It has been Just over six months since a magnitude 9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In the hours following that incident, nuclear power protagonists filled the blogosphere, the news outlets, and other media with assurances that little could go wrong, that the reactors would be managed, that the disaster would demonstrate, once things had settled down, that nuclear power was, indeed, safe.
One of the first things Ana and I noticed, and we were not alone, is that some of the same stories … in some cases the same exact wording … was showing up in various places, as though planted by apologists for the nuclear power industry. But more worrying than that may have been the naivete of many who were seemingly very trusting of the nuclear power industry than they probably should have been, quite innocently. And, it was becoming increasingly clear that many members of the skeptics community had become convinced over the last several years that anti-nuclear sentiment was irrational, and that somehow this translated into a blind trust for the nuclear power industry being the most rational course. Today, six months after the earthquake, we know that three of the plants fully melted down. We have a rough estimate of how much nuclear material was released from a point in time a few days after the accident to the present, but for the first few days, the estimates are very poor and the amount being released was probably very high, because that is when the meltdowns were occurring. And, there is reason to believe that most of the radioactive material released from this plant was released (and is still being released) into the sea, pretty much uncounted.
The following is a non-comprehensive timeline of some of the events over the first several days of the disaster mixed in with selected comments on this blog, mostly just the very few updates in this series or related posts.
9:45 pm local time: 10 mag earthquake hits. The reactors’ cooling systems are irreparably damaged by the earthquake.
10:15 pm: Tsunami hits Fukushima coast. Further damage occurs at the plant.
~2:00 am local time, Reactor No 1 is in full meltdown. Most of the nuclear fuel from the reactor escaped the containment vessel and much of that is currently unaccounted for but is probably in the lower pressure vessel and somewhere in the lower parts of the reactor building or in the geological formations underneath it.
Structure over Reactor 1 blows up.
Reactor 2 has probably melted down by now.
Partial Meltdown at Unit 3.
A meltdown isn’t apparently what really is to be feared. It wouldn’t mean that the reactor containment is breached, which would be really catastrophic. 3 Mile Island was a partial meltdown but not much radiation was released. So to the people asking about which direction the wind is blowing from Japan, calm down 🙂
“Bill Nye thinks the situation is much worse than the government would have us believe.”
March 14th plus or minus 30 hours, Reactor 3 fully melts down, unnoticed. Structure over Reactor 3 blows up.
It is generally felt by nuclear power apologists that it is fairly normal for the structures to blow up and there is no real meaning to it. In retrospect, it seems that the explosion of the structures was linked to the meltdowns.
Explosion in the “pressure suppression room” damages Reactor 2’s containment system.
Reactor 4 fuel rods catch fire.
Greg, I thought you were a more rational blogger than this; you are inadvertently feeding into the hysteria around this situation with the Fukushima nuclear plants by referencing shoddy media reporting. I suggest you and others here take a look at my blog post on the matter … Please take some time to read up on information regarding the Fukushima incident from reputable sources that understand the nuclear physics & engineering involved. Otherwise, you are merely feeding the hysteria.
The upper half of the visible portions of those buildings (the parts that “got all blowed up”) are not part of the primary containment. The lower half of the building holds the primary containment. The upper portion is a storage/utility area that is more like typical building construction, whereas the lower portion is built to be far, far stronger. The destruction of the upper level in several of the buildings is a bit misleading as it really is not indicative of the reactor sections of the buildings. Probably a good comparison for you is the Metrodome: the badly damaged roof is not an indication that the Metrodome was destroyed (other than the roof, the rest of the Metrodome is virtually untouched). I think the current belief is that only building 3 has sustained damage to primary containment.
Currently, only radioactive decay is occurring, not a fission reaction. A fission reaction is bad because, not only does it make more heat, but it creates more radioactive isotopes, which will also decay and continue to create more heat.
Since I have a feeling you will read the previous sentence as me suggesting that “everything is fine,” let me be clear. That the reactors themselves have not become significantly worse over the last few days does not mean the situation is not tenuous. They could lose more coolant and still have a meltdown.
In the case of the reactors (even with the partially melted fuel rods), the presence of the control rods and the added boron all prevent this type of sustained reaction by interfering with the neutrons. The boron really poisons the reactions because it absorbs neutrons very well, which is why you might have heard about them seemingly putting boron into everything.
If the reactors go into (full) meltdown, there is a possibility of “criticality” where the molten mass of uranium/cladding/etc. happens to get in a shape where a fission reaction can be sustained, but I think most experts (even those leaning to the anti-nuclear side) would agree this is very unlikely.
I agree that there’s not enough data to know the probability of failure *precisely*. But we can certainly bound it. In something like 14,000 reactor-years of operation there have been three disasters. Maybe the actual rate is 1 in 1,000 years, maybe it’s 1 in 10,000 years. It’s not 1 in 100 years.
I repeat, there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors.
By “significant” I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation….
Dr Oehman is in fact wrong. Partly. Because he’s talking about the wrong problem. He’s talking about the cores in reactors 1-3. When he says there won’t be a signifcant release of radioactivity from those reactors he’s (apparently) right. Even if the cored melt their way through the steel containment they would wind up as solidified masses on the concrete pan underneath the reactor. A radioactive solidified mass to be sure but one that is still well contained.
There really were no significant releases before late Monday. Oehmen’s article was an accurate snapshot of events up until late Monday.
The news agencies the world over are spreading panic and Greg doesn’t seem to be helping matters. I live in Japan, and it is breaking me heart watching my adopted home being torn apart. The last thing the people suffering here need is bollocks like this being spread.
re Daiichi 2 “The fuel rods in the core were fully exposed at one point.” is misleading: fuel is still in the reactor vessel, water level may have dropped enough to expose the rods in the reactor vessel, but the core is not directly exposed to the environment. re Daiichi report from the reactor operator indicates that fire was seen at the unit twice, but was out both times by the time crews arrived to put it out. Earlier report suggested fire may have been from small spill of lubricating oil?
There’s a blog going around on the internet that says among other things that there’s little need to worry about a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactors because they have “core catchers”, that is a large shallow concrete basin that would catches the molten core and spread it out so that the chain reaction slows down.
There’s a good blog at http://mitnse.com by the MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering department, which helps to give a realistic idea of what is going on and the risks involved. All I’ve read suggests that the media is overplaying the nuclear problems
…it’s very clumsy and unclever satire….
That is the worst trash ive ever read, how can this person still be on scienceblogs.com?? … If you drive a car, you can decide if you drive or not, no one can force you to drive…. Another example: If you are traveling by plane and an accident happens you are for sure 100% dead so are the other people, accidents in a car are different.
… and so on and so forth, with the denialism actually getting stronger (and shifting more towards issues of contamination) …
May 12th, TEPCO confirms the March 12 meltdown.
May 24th TEPCO confirms that plants 1, 2, and 3 all melted down and most of the nuclear fuel escaped form the reactor vessels.
What is interesting about this is not that those strongly expressing what turned out to be abysmally wrong opinions were eventually proved wrong by, well, events; Rather, it is most interesting that they were proved wrong before they had even formed their thoughts, we just didn’t know it yet.
OK, enough about the early days of the crisis, let’s look at Ana’s Feed, which covers the last several day. It seems that Radioactive Cesium is widespread, though the total amount spread about on the land is less in total amount than Chernobyl (but there are significant hot spots). It is now confirmed by one research team that the major explosion (see timeline above) were caused by hydrogen separated out from water by damaged fuel rods in the reactors.
More is now understood about the failures of spent fuel pools at Fukushima; Ventilation systems have not been working reliably, and TEPCO is still spraying water directly at No. 2 reactor, into the specific area where a bunch of post China-Syndrome/Meltdown fuel has accumulated … it isn’t really working; It has continued to be impossible to get people into the parts of the plant where they are needed to inspect, repair, and assess.
A survey of radioactive cesium from Fukushima at sea has been carried out. It will cycle across a major gyre passing first by the Philippines before returning towards Japan. Logs used to grow economically important mushrooms seem to have soaked up an undesirable amount of radiation.
The government in Japan has asked TEPCO to provide manuals prepared for handing disasters. TEPCO is stonewalling, providing only one of two manuals, with much of the text deleted. I suppose they didn’t think it would look like they are hiding things. There are other shenanigans as well.
