Fukushima Update #70: If you can’t measure it, you can’t analyze it.
by Analiese Miller and Greg Laden
It has been suggested, by various commenters on the internet, that the problem with Fukushima is not that there is a dangerous radioactive mess there, but rather, that the authorities in charge have decided that exposure to radiation is dangerous, when it really isn’t. The argument has been made that the evacuation of the region around Fukushima at the time of the meltdowns and explosions was unnecessary. This presumably also means that the exclusion zones, where people are not allowed to return to the present day, are safe and should be re-occupied by the former residents. To some extent, this must also mean that in many cases the workers at the plant are not really in danger of radiation, or at least most of them most of the time. This whole business of testing for radiation leaks, and monitoring exposure, and so on and so forth, should perhaps be reserved only for those who go inside the crippled reactor buildings, not those wandering around outside in some cases hundreds of meters from those buildings. This also means that expensive and bothersome monitoring of the presence or amount of radio-nucleotides in the groundwater and entering the nearby ocean is unnecessary. Clearly, then, by extension, testing of fish and other sea life being caught for human consumption is a waste of time, and certainly, keeping these fish off the market is also a waste of time.
Indeed, one gets the impression that TEPCO feels the same way, as one of the most interesting parts of this set of news stories and commentaries is the confusion and dispute over measurements of radiation. This extends beyond mere methodology and impinges as well on politics and public relations, what with the prospect of the Tokyo Olympics on the table and all.
Or, maybe that is all wrong and radiation is really very dangerous even in tiny quantities. There are those who say that radiation falling from the sky in North America, put into clouds by Fukushima, is a danger, or that fish that live along the US or Canadian coast will pick up radiation from the ocean put there by Fukushima and become dangerous. There are even reports from some sources that the sea offshore from Fukushima has been boiling. That certainly sounds unhealthy.
We think that both of the extreme views characterized above are probably wrong. The latter version of the dangers of Fukushima arise from a combination of fear, or at least, over-caution, and ignorance. The former view, the one that says that nothing is wrong at Fukushima, is not based on ignorance at all, we think, because it comes at least in part from people who tell us that they have studied radiation and nuclear things. But clearly, it is wrong. The evacuation at Fukushima was necessary. During the first few days of the disaster, the possibility of a much much worse release of radioactive material, brought by much less unfavorable winds than actually occurred to major population areas, was very real. Exposure to dangerous levels of radiation for people living near the plant almost certainly would have happened had they not left the area, and things could have turned out much worse than they did and no one could have known that at the time. Also, the idea that certain levels of radiation are safe because people have not in the past been made demonstrably sick form radiation releases is a limited way of thinking about the dangers. Fortunately, in very few instances are people exposed in large numbers to radiation levels like those involved at Fukushima. There are not nuclear disasters like this every day, and with respect to cleanup workers, the maximum levels of exposure is, probably, set conservatively. There is nothing wrong with being conservative about something dangerous even if it means less data to play with later.
The question this leaves us with is this: If the people worried about trout in Michigan are wrong because they don’t know what they are talking about, why are the people who are talking as though radiation is nearly always harmless wrong, when they should know better?
Getting back to the question of measurements for a moment. We note that the measurement of total body exposure in children is still not being done satisfactorily years after the event. We note that when new spikes in radiation or concentrations of a particular radio-isotope are noted, it is almost always impossible to be certain that the new measurement is a new event, or merely that someone thought to measure something. On numerous occasions, including recently, an apparent spike in some measurement occurred because a measurement device that had a maximum value that was too low was replaced with a proper measuring device that could handle higher numbers. That is not science, that is not proper attention to safety, that is not even good public relations. We assume that the best and the brightest around the world assemble around a disaster like this and that the thing is being handled as well as possible. If that is so, than expertise is clearly limited in the areas of nuclear energy and nuclear safety. They can’t even measure things. We have a saying in science. If you can’t measure it you’re borked. (Or words to that effect.) They can’t measure it.
Note in the feed below that some people are considering showing up to help. Maybe we don’t have the best and the brightest at Fukushima.
Also: Solutions. There seems to be a lack of them. For instance, the groundwater bypass flume, designed to move harmless groundwater around the plant rather than through it, to avoid it being contaminated on the way to the see seems like a great idea. The problem is, the groundwater that would be shunted around the plant seems to already be contaminated byu tritium. Is it contaminated by anything else? Who knows? They don’t know how to measure things!
