Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 26: “My head is full of question marks”

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Even as the situation at the troubled Fukushima Nuclear Reactors … well, remains troubled … the post-game analysis of what went wrong and what could have been done better develops. It is becoming clear that the plant had no real plan for the event of a tsunami even though it was built at an elevation within that affected by historically known and documented tsunami waves, and there is post-hoc confusion and denial related to early screw ups in trying to avoid a meltdown in the reactors (which ended up occurring), for instance.

Highly radioactive water continues to leak out of at least one reactor vessel, and no real progress appears to have been made in securing cooling mechanisms or containing damage to the environment around the plant. The level of radioactivity at the ocean outlet of the plant has increased rather than decreased. It was news when a broken pump in reactor 5 was repaired, but Reactor 5 is stable and was quietly and uneventfully shut down until this pump broke and the reactor started heading for a meltdown (objections that these reactors can’t melt down in three … two … one …). It became especially clear over the last few days that the situation is very far from under control when a regionally typical tropical storm threatened the area and there was no plan for how to address flooding rains and winds or other inclement storm conditions.

Monitoring for radiation exposure of people, plants, landscapes, etc. continues within a climate of increasing uncertainty about the dangers of ionizing radiation. Cattle are being moved out of the area, the snow in the mountains near Fukushima is found to be radioactive, and junior high students are being urged to wear long sleeved shirts, just in case. The Prime Minister is facing a no confidence vote.

The estimated cost of the cleanup (and it is a bit early to estimate, but still..) is about four or five percent of Japan’s GDP.

Ana’s Feed:

Nuclear reactor closest to twister cited for safety flaws – MSNBC, May 26

-‘Is everything protected from a tornado on this job site? No. But we protect the critical elements,’ says plant spokesperson

-The closest nuclear power plant to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., was singled out weeks before the storm for being vulnerable to twisters.


Kaieda to check cause of TEPCO’s ‘false’ report on water injection – Kyodo, May 27

‘Recriticality’ unlikely at Fukushima plant: nuclear reactor expert – Kyodo, May 27

IAEA team inspects Fukushima nuclear plant – NHK, May 27

-The 18 experts from Britain, France and other countries have been in Japan since Tuesday to investigate the accident at the plant.

-The team plans to submit a report on its inspection to Japan’s government on June 1st.


Fukushima begins to decontaminate school grounds – NHK, May 27

-The decontamination work began in 26 elementary and junior high schools in Fukushima City on Friday.

-The municipality says it expects the removal of the topsoil to substantially lower radiation levels at the school to about 0.6 microsieverts per hour from Friday’s reading of 3.0 microsieverts per hour.


TEPCO may need to plug leak at Fukushima plant – NHK, May 27

-The operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant says highly radioactive water continues to leak from a waste disposal facility in the complex.

-TEPCO had transferred to the facility some of the highly radioactive water flooding the basement of the No.3 reactor’s turbine building and nearby tunnel, before it suspended the work earlier this week.

-On Thursday, the transferred water was found to be leaking into an underground passage to another building.

-The utility firm says it is likely that the water level in the facility will stop falling, but added that it may need to plug the leaks.

-The work is expected to be difficult as radiation levels of up to 70 millisieverts per hour have been detected on the water’s surface.


Workers check contaminated water in No.1 reactor – NHK, May 27

-Highly contaminated water is apparently leaking from holes created in the pressure and containment vessels, flooding the building’s basement.

-Workers entered the reactor building on Friday, preparing to pump out the leaked water before cooling it and sending it back to the reactor.

-In the morning, 8 workers lowered a depth sensor into the basement and found that the water is about 5 meters deep. Five other workers then collected samples for analysis.

-In the afternoon, different workers attached a hose to the pool for spent nuclear fuel on the 3rd floor. The hose will be part of the pool’s new heat exchange system that is due to be installed around July.


190,000 get radioactive screenings – NHK, May 27

-That is about one-tenth of the prefecture’s population.


Nuclear Radiation Affects Sex of Babies, Study Suggests – Science Daily, May 27

-Ionizing radiation is not without danger to human populations. Indeed, exposure to nuclear radiation leads to an increase in male births relative to female births, according to a new study by Hagen Scherb and Kristina Voigt from the Helmholtz Zentrum München.


Govt to reduce school radiation levels – NHK, May 27

-Japan’s education minister says the government will strive to keep cumulative radiation levels at school in Fukushima Prefecture below one millisievert per year.

-Yoshiaki Takaki also told reporters on Friday that if the levels exceed a benchmark of one microsievert per hour, the topsoil of school grounds will be removed, and most of the cost will be paid for by the government.

-Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato welcomed the decision. He stressed that the government should shoulder the cost of achieving the goal, saying that nuclear power generation has been promoted as a national policy.


G8 calls for new nuclear safety standards – NHK, May 27

-In the joint declaration, the leaders urge the IAEA to create new international standards for the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in areas of high risk, including threats posed by terrorism and earthquakes.

-The document says the major industrial countries should toughen treaties related to nuclear safety.

-They also call on member countries to base trade and travel restrictions on scientific grounds alone, addressing import bans imposed by some countries on Japanese products after the nuclear accident.


AP Exclusive: Fukushima tsunami plan a single page – May 27

-In the Dec. 19, 2001, document – one double-sized page obtained by The Associated Press under Japan’s public records law – Tokyo Electric Power Co. rules out the possibility of a tsunami large enough to knock the plant offline and gives scant details to justify this conclusion, which proved to be wildly optimistic.

-Regulators at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA, had asked plant operators for assessments of their earthquake and tsunami preparedness. They didn’t mind the brevity of TEPCO’s response, and apparently made no moves to verify its calculations or ask for supporting documents.


Cabinet’s nuclear safety chief totally confused after TEPCO reversal on water injection – Mainichi News, May 27

-The head of the Cabinet Office’s Nuclear Safety Commission is at a loss following Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s sudden denial that a seawater injection operation to cool an overheating reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was ever stopped.

