The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Operation of communication about the “scorpion” robot which will be sent to the confinement enclosure of reactor n ° 2

TEPCO and its partners launched a communication operation about the “scorpion” robot, which will be sent to the containment reactor of reactor n ° 2 in an attempt to locate the corium, ie the highly radioactive molten fuel, mixed with debris. It is not certain that the mission will be a success, the cleaning robot having lasted only two hours in this enclosure because of the extreme radiations, without being able to finish its task.

A press release announces what we already know and insists on the challenges: “every step is a new challenge for TEPCO, but TEPCo welcomes the challenges”. The company would be almost happy with the accident? It is accompanied by a promotional video with a comparison to the kendô fights posted on its Facebook page.

The Japanese nuclear industry wants to place itself on the decommissioning market and highlights the technologies being developed. This robot was designed by IRID, Toshiba and TEPCO. IRID benefits from public funds. As for Toshiba, it is almost bankrupt because of its nuclear branch and TEPCO is financially in a bad shape.

The press release and the video do not provide any relevant information and are in complete discrepancy with reality.

1. Current conditions of Unit 2 Primary Containment Vessel (PCV)

Nuclear fuel in the Primary Containment vessel (PCV) was exposed to the air and melted from the impact of March 2011 Great Earthquake.

As a result of the accident analysis, it was found that a portion of melted nuclear fuel might have been fallen inside the pedestal.

To remove fuel debris, it is necessary to investigate the PCV and clarify the conditions of debris and surrounding structures.



2. Outline of Unit 2 PCV investigation

[Purpose]: To obtain feedback information (deformation of platform, etc.) for the design and

development of next investigation devices inside the pedestal

To inspect conditions on the platform inside pedestal, fuel debris fallen to the CRD housing, and conditions of structures inside pedestal.

[Investigation point]: Platform and Control Rod Drive (CRD) will be investigated from the platform inside pedestal


3. Work steps for Unit 2 PCV investigation



4. Preparatory investigation results from X-6 penetration to CRD rail


15 feb 2017 reactor 2 d.jpg

4. Preparatory investigation results at the entrance of pedestal area




4. Preparatory investigation results of pedestal area

15 feb 2017 reactor 2 f.jpg


5. Additional results expected from the self-propelled investigation device



6. Investigation by the self-propelled investigation device to the end of CRD rail



6. Investigation by the self-propelled investigation device to the end of CRD rail



Reference: Investigation results on the platform inside the pedestal

15 feb 2017 reactor 2 j.jpg

Technical information for the media is available here:

In Japanese about the upcoming mission

And in English

And about radiation protection measures

And in English

Translated from L’ACROnique de Fukushima


February 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Happening at Fukushima Daiichi?

The news headlines concerning Fukushima Daiichi over the last week have been rather confusing because some seem to imply that radiation levels have risen, as illustrated in this article by The Guardian:

Justin McCurry. February 3, 2017. Fukushima nuclear reactor radiation at highest level since 2011 meltdown. The Guardian,
Radiation levels inside a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station are at their highest since the plant suffered a triple meltdown almost six years ago.

I have not interpreted the latest news from TEPCO as indicating that radiation levels have risen.

Rather, I interpret the latest news as indicating that TEPCO was successful in getting a robot into an existing high-radiation area in the plant, under the reactor-pressure vessel of unit 2, as explained in this excerpt from an article published in The Japan Times:

Highest radiation reading since 3/11 detected at Fukushima No. 1 reactor. The Japan Times, Feb 3, 2017,

The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant has reached a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the triple core meltdown in March 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. said.

Tepco said on Thursday that the blazing radiation reading was taken near the entrance to the space just below the pressure vessel, which contains the reactor core…

Tepco also announced that, based on its analysis of images taken by a remote-controlled camera, that there is a 2-meter hole in the metal grating under the pressure vessel in the reactor’s primary containment vessel. It also thinks part of the grating is warped.

As the article observes, the hole was probably made when the fuel “escaped the pressure vessel after the mega-quake and massive tsunami triggered a station blackout.”