UPDATE Since this is very current, it seems appropriate to toss it in this update rather than wait for later. Tropical Storm Man-Yi, which is just under typhoon (hurricane) strength with maximum winds at hurricane strength, is hitting Japan right now and it is predicted to affect the area around Fukushima. The storm will have gone over land for a period of time before arriving at Fukushima and may not be that strong. Having said that, Pacific Typhoons (or near typhoons) are not like the ones in the Atlantic, which many readers of this blog are more familiar with. They are often way, way larger and for a given rating are often more serious than equivalent Atlantic storm.
The storm will be going over Fukushima over the next several hours, and there is actually a live feed you can watch to see the action, here.
Fukushima Leaks Prompt Government to ‘Emergency Measures’ –Bloomberg; Aug. 26, 2013
Japan’s government will lead “emergency measures” to tackle radioactive water spills at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, wresting control of the disaster recovery from the plant’s heavily criticized operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company.
“We’ve allowed Tokyo Electric to deal with the contaminated water situation on its own and they’ve essentially turned it into a game of ‘Whack-a-Mole,’” Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters today at Fukushima. “From now on, the government will move to the forefront.”
Outside help offered to deal with Tepco debacle: U.S., French experts also ready; water woes escalate –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013
Russia repeated an offer first made two years ago to help Japan clean up its radiation-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear station, welcoming Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s decision to seek outside help.
“In our globalized nuclear industry, we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Asmolov said. Since the Liberal Democratic Party took power in December and Shinzo Abe became the prime minister, talks on bilateral cooperation on the Fukushima cleanup have turned “positive” and Russia is ready to offer its assistance, he said from Moscow last week.
The idea of pumping water for cooling was never going to be anything but a “machine for generating radioactive water,” Asmolov said. Other more complex methods, such as the use of special absorbents like thermoxide to clean contaminated water and the introduction of air cooling, should be used, he said.
‘Mismanaged’ leaks to require reserve funds –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013
The government is considering using reserves from the fiscal 2013 budget to deal with the leaks of radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday.
Suga said he has instructed industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi to pursue all possible measures to deal with the leaks, including the money.
More Fukushima evacuees to sue Tepco, government –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013
A group of 74 people representing 27 families will file the lawsuit with the Osaka District Court on Sept. 17, seeking around ¥15 million per head for psychological and other damage suffered from the event in Fukushima Prefecture, the lawyers said.
Similar suits have been filed in Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Yamagata, Chiba, Niigata and Aichi prefectures.
The group will argue that Tepco should have taken stronger measures to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant from earthquakes and tsunami after the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion warned in 2002 that there was 20 percent chance of a magnitude 8 or so quake occurring in the Japan Trench in the Pacific Ocean within 30 years, the lawyers said.
RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Says the Leak May Have Started A Month Ago after Examining Beta-Radiation Exposure of a Worker –EXSKF blog; Aug. 27, 2013
At Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s site, there is a TEPCO document that contains charts that plot beta radiation exposure of workers who do the tank patrol, and of the worker who worked at the radio relay station (English labels are by me):
The area where the relay station is located has been found with high beta radiation, up to 95.55 millisieverts/hour at 70-micrometer equivalent dose (to express the effect on skin and the crystalline lens (of the eye)).
Gov’t decides to put off target date for decontaminating area near Fukushima plant – Mainichi; Aug. 28, 2013
The government has decided to push back the target date for completing its decontamination work in seven of the 11 municipalities around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant from the end of fiscal 2013 to sometime after fiscal 2014.
Areas in the 11 municipalities near the crippled nuclear plant that were first designated as “evacuation zones” or “planned evacuation zones” in the wake of the outbreak of the nuclear crisis are subject to the decontamination work under the jurisdiction of the central government. The government has decided to push back the target date for the decontamination work in seven municipalities – Iitate, Katsurao, Kawamata, Minamisoma, Namie, Tomioka, and Futaba.
The government is supposed to ask Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled nuclear power station, to pay the bills for decontamination. But as of the end of May, TEPCO had paid only 6.7 billion yen out of 21.2 billion yen the central government told the utility to pay. TEPCO has apparently been making decisions whether to pay the costs while strictly examining the effectiveness of the decontamination work. Therefore, the government apparently is hesitant to put pressure on TEPCO over decontamination projects that are not clearly deemed effective in reducing radiation levels. If TEPCO’s business conditions worsen, there is a possibility of the government shouldering the costs.
Water Management and Mismanagement at Fukushima –All Things Nuclear Blog; Aug. 29, 2013
Although the uncontrolled daily release of radioactivity into the environment represents a failure on the part of TEPCO to safely manage the Fukushima site, it does not yet pose a major public health threat comparable to the releases of radioactivity that occurred in the weeks following the accident, which were millions of times greater. The inability to safely contain the radioactivity at the site is first and foremost a threat to the workers who must report each day no matter how precarious the conditions. The contamination of more than ten workers in recent weeks, resulting in an expansion of areas where respiratory protection is required, has highlighted the dangers faced by personnel.
