Japan nuke news 20: Tokyo Electric: “fuel may have melted”

Tokyo Electric officials have noted that they can not rule out the possibility that fuel rods in the Fukushima reactors have melted, at least to some extent. No one else, as far as I can tell, thinks that fuel rods have not melted. A Question that is more important than that of Tokyo Electric’s sudden revelation is, of course, are the fuel rods still melting? The answer is that they may well be.

As of a few hours ago, there is a 20 km offset no-entry zone around the Fukushima Power Plant. The evacuation zone has been reduced from 10 to 8 km. Coagulant continues to be injected into trenches to keep water from entering the sea, and water is being drawn from Unit 2 turbine building to be treated fof site. Water from the turbine building of Unit 6 was previously removed.

Electrical systems are being slow restored or replaced. Fresh wter is still being injeted inot the reactors in unites 1,2 and 3, and spent fuel rods are stll being sprayed in unit 4.

Nitrogen cas continues to be injected inot Unit 1’s containment vessel over concerns about hydrogen gas buildup. Pressure in that unit’s reactor vessel has been increasing, and temperatures are high there. Unit 1 remains “above cold shutdown conditions” and it is a reasonable guess that some fission is happening there. Something similar is probably happening in Units 2 and 3.

Ana’s Feed, Monday PM through last night:

Ana’s Feed:

TEPCO says I can post this video so long as I give them credit.

Video footage of inside of damaged No. 4 reactor

Entergy lawsuit forces nuclear power on Vermont

Entergy, the Louisiana-based company that owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, announced today it will sue the state of Vermont in federal court, asking for a judgement to allow its nuclear plant to continue operating past March 21, 2012, the …

NRG Abandons Project for 2 Reactors in South Texas

Construction of the plants was in considerable doubt even before the accident at Fukushima.

Too hot for robots.
Robots face difficulties at Fukushima plant

25 years since the accident at Chernobyl,
and the world is still in search of a “successful solution”.
Ukraine Raises $790 Million to Seal Chernobyl, Below Its $1 Billion Target

“TEPCO hopes to start operating the decontamination facility in June.”
French company to decontaminate Daiichi water
“French nuclear reactor maker Areva says it has agreed with the Tokyo Electric Power Company to build a facility to decontaminate radioactive water at the compound of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.”

Fukushima nuke workers at risk of depression, overwork death | Kyodo News

Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers engaged in efforts to stabilize the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are at risk of depression or death from overwork, a doctor who recently saw them said Wednesday.

Nuke plant meltdown warning went unheeded – The Mainichi Daily News

  • Japanese nuclear power plant operators were totally unprepared for the potential long-term loss of power supply, a lifeline to help cool nuclear reactors, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

  • “The study shows that a meltdown began about one hour and 40 minutes after the water- pumping function stopped. About 3 hours and 40 minutes later, the pressure container broke down and about 6 hours and 50 minutes later the containment vessel also ruptured.”

Edano: The govt has banned shipments of sand lance from Fuku. Pref. for “excessive amounts of radioactive materials.” -kyodo

PM Kan will visit Fuku. Pref. on Thurs. Govt sources say he will announce “an order to prohibit people from entering a 20-km radius” of Daiichi. -kyodo

“An official at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, admitted Wednesday that fuel of the plant’s No. 1 reactor could be melting.” -kyodo

Small amounts of radioactive iodine found in breast milk | Kyodo News

  • A citizen’s group concerned about the impact on mothers and babies of the radioactive leaks from a crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture said Wednesday that small amounts of radioactive iodine have been found in the breast milk of four women living east or northeast of Tokyo.

  • Edano said Thursday he has urged the health ministry to investigate whether women’s breast milk has been affected by radiation. -kyodo

“On Tuesday, the Japanese government announced that its latest survey found 13 nursery schools, kindergartens, elementary schools, and junior high schools in Fukushima exceed the radiation safety limit of 3.8 microsieverts per hour.” -NHK

â??”Outdoor activities at these schools have been limited to one hour a day and playing with sand is banned.
On Wednesday, teachers at a kindergarten in Fukushima City put up notices and told children not to touch soil or sand.” -NHK
“The children were instructed to wash their hands and gargle after entering the school, and to remove mud from their shoes when they go back home.”[LINK]

“Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday radioactive substances that leaked into the sea from its crisis-hit nuclear plant over six days from April 1 totaled an estimated 5,000 terabecquerels, 20,000 times more than the annual allowable limit for the plant.” -kyodo

IAEA update

  1. Current Situation

Overall, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious, but there are signs of recovery in some functions, such as electrical power and instrumentation.