Simply Info, an excellent source of information and technical analysis about Fukushima, offers this summary analysis of the origins of the hole:

Fukushima Unit 2 Failure Point Found! Simply Info, Feb 2, 2017,

This large but concentrated hole appears to be the failure point for the unit 2 reactor pressure vessel (RPV). Melted fuel (corium) likely flowed through this hole and collected into the sump in the containment structure floor. The slow failure and small opening melted through the RPV likely allowed the molten fuel to burn down as it collected in the sump. This new visual evidence shows conditions that could have led to the molten fuel burning down into the reactor building concrete basemat. Without sufficient cooling, it could have potentially burned down through the basemat.

Simply Info has a follow up article where Nancy Foust offers her analysis. Here is her hypothesis concerning what happened to the fuel in reactor 2 after the earthquake 3/11:

Foust, Nancy. Feb 2, 2017. What The New Fukushima Unit 2 Inspection May Indicate. Simply Information,

What has been found seems to track with the theory of a slow failure and melt out that may have burned down into the concrete basemat rather than flowed out across the containment floor.

These reports beg the question as to where the reactor fuel from unit 2 is now located. Is it under the site? Is it in the basement? How structurally intact is the basement? TEPCO stated several years ago that water in the basement of unit 2 was encountering melted fuel and that this contaminated water was not entirely contained by the building (I have this documented in my published work on Fukushima).

And what are the conditions of reactors 1 and 3? These reactors remain too hot for robots.

There is a near continuous stream of atmospheric emissions that can be seen nightly on the webcam around unit 3. I always presumed that the MOX remains of unit 3 reactor’s fuel were responsible for that stream of visible heat/steam.

Could slumped fuel from unit 2 have ended up moving toward unit 3?

Here is a screenshot from today of the emission stream:

Well, no way to know for sure but I do feel safe concluding that Daiichi’s mysterious missing fuel is probably dispersing in ground water, ocean, earth, and atmosphere….

Previous Related Posts

Majia’s Blog: Making Sense of Fukushima

Dec 18, 2015 – As I’ve mentioned previously on my blog, there was no word on the fuel … are in danger of collapse due to an earthquake or liquefaction of the …

Majia’s Blog: Unit 4: Is There Intact Fuel Left Unburned?

Sep 28, 2012 – Majia here: When I listened to Arnie Gundersen’s recent interview and … 2012, the loose soil under Fukushima underwent liquefaction during a …

Majia’s Blog: Will Fukushima Daiichi Kill Vast Swathes of Life in the …

Jan 11, 2014 – Majia here: Ok so strontium levels in the ground water and in ocean … This explains why site liquefaction is occurring at the Daiichi site. So, we …

Majia’s Blog

Jan 29, 2017 – The New York Times has a poignant article about the plight of US service men who were required to clean up Enewetak atoll, part of the …

Missing: liquefaction

Majia’s Blog: Fukushima Daiichi Update

Aug 28, 2016 – Liquefaction has been a risk for years now at the plant. It is amazing (what’s left of) the buildings are still standing…. Posted by Majia’s Blog at …

Majia’s Blog: “Prosecutors drop TEPCO case over radioactive water …

Mar 30, 2016 – [xv] Water saturation from the underground river and TEPCO’s injections contribute to ground liquefaction, which poses direct risks to the …

Majia’s Blog: Contaminated Water at Fukushima Daiichi Threatens …

Feb 22, 2014 – The ground water saturation is contributing to ground liquefaction, which poses direct risks to the reactor buildings and common spent fuel pool …

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Radiation level at Fukushima reactor highest since 2011 disaster; grating hole found

reactor 2 fab 2 2017.jpg


TOKYO (Kyodo) — The radiation level inside the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex stood at 530 sieverts per hour at a maximum, the highest since the 2011 disaster, the plant operator said Thursday.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. also announced that based on image analysis, a hole measuring 2 meters in diameter has been found on a metal grating beneath the pressure vessel inside the containment vessel and a portion of the grating was distorted.


2 feb 2017.jpg


According to TEPCO, the extremely high radiation level was found near the entrance area in the space just below the pressure vessel. The previously highest radiation level monitored in the interior of the reactor was 73 sieverts per hour.

The hole could have been caused by nuclear fuel that penetrated the reactor vessel as it overheated and melted due to the loss of reactor cooling functions in the days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 hit northeastern Japan.

According to the image analysis, about 1 square meter of the grating was missing.

The plant operator plans to deploy a robot at the bottom of the reactor containment vessel, which houses the reactor pressure vessel, to check the conditions there.

