The PJ Tatler

IAEA update at 0115 UTC 17 March

IAEA is the central location for reporting what’s happening at Fukushima. I’ve been following them throughout this thing, and I’m beginning to notice that they are considerably less depressing than what the legacy media in the US and Europe is reporting — which is interesting, because in general IAEA is actually in the meetings — unlike the press.

Here’s what they said at 17 Mar 0115Z, which would be 16 Mar 9:15PM Eastern Time, 6:15PM Pacific time.


2 TEPCO employees have minor injuries

2 subcontractor employees are injured, one person suffered broken legs and one person whose condition is unknown was transported to the hospital

2 people are missing

2 people were ‘suddenly taken ill’

2 TEPCO employees were transported to hospital during the time of donning respiratory protection in the control centre

4 people (2 TEPCO employees, 2 subcontractor employees) sustained minor injuries due to the explosion at unit 1 on 11 March and were transported to the hospital

11 people (4 TEPCO employees, 3 subcontractor employees and 4 Japanese civil defense workers) were injured due to the explosion at unit 3 on 14 March

Radiological Contamination

17 people (9 TEPCO employees, 8 subcontractor employees) suffered from deposition of radioactive material to their faces, but were not taken to the hospital because of low levels of exposure

One worker suffered from significant exposure during ‘vent work,’ and was transported to an offsite center

2 policemen who were exposed to radiation were decontaminated

Firemen who were exposed to radiation are under investigation

Notice anything? No mention of the “15 people with radiation poisoning” the New York Times reported. At most one person who suffered “significant exposure” and some others who are “under investigation” — which probably means their dosimeters were high enough to be an issue. All the known injuries so far are broken bones or other injuries from the explosion.

Let’s go on.

Fuel Rod Storage Pools

IAEA can speak for themselves here, with a report as of  16 Mar 2200Z  (6:00 PM ET, 3:00 PM PT):

Spent fuel that has been removed from a nuclear reactor generates intense heat and is typically stored in a water-filled spent fuel pool to cool it and provide protection from its radioactivity. Water in a spent fuel pool is continuously cooled to remove heat produced by spent fuel assemblies. According to IAEA experts, a typical spent fuel pool temperature is kept below 25 ˚C under normal operating conditions. The temperature of a spent fuel pool is maintained by constant cooling, which requires a constant power source.

Given the intense heat and radiation that spent fuel assemblies can generate, spent fuel pools must be constantly checked for water level and temperature. If fuel is no longer covered by water or temperatures reach a boiling point, fuel can become exposed and create a risk of radioactive release. The concern about the spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi is that sources of power to cool the pools may have been compromised.

The IAEA can confirm the following information regarding the temperatures of the spent nuclear fuel pools at Units 4, 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant:

Unit 4
14 March, 10:08 UTC: 84 ˚C
15 March, 10:00 UTC: 84 ˚C
16 March, 05:00 UTC: no data
Unit 5
14 March, 10:08 UTC: 59.7 ˚C
15 March, 10:00 UTC: 60.4 ˚C
16 March, 05:00 UTC: 62.7 ˚C
Unit 6
14 March, 10:08 UTC: 58.0 ˚C
15 March, 10:00 UTC: 58.5 ˚C
16 March, 05:00 UTC: 60.0 ˚C

Of course, 100°C is boiling at sea level