Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 29: Indecent Exposure

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Much of the current news is about exposure and fallout.

As a point of information, the Sievert is a unit of “dose equivliant” from exposure to ionizing radiation. It was designed to indicate relative levels of biological effects on living organisms. This measurement technique attempts to take into account the fact that radiation is absorbed differently by different tissues. Usually we speak in terms of humans unless otherwise specified. There are one thousand millisieverts in a sievert (mSv). Zero to 0.25 Sv in a day is considered to have no effect. At up to one Sv people feel sick and more susceptible tissues are damaged. 10 Sv in a day is deadly. As one goes from 1 to 10 Sv in a day things get worse. If a person is esposed to about 6 Sv in a day or more, they won’t die that day. But later, they probably will. Some of the numbers are given in microsieverts, one thousand times less than a millisievert.

In practice, it is common to measure the effects of radiation exposure accumulated over longer time periods. For example, one measures the maximum dose allowed for US radiation-related workers at 50 mSv per year. When mSv is being discussed in most of the text in Ana’s feed (below) you should assume “per year” is meant if not stated, unless otherwise indicated, although in some cases it seems that the measure being used is accumulated to date, which is closer to one fourth of a year.

The question has been raised; Are increased radiation levels across North America sufficient to explain a jump in infant mortality seen since Fukushima, or is that a coincidence? These deaths are concentrated in the region that would have a larger increase of exposure (the west coast). Probably not. Fukushima is so far away. Babies are so … tough and able to withstand toxic insults. And you can’t see radiation, so how bad can it be? Anyway, it ends up that this is probably some very creative data cooking.

One of the main problems at Fukushima at present is the highly radioactive water flooding the structures’ basements. As this water is being pumped around a certain unspecified (probably unknown) amount of radioactive material is being removed from it. In theory, it is possible to remove most of the raidioisotope from the water, but then one is stuck with a pile of radioactive carbon filtering material. An unknown amount of water is leaking from the plant before being contaminated. Efforts to decrease the amount of water being pumped into the plant, and thus becoming contaminated, were tried but resulted in increasing heat in a reactor core.

The other main, continuing story is the growing understanding of how poorly prepared TEPCO was for any sort of disaster at the plant, and how much sweeping under the rug was going on after the earthquake and tsunami.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to reinforce the Number 4 reactor spent fuel rod containment pool which is thought to be too weak to sustain a serious earthquake. Reinforcement is in fact being put in place but it will be several more weeks before that job is done. The water in the containment pool is still quite hot.

Enigmatically, even though the situation at Fukushima improves only very slowly and radiation continues to spew from the plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency no longer sees it as the top story, and it is now supplanted by various IAEA activities and an FAQ about nuclear safety, relegated to page two, as it were, of their web site. The latest update is still JUne 2nd.

Ana’s Feed

Gov’t calls TEPCO radiation exposure standards ‘overly optimistic’ – Mainichi News, June 15

-As the number of workers exposed to high levels of radiation at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant increases, the government is accusing plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) of slack radiation dose calculations.

-"From the start, the way TEPCO calculates internal radiation exposure has been overly optimistic," a senior Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare official stated.

-On June 14, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Ritsuo Hosokawa directed TEPCO to withdraw any worker exposed to more than 100 millisieverts of internal radiation at the disaster-stricken plant, sparking a dispute between the company and the government over radiation dose calculation standards, and delaying the implementation of worker safety-first policies at the plant.

-"We tried to persuade TEPCO to use a rigorous calculation method but the company wouldn’t give in. In fact we’re still at odds over the issue," the labor ministry’s standards bureau told the Mainichi.

-Meanwhile, an attorney for former nuclear plant workers suing TEPCO has called Hosokawa’s 100 millisievert internal radiation exposure limit "too high."

-"That there hasn’t been an internal radiation exposure limit before is also a major problem," said attorney Atsushi Suzuki, adding, "There are cases of multiple myeloma (a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell) from exposure to 70 millisieverts of annual external radiation, and cases of leukemia caused by just 5 millisieverts. The internal radiation doses Fukushima plant workers have been exposed to just leave me at a loss for words."


Fukushima Workers Tackle Highly Radioactive Water – NPR, June 15

-The challenge is to remove radioactive cesium and other elements that are dissolved in the water.

-The water is being pumped from the flooded basements into holding tanks. From those tanks it will go through a filtration system, something like a charcoal filter, and that captures some of the radioactive material.

-"We can reduce the radioactivity of the contaminated water by a factor of at least a thousand, so it will be significantly less radioactive than when it was coming in." – Jarret Adams, spokesman for AREVA, the French nuclear company working with TEPCO

-Next, the water will run into a system built by the French nuclear company Areva. They use a chemical reaction to turn the dissolved cesium into a solid material.


Panel to urge Fukushima Pref. to stop relying on nuclear power plants – Kyodo, June 15

US nuclear regulatory body debates plant safety – NHK, June 16

-The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the NRC has debated if the drawing up of guidelines for severe catastrophes at nuclear power plants should be left to efforts by the nuclear industry.


Tsuruga mayor still supports plan to build 2 more reactors – Kyodo, June 16

Radioactive material detected in Iwate pastures – NHK, June 16

-The Iwate Prefectural Government has again detected a radioactive substance above the state limit in pasture grass in several areas in the prefecture. The prefecture asked farmers in the areas to refrain from feeding the grass to their livestock.


eSci: Unsafe Radiation Found Near Tokyo, Vast Area of Japan Contaminated – Daily Kos, June 16

-Japan is dangerously contaminated by radioactivity over a far larger area than previously reported by TEPCO and the central government according to new reports from multiple sources. The prefectural government of Iwate released new data that shows radioactive contamination of grass exceeds safety standards at a distance of 90 to 125 miles from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants.

