TEPCO’s Great Steam Hoax

Why TEPCO’s admission of the steam leak at unit 3 is merely a dodge of the bigger problem.

TEPCO’s off the cuff remark that rainwater might be the cause of the steam leak seemed to send the press running without any investigation of the validity of this as a possible cause. TEPCO also succeeded in distracting the press from the bigger problem, absolutely no public disclosure of the debris removal and condition of unit 3 as that work progressed. A considerable amount of visual information is contained in the progress of debris removal and the condition of the debris layers along with what can be understood from the now visible refueling floor and reactor related structures. TEPCO shares none of this with the public.

TEPCO likely has this information for their own use and has in other cases documented in great detail the condition of equipment at the plant. Earlier they released over 1000 photos of the power distribution systems and other non-critical images at the plant. TEPCO would obviously do the same level of detail on the reactor buildings and has done so with unit 4 where possible.

TEPCO’s rainwater excuse continues to defy logic and what is known of unit 3.

  1.  Even if debris removal some how dislodged or upset the fuel in any way, heat output would likely change but it would certainly need to be several 100’s of watts of power (heat) in order to raise the yellow containment cap to temperatures necessary for steam generation.
  2. We do know that the MOX fuel has a higher decay heat level, and that the amount of heat needed to increase the yellow containment cap to temperatures high enough to flash water to steam would be significant.  Since the PCV (primary containment vessel) is an extremely large containment structure, if the cap had been heated to these high levels then the reactor vessel within the PCV would certainly be at a higher temperature.
  3. Why has there been no steam up until now with all of the rain and likely water spraying on the deck of U3 during fuel removal. There likely has been steam off and on as was seen in previous inspection work. This is also the same locations that produced steam under pressure soon after the meltdowns & explosions.
  4. There is no evidence that the work stoppage was ordered by TEPCO rather than just reported by TEPCO. The catalyst for this reporting may have been contractors concerns rather that TEPCO being pro-active in reporting the issue.
  5. TEPCO has no clue or evidence that boric acid would even reach the unit 3 fuel since the water flow for cooling is barely the equivalent of a garden hose stream (based on TEPCO’s documented flow rates) through the reactor spray line and water injection line. Boric acid in this condition would subject the internals or material of the reactor to further corrosion without changing anything concerning criticality or chain reaction.
  6. The equipment and tool storage pit appears to be empty as well as severely discolored around the inner walls, has there been a breach of the interface between that area and the PCV or the refueling area directly above the reactor vessel top head?
  7. TEPCO’s uncertainty about the steam leak and inability to explain it shows the unstable nature of the disaster site and why people should not be allowed back to the evacuation zone until the spent fuel pools are emptied at a minimum. The reactors lack most of their containment features, an explosion or other major problem at the plant would result in another emergency. TEPCO appears to be lost in the dark about the condition of the reactors, location of the melted fuel or where they stand in dealing with the disaster.
  8. TEPCO collected “dust” and volatile gasses through a testing device lowered over the reactor refueling floor. TEPCO uses this to declare no leaks. Collection and full spectrum analysis of the steam should be done as should some form of atmosphere radiation counts to look for increases in the radiation level near the leaks.


This simple explanation (below) shows the temperatures needed to create steam. A heat source of over 100c or 212f is needed to create steam. The yellow containment cap would need to be far hotter than the rest of the reactor and containment to turn dripping rainwater into steam. The temperature readings given by TEPCO for the reactor vessel and containment are all below 100c. So either the temperature sensors are all wrong and they are over cold shutdown, or the steam from rainwater claim is impossible. Some heat or combustion source exists somewhere to create the steam or white smoke that was seen. It being heated rainwater is highly unlikely and if it was, it would be an indicator of something far more drastic going on to cause it.

Some other documentation of the conditions around the tool pit where the leak was found:

Dark black smoke coming from the reactor well area in March 2011

Damage to the building appears to impact the tool pit area of the refueling floor. The location of the tool pit is also the point where the building falls away.

View of the reactor well, containment cap and open tool pit (gate removed) as seen at unit 5 before the disaster. Unit 5 is a similar design to unit 3. Notice the shiny steel walls of the tool pit.

Unit 3 today. The tool pit gate and walls are heavily discolored and damaged. The damage to the overhead crane seen to the right is also a question. It doesn’t appear in early 2011 photos. So it is either later damage or possibly cutting for removal. TEPCO should explain this. As they have given no information about the work on unit 3 since they covered the spent fuel pool, both the press and the public are left wondering.

The NRA must compel TEPCO to disclose all data and evidence about the reactors and the disaster itself. Under NISA, the predecessor agency, TEPCO had been subjected to heightened reporting due to previous incidents where they lied to regulators about problems with the reactors at Daiichi. Since the disaster TEPCO has been reporting only a portion of the information and work done as has been seen many times where they later disclose something done previously when forced to do so.

The disaster has so many widespread implications for people in the area, the environment, technical understanding for other reactors along with legal and poltical impacts. The very company that caused this massive disaster should not be allowed to continue to hide information and evidence in their possession.



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