-"My head is full of question marks. I’m totally confused now," Haruki Madarame told reporters on May 26.


TEPCO releases undisclosed data on nuclear crisis – Kyodo, May 28

High radiation found on seabed in 300-km stretch off Fukushima – Kyodo, May 28

China-bound exports of Japan fishery products to partially resume – Kyodo, May 28

Kan outlines plan for more renewable energy – NHK, May 28

-Kan told the other G8 leaders that Japan will increase the proportion of power generation from renewable resources to one fifth by the early 2020s. He said the plan is viable despite Japan’s tight fiscal situation. He said the government should use technologies and funds from the private sector to achieve its goals.


Doubts deepen over TEPCO truthfulness after president’s sightseeing trip uncovered – Mainichi News, May 28

-Suspicions that Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is hiding information were heightened on May 27 with revelations that its president was not where TEPCO had said he was on the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

-TEPCO had claimed that on March 11 its President Masataka Shimizu was on a trip to meet with Kansai-area business leaders. The Mainichi discovered, however, that Shimizu was in fact sightseeing in Nara — a discrepancy that TEPCO now refuses to discuss.

-TEPCO has stated that Shimizu was in the area to meet with Kansai business leaders. However, a top-level executive of the Kansai Electric Power Co. denied that Shimizu had met with anyone from the company, and leaders of other major Kansai corporations also deny having met with Shimizu.


Tepco disclosure said lacking from get-go – Japan Times, May 28

-Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not fully disclose radiation monitoring data after its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the government revealed Friday.

-Coming a day after he blasted Tepco’s flip-flop over the injection of seawater into the plant’s reactor 1, Edano said the government "cannot respond to this matter on the premise" that no more undisclosed information will emerge.

-"There is a distinct possibility that there is still more," he said, urging Tepco to accurately and swiftly report the truth to the government.

-A senior nuclear regulatory official in the United States said Thursday he believed there was a "strong likelihood" of serious core damage and core melt at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in the days immediately after the crisis began.

-"There were numerous indications of high radiation levels that can only come from damaged fuel at those kinds of levels," said Bill Borchardt, executive director for operations at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "So we felt pretty confident that there was significant fuel damage at the site a few days into the event."

-The NRC also had "suspicions" about the conditions of the spent fuel pools, Borchardt said after a speech at the Japan Society in New York.

-Based on that assumption, he said, the NRC recommended that U.S. residents in Japan stay 80 km away from the crippled power plant, which was far beyond the Japanese government’s recommendation for residents within a 20-km radius to evacuate.


No need to punish Fukushima nuke plant chief for unreported step: Kan – Kyodo, May 28

Crippled nuke plant not prepared for heavy rain, wind – Mainichi News, May 28

-The crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is not fully prepared for heavy rain and strong winds forecast due to a powerful typhoon moving Saturday toward disaster-affected areas of northeastern Japan, according to the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

-Goshi Hosono, a special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, told a press conference Friday that the current measures "cannot be said to be appropriate."


Fukushima school limit: 1 millisievert – Japan Times, May 28

-The education ministry said Friday it has set a new nonbinding target to reduce radiation exposure of Fukushima Prefecture students while they are at school to 1 millisievert or less a year.

-An earlier — and binding — regulation that allowed more exposure has drawn strong criticism from parents and activists fearing that radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could harm children’s health.

-To achieve the new target, the ministry said it will provide subsidies to cover most of the costs to remove the surface soil of schoolyards in Fukushima Prefecture if radiation of 1 microsievert or more is detected.


Most radiation monitors temporarily broke in disaster-hit areas – Kyodo, May 28

Soil decontamination tests start in Fukushima – NHK, May 28

-Agriculture ministry officials on Saturday explained the experiments to people in Iitate Village. They are designed to test several ways of decontaminating soil.

-One experiment would be to swamp rice paddies with water in the hopes that it would wash away radioactive substances.

-Another idea would be to plant sunflowers and amaranthus that are known to absorb radioactive substances from the soil.

-Agriculture minister Michihiko Kano told participants that he hopes the methods will be effective in decontaminating farmland and that, if any prove to be effective, they will be introduced immediately.


Radioactive materials found off Miyagi and Ibaraki – NHK, May 28

-Japan’s science ministry has detected extraordinarily high levels of radioactive cesium in seafloor samples collected off Miyagi and Ibaraki Prefectures.

-Experts say monitoring should be stepped up over a larger area to determine how fish and shell fish are being affected.

-Radioactive substances were found in all locations, including those off Miyagi and Ibaraki Prefectures, which had not been previously investigated.

-Radioactive cesium 137, measuring 110 becquerels per kilogram or about 100 times the normal level, was found in samples collected from the seabed 30 kilometers off Sendai City and 45 meters beneath the surface.

-Samples collected from the seabed 10 kilometers off Mito City and 49 meters beneath the surface measured 50 becquerels or about 50 times the normal level.


Fukushima plant prepares for wind and rain – NHK, May 29

-The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is stacking sandbags around buildings that house electrical equipment to keep heavy rain and strong winds from affecting the cooling system.

-The level of contaminated water in the tunnels and the turbine buildings of the Number 2 and 3 reactors has been rising. The utility will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that contaminated water will not overflow and run into the sea or groundwater.

-It is spraying a special processing agent on debris and buildings to stop radioactive materials from being washed out to sea through ditches.


Poll: More than 80 percent of Japan voters distrust government information on nuclear crisis – Washington Post, May 29

-A new poll showed Monday that more than 80 percent of Japanese voters do not trust government information about the country’s nuclear crisis.

-The poll conducted by Fuji Television Network also found that nearly 85 percent of respondents said the utility that operates the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is dealing with the crisis poorly.


No.5 reactor temperature rises after pump failure – NHK, May 29

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says it found at 9 PM on Saturday that a pump bringing seawater to cooling equipment for the reactor and pool had stopped working.