-A map of citizen measured radiation levels shows radioactivity is distributed in a complex pattern reflecting the mountainous terrain and the shifting winds across a broad area of Japan north of Tokyo which is in the center of the of bottom of the map.


Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think – AlJazeera, June 16

-"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.


Yokohama checks school lunches for radiation – NHK, June 16

-Yokohama City, located hundreds of kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has begun radiation testing of vegetables for school lunches.

-The city started the tests on Thursday in response to parents’ concerns about whether food served in school is safe for their children, given the widespread fallout from the Fukushima plant.

-Several other municipalities in Tokyo and surrounding areas have already started or plan to soon start similar tests.


TEPCO: Opening door of No.2 reactor is safe – NHK, June 16

-Tokyo Electric said on Thursday that an air purification device, which has been working since last Saturday, has reduced radioactive concentration inside the building to levels that have little impact on the nearby environment.

-The utility said the concentration of radioactive iodine in the air has been reduced to about one-10th of former levels and radioactive cesium to about a quarter, as of Wednesday night.


Japan: Tepco to build sarcophagus over Fukushima reactor – The Telegraph, June 16

-The operator of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has announced plans to construct a shroud over one of the reactor buildings, a stop-gap measure until a more permanent solution can be found, such as entombing the facility in concrete.

-Tokyo Electric Power Co. will start the construction of a rigid steel frame over the No. 1 reactor on June 27, Yoshikazu Nagai, a spokesman for the company, said.

-The frame, which is being put together off-site, will support polyester fibre panels that have been coated with a resin designed to prevent further radiation leaking into the atmosphere.

-The entire structure will be put together by remotely controlled cranes and other vehicles in order to minimise the amount of radiation the company’s emergency repair crews are exposed to, Mr Nagai said.


Govt sets policy to handle radiation sludge – NHK, June 16

-Radioactive material has been detected in sludge from waste water treatment plants in many areas, mainly in eastern Japan, since the crisis began at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

-The guidelines released by the government’s nuclear disaster taskforce on Thursday say disposal facilities with filters will be used to prevent radiation leaks from fumes that are created when sludge is burned or dissolved.

-The guidelines say sludge measuring over 8,000 to 100,000 becquerels of radiation can be buried in waste disposal sites, after steps are taken to limit nearby residents’ annual exposure to 10 microsieverts or lower.


Govt to designate new evacuation spots near plant – NHK, June 16

-The government estimates that accumulated levels of radiation in some spots in cities near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, including Date and Minami Soma, will reach the yardstick for one year.

-The task force says it is not appropriate to issue an evacuation order or restrict industrial activities in entire areas.

-The government plans to ask relevant municipalities for cooperation in evacuating pregnant women and children, primarily.


Monitoring the Monitors – Slate, June 16

-Three months have passed since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant spun out of control and began spewing radiation into the air and sea. Things have settled down a bit since the first jittery days, when the Chinese went on a salt-buying spree believing the iodine in it would protect them, Californians snatched up potassium iodide pills to counteract thyroid-gland poisoning, and Geiger counters flew off the shelves everywhere. Uncertainty fueled much of the hysteria. And the question remains: Who can we trust to monitor fallout from Fukushima?


Radioactive sushi fear hits markets – Globalpost, June 16

-There is much to admire about the dispossessed fishermen of Tohoku, the region of northeast Japan destroyed by the March 11th tsunami. They will repair their boats, rebuild ports and, in some cases, overcome their fear of returning to the sea.

-But there is one consequence of the disaster over which they are powerless: coastal waters contaminated by the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, and consumers at home and abroad whose love of sushi has succumbed to fear of radioactivity.

-The impact of safety concerns is being felt across Asia, as nervous diners avoid Japanese restaurants, even though no seafood imports have tested positive for dangerous levels of radiation. One restaurant in Taiwan went as far as providing customers with personal Geiger counters to accompany their sushi orders.


TEPCO Reactor 4 SFP Large Release Fukushima Daiichi June 16 – CompassNorthChicago, youtube


Rising water, falling journalism – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 16

-In Blair, in Council Bluffs, and in my hometown of Omaha — which are all less than 20 miles from the Fort Calhoun Station — some people haven’t forgotten that flooding is what caused the power loss at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the disastrous partial meltdowns that followed. They’re wondering what the floodwaters might do if they were to reach Fort Calhoun’s electrical systems.

-Newspapers and websites all over the country have reported on the flooding and fire at Fort Calhoun, but most articles simply paraphrase and regurgitate information from the NRC and OPPD press releases, which aggregators and bloggers then, in turn, simply cut and paste. Even the Omaha World-Herald didn’t send local reporters to cover the story; instead, the newspaper published an article on the recent fire written by Associated Press reporters — based in Atlanta and Washington.


Flood Rumor Control – Special Comment from the Omaha Public Power District on "rumors" about the Fort Calhoun Plant


Radioactive water still threatens to overflow – NHK, June 16

-The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is under pressure to ensure the flawless operation of a system to decontaminate radioactive water, which threatens to overflow.


Leaking water may delay decontamination – NHK, June 17

-Treatment of the contaminated water is key to controlling the nuclear crisis.

-The highly radioactive water is building up at a rate of 500 tons a day as fresh water is being poured onto the reactors to cool them down.

-The main facility to store radioactive water reached capacity on Thursday, and any delay in launching the treatment system could cause contaminated water to overflow in 10 days.


Leak source identified at Fukushima Daiichi plant – NHK, June 17

-The system’s final test run was suspended on Thursday night after water was found leaking from a US-made device that removes radioactive cesium. The device is one of the major components of the system.

-Company officials found that an air ventilation valve in one of the containers comprising the device had been damaged. They also discovered that a water valve in another container was closed.


NRC: No flood danger at reactor- Omaha Herald, June 17

-Despite the stunning sight of the Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor surrounded by water and the weeks of flooding that lie ahead, the plant is in a safe cold shutdown and can remain so indefinitely, the reactor’s owners and federal regulators say.

