Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 41: Good News – it’s bad. Bad news – it’s worse than we think

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p class=”lead”>There is a lot of news in Ana’s Feed about the nuclear power industry world wide, as well as across Japan, and especially disturbing news related to the Fukushima plant in particular. In brief, the main reason that the situation at these reactors seems to be kinda-sorta under control (as in the water in the plants has stopped boiling uncontrollably) is that much of the nuclear fuel has melted its way into the underlying geology, and/or all over the plant’s foundation structures, and/or dispersed through groundwater that is moving through the system. Towards nearby rivers and/or the ocean.

Radiation Readings and Contamination


p class=”lead”>The catastrophic meltdowns at Fukushima’s Nuclear Power plant and associated plume of radioactive material were picked up some 60 kilometers away from the plant at a medical facility; These data are now available in a pretty, yet scary, graph (see Ana’s Feed). Good news: It may be the case that most of the radioactive substances in the vicinity, which would be Cesium, is on top of everything … i.e., the top 2 cm of soil. Bad news: The Cesium fallout covers a very very large area, including large areas of eastern and northeastern Japan. Having said that, it appears that very few people were zapped with large amounts of radiation at the outset of the disaster.

However, this may not be an accurate assessment, and hopes that decontamination would go fairly quickly because radioactive material is mainly on the surface and just has to be wiped or scraped off do not seem to be working out. Some of the preliminary decontamination efforts seem to indicate that the procedure being used reduces radioactivity by as little as 22%, which is unexpected.

But that’s OK, because TEPCO’s policy is that radioactive stuff that falls on your property is now YOURS, not theirs!

As decontamination of homes in the Fukushima disaster evacuation area begins, the government is considering sending in the “army” to help with decontamination, but other parts of the government want to see data on potential contamination, which is apparently not available, first. There is a plan to build a facility to bury Fukushma waste. The government is looking for a site. So far there have been no volunteers.

There was a complete botch-up regarding Radioactive Rice, in which a brilliant hypothesis of how rice would be not too contaminated was killed by the ugly fact of highly contaminated rice. Also, school children are, apparently, being given contaminated milk to drink. This was discovered by tests applied to milk over the objections of the milk industry. Similarly, baby formula seems to be contaminated as well.

The Cold Shutdown vs. the Meltdown

TEPCO claims that the planned cold shutdown is on schedule for the end of this month. At present, all of the water in all of the reactor machinery seems to be below boiling point. In fact, it turns out that the temperature inside the primary reactor vessels is even lower than expected. It is possible that this is because most of the fuel has leaked out of the vessels to an unknown location. That’s good, right?

TEPCO has produced a study that shows that the containment vessels for the reactors contained the melted nuclear fuel from the plant. This is based on a computer simulation produced a few days ago.

In contrast, the architect of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 3 suggests that nuclear fuel beneath the plant may be as deep as 12 meters below the foundation level, continuing to melt its way through the earth. If he’s right, that could mean future hydrogen explosions accompanied by massive radiation releases. TEPCO is also concerned about future hydrogen explosions.

Other experts claim that the material from the cores is mixed into the top 70 cm. of material above a steel containment barrier. Yet another suggests that the material is two meters deep into the concrete below the vessel. All of these suggestions are worst than the previously defined “worst case scenario” used by the plant’s engineers and designers.

As efforts leading to the cold shutdown continue, strange things keep happening in the plant with temperature and radiation readings, and there are uncertainties about the instrumentation being used in the plant.

Contaminated Water and Ground Water Problems

One of the major problems at the damaged reactor facilities is still contaminated water in the buildings. TEPCO is unable to remove water from the buildings, though the reasons are somewhat unclear as to why. One of the problems is that groundwater is flowing into the foundations. This is a concern, since the foundations are supposed to be a seal to keep contamination inside the plant in the event of a spill or meltdown. Presumably contaminated water is flowing out if it is also flowing in. It is of some concern that TEPCO can’t identify the source of the groundwater. Modern facilities that will contain dangerous materials are built after accurate groundwater maps and models are developed. This suggests that a review of existing nuclear power plant area groundwater maps is in order.