At a press conference held at 11:00 (Japan local time) on 21 April, the chief cabinet secretary, Mr. Edano, announced the establishment of a no entry zone around Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as well as basic policies concerning temporary re-entry. As of midnight (Japan local time) on 22 April 2011, the area within 20 km of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is announced as a no entry zone.

Chief cabinet secretary, Mr. Edano, also announced a re-designation of the evacuation zone around Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant. He announced that “the size of the evacuation zone around the station would be reduced from 10 km to 8 km,” and that “the order to evacuate based on the incident at Fukushima Daini nuclear power station would be lifted from areas farther than 8 km around the station.”

Changes to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Status

The IAEA receives information from a variety of official Japanese sources through the Japanese national competent authority, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Additional detail is provided in the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) status summary with information received by 07:00 UTC on 21 April 2011.

Management of On-site Contaminated Water

Injection of approximately 17 000 L of coagulant (liquid glass) to the power cable trench of Unit 2 was carried out on 18 April and injection of approximately 7 000 L of liquid glass on 19 April. The transfer of stagnant water from the Unit 2 turbine building to radioactive waste treatment facilities commenced on 19 April.

The stagnant water (around 100 m3) in the basement of the turbine building of Unit 6 was transferred to the condenser on 19 April.

Plant status

Work to strengthen the electrical power system between Units 1 – 2 and Units 3 – 4 by establishing multiple power lines was completed on 19 April.

White “smoke” continues to be emitted from Units 2, 3 and 4..

In Unit 1 fresh water is being continuously injected into the reactor pressure vessel through the feedwater line at an indicated flow rate of 6 m3/h using a temporary electric pump with off-site power.

In Unit 2 and Unit 3 fresh water is being continuously injected into the reactor pressure vessel through the fire extinguisher line at an indicated rate of 7 m3/h using temporary electric pumps with off-site power.

In Unit 4 40 tonnes of fresh water was sprayed over the spent fuel pool on 19 April using a concrete pump truck.

Nitrogen gas is being injected into the containment vessel in Unit 1 to reduce the possibility of hydrogen combustion in the containment vessel. The pressure in the containment vessel has stabilized. The pressure in the reactor pressure vessel is increasing.

The reactor pressure vessel temperatures in Unit 1 remain above cold shutdown conditions. The indicated temperature at the feedwater nozzle of the reactor pressure vessel is 154 °C and at the bottom of reactor pressure vessel is 113 °C.

The reactor pressure vessel temperatures in Unit 2 remain above cold shutdown conditions. The indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the reactor pressure vessel is 135 °C. The reactor pressure vessel and the dry well remain at atmospheric pressure. Fresh water injection (approximately 47 tonnes) to the spent fuel pool via the spent fuel pool cooling line was carried out on 19 April.

The temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel in Unit 3 remains above cold shutdown conditions. The indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the reactor pressure vessel is 100 °C and at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel is 108 °C. The reactor pressure vessel and the dry well remain at atmospheric pressure.

There has been no change in the status in Unit 6 or in the common spent fuel storage facility.

  1. Radiation Monitoring

On 20 April, deposition of I-131 was detected in 8 prefectures, ranging from 2.4 to 80 Bq/m2. Deposition of Cs-137 was detected in seven prefectures, the values reported ranging from 2.6 to 87 Bq/m2.

Gamma dose rates are measured daily in all 47 prefectures. For Fukushima on 20 April a gamma dose rate of 1.9 µSv/h was reported, and for Ibaraki prefecture a gamma dose rate of 0.12 µSv/h was reported. In all other prefectures, reported gamma dose rates were below 0.1 µSv/h.

Dose rates are also reported specifically for the eastern part of Fukushima prefecture, for distances beyond 30 km from Fukushima Daiichi. On 19 April the values in this area ranged from 0.1 to 22 µSv/h.

