials urging TEPCO to vent while TEPCO continued to discuss what to do. Kan blasted them:

"Now's not the time to make such lackadaisical comments!"

...however, if the problem was to first figure out how to open the valves, orders and expression of impatience from politicians didn't make things any quicker.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 05:07:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like the engineers version, rather than corporate PR's version of what was going on there (Which is the only version of a reply were likely to see anytime soon)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 05:34:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yomiuri Shimbun doesn't indicate in any way who its sources were for the article, but they must have had at least two sources: one in the Fukushima Daiichi accident headquarters and one in the Japanese government emergency team.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 12th, 2011 at 05:40:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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