However, the situation is a stark reminder of how fragile things still are at Fukushima, which is especially alarming given the enormous quantity of radioactive material that still remains within the reactor cores and spent fuel pools. Things could rapidly get worse if, for example, additional wastewater tanks started to leak. And the potential for another earthquake that might cause soil liquefaction under the site, as reported by the Japan Times this week, raises the possibility of sudden and much larger releases. The international community should not be lured into a false sense of confidence during the periods when little news about Fukushima is being reported. The situation is dire and requires an urgent response.
Fishermen press TEPCO to end toxic water problem at Fukushima –Mainichi; Aug. 29, 2013
“Your company’s radioactive water management has failed,” the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations told TEPCO President Naomi Hirose after it summoned him to its office in Tokyo.
On Wednesday, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations decided to suspend at the end of August so-called “trial” fisheries operations off the coast of Fukushima.
A trial operation limits the area of fishing and only allows shipment of products confirmed to be safe.
A fisheries cooperative covering the northern part of the prefecture has employed such an operation for more than a year, while another cooperative covering the southern part of the prefecture had planned to resume the operation from September.
Fukushima Fishermen Ruined by Tepco Now Key in Toxic Fight –Bloomberg; Aug. 30, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. ruined the livelihoods of the commercial fishermen who trawled the seas off Fukushima prefecture when its leaking reactors poisoned the fishing grounds. The utility now needs their help.
Tokyo Electric has built wells and a pipeline on the hills behind the wrecked Fukushima atomic station to route groundwater into the ocean away from the plant. This will reduce the volume of water getting into reactor buildings, where it’s contaminated and then flows into the Pacific at a rate of 300 metric tons a day.
While the company has assured Fukushima fishing cooperatives the water to be piped from the hillside wouldn’t be contaminated, the fishermen have yet to sign off on the plan, citing the utility’s history of faked safety reports and cover ups. Talks with the 1,500 fishermen are now into their third month.
“We have yet to reach a conclusion” on whether the cooperative will agree to Tokyo Electric’s water bypass plan, Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, said yesterday in Tokyo. “We will make a cool-headed decision.”
“The only thing we can do now is to explain this carefully,” Tepco President Naomi Hirose said in a briefing this week. “We are getting more understanding that the risk gets higher unless we solve the underground water issue.”
Fukushima radiation levels 18 times higher than previously thought –Guardian; Sept. 1, 2013
The high radiation levels announced on Sunday highlighted the dangers facing thousands of workers as they attempt to contain, treat and store water safely, while preventing fuel assemblies damaged in the accident from going back into meltdown.
Japan’s nuclear workers are allowed an annual accumulative radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts. Tepco said radiation of 230 millisieverts an hour had been measured at another tank, up from 70 millisieverts last month. A third storage tank was emitting 70 millisieverts an hour, Tepco said. Radiation near a pipe connecting two other tanks had been measured at 230 millisieverts.
Tepco admitted recently that only two workers had initially been assigned to check more than 1,000 storage tanks on the site. Neither of the workers carried dosimeters to measure their exposure to radiation, and some inspections had not been properly recorded.
Fukushima’s Radioactive Legacy is Just Beginning –Climate Central; Sept. 1, 2013
If anything, the future consequences of Fukushima for Japan are more serious than for the countries still suffering from the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986.
There the 30 km (18.6 mile) exclusion zone round the plant is still in force, and the ruined reactor has still not been made safe. The current international effort is aimed at placing a giant concrete shield over the reactor at a cost of around $1.5 billion. That work is not expected to be complete for another two years — until 30 years after the disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency team that looked at Fukushima and the problems of making the plant safe said in April that Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the wrecked plants.
Fukushima nuclear plant still ‘unstable’, regulator says -BBC News; Sept. 2, 2013
The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant “has not ended”, the country’s nuclear watchdog has warned, saying the situation there is “unstable”.
Watchdog chief Shunichi Tanaka also accused the plan’s operator of careless management during the crisis.
He added that it may not be possible to avoid dumping some contaminated water into the ocean.
Errors Cast Doubt on Japan’s Cleanup of Nuclear Accident Site –New York Times; Sept. 3, 2013
In this small farming town in the evacuation zone surrounding the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, small armies of workers in surgical masks and rubber gloves are busily scraping off radioactive topsoil in a desperate attempt to fulfill the central government’s vow one day to allow most of Japan’s 83,000 evacuees to return. Yet, every time it rains, more radioactive contamination cascades down the forested hillsides along the rugged coast.
