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Japan: Ground Zero at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa

On July 16, shaken by a massive earthquake originating in a fault line that apparently runs directly underneath it, a power generator of one of the reactors of the world's largest nuclear power plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, burst into flame and started billowing black smoke. Meanwhile, inside the fuel storage pool of another reactor, waves one metre high sloshed around and overflowed a one-metre-high rail, releasing water containing a small amount of nuclear material into the ocean.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa

One of the first on the scene of the accident was Diet Member Kondo Masamichi of the Social Democratic Party, who posted the following report of his experience (see the original post for many on-site photos):

県の出先・柏崎振興局に顔を出し、その後市役所へ。災害対策本部のおかれている市役所は、関係者、市民で大混乱。
そこで16:30、安倍総理がヘリで佐藤池球場へ着き、柏崎原発へ向かうことがわかりました。とっさに、私達も原発へ行こうと決め、原発へ向かい、兎に角、中に入れてもらいました。
原発敷地内へ。
そこで見たもの、波打つ道路、めくれ上がる建物の土台。道路に書かれた白線は曲がりくねる。
すぐ脇が、こんな状態では原発が無傷であるわけはありません。中越地震の時は停止せず、運転を続けた7機。今度は全て停止です。当然です。

We first stopped by the Kashiwazaki branch office of the prefectural Development and Promotion Bureau, and then went to the city hall. The city hall, where the disaster countermeasures office is located, was in such a chaos with city employees and citizens.

And then at 4.30pm, I found out that Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo] was arriving by helicopter at the Satogaike baseball field and that he was heading to the Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant. Right away, we decided to go to the nuclear power plant as well, and we headed to the power plant and asked them to let us in.

We entered the grounds of the nuclear power plant.

What we saw there were roads deformed like waves and building foundations that had been lifted and warped. The white lines that had been drawn on the roads were twisted.

There was no reason to believe that, sitting right next to this, the nuclear reactors would have been left in an undamaged state. In the [earlier] Chuetsu earthquake, the seven reactors were not turned off and operated right through the earthquake. This time, everything was turned off. This is only natural.

東京電力柏崎刈羽原発では、定期点検中の1、5、6号機と、稼働中だった2、3、4、7号機が自動的に緊急停止。
3号機のタービン建屋に隣接した変圧器から火が出ているのを、同社員が発見。約1時間後に消火活動が始まり、消火したという。
つまり、約2時間にわたり黒煙を上げ続けました。
— 石油工場など、通常化学工場などにある、自前常設消防隊は無いということです。ヒドイ。
市の消防隊への連携が遅れ、しかも、当然のことながら地震の交通渋滞で消防車の到着が遅れました。この点は官邸も怒っていたようです。
出火の原因は全て不明。
この消火作業の遅れが、まず批判のマトとなりました。
いずれにしても、地震直後、原発から「火が出、黒煙が上がる」は、我が国地震史上、初めてのことで大変、センセーショナルな絵になりました。

At the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Power Plant, reactors 1, 5, and 6, which were undergoing periodic inspection at the time, and reactors 2, 3, 4, and 7, which were in operation, were shut down automatically.

Employees of TEPCO discovered that a fire was burning in the electrical transformer adjacent to the building housing the turbine of reactor number 3. Operations to put out the fire reportedly began about an hour later, and the fire was eventually put out.

In other words, for about two hours black smoke was being expelled [into the atmosphere].

There is no fire-fighting team [at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa] as there are usually at chemical plants such as petroleum plants. This is horrible. Coordination with the local city fire department was late, and on top of this, the fire engine itself arrived late because it was caught in a traffic jam. The Japanese administration was also very angry about this issue.

The cause of the fire remains entirely unclear.

The late start of firefighting operations has become a target of criticism.

At any rate, this is the first time in the history of earthquakes in this country that, directly after an earthquake, fire and smoke start coming out of a nuclear power plant, and it has become a terribly sensational scene.

大渋滞の中、武本氏の先導で小道をくぐり抜け、総理が着く、ほんの少し前に原発に入りました。その直後、自民党県議らが待ち受ける中、総理が変圧器の火災現場が見えるところにバスで到着。防災大臣や、関係省庁の関係者も一緒。市長、所長らが出迎え、火災現場を指しながら、説明。
所長は「火災が原子炉建屋内ではないこと」「放射能モレは無いこと」「安全機器に異常は無い」ことを、強調。総理は、ほとんど発言せず、説明を聞きながら、「それは安心しました」などと答え、この間、わずか4〜5分。
その後、総理一行は柏崎市内へ。
マスコミの前で、まず、これをやるために、東京からヘリで来たのです。そして、いの一番に原発に来たのです。それはあのテレビの「黒煙と火」のショッキングシーン。兎に角、総理は危機対応を、しっかりとアピールしたかに見えた。
しかし、それはまもなくひっくり返る。

With the guidance of Mr. Takemoto, I was led through a major traffic jam, along small streets, and made it to the nuclear power plant shortly before the prime minister arrived. Moments later, the prime minister arrived by bus, greeted by a group of LDP members from the prefectural assembly at a location from which the fire at the electrical transformer could be seen. The Minister of State for Disaster Management, and personnel from related government ministries, were also there together. The mayor and director of the power plant met with them and indicated the location of the fire while explaining [the situation].