-“We think they’ve taken adequate steps to protect the plant and to assure continued safety,” Victor Dricks, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Thursday.


Mini Nuclear Reactors: TVA Signs Letter Of Intent To Build First In U.S. – HuffPost, June 17

-Pushing ahead with ambitious nuclear plans, the Tennessee Valley Authority signed a letter of intent to become the nation’s first electricity provider to build small modular reactors.

-Spokesmen for the nation’s largest public utility and Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy subsidiary Generation mPower in Charlotte, N.C., said Friday that the letter signed in late May outlines plans for building up to six of the mini reactors at TVA’s vacant Clinch River site west of Knoxville in East Tennessee.

-TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said the utility is pursuing possible development of a single small reactor to start operating by 2020. He said they would be built in pairs. Johnson said the small reactors each could supply enough power to support about 70,000 homes, about one-tenth of a large reactor.

-The cost and who will pay it are not known.


Japan Strains to Fix a Reactor Damaged Before Quake – NYT, June 17

-Three hundred miles southwest of Fukushima, at a nuclear reactor perched on the slopes of this rustic peninsula, engineers are engaged in another precarious struggle.

-The Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor — a long-troubled national project — has been in a precarious state of shutdown since a 3.3-ton device crashed into the reactor’s inner vessel, cutting off access to the plutonium and uranium fuel rods at its core.

-Engineers have tried repeatedly since the accident last August to recover the device, which appears to have gotten stuck. They will make another attempt as early as next week.

-But critics warn that the recovery process is fraught with dangers because the plant uses large quantities of liquid sodium, a highly flammable substance, to cool the nuclear fuel.


Au revoir to Atomic Anne – The Economist, June 17

-Ms Lauvergeon had made an enemy of Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president. She pushed forcefully for Areva to become more independent of the state, and rowed publicly with Henri Proglio, the boss of EDF, France’s nuclear utility, who is close to Mr Sarkozy. Under her management, the firm suffered industrial setbacks. Areva’s most important project, the construction of a new EPR in Finland, has gone far over budget and over schedule. In 2009 Siemens, a German engineering firm, unexpectedly pulled out of a joint venture with Areva. The government reckons that Ms Lauvergeon allowed the relationship to deteriorate.


Moms Turn Activists in Japanese Crisis – Wall Street Journal, June 17

-Fueled by online networking, mothers like Ms. Osaku are now putting increased pressure on Japanese officials at the national and local level to better protect their children. On Thursday, one small group gathered in Tokyo to protest–the latest in a handful of similar demonstrations by mothers–attracting considerable media attention.

-Ms. Osaku and her friends circulated an online petition, which garnered 10,000 signatures, demanding the local government take more action. They met with the Kashiwa City deputy mayor on June 2, and have asked that radiation levels in school be measured daily. But they say there has been little progress. "They just listened to us and made no commitment," says Ms. Osaku.


Fukushima City expands radiation checks – NHK, June 17

-The city has been monitoring radiation levels at around 160 places, including parks and schools, and released the results on its website.

-On Friday, 1,045 locations, including roads in residential areas, were added to the check list, to respond to residents’ demands for more information about radiation levels.


TEPCO account of first 5 days – NHK, June 17

-Tokyo Electric Power Company has compiled a document on what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant during the first 5 days after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear accident.

-The approximately 50-page document chronicles in detail the events that took place at the plant, centering on reactors 1, 2 and 3, as well as TEPCO’s responses.

-The document will soon be made public.


Local govts skeptical about sludge guidelines – NHK, June 17

-The guidelines permit sludge with radiation levels of up to 8,000 becquerels per kilogram to be buried after waterproofing steps are taken. Even under these conditions, eight of the respondents said they cannot locate appropriate disposal sites.

-Three others said they are not sure whether they can ease their residents’ concerns.

-Twelve said the government should provide detailed instructions on how to dispose of the sludge rather than leaving it up to them. Some said the task is too large to handle at the regional level.

-Seventeen of the respondents urged the government to offer concrete methods of disposal, find appropriate disposal sites, or shoulder the costs of the operations.


7 prefectures unable to decide on restart of nuclear plants – Kyodo, June 17

Damage found to 43 pipes in steam condenser at Hamaoka atomic plant – Kyodo, June 17

Tritium Leaks Found at Many Nuke Sites – ABC News, June 17

-Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

-The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

-Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP’s yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.

-At three sites — two in Illinois and one in Minnesota — leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes, the records show, but not at levels violating the drinking water standard. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean.


Northwest sees 35% infant mortality spike post-Fukushima – Seattle’s Q13 FOX News, June 17

-The average number of infant deaths for the region moved from an average of 9.25 in the four weeks before Fukushima’ nuclear meltdown, to an average of 12.5 per week in the 10 weeks after. The change represents a 35% increase in the northwest’s infant mortality rates.

-In comparison, the average rates for the entire U.S. rose only 2.3%.


Activists urge gov’t to allow animal rescue groups into Fukushima no-entry zone – Japan Today, June 17

-“The suffering that’s happening right now in the Fukushima evacuation zone is staggering,” said Stephanie Feldstein, editor for Change.org. “Born Free USA has given those forgotten animals a voice, and thousands from the Change.org community have stepped up to support them.”

-The Japan Anti-Vivisection Association believes that nearly 675,000 farm animals lived in the evacuation zone prior to the disaster. As few as 1,000 are still alive. The number of cats and dogs is unknown, but as of May 23, only 75 animals had been rescued from the evacuation zone. The rest have been forced to scrounge for what food, water and shelter they can find. Some have even been caught on video roaming the highly radioactive site of the nuclear power plant itself.

-On May 10, the Japanese government eased the barricades, starting a rotation that would allow residents of certain villages to enter for two hours at a time, during which they may crate or tie up their animals outside so government officials can collect them. It is uncertain how quickly that will happen, and there is still no plan for the surviving farm animals.


