Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 23: Exposures exposed, the hole in Reactor #1, and the sea around us …

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There is a lot happening in Japan, and the situation at Fukushima remains pretty much out of human control. There is a nuclear incident at a reactor site other than Fukushima. There is still quite a bit of radioactive material leaking into the sea. The radiation levels in the crippled Fukushima plants is still high or even rising. There is information coming out now about radiation levels and exposure that was apparently kept secret earlier for fear of causing panic. And so on. Check out Ana’s feed (below) for numerous details and links.

One of the most important things to have come to light in the last few days is this: Early in this crisis the nuclear fuel in Reactor #1 melted down and created a hole in the containment vessel. This is something that was in fact indicated by the available evidence of the time but denied by many who felt it could not possibly happen. Several weeks ago there was a report of an eye witness account of a hole in this reactor vessel. This was put aside by many because it was felt that it could not possibly happen. Well, now we are being told that it happened. Reactor #1 truly melted down and breached its containment, and this reactor is now one of the more important sources of radioactive material at the plant, the radioactive water that is stopping workers from working there, and the radiation pouring into the sea.

There seems to be a fair amount of water that is disappearing from this melted down reactor, and no one knows where it is going.

It is also important to note that there are still concerns about a possible hydrogen explosion.

There are attempts underway to install an effective cooling system at Reactor #1. It does not seem that any plans have been proposed that directly address the problem of the hole in the vessel.

Ana’s Feed:

Radiation leaks from fuel rods suspected at Tsuruga plant – Kyodo, May

-Leaks of radioactive substances from fuel rods are suspected to have occurred at a nuclear power plant in Tsuruga, the Fukui prefectural government said Monday, citing a rise in the level of radioactive substances in coolant water


Belated release of radiation forecast data – NHK, May 2

-The Japanese government is about to begin releasing data projecting the spread of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that it initially withheld for fear of causing panic.

-A joint task force of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company says about 5,000 undisclosed bits of data will be released from Tuesday.

-Hosono said the task force withheld the information because some data were based on overly rigorous assumptions and feared it may trigger panic. But he said the task force now believes that panic can be avoided if it offers proper explanations on the projections. He also promised to promptly release all such data in the future.



Govt to screen contaminated debris – NHK, May 2

-The Environment Ministry has ordered municipalities near the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to wait before removing radiation-tainted debris from the March 11th quake and tsunami.

-Vice Minister Hideki Minamikawa told reporters that his ministry wants to quickly carry out the checks to allow local authorities who clear radiation screenings to remove the debris as soon as possible.

-Municipalities located far from the plant are allowed to remove debris as usual.



Another gov’t prediction system failed in Fukushima nuke accident – Kyodo, May 3

-Japan’s system for predicting the volume of radioactive materials to be released into the environment failed in the wake of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant due to the power supply cut following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, sources close to the matter said Monday.


Gov’t assumed massive radiation exposure from Fukushima nuclear plant – Kyodo, May 3

-The government assumed a worst-case scenario of ”significant public exposure” to radiation when workers were struggling to bring a nuclear reactor under control at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant a day after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Kyodo News learned Tuesday.


URGENT: Seabed radiation 100-1,000 times normal level off Fukushima plant: TEPCO – Kyodo, May 3

-Radiation readings have risen to 100-1,000 times the normal level on the Pacific seabed near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the operator said Tuesday.


Lab Experts Discuss Fukushima Crisis – Berkeley Lab

video – http://today.lbl.gov/2011/04/18/lab-experts-discuss-fukushima-crisis/


EPA ends special monitoring for Japan disaster fallout – Washington Independent, May 4

radiation sampling in recent weeks has shown fallout from Fukushima in rain, drinking water and milk, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday that it is returning to its regular program of quarterly sampling.

-During the stepped up sampling EPA identified radioactive iodine (I-131) in rainwater at levels that exceed limits for drinking water and in some areas milk was found to have more I-131 than allowed by EPA.

-Researchers at the Dept. of Nuclear Engineering at University California Berkeley have documented radioactive cesium in the topsoil in California, which has given rise to concerns that radioactive particles may enter the food supply.



Work for full restoration of reactor cooling system to start Sun. – Kyodo, May 4

-Tokyo Electric Power Co. will start work Sunday to install a new cooling system at a reactor of its radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the operator said Wednesday.


Gov’t to determine if evacuees could return home early next year – Kyodo, May 4

-Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday the government will determine early next year if evacuees from the nuclear emergency in Fukushima Prefecture could return home.


TEPCO chief visits Fukushima again to offer apology – Kyodo, May 4

-Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Masataka Shimizu on Wednesday apologized for the crisis at the company’s nuclear power plant during his visit to the disaster headquarters of Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture.


TEPCO neglected radiation checks in building where two women absorbed high doses – Mainichi, May 5

-Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) failed to check the levels of radiation inside a key operation center at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant before two female workers were exposed to high levels of radiation there.

-TEPCO said it had been aware that the levels of radiation inside the building were high. But it then said, “We initially thought that way because the levels of radiation outside the building were high.” TEPCO started checking the levels of radiation in the building on March 24 — a day after it stopped female workers from working there.

-“We should’ve had workers wear masks earlier. I believe the fact that radioactive substances entered the building after the hydrogen explosion will be an important lesson for us. We want to assess the way TEPCO handled the situation as quickly as possible,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.



Govt to decide on evacuees return in early 2012 – NHK, May 5

Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his government will determine early next
year whether evacuees who live around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
plant will be able to return home.



Stabilizing cooling systems in Daiichi not easy – NHK, May 5

-A team of workers will enter the No. 1 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Thursday for the first time since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.

-The workers will set up a purifier for the radioactive-tainted air in the building. This is being done ahead of work to build a system to restore the cooling functions in the reactor.

-Even if workers manage to enter, radiation levels may remain high near where a water circulating system is to be installed. The workers may need to clean the pipes with water and contain radiation with lead sheets. They may also have to change some damaged pipes and valves, which could be time-consuming.



TEPCO to set up device to cool reactors – NHK, May 5

operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will start setting up a system around mid-May to help cool the facility’s No.1 reactor.

-It says once the new system is put into operation, it should lower the temperature of the fuel in the reactor to below 100 degrees Celsius within a few hours to a few days.



Tornado-hit Alabama nuclear plant opened to media – NHK, May 7

-A nuclear power plant in the southern US state of Alabama which was forced into an emergency shutdown of its reactors by tornadoes last month has been opened to the media.

-The head of the plant said workers are now reviewing safety measures at the plant, adding that the staff had learned from the Fukushima accident the need to prepare for a series of disasters of unexpected scale.



TEPCO hopes workers enter building for cooling – NHK, May 7

-A new filtering system that Tokyo Electric Power Company installed on Thursday continues to draw air from the No. 1 reactor building to remove highly radioactive substances and send it back into the building.

-The company hopes that the workers can enter the building on Sunday to install a water level onitoring device.



Cabinet finalizing framework for TEPCO nuclear compensation – Kyodo, May 7

-Cabinet ministers made final adjustments Saturday for creating a new entity to help Tokyo Electric Power Co. pay compensation over radiation leaks from its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, deferring an agreement to a session on Sunday or later.


TEPCO opens doors of troubled No. 1 reactor building – Kyodo, May 8

-Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the doors of the No. 1 reactor building connecting it to the adjacent turbine building at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were opened Sunday, paving the way for the utility to proceed with efforts to stabilize the damaged reactor.


Job seeker says ending up at crippled nuke plant not mentioned in ad – Kyodo, May 8

-A man who applied for the job of driver in Miyagi Prefecture has filed a complaint with a job placement center in Osaka’s Airin day-laborer district, saying he was made to work at the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, sources familiar with the case said Sunday.


Kan seeks that TEPCO compensate damage from unfounded radiation fears – Kyodo, May 8

-Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Sunday that compensation to be paid by Tokyo Electric Power Co. for the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi power
plant should cover all damage including that caused by unfounded
radiation fears.


Gov’t to mull fate of Daini plant without premise of resumption – Kyodo, May 8

-The government plans to consider what to do with a nuclear power station near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi complex without basing discussions on the premise of resuming operation of reactors at the plant, in deference to local people who have taken the brunt of the ongoing nuclear crisis, a government source said Saturday.


Cabinet ministers agree to demand further restructuring of TEPCO – Kyodo, May 8

-Cabinet ministers agreed Saturday to demand that Tokyo Electric Power Co. carry out further restructuring to secure funds for compensation payments over radiation leaks from its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, officials said.