When our own local plant (the one we drive by several times a year) was being inspected the other day, it was found that the pipes used in the fire suppression system had some blockages. I suppose it could be worse, but that is not good. Some time later this fall, the fate of the controversial aging Vermont Yankee plant will be known when a ruling is rendered following a trial that just ended.
And, much much more:
Newly Released TEPCO Data Proves Fairewinds Assertions of Significant Fuel Pool Failures at Fukushima Daiichi -Fairewinds video, August 26
Difference Engine: Whole lot of shaking -Economist, Sept. 2
-DRENCHED and battered by Hurricane Irene, and facing a clean-up bill pushing $10 billion, residents on the east coast of America have understandably had more on their minds over the past week than the earthquake which struck the Piedmont region of Virginia a day before the tropical storm swept ashore. Yet, the shaking caused by so modest a tremor, at such distances from the epicentre, caught experts by surprise. In the long term, the Virginian earthquake could trigger a bigger shake-up in disaster precautions at nuclear-power stations in America than even the Japanese catastrophe at Fukushima.
-Based on seismic data from 1989, the NRC expects the number of events causing damage to a reactor’s core to be an incredibly minuscule 0.0000038 per year–equivalent to a reactor failing, on average, once every 260,000 years. However, reworking the numbers using seismic data from 2008, and computing the risk for the whole fleet of reactors in America being operated for the further 20-year extension being sought for their current licences, Mr Markey’s staff expect the risk to increase 7,000-fold to a probability of 0.026 per year–ie, one nuclear disaster somewhere in the country every 38 years. In short, another Three-Mile Island some time between now and 2049.
-If that is indeed the case, it is surely time for the NRC to embrace, rather than resist, the lessons of Fukushima in general, and North Anna in particular. Rightly or wrongly, NRC’s foot-dragging on regulatory reform has given the impression of favouring industry interests over public safety. That is neither in the best interest of the nuclear industry itself, nor the public’s need for cheap, carbon-free power.
Iran plugs first nuclear power plant into grid -Reuters, Sept. 4
-Iran’s first nuclear power plant has finally begun to provide electricity to the national grid, official media reported on Sunday, a long-delayed milestone in the nuclear ambitions of a country the West fears is covertly try to develop atomic bombs.
-" The Atomic Energy Agency announced that atomic electricity from Bushehr power plant joined the national grid with a power of around 60 megawatts on Saturday at 2329 (1859 GMT)," the official news agency IRNA reported.
-Bushehr’s start-up comes with Russia pushing to revive talks between global powers and Iran about its separate uranium enrichment work , seen abroad as a potential proliferation threat since highly refined uranium fuels atomic bombs.
-Iran says it is enriching uranium only to lower levels suitable for power plant fuel or medical and agricultural uses.
-But it has also started shifting its most sensitive enrichment operations to a mountain bunker that would be better protected against a possible pre-emptive U.S. or Israeli military strike.
Fukushima evacuees pessimistic about going home -NHK, Sept. 6
-NHK surveyed 187 people living in shelters or temporary housing in and outside Fukushima Prefecture nearly 6 months after the earthquake and tsunami and the start of the nuclear accident.
-Asked if their plans about where they will live have changed compared to right after the disaster, 26 percent of the respondents said they feel a stronger desire to go back to their hometowns.
-But 43 percent said they feel more strongly that they won’t be able to go home, while 11 percent said they’re resolved not to do so.
-Asked why they feel they won’t be able to return or wish not to, many cited what they saw on temporary return visits — run-down houses, deserted towns and high radioactivity readings in their homes.
-Many respondents apparently want the government to restore their land to its pre-disaster state if possible, or government support so they can move elsewhere. Asked what they want from the government, 43 percent said thorough decontamination of soil, and 19 percent said they want the government to purchase their property.
Fukushima residents need apt nuke crisis info to make decisions about future -Mainichi Perspectives, Sept. 7
-About a month after the Fukushima nuclear crisis began, I spoke to a man who had been forced from his home in the town of Tomioka — part of the crisis exclusion zone — and had evacuated to Saitama Prefecture. One thing he said has stuck with me ever since: "The things I want to know the most are, how much radiation is there on my property, and can I ever go home again? I’d like to know as soon as possible, so I can start thinking about the rest of my life."
-At the end of August — nearly six months after the March 11 earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis — the government finally released a map showing radioactive contamination levels around the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The government also said that there were some areas "where it may not be possible to return for a very long time."
High dioxin levels found in disaster-zone rivers -NHK, Sept. 7
-The Environment Ministry says it does not think the discovery poses any immediate risk to human health, but it will continue to monitor the toxic chemical.
-The ministry checked the sea, rivers and groundwater for dioxins between May and July at 320 locations in 5 prefectures affected by the disaster. The ministry feared that harmful substances may have leaked from factories damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.
-It found dioxins exceeding the safety standards at 6 locations in rivers in Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures and in groundwater in Fukushima.
-The high dioxin levels could be harmful if the contaminated water is ingested over a long period of time.
Japan reeling as Fukushima logs suspect in mushroom radiation contamination -Enformable, Sept. 7
-Tree logs, used as a medium to grow mushrooms, have emerged as possible culprits for radioactive contamination. The farm ministry and the prefectural government are busy trying to come up with response measures.
-“This is the biggest crisis in my 60-year-long professional life,” said 78-year-old Chusuke Saito, who grows “shiitake” and Jew’s ear mushrooms in Fukushima city. Revenue has plunged to one-fifth the level before the March 11 disaster at his direct sales outlet. The wholesale price offered to the farmers’ cooperative has also been cut by half.
-Radioactive cesium exceeding the safety standard of 500 becquerels per kilogram was first detected in April in shiitake mushrooms grown on tree logs outdoors. More cases of radiation in Fukushima mushrooms were detected, and shipment bans were put in effect in 16 municipalities. The bans were still in effect as of Sept. 6.
-It was initially believed that cesium discharged from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant had settled on mushrooms grown outdoors. In July, however, excess radioactive substances were detected in shiitake mushrooms grown indoors, indicating the possibility that cesium had been absorbed from contaminated tree logs.
Farm minister briefs locals on decontamination plan -NHK, Sept. 7
-Michihiko Kano visited Iitate Village in Fukushima Prefecture on Wednesday to check on experiments his ministry has been conducting since May to remove radioactive material from paddies and other fields.
-One experiment involved scraping topsoil from paddies, resulting in a 75-percent cut in radioactive cesium.
-Other experiments included stirring water that had filled a paddy and removing contaminated soil from the resulting mixture.
-The experiments have helped reduce the levels of radioactive cesium in the area from more than 10,000 becquerels to 2,000 to 3,000 becquerels per kilogram of soil — low enough for farmers to plant rice.
Toshiba to expand overseas nuclear production -NHK, Sept. 7
-Electronics giant Toshiba will acquire an additional 20 percent of the US nuclear power plant maker Westinghouse Electric. This raises its share to 87 percent.
-Toshiba says it will increase its holdings by purchasing nearly 1.7 billion dollars in shares from US engineering and construction firm Shaw Group.
-Toshiba says it is also considering selling part of its Westinghouse stake to companies that could help it expand its nuclear business overseas.
-It says several companies have already expressed interest, particularly from emerging economies where demand for nuclear power is still strong.
Deer in Tochigi Pref. tainted with cesium exceeding gov’t limits -Kyodo, Sept. 7
Professor’s health warning over radiation in Tohoku produce sparks backlash -Mainichi News, Sept. 7
-A comment made by a university professor on TV that meat and produce from northeastern Japan would "ruin" people’s health has sparked a sharp backlash from a local mayor.
-Chubu University professor Kunihiko Takeda reportedly stated on a Yomiuri TV program on the afternoon of Sept. 4 that "eating vegetables and meat from the Tohoku region will ruin your health," and that "making agricultural products in Tohoku right now is a mistake."
-He made the comments during a part of the TV program devoted to expert answers to children’s questions, pointing to high radiation levels detected in the region and using the city of Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, as an example. When challenged by another participant on the program, Takeda reportedly replied, "I have no intention of withdrawing my comments."
