More on the Reactor 4 fires of 15 March 2011

Draft. Im working on a Dell mini 10v and cant find my glasses.

As readers who are prepared to wade through this blog know, I am trying to put together the facts relating to the fires which occurred on 15 March 2011 at reactor 4. (organization and ease of expression under pressure are not my strong points, and I remain overwhelmed with information, and still lack a clear timeline of events in March – particularly in relation to the events at Reactor 4).

I will be putting the posts related to the fires together. I will do this once I have a sufficient number of sources with which to claim a rational and authoritative basis for the view that there was or was not a fire in the R4 spent fuel pool.

I have been watching the relevant recordings of Australian TV reports of the time period, and all that I captured at the time is, on watching now, very murky and unclear. There is a confusion between the reactor vessel explosions and the fires in Reactor 4 – which of course was empty and not operating. The R4 fuel had been removed from that reactor and had been placed in its spent fuel pool before the disaster struck.

We know, from the New York Times, that after the explosion of reactor 4 (which could not have originated from its empty, de- fueled reactor) a spent fuel rod was found some distance from the reactor and that other fragments of fuel rod had fallen between reactors. A fuel pool had been greatly disturbed to say the least.

A reader, Anon, has contributed following information :

“I found this TV news report by Tim Maguire of Associated Press, which uses NHK footage with text superimposed in Japanese concerning Unit 4. The clip was uploaded to AP’s channel on YouTube, 15 March 2011,

“A new fire has broken out at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant one day after the facility admitted a burst of radiation that left the government struggling to contain the spiralling crisis.

“The latest blaze happened early Wednesday morning, local time, in the number 4 unit.

“The plant’s operator says the fire occurred in the outer housing of that unit’s containment vessel – but it’s not clear what caused the fire.

Tuesday, a fire broke out in the same reactor’s fuel storage pond – that’s an area where used nuclear fuel is kept cool – and radioactivity was released into the atmosphere.

“Tokyo electric power said the new blaze erupted early Wednesday because the initial fire had not been fully extinguished, and firefighters were trying to put it out.” Associated Press.

Aaron also writes:

“Unit 3 blew up while Malcolm Grimes was being interviewed in person in the BBC TV studio, and he had to improvise a hasty “nothing to worry about” response live to the clip of the explosion being repeated ad nauseam.

While we’re all familiar with the footage of the Unit 3 explosion,
I’ve never seen any TV footage said to be of the Unit 4 fire, and there was very little explanation about why the Unit 4 building suddenly looked as devastated as Unit 3 adjacent to it – the mantra was “hydrogen”, and that was about it.

Nevertheless, the IAEA, in its Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update Log, Updates as of 16 March 2011,… states that according to info received from Japan, Unit 4 had two fires:

1) one fire began just before midnight UTC on 14 March 2011, and lasted for around two hours, that is, until about 2am UTC, on 15 March 2011 (which concurs with Wikipedia notion that fire broke out early in the morning in Unit 4, at around 7am, local time on 15 March); and

2) a second fire was noticed that same day, 15 March, at around 8.45pm UTC; but it “could no longer be observed” 30 mins later; whether this means it was extinguished, or simply too dangerous to “observe” at this point, who knows?

The IAEA info reads as follows:
Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update (16 March 2011, 03:55 UTC)
Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that a fire in the reactor building of Unit 4 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was visually observed at 20:45 UTC of 15 March. As of 21:15 UTC of the same day, the fire could no longer be observed.

Fire of 14 March
As previously reported, at 23:54 UTC of 14 March a fire had occurred at Unit 4. The fire lasted around two hours and was confirmed to be extinguished at 02:00 UTC of 15 March. ” end quote.

Interestingly on the 16 th of March 2011, the IAEA reported the temperatures of all the reactor spent fuel pools. It gave data for such pools except Number 4’s. For the spent fuel pool number 4, the IAEA reported “no data”.

I had personally come to the view some time ago that the US FOIA which resulted in the release of a copy of the IAEA international alert, issued on the basis of a large release of radioactivity from spent fuel pool 4, is genuine. And that indeed, such was the enormity of the release of radioactive particles from the fuel rods that the IAEA at that point acted on the basis that international consequences would result. That is, the radioactivity release would impact the territory of other nations.

It is my view that on 15 March 2011 a very serious escalation in the disaster occurred, an escalation which was officially recognised, but which appears not to have been shared with the people of Japan and the world.

I will be, as I say, consolidating all the sources of documents that provided proof of a severe escalation of the crisis from 15 March 2011. And that included the IAEA accident update page links.

In concentrating upon the fire in the spent fuel pool 4 I am not diminishing the importance or the deception and incompetence which accompanied the fallout clouds belched from the operating reactors. To the contrary events such as the SPEEDI deception, the inadequate and deliberately delayed evacuation of people, the evacuation route which led people to flee whislt unknowingly being under the very clouds they fleeing, and the many weeks of Japanese denials that Iiate was heavily contaminated and thus the people at that place were at risk, as were the evacuees gathering there will, as time passes, become yet another classic piece of nuclear inhumanity. The reactors have to be protected from the populations at all costs, just as the bombs were.

