As first reported by Steve Mufson of the Washington Post on Feb. 7th, transcripts and audio recordings of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission responses to the unfolding Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Catastrophe in the first hours, days, and weeks after March 11, 2011-- recently released in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by journalists and environmentalists -- reveal a state of confused chaos and groping frustration. Clearly, NRC's March 13, 2011 media release, claiming that no harmful levels of Fukushima radioactive fallout would reach U.S. territory, were -- as Beyond Nuclear warned in media interviews at the time -- at best premature (as a number of large-scale explosions were yet to happen, and meltdowns were still very much underway). However, the recently released documentation reveals that a strong element of deception was also at work, as NRC was aware that Alaska could experience plumes of radioactive Iodine-131, hazardous to human thyroid glands. An NRC official referred to the proposal -- from a U.S. Department of Energy ad hoc emergency response think tank -- to use a shaped charge to blow a hole through a radiological containment structure, in order to create a pathway for cooling water flow to a melting down reactor core, as "madness."
As revealed by a Feb. 22nd New York Times article by Matt Wald, as well as a transcript uncovered by Scott Portzline of Three Mile Island Alert, NRC was very much in spin mode, worried about the political ramifications and public perceptions in response to the unfolding radioactive calamity. The latter transcript could be entitled "How many NRC staff does it take to make a hole?" Several NRC staff spend pages of transcript just over a week into the nuclear catatrophe discussing how to enlarge a hole in the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor building's roof, in order to "vent" explosive hydrogen gas, partly to avoid the "political" fallout of yet another large-scale explosion broadcast worldwide on live t.v. Frighteningly, deputy administrator Chuck Casto of NRC's Western U.S. regional office suggests using a helicopter to drop or slam a heavy weight, such as a colorfully named "Bambi bucket" (a large water filled container used for fighting forest fires), above or beside the irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool. Apparently, Casto was unfamiliar with 2001 and 1997 NRC reports, as cited in the 2003 Alvarez et al. study about pool fire risks, warning that a "heavy load drop" that drains a storage pool's cooling water could cause a radioactive waste inferno releasing up to 100% of the irradiated nuclear fuel's volatile Cesium-137, resulting in 25,000 to 143,000 latent cancer deaths downwind, up to 2,700 square miles of agricultural land condemned, and economic costs due to evacuation into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
When it comes to NRC FOIA responses, "patience is a virtue." NRC's FOIA office has told Beyond Nuclear that its requests for documentation on the Davis-Besse atomic reactor's cracked containment will take four months to provide. Even worse, NRC's FOIA office has told Beyond Nuclear that there is no date certain for responding to a request for documentation on allegations that NRC Commissioner William Magwood IV regularly meets with nuclear industry representatives "off campus," in violation of norms -- and perhaps even laws and regulations -- pertaining to open, transparent, and accountable government, principles promised by President Barack Obama within hours of taking office in January 2009.