The Fukushima nuclear power plant was opened to journalists for the first time; See below for numerous links to related stories.
There appears to be very high levels of radiation at Fukushima plant reactor #3, and at either reactors 1 and 3, or both, nuclear fission may have been occurring in the melted down remains. Ideally, once a plant is turned off, i.e., control rods inserted etc. etc., the state of “criticality” is stopped and there is no more fission, or at least, only a small background level. But, if a nuclear power plant’s core melts down, nuclear material can re-accumulate in some uncontrolled manner in the wreckage beneath the plant or in lower areas of a reactor containment vessel, and critical mass can be re-attained. This apparently has been detected over the last few weeks at Fukushima. This is evident from the presence of Xenon-135, a product of nuclear fission with a half life of just over 9 hours.
However, TEPCO appears to be making adjustments to the definition of the term “criticality” so this problem is expected to go away soon. (You will remember that some time ago when it became apparent that TEPCO would be unable to effect a true “cold shutdown” of the melted down reactors, the definition of “cold shutdown” was changed. Now, there is discussion of the meaning of the term “criticality.”) Also, TEPCO reassures us that the detection of the products of “spontaneous fission” is not really a new phenomenon. Rather, they just started to be able to detect this accidental nuclear process. It has presumably been going on all along (which could go a long way to explaining why it has been impossible to obtain a “cold shutdown” of the reactors without having to resort to redefining “cold”).
Of increasing concern is the amount of evidence that people, including some school children, nuclear plant workers, and others have been found to have internal exposure, meaning particles of nuclear material were breathed in or ingested. In a possibly related move, the upper limits of contamination for food is being lowered significantly. One rescue worker who was found to have been internally exposed has died and some are suggesting that there is a link.
One report indicates that about 79 percent of the fallout from Fukushima ended up in the ocean, 19% has been deposited on the land in Japan, about 2% on other land surfaces mainly in Asia and North America. The report indicates that about twice as much Cesium 137 was released at Fukushima than had bee previously reported. Another report indicates that measurable amounts of Iodine-131 have been found in several European countries, of uncertain origin.
Speaking of contamination, have a look at this discussion of bird brains and radiation at Chernobyl.
Robotic exoskeletons are being developed to help the workers work harder – there are ~3,000 people working there every day. It is interesting to observe over these months since the meltdowns how many procedures and technologies are being invented and deployed for the very first time, as though the nuclear power industry actually, really, truly believed that nothing could ever go wrong. Had the possibility of a major disaster such as this been considered earlier, not only would TEPCO and others have been more prepared, but also, the costs may have been manged better.
Speaking of cost, there is talk of recalculating the cost of nuclear energy – internalizing waste costs and accident costs when planning plants. Interesting idea, and utterly surprising that this has never occurred to anyone before. It turns out that nuclear energy is fairly expensive. Floridians are upset over two or three billion dollars of state funds being used to upgrade a nuclear power plant plant; TEPCO has asked for and will get a trillion yen. It adds up.
The Japanese Genkai reactor has restarted, and this is the first restart of a nuke plant shut down for technical problems in Japan since the massive Fukushima meltdown. The technical problem was caused by a screw-up that was, in turn, caused by using a faulty operation manual. Perhaps the instructions were written originally in English and translated poorly into Japanese. In any event, it is telling that a) Nuclear industry lies and cheats to get a major plant that should not have been built constructed where it should not be; b) plant melts down causing worst nuclear power disaster ever; c) Other plants start to resume operations d) within weeks, another plant is shut down because of a bad photocopy job in a manual.
Oh yes, of course we can trust the Nuclear Power Industry to get it right.
NHK asked plant operators if they’d been cyber attacked and many said yes, but that they had not been compromised. And of course, the would never lie. Later it was reported that sensitive data was leaked through these attacks, including design plans, etc.
And now, it is time for Ana’s Feed of all the latest Fukushima and other Nuclear Power related news:
Continue reading Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 40: Fukushima Plant Still Producing Energy! (In a bad way)