Nuke holdout resolved to stay put -Japan Times, Sept. 7
-Vines creep across the empty streets of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, its prim gardens overgrown with waist-high weeds and meadow flowers. Dead cows rot where they were left to starve in their pens. Chicken coops writhe with maggots, a sickening stench hanging in the air.
-This once-thriving community of 16,000 people now has a population of one.
-In this nuclear no-man’s land poisoned by radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, rice farmer Naoto Matsumura refuses to leave despite government orders. He says he has thought about the possibility of getting cancer but prefers to stay, with a skinny dog named Aki, his constant companion.
-Nearly six months after the catastrophic quake and tsunami, the 53-year-old believes he is the only inhabitant left in this town sandwiched between the doomed nuclear complex to the north and another sprawling nuclear plant to the south.
-"If I give up and leave, it’s all over," he said. "It’s my responsibility to stay. And it is my right to be here."
IAEA to call for nuclear crisis team -Japan Times, Sept. 7
-The International Atomic Energy Agency will call on its members to establish an emergency team to respond to major nuclear accidents worldwide, part of an agency plan to enhance nuclear safety, according to a draft obtained Tuesday.
-The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog also plans to dispatch safety investigators within three years to all member countries who operate nuclear power plants, following the Fukushima nuclear crisis, according to the draft.
-The document is scheduled to be approved by a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors to be held Monday to Sept. 16.
-During the June ministerial conference, Amano unveiled his plan to conduct snap safety inspections in countries with nuclear power plants. It would have covered about 40 plants, or about 10 percent of the world’s total, over a period of three years.
-But this plan has been watered down by opposition from some member countries, including those planning to build their first nuclear power plants. They regard Amano’s plan as too stringent, and the final draft of the plan specifies that IAEA inspections will be "voluntarily" accepted by member states.
Kan: Nuclear crisis ‘man-made’ / Ex-PM says poor flow of info hindered N-plant accident response -Yomiuri, Sept. 7
-The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant should be considered a "man-made disaster," and poor communication with the plant’s operator hindered the initial government response, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan has told The Yomiuri Shimbun.
-In an exclusive interview, Kan also said he felt "very sorry" for residents of Fukushima Prefecture who would not be able to return to their homes for a long time due to the nuclear crisis.
-"There in fact were various opinions [regarding the safety of the plant] before the accident, but no well-thought-out preparations were made," he said. "In that sense, the nuclear accident should be considered a man-made disaster."
-Question: What do you think was the biggest factor behind the nuclear crisis?
Kan: All the crisis-management arrangements that had been made prior to the accident failed to function properly.
-Q: Do you wish you had responded differently to the crisis?
Kan: Nobody can be 100 percent perfect, but I believe I did what I should have done.
TEPCO submits heavily redacted copy of Fukushima nuke accident manual -Mainichi News, Sept. 7
-The House of Representatives Special Committee on Promotion of Science and Technology and Innovation had requested TEPCO submit two operating manuals — one each for accidents and severe accidents — through the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry (METI), but said Sept. 7 that it had received only the former document, which had itself been significantly redacted. The panel, chaired by Hiroshi Kawauchi of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said it needed the manuals and other pertinent documents on Aug. 26 to help probe the cause of the ongoing nuclear disaster, and has requested TEPCO to resubmit the manuals by Sept. 9.
-The 6-page manual for nuclear accidents TEPCO did submit was divided into four sections, including "main item" and "shift supervisor (deputy shift supervisor)." The document was, however, nearly unreadable because most of it had been blacked out. Even those sections left visible had holes, such as one sentence that read: "When reactor pressure rises, stabilizes the pressure at (redacted) Mpa by using an emergency condenser and other techniques, and report."
-According to the METI’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), TEPCO submitted them to NISA on Sept. 2 after seeking a guarantee of nondisclosure the day before. NISA rejected the utility’s request, but then simply delivered the TEPCO documents to the committee.
Va. company picking up tab for uranium-mining tour -Bloomberg, Sept. 7
-A company that wants to mine uranium in Virginia is flying state legislators, local officials and residents to Canada to visit uranium mining and milling operations.
-The trip is one of several sponsored by Virginia Uranium Inc. as it lobbies to end a 1982 moratorium on uranium mining so it can tap a 119-million-pound deposit in Southside Virginia. The uranium deposit is believed to be the largest in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world.
-Project manager Patrick Wales said Tuesday that about 15 company representatives and their guests will travel to Saskatchewan in late September for the three-day tour. In June, the company paid almost $10,000 each to fly more than a dozen members of the General Assembly to France to visit a former mining operation. It was the second trip to France the company had sponsored.
-For legislators, the trips are permitted under state law and reported as gifts.
-Critics contend Virginia’s wet climate is unsuitable for uranium mining, which is primarily conducted in the arid West, and poses environmental risks to drinking water supplies and farmland.
-Virginia Uranium insists mining and milling, which involves the separation of ore from rock, can be conducted safely.
Oswego nuclear worker pleads guilty to falsifying worker safety tests -syracuse.com, Sept. 8
-An Oswego man has pleaded guilty to falsifying tests of safety equipment at the James A. Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, federal prosecutors announced this morning.
-Michael McCarrick, a former radiation protection technician at Fitzpatrick, falsified records relating to 32 nuclear plant workers, U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian said in a news release. The plea said McCarrick documented that the employees had completed tests to make sure emergency respirators were properly fitted and sealed, but no such tests were done.
-No known injuries occurred as a result of the falsified tests.
-McCarrick pleaded guilty to one count of a felony violation of the Atomic Energy Act. He could receive up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Jan. 10.
Japan Official Ordered Nuclear E-Mails, Inquiry Finds -NTY, Sept. 8
-Investigators concluded Thursday that a nuclear plant operator that tried to manipulate public opinion with fake e-mails was acting under instructions from a high-ranking local government official, adding a new twist to a scandal that has hampered Japan’s efforts to restart idled nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster.
-An independent investigative committee found that the governor of Saga Prefecture told the operator, Kyushu Electric Power, to send e-mails supporting the restart of two reactors at the company’s Genkai Nuclear Power Station. The company has already admitted to ordering employees to pose as regular citizens by sending e-mails during an online town-hall-style meeting in June over whether to allow the restart of the reactors.
-Despite the company’s admission, the committee did not accuse the governor, Yasushi Furukawa, of explicitly asking officials to send e-mails masquerading as coming from the public, but only of asking it to send e-mails. Mr. Furukawa has denied requesting any faked e-mails, saying a Kyushu Electric vice president misunderstood his remarks during a private meeting earlier in June.
Pakistani pleads guilty in U.S. nuclear export case -Reuters, Sept. 9
-A Pakistani national pleaded guilty on Friday in a U.S. court to conspiring to commit export violations in a scheme to illegally transfer nuclear-related materials to his home country from the United States.
-The Justice Department said Nadeem Akhtar, 46, who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, a Washington suburb, entered the guilty plea at a court hearing in Baltimore, Maryland, as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.
-Under his plea agreement, Akhtar, who owned a company called Computer Communication USA, admitted that he and his conspirators used the firm from 2005 through 2010 to obtain or attempt to get various nuclear-related devices and equipment.
Radiation expert says outcome of nuke crisis hard to predict, warns of further dangers -Mainichi Perspectives, Sept. 9
-The nuclear disaster is ongoing. Immediately after the crisis first began to unfold, I thought that we’d see a definitive outcome within a week. However, with radioactive materials yet to be contained, we’ve remained in the unsettling state of not knowing how things are going to turn out.
-Without accurate information about what’s happening inside the reactors, there’s a need to consider various scenarios. At present, I believe that there is a possibility that massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again.
-At the No. 1 reactor, there’s a chance that melted fuel has burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel, the containment vessel and the floor of the reactor building, and has sunk into the ground. From there, radioactive materials may be seeping into the ocean and groundwater.
-The use of water to cool down the reactors immediately after the crisis first began resulted in 110,000 cubic meters of radiation-tainted water. Some of that water is probably leaking through the cracks in the concrete reactor buildings produced by the March 11 quake. Contaminated water was found flowing through cracks near an intake canal, but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that contaminated water is still leaking underground, where we can’t see it. Because of this, I believe immediate action must be taken to build underground water barriers that would close off the nuclear power plant to the outside world and prevent radioactive materials from spreading. The important thing is to stop any further diffusion of radioactive materials.