The director [of the nuclear power plant] emphasized that “the fire is not inside the building housing the nuclear power reactor”, “there is no radiation leak”, and “there is nothing wrong with the safety equipment”. The prime minister hardly said anything as he listened to the explanation, which went on for only about 4-5 minutes, answering things like: “I am relieved to hear that.”

After this, the group with the prime minister went into the city of Kashiwazaki.

In order to pull this off in front of the mass media, [the prime minister] had to come from Tokyo by helicopter. This way, he was able to be the first to make it to the nuclear power plant. This was the shocking scene of “black smoke and fire” that [was broadcast] on TV. In any case, it appeared as though the prime minister made an unwavering appeal for crisis response.

However, this was subsequently overturned.

原発敷地内にもこのような亀裂が。
今回の地震の加速度は設計時の想定を大幅に超えているらしい。

There were cracks like this one inside the grounds of the nuclear power plant as well.

The acceleration of the earthquake this time was apparently much greater than the estimates at the time of design [of the power plant].

Blogger mata also offers some pointed criticism of the government's handling of the crisis:

この度の地震で伝えられてくる柏崎刈羽原発に関連したニュースを聞いていると信じられない程のずさんで適当なやり方に怒りを通り越して吐き気がしてくる。

そこらの小中学生に仕事を頼んだ方がよっぽどましなのではないかと真剣に思う。
健全な学級会で議論してもらえば必ず割に合わないという結論に辿り着くはずだ。

I listen to the news related the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant that has been transmitted in the context of this earthquake, and the unbelievable sloppiness and irresponsible handling makes more than angry, it makes me sick.

I honestly think we would have been better off asking elementary and junior high school students to do the job.
If we got them to debate this at a school meeting, I am sure that they would arrive at the conclusion that the job that was done was not worth the money [that was paid for it].

・情報公開用の観測システムの不具合(わざと止めたと思う)
・外部に漏れた放射能の計算ミス(馬鹿にやらせてはいけない)
・地震観測データの紛失
・その他、まだまだ発覚していない問題と隠蔽された真実

・Failure of the open-access observation system (I think that they turned it off on purpose)
・Miscalculation of the external radiation leak (you shouldn't put idiots in charge of this)
・The loss of earthquake observation data
・Other problems that have not yet been brought to light and facts that are still being covered up

全て致命的で地域住民だけでなく日本全体だけでなく世界中に影響のある最悪の最低レベルの失態だ。
こんな最低な仕事ばかりをしている人達の高収入を支えるために高い電気料金を支払うのはおれの頭の中では残念ながらつじつまが合わない。
自分の良心を殺して嘘をついたり、ばれるのが怖くて十数年も隠していたりそんなことばかりしてよく毎日眠れるものだ。

This is a terrible and fatal failure of the worst kind, one that will affect not just community residents, not just all of Japan, but the whole world.
That we are all paying a lot of money in electricity bills to support the high incomes of people who do nothing but this kind of terrible work — sorry, but this doesn't add up, in my mind.
Silencing one's own conscience and telling lies, hiding [the reality of the situation] for dozens of years for fear of being discovered — they do these kinds of things and still manage to sleep well every night.

海に放出している放射性物質を含んだ大量の水や、煙突から放出している放射性物質を含んだ煙は人体に害のないレベルだというが、全く信用できない話だ。
東京電力の社長以下全社員が、その水を飲み煙を吸い込んでほら大丈夫!とやらない限りは絶対に信用しない。
逆に言うとそれをやれば必ず信用するし文句も言わない。

This talk that the discharge of large amounts of water containing radioactive material into the sea and the release of smoke containing radioactive material from a smokestack will not have harmful effects on the human body, I don't believe one word of it.
Until every employee working under the director of TEPCO drinks this water and breathes in this smoke and says, “SEE! it's okay!”, I will not believe them at all.
To put it the other way around, if they do this then I will definitely believe them and not make any complaints.

原子力発電所がないと東京で消費する電力を賄えないと言う話はよく聞くが、単に原発を正当化するための詭弁にしか聞こえない。
おれは普通の東京に住んでいる人々は頭を使って柔軟に対応できると思う。少なくとも今年の夏は柏崎刈羽原発は稼働できないだろうから電力不足で困るかどうかを試すいい機会だ。

There is a lot of talk about how, if this nuclear power plant were not there, there would not be enough electrical power to cover the needs of consumers in Tokyo, but quite simply all I hear is an excuse to justify the use of nuclear power.
I think that most people living in Tokyo are able to use their head and respond in a flexible way [to this situation]. At least it seems that it will not be possible to run Kashiwazaki-Kariwa this summer, so it seems like a good opportunity to see if there will really be problems in the case of a power shortage.

日本の原発の終了は近いと予想する。
いつ爆発するかわからない性能の悪い原子力発電所という名の核兵器を稼働し続けるのは、電力会社ならびにその関係する産業に関わっていない人々にとって圧倒的に損だ。

I predict that the end of nuclear power in Japan is near.
Continuing to operate these nuclear weapons — which they call nuclear power plants — with the dangerous capacity to blow up at any time, is an overwhelming loss for electricity companies as well as people involved in related industries.

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