Report on Earthquake Damage to
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Facility
Report by Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)
document is at www.nirs.org/international/asia/reportonearthquakedamage71907.pdf)
In the early hours following the July 16
earthquake in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture, when Tokyo Electric Power
(TEPCO) was reporting only a transformer fire and spill
of 1.5 liters of radioactive water, NIRS criticized TEPCO
for being slow to report information and told the Associated
Press that we were waiting “for the other shoe to
That sound you hear is the rumble of an entire shoe factory
tumbling to the ground.
It is now clear that the damage to the world’s largest
nuclear power facility was far greater than initially reported
and that radiation releases were also far greater than
reported. Indeed, it appears that radiation releases are
continuing today (July 19, 2007). According to a report
from Bloomberg News (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aCWh.1vTk3_Y&refer=home),
402 million Becquerels of radioactivity already have been
released, although this government-supplied figure likely
understates the reality, as radiation apparently continues
to be released into the environment.
According to the Associated Press (www.pr-inside.com/a-look-at-problems-found-at-r174712.htm)
on July 17, damage to the reactors was extensive. The AP
found the following problems listed at that time:
A list of malfunctions at the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariya
nuclear power plant in northwestern Japan following a powerful
earthquake this week:
- Fire at an electrical transformer facility.
- 1,200 liters of water containing radioactive material
leaked into sea.
- About 100 barrels of radioactive waste knocked over
in storage facility.
- Duct knocked out of place in major vent; possible leak
of radioactive cobalt-60 and chromium-51 from five of
the plant's reactors.
- Water leak inside buildings housing
all seven reactors.
- Malfunctioning of water intake screening
pump at two reactors.
- Blowout panel knocked down at turbine
buildings at two reactors.
- Oil leak from low-activation
transformer waste oil pipes at two reactors.
- Loss in
water-tight seal at reactor core cooling system.
leaks from diesel generator facility, burst extinguisher
pipe, burst condenser valve and filtration tank.
connections and broken bolt at electric transformer.
- Loss of power at control center for liquid waste disposal
- Oil leaks from damaged transformer and
magnetic transformer facility.
- Oil leak at reactor water
supply pump facility.
- Disrupted electrical connection
at magnetic transformer facility.
- Cracks in embankment
of water intake facility.
- Air and oil leaks at switching
- Land under parts of plant turned to mud
in quake-caused process known as liquefaction.
However, as of July 19, we now know that some 400, not
100, barrels of radioactive waste were knocked over, and
about 40 lost their lids. At least some of the waste was
liquid, and leaked into the building, according to Citizens
Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) in Japan (for more information
on nuclear power in Japan, visit their website at http://cnic.jp/english/).
It is not known whether radiation from these spills has
leaked outside the building.
The 1200 liters (about 317 gallons) of radioactive water
spilled into the Sea of Japan apparently came from the
irradiated fuel pool at Unit 6 at the site. This is one
of the two newer units: it is a 1315 MW General Electric/Toshiba
Boiling Water Reactor that came online in November 1996.
According to Japanese officials, the newest reactor at
the site, a 1315 MW GE/Hitachi Boiling Water Reactor that
came online in July 1997, has been venting radioactive
steam into the air since the earthquake began, and continues
to do so today (July 19). We have been unable to determine
radiation levels of these releases.
The earthquake exceeded the design basis for the reactors,
and the facility does not meet new Japanese earthquake
standards put in place in September 2006. Moreover, the
fault that caused the quake is apparently directly underneath
the facility site, and was not discovered prior to construction.
It is not yet known whether this fault is capable of an
even larger earthquake than the 6.8 measured on July 16.
In a July 17 statement, CNIC said, “In just two
years three earthquakes (off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture
on 16 August 2005, off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture
on 25 March 2007, and now this one) have exceeded the "extreme
design earthquake" assumed at the time the plants were
built. In September 2006, for the first time in 28 years,
the Nuclear Safety Commission revised Japan's earthquake
guidelines. Japan's nuclear power companies are now carrying
out earthquake safety checks on the basis of the new guidelines.
By rights, all nuclear power plants should be shut down
until these checks have been completed.”
All of the reactors at Kashiwasaki Kariwa currently are
shutdown and likely will be so for a long time to come
as additional damage comes to light and its ability to
withstand future earthquakes comes further into question.
Initial projections are that the reactors will be closed
for at least a year, and it is highly possible they will
never reopen. Already, the earthquake has caused TEPCO
to lose $4.3 Billion of its market value, according to
Bloomberg. A lengthy shutdown of the world’s largest
nuclear facility will undoubtedly cause far greater cost
to the utility.
Ironically, TEPCO’s website touts its nuclear program,
and states as its number one priority in restoring public
confidence in that program, “Promoting disclosure
of information and ensuring transparency of nuclear operations.” Clearly,
TEPCO’s commitment to transparency is no more than
a slogan and it is unlikely public confidence will ever
For the United States, the lesson is unmistakable: the
earthquake reminds us of the fragility and danger of nuclear
power and its ability to withstand the acts of Mother Nature.
Nuclear reactors and earthquake faults simply don’t
mix. An immediate need is to permanently end any further
discussion of installation of dry cask radioactive waste
storage units at the Diablo Canyon site on California’s
earthquake-prone Pacific coast.
NIRS will attempt to update this report as events warrant.
The Kashiwasaki Kariwa facility consists of seven Boiling
Water Reactors. Three are of Toshiba design and are 1067
MW each. Unit 1 came online in September 1985, Unit 2 in
September 1990 and Unit 3 in August 1993. Two are Hitachi
reactors of 1067 MW each: Unit 4 came online in August
1994 and Unit 5 in April 1990. Unit 6, a GE/Toshiba BWR
of 1315 MW, came online in November 1996 and Unit 7, a
1315 MW GE/Hitachi BWR came online in July 1997. Taken
together, until July 16, 2007, these represented the world’s
largest nuclear power facility.
Michael Mariotte, July 19, 2007
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
6930 Carroll Avenue,
Takoma Park, MD 20912