In cooperation with local universities, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has set up an additional monitoring programme. For 20 April, measurements of gamma dose rates were reported for 54 cities in 40 prefectures. In Fukushima City a value of 0.42 µSv/h was reported. For nine cities, gamma dose rates between 0.13 and 0.17 µSv/h were reported. For all other cities reported gamma dose rates were below 0.1 µSv/h.

I-131 or Cs-137 is detectable in drinking water, but at levels below 1 Bq/L and in only a few prefectures. As of 20 April, one restriction on drinking water for infants relating to I-131 (100 Bq/L) remains in place for a small scale water supply in a village of the Fukushima prefecture.

Food monitoring data reported by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on 20 April covered a total of 103 samples. These samples were taken on 3, 14, 15, 18, 19 and 20 April from nine prefectures (Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Niigata, Tochigi, Tokyo and Yamagata).

Analytical results for 99 samples of various vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, fruit (strawberries), fish, seafood and unprocessed raw milk indicated that I-131, Cs-134 and Cs-137 were either not detected or had levels below the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities. Four samples of leafy vegetables (Japanese parsley, komatsuna, shinobuhuyuna and spinach) taken on 18 April from Fukushima prefecture had levels above the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities for radioactive caesium.

On 20 April, restrictions were placed on the distribution and consumption of the young of a specific sea fish (sand lance) from the coastal region of Fukushima prefecture. As has been reported previously, sand lance is the only seafood that has been found with I-131, Cs-134 or Cs-137 levels above the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities.

  1. Marine Monitoring

TEPCO Seawater Monitoring Programme

TEPCO is conducting a programme for seawater monitoring (by surface sampling) at a number of near-shore and off-shore monitoring locations. Following a directive from NISA, on 16 April TEPCO announced that it will increase the number of sea sampling points from ten to 16. A further four points are to be added at 3 km from the coast and two points are to be added at 8 km from the coast. The new sampling sites are indicated on Map 1: TEPCO Seawater Sampling Locations, on which new points are indicated with green bullets.

On some days, two samples were collected at the same sampling point, a few hours apart, and analysed separately.

Until 3 April a generally decreasing trend in radioactivity was observed at the sampling points TEPCO 1 to TEPCO 4. After the discharge of contaminated water from the plant on 4 April, a temporary increase in radioactivity in sea water was reported. Since 5 April a general downward trend in the concentration of radionuclides in sea water for all TEPCO sampling points has been observed.

On 21 April new data for TEPCO sampling points were reported. For TEPCO 1 – 4 (sampling date 19 April) the values for both I-131 and Cs-137 were below 0.5 kBq/L. For TEPCO 5 – 10 (sampling date 18 April) the values for both I-131 and Cs-137 were below 0.3 kBq/L.

Map 1: TEPCO Seawater Sampling Locations:

For the six new stations at 3 km off-shore and 8 km off-shore (green bullets in Map 1; sampling date 18 April), I-131 and Cs-137 were not detectable at the two stations 3 km off-shore; for all the other stations the level of I-131 was below 0.3 kBq/L and that of Cs-137 was below 0.4 kBq/L.

MEXT Off-shore Seawater Monitoring Programme
On 21 April new data were reported (sampling date 19 April)for the MEXT 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and B off-shore seawater sampling locations shown in Map 2: MEXT Seawater Sampling Locations. I-131 was detected only at the location MEXT 6 and the level was below 20Bq/L. Cs-137 was detected at locations MEXT 6 and 8 at a level of below 30 Bq/L.

Map 2: MEXT Seawater Sampling Locations:

  1. IAEA Activities

Georgia and Iceland have also provided monitoring data, in addition to the States that have been mentioned in previous briefs.

On 18 April the IAEA monitoring team finished its radiological monitoring campaign and the team returned to Vienna on 20 April.

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8 thoughts on “Japan nuke news 20: Tokyo Electric: “fuel may have melted”

  1. If you really look at it, Ken Lay and Enron killed the units 3 & 4 at the south texas plant. By breaking up the integrated utilities into generators, transmission and distribution and retailers, you no longer have anyone who can shove the costs of nuclear on their customers. Consider that it was San Antonio’s municipal utility that was a big participant in the new units until the price ran away from where it started. In Tx municipal utilities can still cram costs down. But in the decontrolled areas, you buy power from a retailer, who buys from generators. Now a retailer does not have a lot of margin, so long term contracts are a huge risk. But if a generator can’t get long term contracts for a nuclear plant, then no financing. The plants still building are in states with the integrated utilities.