But I think, the confusion surrounding media reports in Australia at least, in regard to the events surrounding reactor 4 and its spent fuel pool, is something I must clarify, even just for myself. This situation, as bad as it was, was gravely worsened by the fires of 15 March 2011. Things were bad on the ground, so bad that the temperature of the water could not be determined. As reported by the IAEA – spent fuel pool 4 temperature “no data” on 16 March 2011. No water, as concluded by the NRC? No instruments? Too lethal to approach? All three? The IAEA issued its first international alert to member states on 15 March 2011 as a result of releases into the open air from the spent fuel pool. But this fact only comes to light as a result of an FOIA lodged in the USA. (I will bring all this past posts together).

And the interesting thing is the unvarying public announcements from nuclear authorities around the world that the reactors, at that time, were performing well. That people were safe.

Well, they weren’t.

The events at Fukushima Diiachi in March 2011 had been predicted many years previously. In the 1960s the AEC commissioned the Ergin committee to look at the chances of meltdown in large commercial nuclear power plants. The results were alarming, and caused the term “China Syndrome” to be coined. Ralph Lapp wrote a piece in the New York Times entitled “The problems of Nuclear Plumbing”. The AEC had diverted money to its ill fated fast breeder reactor program. The AEC commissioner Seaborg realised he had insufficient funds to build a full scale test setting to fully assess designed Emergency Core Cooling Systems. The AEC made do with semi scale tests, and even these were alarming. The AEC in the course of public hearings assured the public that the ECCS would work. Experts both within the industry and without disagreed. The pressure build up inside the reactors would become too great to allow the ECCS to work the critics said. Like a cook trying to squirt water into a pressure cooker through the relief valve. In the end, even as the ground was being broken for Fukushima Diiachi and Unit 1 was being built, the AEC had its way with Congress and the American people, and the Mk1 and other reactors of similar generating capacity, were approved. The worst could not happen, they said. Even when regulatory staff raised concerned about the the weakness of the GE economy containment building, and what that meant as a route for damaged fuel pools to vent direct to the open air, approval went ahead.

The AEC promised that the ECCS (Emergency Core Cooling System) would, in all foreseen scenarios, all events would could occur, prevent the zirconium fuel cladding from reaching 2,100 degrees F.

The point at which the zirconium would become severely damaged and a grave hazard by way of hydrogen release.

So, in my view (and the synopsis above is written from memory, the source being Nader and Abbott, as well as the Ergin report reviews, Lapp’s article, and the NRC website history of what it calls the “ECCS Controversy” ) .

The fact is that the reactors were supposed to be self contained with an integral capacity to self cool. In fact the first failures at Fukushima Diiachi should have been mitigated by the ECCS regimes supposedly adequately inbuilt which was would be adequate to keep the fuel rods below 2,000 degrees F. Under any circumstances. That is basicaly the guarantee the AEC gave and which the NRC repeats. In relation to the type of reactor built at Fukushima. The fact is that each reactor at Diiachi had its own history of perfomance during the first phases of the disaster.

Some performed better than others, but in the end, even though the reactors were built to power the electrical grid, the reactors had not been adequately designed to power themselves in the absence of the grid. In the maximum credible accident defined by the AEC and hence GE, all the ECCS had to do was power emergency cooling for 8 hours in absence of the power grid. There are multiple for this built into the reactors to supposedly achieve this, and they all failed when the US design limits were exceeded in Japan. TEPCO in the aftermath of the disaster could not access the needed resources to allow the cooling of the reators.

It is a scandal, for what competent engineers pointed out in the 1970s came to pass in 2011.

Yet the view of the industry is one of great celebration of the fact that it took more than 8 hours for each of the operating reactors to begin to overheat, generate hydrogen (due to the material chosen for the fuel rod cladding), compense meltdown (known at the time but denied for weeks) and blow up.

And these blow ups exposed all the involved reactor spent fuel pools to the open air.

And so the worse had happened. The failure of containment was complete. All that was needed for the worst overcome was loss of cooling and or a fire in a fuel pool. At any stage, in any exposed fuel pool, overheating, and or a fire would present a grave risk. For a period of time prior to March 2011 the NRC had been arguing in public over the observations of Robert Alvarez that spent fuel pools were vulnerable. The NRC maintained at that time that zircalloy cladding does not burn.


There is no doubt that Zircalloy is capable of rapid oxidation (with or without flame (ie a “fire” in the lay mind – flames are not compulsory in rapid oxidation)) , rapid that zirc takes the O out H20,releasing Hydrogen gas.

