Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Weekly Review

The last week in Japan saw memorials and protests to mark the March 11 anniversary of the Japanese tsunami and nuclear crisis. The station blackout at Fukushima Daiichi also formed the backdrop for a lengthy interview of former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko with a Japanese newspaper. Meanwhile, crews have begun covering openings made to vent hydrogen gas in reactor buildings, and a panel concluded that Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not intentionally mislead investigators by discouraging access to one of the units.

Jaczko Expresses Misgivings About U.S. Nuclear Safety in Asahi Interview

During a Q and A published Thursday in the Asahi Shimbun, Jaczko came to a number of conclusions likely to provoke the ire of the nuclear power industry he once helped regulate:

On Japanese utilities' assertions that the country's new Nuclear Regulation Authority is too strict: "If the industry is unhappy with the regulatory body, it is probably a good thing. Independence in decision making, in particular, licensing decisions, is crucial, and I believe that exists in Japan. ... They are there to say no, sometimes when the industry does not want them to do so. It is the role of the regulators."

On his votes against issuing licenses for new reactors at the Vogtle and V.C. Summer plants: "You would not buy a car if somebody was telling you that they were trying to fix the brakes. You would wait until they had fixed the brakes, and then you would go ahead and buy the car. Unfortunately, there was tremendous pressure for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to issue these licenses. I suggested putting in a requirement, or a condition, in the license that said that they would not operate the plant until all of the Fukushima changes were implemented."
On U.S. nuclear regulation post-9/11 and post-Fukushima: "After the Fukushima accident, many people, including myself, said that the anti-terrorism measures would have prevented the accident. I am not so convinced that is the case today. ... We have to rethink this technology in such a way that these kinds of accidents simply cannot happen and that I could, as a regulator or as anyone else, comfortably say to you: 'That accident will never happen.'”

On the NRC: "The biggest problem with the NRC continues to be the heavy influence that the industry has in selecting the members of the commission. It is a very political process. ... It would be virtually impossible for someone who is publicly skeptical of nuclear power to ever be confirmed as a commissioner on the NRC. That is fundamentally wrong."

On the future of the industry in the U.S.: "I think there are two futures for nuclear power. One is a future in which the industry continues to kind of degrade, that more plants, as they get older, start to shut down, do not restart. And you have very little interest in people studying nuclear technology, nuclear engineering, nuclear science, and the industry slowly disappears. ... But there certainly are attractive features of nuclear power. We need to rethink the current design to have better designs such as small modular reactors."

TEPCO Closes Holes Opened for Hydrogen Venting

Early in the crisis, crews removed panels and cut holes into Fukushima reactor buildings to help release hydrogen, which caused multiple explosions at the site. On Monday, the blow-out panel of unit 2 was finally closed, according to a TEPCO release. A few days earlier, workers began closing a similar hole in the roof of unit 6.

Panel Clears TEPCO of Deliberate Misinformation

On Wednesday, an independent panel determined that TEPCO did not intentionally mislead parliamentary investigators when it erroneously told them the fourth floor of unit 1 should not be inspected, in part, because it was not lighted. Kyodo reported that the panel blamed the incident on "misunderstandings," but noted that it did have a negative effect on the investigation.

Anonymous comments will be moderated. Join for free and post now! 

  • Anonymous

    I seem to remember Chairman Jaczko calling on Americans in Japan to flee for their own safety as the accident progressed.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Jaczko said they were under tremendous pressure to approve the license for new reactors in the U.S.  

    Who exactly exerted that pressure?

    They should be investigated by the NRC's Inspector General.