  2. To be clear, the evacuation zone is now enforceable up to 20km from the Daiichi plant – violators can be fined $1,200 for entering without permission. At the Daini plant, however, the voluntary evac. zone has been shrunk to 8 from 10km.

  3. Is it not possible for them to send Robots to solve this problem easily if more technicians and professionals work in this situation if they work very hard then this may be solved within a few weeks after ending of this problem Japanese should not build Nuclear Power Plants for power generation because earthquakes and tsunami’s regularly hits Japan’s territory so they have to search for other alternatives to generate power.

  4. (from:http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1303469228P.pdf)

    “The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission says conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are “static but fragile” in its latest assessment of the nuclear emergency.

    The Commission compiled the report as of April 15th, along with the US Energy Department and other nuclear organizations. The report suggests that ongoing operations to feed the reactors with water could be affected by the occurrence of more aftershocks…

    The report estimates that 67 percent of nuclear fuel has been damaged at reactor No.1, 44 percent at reactor No.2 and 30 percent at reactor No.3.

    It says these estimates do not differ greatly from those provided by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company. TEPCO has estimated the rate of damage at 70 percent at reactor No.1, 30 percent at No.2, and 25 percent at No.3.”


    A little taste of reality for nuclear advocates (never call it green or economical):


    “when industry restructuring revealed that nuclear power costs were still too high to be competitive, so-called stranded costs were shifted to utility ratepayers, allowing the reactors to continue operating.

    These legacy subsidies are estimated to exceed seven cents per kilowatt-hour (¢/kWh)â??an amount equal to about 140 percent of the average wholesale price of power from 1960 to 2008, making the subsidies more valuable than the
    power produced by nuclear plants over that period…

    Water for cooling is a critical input to all thermal energy technologies, especially for many of the older plants that rely on â??open-loopâ? or â??oncethroughâ? cooling systems. Thus the power sectorâ?? including nuclearâ??is a major water user.

    In 2000, for example, thermoelectric power generation was responsible for **39 percent of all freshwater withdrawals in the United States**, comparable in scale to the total amount of water used for irrigated agriculture (DOE 2006: 9).

    In France, thermal power plants accounted for 55 percent of all freshwater withdrawals in 2002, four times the quantity
    consumed in agriculture and roughly 10 percent of all precipitation (IFEN 2005). Based on DOE consumption data in Table 18, a single 1,000 MW open-loop reactor with a 90 percent capacity factor will withdraw between 540 million and 1.4 billion gallons **per day**…

    nuclear fission is among the most water-intensive energy technologies on a per-unit-of-energy-produced basis. Consumptive use is higher for uranium extraction than all other sources evaluated in the mining sector. For closedloop plants with cooling towers, nuclear powerâ??s water intensity (use per kWh of energy produced) exceeded that of fossil-fuel power plants. Openloop plants rank relatively low in terms of net consumption, but have the highest withdrawal rates of the technologies evaluated, with substantial environmental effects…

    PPL Electric Utilities, the operator of two reactors within the SRBC, is permitted to withdraw up to 66 million gallons of surface water per day from the Susquehanna River and up to 125,000 gallons per day of groundwater (Jones 2007). An estimated 30 million gallons per day are used consumptively at PPLâ??s Susquehanna Steam Electric Station (Epstein 2008: 9). Absent the firmâ??s fee waivers, this reactor alone would pay $3 million per year in water charges at the January 2010 rates.”

  5. phillydoug, do you appreciate that essentially all of that “withdrawn” water is returned only slightly heated? The water remains perfectly good for many other uses, including irrigation.

  6. Daedalus: “do you appreciate that essentially all of that “withdrawn” water is returned only slightly heated?”

    Nice vague reference– ‘slightly heated’.

    Fortunately, as with all things nuclear, no amount of physical impact has any effect on the environment. So, reduce water levels and flow by any amount, and increase the temperature by any amount– zero effect on riparian habitats. Cool!

    Or… (from the same report)

    “While most of the water is returned to streams rather than consumed, the return flows are generally hotter and more contaminated than the intake. In addition, the intake process often harms wildlife, as does the interruption of stream flows…

    Lochbaum (2007) notes that Southern Californiaâ??s San Onofre plant entrained (i.e., killed) 3.5 million fish in 2003 alone. This was more than 30 times the number of fish affected by the 10 other plants in the same coastal region combined.”

