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Fukushima 1 reactor: water level low

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In last Nuclear Monitor the unstable situation of Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 fuel pool was mentioned, this time’s bad news is about water level at reactor 1. Former Prime Minister Kan repeated that the nuclear lobby was to blame for the Fukushima disaster, and 70% of Japanese companies support abandoning nuclear power.

An analysis by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization has shown that the level of water filling the number 1 reactor may be far lower than estimated by plant operator Tepco, officials of JNES said on May 22. JNES estimated that the water in the primary containment vessel is only 40 centimeters deep. TEPCO has estimated the water level to be about 1.9 meters. Not disputed is the fact coolant water injected into the reactor is leaking. JNES thinks that the water injected into the reactor may be leaking from a hole (of about 2 cm in diameter) located in a section connecting the primary container and the suppression pool, leaving the container with water just 40 cm in depth. Tepco spokesperson Matsumoto declined to comment, but said that what is important is that the nuclear fuel, which has melted through the pressure vessel and accumulated at the bottom of the outer primary container, is covered with water and kept cool.

TEPCO hopes to insert an endoscope into the reactor by the end of the year to determine the actual water level. Although JNES officials noted there are "uncertainties" in their analysis, the track record of Tepco is not very good (to put it mildly). Tepco has already inserted an endoscope into the crippled No. 2 reactor and found the water level at a much-lower-than-expected 60 cm deep.

On May 25, a Reuters poll showed that nearly three-quarters of Japanese companies support abandoning nuclear power after last year's Fukushima disaster, although a majority set the condition that alternative energy resources must be secured. Highlighting public mistrust of Japan's regional monopoly power companies, only 11 percent of those surveyed approved of utilities' efforts to secure power supply and just 12 percent trusted their projections for electricity demand. Forty percent saw efforts by power companies as "insufficient" and 29 percent saw their power demand projections as unreliable. Critics accuse utilities of exaggerating potential power shortages in order to win public support to restart off-line reactors, beginning with two at the Ohi plant. The poll also showed 70 percent of firms are prepared to cooperate on power saving to the same degree as last summer, with 24 percent willing to cooperate to a lesser extent.

Naoto Kan, the former Prime Minister, has admitted that his office was "overwhelmed" during the Fukushima nuclear meltdown last year, and he recommended that Japan scrap all its reactors to avoid a repeat. On May 28, he told a parliamentary committee that the bulk of the blame for the disaster lay with the nuclear lobby, which he said had acted like the nation's out-of-control military during the Second World War, with "a grip on actual political power".

Sources: Mainichi, 23 May 2012 / Reuters, 25 May 2012 / Independent (UK), 29 May 2012
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800
Email: cnic[at]