The analysis follows TEPCO’s discovery Monday of a black mass deposited on the grating directly beneath the pressure vessel, possibly melted fuel after the unit suffered a meltdown along with two other Fukushima Daiichi reactors.

Images captured using a camera attached to a telescopic arm on Monday also showed part of the grating has gone. A further analysis of the images found a 2-meter hole in an area beyond the missing section on the structure.

If the deposits are confirmed as fuel debris, it would be the first time the utility has found any at the three units that suffered meltdowns.

Following one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, the No. 1 to 3 reactors suffered fuel meltdowns.

Portions of the fuel in the reactors are believed to have melted through the pressure vessels and accumulated at the bottom of the containment vessels.

The actual condition of the melted fuel has remained unknown due to high radiation levels.


2 feb 2017 2.jpg

February 2, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Images indicate bigger challenge for TEPCO at Fukushima plant

A video taken on Jan. 30 shows the bottom of the No. 2 reactor’s pressure vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Water used to cool the nuclear fuel is dripping, and possible melted fuel is seen strewn on grating for maintenance work. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)


If confirmed, the first images of melted nuclear fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant show that Tokyo Electric Power Co. will have a much more difficult time decommissioning the battered facility.

The condition of what is believed to be melted fuel inside the No. 2 reactor at the plant appears far worse than previously thought.

Before the pictures were taken by a remote-controlled video camera on Jan. 30, TEPCO presumed that most of the nuclear fuel at the No. 2 reactor had remained within the reactor’s pressure vessel. That presumption was based on findings of a study conducted last year involving cosmic rays.

As a result, TEPCO did not expect the camera to detect possible nuclear fuel debris below the pressure vessel.

1 fev 2017 3.jpg


But the images showed black lumps scattered on a wire-mesh grating in the lower part of the containment vessel, which encloses the pressure vessel. This indicates that the fuel melted through bottom of the pressure vessel, spilled through the grating and fell on the floor of the containment vessel.


1 fev 2017 1.jpg

This image of the area below the No. 2 reactor’s pressure vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was taken on Jan. 30. Experts believe nuclear fuel melted the paint and components of equipment nearby and has hardened. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)


The grating, which was used by maintenance workers before the disaster, was partially bent.

The images could show only part of the melted fuel in the No. 2 reactor. And there is still no indication on how widespread the black lumps were strewn, their volume and state.

TEPCO and government authorities in fiscal 2018 plan to decide on a method to retrieve the melted fuel from each of the three crippled reactors and start the removal work in 2021.

But a number questions remain unanswered, such as how to reduce workers’ radiation exposure, where the removed fuel will be kept, and when it will be disposed of.

The pictures raise another question: How will workers cut out the wire-mesh grating embedded with lumps of melted fuel?

The images were the first of possible nuclear fuel debris at the nuclear plant since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the triple meltdown there in March 2011.


1 fev 2017 2.jpg

Sasori (Scorpion), an investigative robot, is expected to be sent in the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in February.


High radiation levels have prevented workers from entering the No. 2 reactor, as well as the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors at the plant.

A number of problems have hampered investigations by robots into the location of melted fuel at the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors.



February 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Footage points to difficulty in removing possible melted fuel at Fukushima plant


The footage released on Jan. 30 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) showing what could be melted fuel inside the No. 2 reactor at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has highlighted the difficulty of salvaging the object, which is apparently stuck to footholds and other equipment at the facility.
TEPCO took the footage as part of its in-house probe into the No. 2 reactor and found that black and brown sediments — possible melted fuel — are stuck inside the reactor’s containment vessel over an extensive area.

“If what was captured in the footage was melted fuel, that would provide a major step forward toward trying our hand at unprecedented decommissioning work,” said Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, head of TEPCO’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters, during a press conference in the city of Fukushima on Jan. 30. “The finding may provide a major clue to future work to retrieve the object,” he added.

At the time of the March 2011 meltdowns at the plant, there were 548 nuclear fuel rods totaling some 164 metric tons inside the No. 2 reactor, but they apparently melted down after the loss of power sources for the core cooling system, with part of the melted fuel penetrating through the pressure vessel before cooling down at the bottom of the containment vessel. The temperature of the reactor core topped 2,000 degrees Celsius at the time of the accident, melting metals including nuclear fuel inside the reactor.