Cooling system restored at No.5 reactor – NHK, May 29

-A broken pump has been replaced at the Number 5 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and the temperature inside the reactor has started to decline.

-The reactor has been in a state of cold shutdown.

-An employee patrolling the facility noticed around 9 PM on Saturday that the pump was not working.

-The water temperature inside the reactor reached 94.8 degrees before the work was completed. It fell to 76.5 degrees by 2 PM, and the temperature of the spent fuel storage pool has also stabilized.


Emergency manual to protect tourism from rumors – NHK, May 29

-Tourism ministers of Japan, China, and South Korea have agreed to create an emergency management manual to prevent tourism from being affected by unfounded rumors.

-As the radiation scare caused by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant was the primary cause of the decline in visitor numbers, the 3 ministers agreed to draw up an emergency management manual to cope with such situations.

-Ohata told reporters after the meeting that, through the sharing of accurate information among the 3 countries, foreign tourists will gradually stop avoiding Japan. He said he will continue to make further efforts to convey accurate information to other countries.


Pump failure nearly brings No. 5 to a boil – Japan Times, May 30

-The cause of the pump’s failure was not immediately known but was likely caused by seawater fouling some of its parts, Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told a news conference Sunday morning.

-Tepco began setting up the backup pump at 8 a.m. Sunday. Matsumoto said Tepco didn’t start until morning because the temperatures of both facilities were rising slowly and an emergency water-injection system was available for unit 5.

-"We judged that it’s better to wait for the morning, rather than to start working while it’s dark. We didn’t think it would pose any immediate danger," Matsumoto said.

-"Even if the temperature (of the core) reaches 100 degrees, the alternative water-injection system is available," he said.

-Still, Matsumoto admitted that "it might have been better" to notify the media sooner about the pump’s failure.


Stabilizing reactors by year’s end may be impossible: Tepco – Japan Times, May 30

-Stabilizing the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant by the end of the year may be impossible, senior officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday, throwing a monkey wrench into plans to let evacuees return to their homes near the plant.

-The confirmation of core meltdowns hitting reactors 1 through 3, accompanied by breaches to the critical pressure vessels that hold the nuclear fuel, has led officials to believe that "there will be a major delay to work" to contain the situation, one official said.


S&P cuts TEPCO rating by 5 notches to junk status – Kyodo, May 30

Radioactive level up again at reactor water intake – NHK, May 30

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says it detected 24 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per cubic centimeter in samples collected near the water intake for the Number 2 reactor on Saturday.

-The figure is 600 times higher than the national limit, though levels at the spot had been falling. A day earlier, a level 130 times the limit was detected.

-TEPCO says the level of radioactive cesium is also rising at that spot, though the level of that substance had been falling, too.


Expert: no threat of radiation from rain – NHK, May 30

-Professor Shunichi Yamashita of Nagasaki University says there’s no need to prepare for radioactive rain.


High radioactivity levels at No.1 reactor – NHK, May 30

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says a water sample taken from the reactor building’s basement on Friday contained 2.5 million becquerels of radioactive cesium-134 per cubic centimeter. It also detected 2.9 million becquerels of cesium-137 and 30,000 becquerels of iodine-131.

-TEPCO says it will examine ways to decontaminate the water, as its radiation levels are too high for workers to approach.


High radioactivity level at No. 2 reactor – NHK, May 30

-Workers entered the building last week to measure humidity and to gauge levels of radioactive substances in the atmosphere.

-The results show the Number 2 reactor building’s radioactive cesium level is twice as high as the cesium level in air not purified in the Number 1 reactor building. Steam is filling the Number 2 building, and humidity has reached 99.9 percent.

-The high humidity means an air purification unit cannot be used to lower the level of radioactivity.


Work suspended at Fukushima plant due to hard rain – NHK, May 30


Milk cows moved outside Fukushima evacuation zone – NHK, May 30

-Farmer Masatsugu Shiga had his 7 cows transported out of the village in a truck on Monday.

-Shiga says he is relieved that his cows can survive in a different place but he is angry that he could have continued dairy farming if it had not been for the nuclear accident.


Radiation exposure for 2 workers may exceed limit – NHK, May 30

-Tokyo Electric Power Company said on Monday the 2 workers are men. One is in his 30s and the other in his 40s. Both worked at the control rooms of the Number 3 and 4 reactors, and elsewhere, after the accident broke out at the plant.

-TEPCO said a test conducted at an institute last Monday found 9,760 becquerels and 7,690 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 in the workers’ thyroids. This means they are likely suffering from internal radiation exposure after inhaling radioactive substances.

-TEPCO says that so far, the workers have not complained of health problems.


2 Fukushima workers may have exceeded radiation exposure limit – Kyodo, May 30

Internal exposure concerns – NHK, May 30

-Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission has expressed concerns about internal radiation exposure for workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

-High levels of radioactive substances have been detected in the bodies of 2 workers at the plant.

-After a meeting on Monday, commission member Shizuyo Kusumi told reporters that the organization had concerns about whether protective masks can fully protect workers from internal exposure.


Radiation exceeds limit in Iitate & Namie – NHK, May 30

-The science ministry says the accumulative radiation exposure level has exceeded the government limit for evacuation at two locations more than 20 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

-The ministry said on Monday that the cumulative exposure had reached 20 millisieverts in a district in the mountain village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. The district is about 33 kilometers northwest of the plant.

-On Sunday, the ministry said that total radiation exposure had exceeded 35 millisieverts at one location in Namie Town, 31 kilometers northwest of the plant.

-The ministry installed radiation monitors at 15 locations in the zone on March 23rd to check the level of cumulative exposure.

-The average radiation exposure from Japan’s natural environment is about one millisievert a year.


