Video of Tsunami Crashing into Nuclear Plant

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CNN showed a video released by TEPCO of the waves crashing against the nuclear power plant at Fukushima. The waves were measured at 15 meters or 45 feet BUT you can see in the picture the waves crashing against the turbine building rising up to half the height of the smokestack towers, which are 300 ft high (half the height of Seattle’s Space Needle). At 150 feet, it’s higher than the turbine buildings which remarkably were not completely destroyed, and as high as the reactor buildings themselves.

I’ve been surfing to figure out what really happened and putting together a database at But the quick version is that the earthquake shook the hell out of the plant, and pipes in the top floor of the reactors started bursting. The reactors shut down and the generators kicked in for about an hour, but the satellite photo shows that the 2 big fuel tanks which must have been for the diesel generators were placed next to the shore. The waves swept them away – one of them moved up the drive between the north and south group of reactors, near an upturned boat visible only in the helicopter shot just north of unit 1, so the generators cut out. The reactor was designed to ride out a richter 7, shut down safely at 8, they thought the biggest quake that was possible was an 8.6, and they got a 9. The seawalls were 5 meters high, but the waves were later determined to be 15 meters, and the film below shows the water crashing up to half the height of the smokestack towers, or 150 feet, which is higher than the turbine buildings and about the top of the reactor buildings. The top of those buildings are about as sturdy as a steel barn or hangar (more on that later) That’s enough water to cover the streets BEHIND the reactor buildings not just the stuff on the shore side, and you can be certain they were not designed to be flood-proof.

Once the power is out, they lost nearly all control of guages and switches since diagrams show ALL of the switches and valves require AC power. On an old fashioned steam ship, all of the valves were turned by hand. The only way to measure radioactivity and find out if the stuff was melting down was to run inside the building and measure it in person as they didn’t have any robots. It’s not clear to me how they had any idea of the water levels other than using an offsite computer simulation, which is how the United States and other nations figured out that it must have heated up to thousands of degrees, melting the fuel rods and releasing enough radioactive iodine to be measured in rainfall and even milk from Washington State to Florida, safe or not safe. My chinese CCTV cable channel said it was showing up in China but people were just told to wash their spinach really, really thoroughly. I was thinking of switching to canned / powdered milk for a while, but University of Washington measurements say the iodine levels have since fallen to levels too low to measure.

They never gave a decent explanation of what this “water injection” is, but one guy mentioned using fire engines to pump water from the shore into the containment, which is supposed to be filled with nitrogen around the reactor core, not corrosive / dirty seawater, and might be leaking like heck after an earthquake, which might explain the radioactive leak from unit 2. Evidently there must be an emergency pipe they can hook up a fire hose to fill up, and another drain opening somewhere else, but that means the main cooling loop that normally sends water to be heated / cool the core was unusable. This “BWR” boiling water reactor actually boils water like a coffee maker or kettle. The radioactive steam is sent to the other building to the turbines, which must be shielded for radiation as well, unlike a pressurized water reactor where all the radioactive water stays inside the containment.

Remarkably, although the Japanese are falling over each other to apologize, there’s not on peep from our master apologist Obama who doesn’t mind apologizing for crimes against Vietnam, Arabs, the poor etc but not on the behalf of General Electric or the US defence dept which developed these monstrosities and sold them to Japan who used them exactly the way the manual told them to. Even more remarkable, the web page GE has on the Mark I containment says they worked even better than they were supposed to, and it was a “beyond design basis event” , without mentioning that due to the power outage that coolant was lost, fuel melted and released lots of radiation, hydrogen was generated that completely blew up the top floors of 3 reactors and the basement of No. 2 exposing spent fuel ponds which I read in another article will burn into an uncontrollable Chernobyl-like fire in TWO OR THREE HOURS of losing water. The reactor pools are next to the top of the reactors that are partially melting down producing too much radioactivity for anybody to go near them, and they are 100 feet in the air in a concrete building that could be damaged by an earthquake, never mind that No. 4 was boiling and burning because cooling pumps went out.

The top floor “secondary containment” isn’t much of containment at all. It’s basically the same as a big gym and its job is to keep out the weather, and kept at a slight vacuum / negative pressure so that anything bad that gets away can be sent through a filter. The Mark III(3) version uses a massive concrete dome to enclose everything like those in most newer US power plants which are tough enough to survive explosions. It is thought that running all that water near the reactor core produced a lot of hydrogen as neutrons split the water atoms which rose to the top of the building. A 1980s study found problem with the original tests done in the late 1950s-early 1960s that thought (incorrectly) that they had accounted for all failure situations, and ordered among other things that a hardened (tougher than the usual HVAC in your school) vent system be able to vent gases directly to the tall stacks, and nobody has been able to figure out if the Japanese put one in theirs since the Japanese nuclear agency left it up to the power company. It’s possible that without power, even that would not have worked.

In any case, clearly the design failed spectacularly. As designed NO radiation is supposed to leak even if the worst happens. The building is not supposed to explode. Coolant is not supposed to be lost. Power is not supposed to be lost. The fuel and fuel ponds are NOT supposed to melt and damage the fuel or release radioactive anything. Instead, the immediate town area is radioactive enough to set off a geiger counter like crazy and farmland in the entire region is too contaminated to use especially if it competes with food without ANY radiation, safe or not. It should be a scandal that the best GE can say is that they worked as designed, so what are you complaining about???

Contrary to the picture that the explosions were no big deal, No. 1 showed a blast going outwards thousands of feet to the side, and showing the big square roof going up and back down. The steel side walls blew out completely showing the bare girders. That top level is the refeuling level where they open up the top of the reactor and put fuel into the holding ponds with a big overhead crane and smaller green refueling crane. Everything is covered with the fallen black roof.

No. 3 blew up in a giant mushroom cloud I measured as 3 times the towers, which are 150 ft high, or 1,000 ft, with the big roof panel flying at least that high before coming down, and leaving a big gash in the turbine building roof. By comparison, Mail Call with Lee Ermy Jr watched blowing up perhaps one airplane or 2-4,000 lbs worth of munitions and that mushroom only went up perhaps 150 feet or so, or perhaps 1/10th the size, so the explosion was probably the size of a B-52 drop which carried 40,000 lbs of bombs in Vietnam. Looking at detailed photos, the low building to the north is pretty much destroyed. Not only the steel walls got blown out, only the concrete pillars on the east side are still up and bent, while the ones on the west side have fallen down to the ground and much of the floor is also destroyed which means the middle-level overhead crane track was also down, and the fuel ponds are exposed to the air, and access to the reactor is blocked by debris. Dropping water by helicopter was a joke, and the firetrucks evidently at least added water to the fuel pools but would have no effect on the reactor core. One commenter on CBS said the damage looked much like Chernobyl, though to be fair, that building was truly destroyed at its core, while #3 was beat up but still standing below the top level.

They sent people into No. 2 to pop out a big panel in the wall whichshowed steam pouring out, which evidently saved at least one building from blowing up.

No. 4 was not initially reported to be an explosion, and was not caught on camera, but while the roof framework and walls are up, and most of the walls down to the ground level are blown out. That’s the one where too much fuel was stored even though the reactor itself had been cold for weeks, and the fuel evidently caught fire, sending bits of uranium all over the ground where it was bulldozed. Views looking north show the green refueling platform and the big yellow reactor cap through the roof, and massive damage with torn metal everywhere.

More later…

About the Author

MIT electrical engineering computer science graduate has written conservative columns on politics, race / culture, science and education since the 70s in MIT The Tech and various publications in including New Republic and National Review.