The melted fuel has since come in contact with underground water flowing from the mountain side, generating radioactively contaminated water every day. In order to dismantle the reactor, it is necessary to take out the melted fuel, but high radiation levels inside the reactor had hampered work to locate the melted debris.

On Jan. 30, apart from the footage, TEPCO also released 11 pictures taken inside the No. 2 reactor. The images show the sediments in question stuck to metal grate footholds and water is dripping from the ceiling. Further analysis of those images may provide information on the current status of the disaster and positional clues to decommissioning work.

The in-house probe, however, has only focused on the No. 2 reactor, and there is no prospect of similar probes into the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors starting anytime soon as they were severely damaged by hydrogen explosions following the 2011 meltdowns.

In April 2015, TEPCO introduced a remote-controlled robot into the No. 1 reactor by way of a through hole in its containment vessel, but the device failed to locate melted fuel inside due to high radiation levels. While the utility is planning to send a different type of robot into the No. 1 reactor this coming spring, it would be difficult to carry out a survey similar to that conducted at the No. 2 reactor, as radiation levels are high around the through hole in the No. 1 reactor’s containment vessel, from which a device could access to right below the No. 1 reactor.

The No. 3 reactor, meanwhile, holds roughly 6.5-meter-deep contaminated water inside its containment vessel, a far larger volume than that accumulated at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors. TEPCO has thus been developing a robot that can wade through water.


January 31, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Possible nuclear fuel find raises hopes of Fukushima plant breakthrough

30 jan 2017 guardian.jpg

Material found below the damaged No 2 reactor at Fukushima nuclear plant, believed to be melted fuel, from footage taken on 30 January.

Operator says it has seen what may be fuel debris beneath badly damaged No 2 reactor, destroyed six years ago in triple meltdown

Hopes have been raised for a breakthrough in the decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after its operator said it may have discovered melted fuel beneath a reactor, almost six years after the plant suffered a triple meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said on Monday that a remote camera appeared to have found the debris beneath the badly damaged No 2 reactor, where radiation levels remain dangerously high. Locating the fuel is the first step towards removing it.

The operator said more analysis would be needed before it could confirm that the images were of melted uranium fuel rods, but confirmed that the lumps were not there before Fukushima Daiichi was hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

The tsunami, triggered by a 9.0-magnitude quake, killed more than 18,500 people along the coast of north-east Japan and destroyed the backup power supply at Fukushima Daiichi, triggering the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

Meltdowns in three of the plant’s six reactors forced about 160,000 people to evacuate and sent plumes of radiation across the Fukushima region. Many of the evacuees are unlikely to return home.

If Tepco can confirm that the black mass comprises melted fuel, it would represent a significant breakthrough in a recovery effort that has been hit by mishaps, the buildup of huge quantities of contaminated water, and soaring costs.

This is a big step forward as we have got some precious data for the decommissioning process, including removing the fuel debris,” a Tepco official said.

Using a remotely controlled camera attached to the end of a 10.5-metre-long telescopic arm, Tepco technicians located black lumps on wire-mesh grating just below the reactor’s pressure vessel, local media reported.

The company plans to send a scorpion-like robot equipped with cameras, radiation measuring equipment and a temperature gauge into the No 2 reactor containment vessel next month, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

Three previous attempts to use robots to locate melted fuel inside the same reactor ended in failure when the devices were rendered useless by radiation.

Developing the means to remove the fuel – a task Tepco has said will become easier once it can gauge its condition – would be the biggest step forward in the mission to clean up Fukushima Daiichi since the removal of hundreds of spent fuel rods from a damaged reactor building in late 2013.

The delicate, potentially dangerous task of decommissioning the plant has barely begun, however.

Japanese media said last week that plans to remove spent fuel from the No 3 reactor building had been delayed, while decommissioning the entire plant was expected to take at least 40 years.

In December, the government said the estimated cost of decommissioning the plant and decontaminating the surrounding area, as well as paying compensation and storing radioactive waste, had risen to 21.5 trillion yen ($187bn), nearly double an estimate released in 2013.

A government committee estimated that 2.4 trillion yen of the total cost would be passed on to consumers through higher electricity bills.


January 31, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO may have located melted fuel for 1st time at Fukushima plant

reactor 2 30 jan 2017 a.jpg


Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Jan. 30 it may have finally pinpointed the location of melted fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, nearly six years after the triple meltdown unfolded there.