TEPCO releases footage of No.4 reactor pool – NHK, May 8

-The video was taken on Saturday by a camera on the tip of a mechanical arm used to pour water to cool the reactor.

-The footage shows 1,535 spent fuel rods stored in racks and covered by water. It also shows debris and ladders damaged by an explosion that occurred after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The shelves on the side wall have been destroyed.

-Bubbles are occasionally visible, as the water is boiling at a temperature of 84 degrees Celsius.



Radiation levels fluctuate in Fukushima schools – NHK, May 8

-The government has been closely monitoring radiation levels at schools in Fukushima since the troubles began at a nuclear power plant there. The latest measurements show that radioactivity has fallen below the safety limit at 2 schools, but one school saw it rise again.

-The education ministry says 2 straight days of declines in radiation levels allow schools to lift restrictions although the decision is up to the Fukushima education board and school principals.



Kan: Hamaoka shutdown “exceptional measure” – NHK, May 8

-Kan said he asked the Chubu Electric Power Company to suspend the Hamaoka plant because the science ministry predicts an 87 percent chance of a massive earthquake in the area in the next 30 years. He added that the time is imminent and he hopes the utility will discuss the situation and find the most appropriate solution.



High radiation in reactor building – NK, May 9

-High levels of radiation detected in the No. 1 reactor building at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may disrupt work to cool the reactor.

-700 millisieverts per hour were detected near the first floor, the largest of the places to be checked.

-The detected figure shows that workers would be exposed to a level that would exceed even this raised level in about 20 minutes.



TEPCO to formally seek gov’t support for damages payment – Kyodo, May 10

Tokyo Electric Power Co. chief will meet with government leaders
Tuesday to formally seek help in making damages payments in the wake of
the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, company
officials said.


Aerial fallout map confirms soil radiation levels – NHK, May 10

Japanese Science Ministry and the US Energy Department conducted a
joint aerial survey from April 6th to the 29th of the area within an
80-kilometer radius of the plant.

-Madarame also said the
situation at the power plant is stabilizing and that it is about time to
review ways to carry out daily surveys on the ground. He said the soils
could be tested fewer times but more meticulously with the aid of
aerial mapping.



High radiation may slow down TEPCO’s repairs – NHK, May 10

-The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it may need
to slow down some repairs at the Number one reactor due to elevated radiation levels.

-The tests yielded a maximum of 700 millisieverts per hour, thus workers can only stay in the vicinity for around 20 minutes.

-It will continue checking the levels but is worried that it may need to change plans depending on the results.



TEPCO finds another leak of radioactive water into sea – Kyodo, May 11

-Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it had detected another leak of highly contaminated radioactive water into the sea off the Fukushima
Daiichi nuclear power plant but was able to stop the flow.


Radioactive water found in No.3 reactor pit – NHK, May 11

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says water containing radioactive material has been found flowing into a pit outside of the No.3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

-Workers could not confirm whether the water was leaking out into the sea, but they reported seeing froth near the water intake.

TEPCO says the concentration of radioactive Cesium in water sampled from the pit was 620,000 times higher than the safety limit set by the government. The utility also says it detected 1.5 milli-sieverts per hour of radiation on the surface of water in the pit, which indicates contaminated water may be leaking into the sea.



Gov’t: Burying contaminated soil into ground works – NHK, May 11

-The Japanese government plans to inform schools in Fukushima Prefecture that burying radiation-contaminated topsoil into the ground is an effective way to reduce its radiation level.



Japan’s probe into nuclear crisis to take about 1 year – Kyodo, May 12

-Japan’s forthcoming investigation into the causes of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant will take about one year, government sources said Wednesday.


Gov’t plans to supervise TEPCO management for over 10 yrs – May 12

-The government is planning to supervise for more than 10 years the management of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which has been struggling in the face of compensation claims following the crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.


Nuclear fuel at Fukushima No. 1 unit melted after full exposure – Kyodo, May 12

-Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, revealed Thursday that holes had been created by melted nuclear fuel at the bottom of the No. 1 reactor’s pressure


Water likely leaking from No.1 reactor – NHK, May 12

-Tokyo Electric sent workers inside the building to adjust the water gauge of the reactor.

-The utility had suspected the gauge wasn’t working properly because the water level hasn’t been rising despite pumping in 150 tons of water daily to cool the reactor.

-On Thursday morning, it was found that the water level was more than one meter below the bottom of the fuel rods, suggesting a large volume of water is leaking into the containment vessel.

-The utility says it does not believe the fuel has completely melted and spilled through the bottom of the reactor. It adds that instead, the fuel appears to be being cooled inside the reactor.



New radioactive leak raises questions – NHK, May 12

radioactive water was found leaking into the sea from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Wednesday. It’s now been revealed that contaminated water levels in the No. 3 reactor’s turbine building were already alarmingly high by Sunday.

-Radioactive cesium 620,000 times higher than the government-set safety limit was detected from the leaked water.

-The company says it doesn’t know when the leak began, but that it will investigate if the monitoring of water levels was appropriate. The problem raises the question of whether the utility wasn’t able to prevent the latest leak.



TEPCO: Highly radioactive water flowed into sea – NHK, May 12

-Workers found that contaminated water was flowing from a pipe into a pit near the Number 3 reactor’s water intake on Wednesday morning.

-The workers then used a camera to film near the water intake pipe. They found contaminated water was also leaking from the wall of the pit into the ocean.

-The firm says it managed to stop the leak later in the day after it blocked the pipe and buried the pit in concrete.



35 Japanese reactors are soon to be out of line – NHK, May 12

-During the next few months, 5 more reactors will have to be shut down ahead of regular inspections.

-If the utilities decide to keep these 40 reactors offline for the time being, Japan will have about 75 percent of its reactors shutdown this summer.



Japan to cull livestock in no-go zone near Fukushima plant: Edano – Kyodo, May 12

-Japan will cull livestock and poultry in the no-entry zone within a 20-kilometer radius of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant due to difficulty in feeding them, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Thursday.


More Fukushima evacuees briefly return home – NHK, May 12

-Seventy people from 45 households from Katsurao and Kawauchi villages on Thursday became the second group among evacuees from nine municipalities in the no-entry zone to be allowed such visits. On Tuesday, the first group of residents from Kawauchi Village visited their homes.

-At a gymnasium, the residents put on protective suits and were given radiation dosimeters and walky-talkies. Then they were taken to their homes on buses.

-The residents had two hours to gather their valuables, belongings and check on livestock and take care of other matters.



Keidanren asks China to lift import restrictions – NHK, May 12

-The head of Nippon Keidanren, or the Japan Business Federation, has asked China to lift restrictions on Japanese agricultural imports based on fears of radiation following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident.

-He said Japan will provide China with accurate information about the situation at the plant so that China can avoid excessive customs screenings for Japanese farm imports.

-Yang said China hopes to actively support Japan’s reconstruction efforts and takes its request seriously. He added that China will keep following information from Japan and do all it can to help, based on Chinese import rules.



Japan stresses food safety to Hong Kong businesses – NHK, May 12

Japanese Consulate General in Hong Kong has held a presentation to ease
concerns about radioactive contamination in food from Japan.

-Those present raised a series of questions about the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan.



S.Korean radiation rules slash Japan food imports – NHK, May 12

-South Korea says it imported nearly three quarters less Japanese food in May after tightening its rules on radiation levels.

-The country’s Food and Drug Administration says average daily imports of food from Japan have fallen to 75 tons since the start of May, down 74 percent from April.

-Imports of vegetables and processed food from Tokyo, Fukushima and 11 other prefectures must now come with Japanese government certification showing that they meet safe limits for radiation.



Tepco admits nuclear meltdown at Fukushima plant – BNO News, May 12

-According to reports, several holes were found at the bottom of the nuclear reactor’s pressure vessel, where the melted nuclear fuel now threatens to leak out of.



Fukushima reactor has a hole, leading to leakage – Reuters, May 12

“One of the reactors at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has a hole in its main vessel following a meltdown of fuel rods, leading to a leakage of radioactive water, its operator said on Thursday.

The disclosure by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is the latest indication that the disaster was worse than previously disclosed, making it more difficult to stabilize the plant.”



Gov’t postpones decision on TEPCO compensation scheme – Kyodo, May 13

-The government on Thursday postponed a decision on a plan to financially support Tokyo Electric Power Co. in its massive compensation burden arising from the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi plant, as some ruling party lawmakers disrupted the process by arguing that the state’s responsibility in the payments should be further clarified.


Gov’t decides to aid TEPCO with new entity over nuke compensation – Kyodo, May 13

-The government said Friday that it will create a new institution to help Tokyo Electric Power Co. bear its massive compensation burden resulting from the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi plant and keep the utility under close watch to make sure that it squeezes out the costs by streamlining efforts.