-The government and plant operator TEPCO are trumpeting the operation of the circulation cooling system, as if it marks a successful resolution to the disaster. However, radiation continues to leak from the reactors. The longer the circulation cooling system keeps running, the more radioactive waste it will accumulate. It isn’t really leading us in the direction we need to go.
TEPCO Dumps 565-Page Report on Early Days of Crisis, Says No Re-Melting of Reactor 3 Fuel -EX-SKF, Sept. 9
-The company promises it will upload the English translation as soon as it is done.
-In the press conference on September 9, TEPCO released these charts as part of the evidence that there was no re-melt. TEPCO’s translation is just as bad as the man who pointed finger at TEPCO livecam, but I hope the charts speak volume:
Fukushima disaster: it’s not over yet -Guardian, Sept. 9
-It was an email from an old friend that led me to the irradiated sunflower fields of Fukushima. I had not heard from Reiko-san since 2003, when I left my post as the Guardian’s Tokyo correspondent. Before that, the magazine editor had been the source of many astute comments about social trends in Japan. In April, she contacted me out of the blue. I was pleased at first, then worried.
-Reiko’s message began in traditional Japanese style with a reference to the season and her state of mind. The eloquence was typical. The tone unusually disturbing: "It is spring time now in Tokyo and the cherry blossoms are in bloom. In my small terrace garden, the plants – tulips, roses and strawberries – are telling me that a new season has arrived. But somehow, they make me sad because I know that they are not the same as last year. They are all contaminated."
-Reiko went on to describe how everything had changed in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima the previous month. Daily life felt like science fiction. She always wore a mask and carried an umbrella to protect against black rain. Every conversation was about the state of the reactors. In the supermarket, where she used to shop for fresh produce, she now looked for cooked food – "the older, the safer now". She expressed fears for her son, anger at the government and deep distrust of the reassuring voices she was hearing in the traditional media. "We are misinformed. We are misinformed," she repeated. "Our problem is in society. We have to fight against it. And it seems as hard as the fight against those reactors."
-She urged me to return and report on the story. Five months on, that is what I have tried to do. Driving around Fukushima’s contaminated cities, Iwate’s devastated coastlines and talking to evacuees in Tokyo, I’ve rarely felt such responsibility in writing a story. Reiko and other Japanese friends seemed to be looking not only for coverage, but for an outsider’s judgment on the big question weighing on their minds: is Japan still a safe country?
Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Ready to Drive Carbon-Based Workers Even Harder -EX-SKF, Sept. 9
-TEPCO announced on September 9 that 6 workers entered the reactor building of Reactor 3 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, and installed a water gauge to measure the amount of contaminated water in the basement. According to the company, the radiation exposure of the 6 workers was between 0.33 to 5.26 millisieverts. The measurement using the water gauge is set to start on or after September 12.
-… TEPCO also disclosed the plan to start removing the debris from the upper floors of Reactors 3 and 4. The work will start in Reactor 3 on September 10, and it will start in Reactor 4 within this month. Upper floors of Reactors 3 and 4 are littered with damaged ceiling panels and exterior wall panels, and it is hoped that the spread of radioactive materials will be suppressed by removing the debris.
Six Months: The Nuclear Refugees -Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9
-Since becoming self-appointed “nuclear refugees” in early July, Minako Ishigooka and her 14-month-old son have been living in a single room in a hostel in Naha, the prefectural seat of the southern island chain of Okinawa.
-Just a few blocks away, the city’s main commercial strip is bustling with vacationers, but Ms. Ishigoooka’s days are spent on mundane tasks like making meals for her son and taking him out for walks. After he goes down for the night, she sits at the inn’s communal computer until 2 a.m. to gather news about radiation on Twitter.
-She and her son have been to the beach only once but that doesn’t bother her. “At least here, I can let him play outside,” the 35-year-old mother from Tokyo says.
-Fears of flare-ups in the nuclear situation or worries about radiation contamination of food have driven some residents of cities hundreds of kilometers from the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi plant to seek new homes. Many of them are mothers with young children like Ms. Ishigooka — the group most vulnerable to the potential effects of radiation.
NRC rejects quick restart at Virginia nuclear plant -Reuters, Sept. 9
-The 1,806-megawatt station has remained shut since it automatically tripped last month after the unusually strong 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck roughly 12 miles (19 km) from the plant in Mineral, Virginia.
-On Thursday, Dominion officials said Unit 1 could be "physically" ready to restart by Sept. 22.
-Dominion also said Unit 2 — set to begin a refueling outage in late September — could be refueled and ready to restart by mid-October.
-An official from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, noted that the agency’s special inspection team may be finishing work at the site around Sept. 22 and warned that more meetings will likely be needed between Dominion officials and the NRC to better understand the company’s plan to restart the plant.
-Dominion officials said it now appears the reactors shut when the earthquake caused a problem inside the cores at both units rather than from the loss of outside power to the plant as initially reported.
-"It looks like the (fuel) rods were going into the core prior to the transformer opening," possibly from a relay problem, a Dominion executive said.
-Dominion is still working to understand the "root cause" of the plant shutdown as multiple automatic trip signals from various indicators were received within seconds of the quake.
Nuke regulators bring Yucca Mountain waste plan closer to death -The Hill, Sept. 9
-The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) acted Friday to end review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, handing a victory to the Obama administration in its ongoing effort to kill the project.
-The NRC split 2-2 in failing to decide whether to uphold or reject a decision by its Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), which last year rejected the Energy Department’s attempt to withdraw the license application for the Nevada project.
-But the NRC, citing funding constraints, instructed the ASLB to close out its work on the project by the end of this fiscal year, which is the end of the month.
-The Energy Department, while seeking to shut down the Yucca project, said it’s committed to finding a long-term solution to disposing of nuclear waste that’s piling up at the nation’s nuclear reactors.
Sea radiation ‘3 times higher than thought’ -Yomiuri, Sept. 10
-The total amount of radioactive substances released into the sea as a result of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is believed to have been three times the initial estimate by the plant’s operator, according to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
-A team led by senior researcher Takuya Kobayashi estimated the actual quantity at 15,000 terabecquerels, including substances in polluted water and substances released into the air that eventually fell into the sea. Tera means one trillion.
-The figure is more than triple the estimate by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Also, the new estimate does not include cesium-134, meaning the actual total could be even larger.
Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Steel Frame for Cover for Reactor 1 Is Ready -EX-SKF, Sept. 10
-On September 10, the workers started to set up the panels. Soon, all you’ll get to see from Google Earth will be the Reactor 1 as if nothing happened.
-Looking at Fuku-1 Livecam video, the bottom third is already covered with panels.
East Coast Earthquake: Twice What Nuclear Plant Designed to Withstand -ABC News, Sept. 10
-The 5.8-magnitude earthquake last month in Virginia caused about twice as much ground shaking as a nearby nuclear power plant was designed to withstand, according to a preliminary federal analysis.
-Parts of the North Anna Power Station in Mineral, Va., 11 miles from its epicenter, endured jolts equal to 26% of the force of gravity (0.26g) from some of the vibrations unleashed by the quake, said Scott Burnell, spokesman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
-An NRC document says the reactors’ containment structure was built to withstand 12% of the force of gravity (0.12g.) Dominion, the plant’s operator, says parts of the plant can handle up to 0.18g.
-Dan Stoddard, Dominion’s senior vice president of operations, said Friday that initial readings from the facility’s scratch plates and other monitors indicate its shaking during the quake exceeded its design, but he declined to give numbers. Dominion officials plan to brief the NRC today on those findings.
-Stoddard said the quake caused "no significant damage" to the facility, based on Dominion’s ongoing inspections. He said there were some cosmetic cracks in concrete and floor tiles and 25 of 27 vertical casks holding spent-fuel assemblies moved up to 4.5 inches.
Nuclear Experts Say U.S. Learned Nothing From Fukushima -Care2, Sept. 10
-Sunday marks the six-month anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis.
-In anticipation of that milestone, three leading U.S. experts held a news conference Friday to outline both what is now known in the wake of the Fukushima and where things stand for the nuclear power industry in the United States.