As the environmental damage around the plant and in the ocean nearby continues to accumulate more than two years after the disaster, analysts are beginning to question whether the government and the plant’s operator, known as Tepco, have the expertise and ability to manage such a complex crisis.
In the past, they say, Tepco has resorted to technological quick fixes that have failed to control the crisis, further damaged Japan’s flagging credibility and only deflected hard decisions into the future. Some critics said the government’s new proposals offer just more of the same.
“Japan is clearly living in denial,” said Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor who led Parliament’s independent investigation last year into the causes of the nuclear accident. “Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it. This is all just one big shell game aimed at pushing off the problems until the future.”
“This is just a tactic to avoid taking responsibility,” said Harutoshi Funabashi, a sociologist at Hosei University who led a critical examination of the recovery efforts by the Science Council of Japan, a group of about 2,000 academics. “Admitting that no one can live near the plant for a generation would open the way for all sorts of probing questions and doubts.”
Mr. Funabashi and other critics say Japan should consider other options, including the tactic adopted by the former Soviet Union at Chernobyl of essentially capping the shattered reactors in concrete and declaring the most contaminated towns off limits for a generation.
Japanese officials said the large amounts of groundwater under the plant mean that just covering the reactors with concrete would fail to contain the spread of radiation. They also said giving up on a large portion of Fukushima was not an option in a densely populated country where land remains a scarce commodity.
But they also suggested that the reason for eschewing a Soviet-style option may be the fear that failure could turn a wary public even more decisively against Japan’s nuclear industry.
Abe steps in to tackle nuclear water crisis –Japan Times; Sept. 3, 2013
After putting off spending taxpayer money as long as it could, the Abe administration announced Tuesday it will earmark at least ¥47 billion to stop contaminated water from leaking at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The government will finish setting up coolant equipment to create a barrier of frozen soil around the plant by the end of March 2015, not by the end of September 2015 as envisioned in an earlier plan, officials said.
Of the earmarked funds, ¥32 billion will be used to create the facilities to freeze the soil, and another ¥15 billion to develop more powerful filtering equipment to remove radioactive materials from the contaminated water.
The Abe Cabinet finally decided to step in after it recently become clear that hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater has been flowing into the sea, drawing strong attention and criticism both at home and abroad.
Still, at least for the time being, Tepco will have to handle the water problem on its own, as the government will spend money only for projects that involve “great technological challenges.”
Criminal complaint filed against TEPCO, 32 executives –Mainichi; Sept. 3, 2013
Three people on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and 32 of its current and former executives with the Fukushima prefectural police, arguing they neglected to take measures to prevent toxic water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from flowing into the ocean.
Among the three is Ruiko Muto, who heads a group of some 14,000 people who have filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors against the utility, its executives and government officials over their responsibility for causing the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In the latest complaint, the three said the failure of Tokyo Electric and its executives, including current president Naomi Hirose, to take appropriate measures has caused the daily outflow of 300–400 tons of radioactive-contaminated water into the Pacific.
The Road Ahead: Infant Checks in Fukushima –NHK Newsline Feature; Sept. 4, 2013 (VIDEO)
Hospital officials say they lack the resources to conduct accurate radiation checks of infants in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. Now scientists and industrial designers are developing a machine that could offer much greater precision.
click here for video
Readings just above the ground near a set of tanks at the plant showed radiation as high as 2,200 millisieverts (mSv), the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Wednesday. The previous high in areas holding the tanks was the 1,800 mSv recorded on Saturday.
“There’s a strong possibility these tanks also leaked, or had leaked previously,” said Hiroaki Koide, Assistant Professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. “We have to worry about the impact on nearby groundwater…These tanks are not sturdy and have been a problem since they were constructed two years ago.”
It’s also possible the radiation readings are increasing because of more frequent monitoring and inspections by Tepco employees, indicating the hotspots and leaks have been there for some time, Koide said.
“The government has finally said they will be involved in this problem but they are still not going to be fully involved in the decommission,” he said. “It is too little, too late.”
Fukushima fishermen losing hope as trial operations postponed –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 4, 2013
Of about 200 kilograms of octopus caught in Fukushima waters and stocked in early August, half have been left unsold.
According to the Soma-Futaba fishing cooperative association, octopus caught during the trial fishing period had been shipped to Tokyo and Nagoya. But wholesalers in Nagoya stopped accepting the octopus in late July, a week after TEPCO announced a leak of radioactive water.
Hiroyuki Sato, who heads the association, has also felt frustrated.
“Products we monitored and found to be safe have been given the cold shoulder (by our customers),” Sato, 57, said. “We have done many things until now, but we are right back where we started.”