If confirmation is made, it would represent a breakthrough in the daunting task of decommissioning the stricken nuclear plant.



A remote-controlled camera fitted on a long pipe detected black lumps on grating in the lower part of the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the plant early on Jan. 30, TEPCO said.

The wire-mesh grating is located below the pressure vessel of the reactor. The lumps were not there before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused the nuclear disaster, according to TEPCO.

reactor 2 30 jan 2017 c.jpg


The utility plans to determine whether the lump is melted fuel based on images and radiation levels taken by an investigative robot and other data. The robot, called “Sasori” (scorpion) and fitted with two cameras, a dosimeter and a temperature gauge, will be sent into the No. 2 reactor containment vessel next month.

reactor 2 30 jan 2017 d.jpg


High radiation levels have hampered efforts at the nuclear plant to determine the condition and location of melted nuclear fuel.

TEPCO tried–and failed–three times to locate melted fuel using an industrial endoscope at the No. 2 reactor.

The latest investigation inside the No. 2 reactor began on Jan. 26 to locate the melted fuel.

The company is preparing to devise a method to retrieve the melted fuel in fiscal 2018 as part of the decommissioning work.

The image shows what is believed to be the remains of melted nuclear fuel that seeped through the grating below the pressure vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Robot to probe nuke fuel debris in Fukushima No. 2 reactor

survey robot 6 sept 2016.jpg

Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to send this survey robot into a reactor containment vessel at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.


A robot will be sent into the No. 2 reactor containment vessel at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to locate the melted fuel inside and assess its spread ahead of future retrieval.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced on Aug. 25 that it would undertake the difficult operation early next year at the soonest.

Under consideration for the work is a scorpion-shaped robot developed by Toshiba Corp., whose slender body allows it to pass through narrow openings. It is designed to raise its rear camera toward the front to capture images when it has arrived at a planned survey location.

The robot will crawl through an entrance into the No. 2 reactor containment vessel and travel along a rail to go deeper into its interior and confirm the state of the melted fuel inside and other conditions.

TEPCO and other parties are planning to draw on the survey results to decide on the fuel retrieval method as early as fiscal 2018 and set out on the actual retrieval process, expected to pose extreme difficulties, in 2021.

The initial plan would have sent the “scorpion” into the No. 2 reactor last summer, but radiation levels around the entrance were so high that cleanup work had to be done to reduce them for workers who would be sending the scorpion in.

Remote operations to remove a steel plate that blocked the entrance also turned out to be a time-consuming process.

If the operation to send the robot proceeds as planned, its use will still be a year and a half behind schedule.

Robots of a similar kind were sent last year into the No. 1 reactor and were partially successful in capturing images inside the containment vessel. However, the survey has had rough going, as the robots failed to spot any fuel.

TEPCO and the government are planning to draw on the robot survey results and other information to make a decision in fiscal 2018 on the melted fuel retrieval method for the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 reactors.

They are hoping to use the “submersion method,” which would involve filling the containment vessel with water to reduce worker radiation doses, during the retrieval work to be started in 2021. However, water is leaking from holes in the containment vessels, and the holes have yet to be located.

TEPCO and other parties have begun weighing alternative retrieval methods that do not involve filling the containment vessels with water.

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

The Mysterious Case Of The Missing Fukushima Fuel


By Richard Wilcox, PhD

As the world forever hurtles toward Armageddon, the Fukushima nuclear disaster has largely faded from the front pages. But the issue is far from resolved. Radiation from nuclear accidents is not easily dispelled with estimates of clean-up time at Fukushima ranging from 40 to 500 years, and nearly six years have already passed. Even safely stored nuclear material is dangerous for 100,000 years (1).

Elvis Has Left The Building

The major question regarding the situation at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi (no.1 nuclear power plant) regards the location of the melted fuel at reactor units 1, 2 and 3.

Recent evidence of the location of the fuel in unit 2 was disputed, with Tokyo Electric Co. (Tepco) and the mainstream media taking one view and independent scientists taking another. Is the melted fuel still inside the container in the reactor building, or has it leaked out and is now penetrating in scattered areas laterally and vertically into the ground?

Large amounts of melted fuel could reach the ground water, and even the aquifer which is ultimately connected to the Tokyo water supply.