-The overwhelming opinion of the panel, which included Peter Bradford, former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Edwin Lyman, Ph.D., senior scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists and Dr. Andrew Kanter, national board president-elect, Physicians for Social Responsibility, was that major lessons from the Japanese nuclear disaster are in danger of going unheeded.
-The experts outlined eight concerns and lessons from this crisis that should guide decisions regarding the future of nuclear power in the U.S.:
Costs, risks, and myths of nuclear power, NGO world-wide study on the implications of the catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station -pdf report, coordinated by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Japan anti-nuclear protests mark 6 months since quake -Reuters, Sept. 11
-Anti-nuclear protesters took to the streets of Tokyo and other cities on Sunday to mark six months since the March earthquake and tsunami and vent their anger at the government’s handling of the nuclear crisis set off by meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant.
-In one of the largest protests, an estimated 2,500 people marched past the headquarters of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company , and created a "human chain" around the building of the Trade Ministry that oversees the power industry.
-Protesters, marching to the beat of drums,called for a complete shutdown of nuclear power plants across Japan and demanded a shift in government policy towards alternative sources of energy.
-Among the protestors were four young men who declared the start of a 10-day hunger strike to bring about change in Japan’s nuclear policy.
Nuclear experts discuss radiation in Fukushima -NHK, Sept. 11
-Nuclear experts from around the world have exchanged views on how to provide information about radiation exposure.
-Some 40 experts from 14 countries are taking part in the 2-day meeting in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture.
-An US epidemiologist, John Boice, said he does not think people’s health will be affected by the Fukushima accident. He said Japan prevented contaminated food from being distributed, unlike what happened after the Chernobyl accident.
-Boice said counseling and timely information are essential for those worried about radiation in food.
-There was also a suggestion that comparative data with other risks such as traffic accidents should have been made available.
-Makoto Akashi, whose organization is co-sponsoring the gathering, said he hopes to find ways to convince people that there will be no health impact from radiation from the Fukushima accident.
Not enough whole body counters to go around -Japan Times, Sept. 11
-The health department in Kashiwa, a city in Chiba Prefecture with multiple radiation hot spots, has received numerous inquiries from worried residents wanting to find out their internal radiation levels.
-Kashiwa official Seiichi So meya says he understands their concerns, especially when it involves parents with small children, but he still has to ask them to wait.
-"We want to (conduct radiation checks) and are holding discussions with a radiation research institute, but there is no concrete plan yet," he said.
-There are at least 106 whole body counters in Japan, according to research by a government panel on helping victims of the nuclear accident. Power companies have 49 of the machines at their nuclear plants, although four at the leaking Fukushima No. 1 complex, another four at the Fukushima No. 2 plant and one of the two devices at the Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi Prefecture were damaged in the March 11 disasters and are out of commission. Hospitals and research institutes own the rest.
-Kazue Suzuki, a Greenpeace Japan official, has called for radiation checks using whole body counters to be carried out on everybody in Fukushima and its neighboring prefectures.
-"We checked the urine of 10 randomly selected people in the city of Fukushima, which is not designated as an area where residents have to evacuate, and all 10 of the samples were found to contain radioactive cesium. That’s a big warning sign," Susuki said.
-But municipalities outside Fukushima Prefecture haven’t been checking residents’ internal radiation levels and have no plans to do so anytime soon, claiming it is an unnecessary measure.
Plugging leaks will end crisis, not cold shutdown: analysts -Japan Times, Sept. 11
-The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the crippled plant, are working to bring the three reactors into cold shutdown by mid-January.
-Cold shutdown means the temperature at the bottom of the pressure vessel, which holds the core, has been lowered to less than 100 degrees.
-This critical milestone, known as "Step 2" in Tepco’s road map for containing the crisis, would limit the release of radioactive materials from the plant to less than 1 millisievert per year, a level that poses no health risks.
-Since work at the plant is proceeding relatively smoothly, it appears likely the mid-January target will be met.
-But Fukushima No. 1 will still have a long way to go before the flooded plant’s reactors are stable enough to be considered safe, experts warn. The main reason is the abundance of highly radioactive water.
-Before the Fukushima crisis can be said contained, the holes and cracks from which the water and fuel are escaping must be located and sealed. But this extremely difficult task could take years because the radiation near the reactors is simply too high to let workers get near them.
-"It’ll be too early to say that the situation has reached a stable phase even after Step 2 is completed," said Chihiro Kamisawa, a researcher at Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a nonprofit group of scientists and activists opposed to nuclear power.
Minami Soma residents clean streets for children -NHK, Sept. 11
-The city’s Masuda district is less than 30 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, and residents have been advised to be prepared to evacuate immediately when another emergency situation occurs.
-The elementary and junior high schools in the area remain closed.
-On Sunday, more than 30 people cleaned up a 500-meter stretch of a road that will be used by children when the schools reopen.
-They measured radiation levels as they washed the sidewalks with high-pressure equipment and removed dirt from the sides of the road with spades.
-Thanks to their efforts, radiation levels in some places have fallen from 3.6 microsieverts per hour to about one-third of that level.
After Fukushima, mother fights to get her life back -Reuters, Sept. 11
-Even before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck knocking out the Fukushima nuclear plant, Aya’s life was a struggle.
-She had divorced her abusive husband and was left on her own to care and provide for her two daughters.
-Now, six months after she fled her home just 9 km (6 miles) away from the radiation-spewing plant, the 26-year old single mother is barely surviving. She has no job, languishes in hiding from her violent ex-husband in temporary housing and will probably never see her home again.
-"It feels like a hole has opened inside me. My home was so important to me and I felt safe there," said Aya who would not give her family name or disclose her exact location out of fear her ex-husband could find her.
-"It’s like time has just stopped. Ever since March 11, the time has stopped for me."
Radioactive Yogurt in Miyagi Prefecture, 6.5 Bq/kg Radioactive Cesium -EX-SKF, Sept. 11
-According to the table below from the Ministry of Health, the yogurt was sold in Niigata Prefecture, and tested by the lab in Niigata Prefecture. The yogurt contained 3.4 becquerels/kg of cesium-134, and 3.1 becquerels/kg of cesium-137. It was made in Kami-machi in Miyagi Prefecture, about 135 km from Fukushima I Nuke Plant. But the distance doesn’t mean much, as the raw milk used to make yogurt could have come from anywhere and everywhere. (They do mix and match.)
Japan may create nuclear safety training institute -Japan Times, Sept. 12
-Japan will consider setting up a nuclear safety training institute to improve the quality of human resources involved in nuclear safety, according to an updated government report on the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
-The report, which will be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency ahead of its general conference later in the month, also said work to contain the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is proceeding steadily, but "several more months" are needed to bring damaged reactors to a state known as "cold shutdown."
-At the outset of a government meeting on Sunday to endorse the report, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said that the fight to contain the nuclear crisis is "still halfway."
Explosion at French nuclear waste plant -Guardian, Sept. 12
-An explosion at a French nuclear waste processing plant that killed one person and injured four others sparked fears of a radioactive leak on Monday.
-An emergency safety cordon was thrown around the Marcoule nuclear site near Nimes in the south of France immediately after a furnace used to melt nuclear waste exploded and caused a fire. It was lifted later in the day after France’s nuclear safety agency, the AutoritÃ© de SÃ»retÃ© NuclÃ©aire (ASN), said there was no danger to the public.
-Reports said the body of one male worker at the plant had been "found carbonised", but there was no evidence that the explosion had caused any radioactive leak, though the ASN admitted there was the "possibility of a leak of low-level radioactivity, but no shooting of radioactivity in the air". There was no information as to the cause of the explosion.
Noda to appoint Edano as next industry and trade minister -Japan Today, Sept. 12
-Yukio Edano, the face of Japan’s government following the March tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis, was on Monday named as industry minister after his predecessor quit over controversial remarks.
-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appointed Edano as the new minister for economy, trade and industry, replacing Yoshio Hachiro, who abruptly resigned late Saturday after a series of gaffes.
-In an early embarrassment for Japan’s new government, Hachiro, 63, resigned Saturday after only eight days in the job over comments deemed insensitive to evacuees from crisis-hit Fukushima.
-He provoked anger when he called the area around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant a “shi no machi” or a “town of death.”