Fukushima tank leak may have mixed with groundwater, Tepco reckons –Japan Times; Sept. 5, 2013
Tepco said Thursday that workers had detected radiation of 650 becquerels per liter in samples from a monitoring well dug near the damaged tank.
“There is the possibility that the contaminated water (from the tank), diluted by rainwater … has seeped into soil and reached groundwater,” Tepco said in a press release.
The groundwater from the surrounding mountains naturally flows beneath the plant toward the sea.
Camera at reactor 1 finds water entry point –Japan Times; Sept. 5, 2013
An entry point for some of the groundwater flooding the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant has been found at reactor 1, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Tepco will consider measures to halt or divert the water by conducting more surveys to determine exactly where it is entering. Cracks in the basement are considered a possibility.
The groundwater is believed to be the primary source of the radioactive material entering the sea and potentially poses great danger to the environment.
Reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4 and their turbine buildings have similar layouts. Stopping the invasion of the groundwater is thus considered vital to reducing the overall volume of contaminated water.
RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima: 2,200 mSv/Hr to 30 mSv/Hr Beta After Shielding Experiment –EXSKF blog; Sept. 5, 2013
The images don’t give you much confidence and may make you fear for the safety of workers from beta radiation exposure on skin who would be asked to perform this task on potentially over 350 huge tanks.
But the beta radiation (measured at 5 centimeter and expressed in 70 micrometer dose equivalent) did go down.
- Apply sealing material (which looks like putty) to the flange.
- Place one to three acrylic sheets (15 x 10 x 1 centimeter).
- Place two layers of rubber sheets (1.5m x 1m x 3mm) on the concrete (and put sand bags to hold them down).
- 2,200 mSv/hr –> 30 mSv/hr
- 500 mSv/hr –> 15 mSv/hr
- 70 mSv/hr –> 10 mSv/hr
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) , the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, is still putting out questionable data on radiation leaks, causing confusion and a heightened sense of crisis, Japan’s nuclear regulator said.
The stakes have been raised as Japan makes a final pitch for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games, while a steady stream of bad news from Fukushima, the site of the worst atomic disaster in a quarter of a century, leaves officials frustrated by Tepco’s missteps and miscalculations.
“As I’ve said before, Tokyo Electric has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), told reporters on Thursday.
“This has caused confusion domestically and internationally. Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it,” he said.
The company’s disclosure of problems at the site and the quality of its data have been a source of constant criticism.
“I have a certain expert knowledge of Tepco’s data and their data is not reliable,” Kayoko Nakamura, one of five NRA commissioners, said at Thursday’s briefing.
Leaked toxic water at Fukushima plant may have mixed with groundwater –Mainichi; Sept. 6, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday it has detected 650 becquerels per liter of radioactive substances from groundwater near a leaky water storage tank at its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The detection of radioactive substances emitting strontium and other beta rays shows the possibility that toxic water from the tank may have reached the groundwater, the plant operator known as TEPCO said. About 300 tons of highly toxic water had leaked from the tank.
The utility said it collected the groundwater Wednesday at a well dug more than a dozen meters south of the tank in the H4 area where the radioactive water had leaked.
The government plans to use wells to pump up groundwater before it flows into reactor buildings for discharge into the sea in a bid to reduce about 400 tons of groundwater now seeping into reactor buildings every day. The construction of an ice wall is also planned to block off groundwater flow.
With the latest detection of radioactive substances, however, the water in some of the wells is feared to be contaminated.
Seoul bans fish imports from eight prefectures –Japan Times; Sept. 6, 2013
According to officials, all fishery products from radiation-affected regions in Japan will be banned from entering South Korea regardless of the levels of contamination. The ban covers products from Fukushima, Aomori, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.
“The measure comes as our people’s concerns are growing over the fact that hundreds of tons of radiation contaminated water are leaked daily from the site of Japan’s nuclear accident in Fukushima,” the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in a press release, according to Yonhap news agency.
Tokyo responded Friday by saying Japan has stringent food safety standards based on international rules and regularly checks radiation levels. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged Seoul to “take actions based on scientific grounds,” stressing Japan is “strictly controlling safety” of fishery products based on international radiation standards.
The South Korean government said it will request additional radiation tests from Japan, if “even a minuscule dose of radioactive material, such as cesium or iodine, is detected in any products from any other region of Japan,” Yonhap reported.
The government also decided to lower the allowed dose of radiation in fisheries products from the current 370 becquerels per kilogram to 100 Bq/kg.
South Korea bans fish imports from Japan’s Fukushima region –Guardian; Sept. 6, 2013
With the IOC decision imminent, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority, criticised Tepco for inflating fears around the world by releasing misleading data about the water leaks.