Let’s compare two assessments on this important issue based on the use of “Muon tomography”:

According to the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) version of reality which relies solely on the Tepco report:

Most of the nuclear fuel inside the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant apparently did not melt through the pressure vessel (2).



Is it that simple? Tepco’s record of reliability has become rather tarnished over the years.

Note that in the graphic image above, the word “believed” is used, which reinforces the word “apparently” used in the text of the article referring to the uncertainty of the location of the melted fuel. However, the title of the article is more confident, stating that “most fuel was contained.” The title is blatantly misleading and since most readers just skim the news, that will be what they take away from the report.

On the other hand, the independent scientists at the Simply Info website differ about the location of the fuel in relation to the container, the “Reactor Pressure Vessel” (RPV):

Tepco’s superimposed mask demarcates the bottom head too low including fuel inside the rpv which according to the refined image is clearly shown below the bottom head….”there is no fuel in the bottom of the RPV in any significant amount” (3).



This graphic indicates that a different method was used by these scientists to view the location of the melted fuel.


In this graphic the Simply Info scientists argue that the container drawing was placed too low in the Tepco version, whereas in their version, it is higher, making it less obvious that the fuel is in the container.

Careful reading of this article reveals that Tepco’s analysis, as so glibly presented by the mainstream media, was based on technological smoke and mirrors, clearly intended to deceive. Tepco and the media should report on the range of plausible possibilities, not only the small slice of reality they wish the public to see (4; 5).

So will the Asahi Shimbun correct their fallacious reporting? Both the Japan Times and the Asahi Shimbunare heavily owned and controlled by foreign investors and media. TheAsahi shares offices with the New York Times in Tokyo and many Japanese English dailies rely on Western news wires such as the agenda driven, oligarchic news sources, Reutersand the Associated Press (6).

Decommissioning Or Out Of Commission?

In fact, in over five years much progress has been made to control the situation at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant. Much of the rubble has been cleaned up and fresh coats of paints are on the buildings, but the place is still intensely radioactive, and no human can approach the specific reactor meltdown sites.

The second major issue at Dai-ichi concerns the future plans for the decommissioning of the plant. All along Tepco has said they will retrieve the melted fuel and complete decommissioning within 40 years. In fact the technology to retrieve the fuel has not yet been invented. Not only is it impossible for human workers to approach the area, but even robots break down due to the radiation short circuiting their wires.

It was recently revealed that Japan is still considering an option that many people feel would be very dangerous in the long term, and that is the “sarcophagus” solution (7). The only time this has been tried is at Chernobyl — it looks like a high-tech barn placed over the site (8). Unlike Chernobyl where the ground is rock hard, at Fukushima the ground is akin to a wet sponge with soft topsoil, so while covering it will reduce radioactive atmospheric fallout, the radiation will continue to leak downwards to the aquifer and outwards to the ocean unless appropriate engineering measures are taken.

Nevertheless, progress is slow with efforts “underway to develop the equipment needed to retrieve corium (melted fuel) samples from inside the containment structures of units 1-3 at the plant. No solid time frame” has yet been was mentioned (9).

The Nuclear Story

In an interesting aside, the best documentary film on Fukushima I have see so far, Fukushima: A Nuclear Story was released in 2015 (10). It is an Italian production but with English narration and subtitles. The plot follows journalist Pio d’Emilio during the nuclear crisis as he tries to uncover the real situation in Fukushima. The film is engaging and educational at the same time, covering new ground and combining dramatic events as they unfold at the time with scientific explanations done in an entertaining, “manga” comic book style.

The film emphasizes the near catastrophe of Tepco’s panic during the accident, and the courage and wisdom of then prime minister Naoto Kan, and the Fukushima 50, led by the plant manager Masao Yoshida whose snap judgement literally “saved the world.”

The film raises one very interesting piece of information that I did not know about which is that it was only the luck of the pool fuel gate at unit 4 not closing, in other words, malfunctioning, which allowed water in to cool the scorching fuel rods. Had that not occurred, the fuel rods could have caught fire spreading massive radiation for hundreds of miles.

Note that had the Fukushima accident happened at night or on the weekend there would have been far fewer workers at the plant to tackle the problem, possibly leading to a completely out-of-control situation.