Japan’s government approves Tepco compensation scheme – BBC, May 13

“Japan’s government has approved a plan to help Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco)
compensate victims of the crisis at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.

Payouts are expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars over the Fukushima nuclear plant breakdown.

The assistance could help Tepco avoid bankruptcy, but the overnment insisted it was not meant as a bail-out.”



Japan government agrees on compensation plan for operator of crippled nuclear power plant – Washington Post, May 13

The plan prevents TEPCO from setting a ceiling on liabilities. It also establishes a third-party commission to monitor and investigate the company’s management.

Shinichi Ichikawa, the director of equity research at Credit Suisse in Tokyo, said the plan needed to achieve three targets: maintain the stability of electricity supply, not rattle financial markets and ensure victims of the March 11 disaster would be compensated.”



Kaieda notes need to review Fukushima plant recovery road map – Kyodo, May 13

-Industry minister Banri Kaieda said Friday it is necessary to review the restoration road map unveiled last month for the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant by its operators following the latest findings indicating a meltdown of the No. 1 reactor fuel.



Radioactive substance detected in incinerator ashes in Tokyo – Kyodo, May 13

-A highly radioactive substance was detected in incinerator ashes at a sewage plant in eastern Tokyo in late March, shortly after the start of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, metropolitan government sources said Friday.


NISA: no need to flood No.1 reactor – NHK, May 13

-An official of Japan’s nuclear safety agency has suggested that a nuclear fuel meltdown at one of the damaged Fukushima reactors means that filling the reactor’s container with water may be meaningless.

-The operator, TEPCO, said on Thursday that most of the fuel rods in the reactor are believed to have melted and sunk to the bottom of the reactor’s pressure vessel.

-TEPCO says the melted fuel has apparently cooled, even though much of the injected water is leaking through holes at the bottom of the vessel.



Hamaoka No.4 reactor shut down – NHK, May 13

-The operator of the Hamaoka nuclear plant in central Japan has completed shutting down one of its reactors as it begins suspending operations at the plant. The facility is being halted due to concerns over a massive earthquake that is forecast to strike nearby.



Radioactive water leaked while being transferred – NHK, May 13

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says an operation to transfer highly radioactive water pooled in the turbine building of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s No.3 reactor caused contamination of the sea nearby.

-The utility company says 1,200 becquerels of radioactive cesium 134 were detected in one cubic centimeter of sea water near the water intake on Thursday. The figure is 20,000 times the state limit. 1,200 becquerels of radioactive cesium 137, which is 13,000 times the state limit, were also detected.

-The company admitted in a news conference on Thursday that prior inspections to prevent leaks were inadequate.



TEPCO searching for ‘missing’ radioactive water – NHK, May 13

-Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, says contaminated water is apparently leaking from the No.1 reactor, which is in a state of meltdown.

-The utility says the leaked water is likely in the basement of the reactor building — still a no-go zone due to concerns over high radiation levels.

-TEPCO is considering using remote-controlled robots to check the situation, but says the wireless links needed to control them may not reach the basement and that it has to explore other options as well.



Radioactive cesium detected in tea leaves – NHK, May 13

-Radioactive material above designated safety limits has been detected in tea leaves harvested in 5 municipalities in Kanagawa Prefecture, neighboring Tokyo.

-The prefectural government checked samples of leaves harvested in 15 municipalities in the region.

-Officials say that samples from 5 of those were found to contain unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.

-They say 780 becquerels of cesium were detected in tea leaves in Odawara City, 740 becquerels in Kiyokawa Village, 680 becquerels in Yugawara Town, 670 becquerels in Aikawa Town and 530 becquerels in Manazuru Town.



Radioactive element detected in grass, vegetables – NHK, May 13

-3,480 becquerels of radioactive cesium were detected in one kilogram of pasture grass collected on May 5th in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture. The figure exceeds the state limit of 300 becquerels.

-Also, at two different locations in Nasushiobara City, 3,600 becquerels and 860 becquerels of radioactive cesium respectively were detected in one kilogram of pasture grass collected on May 3rd.

-The parsley had been shipped to a fresh food market in Niigata Prefecture, west of Fukushima.

-Niigata prefectural government instructed wholesale distributers to stop selling the parsley.



Energy Dept: US will help contain Fukushima crisis – NHK, May 13

-Referring to information offered by Japan right after the accident, Poneman said the US side had difficulty grasping what was actually happening. He said if US officials had been able to obtain data more quickly, they could have given better advice.

-Poneman said that even before the Fukushima crisis, the US had repeatedly urged Japan to ratify an international treaty over damage from serious nuclear plant accidents.
He expressed hope that Japan will ratify the pact soon.



Melted nuclear fuel casts doubt on credibility of TEPCO data – Mainichi, May 13

“Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said the latest data has more credibility than previous data.

But Tadashi Narabayashi, a professor of reactor engineering at Hokkaido University, said, “It is problematic that TEPCO kept releasing data as if the water gauges were functioning properly. I wonder what a road map based on such data really means.””



Fukushima schoolchildren’s radiation exposure estimated at half of upper limit – Mainichi, May 13

“Schoolchildren’s cumulative radiation exposure a year in Fukushima Prefecture would be about half the limit for their outdoor activities, if calculated under the current standards, according to the education ministry.

The finding has prompted the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to convene a meeting to seek advice from experts on whether the outdoor activities of schoolchildren in the prefecture should be restricted.”



Sewage plants in Fukushima perplexed over how to dispose of highly radioactive sludge – Mainichi, May 13

“On May 12, the government announced that highly radioactive sludge will be tentatively kept at sewage plants in the prefecture, while sludge with relatively low-level radiation could be recycled into cement and other material.”

“On May 1, the Fukushima Prefectural Government announced that 334,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium was detected in molten slag after sludge was processed with high heat at a purification center in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture. The finding was followed by the detection of radioactive cesium in sludge at 15 other sewage plants in the prefecture, as well as at one sewage treatment facility in Tochigi Prefecture, one in Ibaraki Prefecture, three in Gunma Prefecture and one in Niigata Prefecture. The Kanagawa Prefectural Government announced on May 12 that cesium was detected in sludge at four sewage plants in the prefecture, while the Tokyo Metropolitan Government disclosed the same day that up to 24,000 becquerels of radioactivity was detected in sludge incineration ash at three sewage plants in the capital.”


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72 thoughts on “Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 23: Exposures exposed, the hole in Reactor #1, and the sea around us …

  1. Today, TEPCO announced the finding of some 3,000 tons of water in the basement of reactor building #1. “TEPCO says fuel rods in the Number 1 reactor melted down and created a hole in the bottom of the pressure vessel. It says the containment vessel also appears to be damaged and highly radioactive water has leaked into the basement of the building.”


  2. At least someone’s still reporting what’s going on there. The mainstream media elsewhere have got bored and nothing at Fukushima-Daiichi is news anymore.

    If the fuel did melt through the reactor and primary containment vessel at #1 (which TEPCO now say happened) then it makes no sense to be working on the cooling mechanism since the (normally) pressurized vessel can no longer function as intended. The question then would be how to clean up, what to clean up, and how to decommission the plant. So all the while people were looking at #3 (and later #4) and it was #1 that was likely to have put out the big pulse of radiation which was subsequently ignored because it wasn’t sustained.

    I hope they’re getting lots of photographs of the place via robot; it would be interesting to see all the damage.

  3. As to radioactive water getting into the sea, there is an old, partially true, aphorism. “Dilution is the solution to pollution.”

  4. @Jim: However, the dilution of solutions is pollution. (I really hate that ‘solution to pollution’ thing.)

    I liked that video with the folks from LBNL. One of my favorite bits was the zirconium casing tube that was brought for show – you can see how thin the fuel rods are in a typical US design of power reactor. You can see the casing is only about as big around as your thumb – what you can’t see is that the entire rod is about 12 feet long. For anyone wondering what it takes for a meltdown – well, zirconium is a refractory metal and melts at about 1800C (over 3200F), so it would be glowing a very bright white color at the time it melts. In the case of the cooling ponds (reactors 4-6) and the hydrogen explosions, you don’t need anywhere near that temperature for the zirconium to react with water and produce hydrogen. Unfortunately in reacting with water, the relatively thin zirconium casing turns to a crystalline powder. I’m wondering how intact the rods are in those cooling ponds, and whether the explosions launched any fuel pellets all over the site.