Ibaraki Pref. to check radiation levels at 17 beaches from June – Kyodo, May 30

Gov’t to scrap upper limit of radiation exposure for workers at Fukushima plant – Mainichi News, May 30

-The government has decided to abolish the upper cap of radiation exposure for workers at the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, drawing concern from experts, it has been learned.

-The move came after it became likely that workers at the Fukushima plant would not be able to be engaged in regular inspections at other nuclear power generation facilities after their stint at Fukushima. However, experts are voicing concerns over the change of policy, saying it could adversely affect the workers’ health.

-The ministry had earlier upgraded the yearly limit of 100-millisievert accumulated exposure in emergencies to 250 millisieverts only for workers at the Fukushima plant, while leaving a decision whether to allow the doses to be combined with those they are exposed to during regular inspections at other nuclear plants unclear.

-In a notice issued on April 28, the ministry clearly stated that workers should be exposed to no more than 100 millisieverts of radiation over a five-year period and that the yearly limit of 50 millisieverts should be upheld for workers at other facilities than the Fukushima plant.


Kan’s government faces no-confidence motion – NHK, May 30

-The opposition Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties are planning to submit by the end of the week a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government.

-Kamei criticized such an action, saying that Japan has just experienced a major natural disaster of an unprecedented scale, and that this is not a time to be thinking about replacing the prime minister.


Fukushima Risks Chernobyl ‘Dead Zone’ as Radiation Soars – San Francisco Chronicle, May 30

-Radioactive soil in pockets of areas near Japan’s crippled nuclear plant have reached the same level as Chernobyl, where a "dead zone" remains 25 years after the reactor in the former Soviet Union exploded.

-Soil samples in areas outside the 20-kilometer (12 miles) exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant measured more than 1.48 million becquerels a square meter, the standard used for evacuating residents after the Chernobyl accident, Tomio Kawata, a fellow at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, said in a research report published May 24 and given to the government.

-Radiation from the plant has spread over 600 square kilometers (230 square miles), according to the report.

-Soil samples showed one site with radiation from Cesium-137 exceeding 5 million becquerels per square meter about 25 kilometers to the northwest of the Fukushima plant, according to Kawata’s study. Five more sites about 30 kilometers from Dai- Ichi showed radiation exceeding 1.48 million becquerels per square meter.

-When asked to comment on the report today, Tokyo Electric spokesman Tetsuya Terasawa said the radiation levels are in line with those found after a nuclear bomb test, which disperses plutonium. He declined to comment further.


Nuclear phase-out can make Germany trailblazer – Merkel – BBC, May 30

-Mrs Merkel said that in its "fundamental" rethink of policy, Germany could set an example for other countries.

-"We believe we as a country can be a trailblazer for a new age of renewable energy sources," the German chancellor was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

-"We can be the first major industrialised country that achieves the transition to renewable energy with all the opportunities – for exports, development, technology, jobs – it carries with it."

-She also said that electricity in the future should be "safer and at the same time reliable and affordable", linking the decision to step back from nuclear power to the crisis in Japan.

-"We learned from Fukushima that we have to deal differently with risks," she said.


Subsidies explain Japan’s ‘unwavering’ nuclear dependency: report – Kyodo, May 31

New reactor postponed at Shimane nuke power plant – NHK, May 31

-The company had planned to put nuclear fuel rods in the reactor and start a test operation in June, and make it commercially operational in March next year.

-Following the accident at the Fukushima plant, the utility faces the need to build seawalls that can withstand 15-meter-high tsunami waves and to think of ways to prevent the inundation of reactor buildings.

-The utility also said a problem with a device for moving control rods in the reactor was discovered last November. It said the defect has remained unsolved, because the device’s maker in Ibaraki Prefecture was affected by the March 11th disaster.


TEPCO tackles increasing contaminated water – NHK, May 31

-Tokyo Electric Power Company detected 2 million becquerels of radioactive cesium per cubic centimeter of water in the basement of the No. 1 reactor building.

-TEPCO has created a map showing the distribution of contaminated water at the plant to prevent a recurrence of the accident in March, where 3 workers were exposed to radiation by stepping in contaminated water in the basement of the No. 3 reactor’s turbine building.

-Rain showers that began Sunday are causing the water levels in the No. 2 and 3 turbine buildings to rise at a faster pace of 3 to 4 millimeters per hour.


Seawater purifiers to be set at Fukushima plant – NHK, May 31

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will start work on Tuesday to install seawater purifiers, which use the mineral zeolite to absorb radioactive cesium.

-The utility previously built undersea silt barriers around the water intakes for the No.2 and 3 reactors after highly contaminated water was found to be leaking into the sea.

-But radioactive substances exceeding the government-set safety limits are still being detected both inside and outside the barriers.


Oil found leaking near sea close to crippled Fukushima nuke plant – Mainichi News, May 31

-Oil has been found leaking into the sea near the crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant, possibly from nearby oil tanks that may have been damaged in the March earthquake and tsunami, the plant operator said Tuesday, adding that it will set up oil fences to prevent the liquid from spreading into the Pacific Ocean.

-The oil slick was found at 8 a.m. by Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers who were patrolling the premises of the plant on the Pacific coast, and is believed to be spreading at a 200-300 meter range inside breakwaters.


Japan eyes deploying robots for highly irradiated environment – Kyodo, May 31

Government tells TEPCO to test more workers – NHK, May 31

-The Japanese government has instructed the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to immediately test more workers for possible internal exposure to radiation.


Rain increases radioactive water at nuke plant – NHK, May 31

-Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, now says water levels rose faster on Monday as rain poured inside the badly damaged buildings.

-In the basement of the No.1 reactor building, radioactive water rose by 37.6 centimeters during the 24 hours through Tuesday morning.

-At the No.2 reactor, the level of water rose by 8.6 centimeters in an underground tunnel extending from the building.


TEPCO begins live video stream from Fukushima – NHK, May 31

-TEPCO has begun live-streaming video of the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant through the company’s website.