The Ice Wall Cometh…

The “ice wall” that Tepco built in order to freeze the ground around the plant to block water flow in and out of the plant, continues to have problems. It is a very expensive operation to build and maintain, prone to technical problems and no one really knows when or if it will ever be fully implemented (i.e., taxpayer boondoggle) (11; 12). Even if the ice wall operates as intended it will not stop all of the water flow allowing some to be contaminated (13).

Is this why the sarcophagus option is still on the table? Critics have argued that the ice wall was poorly conceived from the start because it did not address dealing with the source of water flow which is at the water shed above the plant in the nearby mountains (Tepco balked at the project due to the high cost).

Japan Nuke News

Various nuclear related issues pop up from time to time around country. Since the nuclear accident in 2011, the overwhelming public sentiment has been strongly anti nuclear, despite efforts by the Abe administration to downplay the accident and restart as many of the reactors around the country as possible. The logic of the restarts against public opinion is in order to satisfy the big banks who have financed Japanese utility company operations while reactors have remained idle (expensive but not profit producing) over the past years.

Ever since the hugely destructive earthquakes earlier in 2016 on the island of Kyushu, nuclear plant restarts along the path of the fault line, which basically travels through the middle of the entire country, have been in doubt. Still we see for example in Shikoku that nuclear reactors are restarting despite local opposition (14).

Although prime minister Abe keeps pushing for resumption of nuclear operations, he probably would not want to work at the Fukushima nuclear disaster clean up site himself. It was recently reported by Japanese scientists that insoluble radioactive cesium has been detected in workers exposed to high levels of radiation at the plant (15).

Indeed, the wildlife in Fukushima prefecture has long been reported to be contaminated with radiation, recently a wild boar was detected with massive levels of radiation in its body (16). This is an indication of the general contamination of the environment there.

This doesn’t stop the Fukushima tourist board from advertising how safe and wonderful life is there. In order to drum up tourist dollars the national government has carried out a massive public relations campaign despite the lingering possibility of numerous radioactive hotspots in the area (17; 18).

Trump Threatens Nuclear Cartel

Maybe things will change a bit if Donald Trump can be elected president in the United States. Trump has promised to reduce US military presence in Japan and let them sort out their own military affairs. This does not bode well for the US-Japan military racket which siphons off billions of dollars in tax revenue to satisfy the greed of both country’s military industrial complexes, which are intensely tied up with the nuclear weapons and power industries (20).

Isn’t it ironic that the bogeyman of North Korea which is constantly conjured by Japan to justify its own growth in militarism, obtained its original nuclear weapon technology from Britain, a supposed Japan ally (21).

Funny old world ain’t it.


Special thanks to the Simply Info website for their continuous work on the Fukushima issue; and to Activist Post for their continued reporting.

Richard Wilcox is a contributing editor and writer for the book: Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? (2014) and a Tokyo-based teacher and writer who holds a PhD in environmental studies. He is a regular contributor to Activist Post. His radio interviews and articles are archived at and he can be reached at


1 – Nuclear waste: keep out for 100,000 years

2 – New study on Fukushima reactor shows most fuel was contained

3 – Something Incredible Found In Fukushima Muon Scan

4 – First Fukushima Unit 2 Muon Scans Dispute New Scan Results

5 – Fukushima Unit 2 Muon Scan Not So Conclusive

6 – Democracy in Peril: Twenty Years of Media Consolidation Under the Telecommunications Act;

7 – NDF Tries To Walk Back Fukushima Daiichi Sarcophagus Admission

8 – The Chernobyl Gallery: Sarcophagus

9 – Melted Fuel To Be Sampled From Fukushima Reactors Containment

10 – Fukushima: A Nuclear Story

11 – Fukushima Frozen Wall Sees Small Progress From Concrete Addition

12 – Fukushima Frozen Wall Report For June 23 2016

13 – Fukushima No. 1 plant’s ice wall won’t be watertight, says chief architect

14 – Shikoku MOX plant restarts amid outcry over fresh quake fears


16 – 960 Bq/kg of Cs-134/137 detected from wild boar in Fukushima

17 – Tokyo to Fukushima: Route to enjoy modern, old Japan

18 – Fukushima tourism making strong progress on recovery

19 – Trump rips U.S. defense of Japan as one-sided, too expensive

20 – North Korea used British technology to build its nuclear bombs


The Mysterious Case Of The Missing Fukushima Fuel



August 17, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Study shows bulk of fuel still in crippled Fukushima No. 2 reactor



TOKYO, July 14, Kyodo

A study on the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has found that most of the melted fuel in the No. 2 reactor is still present in the reactor core area, sources close to the matter said recently.