    With the #1 reactor vessel confirmed melted through, that’s one hell of a cleanup task. I’m wondering if #3 and #2 have also been breached; after all in the video the folks say it’s estimated that 1/3 to 2/3 of the fuel in each reactor had melted down.

  5. Rus, you are in violation of climate policy. One more comment and you are deleted. I’ll accept an apology by email but it won’t allow you to comment here again.

    If you are unclear on the policy, read it. As with most blogs, its in the about page.

  6. This information is offered completely without context. Also people seem to forget that nobody died and nobody was exposed above the limit. A worker exposed to the maximum permissible dose would increase his lifetime likelihood of dying from cancer by about 1,5%, with the normal likelihood being 25-30%. Hardly a death sentence.

    About the food related news: the problem is not the food itself, as even eating the worst contaminated food wouldn’t measurably harm you – you would have to eat it for an entire year to exceed 1 mSv, and this is a dose with no medical effects. The problem is unscientifically low limits on radioactivity in food.

  7. Tweenk: This information is indeed offered without context very much on purpose.

    I find it interesting that you think that dead body needs to be present to make something important. Why is that?

    Are you implying in your comment that we are making a specific argument about contamination? If so, where is that argument? Wouldn’t that be part of the “context” you mention not being here?

    This is a news feed, condensed and put into one place with lots of links. There are 22 others prior to this. That’s hundreds of news items provided by us to you in part because no one else is doing it. And, if you look at the comments you’ll notice that you are not the first Nuclear Power Apologist to come along and ask us to stop talking.

    Why is that?

  8. There is an interesting comment in this article:
    It says that there were 69 vehicles to provide power after the tsunami, but the electrical panels where submerged (in salt water which conducts) so that it was not safe to connect them. Interestingly there was a lesson learned about safety critical equipment during Tropical Storm Allison in Houston in 2001 in that case the emergency power as well as the switch gear for a hospital was in the basement, and so the hospital lost power and they had to carry folks down the stairs to evacuate the building. This lesson did not carry over, there should have been a means of connecting to the pumps that did not go to the basement of the power plant. So the story about the wrong plugs that came out shortly after the quake was not quite right. Also
    found out that the vent stacks of reactors 3 and 4 were connected and that the explosion in #4 was caused by gases from #3 coming over, no good isolation valves. http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/ (The article for today) So in combination with the lack of vents that US plants are required to have, the vastly wrong idea of the max height of the tsunami, we have some other factors, making the whole thing look more and more like a typical engineering disaster, no one thing is the cause but things stacking up on top of each other until things go very wrong.

  9. @Lyle: Thanks for those links. I don’t think anyone could look honestly at this situation at this point and not see engineering failure after engineering failure. Nearly every critical juncture in the effort to restabilize meets up against a lack of planning, a lack of preparedness, a lack of foresight – all of this having been built into the design of the plant itself, through the process of cost analysis. Only certain risks were (and worse, are) considered, and those who might have had ideas of other risks (like geologists) were turned away at the door. And yet, as more of these details of early days come to light, it seems more likely that containment (such as it was) was breached immediately, in the quake. As Japan Times reported today ( http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110516a3.html ):

    “A source at Tepco admitted it was possible that key facilities were compromised before the tsunami.

    “The quake’s tremors may have caused damage to the pressure vessel or pipes,” the official said.”

    This is the first accounting that I have seen for what was reported by a worker of his experience that day within reactor no. 3 ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42277188/ns/world_news-asiapacific/ ):

    “”I felt things shaking, and then it went crazy,” Nishi recalled in an interview. “I was shouting, Stop! Stop!” Then the lights went out, leaving about 200 workers inside the reactor in near-darkness since the structure has no windows.

    A small red emergency light started blinking. “Then some kind of white smoke or steam appeared and everyone started choking,” Nishi said. “We all covered our mouths and ran for the door.””

    Can reactor cores be sufficiently cooled if their containment vessels are broken? Would there have been hope of averting meltdown in this case if, for example, the lessons from Allison had been learned and electrical components had survived? Those are my questions now… I know that one of you can answer them for me!

  10. @healthpysicist: What bias is it you think I’ve confirmed, and by what link to what “totally non-informative article”? I’ve been informed in one way or another by the contents of all my links so I can’t imagine what you’re after, though I might know by now what drives you!

  11. If I may, I wish to extend my apologies to Dr.Laden. I apologize for previously being snarky and assholish about this subject. I was wrong. You sir, were right. I stand humbled.

  12. Ana –

    I was specifically referring to your Comment 11. If your intent is just to provide feed from any source, then I understand.

    It appears to me though, that you have an anti-nuclear bias, and that is what is driving your passion to find the stories. The only thing driving me, is intellectual integrity.

    I am in Oak Ridge at a health physics class, so I won’t be able to further comment until day’s end. And I don’t have time to answer the questions, you desire answers to.

  13. healthphysict


    So, you have a problem with an anti-nuclear bias? Why? Because of your pro nuclear bias?

    Besides, Ana does not have an anti-nuclear bias. She has a pro-rational thinking and pro-information bias with a strong dose of critical thinking.

    Not that she needs me to defend her position. I just blurted that out. Back to work now.

  14. @Lyle; The backflow of hydrogen from RB3 into RB4 could partly solve one puzzle. The images circulated earlier last week of a basically undamaged spent fuel pool at RB4 didn’t square with hypotheses of hydrogen liberation from that source. Looking at the RB3 explosion video clip, though, the RB4 explosion definitely wasn’t simultaneous. I haven’t yet seen a clip long enough to show the RB3 debris landing on RB4. Still some mystery there – perhaps the hydrogen backflow was after the explosion damage?


    Several weeks ago there was a report of an eye witness account of a hole in this reactor vessel.

    Even a non-literal interpretation of “eye witness” doesn’t stand up to examination. Where did you hear this again?

  15. I’ll go find that reference, but for now, why does it not stand up to examination? At the time, TEPCO did not deny it, and now, it is confirmed. Believe it was certainly avoided it, but it was never debunked as far as I remember.

  16. CORRECTION: My bad. The hole in the reactor vessel was reported for reactor 3, not one. So now we have two holes in play.

    “A senior nuclear executive who insisted on anonymity but has broad contacts in Japan said that there was a long vertical crack running down the side of the reactor vessel itself. The crack runs down below the water level in the reactor and has been leaking fluids and gases, he said. ”

    here: http://tinyurl.com/4psgusp

  17. Greg – I don’t have a pro-nuclear bias. I have a pro-scientific, pro-context bias. Nuclear power is neither “good” nor “evil”, it has benefits and it has risks.

    I don’t overplay the benefits nor the risks. Some people seem keen on overstating the risks and omitting the benefits.

    Back to Ana’s question – of course reactor cores can be cooled if they breach the containment vessel. Obviously, it’s easier to cool the core with an intact, engineered system delivering coolant to an encased core. But the core can still be cooled in the absence of a containment vessel. In essence, the spent fuel pool is a core without a containment vessel.

  18. “I don’t overplay the benefits nor the risks. Some people seem keen on overstating the risks and omitting the benefits. ”

    And therein lies your bias. Yes, there are people who are keen on overstating the risks and omitting the benefits, but there are also those who understate the risks, and one version of that is trying to shut down the conversation in various ways. Like asking people why they would even mention something (like Fukushima fision products being detected in Saint Paul … when that was mentioned, the question came up “why even say that”?) or by interrupting a discussion of news and information to point out to someone who is merely passing on information that they must be biased. Which you did.

    You’ve demonstrated your apologist tendencies enough that you ought to just admit it. Denying it only works for those who have not read your comments.

  19. But the core can still be cooled in the absence of a containment vessel. In essence, the spent fuel pool is a core without a containment vessel.

    Then why bother with containment vessels? What is the point?

  20. With regard to the “eye-witness”: How did this guy get to see this crack? When? Or, if not literally seen, how does he know about it?

    Bear in mind that no-one has been inside the containment, and not many inside the buildings, since the tsunami, nor are there cameras inside the containment. And there were no leaks before that event.

    I can think of one remote possibility. This guy could perhaps have misunderstood a report about a known shallow surface crack in the reactor vessel. I would be surprised if even a shallow (say 1mm deep) crack in the vessel found during maintenance would be left unremediated – I’d expect it to be ground out and perhaps re-filled – but it is possible. IF such a shallow crack was left, it would still be a huge leap for anyone to say that it has started leaking, especially when so many other stress points in piping and control ports could equally be responsible.

  21. Ana,

    I’m not ashamed to say I sprayed a mouthful of coffee on the laptop screen when I read read this gem from healthphysicist: “have you ever studied “motivated reasoning” or “confirmation bias”?”

    As if HP ain’t the poster child for confirmation bias.

    I’ve been a veritable blog comment faux pas machine up to this point, so why stop now?

    HP isn’t the first commenter here to indulge in some social psychologizing; the operative social psychological concept with the HP’s of the world, in my view, is cognitive dissonance. I suggested this on March 16 :

    â??My suspicion is that long-time supporters of nuclear power generation have to hold onto the fundamental tenet that nuclear reactors are basically safe, manageable, and well-run. To give up this view (that nuclear is a safe and reliable option) would be more cognitive dissonance than they could contain, if they are unwilling to also give up some basic notions about the world, and their own reasonableness and clear-headedness.

    That is, I suspect they are unable to let go of cherished beliefs about themselves â??even in the face of an utter catastrophe that belies those cherished beliefs.
    I’ve read and heard nothing from nuclear power advocates to change this view.â?

    Two months down the pike, I don’t see much to dissuade me. Keep at it, though, HP!

    And on March 29:

    â??Stated differently, to question assumptions about what is ‘safe’, and what constitutes ‘acceptable risk’ is like saying ‘your view of yourself and your beliefs about the world– what you’ve held to be axiomatically true– may need to be reconsidered’. Or, despite your expertise and confidence in your views, some of your conclusions may be based on faulty assumptions. Leading to incorrect conclusions. Are you [nuclear power advocate] open to that?â?

    That question is for you, HP, and the other nuclear advocates still holding onto their cherished notions; I won’t hold my breath on any such self-reflection.

    Greg: “One of the most important things to have come to light in the last few days is this: Early in this crisis the nuclear fuel in Reactor #1 melted down and created a hole in the containment vessel. This is something that was in fact indicated by the available evidence of the time but denied by many who felt it could not possibly happen. Several weeks ago there was a report of an eye witness account of a hole in this reactor vessel. This was put aside by many because it was felt that it could not possibly happen. Well, now we are being told that it happened. Reactor #1 truly melted down and breached its containment, and this reactor is now one of the more important sources of radioactive material at the plant, the radioactive water that is stopping workers from working there, and the radiation pouring into the sea.”

    Sorry, Greg, to keep at this– here’s my take from March 25:

    â??let’s call this a hunch, Tokyo Electric, the Japanese government, and the IAEA saw this coming by March 14. I’ll double down. They had readings that told them containment failed at this core days ago. (Remind me why the NRC chair said people should move at least 50 miles away, a week ago?)â?

    Why revisit this?

    Because, unless someone is an unrehabilitated nuclear advocate, it is important NOT to assume that executives at TEPCO, nor officials at NISA and IAEA, have a compelling interest in being honest.

    Their personal, professional and financial interests reside in restricting how much is known about the harms unfolding at Daiichi. (Talk about motivated reasoning– how about motivated data massage? Or data withholding?).

  22. @Andrew – because there’s a lot nastier stuff in an operating reactor core than there is in a typical spent fuel pool. But I’d also say that spent fuel pools do have containment to some degree, with heavy floor and walls, and deep water above.

  23. “With regard to the “eye-witness”: How did this guy get to see this crack? When? Or, if not literally seen, how does he know about it?”

    The report is what it is. Someone claims to have seen the crack and discussed it with others, of whom someone reported it. I can’t tell you any more than I’ve already indicated.

    Regarding Andrew’s question, Joffan, I think he was being snarky.

    Regarding the larger quesiton anti-nuke vs NPA: I’m sure Ana and I will be in a position to write something interesting on this later (we’ve been talking about it) but I’ll just note this: The only acceptable way to be not anti-nuclear, according to almost every non-anti-nuclear commenter who has ever commented on this blog, is to be a nuclear power apologist, and to take ANY criticism or questioning of ANY aspect of nuclear power as a) anti-nuclear b) biased c) unproven or unprovable. There is a very strong structural similarity between the nuclear “debate” and the gun ownership “debate” in this regard.

  24. One more thing then Greg: on reflection, how reliable do you believe this “eye-witness” report is?

    On the nuclear debate, it is obvious that it is a passionate debate, and people do hold strong opinions. But perhaps you have never seen a conversation where someone espousing a pro-nuclear opinion is hounded as a shill, a liar, a fool and even a sociopath.

  25. Following on the theme from yesterday (motivated reasoning, confirmation bias) here’s what it looks like when a scientist becomes a nuclear advocate (hint: thousands of people get hurt and die, but money rolls in like waves over the beach):

    from: (http://japan-world.info/archives/839)

    “Unheeded Warnings

    In 1976, a resource-poor Japan still reeling from the shocks of the oil crisis was committed fully to nuclear power to achieve greater energy independence, a path from which it never strayed despite growing doubts in the United States and Europe.

    That year, as Hamaokaâ??s No. 1 reactor started operating and No. 2 was under construction, Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist and now professor emeritus at Kobe University, publicized research showing that the plant lay directly above an active earthquake zone where two tectonic plates met. Over the years, further research would back up Mr. Ishibashiâ??s assessment, culminating in a prediction last year by the governmentâ??s own experts that there was a nearly 90 percent chance that a magnitude 8.0 quake would hit this area within the next 30 years.

    After the 1995 Kobe earthquake, residents in this area began organizing protests against Chubu Electric. They eventually sued the utility in 2003 to stop the plantâ??s reactors, which had increased to four by then, arguing that the facilityâ??s quake-resistance standards were simply inadequate in light of the new seismic predictions.

    In 2007, a district court ruled against the plaintiffs, finding no problems with the safety assessments and measures at Hamaoka. The court appeared to rely greatly on the testimony of Haruki Madarame, a University of Tokyo professor and promoter of nuclear energy, who since April 2010 has been the chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, one of the nationâ??s two main nuclear regulators.

    Testifying for Chubu Electric, Mr. Madarame brushed away the possibility that two backup generators would fail simultaneously. He said that worrying about such possibilities would â??make it impossible to ever build anything.â? After the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Mr. Madarame apologized for this earlier comment under questioning in Parliament. â??As someone who promoted nuclear power, I am willing to apologize personally,â? he said…

    Kenichi Ido, the chief judge at the district court who is now a lawyer in private practice, said that, in general, it was difficult for plaintiffs to prove that a plant was dangerous. What is more, because of the technical complexities surrounding nuclear plants, judges effectively tended to side with a national strategy of promoting nuclear power, he said.

    â??I think it canâ??t be denied that a psychology favoring the safer path comes into play,â? Mr. Ido said. â??Judges are less likely to invite criticism by siding and erring with the government than by sympathizing and erring with a small group of experts.â?

    That appears to have happened when a higher court reversed the decision in 2009 and allowed Hokuriku Electric to keep operating the reactor. In that decision, the court ruled that the plant was safe because it met new standards for Japanâ??s nuclear plants issued in 2006.

    Critics say that this exposed the main weakness in Japanâ??s nuclear power industry: weak oversight.

    The 2006 guidelines had been set by a government panel composed of many experts with ties to nuclear operators. Instead of setting stringent industrywide standards, the guidelines effectively left it to operators to check whether their plants met new standards…

    For 12 years, Yasue Ashihara has led a group of local residents in a long and lonely court battle to halt operations of the Shimane nuclear plant, which sits less than five miles from Matsue, a city of 200,000 people in western Japan.

    Ms. Ashiharaâ??s fight against the plantâ??s operator, Chugoku Electric Power, revolves around not only the discovery of a previously unknown active fault line, but an odd tug of war between her group and the company about the faultâ??s length, and thus the strength of the earthquakes it is capable of producing.

    The utility has slowly accepted the contention of Ms. Ashiharaâ??s group by repeatedly increasing its estimate of the size of the fault. Yet a district court last year ruled in favor of Chugoku Electric Power, accepting its argument that its estimates were based on the better scientific analysis.

    â??We jokingly refer to it as the ever-growing fault line,â? said Ms. Ashihara, 58, who works as a caregiver for the elderly. â??But what it really means is that Chugoku Electric does not know how strong an earthquake could strike here.â?

    Her group filed the lawsuit in 1999, a year after the operator suddenly announced that it had detected a five-mile-long fault near the plant, reversing decades of claims that the plantâ??s vicinity was free of active faults.

    Chugoku Electric said the fault was too small to produce an earthquake strong enough to threaten the plant, but Ms. Ashiharaâ??s suit cited new research showing the fault line could in fact be much longer, and produce a much stronger earthquake. It got a boost in 2006, when a seismologist announced that a test trench that he had dug showed the fault line to be at least 12 miles long, capable of causing an earthquake of magnitude 7.1.

    After initially resisting, the company reversed its position three years ago to accept the finding. But a spokesman for the Chugoku Electric said the plant was strong enough to withstand an earthquake of this size without retrofitting.

    â??This plant sits on solid bedrock,â? said Hiroyuki Fukada, assistant director of the visitor center for the Shimane plant, adding that it had a 20-foot, ferro-concrete foundation. â??It is safe enough for at least a 7.1 earthquake.â?

    However, researchers now say the fault line may extend undersea at least 18 miles, long enough to produce a magnitude 7.4 earthquake.”

  26. > a shill, a liar, a fool, and even a sociopath

    “Fanboy” is perhaps a kinder way to describe the blog posters who are turning a blind eye to the problems.

    Can a corporation be a sociopath? Can it avoid being one?

    “In 2002, the government revealed that Tepco had falsified reports on government inspections and concealing safety incidents at its nuclear power plants for more than two decades.
    … Tepco initially admitted to 29 falsifications, including coverups of cracks in reactor core shrouds in all three of its power plants, it later admitted to 200 cases involving the submission of false technical data.
    … In 2007, Tepco announced that an internal investigation revealed there were even more unreported incidents ….”

    > how reliable is this “eyewitness”
    Likely it’s from the one time — the first day –their employees entered at least one reactor. The public just learned they’d known all along.

  27. Hank, do you seriously believe that someone has physically seen fluid coming out of a full-wall crack in one of the reactor vessels?

    I’m just trying to assess gullibility levels here. You’re welcome to take time to reflect.

  28. Joffan, Greg cited and quoted his source.
    Can you give a source for what you claim someone might believe?

    search – fukushima “full-wall crack” – did not match any documents.

  29. from: (http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/05/17/idINIndia-57063920110517)

    “Radiation continues to seep into the sea and the air, although at far lower levels than at the peak of the crisis in mid-March.

    Four of the six reactors at the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), are considered volatile…


    Nuclear fuel rods at the plant’s No. 1, No. 2, No.3 reactors melted in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami and Tepco is trying to bring the reactors to a cold shutdown, where the water cooling them is below 100 degrees Celsius.

    Efforts to cool the reactors by pouring water into them have brought down temperatures and the rods are no longer melting but the No. 1 reactor continues to leak radiated water and the No.2 and No.3 reactors are also believed to be leaking.

    To achieve a cold shutdown, Tepco initially planned to use “water entombment”, in which the containment vessels — an outer shell of steel and concrete that houses the reactor vessel — would be filled with water.

    But this option is likely to be ruled out for the No. 1 reactor and possibly for the other two, after new data and inspections showed that the No. 1 reactor vessel had been punctured when the rods melted, allowing water being pumped as a coolant to pool in the basement of the reactor…

    Water is a huge headache for the operator. It has pumped in tens of thousands of tonnes of it to cool the reactors and much of it has ended up as contaminated runoff, accumulating as huge pools at the reactor buildings.

    Preventing the massive pools of runoff from seeping out into the environment remains a challenge and Tepco is running out of space to store the radioactive water…

    The company then hopes to bring the reactors to a cold shutdown in another three to six months. That would take the initial phase of work to stabilise the plant to January.

    But with the damage to the reactors being worse than initially thought some experts said the process could take longer. Tepco said constant aftershocks, power outages, high levels of radiation and the threat of hydrogen explosions were factors that could hamper its work.

    Even after the plant is under control, recovery work at the site is expected to continue for years.

    For reference, officials have cited the work to clean up Three Mile Island after that U.S. reactor suffered a partial meltdown in 1979.

    The Three Mile Island cleanup involved over 1,000 workers and took 13 years. It took nearly six years before the fuel from the reactor could be safely removed.”

    The last bit is crucial for nuclear advocates holding out for engineering solutions to this catastrophe– it took six years to get at the rods at TMI, and the structures and equipment at TMI were largely intact!

    Daiichi is several piles of radiactive concrete and steel amidst a radioactive rubble dispersed wasteland.

    The question for nuclear advocates, which I posed repeatedly before: how.do.they.get.at.the.rods? (or what’s left of them)

    Have at it, nuclear advocates… how-do-they-get-at-the-rods?

    And that’s going to happen when? Ten years? How’s about twenty?

    Here’s one for those who still adhere to a textbook fantasy of how engineers are going to solve this– PhillyDoug say the materials from the cores will NEVER be recovered and removed from the site.

    It can’t be approached, it can’t be handled, it can’t be transported.

    Since you nuclear advocates have been so precious with the estimates of how this would unfold, the endless strings of assurances of what simply couldn’t happen, but one by one, they did (like three complete meltdowns simultaneously– that’s trifecta for ya’), please nuclear advocates, give us your engineering solutions and reasonable time frames for how this gets cleaned up.

  30. Here’s a concern I haven’t seen before: overheated concrete.
    IEEE has quite a lot of coverage and is continuing.

    Good source.


    “Futami started working at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in 1967, and worked his way up to become manager of the nuclear generation department before taking charge of Fukushima Dai-1. He is now a professor at Tokai University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and he has lectured on reactor engineering and crisis management. He spoke to IEEE Spectrum about his experiences as plant manager, and about his assessment of TEPCO’s response to the current crisis….

    IEEE Spectrum: What are the biggest concerns at Fukushima Dai-1 now?

    Futami: There are two serious concerns. The first is the highly contaminated water that is leaking in large amounts. I think we should never discharge highly contaminated water to the ocean, because there is no border in seawater.

    The second concern is the strength of spent fuel poolsâ?? reinforced concrete. Usually we have to keep the temperature inside the spent fuel pools under 60 degrees Celsius or so. A high temperature decreases the strength of reinforced concrete. Also the hydrogen explosions may have damaged the integrity of the concrete structures of the spent fuel pools. Iâ??m worried about that.

    If the spent fuel pools collapse, large amount of radioactive materials in the spent fuel will be released into the air, and a large amount of radioactive water will be released at the same time. So we have to put our best efforts to keep the spent fuel pools intact….”

  31. Hank, a full wall crack is one that penetrates the entire wall of the vessel, ie. would allow leaking, as described in Greg’s quote.

    So – do you believe that this eye witness can have the direct knowledge he claims? Or are you simply disengaging your critical faculties from this?

  32. phillydoug, I don’t expect anyone to have details on how to clear the reactors yet. Even opening them is at least a year away, and the internal status of rods, fuel fragments amd melted material will need review once they get that far.

    I would not be surprised if the reactors are left on simple cooling for five years before any fuel removal is undertaken. My bet is that sometime around then a variety of removal mechanisms will be used – cranes, scoops, robots – and the reactors will be cleaned out over the following three years or so.

  33. Here’s a quote from one of the original newspaper stories on the anonymous report of a crack (NYT March 25 website):

    That physicsforums comment includes a link to the NYT page.

    But the NYT page doesn’t say the same thing, now. The NYT page makes no mention of the text having been changed, but it does say “a version of this article appeared in print on March 26, 2011, on page A11 of the New York edition.”

    Here’s a site (as of March 26) saying that the NYT removed that “crack” report from the story from their website: http://narus.info/?p=6592

    If you still have your paper copy of the 3/26 NYT newspaper handy, you might want to take a look and see if it matches the text at the first link, or what’s at the NYT website now, or has a third version of the facts.

  34. Hank, what the fuck are you talking about? I am asking YOU (and Greg) what YOU believe about the claim in Greg’s link, that he described as “eye-witness”, of direct detailed knowledge on 25 March of a leaking crack in one of the reactor vessels. I indicated in my previous comments the reasons to disbelieve such a claim of knowledge; so tell me what you think.

  35. Joffan: “I would not be surprised if the reactors are left on simple cooling for five years before any fuel removal is undertaken. My bet is that sometime around then a variety of removal mechanisms will be used – cranes, scoops, robots – and the reactors will be cleaned out over the following three years or so.”

    Now there’s a straightforward estimate.

    Suprising that you think it will actually be a quicker process than at TMI, and half the time it’s taken to get Chernobyl where it’s at presently (nowhere near cleaned up):

    from (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html)

    “Chernobyl today

    Chernobyl unit 4 is now enclosed in a large concrete shelter which was erected quickly (by October 1986) to allow continuing operation of the other reactors at the plant. However, the structure is neither strong nor durable. The international Shelter Implementation Plan in the 1990s involved raising money for remedial work including removal of the fuel-containing materials. Some major work on the shelter was carried out in 1998 and 1999. Some 200 tonnes of highly radioactive material remains deep within it, and this poses an environmental hazard until it is better contained.

    A New Safe Confinement structure is due to be completed in 2014, being built adjacent and then will be moved into place on rails. It is to be an 18,000 tonne metal arch 110 metres high, 200 metres long and spanning 257 metres, to cover both unit 4 and the hastily-built 1986 structure. The design and construction contract for this was signed in 2007 with the Novarka consortium and preparatory work on site was completed in 2010. The Chernobyl Shelter Fund, set up in 1997, had received �864 million from international donors by early 2011 towards this project and previous work. It and the Nuclear Safety Account, set up in 1993, are managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The NSA had received �321 million by early 2011 for Chernobyl decommissioning and also for projects in other ex-Soviet countries. The total cost of the new shelter is estimated to be �1.2 billion. Early in 2011 EBRD said a further �600 million was required for the structure. Design approval is expected by mid 2011. In April 2011 an extra �550 million was pledged for the Shelter Fund, including �120 million from EBRD, �110 from EC, and £28.5 million from the UK. According to the EC, a further �740 million is required for the shelter and to complete other projects at Chernobyl by 2015.

    Used fuel from units 1 to 3 is stored in each unit’s cooling pond, in a small interim spent fuel storage facility pond (ISF-1), and in the reactor of unit 3.

    In 1999, a contract was signed for construction of a radioactive waste management facility to store 25,000 used fuel assemblies from units 1-3 and other operational wastes, as well as material from decommissioning units 1-3 (which will be the first RBMK units decommissioned anywhere). The contract included a processing facility, able to cut the RBMK fuel assemblies and to put the material in canisters, which will be filled with inert gas and welded shut. They would then be transported to dry storage vaults in which the fuel containers would be enclosed for up to 100 years. This facility, treating 2500 fuel assemblies per year, would be the first of its kind for RBMK fuel. However, after a significant part of these ISF-1 storage structures had been built, technical deficiencies in the concept emerged, and the contract was terminated in 2007. EBRD says that the licence for ISF-1 is unlikely to be renewed after 2016. A new interim spent fuel storage facility (ISF-2) is now to be completed by Holtec International by mid-2014.”

    So, Joffan– Daiichi will go more smoothly than TMI? I’m curious what you base this estimate on.

    See, there’s been complete meltdown at one reactor, with containment breach, and at least 30% melting at two other cores, with containment breach; multiple hydrogen explosions, and multiple fires.

    For comparison, here’s a view of TMI:

    from (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/fukushima_accident_inf129.html)

    “If the hot fuel or cladding is exposed to cooling water en route, it may solidify and fracture, falling to the bottom of the reactor vessel. Given that the melting point of the steel reactor vessel is about 1500°C, there is an obvious possibility on the corium penetrating the steel if it remains hot enough. (In fact, in the 1979 US Three Mile Island accident, it didn’t, though about half the core melted and it went 15 mm into the 225 mm thick pressure vessel steel. The pressure vessel glowed red-hot for an hour.”

    Interesting side note about Chernobyl (from the first site referenced above):

    “The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the atmosphere and downwind.”

    Hmm– 5% of the core of one reactor released by a ‘steam explosion’ at Chernobyl, no breach at TMI– three meltdowns, multiple explosions, multiple fires (including at spent fuel ponds, which are also compromised) at Daiichi.

    Yet you predict a rosier scenarios at Daiichi than at the least serious of the three accidents– when it’s evident that situation is considerably worse than at Chernobyl.

    Help me with the math. Better yet, I’m happy to crowd source the best thinking of the nuclear experts out there to provide the basis for this sort of estimate.

    As I’ve said before, the best thinking of nuclear engineers brought us this horror; something tells me their best thinking will keep giving us more of the same.

  36. Sorry, I’ve been away from the internet for several hours. But in the mean time I see that Joffan has won the “Running Sraw Man” award for the day!

    Joffan, look at the sources, the references are provided. Re-describe for us what the original comment was, where it was reported, etc. etc. Do this in order to salvage your credibility and to indicate that you have a clue what we are talking about. Then, and only then, critique away.

    That is all for now.

  37. Well, OK, Greg, but most of the stuff I’m quoting is already here. All I’m doing here is gathering it together. You may see it as a strawman – I see it as you and Hank refusing to criticize a claim you want to believe.

    Opening post:

    Several weeks ago there was a report of an eye witness account of a hole in this reactor vessel.

    My response:

    Even a non-literal interpretation of “eye witness” doesn’t stand up to examination. Where did you hear this again?

    Greg gives a link, and says

    The hole in the reactor vessel was reported for reactor 3, not one. So now we have two holes in play.

    – implying that he accepts the “eye-witness” report without reserve.
    Link from 25 March says:

    A senior nuclear executive who insisted on anonymity but has broad contacts in Japan said that there was a long vertical crack running down the side of the reactor vessel itself. The crack runs down below the water level in the reactor and has been leaking fluids and gases, he said.
    The severity of the radiation burns to the injured workers are consistent with contamination by water that had been in contact with damaged fuel rods, the executive said.
    “There is a definite, definite crack in the vessel — it’s up and down and it’s large,” he said. “The problem with cracks is they do not get smaller.” …

    My challenge to Greg:

    With regard to the “eye-witness”: How did this guy get to see this crack? When? Or, if not literally seen, how does he know about it?
    Bear in mind that no-one has been inside the containment, and not many inside the buildings, since the tsunami, nor are there cameras inside the containment. And there were no leaks before that event.

    Greg backs off slightly:

    The report is what it is. Someone claims to have seen the crack

    I push a little

    One more thing then Greg: on reflection, how reliable do you believe this “eye-witness” report is?

    Hank jumps in but perhaps did not catch the detailing of problems with the eye-witness claim, in particular that the claim concerned the reactor vessel, not containment; his suggestion did not address any of them. His subsequent remarks seem to be focussed on asking me to source something, which is odd because this post, this discussion is the source.

    That’s where we stand. Right now I see you guys believing this impossible witness without any critical questioning, without asking how he knows what he claims to know. Your move.

  38. Joffan, you understand there were people in these buildings at the time of the earthquake and tsunami, right? In fact, two died in a basement during the tsunami.

  39. There’s no information I know of that’s come out either way. Nor any about what people inspected or tried to inspect between the tsunami and the first explosion.

  40. Best comprehensive summary and analysis of events at Daiichi, ever. Data out a very large wazoo. Citations to match:


    Fukushima Daiichi
    Nuclear Information Handbook

    H. G. Brack

    Davistown Museum
    Department of Environmental History


    This is a long (385 pages, including references) but worthwhile read. Could be toxic to daiichi accident severity minimization ‘wish and wave it away’ types– nuclear advocates, don’t say I didn’t warn you before reading.

  41. Joffan: “most of the stuff I’m quoting is already here. All I’m doing here is gathering it together. You may see it as a strawman – I see it as you and Hank refusing to criticize a claim you want to believe.”

    Ya’ got me, Joff. I’m really at a loss what you’re nattering on about. Perhaps you can advise us about what we don’t know regarding the paint color of the buildings around the reactors. Cuz’, well, they’re pretty much gone now, so we can’t confirm an eyewitness account that the piant might have been off-white.

    Stated differently– any chance you’re going to arrive at a salient point any time soon? Is any of that blather intended to question the severity of the situation? Do you think containment hasn’t been breached? Fer’ cryin out loud, just say so, I’m missing re-runs of Ren and Stimpy while you’re talking about the length of oars on Titanic’s lifeboats (that would be a snarky metaphor, if you’re not keeping up. Just trying to be considerate and make sure we’re all on the same page.)

    Is the BBC a credible outlet for you? This is what they had to say yesterday:


    17 May 2011 Last updated at 08:43

    “In recent days the plant’s operator has revealed that the damage sustained by the reactors immediately after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami was far more severe than initially thought.

    Officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) say fuel rods at the plant began to melt down as early as six hours after the 11 March tsunami knocked out vital cooling systems.

    Within 16 hours most of the fuel in reactor 1 had melted to the floor of the pressurised chamber housing the reactor, creating a hole that allowed 3,000 tonnes of contaminated water to leak into the basement of the building.

    Officials said the fuel in reactors number 2 and 3 was also exposed to the air and might have largely melted too.”


    The source here is TEPCO. Their track record on full disclosure has been somewhat underwhelming, so when they talk about three meltdowns and loss of containment, there’s probably been three meltdowns and loss of containment.

    Do you disagree? If so, why?

  42. joffa, where did I say what I believe about the eye witness report of the hole? What difference does it make what anyone here says? If you have a criticism of the eyewitness account let’s have it. Incredulity is not only not evidence but given the nature of this conversation over the last six weeks, it is little else than samo-samo.

  43. You didn’t say, Greg, that’s why I’m asking.

    I mean, I could infer that you believe it, from your reaction at #24, but I’d rather hear from you what you believe.

    And if you don’t think I’ve offered any criticism, re-read my #28 and bear in mind that I don’t believe his account is based on any real knowledge at all.

  44. OK, everybody, look at this:

    CORRECTION: My bad. The hole in the reactor vessel was reported for reactor 3, not one. So now we have two holes in play…. “A senior nuclear executive who insisted on anonymity but has broad contacts in Japan said that there was a long vertical crack running down the side of the reactor vessel itself. The crack runs down below the water level in the reactor and has been leaking fluids and gases, he said. ” here: http://tinyurl.com/4psgusp

    That is not a statement of belief, or even an opinion. It is a mention of some other stuff other said some other place. It is rather extraordinary that the could be seen as some sort of position on something.

  45. Greg, “So now we have two holes in play” from your above seemed to me to indicate your belief in this incredible claim. But you have directly answered me (thank you) that you neither believe nor disbelieve it, so I accept that. I don’t approve of it – I think you, as a ScienceBlogger, ought to apply a little more critical thinking – but I accept it.

  46. Joffan– do you believe containment has been *maintained* at the reactors 1 -3? (Remember, this view would put you at odds with TEPCO, the Japanese government, and the IAEA.)

    If you accept that containment has been lost at these reactors, what are you trying to establish? That this anonymous source is not to believed? Ok. And the net effect of that is… what, precisely?

    Let’s extrapolate– if that source is not credible, then maybe a lot of statements about the severity of the situation, based on other ‘not verified to Joffan’s satisfaction’ are also not credible. So things are not really that bad. Hell, maybe there is no ongoing problem at all.

    Can we dispense with the charade, and just say that?

  47. @HR: Thanks for the reminder about the concrete. Somewhere, in the first weeks (maybe when the trucks with the arms arrived and could reach into the reactors with thermometers) there was mention about the design specifications of the pools. I have not seen anything about the condition of the concrete of late, although we did get pictures from TEPCO that showed water covering the rods in at least one of the pools which indicates some measure of integrity, in my estimation. Still, I will keep an eye out for those stories – it’s possible we’ll see them, if workers continue to enter the buildings.

    @hp: I’m not going to ask again for you to explain what your issue is with my comment #11 because it seems from the thread that you’ve moved on from this particular nonsense, and I like that.

    @pd: Your screen must have survived the earlier “projection” – I like that too! LOL

    @Greg: I could not think of what you were talking about at #31, but OH YEAH, the “long thing”… Something about the ensuing discussion has me thinking, or, heh, believing that there might be a need for that around here!

    One last thing, just to reconsider, and then I think it’s time for an update:

    From my feed:
    March 14: TEPCO now admits, as stated earlier by the safety agency, that the container vessel at Daiichi No. 2 reactor has been damaged. Radioactive materials are “feared to leak.”
    March 15: Kyodo news: 70% of fuel rods have been damaged at Daiichi reactor No.1.
    March 16: The steam observed rising above No.3 for hours is radioactive. It is now presumed that the containment vessel has cracked.
    March 18: “renewed nuclear chain reaction feared”
    March 21: IAEA got snippy earlier today over the lack of info: “”We have not received validated information for some time related to the containment integrity of unit 1. So we are concerned that we do not know its exact status.”

  48. One more word about Joffan’s attempt to determine what happened at Fukushima by the metric of who is “credible,” “gullible,” and “applying critical thinking.” Best practices in the evaluation of any kind of industrial accident (and this is an industrial accident, even though it was preceded by a natural disaster) are to avoid preconceptions and to collect all possible information before starting any evaluation.

    It’s done that way under the assumption that if these things happened for obvious reasons, or failed in obvious ways, they would have been prevented before they happened. Disasters, in responsible industrial management, are viewed as an opportunity to test assumptions, not reinforce them. That’s particularly important in an industry like nuclear power, where there are limited numbers (currently at least, but he infrastructure is aging) of opportunities to study failure points.

    And that’s all above and beyond the way that Joffan’s track record of talking about what’s obvious and what’s impossible demonstrates that preconceptions are a great way to get things wrong.

  49. Apart from the first and last sentences concerning me, Stephanie, I agree completely. And I agree “preconceptions are a great way to get things wrong”, too.

    I am not attempting to determine what happened, but to ensure that the presentation of that vital information is accompanied by enough of a questioning attitude to ensure that the information itself is useful. Brief reflection on the story about the “eye witness” says it is not credible. Notice that “credible” is not the same as “true” – it is a far, far lower standard I am talking about.

    My intention was not really to pick on this one clearly non-credible item – except that I found it amazingly difficult to extract any sort of movement from what appeared to be unquestioning belief. I was simply trying to highlight a random instance of “tortuca thinking”. Recommended reading, to be considered when listening to both those you disagree with and those you agree with.

  50. Joffan, you still haven’t given any good reason that stands up that it’s not credible. Also, if you understand that process, you know you don’t start weeding until you’ve got enough information on the table to know what is and isn’t credible. Also:

    I’m just trying to assess gullibility levels here. You’re welcome to take time to reflect.

    Bullshit on all the “I just wanna help…” crap.

  51. Joffan,

    “My intention was not really to pick on this one clearly non-credible item – except that I found it amazingly difficult to extract any sort of movement from what appeared to be unquestioning belief.”

    Is there some way other than making it crystal clear to convey to you that there is no unquestioning belief about these statements?

    “I am not attempting to determine what happened, but to ensure that the presentation of that vital information is accompanied by enough of a questioning attitude to ensure that the information itself is useful.”

    Your arrogance is astounding. You are attempting to tell Ana and I what to say, what to not say, and when we do say something, how to say it, so that it conforms with your view of the world, and you are couching this in terms of pseudo-skeptical rhetoric. No one reading this blog was born yesterday.

    “I was simply trying to highlight a random instance of “tortuca thinking”. ”

    Do you know what the word random means? Anyway, I’ll take this as very serious and uncalled for insult. Your next comment here will be an apology.

  52. Your next comment here will be an apology.

    Sorry I upset you Greg, even if I don’t really understand why you feel this is a very serious insult. Perhaps you are reading something into “random” that I didn’t intend. I don’t think I upset Ana, unless she says differently.

    Stephanie: you have cherry-picked a phrase from an exchange with Hank that was not entirely respectful on either side.

    I don’t think the Panda’s Thumb article deserves the label of pseudo-skeptical, and it certainly made me consider how I view and select nuggets of information during debate. I do seriously recommend it to everyone, because we can all be uncritical of things which fit our preconceptions.

  53. Joff,

    We’re running out of time– the world’s ending in less than seven hours as I type this.

    Do you believe that there are containment breaches at reactors 1, 2 and/or 3?

    If yes, why so hung up on this one report?

    If no, please explain your dissident view (dissident compared to TEPCO, IAEA, uh… pretty much everyone at this point); that is, provide whatever information do you have that contradicts the conclusion of containment loss at all three. Don’t Bogart data, if you have some.

    Perhaps we all (by all, I mean you Joff) could benfit from a primer on critical reasoning.

    And just our luck– there’s a good one:


    Here’s a bit (pp. 379-80) that applies to your ‘I don’t believe that eye-witness report’ tic:

    “1. Distort the personâ??s position or argument or evidence so that we donâ??t have to take it seriously (e.g., the strawman and either/or fallacies).

    2. Shift the focus away from the personâ??s position or argument or evidence so that we donâ??t have to think about it (e.g., the ad hominem, red herring fallacy).

    3. Overestimate the quality of the arguments or evidence supporting oneâ??s own position (e.g., appeal to a suspect authority, appeal to ignorance).”

    I think you’ve actually hit the trifecta at this point–a strawman, red-herring and appeal to ignorance all rolled into one.

  54. the japanese need to bring criminal charges against Tepco
    senior management. the charges could include environmental,
    administrative fraud or even assault charges

  55. in reference to ‘eyewitness’ accounts of containment breach, here is a still from a drone flyover. fuel can be clearly seen outside (what is left of) the building — between no. 1 and #2, as near as i can tell. the video, a zip of the stills, and a couple of them enlarged are available here.

    i am not sure if the image will post here, and i mean no disrespect, she said, cautiously. *ahem.* have a nice day. be seeing you.

  56. A. Female: The zip file at that site is strange, or at least, my computer does not like it at all, so I could not see them, but I did look through the other material, and it is quite interesting.

    So, is nuclear fuel pouring out of a pipe red and on fire like that? Too bad there is not a version of the video that overlays high energy radiation!

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