The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today released transcripts and audio recordings made at the NRC Operations Center during last year’s meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. The release of these audio recordings comes at the request of the public radio program “BURN: An Energy Journal,” and its host Alex Chadwick.
The recordings show the inside workings of the U.S. government’s highest level efforts to understand and deal with the unfolding nuclear crisis as the reactors meltdown. In the course of a week, the NRC is repeatedly alarmed that the situation may turn even more catastrophic. The NRC emergency staff discusses what to do — and what the consequences may be — as it learns that reactor containment safeguards are failing, and that spent fuel pools are boiling away their cooling water, and in one case perhaps catching fire.
Listen to 12 minutes of raw audio released today and read two excerpts from audio released today:
Mike Weber, deputy executive director of operations:
…There is some somewhat alarming language that talks about, and I’ll just quote, “The IAEA tells us the earthquake triggered a power failure at the Fukushima Daiichi unit 2 nuclear power plant, and then when a backup generator also failed, the cooling system was unable to supply water to cool the reactor. Specialists at the IAEA understand the fuel core is still covered by water, but they question if it will remain so.”
Bill Ruland, senior NRC executive and reactor expert:
We checked the INES [International Nuclear Event] scale, and they’re at least at a Level III, which is a serious incident. And the only reason we don’t think there are any more is we have sparse information. They, I think I told you that the reason the diesel failed is that all the diesel tanks were all above, the fuel tanks were all above ground, and the tsunami ripped the fuel tanks off, off their foundation.