Blow by blow. The first 24 hours at Fuku. Ineptitude and greed.
[link to www.huffingtonpost.com
Around 9 p.m., less than six hours
after the tsunami, officials at the prime minister's office started to press TEPCO to vent. TEPCO hesitated.
Fukushima Dai-ichi was the utility's golden goose. Designed primarily by General Electric, it went online in 1971 and had kept the lights shining in Tokyo ever since. Unlike newer facilities, it was paid for, and it was generating profits with each megawatt it produced.
TEPCO knew that venting radioactivity would cast doubt on the safety of the nuclear industry around the nation, and the world. But the options were dwindling.
The outage of primary and backup power – a scenario that exceeded planners' precautions – was severely hampering operations.
The first emergency power vehicle sent by TEPCO got stuck in the chaotic post-tsunami traffic. A backup truck from another power company arrived at 11 p.m., but the cable it brought was too short to hook up.
At 3:05 a.m., Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda trotted out TEPCO executive Akio Komori for a public announcement of the plan to vent the Unit 1 containment vessel. Seven minutes later, Edano took to the podium, this time to warn the public that the action would entail the release of radioactive isotopes. Again, he urged calm.
For those who knew what was happening, the urgency was mounting. The containment chamber around the core was bulging with pressure twice as high as its maximum operational limit and nearly matching the company's required venting standard."We kept telling TEPCO to do it quickly, asking how come it wasn't happening," Edano recalled later.
Nearly four hours after the initial announcement, an exasperated Kaieda ordered TEPCO to vent. It was 6:50 a.m.
Surging radiation forced workers to abort their attempt to open the valves manually. Then they tried to open them remotely and repeatedly failed, probably because of the power outage but possibly also a design flaw. The equipment had never been used in a real-world crisis.
Unit 1 was a ticking time bomb.