-The real-time footage comes from a camera installed about 250 meters northwest of the No.1 reactor.

-The No.1 to No.4 reactors can be seen in the webcast.


Oxygen cylinder bursts near No. 4 reactor – NHK, May 31

-An oxygen cylinder has burst at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. But the plant operator says the blast caused no damage to the plant’s facilities, and no injuries.

-At around 2:30 PM on Tuesday, workers reported hearing a loud noise like that of an explosion at the south side of the plant’s No. 4 reactor.

-The Tokyo Electric Power Company says unmanned heavy machinery removing debris at the site damaged the cylinder, causing it to burst.


TEPCO makes provisional payments to the affected – NHK, May 31

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says it paid damages of 500-million yen, or about 6.2-million dollars, on Tuesday to groups of farmers, including dairy farmers, and fishermen in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures to compensate for their losses from halted shipments.

-TEPCO says they have claimed damages totaling about 136-million dollars for the losses they incurred due to shipment restrictions imposed by the central government.


TEPCO to compensate nuclear evacuees for mental distress: guideline – Kyodo, May 31

Fukushima cleanup could cost up to $250 billion – NHK, May 31

-Kazumasa Iwata, president of the Japan Center for Economic Research, gave the estimate on Tuesday.

-He said the costs of the accident could range from nearly 71 to 250 billion dollars. The figure includes 54 billion to buy up all land within 20 kilometers of the plant, 8 billion for compensation payments to local residents, and 9 to 188 billion to scrap the plant’s reactors.


1,800 yet to evacuate – NHK, May 31

-The government had instructed about 10,000 residents in the evacuation area sprawling 5 municipalities outside the 20 kilometer no-entry zone around the plant, to evacuate by the end of May.

-But officials of Iitate Village say 1,427 people, or 23 percent of its population, have not yet moved out.


Cooling system operating at No. 2 reactor – NHK, May 31

-The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has started operating a system to effectively cool water in a spent fuel pool in the plant’s No.2 reactor building.

-The utility has been pumping about 50 tons of water into the pool every few days.

-The pool’s temperature is around 70 degrees Celsius, apparently producing steam that has filled the building and resulted in a humidity level of 99.9 percent.

-The firm says it plans to lower the pool’s temperature to around 40 degrees Celsius in a month and hopes to reduce the humidity level before installing equipment to remove radioactive substances in the building.


Minister: Germany to go nuke free by 2022 – CNN, June 1

-Germany’s ruling coalition has agreed to shut down all of the nation’s nuclear power plants by 2022.

-"The decision looks like this," Roettgen said. "Seven older nuclear power plants … and the nuclear plant Kruemmel will not go back online … a second group of six nuclear reactors will go offline at the end of 2021 at the latest, and … the three most modern, newest nuclear plants will go offline in 2022 at the latest."

-To make up for the loss of nuclear energy, the German government will begin to switch to renewable energy and increase investments in energy research, the government website says.


IAEA draft on Fukushima says tsunami risk underestimated: sources – Kyodo, June 1

IAEA team chief ‘impressed’ with gov’t, people over disaster aftermath – Mainichi News, June 1

-The members of an expert team from the International Atomic Energy Agency were "very impressed" at the Japanese government’s handling of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and the bravery of the people in the face of the adversity triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the group leader said Wednesday.

-"We have been tremendously impressed by the response of the Japanese people, the workers on the site and the organizations of the site to these tragic events," Mike Weightman told reporters after presenting to the government a summary of the team’s draft report on the crisis.

-"One of the biggest things the world can learn is about that spirit of the Japanese people," Weightman said. "Their spirit, their fortitude, their ability to move forward makes me feel humbled in the presence of such people and abilities."


IAEA team submits report to Japan government – NHK, June 1

-The report points out that Japan underestimated the impact of the tsunami. It urges the government to correctly assess the risks of all natural disasters, and draw up protective measures in the design and operation of nuclear power plants.

-The report adds that Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency should be independent and given a clear role based on IAEA standards, so it can respond appropriately to disasters.

-Hosono thanked the team for its extensive and detailed investigation, and said the Japanese government will make the best use of the report as it probes the crisis.


Snow on Fukushima peaks found to be radioactive – NHK, June 1

-Researchers from Fukushima University performed the analysis with a local environmental group. They sampled snow in 31 locations and at different altitudes from 7 peaks around Fukushima city, from mid-April through early May.

-The results showed that snow in 14 locations contained more than 200 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium, the adult safe limit for drinking water.

-A sample of snow from an altitude of 1,300 meters contained 3,000 becquerels of cesium.

-Fukushima University Vice-President Akira Watanabe specializes in meteorology and says the data support his team’s analysis that radioactive substances scattered at an altitude of 1,300 meters.

-He is urging mountain climbers not to drink river water or gather edible wild plants, now that high levels of radioactivity in the snow have been confirmed.


Long sleeve uniforms urged in Fukushima – NHK, June 1

-At Koken Junior High School in Koriyama city on Wednesday, almost no students were seen wearing short-sleeves.

-The school says students can choose to wear their long-sleeved gym wear or the long-sleeved summer uniform.


Utilities report 342 faults near nuclear plants – NHK, June 1

-Japan’s electric power companies have reported 342 faults and geographical changes near nuclear power plants that they previously did not consider to be risks.

-The companies filed the reports with the industry ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.


10,000 children flee Fukushima over nuke fears – NHK, June 1

-On Wednesday, the ministry announced that the number of school-age children who have left Fukushima — from kindergarteners to high school students — reached 9,998 as of May 1st.

-They include 974 kindergarten pupils, 5,785 elementary school children, 2,014 junior high school students and 1,129 senior high school students.


High levels of strontium detected at Fukushima – NHK, June 1

-Tokyo Electric Power Company says it took soil samples on May 9th at 3 locations about 500 meters from the No.1 and No.2 reactors and analyzed them.

