Daily Archives: March 28, 2011

Japan quake, tsunami, nuke news 12: Engineers discover giant trench filled with radioactive water; Plutonium in nearby soil?

The most interesting and important current news, interesting if confirmed, is that plutonium has been discovered in soil near Fukushima. With all this talk about radiation, it is easy to forget that some of these elements are extremely poisonous in their own right. Plutonium is a very nasty poison. I’ve not seen the news reports or any details yet … as of this writing, this is just reasonably reliable rumor. I’m off the intertubes for the rest of the day, but I’ll update tomorrow on this topic.

The cooling systems are still not operational and a huge amount of radioactive water has been found in a trench that communicates with the reactor/turbine complex that either TEPCO was unaware of the existence of, did not think to look in, or has known of but remained silent about since March 11th. I’m not sure which is worse, a zillion gazillimsuts of extra radioactive dihydrogen oxide they didn’t know about, their ability to selectively not mention very important things for very long periods of time, or the astonishing incompetence demonstrated by ignorance. I guess we’ll find out eventually.

Now, on to Ana’s feed:

Ana’s Feed starting at about 10 after midnight, today, March 28:

Re: reactor no.4, from video evidence – The crane has fallen onto the spent fuel rods – “the likelihood of damage to the fuel cannot be denied.” Also, the yellow lid of the containment vessel can be seen … off to the side … there was no fuel in the reactor at the time of the quake. (NHK)

  • Clarification: There was no fuel in the reactor CORE at the time of the quake. It had all been moved upstairs to the spent fuel pool which is now crushed by crane
  • Seawater continues to be pumped by truck onto the spent fuel area – white steam/vapor continues to rise.
  • (this entry slightly edited to reflect later corrections)

The plan to pump highly contaminated water from the turbine rooms into the condenser units for storage has hit a snag in that the condenser units are full. The next plan of moving the water from cond. units to “outside pools” has also been challenged by the fact that these pools are also full. -NISA

Some residents with homes inside the 20km evac. zone have left shelters and returned. Officials believe there are about 30 people in violation of the order, but given the danger in the area, no one has gone in to check. SDF forces may be mobilized to extract them forcibly. (NHK)

TEPCO has sent soil samples taken from around the plant on March 22 to independent research centers where they will be checked for highly toxic plutonium. Results are expected in the next days. (NHK)

Edano on reactor no.2: It is possible that the water inside the pressure vessel has come into contact with melted elements. That is a possibility. (NHK)

  • Q: Does the fuel continue to melt?
  • A (Edano): NISA will give an expert report.
  • Analiese Miller Gauge-topping readings of 1,000mSv/hr. are confined to the interior of the no.2 building. There is concern about this material seeping into groundwater. (Edano presser)
  • My understanding is that entombment is not an option so long as the fuel has heat – that doing so would only increase the likelihood of nuclear explosion – that, in fact, it has been the “controlled venting” of the reactors that has kept them more or less intact to this point. I haven’t heard anything about this rationale from Michio – haven’t heard him acknowledge that concern.

Is it possible, given that soil samples have been sent off-site, that the equipment in use at Daiichi does not allow for detection of the weak gamma-ray emissions of plutonium? Someone tell me this is not a possibility.

I-131 found at levels 1,150 times normal in the sea, 30m N. of discharge pipes of units 5 and 6.

  • NISA spokesman says: Generally speaking, the current here moves N. to S., but the sample was taken near shore, so maybe those currents don’t hold. The assumption is that the contamination moved along the shore from S. to N., but that is not certain.

“Highly radioactive water has been found outside the reactor building.” (NHK)

  • There is a pipe-lined, underground trench running horizontally from reactor no.1 – no.3, at about 16m deep. The pipes in this trench can be observed by workers on the ground through a manhole. Workers have looked into this manhole and have seen water. It has nearly filled the observation column to the surface, and is of the same radioactivity as found in the adjacent turbine room of reactor no.2, 1,000mSv/hr. (NHK analyst)
  • (When talking 1,000mSv/hr., we’re talking more than that – apparently no one’s got a dosimeter that can read anything higher.)
  • TEPCO says that the trench does not directly connect to the sea.
  • see this

As of 16:00 March 28, 2011 – some very high readings outside the evac. zone.

(Ana’s Feed is a collection of Analiese Miller’s facebook status entries posted as she takes in the news live in Japan.)

Links to news stories and updates:

International Atomic Energy Agency update edited for brevity. See this link for the rest, and for radiation monitoring information.

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains very serious.

The restoration of off-site power continues and lighting is now available in the central control rooms of Units 1, 2 and 3. Also, fresh water is now being injected into the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) of all three Units.

Radiation measurements in the containment vessels and suppression chambers of Units 1, 2 and 3 continued to decrease. White “smoke” continued to be emitted from Units 1 to 4.

Pressure in the RPV showed a slight increase at Unit 1 and was stable at Units 2 and 3, possibly indicating that there has been no major breach in the pressure vessels.

At Unit 1, the temperature measured at the bottom of the RPV fell slightly to 142 °C. At Unit 2, the temperature at the bottom of the RPV fell to 97 °C from 100 °C reported in the Update provided yesterday. Pumping of water from the turbine hall basement to the condenser is in progress with a view to allowing power restoration activities to continue.

At Unit 3, plans are being made to pump water from the turbine building to the main condenser but the method has not yet been decided. This should reduce the radiation levels in the turbine building and reduce the risk of contamination of workers in the turbine building restoring equipment.

No notable change http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/03/japan_quake_tsunami_nuke_news_5.phphas been reported in the condition of Unit 4.

Water is still being added to the spent fuel pools of Units 1 to 4 and efforts continue to restore normal cooling functions.

Units 5 and 6 remain in cold shutdown.

We understand that three workers who suffered contamination are still under observation in hospital.

For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.