Earlier this week, the utility said it had detected measured radiation of 2,200 millisieverts an hour at a hotspot near a water tank. Tanaka said the measurement was misleading, and had prompted alarmist reports in the domestic and international media.
“What Tepco is talking about is the level of contamination,” he said, “So to describe it with the unit ‘millisieverts per hour’ is scientifically unacceptable. It’s like describing how much something weighs by using centimetres.”
He said Tepco should have used the unit becquerel, which signifies the radioactivity levels in the water itself rather than the potential human exposure levels. “I have come to think they need to be spoon fed,” Tanaka said of Tepco. “It is regrettable that Tepco has caused confusion and fear in the international community by spreading misleading information.”
The 2,200-millisievert an hour reading, confirmed by Tepco, is accurate, however. The firm has been at pains to point out that most of the radiation was emitted as beta rays – as opposed to far more dangerous gamma rays – which travel only short distances and are easily blocked by protective clothing.
Tepco to fit No. 1 plant water tanks with level gauges –Japan Times; Sept. 7, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it will install water level gauges on all flange-type tanks storing radioactive coolant at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by the end of November, to enhance monitoring.
The new gauges can remotely monitor the levels of water in the tanks nonstop and sound an alarm if a decrease is detected, Tepco said.
Currently, only 55 flange-type tanks out of 337 are equipped with gauges. The existing devices differ from the ones that will be installed and cannot be remotely monitored.
RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima: TEPCO’s Video of Tank Patrol by Workers –EXSKF blog; Sept. 8, 2013
Three workers are doing the patrol of the tank area to spot the leaks. These are the assembled tanks as opposed to welded, held together by rivets and packing (whose effective life is about 5 hours, and that doesn’t assume radiation).
Workers are to examine the tanks and any water puddles closely, and measure the radiation. The area looks huge, and there is no way to distinguish the actual leak from the rainwater puddle until and unless they actually measure the radiation.
By the way, there is a job listing posted on September 3, 2013 at the government job agency “Hellowork” in Fukushima Prefecture to recruit workers to do the tank patrol at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The listing was posted by one of the subcontractors (of the subcontractors, most likely).
- Wages: 10,000 to 14,000 yen [100 to 140 dollars] per day
- Benefits: none
- Details of work: to monitor tanks that store contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. You will patrol the compound with survey meter with another worker, and visually inspect the tanks and write reports. One round takes about 30 to 40 minutes, and you are expected to do 4 to 6 rounds of patrol per one shift. The work will be intermittent, and the effective hours of work per day will be about three hours. When you are not doing the patrol, you will wait in the room that is shielded from radiation inside the plant. Trial workers are also wanted.
- Required education: none
- Required work experience, license, certificate: none
Fukushima leaks contaminate more groundwater –NHK; Sept. 9, 2013
TEPCO says it detected 3,200 becquerels of strontium and other radioactive substances per liter of water collected on Sunday from a new well. The well is about 20 meters north of the tank that leaked.
The reading was 5 times higher than in a sample taken from another well, to the south of the tank, last Wednesday.
TEPCO is planning to dig more wells to try to find out how the underground water is being contaminated.
In another development, TEPCO officials said they detected 80,000 becquerels of tritium per liter in a sample collected last Thursday from a well on the coastal side of the No.1 reactor building. The well has been there from before the nuclear accident.
72% criticize government’s response to Fukushima radioactive water leak issue –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 9, 2013
For the survey, The Asahi Shimbun contacted 3,496 voters by telephone on Sept. 7–8. There were 1,925 valid responses, accounting for 55 percent of the total.
The respondents were also asked whether they feel the government should take the lead in tackling this growing problem, and 89 percent answered “yes.”
When asked to pick one option among four in regard to the gravity of the problem, 95 percent of respondents answered it is “serious.” Of that number, 72 percent said “very much” and 23 percent said “to some degree.”
Stress-induced deaths in Fukushima top those from 2011 natural disasters –Mainichi; Sept. 9, 2013
The number of deaths in Fukushima Prefecture caused mainly by stress from the nuclear disaster reached 1,539 at the end of August, almost equaling the 1,599 fatalities due directly to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
In addition, bereaved families have filed condolence money applications for at least 109 victims who they say died due to fatigue, stress and aggravated health conditions while living in evacuation shelters and temporary housing. If this number is added, deaths attributable to post-disaster conditions surpass the number of those killed directly by the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami.
There have been cases of Fukushima residents whose health conditions worsened due to extended periods living as evacuees, as well as those who were driven to suicide.
Fukushima evacuation has killed more than earthquake and tsunami, survey says –NBC NEWS; Sept. 9, 2013
Francis Markus, East Asia spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the conditions faced by those displaced is made worse by them not knowing when they can return.
