Japan Nuclear Disaster And Earthquake-Tsunami 2011~2013
“I bowed and begged them to stay…”
Two years ago today the Japanese people were reeling from the nightmare of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake – the most powerful one ever recorded in Japan, and the 30-foot wave tsunami that crashed as much as 6 miles inshore on March 11 2011; It was a nightmare that killed in the region of 20,000 people and triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster 27 years ago.
Whilst the atomic accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant did not actually claim any lives it has left tens of thousands of people driven from their homes in a mass evacuation and reduced whole towns to an uninhabitable state as a consequence of the dangerous radiation levels. A situation that will probably last for many decades to come.
A report compiled by America’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations highlights the heroism of workers at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the disaster’s aftermath, which saw three reactors go into full nuclear meltdown…
“The plant’s back-up generators also failed, leaving most of the facility with no power. Workers struggled to cool the overheating reactors in ‘complete darkness’ while hundreds of aftershocks rocked the area, including two of greater than 7.0 magnitude. The workers persisted in their efforts despite ‘elevated and continuously changing dose rates and contamination levels,’ the report said. Food shortages meant they were given only a biscuit for breakfast and a bowl of noodles for dinner. Many slept on the floor. Some of the workers had lost their homes and families to the tsunami, but continued to toil at the crippled nuclear plant. Some operators volunteered to perform dangerous jobs, the report notes, while many had no formal training for the tasks they were attempting. They relied on "creativity" and "unconventional or unique methods to deal with ‘conditions that were beyond the design basis for the station.’ “ ~ America’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations
Reactor Explosions and Fires
No. 2 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered an explosion when cooling systems in the Unit failed and pressure inside the reactor soared. Reactor Units Nos. 1 and 3 were blasted by hydrogen explosions which blew the roof off No. 1 unit and tore No 3 reactor apart, and a fire broke out in reactor No. 4 spent fuel storage pond.
Masao Yoshida then Fukushima Daiichi plant chief told state broadcaster NHK: "In the first week immediately after the accident I thought a few times ‘I’m going to die.”
Making reference to the explosion of hydrogen that ripped the buildings around rectors 1 and 3 to shreds, he added: "I thought it was all over.”
In a provisional report released by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Masao described how he was forced to face the fact that they had a full blown disaster on their hands “When lights flickered and went out, including those on the control panels.”
"I came to realise a tsunami had hit the site as one of the workers rushed into the room, shouting ‘Sea water is gushing in!’ I felt totally at a loss after losing power sources. Other workers appeared anxious. They argued, and one asked: ‘Is there any reason for us to be here when there is nothing we can do to control (the reactors)?’ I bowed and begged them to stay.”
As immobilised electrical and cooling systems at the nuclear power plant ground to a halt
the largely unsung heroes – the heroic plant workers – in a terrifyingly high risk situation took life-threatening health risks in a desperate, punishing bid to prevent a worse nuclear disaster.
The beleaguered, under fire operator of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant released accounts from the plant workers’ themselves describing some of their most desperate moments as they struggled and fought to bring the stricken nuclear plant under control…
- Overwhelming challenges as workers endeavoured to manually open a ventilation valve in a vital effort to discharge pressure from a reactor container.
"We put on the full protection gear but couldn’t possibly let young workers do the task, as we had to go into an area where the radiation levels were high. When I got to the place to open the valve, I heard eerie, deep popping noise from the torus (a donut-shaped structure at the bottom of the reactor). When I put one of my feet on the torus to reach the valve, my black rubber boot melted and slipped (due to the heat).” one worker recalled.
- Dire working conditions as they strove relentlessly to combat the dangerously unstable and crippled nuclear plant.
"We experienced big aftershocks, and many times we had to run up a hill in desperation (fearing a tsunami) with the full-face mask still on,” one worker said.
- Race against time to set down power cables and reinstate the electric supply:
"We finished the work (in one section) in several hours, although it usually requires one month or two. It was an operation we had to do in puddles, fearing electrification,” the worker said.
- Explosions and fires at the plant give a free rein to the release of critically hazardous radiation levels, compelling TEPCO to evacuate all but a handful of brave and desperately needed workers, out of a nuclear workforce of hundreds.
Those workers became known as the "The Fukushima Fifty”, but the final numbers of workers risking lives and health to join the battle increased by thousands who were also joined by partner company technicians, the likes of Toshiba and Hitachi.
They undertook the commission of ensuring the steady flow of cooling water streaming into the six plant reactors, three of which none-the-less were later to undergo overheating and ultimate melted down.
Cooling System Failures at Japan’s Power Plants
“Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced a full meltdown in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March” ~ Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters (Japan}
“Nuclear fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 probably melted during the first week of the nuclear crisis whilst fuel rods at the heart of reactor No. 1 melted almost completely in the first 16 hours after the disaster struck.”
“We Came Close To Losing Northern Japan”
~Tokyo Electric Power Co.