Research on US nuclear levels after Fukushima could aid in future nuclear detection -TerraDaily, Sept. 12
-The amount of radiation released during the Fukushima nuclear disaster was so great that the level of atmospheric radioactive aerosols in Washington state was 10,000 to 100,000 times greater than normal levels in the week following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the disaster.
-Despite the increase, the levels were still well below the amount considered harmful to humans and they posed no health risks to residents at the time, according to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.
-The findings, published by a mechanical engineering professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering and researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), provide important insight into the magnitude of the disaster. They also demonstrate huge advancements in the technology that’s used for monitoring nuclear material and detecting covert nuclear operations around the world.
-"As the measurements came in sooner and at higher concentrations than we initially expected, we quickly came to the conclusion that there were some major core melts at those facilities," Biegalski said.
-"I remember being in the lab thinking, ‘Wow, if this is all true we have a far more bigger accident than what we’re hearing right now."
-The thought was confirmed by data collected by he and PNNL researchers. Their study reports that more radioxenon was released from the Fukushima facilities than in the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania and in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.
Fukushima Reactors Now ‘Stable,’ IAEA Says -NYT, Sept. 12
-The reactors at Japan’s crippled Fukushima atomic power plant are now "essentially stable," the U.N. nuclear chief said on Monday, six months after the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century.
-Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the expectation was that a "cold shutdown" of all reactors would be achieved as planned.
-"The plant operator and the Japanese authorities have been working hard to regain full control of the situation and have made steady progress in the past six months," he told the 35-nation governing board of the Vienna-based U.N. agency.
-"The situation at the site remained very serious for many months. The agency’s assessment now is that the reactors are essentially stable," he added.
Entergy, Vermont battle over nuclear plant’s fate -Reuters, Sept. 12
-Power company Entergy faced off against the state of Vermont in U.S. court on Monday to fight a landmark effort to force the closure of its aging nuclear power plant.
-In the first day of a three-day trial to determine the fate of the Vermont Yankee plant, Entergy’s (ETR.N) lawyers said Vermont politicians had infringed on the role of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which monitors the nation’s 104 commercial power reactors.
-New Orleans-based Entergy in April sued the state and Gov. Peter Shumlin in U.S. District Court, saying Vermont violated terms of Entergy’s deal to buy the reactor in 2002 by giving politicians the power to shut it.
-At issue is a law passed by the Vermont General Assembly in 2006 that New Orleans-based Entergy said put Vermont Yankee’s fate in the hands of elected officials rather than the state utility regulator, the Public Service Board.
NRC Staff Proposes Earthquake Hazard Reviews ‘Without Delay’ -Bloomberg, Sept. 12
-The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission should require power-plant owners to re-evaluate “without delay” their readiness to withstand earthquakes and floods, the agency’s staff said.
-The staff identified seven regulatory steps that have the “greatest potential for safety improvement in the near-term,” according to a Sept. 9 memorandum to the commission, released today. The actions include a review of seismic and flooding hazards and rules to help nuclear plants handle the loss of electric power to the site.
-An agency task force in a July report recommended 12 regulatory changes the NRC should make to improve safety at U.S. power plants after an earthquake and tsunami in March caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. The staff plans to prioritize the recommendations by Oct. 3.
-All of the task force’s “overarching recommendations, if adopted, would enhance safety and the staff agrees with moving forward with each of these recommendations,” according to the memo.
-"I really don’t see any of these recommendations that we should not move forward on,” NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said of the task force’s report during a Sept. 7 interview. “They’re all common-sense recommendations.”
IAEA states adopt nuclear safety action plan -Reuters, Sept. 13
-The U.N. atomic agency’s 35-nation board adopted a plan on Tuesday to strengthen global nuclear safety following Japan’s Fukushima accident six months ago, despite criticism from several states that the proposals had been watered down.
-The board of governors approved by consensus the eight-page document put forward by Director General Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), setting out a series of voluntary steps meant to enhance standards worldwide.
-A governors’ debate on the issue underlined divisions between states seeking stronger international commitments and others wanting safety to remain an issue strictly for national authorities.
-"There were a number of critical voices," one diplomat said about the closed-door discussions, referring to states which made it clear they wanted firmer measures from the IAEA.
GSDF holds emergency evacuation drill near stricken Fukushima nuclear plant -Mainichi News, Sept. 13
-The Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) and residents of the zone between 20 and 30 kilometers from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant held an emergency evacuation drill on Sept. 12.
-The drill, held in preparation for any further large-scale emission of radioactive materials from the plant, was the first involving local residents. The GSDF held a similar drill without civilian participation in July.
Inside Japan’s nuclear ghost zone -BBC, Sept. 13
-Nothing stirs in the empty heart of Tomioka, a community of 16,000 now reduced to the eerie status of a ghost town after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
-The shops of the main street are deserted, motorbikes and cars are abandoned, weeds push through gaps in the concrete.
-Vending machines selling drinks and snacks – always popular in Japan – stand unlit and silent.
-Tomioka lies just inside the 20km exclusion zone that was hurriedly enforced last March when a radioactive cloud escaped from the stricken power plant.
-We continually operate a Geiger counter – and though the radiation level rises slightly once we cross into the zone, it is even lower than we had expected.
-For the record, during the course of a three-hour visit – which we kept deliberately short to minimise the risks – the rate averages about three microsieverts per hour.
-We estimate our total dose to be roughly half that of a typical chest X-ray.
Japan plans floating wind power for Fukushima coast -Reuters, Sept. 13
-Japan will join the race to develop floating wind turbines to use in deepwater off its tsunami-stricken northern Pacific coast as it rethinks energy sources after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
-It aims to outpace the leaders in the sector in Europe, trade ministry official Masanori Sato said on Tuesday.
-"In order to take lead in offshore wind power, we want domestic studies and developments to take place and manufacturers to boost capabilities," said Sato.
-"From the viewpoint of supporting reconstruction and promoting wind power, we believe it is good to pursue research and development for offshore wind farms," he said.
-In the next five years, Japan plans to spend 10 to 20 billion yen to install six or more floating turbines off the northeast coast. It will work with firms including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries, Sato said.
Tepco creditors should share financial burden -Edano -Reuters, Sept. 13
-Creditors and shareholders of troubled Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) should share in the burden of restructuring the utility as it grapples with huge costs from its crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan’s new trade minister Yukio Edano said on Tuesday.
-"The reasons for supporting Tepco with taxpayer money do not include protecting creditors and shareholders," Edano told a regular news conference.
-"Here, I am stating a general principle that they should shoulder a burden, which they would have to shoulder anyway if there were no such (taxpayer) support."
Radioactive Landfill: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Has Been Doing It Since May -EX-SKF, Sept. 13
-Yokohama City residents had just enough time to get organized very quickly and were able to halt (for now) the start of dumping of radioactive sludge ashes into the ocean in their final processing facility at the end of Minami Honmoku Pier on Tokyo Bay.
-Tokyo residents either did not have a chance to do so because they didn’t know, or they didn’t care.
-It turns out that Tokyo Metropolitan government has been dumping sludge from its water purification plants and burned ashes from the sewer sludge from the sludge plants in its landfill in Tokyo Bay at least since late May. The huge landfill is right near the Haneda Airport. (Photo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Environment)
-On June 3, Tokyo Metropolitan government announced the result of air radiation survey done on the landfill locations where the radioactive sludge and ashes were being dumped, and that’s how some people (mostly bloggers as far as I’ve found) noticed it and wrote about it.
-The Bureau of Environment announcement says the facility accepts "sewer sludge ashes and sludge from water purification plants are accepted if they are mixed with cement or if they are wetted". (ä¸?æ°´æ±?æ³¥ç?¼å´ç°ã?ä¸?æ°´ã?¹ã?©ã??ã?¸ã¯ã?ã?»ã?¡ã?³ã??æ··ç·´ã??ã??æ¹¿æ½¤å??ã?ã?ã??ã®ã??å?ã?å?¥ã??ã¦ã?ã??) The Bureau also says that they pile dirt on top of the fill for "appropriate management" of the sludge and ashes buried there.