Japan finds hot spots in areas that seemed safe – Washington Post, June 18

-As Ohara residents like Ichiro Tani, 62, and Toyoaki Matsushita, 54 — longtime friends — now know, estimating one’s radiation risk is a fraught undertaking. In their mountainside town, a cluster of 120 households about 19 miles from the plant, levels fluctuate drastically within a few blocks.

-One resident, Toshihiko Nakano, ordered a Ukraine-made dosimeter and walks every Saturday from house to house, recording the measurements.

-In one front yard: 3.65 microsieverts per hour.

-In another: 11.3 microsieverts per hour.


U.N. nuclear report shows Japan safety shortcomings – Reuters, June 18

-Japanese nuclear regulators failed to review and approve steps taken after 2002 to protect against tsunamis at the Fukushima plant and these proved insufficient to prevent the disaster three months ago, a U.N. report showed.


Tepco begins work to clean coolant water – Japan Times, June 18

-In the short term, the utility hopes to be able to cool down the reactors in a month by circulating the decontaminated water and avoid adding to the current massive amount of radioactive water in the turbine buildings.

-Pipes for the circulating cooling systems have already been installed, so the system can start when the water treatment facility begins operations, according to Tepco.

-The utility resumed the trial run of the system and commenced full-scale operations Friday, after dealing with water leakage a day before.

-The full-scale operation of the new water treatment system is seen as a key step to containing the crisis because it would not only help reduce the polluted water but would create clean water that can be injected into the reactors, whose cooling systems were knocked out by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.


Cleanup system halted at Fukushima plant – NHK, June 18

-A new system aimed at decontaminating highly radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was halted only 5 hours after a full-fledged operation started on Friday night.

-The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company says the suspension may affect the entire cleanup plan.

-The new system began operating at around 8PM on Friday to clean the huge amount of radioactive water that had accumulated in the plant and to recycle it to cool the reactors.

-However, the operation was manually stopped shortly before 1 AM on Saturday, as the radiation level on the surface of a US-made absorption device reached 4 millisieverts per hour, the level at which it needs to be replaced.

-TEPCO had expected the device to last about a month before replacements are needed.


Japan’s nuclear clean-up suspended over radiation levels – VIDEO – BBC, June 18


Mountain of problems still remains before Fukushima plant brought under control – Mainichi Perspectives, June 18

-One cannot help but wonder how far efforts being made by the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to bring the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant under control have progressed.

-Two months have passed since TEPCO first unveiled a roadmap for bringing the crippled plant under control, but various problems that have occurred since then show the roadmap was overly optimistic.


Fukushima panel shocked by destruction – Japan Times, June 19

-Members of an expert panel investigating the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant visited the site for the first time Friday, where they were shocked by the extent of the damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, committee leader Yotaro Hatamura said.

-Hatamura, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, was one of four panel members to make the trip. They spent a couple of hours each at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 power plants.

-"The biggest impression was that something awful was happening there," Hatamura said at a news conference just before midnight Friday. "The Fukushima No. 2 plant managed to avoid a serious situation because it was able to maintain cooling functions, but the No. 1 plant, unfortunately, became a calamity."


Toxic truth about Japan’s ‘miracle’: Post-tsunami harmony is a myth and the reality is startlingly different – Daily Mail, June 18

-There is no doubt that ‘wa’ helped Japan to deal with its monumental problems; but it also means that victims suffer in silence. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, orderly queues snaked for miles for food, water and fuel. There was no looting and raping, which often accompanies natural disasters elsewhere.

-Now, though, victims break down when I meet them. Mother-of-two Mrs Hiroake has lived with her family on two mats in an evacuation shelter in Ishinomaki since the tsunami hit.

-‘We are living in a limbo with no privacy,’ she says. ‘Our lives stopped. People here are suffering mentally.’


Fukushima parents decontaminate school building – NHK, June 19

-About 80 parents and teachers at Tsukidate elementary school thoroughly washed windows and verandas with high-pressure water jets and brushes.

-The school has not detected radiation levels in excess of the legal limit, but has still suspended activities on the playground in response to concern by parents.


TEPCO: cleanup system could take time – NHK, June 19

-TEPCO says it may have absorbed larger-than-expected amounts of radioactive materials along with oil. The utility is now working on measures to solve the issue.

-TEPCO says the effort will require time. In addition, depending on the situation, it may have to reconsider the working of the entire system and examine the effect of radioactivity emitted from nearby pipes.

-There are concerns that the highly radioactive water may overflow in around one week if no measures are taken.


4 out of 5 want nuclear reactors scrapped in Japan – Kyodo, June 19

Head of Japan’s nuclear safety panel expresses regret – Mainichi News, June 19

-Haruki Madarame, the chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, has expressed deep regret over inadequate efforts to enhance the safety of nuclear power generation in the wake of the nuclear crisis, acknowledging the commission’s role of monitoring the country’s nuclear policy is one of the issues that need to be reevaluated.

-Madarame’s candid admission of problems with nuclear safety administration will likely have some impact on discussions on the fate of atomic power plants as well as on regulatory policy.


Tepco report reveals lack of preparedness – Japan Times, June 19

-According to Tepco, plant director Masao Yoshida ordered staff to prepare to lower the pressure in reactor No. 1 by venting steam from its containment vessel at 12:06 a.m. on March 12, more than eight hours after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunamic knocked out power to the plant and triggered the crisis.

-But Tepco’s records, released Saturday, show it did not have crisis-management manuals that detailed the procedure for manually opening the valves in the event of full power loss.

-Only after the situation had turned into a full-blown crisis did Tepco send workers into a quake-damaged building at the compound to grab the documents needed to check the design and other specifications of the release valve to see if it could be opened manually.

-At that point, Tepco learned that the valve actually had a handle for doing exactly that, the utility said in the report.