The good news is that maybe the radioactive stuff under the plants will not actually drill its way through the center of the earth, but rather, it may just flow out into the sea via a nearby river. Extremely high radiation readings have been identified at the mouth of the Abukumagawa River.

Plant Workers

The ex-skf blog expresses concerns over worker’s safety in the vicinity of the plant’s breached containment vessels. Masao Yoshida, the manager at Fukushima at the time of the disaster, has stepped down from his position due to an unspecified illness.

Told you so

More evidence that TEPCO was aware of the threat of a tsunami, but ignored or repressed it, has been brought to light.

Far away but still of interest

Highway 40 in Memphis saw a Uranium Truck crash. No big deal. This time. A coolant leak was reprted at Brunswick Plant in the Carolinas. A recent report suggests that all of the nuclear reactors in France need to be upgraded. Given the geography of much of Western Europe, a Chernobyl or Fukushima type disaster is sometimes called the “10 trillion dollar scenario.” Not only would a major contamination plume cause major direct effects, but at the moment, a huge percentage of Western Europe’s power comes from nuclear.

In Otter Matters

There is still a problem with pets, in the Fukushima area. Volunteers are barely able to handle current needs for care of animals left homeless due to the disaster. Concerns over radioactive contamination? There’s an ap for that! You an now get a Geiger counter attachment for your smart phone.

And now …

Ana’s Feed

Gov’t aims for ‘cold shutdown’ of Fukushima reactors, but bemoans lack of data -Mainichi News, Nov. 14

  • The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are trying to achieve a stable condition called a “cold shutdown” of crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant by the end of this year, but they have yet to come to grips with exactly what is happening inside the reactors crippled by the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

Japanese Physicist Publishes Fukushima Radiation Records -Technology Review, Nov. 14

  • Today, an insight into the conditions in the region surrounding the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant soon after the magnitude 9 earthquake and resultant tsunami which caused the reactors to explode.
  • Fukushima Medical University sits some 60 kilometres northwest of the power station. In the run up to the accident, a physicist at the university, Tsuneo Konayashi, had been measuring the background levels of gamma radiation, the numbers of secondary particles from cosmic ray impacts and the amount of radon in the atmosphere.
  • So when the accident struck, Konayashi and his colleagues were in a good position to measure exactly how things changed.


Contaminated water still headache for Tepco -Japan Times, Nov. 15

  • Though it continues to process contaminated water currently flooding the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings for recycling to cool the reactors, the utility has yet to come up with a way to drain all the water from the buildings. With the trouble unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, the threat of further soil, groundwater and sea contamination near the power plant continues.
  • Tepco originally planned to process 200,000 tons of contaminated water and remove it all by the end of this year, but some 200 to 500 tons of groundwater flows into the buildings every day, rendering this option impossible.
  • The massive inflow of groundwater indicates the basement walls may be cracked, and thus there is a risk that the contamination can spread to the outside environment. Tepco does not know exactly where the groundwater is coming in from.

Japan’s Nuclear Safety Steps May Cost 19 Billion Yen Per Reactor -Bloomberg, Nov. 15

  • Additional safety measures required at Japan’s nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster may cost 19.4 billion yen ($252 million) per reactor, the government said.
  • Emergency measures such as maintaining cooling at a 1,200- megawatt nuclear station are estimated to cost about 11.8 billion yen, a committee under the National Policy Unit said in a report today. Other costs include steps to secure emergency power generators and improve external sources of electricity and 1.3 billion yen to prevent explosions and equip workers with radiation-protection gear in a severe nuclear accident.

