Data released by TEPCO on May 16 shows that apparently the isolation condenser, a cooling system that is supposed to protect the reactor after a shutdown, was manually shut down in unit 1 within 10 minutes of the earthquake.
When the quake hit at 14:46 on 2011-03-11, the power station lost its grid connection. Diesel generators sprang into life to provide backup power for the Residual Heat Removal System (RHR). Around 15:00 someone manually shut down the isolation condensor. About half an hour later tsunami hit the station. Within minutes the diesel generators failed and the RHR stopped. At that point the battery-operated pumps for the isolation condenser were the only system still able to remove heat from the reactor core, but the valve for this system had been closed by operators. From that point onwards the reactor core was entirely without cooling. Records show that at 18:10 the valve was open again. At 18:25 it was closed again and 21:30 it was open again. The isolation condenser finally failed at 01:48 on 2011-03-12, perhaps because its batteries ran out.
According to the AREVA presentation from 2011-04-07, the isolation condenser in unit 1 stopped at 16:36 on 2011-03-11, but perhaps that was based on incomplete or bad data from TEPCO.
- Worker error may have led to meltdown (Japan Times, 2011-05-17)