-The utility detected up to 480 becquerels of radioactive strontium 90 per kilogram of soil. That’s about 100 times higher than the maximum reading recorded in Fukushima Prefecture following atmospheric nuclear tests carried out by foreign countries during the Cold War era.

-TEPCO reported detecting 2,800 becquerels of strontium 89 per kilogram of soil at the same location.

-The substance was also detected in soil and plants more than 30 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power station in March.


Japan’s prime minister at risk of losing power – Kyodo, June 1

-Prime Minister Naoto Kan was confronted with the submission of a no-confidence motion to parliament on Wednesday, a move that could cost him his leadership post after nearly one year, at a time when Japan is still struggling to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and reconstruct after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

-The motion, submitted by major opposition parties, is even being supported by some lawmakers in Kan’s ruling party, who have criticized him for inadequately dealing with the emergency situation facing Japan.

-Voting on the motion is expected to take place Thursday afternoon during the House of Representatives plenary session. If passed, Kan will have to ask his Cabinet to resign en masse or dissolve the lower house for an election.

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40 thoughts on “Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 26: “My head is full of question marks”

  1. Byelorussia currently spends about 30% of GDP on Chernobyl-related costs.

    If Japan gets away with a one-off 4 or 5% of GDP cost, they will be counting themselves very lucky.

    Unfortunately, the cost will be a permanent line-item on Japan’s economy *for ever*, and it will be much higher than 4 or 5%, especially when you start taking into account the cost of keeping large tracts of valuable land fallow, the damage to trade, and any claims from foreign countries that have had unwanted Japanese radioactive materials deposited on their territories.

    Oh, and if the nuke-spruikers can think of a way to spin this, I’m all ears….

  2. If anyone thinks nuclear power has ZERO risk, than you a moron. Since the risk is non-zero, with around 400 plants providing power to billions of people over around 40 years, expect a catastrophic failure every now and then.

    This is no different than the risk versus reward of everything else in life. Like the current E. Coli outbreak which has so far has killed 18 people and sickened hundreds more in Europe (I’m anxiously awaiting the 20+ blogs on this catastrophe from Greg).

    Food is energy….but there are risks. Nuclear power is energy….but there are risks.

    The small island of Japan would not be the economic powerhouse it is (only trails the EU, the U.S., and China)if it were not for nuclear power.

    They have enjoyed the benefits and now they are absorbing the manifestation of the risks.

  3. How offensive. Both Chernobyl and Fukushima were entirely avoidable. In the latter case, something bad may well have been inevitable because of an earthquake, but not one of the negative effects of the tsunami needed to happen. Not. One.

    The discussion of whether or not a major unavoidable catastrophe every now and then is OK needs to wait until AFTER we have the conversation about how to avoid the utterly avoidable catastrophic events first.

    Since the post hoc complaining about how those who were concerned about meltdown, radiation releases, etc. had to stop (because those complaints were vacuous and offensive) do we now how to listen to a new approach to sweeping this problem under a rug?

    Our ability to use nuclear power to forestall the negative effects of global warming has been severely hampered because of three things: The nuclear power industry has proven itself capable of making avoidable yet severe mistakes, the nuclear power apologists such as you have made it clear that they are NOT going to engage in a rational conversation, and the markets, which are supposed to be the all knowing rational being we rely on to make our decisions for us, have turned their back on their conservative handmaidens and told nuclear power that they are not interested.

  4. Greg – you are offensive.

    I am not sweeping anything under the rug. Any competent person would have said decades ago that the risk of a nuclear power plant accident from ground motion is around 1/10,000 over a plant’s life (that is the current risk estimate of the NRC).

    The risk is small per plant per year, but with hundreds of plants and dozens of years, expect failure.

    Any “accident” is avoidable with enough information and money.

    Then there would be zero risk.

    But nuclear power never had and doesn’t have zero risk.

    Nothing does.

  5. Healthphysicist, offensive is spouting the same NPA party line again and again and not even listening to what someone else is saying.

    Did you notice that I agree with you on risk of nuclear power? NO. Because you can’t even see through your own bullshit.

  6. No, you don’t agree with me.


    “The nuclear power industry has proven itself capable of making avoidable yet severe mistakes, the nuclear power apologists such as you have made it clear that they are NOT going to engage in a rational conversation…………”

    Let’s just take the first part…in a deterministic Universe (which happens to be ours), what happened in the past HAD TO HAPPEN. There is no such thing as an “avoidable” or “unavoidable” mistake.

    There will be future “mistakes”. Even though after they happen, it will be easy to see how they could have been avoidable had reality been different. But reality was what it was.

    That’s why we have risk factors. They aren’t zero nor ever will be.

    You agree with me that the risk of nuclear is small.

    Yet, when the “agreed upon” risk actually manifests, you are blaming the industry, who helped provide the risk estimates to begin with.

    That is irrational.

    I am not a nuclear power apologist….but if, for example, we agreed in the past that nuclear plants will have a 1/10,000 chance of failure due to seismic activity (or 1 x 10^-4 per plant-year).

    Then after about 40 years with about 400 plants, or 1.6 x 10^4 plant-years…I expect plant failure. (1.6 > 1)

    Having that expectation is rational.

    What isn’t rational is blaming anyone or calling them apologists, when the risk predictions have been pretty accurate.

    That is where we seem to disagree.

  7. You are correct. We don’t agree on everything. I think that building a major nuclear power plant right where it could get hit with an inevitable tsunami was stupid. You think it was just fine.

    You really are not paying ANY attention, are you?

  8. No, you aren’t paying attention.

    An “inevitable tsunami” implies over infinite time a tsunami will occur.

    But a power plant is only expected to operate for less than 50 years.

    So the risk of a tsunami occurring during that time has to be considered. Not over infinite time.

    Please pay attention.

  9. HP, all they had to do was to build the nuclear power plant a short distance away above the tsunami line. They knew that then and today they are realizing that they made this mistake. Very few people don’t understand this and don’t feel that it was a mistake. You are a member of a rapidly shrinking minority of Nuclear Power Apologists.

