p class=”lead”>There is a lot of news in Ana’s Feed about the nuclear power industry world wide, as well as across Japan, and especially disturbing news related to the Fukushima plant in particular. In brief, the main reason that the situation at these reactors seems to be kinda-sorta under control (as in the water in the plants has stopped boiling uncontrollably) is that much of the nuclear fuel has melted its way into the underlying geology, and/or all over the plant’s foundation structures, and/or dispersed through groundwater that is moving through the system. Towards nearby rivers and/or the ocean.
Radiation Readings and Contamination
p class=”lead”>The catastrophic meltdowns at Fukushima’s Nuclear Power plant and associated plume of radioactive material were picked up some 60 kilometers away from the plant at a medical facility; These data are now available in a pretty, yet scary, graph (see Ana’s Feed). Good news: It may be the case that most of the radioactive substances in the vicinity, which would be Cesium, is on top of everything … i.e., the top 2 cm of soil. Bad news: The Cesium fallout covers a very very large area, including large areas of eastern and northeastern Japan. Having said that, it appears that very few people were zapped with large amounts of radiation at the outset of the disaster.
However, this may not be an accurate assessment, and hopes that decontamination would go fairly quickly because radioactive material is mainly on the surface and just has to be wiped or scraped off do not seem to be working out. Some of the preliminary decontamination efforts seem to indicate that the procedure being used reduces radioactivity by as little as 22%, which is unexpected.
But that’s OK, because TEPCO’s policy is that radioactive stuff that falls on your property is now YOURS, not theirs!
As decontamination of homes in the Fukushima disaster evacuation area begins, the government is considering sending in the “army” to help with decontamination, but other parts of the government want to see data on potential contamination, which is apparently not available, first. There is a plan to build a facility to bury Fukushma waste. The government is looking for a site. So far there have been no volunteers.
There was a complete botch-up regarding Radioactive Rice, in which a brilliant hypothesis of how rice would be not too contaminated was killed by the ugly fact of highly contaminated rice. Also, school children are, apparently, being given contaminated milk to drink. This was discovered by tests applied to milk over the objections of the milk industry. Similarly, baby formula seems to be contaminated as well.
The Cold Shutdown vs. the Meltdown
TEPCO claims that the planned cold shutdown is on schedule for the end of this month. At present, all of the water in all of the reactor machinery seems to be below boiling point. In fact, it turns out that the temperature inside the primary reactor vessels is even lower than expected. It is possible that this is because most of the fuel has leaked out of the vessels to an unknown location. That’s good, right?
TEPCO has produced a study that shows that the containment vessels for the reactors contained the melted nuclear fuel from the plant. This is based on a computer simulation produced a few days ago.
In contrast, the architect of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 3 suggests that nuclear fuel beneath the plant may be as deep as 12 meters below the foundation level, continuing to melt its way through the earth. If he’s right, that could mean future hydrogen explosions accompanied by massive radiation releases. TEPCO is also concerned about future hydrogen explosions.
Other experts claim that the material from the cores is mixed into the top 70 cm. of material above a steel containment barrier. Yet another suggests that the material is two meters deep into the concrete below the vessel. All of these suggestions are worst than the previously defined “worst case scenario” used by the plant’s engineers and designers.
As efforts leading to the cold shutdown continue, strange things keep happening in the plant with temperature and radiation readings, and there are uncertainties about the instrumentation being used in the plant.
Contaminated Water and Ground Water Problems
One of the major problems at the damaged reactor facilities is still contaminated water in the buildings. TEPCO is unable to remove water from the buildings, though the reasons are somewhat unclear as to why. One of the problems is that groundwater is flowing into the foundations. This is a concern, since the foundations are supposed to be a seal to keep contamination inside the plant in the event of a spill or meltdown. Presumably contaminated water is flowing out if it is also flowing in. It is of some concern that TEPCO can’t identify the source of the groundwater. Modern facilities that will contain dangerous materials are built after accurate groundwater maps and models are developed. This suggests that a review of existing nuclear power plant area groundwater maps is in order.
The good news is that maybe the radioactive stuff under the plants will not actually drill its way through the center of the earth, but rather, it may just flow out into the sea via a nearby river. Extremely high radiation readings have been identified at the mouth of the Abukumagawa River.
The ex-skf blog expresses concerns over worker’s safety in the vicinity of the plant’s breached containment vessels. Masao Yoshida, the manager at Fukushima at the time of the disaster, has stepped down from his position due to an unspecified illness.
Told you so
More evidence that TEPCO was aware of the threat of a tsunami, but ignored or repressed it, has been brought to light.
Far away but still of interest
Highway 40 in Memphis saw a Uranium Truck crash. No big deal. This time. A coolant leak was reprted at Brunswick Plant in the Carolinas. A recent report suggests that all of the nuclear reactors in France need to be upgraded. Given the geography of much of Western Europe, a Chernobyl or Fukushima type disaster is sometimes called the “10 trillion dollar scenario.” Not only would a major contamination plume cause major direct effects, but at the moment, a huge percentage of Western Europe’s power comes from nuclear.
In Otter Matters
There is still a problem with pets, in the Fukushima area. Volunteers are barely able to handle current needs for care of animals left homeless due to the disaster. Concerns over radioactive contamination? There’s an ap for that! You an now get a Geiger counter attachment for your smart phone.
And now …
Continue reading Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 41: Good News – it’s bad. Bad news – it’s worse than we think