Response rate for Fukushima’s thyroid check-ups on kids reaches 77 percent -Mainichi News, Nov. 15

  • The response rate for the first wave of thyroid check-ups for children under the age of 18 here was some 77 percent, a number that far surpasses that of most regular check-ups, officials said.
  • The initial examinations for possible thyroid abnormalities, launched between Oct. 9 and Nov. 13 in several areas of those places most affected by the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant disaster, including the two towns of Namie and Iitate, attracted a 77 percent response rate. Among those, 25 percent were people who had evacuated out of Fukushima Prefecture and traveled back to the prefecture specifically for the check-ups.

Smartphone geiger counter developed -Yomiuri, Nov. 16

  • A manufacturer in Otamamura, Fukushima Prefecture, has developed a geiger counter that allows users to display radiation readings on a smartphone.
  • Sanwa Corp. was to release the product this coming weekend at 9,800 yen per unit amid growing demand for such measuring devices following the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
  • He and his 11 employees have worked on the product since June, as part of an Internet project in which participants shared knowledge to develop measuring devices.

1.3 SIEVERT/HR Inside Reactor 3 Bldg -EX-SKF, Nov. 16

  • where the carbon-based workers would have to go in to install the gas management system, which would filter the gas coming out of the Containment Vessel to capture radioactive materials and release it outside.
  • One minute of work at that location would get a carbon-based worker over 21 millisieverts radiation. One second 360 microsieverts.
  • As I said before, a futile window-dressing, as the CV have been breached somewhere already. It is absolutely crazy, bordering criminal, to send workers there for a cosmetic, token work.

A Long, Long Road to Recycling Nuclear Fuel -NYT, Nov. 16

  • The question of what to do with spent nuclear fuel from civilian power reactors has stirred renewed interest in reprocessing that is, chopping up the fuel, retrieving materials that can power a reactor and possibly recovering the most troublesome waste products so they can be broken up in the reactor into easier-to-handle elements.
  • But the Energy Department, which is supposed to is evaluate different ways that the used fuel could be recycled, has a long way to go, according to the Government Accountability Office. In a report released on Wednesday, the auditors noted that the Department of Energy had listed a huge number of potential ways to do the job and classified the methods according to the degree of promise that each held. Still, the departments evaluation does not indicate the state of technical progress for the many technologies that would be needed, the report said.
  • No currently available or reasonably foreseeable reactor and fuel cycle technology developments including advances in reprocess and recycle technologies have the potential to fundamentally alter the waste management challenge this nation confronts over at least the next several decades, if not longer, the report said.

NRC investigates reactor coolant system leak at Brunswick plant -News 14 Carolina, Nov. 16

  • Energy officials and environmentalists are reacting to reports of a reactor coolant system leak at Progress Energy’s Nuclear Plant in Brunswick County.

-According to Progress Energy, early Wednesday morning the plant reported an unusual plant event to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Environmentalist Tom Clements with Friends of the Earth, tracks nuclear issues primarily in South Carolina and Georgia.

  • “The reason that is significant is because this type of reactor, a boiling water reactor, it goes directly through the core of the reactor, where the radioactive material is contained,” said Clements.
  • Clements said he wants to know the source of the leak, if the water leaking is radioactive, and if this poses any threat to workers, the public, or the environment.
  • “The leakage rates according to the NRC website were up to ten gallons a minute or approaching 10 gallons a minute and when they shut the reactor down, they had gotten down to three gallons a minute but it’s a significant leak,” said Clements.