Fukushima cesium contamination widespread but less than Chernobyl -Asahi, Sept. 14
-An extensive area of more than 8,000 square kilometers has accumulated cesium 137 levels of 30,000 becquerels per square meter or more after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to Asahi Shimbun estimates.
-The affected area is one-18th of about 145,000 square kilometers contaminated with cesium 137 levels of 37,000 becquerels per square meter or more following the 1986 Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union.
-The contaminated area includes about 6,000 square kilometers in Fukushima Prefecture, or nearly half of the prefecture. Fukushima Prefecture, the third largest in Japan, covers 13,782 square kilometers.
-The government has not disclosed the size of the area contaminated with cesium 137 released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant. Cesium 137 has a long half-life of about 30 years.
-The Asahi Shimbun calculated the size of the contaminated area based on a distribution map of accumulated cesium 137 levels measured from aircraft, which was released by the science ministry on Sept. 8.
Cesium in Pacific likely to flow back to Japan in 20-30 years -Mainichi News, Sept. 14
-Radioactive cesium that was released into the ocean in the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is likely to flow back to Japan’s coast in 20 to 30 years after circulating in the northern Pacific Ocean in a clockwise pattern, researchers said Wednesday.
-Researchers at the government’s Meteorological Research Institute and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry disclosed the findings at a meeting of the Geochemical Society of Japan, an academic association, in Sapporo.
Hydrogen dissolved from water exploded at Fukushima nuclear reactor: experts -Mainichi News, Sept. 14
-The No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant exploded four days after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami, and experts believe the explosion occurred partly because huge amounts of hydrogen were produced in the process of water being dissolved by radiation in a boiling spent nuclear fuel pool.
-A group of researchers from the University of Tokyo and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency made an analysis of the hydrogen explosion at the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power station. The finding will be announced at the Atomic Energy Society of Japan meeting in Kitakyushu that kicks off on Sept. 19. Radiation dissolves water into hydrogen and other elements.
-When the explosion occurred, there were 1,535 fuel rods in the fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor, the largest number among the No. 1 to 4 reactors. When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, the No. 4 reactor was suspended for regular inspections, but it lost power supply to the tsunami. The explosion occurred at the reactor on March 15, four days after the quake-triggered tsunami, because it lost cooling functions.
-In reference to the No. 1 and 3 reactors where hydrogen explosions occurred, hydrogen is believed to have been produced from damaged fuel rods in the reactors. But there was no serious damage to the fuel rods in the No. 4 reactor. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex, assumes that hydrogen entered the No. 4 reactor from the No. 3 reactor through a common exhaust pipe and exploded.
Japanese Nuclear Plant Has Ventilation Malfunction, NISA Says -Bloomberg, Sept. 14
-A Japanese nuclear plant had a malfunction in its ventilation system, the country’s atomic regulator said. There was no radiation leakage outside the reprocessing plant northeast of Tokyo.
-Three ventilation units failed to restart for about 20 minutes yesterday due to a timer malfunction, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in a statement today. The plant in Tokai village in Ibaraki prefecture is operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
Fukushima survey sparks call for allocation of personal radiation monitoring badges -Mainichi News, Sept. 14
-The National Cancer Center has called for radiation monitoring badges to be distributed to residents of Fukushima Prefecture following a survey on health workers that failed to find a correlation between their radiation dosages and the time they spent outside.
-On Sept. 13, the center and Mutsuko Watarai, an associate professor at Tokyo Health Care University, released the results of a radiation exposure survey on health workers in areas near the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The workers were given radiation monitoring devices called "glass badges" to determine their radiation exposure. However, no correlation was seen between their exposure levels and the time they spent outside, suggesting that determining residents’ radiation exposure by simply asking when and where people were at certain times would be difficult.
-"Glass badges should be distributed to the people of Fukushima as soon as possible," said Takamasa Kayama, chief director of the National Cancer Center, indicating that the center would work to win understanding from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Fukushima Prefectural Government.
Fukushima man opts to be guinea pig -Japan Times, Sept. 14
-Nobuyoshi Ito is skeptical of the reported effects of radiation from the leaking Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. So skeptical, in fact, that he decided to put himself on the front line of radiation research.
-Ito, whose home in the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, is located a little more than 30 km from the power station, has ignored official recommendations to evacuate, and is instead standing his ground in a designated radiation hot spot to become a human guinea pig.
-"I never wear a mask and go about my chores in my regular everyday clothes," said Ito, 67, a former IT engineer turned farmer who refers to the radiation still being emitted by the plant’s stricken reactors as the "invisible tsunami."
-"There are two camps when it comes to the effects of radiation: the antinuclear folk, who tell us even a small dose of radiation is dangerous to human health, and others who say even much higher doses contain less cancer risk than that caused by such factors as smoking or even food. I decided to become a human guinea pig to help settle the argument."
-Ito is one of only nine residents left in the village, according to the local government — which has relocated its municipal offices outside Iitate.
Expert panel starts discussing decontamination -NHK, Sept. 14
-An expert panel has begun discussing effective ways to remove radioactive materials from areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
-Experts on radiation and soil pollution on Wednesday attended the first meeting of the panel set up by the Environment Ministry.
-Environment Minister Goshi Hosono told the panel that decontamination is Japan’s top priority, and that the country faces the challenge of decontamination on an unprecedented scale.
-In Fukushima Prefecture, municipalities near the plant have launched their own efforts to decontaminate buildings and soil.
Sunflower Planting Hardly Did Anything to Reduce Radioactive Cesium in Soil -EX-SKF, Sept. 14
-Well, it sure looked pretty, a field of sunflowers, but if the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is to be believed, it did not do much more than looking pretty, and creating radioactive sunflowers that’ll have to be somehow safety disposed as nuclear waste.
-The farmland whose radioactive materials in the soil would exceed 5,000 becquerels/kg (limit above which the planting of rice is prohibited) is estimated to be 8,300 hectares [about 20,500 acres]. From the result of the experiments, in case of the farmland whose radioactive material density exceeds 10,000 becquerels/kg, it may be difficult to reduce the level down below 5,000 becquerels/kg unless the surface soil is removed. Between 5,000 and 10,000 becquerels/kg, there may not be other choices but removing the surface soil.
-If the surface soil is removed in 8,300 hectares, the amount of contaminated soil generated would exceed 3 million tonnes. The Ministry says it hopes to develop a technology to remove cesium from the soil so that the soil can be put back in the field.
Nuclear miscalculation: Why regulators miss power plant threats from quakes and storms -iwatchnews.org, Sept. 14
-The earthquake that shut down a Virginia nuclear power plant on Aug. 23, cracking floor tiles, a containment building, and shifting highly radioactive spent fuel storage casks, was more than twice as strong as the reactors were designed to withstand.
-Hurricane Irene also struck with unexpected intensity, threatening nuclear plants along the East Coast and shutting down a Maryland reactor after metal siding blew into high-power lines on a transformer.
-Earlier this year, other events considered improbable shook supposedly unshakeable nuclear plants: Japan’s quake and tsunami, unleashing disaster at Fukushima, historic floods along the Missouri River, unusually destructive tornadoes spinning through the South. One storm toppled transmission towers, knocking out power to the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama, which relied on emergency backup systems for five days.
-Repeatedly, unanticipated events have tested nuclear power plants in new ways — and challenged the assumptions of those who operate them and oversee them for safety. Just how well-equipped are U.S. nuclear plants to handle the unexpected? How prepared are operators and regulators to forestall disaster in the face of a threat beyond their expectations?
-Nobody knows for sure.
Designers, operators and regulators of nuclear power plants believe they need plan only for events that are statistically probable - thus neglecting events that can endanger the public and the environment Assumptions and calculations of risk are valid only if accident scenarios play out according to predictions. Those assumptions and calculations are sometimes flawed. Reactor owners and safety officials argue the old "one-size-fits-all" rulebook approach is expensive and inefficient; allowing utilities latitude to estimate risks and respond accordingly saves money and eases regulatory burdens. Risk-based safety programs lose effectiveness without aggressive regulatory oversight, safety experts say.
Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Plant Struggles To Pay For Repairs From Flood Damage -House of Foust, Sept. 14
-The Ft. Calhoun nuclear plant that spent most of the summer surrounded by water does not have the money to pay for the flood repairs. The aging nuclear plant has seen the cost of fighting the flood and the now needed repairs go up and that has strained their comparatively small corporate coffers. OPPD will now have to borrow from other budgets and refinance their current debts in order to pay for flood repairs.