“What we are seeing is some very, very difficult social and emotional effects that communities are having to cope with,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of the people suffering are the older generation, and they need a lot of support to make it through with as little ill effect as possible. It’s a very serious and painful existence.”
Markus has visited many of the evacuees as part of the IFRC relief efforts in the region.
“You drive into the settlements and find they are very neat and tidy,” he said.
“There is a car park, and then there is rows upon rows of these very neat but very small prefabricated houses, each with a family trying to make them as homely as possible. In the summer they are very hot and in the winter they are very chilly.
“People from the worst affected areas are really very concerned as to when they will be able to go back, if they will be able to go back at all.”
Japan: No Indictments Over Fukushima Accident –New York Times; Sept. 9, 2013
Japanese prosecutors have decided not to indict former officials of Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the tsunami-stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, over their roles in the accident there in March 2011, Japan’s public broadcaster reported Monday. Naoto Kan, who was prime minister at the time of the accident, will also not be prosecuted over his inability to prevent the multiple meltdowns and explosions that hit the plant’s reactors, driving 100,000 people from their homes, according to the broadcaster, NHK. Prosecutors said that their decision was based on data provided on a voluntary basis, and on the opinions of experts, who suggested that the scale of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the accident could not have been predicted. That finding, however, has been contradicted in various studies, including an influential parliamentary report that called the accident a “manmade disaster.”
A group of Fukushima residents who had sought indictments told NHK that prosecutors “had failed to respond to the voice of local residents."
Evacuees give mixed reactions –NHK, Sept. 9, 2013
A man in his 70s says prosecutors have never done on-site inspections and do not understand how evacuees are feeling. He says he cannot understand why no one is indicted for such a serious accident, and that prosecutors should determine who is to blame.
Another man, also in his 70s, urges prosecutors to not only investigate people who dealt with the accident but also politicians who approved the construction of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
A woman in her 60s says many people are still living in temporary housing 2 and half years after the accident.
Ex-officials, local chiefs react to decision –NHK; Sept. 9, 2013
Former Nuclear Safety Commission chairman Haruki Madarame is one of the accused people. He declined to comment on the prosecutors’ decision not to press charges.
Tokyo Electric Power Company apologized for causing much trouble to residents of Fukushima and other people, but declined to comment on the decision.
Toshitsuna Watanabe, the mayor of Okuma Town in Fukushima Prefecture, says he will keep on monitoring developments.
The mayor says he and other town officials believe that delayed responses in the initial phase of the accident caused damage to spread.
Shiro Izawa, the mayor of Futaba Town, which hosts the Fukushima Daiichi plant, also declined to comment.
All residents of Okuma and Futaba have been evacuated due to high radiation levels.
Leak from Fukushima tank contaminating groundwater –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 10, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has discovered radioactive materials from groundwater at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It is the second such instance, which suggests contaminated water that leaked from a storage tank is spreading underground.
The utility said Sept. 9 that 3,200 becquerels of radioactive materials, such as strontium, were detected per liter of water taken from an observation well the previous day.
The well is located 20 meters north of the storage tank from which the company said on Aug. 20 that an estimated 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked.
Fukushima victims incensed at decision not to prosecute TEPCO, government officials –Japan Daily Press; Sept. 10, 2013
One of the affected residents who took up the cause for the officials to be held responsible was Kazuya Tarukawa, 38, a farmer in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture. He said, “It is very heartbreaking if the decision not to indict leads to the erasing of the calls made by disaster victims to pursue responsibility for the accident.” Reiko Hachisuka, 61, a Fukushima resident who now lives in temporary housing in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, expressed her disgust at the decision. “I want to shout, ‘Why is no one being held responsible?’” Hachisuka says that she only feels frustration at the fact that no one seems to want to take responsibility for the disaster. “Even if responsible individuals were pursued, the nature of the utility TEPCO would not change,” she said. “I am very saddened because no one has stepped forward and said, ‘I am the person responsible.’”
Fukushima refugees disappointed that ex-PM, TEPCO execs escape prosecution –Mainichi; Sept. 10, 2013
“We wanted to seize it as an opportunity to change the status quo. It is truly regrettable,” said Toru Takeda, 72, who is still taking shelter in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, after evacuating from Fukushima city.
“The responsibility for an accident of that magnitude should not be kept ambiguous. I wonder how they think the world sees them,” Takeda said while drooping his shoulders in disappointment.
Hiroyuki Inamoto, 52, who still is taking shelter in Tokyo’s Koto Ward after evacuating from Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, said, “Non-prosecution. That’s something like ‘I thought so.’ Even if we hold them accountable for what happened in the past, our lives will not change. I want the government to think about what should be done for us in the future, such as places for us to live and reconstruction of our hometowns.”