Decontamination of houses under way -Yomiuri, Nov. 16

  • The Date municipal government has become the first municipality to begin decontamination of houses within specific sites recommended for evacuation by the central government because of high radiation levels.
  • The local government decided to decontaminate the houses on its own out of consideration for residents who wish to return to lives free of radiation fears as soon as possible. It is unclear, however, how effective the operations will be, as so far it has proven difficult to get radiation down to target levels.
  • A total of 54 households in the Shimo-Oguni district of Ryozenmachi in Date were designated as sites recommended for evacuation at the end of June. The district, located in a mountainous area about 300 meters above sea level, is about 55 kilometers northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Gov’t mulls sending GSDF troops for advance Fukushima cleanup -Mainichi News, Nov. 17

  • The government on Wednesday started working out details for sending Ground Self-Defense Force troops next month to decontaminate some municipal buildings near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that will serve as command centers for a full decontamination operation starting in January, government sources said.
  • But some officials have raised concerns as the government has yet to obtain data on the amount of radiation in case the troops conducting the cleanup work get exposed to radiation. The government therefore plans to finalize details with the defense and environment ministries, the sources said.
  • The government envisions sending about 300 troops to the buildings in three locations, according to the sources.

Most radioactive cesium piled up within 2 centimeters of soil surface -Mainichi News, Nov. 17

  • The Cabinet Office’s Team in Charge of the Lives of Disaster Victims announced on Nov. 16 the detailed results of its survey on cesium dosage and accumulations in the soil, forests, buildings, rivers and other environments. Based on the results, the Cabinet Office has concluded that “most of the cesium can be removed if the top two centimeters of the soil is scraped away from its surface.”

Cesium fallout widespread -Japan Times, Nov. 17

  • Radioactive cesium from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may have reached as far as Hokkaido, Shikoku and the Chugoku region in the west, according to a recent simulation by an international research team.
  • Large areas of eastern and northeastern Japan were likely contaminated by the plant, with concentrations of cesium-137 exceeding 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of soil in some places, says the study, which was posted Monday on the website of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Researchers for the U.S.-based organization said the study, which was based on partial data readings, is the first to estimate potential cesium contamination across the country. But they also played down the incident’s impact on the three distant regions.

Early Report Suggests Low Radiation Exposure in Fukushima -TIME, Nov. 17

  • In the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan on March 11, concerns have focused on the lasting health impact of the radiation that leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was crippled in the disasters.
  • Now a preliminary report published in PLoS ONE finds that the dangers may not be as grave as we first feared. Over on TIME’s Ecocentric blog, our colleague Bryan Walsh reports:
  • The PLoS study, led by Ikuo Kashiwakura, found only 10 people among those surveyed with high levels of radiation exposure and even those levels were not elevated enough to require decontamination. (The study covered March 15 to June 20.) Almost everyone else surveyed had low to nonexistent levels of radiation contamination, while the Hirosaki [University] staff members on site had undetectable radiation levels.

Volunteers struggle to look after pets orphaned by Fukushima nuclear crisis -Mainichi News, Nov. 17

  • The Fukushima Prefectural Government set up the two animal shelters in the city of Fukushima and the town of Miharu. The Fukushima facility housed 165 cats and dogs as of Nov. 16, while the one in Miharu, which opened in October, had 118. They are being operated by an aid headquarters formed by parties including the prefectural government and the Fukushima Veterinary Medical Association.
  • After the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, many residents had to leave their pets at home when they evacuated. It is believed that about 10,000 pet cats and roughly the same number of pet dogs were in the restricted zone when the crisis broke out after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Roughly 30 percent of these animals died in the quake and tsunami, and about 20 percent were taken into the care of volunteer groups. About 700 of the remaining pets were caught by officials or retrieved when residents briefly returned home, and the ones whose owners could not be determined or whose owners could not keep them anymore are being looked after at the two prefectural facilities.
  • One 36-year-old construction worker from the town of Okuma, near the nuclear plant, comes to see his pet dog at the facility about once every two weeks.