    And you admit that you are a professional in a related area. No wonder you don’t use your real name. Your professional credibility would be very much at stake.

  10. I trust others can see this contradiction:

    “Did you notice that I agree with you on risk of nuclear power? NO.”

    “I think that building a major nuclear power plant right where it could get hit with an inevitable tsunami was stupid. You think it was just fine.”

    I’ll leave that as a reflection of your credibility.

  11. “Did you notice that I agree with you on risk of nuclear power? NO.”

    “I think that building a major nuclear power plant right where it could get hit with an inevitable tsunami was stupid. You think it was just fine.”


  12. Call it a mistake. That’s what the risk accounts for.

    It’s not zero.

    So please refrain from demanding zero risk out of something that isn’t.

    That is hypocritical.

    So is this:

    “Did you notice that I agree with you on risk of nuclear power? NO.”

    “I think that building a major nuclear power plant right where it could get hit with an inevitable tsunami was stupid. You think it was just fine.”

    Bob Applebaum

  13. @hp: Some of the people of Japan did expect this “catastrophic failure”, but only because they knew enough to not accept the miscalculated risks. ‘They told us it was safe’ is the common refrain coming from those morons in Fuku.

  14. “Fukushima cleanup could cost up to $250 billion – NHK, May 31”

    What fantasy land is that estimate coming from? Last I heard, Areva is building a plant to decontaminate stored water, about 80,000 tons so far, with close to 200,000 tons expected by the end of the year, at a cost of $2.4 million US per ton. That means current cost of cleaning just the contaminated stored water is already close to 200 billion, and about a half trillion by year’s end.

    Just to clean the damn stored water.

    My prediction? They’ll “let” most of it leak to the sea. Japan can’t afford to clean it up.

  15. “So the risk of a tsunami occurring during that time has to be considered. Not over infinite time.”

    Clearly the risk over 50 years was far higher then you or they figured, wasn’t it.

    Proper risk assessment considers both the probability of an event, and the damage from the event. The probability per 50 years may have been low – not all that low – but look at the damage.

  16. Wonder how long it will take till healthphysicist gets banned.
    The frenzy has been whipped to such levels, that the overton window is now somewhere between ban anything nuclear RIGHT NOW no matter the cost, and phase out nuclear power ASAP, screw the additional greenhouse gases.
    With such attitude, any rational discussion is impossible to begin with. Emotions run high, and no one is capable of maintaining rationality, even though everyone thinks, his position is the only sane one. The others are always liars, fanatics, paid shills, etc.
    Also, I predict that no serious effort will be made to decontaminate the areas or upgrade the plants to make them safe. Why to bother, when the fear is so useful, after all ?
    All push will be only in the direction of shutting down anything nuclear, puffing up the perceived dangerousness of radiation as much as possible, downplaying the risks of the alternatives, and muzzling anyone who disagrees.

  17. Allow me to backtrack, and maybe you can better understand what I’m trying to say, which isn’t Nuclear Apologism.

    We are all material beings subject to the laws of physics. There is no free will. Our brains provide a version of reality and acts on stimuli which we perceive as a decision.

    If your brain endeavors to achieve a goal, it will direct other parts of you to pursue doing so. You will receive continuous sensory information that your brain will integrate with its existing stored information. Your brain will continue to give you new instructions. And on and on.

    If TEPCO’s goal was to achieve nuclear meltdowns via tsunami, they are to be congratulated. They were successful when the odds were highly against them. There is no evidence that was their goal, and such a goal would be self defeating. So let’s assume that wasn’t their goal.

    I conclude TEPCO’s goal was to maximize nuclear power generation and achieve maximum profitability. This is consistent with their own remarks about their goals and with their actions.

    In the minds of the TEPCO employees all of the information they had and were receiving was not enough to warrant doing anything different than they did. In their version of reality, they were working towards their goal. Had their been enough of a stimulus for their brains to direct them on another course they would have done so, consistent with their goal. They did not receive enough of stimulus…just like your brain probably decided that the world would not end a week or so ago. Just like most peoples’ brains will not alter their cell phone behavior based on a recent warning by the WHO regarding brain cancer.

    This is why it is overly simplistic to say this (or any) accident was “avoidable”. All accidents are avoidable before they occur if enough stimulus is provided to brains to change their behavior. If not, the accident becomes unavoidable and manifests itself.

    When we assign risk factors, we know all this. The risk factors account for brains, because brains are a part of physics just like seismic stress, bolt fracture, explosivity, etc.

    You can’t subjectively choose which accidents “were completely avoidable” and which ones were not, and then demonize those who you have subjectively chosen. It’s all physics (including the stimulus that caused you to read this, and any actions you take as a result of reading this).

    That has been my point….demonize fairly, or be more scientific and don’t demonize at all. Let’s understand why enough stimulus was not provided to those brains, so the next time we can engineer methods to prevent failure.

    Here is an interesting take on why the brains at Tepco had the version of reality that they had:


    P.S. Just because someone predicts there’s a 80% chance of rain, and it does NOT rain, does NOT make the prediction wrong. Nor is the prediction right if it does rain.

  18. Stephanie Z –

    Yes, I read it. If you think that the article is arguing against my point, you don’t understand my point.

    Which I know is as much my fault as yours.

  19. @21 Stephanie Z
    Because that is the standard treatment nuclear nuke proponents get these days.

  20. It’s the standard treatment for internet trolls, frankie.

    What makes you think that just because this troll is fluffing the balls of the nuclear industry means that it’s the nuke-fellatio that’d get him banned and not the trolling?

    Because you have a chip on your shoulder?

  21. @23 thank you for the succinct demonstration of the very point I am making.