Kan, who was prime minister when the nuclear accident broke out, said in a statement, “I spearheaded the work to prevent the accident from expanding and to mitigate damage. I see non-prosecution as a natural outcome.”
Decontamination delay affects evacuees –NHK; Sept. 10, 2013)
The Environment Ministry on Tuesday admitted that it cannot finish the project in 7 cities and towns by its initial deadline set for the end of next March.
The ministry attributes the delay to difficulty in obtaining agreements from evacuees living in different locations, and securing sites to store radioactive soil.
In Iitate Village, only 3 percent of the houses have been decontaminated despite the ministry’s initial plan to finish the work for the village by next March.
Resisting with a Purpose –NHK Newsline Feature; Sept. 10, 2013 (VIDEO)
Two and a half years on from the nuclear accident in Fukushima, one local farmer is refusing to abandon his cattle despite a government evacuation order. And the cows are providing a unique opportunity to study the effects of radiation.
Abe’s assurance over Fukushima radioactive water comes under question –Mainichi; Sept. 10, 2013
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assurance that the situation surrounding the radioactively contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is “under control” during Tokyo’s final presentation for the 2020 Olympics have come under question, prompting plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to send an inquiry to the government.
Abe stated in his presentation at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7, “Some may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.” He also said the effect of the water leak has been “completely blocked” within an area of 0.3 square kilometers in the waters from the plant.
“His remarks don’t convey the facts accurately,” said one observer in criticism of the prime minister’s statement.
“It is hard to tell what can be called as being ‘under control,’ but it is certain that you can’t say the contaminated water has ‘been completely blocked’ in a technical sense,” said a senior official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Abe’s assurance to IOC on nuclear plant called into question –Japan Times; Sept. 10, 2013
Experts have long pointed out that irradiated water from the plant has kept gushing into the Pacific far beyond the man-made bay, although the government continues to claim that most radioactive materials have been contained within a silt fence that forms a barrier directly in front of reactor units 1 through 4. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered core meltdowns in March 2011.
The silt fence was deliberately set up with many openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements.
When disclosing the results of a simulation last month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted that a lot of water — and probably radioactive materials — was penetrating the fence and pouring into the wider ocean. The simulation assumed that 50 percent of the water inside the fence becomes mixed with seawater daily due to tides and other factors.
Tepco, based on the findings, concluded that a maximum of 10 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium–90 and a further 20 trillion becquerels of cesium–137 may have reached the ocean.
The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said levels of tritium – considered one of the least harmful radioactive elements – spiked more than 15 times in groundwater near a leaked tank at the facility over three days this week.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said tritium levels in water taken from a well close to a number of storage tanks holding irradiated water rose to 64,000 becquerels per liter on Tuesday from 4,200 becquerels/liter at the same location on Sunday.
The spike in radioactive elements in groundwater near the tanks threatens to scuttle Tepco’s plans to build a bypass to route groundwater away from the plant and release it into the Pacific Ocean. The tank that leaked is in an area around 130 meters above the proposed bypass.
Tepco Vice President Zengo Aizawa stressed the importance of the bypass on Wednesday, saying the company will continue to try and win support from local fishermen – who oppose the release of contaminated water into the sea- for the bypass.
A crisis over radiation-contaminated water at the plant has revived calls to put Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) into bankruptcy as a prelude to nationalising the clean-up and shut-down of the reactors, but there is little political support for the idea given its potential fallout for financial markets, Tepco’s creditors and other nuclear utilities.
With concerns over Tepco’s ability to cope, policymakers are pondering ways to take the Fukushima shut-down off the utility’s hands, perhaps through an agency along the lines of Britain’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Even that, though, faces hurdles, including the likely need for new legislation, clarity on the size of the bill for taxpayers and government liability, and working out the implications for Japan’s other utilities.
That means, at least for now, the government may just end up pouring in more money, leaving Tepco in charge while stepping up official oversight.
Under the scheme crafted to keep Tepco afloat after the 2011 disaster, the company is liable for compensation, decontamination of affected areas and decommissioning the reactors. It is supposed to use electricity revenues to pay for decommissioning, while, for compensation and decontamination, it can borrow up to 5 trillion yen from the state-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Corporation.
With cost estimates for compensation and decontamination at least double the 5 trillion yen credit line, and projections of the cost of decommissioning starting at 1 trillion yen, critics have long said Japanese citizens would end up paying the bill.
But putting Tepco into bankruptcy would make that inconvenient truth all too clear.
The rest of our posts about Fukushima are HERE.