Scrambling for reactor manual, borrowing equipment: Report shows Japan nuke plant unprepared – Washington Post, June 19

-A new report says Japan’s tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant was so unprepared for the disaster that workers had to bring protective gear and an emergency manual from distant buildings and borrow equipment from a contractor.

-The report, released Saturday by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., is based on interviews of workers and plant data. It portrays chaos amid the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful battle to protect the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant from meltdown, and shows that workers struggled with unfamiliar equipment and fear of radiation exposure.

-When the Unit 1 reactor lost cooling functions two hours after the quake, workers tried to pump in fresh water through a fire pump, but it was broken.

-A fire engine at the plant couldn’t reach the unit because the tsunami left a huge tank blocking the driveway. Workers destroyed a power-operated gate to bring in the engine that arrived at the unit hours later. It was early morning when they finally started pumping water into the reactor — but the core had already melted by then.

-Eight of the workers who fought the initial crisis were found to have been exposed to high levels of radiation and were removed from plant work.


Japan to open airlock at crippled nuclear plant – CNN, June 19

-Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been cleared to open the No. 2 reactor building’s airlock to ease sauna-like conditions inside, the plant’s owner said Sunday.

-The Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it planned to open the heavy double doors slowly overnight, taking about eight hours to complete the process to avoid disturbing contaminated dust inside the containment building. The company has been trying to filter radioactive particles out of the air inside the building for several days, and Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency approved Friday plans to open the airlock, Tokyo Electric announced.


TEPCO opens doors at No.2 reactor – NHK, June 20

-A TEPCO official told reporters on Sunday that the planned door-opening will have almost no impact on the nearby environment.

-TEPCO says it has explained the plan to Fukushima Prefecture and 13 local municipalities. It says that when the doors are fully open, it will begin checking radiation levels and adjusting meters inside the building.


TEPCO injects water to No.4 reactor storage pool – NHK, June 20

-Tokyo Electric Power Company has been trying to reduce a high level of radiation discovered in the Number 4 reactor of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

-The utility started to inject water into a pool on the top floor which was used for storing large equipment contaminated by radiation on Sunday.

-Tokyo Electric Company discovered that the water level of the pool had dropped to about 1/3 of its capacity as of June 11th.

-TEPCO says the radiation level on the top floor is so high that workers cannot enter, but if the equipment is submerged again, the radiation level will decline enabling operations to restart.


Fukushima Disaster Failures Kept Behind Closed Doors at UN Atomic Meeting – Bloomberg, June 20

-The United Nations nuclear agency’s decision to hold talks about the Fukushima disaster behind closed doors this week ignores the “blindingly obvious” need for greater transparency, said a former official in the U.K. atomic industry.

-“People deserve openness from the industry and its regulators,” Malcolm Grimston, a former information officer at the U.K.’s Atomic Energy Authority who is a London-based policy adviser at Chatham House, said in a June 17 interview. “It is blindingly obvious that greater transparency is needed.”


France to check all Shizuoka farm items after finding tainted tea – Kyodo, June 20

2nd entrance opened at No.2 reactor – NHK, June 20

-The utility now hopes workers will be able to enter the building to begin calibrating a water level gauge for the reactor and carrying out other tasks.

-TEPCO says no significant change in radiation levels has been observed outside the plant.

-The No.2 reactor is believed to have released more radioactive substances than the other damaged reactors.


Rice planted for radiation testing in Iitate – NHK, June 20

-A government-affiliated research center on Monday planted rice in Iitate Village, where all agricultural products are under restricted cultivation. The village is located about 40 kilometers northwest of the plant.

-An average of 2,600 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of soil was detected in the rice paddy at 15 centimeters depth. The level is below the government’s upper limit of 5,000 for rice paddies. Before contaminated surface soil was removed, the cesium level was four times higher.

-The government will harvest rice from the paddy in October and then conduct tests for radioactive contamination.


Another TEPCO worker exceeds radiation limit – NHK, June 20

-Tokyo Electric Power Company reported the results of radiation checks on more than 1,100 workers at the plant to the health and labor ministry on Monday.

-The ministry said one of the workers — part of the maintenance staff at the plant — is suspected of having been exposed to 335 millisieverts.

-The ministry has told the utility to conduct checks and report the results on 125 other workers, who were engaged in operations at the plant in March but have not undergone radiation screening.


Iwaki City begins asking about evacuation – NHK, June 20

-The 2 areas, in Iwaki City, are about 30 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They are outside the evacuation zone. However, radiation of more than 3 microsieverts per hour has been recorded in the districts.

-Three microsieverts per hour is about 5 times the level of radiation in controlled areas that are designated as off-limits for civilians.


Radiation in Japan: Greenpeace Detected Cobalt-60 and High Radiation "Hot Spots" in Fukushima City in Fukushima – EX-SKF, June 20

-Shukan Gendai, a Japanese weekly magazine, had a feature article in early June (for the June 24 Issue) that described the radiation survey in Fukushima City done by Greenpeace on June 7.

-The survey team started the measurement in a park located at 5-minute driving distance from the Fukushima City Hall.

-There is a reason why they [Greenpeace] included the parks in the survey. On April 24, Fukushima Prefecture restricted the use of 5 parks in the prefecture to "1 hour per day" when the radiation exceeding 3.8 microsieverts/hour was detected, which was the national safety limit. Then, the prefectural government removed the restriction on June 6, one day before the Greenpeace survey, saying the later survey showed the radiation within the limit.

-"To begin with, 3.8 microsieverts/hour was calculated, based on the high annual radiation exposure limit of 20 millisievert, and it’s not appropriate. It isn’t just the matter of restricting the use. Parks directly affects the health of children, and should be very carefully monitored", says Greenpeace Japan’s Sato.