    The overton window is so shifted that in this political climate anyone on the pro nuke side will appear as a troll, or paid sill or both.
    ( it works even in the opposite direction, anyone who is pro nuke is getting so defensive that it is impossible for them to address rationally any anti-nuke talking points. not that it would really make a difference but… )

  22. The Fukushima I (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_Nuclear_Power_Plant) set of reactors are the ones with the major problerms. The Fukushima II set (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daini_Nuclear_Power_Plant) is a few km south along the coast & have had far fewer problems.

    The Fukushima II reactors were built a bit later & I wonder if the (relative) lack of problems there is entirely due to improved design or if the short distance between the reactors made the tsunami significantly weaker at Fukushima II?

    If the design was what mattered that tells us nuclear plants can be made to withstand the larges natural disasters.

    Can anyone point me to some information on this matter?

  23. A paper from 1988, 23 years ago, re. probabilities of a major tsunami on the central Japan coast in the decade 2000 – 2010. Note this sentence:

    “It seems that the probability for a violent tsunami, of which the wave height exceeds 5 m, is highest along the Pacific coast in central Japan, reaching a value of 41 per cent.”


    Bulletinofthe SeismologicalSocietyofAmerica,Vol.78, No. 3, pp. 1268-1278,June 1988

    An analysis of future tsunami hazard on the coast of the Japanese Islands is made in terms of probability for a coastal site being hit by a tsunami, of which the wave height exceeds a certain level during a period from 2000 to 2010. Tsunami wave height at a site on the Pacific coast is estimated mostly based on numerical experiment, in which a typical fault model of the tsunami-generating earthquake is assumed. Meanwhile, probability of the tsunami-generating earthquake occurring during 2000 to 2010 is evaluated either from historical data of earthquake occurrence or from near-shore crustal strain accumulation.
    Combining the wave height estimate with the probability evaluation of tsunami occurrence, probabilities of a site being hit by a tsunami, of which the wave height exceeds certain levels, are evaluated on the Pacific coast. It seems that the probability for a violent tsunami, of which the wave height exceeds 5 m, is highest along the Pacific coast in central Japan, reaching a value of 41 per cent. On the other hand, a probability value as high as 69 per cent is found for a moderately large tsunami having a wave height of 1 m or so along the Shikoku and Kyushu coasts.

  24. I just made a post linking a 1988 paper, that derived a 40% risk of a tsunami greater than 5m on the central Japan coast, between 2000 – 2010. It appears to be stuck in moderation.

    40% per decade. You claim they didn’t underestimate the risk? Really?

    Also, this, describing a historic destructive tsunami frequency in Japan of ~ 5 per century. That roughly translates to 2 destructive tsunamis somewhere on the coast of Japan, during that 40 year lifetime of the nuclear plant”

    “The record reads as follows: a total of 65 destructive tsunami struck Japan between A.D. 684 and 1960. As early as 18 July 869 the Sanriku coast was hit by a tsunami resulting in loss of 1,000 lives and the destruction of hundreds of villages. On 3 August 1361, a tsunami destroyed 1,700 houses in this same area. On 20 September 1498 1,000 houses were washed away and 500 deaths resulted from a tsunami which struck the Kii peninsula. On 3 March 1933 a tsunami in the Sanriku area reached a height of about thirty meters and killed over 3,000 people. injured hundreds more and destroyed approximately 9,000 homes and 8,000 boats.

    In eastern Honshu, in Japan a tsunami wave of 10 m has a return period of 10 years, that is a wave of that size will occur once every 10 years. This is one method that is used to measure the frequency of tsunami and is identical to that of flooding, another hydrological hazard.

    James Millington

  25. For some reason comments are being held in moderation more frequently than usual, so you’ll notice some comments coming out only after I’ve freed them … and I’ve had meetings and stuff.

  26. I would like to point out that I live a short distance from a single-reactor nuclear plant that is a) the same exact design as Fukushima’s plants and b) has one of the best, if not the best, safety records of any commercial power plant in the US ever. Only once did it dump nuclear water into the Mississippi, and that’s about it. One death occurred there but it was the kind of thing that could have happened at any power station (an electrocution).

    It was built above the tsunami line!

    (Like WAY above the line!)

  27. I would like to point out that I live a short distance from a single-reactor nuclear plant that is a) the same exact design as Fukushima’s plants and b) has one of the best, if not the best, safety records of any commercial power plant in the US ever.

    Wonder what would you say, if they shut it down and replaced it with three ‘clean’ coal power plants citing your very words

    The nuclear power industry has proven itself capable of making avoidable yet severe mistakes, the nuclear power apologists such as you have made it clear that they are NOT going to engage in a rational conversation, and the markets, which are supposed to be the all knowing rational being we rely on to make our decisions for us, have turned their back on their conservative handmaidens and told nuclear power that they are not interested.

  28. Lee –

    Refrain from “presentism”…the plant was built in the late 1970’s and they didn’t have access to 1980’s papers then.

    They likely didn’t have internet access, until the 1990’s.

    They probably didn’t read proceedings from the SS of America.

    In the real world, companies operate to make a profit. They don’t usually pay people to read scientific journals. Typically, an authoritative or government body periodically reviews scientific papers on a frequency of something like every 10 years (called secondary research) and they recommends or regulate changes that all companies have to follow.

    We do know that TEPCO consulted with the Japanese Society of Civil Engineers to get the best tsunami risk estimates of the day. The estimates were not made by TEPCO employees.

    I also NEVER claimed that they “didn’t underestimate the risk”. I only asked for evidence that they did. They may have, humans make errors.

  29. monster, you do understand that people are about to start a pool on how long it takes you to figure out that you’re not in the conversation you think you are, yes?

  30. great. I like swimming pools πŸ™‚
    swimming polls, not so much if there is such a thing πŸ™‚

    And in the meantime, you could try to tell me what I am supposedly missing.

  31. @hp: I’m comfortable with my level of contribution heretofore on risk assessment. How about you show us your evidence that this disaster is playing out just as expected. That would surely be of some interest!

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