France Needs to Upgrade All Nuclear Reactors -Scientific American, Nov. 17

  • France needs to upgrade the protection of vital functions in all its nuclear reactors to avoid a disaster in the event of a natural calamity, the head of its nuclear safety agency said, adding there was no need to close any plants.
  • IRSN, experts on radiation protection and nuclear safety, delivered a 500-page report to nuclear watchdog ASN Thursday, which will in turn hand over its conclusions, based on the report, to the government at the end of 2011.
  • “There is a need to add a layer to protect safety mechanisms in reactors that are vital for the protection of the reactor such as cooling functions and electric powering,” Jacques Repussard, head of the IRSN, told Reuters in an interview.

Uranium Mining The Virginia Battleground Environmental Concerns vs. Corporate Interests -DC Bureau, Nov. 18

  • The Virginia General Assembly is expected to vote next year on whether to lift a 30-year moratorium on uranium mining in the state.
  • The issue has prompted an expensive lobbying campaign by the company that wants to mine a huge deposit known as Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County and an intense fight by environmentalists who want to stop it. The battle has pitted neighbor against neighbor in the county, in south central Virginia, an area known as Southside.
  • Two Virginians, each offered money to allow uranium mining on their land, personify the debate that is raging through the state. One accepted. The other declined.
  • Connie Crider, a housewife, lives with her husband in Pittsylvania County, close to 119 million pounds of uranium ore, the largest deposit in the country and one of the largest in the world. Its worth has been estimated at $10 billion.
  • Crider dismisses arguments from environmentalists that the tons and tons of toxic radioactive waste produced by mining could contaminate their water, air and land. I just dont think they know, she says. They wont listen. They have just set their minds that this is a bad thing and they wont listen.

Storing radioactive waste -Japan Times, Nov. 19

  • The central government on Oct. 29 announced a plan to construct within three years an intermediate storage facility to bury contaminated soil and other waste in Fukushima Prefecture.
  • The concrete facility will cover 3 to 5 square kilometers and have a capacity of 15 million to 28 million cubic meters. The central government will have to negotiate with local governments in Fukushima Prefecture to decide on a site for the facility in 2012 and start building it in the summer of 2014. The facility will start accepting contaminated soil and other waste around January 2015.

Cold shutdown appears on schedule -Japan Times, Nov. 19

  • The melted nuclear fuel of reactors 1, 2 and 3 of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is being slowly cooled and a cold shutdown is likely to be achieved by the end of the year as planned, disaster minister Goshi Hosono said Thursday.
  • The government will declare that the facility has achieved cold shutdown once it confirms the complex can maintain stability over the next several years even if it is hit by an earthquake or suffers malfunctions, he said.
  • In the road map for the resolution of the crisis, which is updated every month, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. said not only that the temperature at the bottom of the pressure vessels of all three reactors is below 100, but that the temperature inside the primary containment vessels of the reactors, where part of the melted fuel may be accumulating, was between 39 and 70 as of Wednesday.
  • “There have been various discussions on whether the fuel remains inside the pressure vessels, or has dropped to the (outer) primary container . . . and our explanation is that we think we are able to slowly cool the fuel including that inside the primary containers and the pressure vessels,” Hosono said at a news conference that Tepco officials also attended.

N-fuel conditions unclear -Yomiuri, Nov. 19

  • The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. have revised the timetable for the seventh time in the eight months since the crisis began. Data suggests the reactors and radioactive material are under control, and the power plant will achieve a cold shutdown once required conditions are confirmed.
  • However, the status of the molten nuclear fuel is unclear. It is not known how the fuel, believed to have partially melted through pressure vessels of the reactors and into containment vessels, has dispersed and how much lies in water.
  • It is questionable to assess the situation as nearly a cold shutdown. Usually, to achieve a cold shutdown, all fuel rods should be cooled under water, and nuclear fuel, pressure and containment vessels should be intact and in good condition.
  • The situation at the nuclear plant does not meet this definition. Is it appropriate for the government and TEPCO to call the current status nearly a cold shutdown?