NRC inspecting Monticello nuclear power plant -einnews.com, Sept. 14
-The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is conducting a special inspection of Xcel Energy Inc.’s Monticello nuclear power plant in Minnesota.
-That’s after Xcel discovered blockage in part of the fire protection sprinkler system located outside of the reactor building.
-Xcel discovered the problem during testing and reported it to the NRC on Sept. 2.
-The piping supplies water from the Mississippi River to the sprinkler system in case of a fire in the building.
-Xcel says it assigned a staff member to constantly monitor the intake structure and is using an alternate line for sprinkler system water. The company also is cleaning the sprinkler system piping and expects to restore the system to service by the end of this week.
Trial over future of Vermont Yankee nuclear plant ends; ruling expected this fall -Washington Post, Sept. 14
-An Entergy Corp. lawyer argued Wednesday in the court battle over Vermont’s refusal to extend the life of a nuclear power plant that state lawmakers wrongly considered safety in blocking an extension.
-Kathleen Sullivan, an attorney for the New Orleans-based company, played dozens of audio clips in federal court from legislative committee discussions and floor debates to support Entergy’s argument that Vermont legislators stymied the extension for Vermont Yankee in Vernon for the wrong reason.
-Lawyers for both sides agree that federal law makes nuclear safety the sole province of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But the state argues that lawmakers used other reasons, including plant reliability and creating a better market for renewable energy, in voting down a bill that would have allowed state regulators authority to grant an extension.
-U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha heard the case without a jury. Wednesday was the third and final day. His ruling could some this fall.
French Nuclear Watchdog Sought Safety Improvements at Blast Site -Bloomberg, Sept. 14
-The French atomic regulator repeatedly sought safety improvements at a nuclear-waste processing site owned by Electricite de France SA before this week’s explosion that killed one person and injured four.
-An investigation into the Sept. 12 accident at the Centraco plant in southern France “will show whether it had to do with the safety lapses we uncovered,” said Jean-Christophe Niel, who heads the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, or ASN.
-The plant in the town of Codolet wasn’t previously shut down because the ASN “felt the situation was moving in the right direction,” Niel said today at a Paris press conference.
Researchers say meltdown could have been avoided -NHK, Sept. 15
-A group of researchers says the meltdown of a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant could have been avoided if water injection had been carried out 4 hours earlier than it was.
-Group leader Masashi Hirano says the damage to the fuel could have been avoided, and that he wonders why TEPCO did not start injecting water earlier despite difficulties.
-TEPCO says it doesn’t believe the operation was delayed, adding that workers did their best amid high radiation levels and other severe conditions.
Plant workers fail to evacuate despite exposure -NHK, Sept. 15
-The workers were replacing equipment in the plant’s wastewater processing system on Wednesday.
-Their beta ray counter indicated levels above the evacuation benchmark of 5 millisieverts per hour, but the workers did not evacuate and continued repairs.
-The 4 workers’ level of exposure is believed to have been 9.5 millisieverts at maximum, which poses no immediate health risks.
-The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, is looking into why the workers failed to leave despite hearing an alarm. It has also begun checking 17 other people who were working nearby for exposure to beta rays.
Tepco to raise power charges up to 15% for three years -Japan Times, Sept. 15
-Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to raise electricity charges 10 to 15 percent for three years starting next April in an attempt to turn around its business, which has been rocked by the Fukushima nuclear crisis, sources said Wednesday.
Government promotes solar power in idled farmland -NHK, Sept. 15
-Japan’s agriculture ministry has decided to ease regulations so that idle farmland can be used for renewable energy generation.
-The government is promoting the use of alternative energy after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. But one of the challenges is securing enough land for solar power and other types of renewable energy.
-Ministry officials say they will revise a farmland law so that 400,000 hectares of idle land nationwide can be used for the power generation business.
TEPCO spraying water directly into No.2 reactor -NHK, sept. 15
-The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun injecting water directly onto the spot in the No. 2 reactor where the fuel is believed to be located after melting down in the pressure vessel.
-As of 11AM on Wednesday, the bottom of the No.2 reactor was 114.4 degrees Celsius, compared to 84.9 degrees at the No.1 reactor and 101.3 at the No. 3 reactor.
-TEPCO thinks the temperature at the No.2 reactor remains higher because the injected water is not cooling the place where the melted-down fuel is located.
-On Wednesday, the utility began using pipes located above where the fuel is believed to be, along with an existing pipe, to diversify the coolant passages as the exact spot where the fuel is, remains unknown.
Infants to be tested for radiation exposure -NHK, Sept. 15
-Minamisoma City in Fukushima Prefecture has decided to include infants and small children in tests for radiation taken into their bodies.
-Since July, the city has been testing residents for internal radiation exposure, but infants and small children were excluded as the equipment did not fit them. It has been studying other test methods for them.
-A city-run general hospital, working with a Tokyo-based medical firm, has decided on a method to measure amounts of radioactive substances in urine and began accepting applications on Thursday.
-The new test will be provided free of charge for children 6 years old and under. Results will be mailed about 2 weeks after urine samples are received.
Radioactive cesium from Fukushima on tour of Pacific Ocean -Telegraph, Sept. 15
-The scientists estimated that some 3,500 terabecquerels of cesium-137 was released into the sea directly from the plant between March 11, when the earthquake and tsunami struck, and the end of May. Another 10,000 terabecquerels of cesium fell into the ocean after escaping from the reactors in the form of steam.
-One terabecquerel is a trillion becquerels, the standard measure of radiation, and the Japanese government has set the permissible level of iodine-131 for vegetables and fish at 2,000 becquerels per kilogram (2.2lbs).
-The researchers believe that the cesium has initially dispersed into the Pacific from the coast of Fukushima Prefecture but will be taken to the southwest by the prevailing currents at a depth of around 1,300 feet. Just short of the International Date Line, the shifting currents will take the cesium close to the Philippines before it again turns north on the Japan Current.
UN: Fukushima plant based on poor safety assesment -NHK, Sept. 15
-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has blamed the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in northern Japan on its design which, he says, was based on poor hazard assessments of natural disasters.
-The secretary general released a 43-page report on Wednesday, after studying the March accident with UN entities including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization.
-The report says it is necessary for nuclear power stations to strengthen their safety standards.
Japan’s assumptions over possible nuclear accident ‘too modest’ -Mainichi News, Sept. 15
-The United Nations said Wednesday that Japan was "too modest" in assuming possible accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant before the earthquake-tsunami disaster crippled the facility on March 11.
-"The principal lesson of the Fukushima accident is that assumptions made concerning which types of accident were possible or likely were too modest," the United Nations said in a report released Wednesday on the nuclear crisis in Japan.
-"Those assumptions should be reviewed for all existing and planned reactors, and the possible effects of climate change should be taken into account," it said.
-Meanwhile, the report called nuclear power an important source of energy to meet the power needs of the world where some 2.4 billion people are currently living in energy poverty.
South Africa Delays Bids for Nuclear Plants on Safety Concerns -Bloomberg, Sept. 15
-South Africa postponed the opening of bids for its nuclear power-plant build program to next year because of safety concerns following the meltdown of reactors in Fukushima, Japan, South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said.
Mongolia bans external talks on nuclear waste storage plans -Kyodo, Sept. 15
-Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj has issued an order banning negotiating with foreign governments or international organizations on nuclear waste storage plans in Mongolia.
-The order came last Friday after overseas media reports said Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshiba Corp. and the U.S. Department of Energy were promoting such plans.
-As these plans have come under fire in Mongolia, the country’s government has denied that its officials have discussed or will discuss such plans with foreign governments or international organizations.
-The presidential order prohibits government officials from contacting foreign governments over such plans without approval by the National Security Council that comprises the president, prime minister and parliament speaker.
M6.2 earthquake hits northeast Japan; no tsunami warning -Japan Today, Sept. 15
-The operator of the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said the plant’s cooling functions were intact after Thursday’s quake and there was no change to radiation levels around the plant. The plant is about 130 kilometers northwest of the epicenter.