    And really, a 146 page report, and what you take from it is that water comes out ‘slightly heated’?

    How ’bout we throw some evidence into the daedalus halo, see what sticks:

    from: (https://www.msu.edu/~hayesdan/PDF/lessard.pdf)

    “Increased temperatures can have important consequences for stream organisms. Bioenergetic studies indicate
    a strong positive relationship between feeding rates and metabolism with temperature for both fish and insect
    communities (Gibbons, 1976; Wotton, 1995). Increased metabolic rate carries with it a need for increased
    levels of food quantity or quality in order to maintain growth and survival rates (Wotton, 1994). Also,
    temperatures must not exceed the biological preferences of typical cold-stenotherms (i.e. 20 °C) if cold-water
    fauna are to prosper downstream (Allan, 1995; Giller and Malmqvist, 1998; Taniguchi et al., 1998).”

    from: (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs122-97/)

    “Temperature is one major controlling factor in fish community composition in the UCOL study unit. Selected water-temperature conditions provide a favorable habitat for selected fish species (Coutant, 1977).”

    Daedalus, maybe you should stick with things you have some underrstanding of. That what be what, exactly?

  7. The lessons of Fukushima
    By Hugh Gusterson | 16 March 2011
    From The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists


    â??The designers of the reactors at Fukushima did not anticipate that the tsunami generated by an earthquake would disable the backup systems that were supposed to stabilize the reactor after the earthquake.

    And presumably there are other complicated technological scenarios that we have not foreseen, earthquake faults that are undetected or underestimated, and terrorists hatching plans for mayhem as yet unknown. Not to mention regulators who place too much trust in those they regulate.

    Thus it is hard to resist the conclusion reached by sociologist Charles Perrow in his book Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies: Nuclear reactors are such inherently complex, tightly coupled systems that, in rare, emergency situations, cascading interactions will unfold very rapidly in such a way that human operators will be unable to predict and master them. To this anthropologist, then, the lesson of Fukushima is not that we now know what we need to know to design the perfectly safe reactor, but that the perfectly safe reactor is always just around the corner. It is technoscientific hubris to think otherwise.

    This leaves us with a choice between walking back from a technology that we decide is too dangerous or normalizing the risks of nuclear energy and accepting that an occasional Fukushima is the price we have to pay for a world with less carbon dioxide. It is wishful thinking to believe there is a third choice of nuclear energy without nuclear accidents.�

    This post is by Dr Rianne Teule, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace International


    â??Nuclear energy might cause less carbon emissions than fossil fuels, but it is far from clean. It produces radioactive waste and causes radioactive pollution all over the world. Nuclear power gambles with peopleâ??s health and the environment from the very beginning of the nuclear chain – mining for uranium. I spoil the party by telling people about my rather depressing visit to Niger, where uranium mining contaminates the air, water and soil, and creates huge volumes of radioactive waste. On top of that, nuclear power creates tens of thousands of tons of lethal waste, which is radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. No solution has yet been found for the safe and secure storage of the dangerous waste over such a long time period, which potentially spans many Ice Agesâ?¦

    â?¢ This time I share my experiences of visiting the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that exploded in 1986 â?? large areas, even up to more than 100km from the plant are still unsafe to live. And a continuous stream of incidents and accidents in nuclear reactors and other nuclear installations prove how vulnerable the technology is.
    o In September 2010, 79 workers at Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town were exposed to significant levels of radioactive cobalt. The alarms did not go off, and the incident was only detected after the workers ended their shift. Currently one of the Koeberg reactors is shut down because one or more defective fuel rods caused higher levels of radioactivity in the reactor.
    o In December 2010, more than 30 million litres of radioactive sludge from three cracked waste pools has leaked into the environment at a uranium mine in Niger, operated by French nuclear company AREVA. At least 20 hectares of land are contaminated.
    o The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the US found that radioactive tritium is leaking from at least 27 of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors, raising concerns about how it is escaping from the aging nuclear plants.
    o The number of â??significant eventsâ?? or incidents in nuclear facilities in France has increased over the last decadeâ?¦

    Despite what the nuclear industry tells us, building enough nuclear power stations to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars.�

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