According to the study that used a cosmic ray imaging system, around 200 tons of fuel and other melted substances is estimated to have accumulated at the bottom of the pressure vessel, the first time the current location of the fuel has been specified.

The finding is important for devising ways to remove the so-called fuel debris, the most challenging task in decommissioning the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors that suffered meltdowns in the nuclear crisis that began in March 2011.


July 14, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima clean-up chief still hunting for 600 tonnes of melted radioactive fuel

The operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has revealed that 600 tonnes of reactor fuel melted during the disaster, and that the exact location of the highly radioactive blobs remains a mystery.

In an exclusive interview with Foreign Correspondent, the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s chief of decommissioning at Fukushima, Naohiro Masuda, said the company hoped to pinpoint the position of the fuel and begin removing it from 2021.

But he admitted the technology needed to remove the fuel has to be invented.

“Once we can find out the condition of the melted fuel and identify its location, I believe we can develop the necessary tools to retrieve it,” Mr Masuda said.

“So it’s important to find it as soon as possible.”

Clean-up to take decades, cost tens of billions of dollars

Reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant suffered catastrophic meltdowns in the hours and days after a giant tsunami swamped the facility on 11 March, 2011.

Thousands of workers are braving elevated radiation levels to stabilise and decommission the plant.

TEPCO says the process will take 30 to 40 years and tens of billions of dollars.

“In Reactor 1, all of the fuel has melted down from inside the pressure vessel,” Mr Masuda said.

“In reactors 2 and 3, about 30 per cent to 50 per cent remains in the pressure vessel and the rest has melted down. But unfortunately, we don’t know exactly where [the fuel] is.”

The head of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the time of the meltdowns at Fukushima doubts the fuel can be retrieved, saying such an operation has never been done before.

“Nobody really knows where the fuel is at this point and this fuel is still very radioactive and will be for a long time,” said Gregory Jaczko in an interview with Foreign Correspondent in Washington.

“It may be possible that we’re never able to remove the fuel. You may just have to wind up leaving it there and somehow entomb it as it is.”

Radiation killing search robots inside reactor

For the first time, TEPCO has revealed just how much of the mostly uranium fuel melted down after the tsunami swamped the plant.

“It’s estimated that approximately 200 tonnes of debris lies within each unit,” said TEPCO’s Naohiro Masuda.

“So in total, about 600 tonnes of melted debris fuel and a mixture of concrete and other metals are likely to be there.”

TEPCO has attempted to use custom-built robots to access high-dose radiation parts of the reactor buildings where humans cannot go.

“All the robots have been disabled, the instrumentation, the camera … have been disabled because of the high radiation fields,” former NRC boss Gregory Jaczko said.

Appointed to head the US nuclear watchdog by President Barack Obama in 2009, Dr Jaczko resigned a year after the Fukushima disaster.

A particle physicist, he now questions the safety of nuclear power.

“You have to now accept that in all nuclear power plants, wherever they are in the world … that you can have this kind of a very catastrophic accident and you can release a significant amount of radiation and have a decade long clean-up effort on your hands,” he said.

10 million bags of contaminated soil in gigantic waste dumps

Another supporter turned opponent of nuclear power is Naoto Kan, who was the Japanese prime minister at the time of the Fukushima meltdowns.

He says those who argue that nuclear power is a safe, cheap source of energy are misguided.

“So far, the government is paying $70 billion to support TEPCO,” Mr Kan said.

“But that is not enough. It will probably cost more than $240 billion. I think 40 years [to decommission the plant] is an optimistic view.”

More than 100,000 Japanese are still unable to return home because their communities lie in elevated radiation zones.

Some people have returned to their towns and villages since the completion of decontamination work, which often involves the removal of up to 15 centimetres of topsoil from fields and from around homes.

More than 10 million large bags of contaminated soil and waste have so far been collected. The bags are now stored in thousands of sites around Fukushima, with some of the piles several storeys high.

“In order for people to come back, we need to show that the Fukushima plant is in a stable condition,” Naohiro Masuda said.

“We need to make that the situation … we’re working on something [for] which there is no textbook.”

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment