Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 24: Reactor 1 did melt down, fission and cooling remain issues, worker dies, sarcophagi in Fukushima’s future.

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The worker’s death was probably unrelated to the nuclear disaster, but it can’t help moral much at the crippled site. Fission and cooling still remain issues at the Fukushima plant. Although fission is not happening to any large degree, or possibly at all, there has been fission more recently than many expected, and there is still concern that the reaction could restart. Various attempts at introducing long term cooling solutions at the site have been less than successful. It is clear that at least two of the reactors will have to be covered by a protective overarching structure.

The reactor in unit one, which is now known to have experienced a meltdown several hourse after the earthquake, has shown no recent evidence of criticality and the engineers and regulatory authorities are fairly satisfied that the reaction in this unit is under control. However, stable and reliable has not been achieved at this reactor. Although nitrogen is still being injected at a precaution, H2 buildup is not happening and the pressure of the reactor vessel is being maintained at a safe level. The reactor vessel, however, is leaking radioactive material presumably through breaches in the container via the pump system’s connectors, and possibly from small holes that formed at the base of the vessel during the meltdown (there is concern, though this has not been verified, that some of the radioactive material from this vessel actually breached the foundation structure of the reactor building). Further leakage of radioactive material is expected and engineers and authorities are concerned about this.

Fission reactions are not occurring in Reactor 2, and overall the situation is more serious than that of Reactor 1, though cooling is more of a concern here. It is thought that the March 14 hydrogen explosion, thought at the time to have been a harmless and expected event, damaged the containment vessel, resulting in leaking. Containment of radioactive material at Reactor 2 has not been achieved. It appears at this point that the only way to achieve containment here is to cover the reactor area with a superstructure.

Fission reactions appear to be continuing at a low level in Reactor 3. Cooling in this reactor is not achieved, and pressure varies unpredictably. There is a crack in the primary containment of this unit. Aside from this crack the reactor pressure vessel appears to be leaking via broken seals at pipes. Radioactive material continues to be released from this reactor, and as with REactor 2, it appears that the only way to stop this is to build a super structure over the reactor.

It is not entirely clear that fission reaction are totally stopped or limited in Reactor 4. The fuel rods are thought to be intact and in position but there is some conflicting data suggesting otherwise. While the fuel assembly seem to be covered by water and cooling achieved make-shift, there is also a lack of data from this reactor via TEPCO.

Quite a bit more information is to be found in Ana’s Feed (below).

Regarding exposure to radiation in the vicinity, the International Atomic Energy Agency has this statement:

What is the current risk of radiation-related health problems in Japan for those residing near the reactor in comparison to those in other parts of Japan?

Radiation-related health consequences will depend on exposure, which is dependent on several things, including: the amount and type of radiation released from the reactor; weather conditions, such as wind and rain; a person’s proximity to the plant; and the amount of time spent in irradiated areas.

The Government of Japan’s recent actions in response to events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are in line with the existing recommendations for radiation exposure. The Government has evacuated individuals who were living within a 20-kilometre radius around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Those living between 20 km and 30 km from the plant are being asked to evacuate voluntarily. In general, people living farther away are at lower risk than those who live nearby.

As and if the situation changes, the Government of Japan may change their advice to the public; Additional information can be found on the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

The Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau’s website provides aggregated up-to-date information on Japanese air transportation operations as well as radiation measurement at each airport.

And here is a map from IAEA:
And also from the IAEA this video of March 14th:

Map of deposition of radiocaesium (sum of Cs-134 and Cs-137) for the land area within 80 km of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, as reported by the Japanese authorities (MEXT)

Ana’s Feed

Written Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Energy & Environment and Investigations & Oversight Subcommittees by David Lochbaum – May 13

UCS would like to share six of the lessons already evident from Fukushima Dai-Ichi that are applicable to ensuring safer nuclear power plants in the United States:

–Better protection against extended power outages

–Adequate severe accident management guidance

–Safer storage of spent fuel

–Upgraded guidance for spent fuel pool events

–Additional regulatory requirements for defueled reactors



Japan Nuclear Crisis: Worker At Damaged Power Plant Dies – Huffpost, May 14

-A man died on his second day of work at Japan’s tsunami-wrecked nuclear power plant Saturday, and the plant operator said harmful levels of radiation were not detected in his body.



TEPCO to cover No.1 reactor building – NHK, May 14

-TEPCO is going to cover the Number 1 reactor building, which lost its roof in a hydrogen explosion in March. On Friday, workers cleared rubble so that a big crane can be set up near the building.

-TEPCO says a polyester sheet will be attached to steel frames, enclosing the 50-meter-tall building. The company says the cover can withstand strong winds. TEPCO also says it will install a ventilator with a filter to capture radioactive materials that would otherwise be concentrated inside.



All Hamaoka reactors shut down – NHK, May 14

last operating reactor at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in central Japan was shut down on Saturday as part of the process to suspend the plant’s operations.

-Prime Minister Naoto Kan requested the suspension of the plant last week, saying it is located in an area where a major earthquake is predicted to occur in the near future and safety measures are inadequate.



Japan’s nuclear love affair turns sour – globalpost, May 14

54 reactors provide 30 percent of its electricity, and there were plans to increase that number to 50 percent by 2030. Policymakers now accept that goal is impossible in light of the Fukushima crisis, the world’s most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Instead, plans for 14 new plants, which would have taken Japan’s reliance on nuclear to over 50 percent, have been effectively scrapped.

-As workers continue to surmise the damage done to fuel assemblies in three of Fukushima Dai-ichi’s six reactors, Japan has been set on a new energy course that, for the first time in its postwar history, sees a reduced role for nuclear power.

-Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, says the traditionally close ties between the nuclear industry, politicians and safety agencies — what he calls Japan’s “nuclear village” — have hidden the true costs of atomic power plants.

-The Japanese public is divided. According to a recent poll, 40 percent of respondents said that the nation’s dependence on nuclear power was unavoidable, while 41 percent supported a cut in the number of plants. Only 13 percent said the industry should be shut down altogether.



Meltdown occurred at Fukushima No. 1 reactor 16 hrs after March 11 quake – Kyodo, May 15

nuclear fuel meltdown at the No. 1 reactor of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi power plant is believed to have occurred around 16 hours after the March 11 quake and tsunami crippled the complex in northeastern Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday.


2 in 3 back Kan’s request to halt nuclear plant: Kyodo poll – Kyodo, May 15

Minister Naoto Kan’s recent unprecedented request to shut down the Hamaoka nuclear power plant received the backing of 66.2 percent in a Kyodo News poll released Sunday, while 47.0 percent supported the idea of reducing the number of nuclear reactors in the country.


Trouble delayed cold shutdown of Hamaoka nuke reactor – Kyodo, May 15

Electric Power Co. said Sunday that cooling system trouble delayed the ‘cold shutdown’ of the No. 5 reactor at its Hamaoka power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture for about two hours earlier in the day, while ruling out any external release of radioactive substances.


Original plan to cool Fukushima nuclear reactor to be scrapped – Kyodo, May 15

adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan indicated Sunday that a plan to flood and cool the No. 1 reactor’s containment vessel at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant with water will be abandoned as holes have been created by melted nuclear fuel at the bottom of the pressure vessel.


Rapid meltdown in No.1 reactor – NHK, May 15

Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, says most of the fuel rods in the No.1 reactor had dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel within 16 hours of the earthquake on March 11th.

-Almost of all the fuel rods melted and dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel by 6:50 am on March 12th.

-The firm says the melted rods created small holes on the bottom of the vessel, but that no major problems are developing there. It believes that the amount of radioactive substances that could spread from the reactor will be limited.



Evacuation begins in Fukushima – NHK, May 15

of some people who live outside the 20 kilometer radius from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun.

-Families with babies and children up to kindergarten age and pregnant women are the first of the 7,700 residents of two towns to evacuate.

-Municipal officials say they have secured temporary housing for almost all of the residents who want it.



Massive floating platform heads for Fukushima – NHK, May 15

massive hollow floating platform is being transported to Fukushima to hold radioactive water from a troubled nuclear power plant.



TEPCO rethinking roadmap – NHK, may 15

Electric Power Company, the operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, says it will revise the method it is using to cool down the No.1 reactor, whose fuel rods are believed to have melted. But TEPCO says it is still aiming to achieve a stable cold shutdown of the reactor by July as planned.

-In order to assess changes in the water levels and temperatures of the reactor and the containment vessel, TEPCO increased the amount of water being injected into the reactor on Sunday afternoon from 8 to 10 tons per hour.

-The power utility plans to study the data it obtains to review its method of cooling the reactor.



Was Fukushima a China Syndrome? – TIME, May 16

-Anecdotal evidence doesn’t bode well for how far the fuel melted: Tepco has been pumping thousands of tons of water onto reactor 1 to try to cool it–yet the water level in the containment vessel is too low to run an emergency cooling system. That means the water is escaping somewhere on a course cut by molten fuel–probably into the basement of the reactor building, though it’s also possible it melted through everything into the earth.

-Many experts say a full-blown China syndrome is unlikely in large part because the fuel from the type of reactors at Fukushima is designed in such a way that it probably won’t sustain “recriticality” once meltdown occurs. What’s more,  boron, which slows nuclear reactions, was pumped into the cooling water of the reactor after the initial accident to prevent the core from going “critical” again.



TEPCO: No.4 blast due to hydrogen from No.3 – NHK, May 16

-It was initially thought that the March 15th explosion was triggered by hydrogen produced by damaged spent fuel rods in a pool inside the No.4 reactor building. But photographs of the pool taken in April show no damage to the rods.

-TEPCO focused on ducts from the No.4 and neighboring No.3 reactor buildings that join into a single duct before an exhaust pipe.

-The company says that when it vented gas from the No.3 reactor through the duct, hydrogen may have seeped into the No.4 reactor building. Hydrogen that accumulated in the upper part of the No.4 reactor building may have caused the explosion.



Seawater found in coolant at Hamaoka plant – NHK, May 16

company reports damage to a pipe connected to a condenser, a system that turns the steam generated by a nuclear reactor to water through the use of seawater.

-Chubu Electric Power Company says 400 tons of seawater may be mixed into the cooling water that goes through the reactor.



TEPCO makes effort to grasp precise water levels – NHK, May 16

Electric Power Company will fix gauges in two of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to determine precise water levels.

-It appears there was a problem with the gauge in the No.1 reactor that showed the level of cooling water at about half the level of the fuel rods. The gauge was fixed on Thursday and then revealed that the rods were completely exposed and melted down.

-TEPCO says the gauges at the No.2 and 3 reactors might not be showing the actual water levels, and that the worst case is that the rods have melted down.


Radioactivity at intake of No.3 reactor rises – NHK, May 16

Electric Power Company says it measured 200 becquerels of cesium-134 per cubic centimeter on Sunday morning near the water intake of the No. 3 reactor. The level was higher than on the previous day, when it was 2,300 times the legal limit.

-220 becquerels of cesium-137 per cubic centimeter was also detected. At 2,400 times the legal limit, the level exceeded the one found the day before.

-TEPCO says the changes in readings are within a margin of day-to-day volatility. The company will continue to monitor radioactivity levels near the plant.



Radiation Forcasting: Video Feature on SPEEDI (System for Predition of Environmental Emergency Dose Information) – NHK, May 16

governor says it is unreasonable to draw up evactuation plans simply based on the distance from power plants: “We need everyday baseline data from the system”.

-SPPEDI predicted the spread of radiation early on.  “Despite this, SPEEDI’s data was not used effectively to evacuate local residents.”

-The development of SPEEDI dates back three decades – cost the government over 10 billion yen.

  • The safety commision says the data was not for public consumption.

  • A spokesman for the government appologizes for the delay in releasing some 5,000 pieces of data and says that in the future they will disclose data immediately.



TEPCO to change reactor cool down method- NHK, May 16

-[TEPCO] says it is now considering pumping water out of the containment vessels and circulating it back into the reactors after chilling it with heat exchangers.

-Another method under study is pumping water from the basement and sending it back to the reactors after radioactive substances have been removed.



Nuclear power plant disaster highlights importance of diverse safety measures – Mainichi Perspectives, May 16

-In Japan, nuclear power plants have been promoted by a group comprising the government, electric power companies, manufacturers and universities. It is a body propped up by the official stance that Japan’s nuclear power plants will not succumb to a major disaster. In the past, when the minority warned of the dangers, this body branded them “anti-nuclear” and dismissed their opinions as “extreme arguments.”

needs to drastically review its nuclear power policies and incorporate diverse opinions when judging the level of danger of its nuclear power plants. When doing so, it should review the Japanese-style decision-making process which tends to rule out minority opinions and is easily swayed by the mainstream.



Fukushima Nuclear Plant Not Built to Take Megaquake – Reuters, May 16

-The magnitude 9 earthquake that struck a Japanese nuclear plant in March hit with almost 30 percent more intensity than it had been designed to withstand, raising the possibility that key systems were compromised even before a massive tsunami hit.

-Japanese officials have previously said the meltdown that took place in three of the reactors at Fukushima was caused by the loss of power to cooling systems when the tsunami knocked out backup diesel generators. Tepco has repeatedly called the combined disaster an event “beyond expectations.”

-But new details released this week have called some of that account into question. At the same time, new data and inspections at the site have shown that the reactors suffered far more serious damage than previously thought and forced officials to abandon their initial approach to bringing the plant to a shutdown.

-Japan’s government has promised an independent audit of the Fukushima disaster, including whether a faster response or a quicker venting of radioactive steam could have prevented powerful hydrogen explosions and the meltdowns.

-“We can certainly say that if the venting took place a little earlier, we could have prevented the situation from worsening,” Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Haruki Madarame told parliament.

-In another instance of an apparent error in judgment, Tepco said that a worker may have shut down a cooling system known as the isolation condenser shortly after the earthquake when he saw that the No. 1 reactor was losing temperature quicker than the utility’s guidelines allowed.

-“At the time, we could not have known that the tsunami was coming and that we would lose power,” Matsumoto said.



Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers – NYT, May 16



Governors’ nuclear demands – NHK, May 16

-Prefectures hosting nuclear power plants have agreed to demand that the central government establish clearer nuclear safety standards.



Tea growers in Ibaraki halt shipments – NHK, May 17

Monday, the prefectural government asked two municipalities and their cooperatives to halt all shipments of tea. Daigo town is about 100 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and Sakai Town is 180 kilometers away.

-Daigo Town is home to some 300 tea growers and 37 tea processing plants. This is the most important season for them, as the harvesting of tea leaves usually begins in May.



Govt to announce evacuee support plan – NHK, May 17

-Residents of the extended evacuation zone will be asked to complete their evacuation by the end of the month. The government is expected to announce measures to support their employment and business operations.

-The government has drafted a bill to assist TEPCO with compensation for evacuees. The utility has agreed to make provisional payouts while the bill passes through the Diet.



Disposing of tainted tea leaves – NHK, May 17

in Kanagawa Prefecture have begun disposing of tea leaves that were tainted by radioactive material from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, more than 250 kilometers away.

-The prefectural government has asked farmers to place the harvested leaves as far as possible from the trees until it decides with the central government how to dispose of them.



Farmers to make 1st damages claim against TEPCO – NHK, May 17

in Fukushima Prefecture plan to demand about 5.5 million dollars in damages from TEPCO over radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

-32 agricultural groups decided at a meeting in Fukushima City on Tuesday that they will make the demand to Tokyo Electric Power Company on May 27th. It will be their first compensation claim.

-The groups say they plan to hold meetings once a month to assess ongoing losses and demand compensation from TEPCO.



Back-up cooling systems at Fukushima failed – NHK, May 17

Electric Power Company on Monday revealed the plant’s operation records for the period following the disaster on March 11th.

-An emergency condenser system at the Number 1 reactor functioned for less than 10 minutes after the earthquake. The failure lasted for 3 hours.

-The utility suspects that workers manually shut down the system as pressure inside the reactor became so low that they were afraid of damage.

-Another type of back-up cooling system at the No. 1 and 2 reactors lost power when the tsunami engulfed batteries.



TEPCO starts removing tainted water at No. 3 reactor – Kyodo, May 17


Radioactive material dispersal prediction system proves useless – Japan Today

-Before the commission made available hourly measurements, it released SPEEDI data regarding the Fukushima accident only twice–on March 23 and April 11. The figures were for the amounts of radioactive materials already released and their dispersal, but did not include a prediction for the future.

-This was because data about the nuclear reactors and radioactive substances needed for making a prediction became unavailable after the plant lost power supply due to the earthquake and tsunami, the commission said.

-Although an exact diffusion prediction could not be made, the system calculated an accurate trend–to some extent–for the spread of radioactive materials by carrying out an estimate based on hypothetical conditions, according to the commission.

-The government’s initial failure to release the SPEEDI data in the Fukushima accident invites the suspicion that it was trying to conceal information that was negative for the domestic nuclear industry, experts say.

-The data obtained by SPEEDI are jointly owned with local governments which shoulder the maintenance costs for the system. This time, the local governments in the disaster-hit areas were unable to get information when they needed it the most.



Gov’t eyes nuke compensation payment process from around fall – Kyodo, May 18


Small amounts of radioactive substances found in breast milk – Kyodo, May 18


Shizuoka, Kanagawa governments oppose radiation screening order for tea leaves – Mainichi News, May 18

Shizuoka and Kanagawa prefectural governments have called on the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to withdraw its request for local authorities in northeastern and eastern Japan to check radiation levels in green tea leaves during processing.



Workers enter another reactor building at crippled Fukushima plant – Kyodo, May 18


Radioactive water released at U.S. request: Cabinet adviser – Kyodo, May 18


TEPCO releases Fukushima plant videos – NHK, May 18

-A clip taken on May 6th shows dents in a tank that supplies water to a reactor suppression pool. An overturned car is lying near the tank.

-Another video shows an oil tank that was swept by tsunami and landed near the plant’s headquarters about 500 meters from the Number 1 reactor.

-Most of the windows in the building are broken and documents are scattered around an office. The mess is believed to have caused by hydrogen explosions that occurred in the early days of the nuclear crisis.



New Fukushima Footage: Walking Inside the Plant – The Atlantic, May 18

-Up to now, many images we’ve seen of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station have been blurry, handout stills of the crippled reactors or photos of robot investigators roaming inside the plant. Today, the Tokyo Electric Power Company is circulating a new 13 minute silent video that amounts to a brief walking tour of a facility deemed as dangerous as Chernobyl.

-Watch below:



U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan’s Plant – NYT, May 18

-Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at a reactor in Minnesota warned American regulators about that very problem.

-While staff members at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission considered Mr. Sarrack’s warning, they decided against changes.

-…the consensus in the nuclear industry supports the existing systems.



IAEA to investigate Fukushima nuclear accident – NHK, May 18

-The International Atomic Energy Agency will dispatch a 20-member team of IAEA officials and experts from the United States, France, Hungary, Indonesia and 6 other countries.

-The experts will investigate the damage caused by the March earthquake and tsunami and the responses taken to deal with the nuclear accident. They will compile their findings in a report.



German minister wants aging reactors shut down – NHK, May 18

Japan’s post-earthquake nuclear accident in Fukushima, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government ordered the nuclear safety commission to administer checks on 17 of the country’s reactors. 7 were taken offline in March.

-The commission has studied cases in which nuclear plants were hit by a flood, earthquake or aircraft and lost all electrical capability to cool down their reactors.

-After receiving the results, Roettgen hinted that the old 7 reactors should be shuttered permanently.



Japan apologizes for radiation concerns – NHK, May 18

an interview with NHK, WHO Assistant Director General Keiji Fukuda said the measures being taken by the Japanese government are appropriate.

-But he added that there is still a need for research on the possible long-term effects on the health of disaster survivors.



TEPCO to focus on water circulation – NHK, May 18

-The utility has effectively abandoned its initial plan to cool the reactor by filling it with water, and says it will instead install an alternative cooling system.

-The system would collect the highly contaminated water in one place, reduce the amount of its radioactive materials, and return it to the reactor as a coolant.

-TEPCO says it is preparing to set up a facility at the Fukushima compound to treat the contaminated water and plans to start operating it by June.



Timetable to end nuclear crisis too optimistic – Mainichi Perspectives, May 18

-The government and TEPCO need to accurately grasp the state of affairs at the reactors, work out specific countermeasures and explain them to the public.



Atmosphere Above Japan Heated Rapidly Before M9 Earthquake – Technology Review, May 18

-Infrared emissions above the epicenter increased dramatically in the days before the devastating earthquake in Japan, say scientists.

-Today, Dimitar Ouzounov at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland and a few buddies present the data from the Great Tohoku earthquake which devastated Japan on 11 March. Their results, although preliminary, are eye-opening.

-They say that before the M9 earthquake, the total electron content of the ionosphere increased dramatically over the epicentre, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck.

-At the same time, satellite observations showed a big increase in infrared emissions from above the epicentre, which peaked in the hours before the quake. In other words, the atmosphere was heating up.



Emergency vents in 31 U.S. reactors same as ones that failed in Fukushima – Daily Kos, May 18

-It can’t happen here has pretty much been the line adopted by the nuclear power industry since the earthquake and tsunami made Fukushima a household word two months ago. Forget that some U.S. reactors were built near earthquake faults and on the coast. Forget that 31 of them are the same boiling-water design as the three in Japan whose enriched-uranium fuel assemblies melted down and are still spewing large amounts of radiation radioactive material into the environment. America’s nukes are exceptional. Nothing to see here. Move along.

-Internal documents about the disaster released last week by the Fukushima power plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., tell another story.



Monticello engineers warned of problem that struck Japanese nuke plant – Star Tribune, May 18

-Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at the Monticello nuclear plant in Minnesota warned U.S. regulators about that very problem.

-Anthony Sarrack, one of the two engineers, notified staff members at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the design of venting systems was seriously flawed at his reactor and others in the United States similar to those in Japan. He later left the industry in frustration because managers and regulators did not agree.



Head of bankers’ association denies TEPCO debt write-off – Kyodo, May 19


Workers enter No.3 reactor – NHK, May 19

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says 2 workers in protective suits and carrying air tanks went inside for about 10 minutes from 4:30 PM Wednesday to check radiation levels.

-TEPCO says the workers measured radiation of 160 to 170 millisieverts per hour around the door of the containment vessel.



Humidity, heat, radiation in reactor buildings – NHK, May 19

Wednesday, staff entered reactor buildings No. 2 and 3 to survey radiation levels for the first time since the explosions at the plant. This followed a survey at the No.1 reactor.

-At the No.2 reactor they found peak radiation levels of 50 millisieverts per hour. They also experienced high humidity and intense heat, which limited the work there only to 15 minutes.

-At the No.3 building the team detected 160 to 170 millisieverts of radiation per hour near a pipe connected to the reactor. The pipe was to be used to inject nitrogen to prevent a hydrogen explosion.

-To improve the working conditions at the No.2 building, Tokyo Electric Power Company is planning to set up a cooling system to lower the temperature of a spent fuel pool which is causing the humidity.

-But the company says the system will become operational at the end of May at the earliest, and that work inside will not be possible for the time being.

-As for the No. 3 reactor building, the utility says they may have to find another way to inject nitrogen and also shield staff from the radiation in order to work inside.



Workers find pools of water at No.2 – NHK, May 19

utility says the workers measured levels of radiation in the air as they walked around the containment vessel, and came up with readings ranging from 50 millisieverts per hour to less than 10.

-The workers found three pools of water on the floor, and saw water dropping down from above in some places.

presence of so much water is apparently due to the condensation of steam rising from the spent fuel storage pool on the upper floor.



A special new forklift for Fukushima – NHK, May 19

forklift is developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and measures seven meters long, weighs 30 tons and has a load capacity of up to nine tons.

-The cabin is fully sealed by 10-centimeter-thick steel plates and more than 20 centimeter-thick lead-glass. The cabin also has a special filter that shuts out contaminated dust.

-Two of the special forklifts will be sent to the Fukushima plant.



Power companies ask why they must share damages – NHK, May 19

-The government decided on a framework last week to help Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay damages.

-The plan asks other utilities operating nuclear power plants to contribute funds for compensation.

-The Federation of Electric Power Companies submitted a petition to the Natural Resources and Energy Agency on Wednesday.

-They say the government should be held responsible for compensation payments as it has long promoted nuclear power generation as one of energy sources for Japan.



Kan suggests separating power generation, distribution in Japan – Mainichi News, May 19

-Prime Minister Naoto Kan on May 18 suggested that the government would consider splitting up the generation and distribution of power — tasks now performed single-handedly by Japan’s 10 power companies.

-Kan’s suggestion comes as Japan looks to review power companies’ regional monopolies in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and boost the use of natural energy, which requires a model of local power generation and wider distribution.



Yamaguchi might nix nuke plant via license – Japan Times, May 19

-The Yamaguchi Prefectural Government might invalidate Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s license to reclaim land in the Kaminoseki area for a nuclear power plant, Gov. Sekinari Nii said Thursday.

-Nii also told reporters the prefecture will set its policy direction “while examining developments” related to the government’s review of nuclear energy policy in light of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.



Trace of radioactive materials detected in Osaka – NHK, May 19

-Osaka’s Institute of Public Health announced on Thursday that tiny amounts of cesium-134 and cesium-137 were found in samples collected from its rooftop between April 1st and May 2nd.

-The institute has collected rain and dust samples for its monthly analysis for radiation.

-It says it was the first-ever detection of cesium-134, and that levels of cesium-137 were 100 times higher than usual, concluding that the materials probably come from the Fukushima plant.



Radiation limits activities in school fields – NHK, May 20

-More than 90 percent of elementary and junior high schools in Fukushima City disallow or limit outdoor activities for students in their athletic fields due to radiation-contaminated topsoil.

-The schools say that they cannot judge whether radiation levels are safe enough even though they have dropped. They also refer to the request by parents that students not be allowed to play outside.

-These schools let students use gyms or play cards during the breaks.



Experiments to decontaminate soil to start – NHK, May 20

-One idea is to swamp the paddies with water, stir up, and then wash away the radioactive substances.

-Another idea is to set up at a drainage canal and equip it with a mineral called zeolite which absorbs radioactive materials.

-The ministry will also test the effectiveness of sunflowers and rape, two plants that draw radioactive substances to their stems.

-It hopes to decontaminate the soil by adopting the measures that prove effective after about 3 months of testing.



Edano seeks to end regional monopolies of power utilities: Government wants to spin off distribution – Japan Times, May 20

-“The government has a large responsibility in securing a steady supply of electricity,” Edano said. “But looking at other countries, there are various forms, and I think that we will move forward with discussions while referring to examples including from abroad,” he said.

-Several industrialized countries use two-tiered systems, but the 10 power companies in Japan each command a region unto themselves.

-On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he intended to put an end to that.



Report: President of Japan’s troubled TEPCO resigning – MSNBC, May 20

-The president of troubled Tokyo Electric Power Co. is stepping down and taking responsibility for the handling of Japan’s nuclear power plant crisis, Japanese media reported Friday.

-Masataka Shimizu will be replaced by senior executive Katsutoshi Chikudate as the company prepares to report huge losses, the Yomiuri newspaper said.



Gov’t crisis center kept in dark over data on radiation dispersal – Kyodo, May 20

-Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano told a news conference that the premier’s office received a fax of the computer-simulated estimates about the dispersal of radioactive materials in the early hours of March 12, a day after the powerful earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear crisis, but this remained in the hands of an official at the office and was not passed on to him or Prime Minister Naoto Kan.


Gov’t briefly stopped TEPCO’s seawater injection a day after quake – Kyodo, May 20


Pipes inside condenser found damaged at Hamaoka nuclear plant – Kyodo, May 20


Health office to monitor nuclear plant workers – NHK, May 20

-Japan’s health ministry has set up a special office to monitor the health of workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

-About 30 workers have already been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts as the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, struggles to contain the disaster.

-The new office will compile data on radiation exposure for workers for long-term monitoring purposes, and inspect daily work schedules in advance.



TEPCO names managing director Nishizawa as next president – Kyodo, May 20

-The utility known as TEPCO said it has named Managing Director Toshio Nishizawa, 60, as its next president to replace Masataka Shimizu, 66, who will step down to take responsibility for the country’s worst nuclear disaster at the northeastern Japan plant.

-Tsunehisa Katsumata, 71, will stay on as chairman for the time being to tackle the crisis spawned by the March 11 catastrophic earthquake and subsequent tsunami.


TEPCO sees record 1.25 tril. yen loss on nuke crisis costs – Kyodo, May 20


TEPCO suffers massive net losses – NHK, May 20

-The utility reported extraordinary losses of over 12 billion dollars, due to efforts to stabilize the stricken nuclear reactors at the plant.

also announced it will sell off its real estate and recreational facilities to raise about 7 billion dollars as part of a compensation fund for people affected by the nuclear disaster.

-The company also says it will streamline its business by about 6 billion dollars, by cutting labor costs and research and development.



TEPCO studying ways to start nitrogen injection – NHK, May 20

-Tokyo Electric Power Company plans to inject nitrogen gas into reactors No.2 and 3 to prevent further hydrogen explosions.

-Nitrogen injection is already underway in the No.1 reactor.

-TEPCO decided to install a new cooling system for the spent fuel pool in the No.2 reactor in the hope of reducing the amount of steam.

-For the No.3 reactor, the firm is considering injecting nitrogen gas from a different part of the reactor where radiation levels are lower or setting up lead sheets to block radiation.



No.1 reactor has 4.2 meters of contaminated water – NHK, May 20

workers who went into the building on Friday morning stayed there for about one hour, and confirmed that water in the basement was roughly 4.2 meters deep. That’s slightly more than a week ago, when TEPCO first confirmed the existence of water there.

-4 other workers later took over and spent about 90 minutes on the ground floor using a gamma camera to measure the spread and densities of radiation.

-TEPCO plans to use the findings to decide how to install the cooling system and set procedures for workers to follow.



No outdoor swimming classes for Fukushima schools – NHK, May 20

-The board says it has judged that it will be difficult to continue its outdoor swimming programs until the accident at the nuclear plant is brought under control.


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7 thoughts on “Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 24: Reactor 1 did melt down, fission and cooling remain issues, worker dies, sarcophagi in Fukushima’s future.

  1. Riddle me how a radio-active element that undergoes fission is no longer be undergoing any fission? Did you mean that there is no longer any cascade / avalanche / chain reaction leading to higher than normal rates of fission for the radio-isotopes?

  2. Sorry for two posts. The obvious question would, if there is no fission, then the place would be safe to enter and clean up – as there would be no high-energy particle or EM being emitted.

  3. Fission is not the same as radiation. Spontaneous fission may well happen in sub-critical masses of radioactive stuff of the kind used in fuel rods, but not much of it, and only in certain fuels.

  4. To me the most interesting part, and actually somewhat good news, is that the explosion in unit 4 was probably caused by hydrogen vented into the building from unit 3.

    Previously the assumption was the only way hydrogen could have built up in unit 4 was from exposed fuel rods in the spent fuel pool.

    Since the rods in the spent fuel pool are apparently intact the hydrogen must have come from somewhere else. That’s good because we really don’t want those rods, which are outside any sort of containment, getting hot enough to start melting.


  5. Mike –

    “Since the rods in the spent fuel pool are apparently intact the hydrogen must have come from somewhere else.”

    That statement isn’t accurate. Hydrogen is formed continuously under normal conditions (intact rods) by radiolysis of water. That’s why spent fuel pools are vented and monitored for hydrogen.

    If cooling to a pool were interrupted, the rods could heat up enough to accelerate hydrogen production via oxidation of the zirconium cladding. The rods could still remain intact and never rupture depending on the specific conditions of a particular pool.

  6. http://www.yournuclearnews.com/news_item.php?newsID=63753

    “On 20 May, two workers at unit 1 of the Fukushima Daiichi plant made their way to the basement of the reactor building to assess flooding there. The workers reported that the water in the basement was some 4.2 metres deep. This was slightly higher than the level measured over a week ago, when plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) first confirmed the existence of water…

    The increase in the level of the water in the basement of the reactor building suggests that water being pumped into the reactor to keep it cool is indeed leaking through both the reactor vessel and containment vessel.

    Tepco continues to empty water from the cabling trench at unit 2 and from the turbine building of unit 3. This water is being pumped to the central waste treatment facility on the plant site. By 20 May, some 7932 tonnes of water had been removed from the trench at unit 2, while 852 tonnes had been pumped from unit 3’s turbine building…

    Tepco has now reported that the presence of highly radioactive debris around unit 3. The company said that it had found debris releasing 1000 millisieverts per hour in an area south the unit’s reactor building – the highest level of radiation so far discovered in debris on the Fukushima Daiichi site.”

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