I have therefore to make sure of what was on fire in spent fuel pool 4 on 15 March 2011. Was it the fuel rods? They were damaged and venting into the air. The IAEA states this is the case. But were they “burning” ? Did they overheat to the extent that the fuel pool generated the Hydrogen which caused the explosion in reactor 4? I have no idea. Is there any apart from the zircalloy which may be the source of a chain of eventsw which would lead to an explosion?

The official account of the explosion and fires at reactors involved the reactor 4 containment burning. I think it’s pretty weird that a steel containment could burn. Something on the containment might burn, something not meant to be there.

Hydrazine is a substance which is used in nuclear reactors as an anti corrosive. It is used great quantities in the coolant of both the reactors and the spent fuel pools. It is presumably in stock for use as needed at reactor plants.

Hydrazine is very effective as an anticorrosive in the reactor environment. Hydrazine is a handy and multi use substance. It was used in the World War 2 German rocket plane, the ME 163. Yes, it is an anticorrosive in reactors and an explosive component of rocket fuel.

I have no idea if stores of this blew up in the reactor buildings, including reactor 4. I have no idea if this substance was what was actually burning rather than the metal containment of reactor 4. Was it burning in the spent fuel pool? Who knows. There has never been an explanation of what was actually burning in the spent fuel pool 4 on 15 March 2011.

A big mystery the industry apparently cannot solve. Or if it has solved it, it sure ain’t sharing. To the contrary, a number websites poo poo completely as conspiracy theory the idea that spent fuel pool ever had a fire in it.

On the face of the multiple sources gathered to date, is seems there was. This lack of transparency is yet another scandal.

Thanks Ms Yamamoto, for the low down on Hydrazine. We cannot possibly be breaching the secrecy provisions contained with the US Atomic Energy Act, which featherbeds the industry with penalties against disclosures. (and therefore enables state suckling of the related industries stock prices.) For the source is Japanese, the data is Japanese and I write in Australia. And anyway, every blogger who likes nuke industry will and has say such thoughts and theories as mine are wrong.

Hence my need for 100s of sources. Of high provenance. Higher than the propaganda nuke industry.

Ok, zircalloy and its talent for releasing Hydrogen from reactor coolant in case of overheat is dumd enough. But can anyone tell me how much rocket fuel was sitting around the multiple reactor site before the quake struck? Or is that a state secret of Japan?

Ms Yamamoto tells me it was quite a lot.

Is there anyone else who knows and who is free or prepared to say? While I’m at it and thinking of Ms Yamamoto, is there anyone in TEPCO prepared to explain how many yen the company saved when it told GE, over the objections of GE, to put the emergency generators in the basements, or how many metres of sea side bluff the companies ordered be leveled in order to bring the reactors closer in height to the level of the sea?

Such things have always been SOP for the leaders of nuclear industry. Arrogant design. And an implied denial that consequences exist. When in fact, they obviously do.

Material Safety Data Sheet, Hydrazine:

Flammability of the Product:
Auto-Ignition Temperature:
Not available.
Flash Points:
CLOSED CUP: 37.78°C (100°F).
Flammable Limits:
LOWER: 2.9% UPPER: 98%
Products of Combustion:
Not available.
Fire Hazards in Presence of Various Substances:
Flammable in presence of open flames and sparks, of heat, of oxidizing
Explosion Hazards in Presence of Various Substances:
Risks of explosion of the product in presence of mechanical impact: Not available. Risks of explosion of the product in
presence of static discharge: Not available. Extremely explosive in presence of oxidizing materials. Highly explosive in
presence of metals.
Fire Fighting Media and Instructions:
Flammable liquid, soluble or dispersed in water. SMALL FIRE: Use DRY chemical powder. LARGE FIRE: Use alcohol foam,
water spray or fog. Cool containing vessels with water jet in order to prevent pressure build-up, autoignition or explosion.
Special Remarks on Fire Hazards:
Not available.
Special Remarks on Explosion Hazards:
Not available.

Again, how many tons of this stuff was stored at the reactors at Fukushima Diiachi and how much of it went bang ? Did it burn in Reactor 4 and was more of it stored and used at Reactor 3?

There were fires at Reactor 4, fires which contributed to damaged fuel rods and radiation releases massive enough to induce an IAEA international alert. What was burning in general and what was burning IN spent fuel pool no. 4.

2 Responses to “More on the Reactor 4 fires of 15 March 2011”

  1. CaptD Says:

    Great work… Salute

  2. Bobby1 Says:

    Tepco is adding hydrazine to the pools in order to prevent the growth of microoganisms:

    “As for Units 1-4 spent fuel pools, hydrazine injection is being intermittently performed for the purpose of preventing microorganisms from being generated (effective when the concentration is higher than approx. 10ppm).”

    It’s likely that these microorganisms are fungi. Many species thrive in the presence of radiation. They were found thriving inside the Chernobyl sarcophagus:

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