-The dirt pile measured 6.3 microsieverts/hour, 1.7 times the national guideline. The staff were surprised at the high number. A pile of dead leaves in the corner measured 4.2 microsievert/hour.

-More serious numbers were to come. The ground surface with weeds behind the restrooms measured 9.1 microsievert/hour, and the area near the water drain at the restroom entrance measured 12.5 microsieverts/hour.

-A local parent who accompanied the Greenpeace staff was surprised.


Japanese-made robot off to Fukushima Daiichi – NHK, June 20

-A robot developed in Japan for work at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was transported to the facility by truck on Monday. It will be the first domestic robot to be used at the plant since the nuclear crisis began in March.


Pool reinforcement continues at No.4 reactor – NHK, June 20

-The pool contains 1,535 spent fuel rods and its weakened structure makes it vulnerable to future earthquakes.

-TEPCO on Monday completed one stage of the reinforcement that began late last month. 32 iron pillars, each 8 meters tall and weighing 40 tons, were installed beneath the pool on the 2nd floor of the reactor building.

-The utility plans to wrap the pillars in concrete by the end of next month.

-It hopes to lower the temperature of the pool at the No. 4 reactor, which remains high at around 86 degrees Celsius.


Fukushima report shows nuclear power can never be safe and cheap – Damian Carrington’s Environment Blog, Guardian, June 20

-The first "independent" review of the Fukushima nuclear disaster was published today and it does not make reassuring reading.

-Japan is perhaps the most technologically advanced nation on Earth and yet, time after time, the report finds missing measures that I would have expected to already be in place. It highlights the fundamental inability for anyone to anticipate all future events and so deeply undermines the claims of the nuclear industry and its supporters that this time, with the new generation of reactors, things will be different.

-I used quote marks on the word "independent" because the report comes from the International Atomic Energy Association (pdf) (IAEA) which, while independent of Japan, is far from independent from the nuclear industry it was founded to promote. But this conflict of interest only makes the findings of the IEAE’s experts more startling.


Preventing radiation contamination more important than TEPCO’s stock prices – Mainichi Perspectives, June 20

-Some people have suggested that I start to write about something other than nuclear power plants, but with the situation as it is, that’s not going to happen. The crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is still not over. Far from it, there are signs that it is getting worse. I can’t stand by and look at the political situation without focusing on this serious event.

-One figure who has entered the public spotlight in the wake of the nuclear crisis is 61-year-old Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute and a controversialist in the anti-nuclear debate. A specialist in nuclear power, Koide has garnered attention as a persistent researcher who has sounded the alarm over the dangers of this form of energy without seeking fame.

-In a TV Asahi program on June 16, Koide made the following comment:

"As far as I can tell from the announcements made by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the nuclear fuel that has melted down inside reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant has gone through the bottom of the containers, which are like pressure cookers, and is lying on the concrete foundations, sinking into the ground below. We have to install a barrier deep in the soil and build a subterranean dam as soon as possible to prevent groundwater contaminated with radioactive materials from leaking into the ocean."

-Sumio Mabuchi, an aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan who is dealing with nuclear power plant issues, holds the same concerns as those expressed by Koide and has sought an announcement on construction of an underground dam, but TEPCO has resisted such a move.

-In my possession, I have a copy of the guidelines that TEPCO presented to the government on how to handle press releases. The title of the document, dated June 13, is "Underground boundary’ — Regarding the press." It is split into five categories on how to handle the announcement of construction of an underground boundary. In essence, it says, "We are considering the issue under the guidance of prime ministerial aide Mabuchi, but we don’t want to be seen as having excess liabilities, so we’re keeping the details confidential."


Nuclear watchdog wants new safety checks after Fukushima – BBC News, June 20

-The head of the UN nuclear watchdog has called for strengthened international safety checks to help prevent a repeat of Japan’s nuclear crisis at Fukushima.

-Yukiya Amano said UN experts should be able to carry out random reviews of nuclear power stations.

-Mr Amano said nations had to respond to the great public anxiety caused by the Fukushima accident.

-"Public confidence in the safety of nuclear power has been badly shaken. However, nuclear power will remain important for many countries, so it is imperative that the most stringent safety measures and implemented everywhere," he said.


U.S. Nuclear Regulator Faces Fresh Scrutiny for Bending Safety Standards – ProPublica, June 20

-While nuclear regulators in the United States don’t have their Japanese counterparts’ explicit dual mission of both regulating the industry and promoting nuclear energy, an investigation by the Associated Press published today shows that in several critical ways, the two countries’ regulatory agencies may not be so different.


Flooding Brings Worries Over Two Nuclear Plants – NYT, June 20

-David Lochbaum, a reactor expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is generally critical of reactor safety, said the commission had found only two “yellow” problems nationwide last year but had substantially lowered the risk of problems by insisting on changes.

-“Kudos to the N.R.C. for taking proactive steps last year to make Fort Calhoun better protected against this year’s flood,” he said.


IAEA ministers agree to more nuke regulations – NHK, June 20

-The participants unanimously adopted a ministerial declaration, agreeing that the IAEA will send experts to review the safety of nuclear power plants on a regular basis.

-Some emerging economies are reluctant to strengthen safety regulations because of the cost of building and maintaining nuclear plants.


Environment Ministry to approve incineration of rubble contaminated with radiation – Mainichi News, June 20

-The Environment Ministry has decided to approve the proposed incineration of rubble contaminated with radiation from the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant at existing incineration facilities equipped with exhaust gas filters and absorption devices, officials said.

-No law currently provides for ways to dispose of waste contaminated with radiation from a crippled nuclear power plant. After consultations between ministries and agencies concerned, the government decided to apply the Waste Disposal and Public Cleaning Law to the disposal of radioactive rubble.


UK government’s Fukushima crisis plan based on bigger leak than Chernobyl – Guardian, June 20

-The British government made contingency plans at the height of the Fukushima nuclear crisis which anticipated a "reasonable worst case scenario" of the plant releasing more radiation than Chernobyl, new documents released to the Guardian show.

-The grim assessment was used to underpin plans by the British embassy in Tokyo to issue protective iodine pills to expats and visitors. It also prompted detailed plans by Cobra, the government’s emergency committee, to scramble specialist teams to screen passengers returning from Japan at UK airports for radioactive contamination.

-A substantial number of documents were withheld on grounds that they contained "information which, if disclosed, would adversely affect international relations," the government’s civil contingencies team said.


Exploring Fukushima city – RT, June 20

-This particular reading shows that radiation levels in this hotspot are 810 times the acceptable levels. This picture was taken in Fukushima city, 60km outside the banned area. The city has been declared safe by the Japanese government.


Playground Radiation in Kashiwa Japan June 20, 2011 – citizen reporting, youtube

-I’m here at a local playground in Kashiwa Japan just taking some geiger counter readings. Yes that is 6.46µSv/h right there on the play ground! The kids just keep on playing, its actually very sad if you think about it. Many of us here have been desperately trying to raise awareness. However, the government is still trying to keep this out of the news.


Tokyo area parents’ radiation worries grow with discovery of local ‘hotspots’ – Mainichi News, June 21

-More than three months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, Tokyo region residents are becoming increasingly worried over radiation exposure as a number of radioactive "hotspots" have been discovered in and around the capital.

-Local governments are calling for calm, as annual doses of radiation at the hotspots — sites where radiation levels are significantly higher than their surroundings — would not exceed 20 millisieverts as they do in parts of Fukushima Prefecture. Residents are nevertheless calling on their local governments to take some kind of action.


More people in Fukushima fearing contamination – NHK, June 21

-The highest level recorded was 2.45 microsieverts per hour at 1 meter above the ground in the houses’ backyards.

-The mother of an 8-year-old girl said she has been worried since the nuclear accident in March. She said she thinks it is a bit late for city officials to address their concerns.


Atom industry body urges cost-effective safety – Reuters, June 21

-Steps to boost atomic safety after Japan’s Fukushima accident must be "cost-effective", an industry body said on Tuesday, a day after the UN nuclear chief suggested power firms could help pay for expanded safety checks.

-John Ritch, director general of the World Nuclear Association, said the industry had been struggling in the last decade to limit capital costs while building a new generation of reactors.

-"In this context, it is crucially important that regulatory actions taken in response to Fukushima have demonstrable benefit arising from any increased costs," he told a major international safety conference, according to a copy of his speech.

-"Focus solely on cost-effective measures," he said.


U.S. sees room to improve nuclear plant safety – Reuters, June 21

-U.S. regulators see room to improve safety at the country’s nuclear power plants even though tests after the Fukushima disaster have shown they are fundamentally sound, the top U.S. watchdog said on Tuesday.

-More than two-thirds of the way through a 90-day task force review to see if the Japanese catastrophe had exposed any issues that needed quick action, a mixed picture was emerging, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said.

-"At this point we continue to believe that in the United States the plants operate safely and that the system we have is a robust safety system but we do believe that there are areas where we can make improvements," he told reporters in Vienna.


Moody’s cuts nuclear operator Tepco rating to junk status – Reuters, June 21

-Moody’s Investors Service cut its credit rating on Tokyo Electric Power Co to junk status on Monday and kept the operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant on review for possible further downgrade, citing uncertainty over the fate of its bailout plan.


NPPD: Nuke Plant Could Be Shut Down “In Three Seconds”, Critics Still Worry – Missouri News Horizon, June 21

-Even in the face of key safety questions over the years, some as recently as two months ago, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) insists the 37-year-old Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville, which sits on the raging Missouri River, is as secure as they come.

-On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the safest, Alan Dostal who is NPPD’s nuclear expert says, “We are an absolutely safe plant, that’s a 10.”

-Dostal’s comments came during an interview with Nebraska Watchdog on March 29, five days before three workers at Cooper were exposed to radiation. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a fuel rod accident triggered alarms that are worn by the workers. NPPD says the incident which is still under investigation did not cause any apparent injuries but was “unacceptable.” The NRC wants “to understand why normal work practices were not followed.”


Fukushima ‘still a ticking time bomb’ – CNN, June 21

-Famed physicist Michio Kaku says Japanese officials still don’t have control of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.


Rainy season begins in Tohoku – NHK, June 21

-Weather officials are advising caution against mudslides, floods, lightning and strong winds in some areas affected by earthquakes since March, as tremors may have loosened the ground.


Whereabouts of 30 nuclear power plant subcontractors unknown: Health Ministry – Mainichi News, June 21

-The workers are among some 3,700 who worked to control the disaster in March, the month the plant was struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

-The workers’ names were listed in records showing that they had been loaned dosimeters, but when the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), contacted the companies they were associated with, the companies replied that there was no record of those workers.

-The ministry has branded TEPCO’s administration of workers "sloppy" and ordered the company to conduct an investigation to identify the workers.


Temperature at No.3 reactor rises – NHK, June 22

-The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says temperatures at the No.3 reactor have started to rise after it reduced the injection rate of cooling water. The cutback is part of efforts to prevent possible overflows of radioactive water at the facility.

-On Tuesday, Tokyo Electric Power Company reduced the amount of fresh water it has been injecting into 3 of the plant’s reactors. The volume was cut back by 0.5 tons per hour at the No. 1 and 2 reactors, and by 1 ton at the No.3 reactor.

-TEPCO says that by 5 AM on Wednesday, temperatures at the upper and lower parts of the No.3 reactor had risen by 4 and 7 degrees Celsius, respectively, from the day before. But it says temperatures at the other 2 reactors remained relatively stable.


Plant decontamination not working – NHK, June 22

-The Tokyo Electric Power Company is looking into why a system for decontaminating radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is not working as expected, delaying resumption of the system’s full-scale operation.

-The firm on Wednesday published data showing the amount of radioactive materials that had been removed from contaminated water during a test run of the US-made system.

-The data show that density of Cesium-13 and Cesium-137 dropped to only one-100th of initial levels.

-An earlier test run using water with a lower density of radioactivity showed a drop to about one-1000th.


Work begins inside No.2 reactor building – NHK, June 22

-On Wednesday afternoon, workers found humidity levels inside the building to be between 46 and 65 percent.

-Following the findings, they began fixing a water gauge and installing surveillance cameras on the ground floor.

-High radiation levels were measured at some spots on the second floor. In one area readings came in at 97.2 millisieverts per hour, compared 15 to 60 millisieverts per hour on the ground floor.

-Wastewater contaminated with nuclear material was 6.1 meters deep in the basement, with surface radiation levels between 388 and 430 millisieverts per hour.


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13 thoughts on “Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 29: Indecent Exposure

  1. You write: “10 mSv in a day is deadly. As one goes from 1 to 10 mSv in a day things get worse. If a person is esposed to about 6 mSv in a day or more, they won’t die that day. But later, they probably will.”

    You might like to check and correct those figures!

  2. To Nick…this is the 29th in a series of jokes.

    To Tom…he doesn’t even understand the difference between “exposure” and “dose”, don’t expect anything with numb-ers to be correct.

  3. [The Fort Calhoun] plant is in a safe cold shutdown and can remain so indefinitely, the reactor’s owners and federal regulators say.

    I have no independent way of knowing whether this statement is true or false. But I remember hearing similar statements about Fukushima Daiichi back in March. I hope this time they’re right, but I have to be skeptical given the industry’s track record.

  4. Not to pile on too much; I think, Greg, you (or your source) accidentally left the milli- prefix where it shouldn’t have been, for your first paragraph above. 1Sv, not 1mSv, may make some people feel sick. 10Sv may be deadly; 10mSv will not even be noticeable.

  5. US nuclear facilities generally use “millirem” as the unit of exposure, where one milliSievert (mSv) is equial to 100 millrem. A general review of radiation and dose rates for the lay person is included in my book “Rad Decision: A Novel of Nuclear Power”. It is available free online at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com and there is a link to the radiation chapter at the homepage. There are also many reviews in the homepage comments. (No ads, no one makes $$$ of the site.)

    I’ve worked in the US nuclear industry 25 years and have written a story that captures both the routine workings of an American atomic plant and what an accident might be like. (The event portrayed is similar to Fukushima – same reactor type, same initial problem.) I tried to cover the good AND the bad — like anything, it’s a mix. Unfortunately, my media presence consists of this little-known book and website, so I’m not an acknowledged “expert”. I just do the nuclear stuff for a living.

    One of the interesting things about modern nuclear power in the US is that few really understand how it works day to day, and I include in that bin most scientists and journalists doing their best to address the topic. If we are to make better decisions about our energy future, we’d do well to first understand our energy present.

    â??I got to about page four and I was hooked, I couldnâ??t put it downâ?¦ It was very easy to read.” — DAVID LEVY, noted science author and comet discoverer.

    VICKY commented at the homepage: “Thanks for making this available onlineâ?¦. Your novel explains the workings of a nuclear plant, so that a layperson can understand. A very suspenseful read!”

  6. healthphysicist, could you please explain what is wrong with the use of “exposre” and “dose” here?

  7. Andrew-

    Exposure is the energy absorbed by air from radiation. Dose is the energy absorbed by human tissue by radiation. Since air and tissue have different densities, the energy absorption per unit length travelled by radiation is different in each medium (note there is no single tissue density, bone tissue density is different than lung tissue density for example, whereas air is pretty homogenous).

    The Gray is actually the term for dose (joules/kg of absorbed radiation energy). However, different types of radiation (alpha, beta, neutron, etc.) produce different biological effects for the same dose. The Sievert employs a radiation weighting factor to account for this. The Sievert is then a unit of dose equivalence. However, there is another concept which also relates the tissue sensitivity (not all tissues equally sensitive) to the dose and radiation weighting factor. That concept is called the effective dose equivalent and also has units of Sievert.

    So it can be quite confusing and you won’t get an appreciation of the important nuances from the mainstream press – which seems to be Greg’s preferred source of scientific information. There are reliable scientific sources of information, but don’t look to this blog for it.

  8. HP, sorry, your very informative comment was held in moderation until just now.

    Looking at your comment and my post, though, I think you failed to answer Andrew’s question. I’d love to know what I got wrong so I can fix it. Or are you just going to continue to be a self congratulating undocumented (as in, we really have no idea who you are) obnoxious shit, as usual?

  9. Greg –

    Why does it matter to you who I am? Are you a sucker for Argument From Authority? My comments are scientifically sound, though that may be obnoxious shit for you. Too fucking bad. Defend your arguments against my arguments, not who I am.

    I fully answered Andrew’s question, but I will provide an analogy for the Landenites.

    Suppose I put you in a room with 100 malaria-Laden mosquitos for an hour. Your Exposure is 100 mosquito-hours.

    But if only three mosquitos bite you, then your Dose is 3 mosquito-hours.

    Exposure is different than dose.

    I don’t expect too many people reading this blog to understand the difference. Hopefully there is one or two.

  10. HP: Again, you are being obnoxious. You are abusing the privilege of anonymity by acting in a way no one would (usually, normally) act if we knew your name, but for no good. You’re not using your anonymity for an good purpose here. I am not a sucker for argument from authority, but you have made the argument from authority, and have not seen fit to back up what your qualifications are.

    I may be wrong about what Andrew was asking, but I think he was asking you not to blather on about exposure and dose, but to point out where in this post it was wrong. Which you have not done.

    I don’t expect too many people reading this blog to understand the difference. Hopefully there is one or two.

    Oh. You just insulted my readers.


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