Article 9 group calls for end to nuclear power -Japan Times, Nov. 20

  • The founders of an antirevisionist group stressed the need Saturday to remove nuclear power from the nation’s energy policy in light of Article 9 of the Constitution and the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant.
  • “Our Constitution represents our determination to never again experience the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel laureate in literature, referring to the two cities obliterated by atomic bombs in the final days of World War II. “But we have seen the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.”
  • Oe, one of the nine founders of the Article 9 Association, made the remarks at the group’s national rally in Tokyo, which drew about 700 like-minded people.

Packbot Finds 1.6 Sievert/Hr Spot -EX-SKF, Nov. 20

Gov’t panel bitterly criticizes budget for Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor project -Mainichi News, Nov. 21

  • A Japanese government panel charged with cutting wasteful public expenses bitterly lashed out on Nov. 20 at massive spending for an ambitious program to develop nuclear fuel recycling technology based on the troubled Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, a move that could affect the country’s nuclear policy already undermined by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
  • “Is it good to pour money into something 40 years into the future, something which has produced no results in the last 40 years?” said Yuichiro Tamaki, a House of Representatives lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Tamaki was one of the members of the government panel that conducted its first screening session on government policies under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Nov. 20. Other panel members also harshly criticized Monju-related spending.

Fukushima Daiichi: My trip inside Japans Dead Zone -Washington Post, Nov. 21

  • Just about the time we crossed into the no-entry zone surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the dosimeter clipped to our car window introduced its soundtrack: Chirp-chirp. Chirp-chirp. Chirp-chirp.
  • Our guide, a local rancher with a permit for the area, stopped his Isuzu SUV. We were about eight or nine miles from the nuclear plant, Id guess, with thick trees on both sides. The rancher, Masami Yoshizawa, placed the dosimeter on the ground. We waited for new numbers to flash.
  • 71.32 uSv/hr.
  • Thats 2.5 times the level at the front gate of the nuclear plant.

Vindicated Seismologist Says Japan Still Underestimates Threat to Reactors -Bloomberg, Nov. 21

  • Dismissed as a nobody by Japans nuclear industry, seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi spent two decades watching his predictions of disaster come true: First in the 1995 Kobe earthquake and then at Fukushima. He says the government still doesnt get it.
  • The 67-year-old scientist recalled in an interview how his boss marched him to the Construction Ministry to apologize for writing a 1994 book suggesting Japans building codes put its cities at risk. Five months later, thousands were killed when a quake devastated Kobe city. The book, A Seismologist Warns, became a bestseller.
  • That didnt stop Haruki Madarame, now head of Japans Nuclear Safety Commission, from dismissing Ishibashi as an amateur when he warned of a nuclear earthquake disaster, a phrase the Kobe University professor coined in 1997. Ishibashi says Japan still underestimates the risk of operating reactors in a country that has about 10 percent of the worlds quakes.
  • What was missing – and is still missing – is a recognition of the danger, Ishibashi said, seated in a dining room stacked with books in his house in a Kobe suburb. I understand were not going to shut all of the nuclear plants, but we should rank them by risk and phase out the worst.

Radioactive Strontium Found in Central Tokyo -EX-SKF, Nov. 21

  • TEPCO announced on November 20 that 1600 millisieverts/hour radiation was measured on the 1st floor of Reactor 3 reactor building at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. It is the highest measurement [so far] in Reactor 3 building. On November 14, 1300 millisieverts/hour radiation was detected nearby. The measurement was conducted as [the robot] tried to wipe off the small amount of water which may have leaked from the Containment Vessel. According to TEPCO, the cleaning operation by the robot is not going well.

Massive Hydrovolcanic Explosion Inevitable at Fukushima -Infowars, Nov. 22

  • On November 17, the architect of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 3, Uehara Haruo, was interviewed in Japan. He warned that a China Syndrome situation is inevitable at the plant.
  • Haruo said that considering eight months have passed since the tsunami and the crippling of the nuclear plant without any improvement in the condition of the reactors, it is likely melted fuel has escaped the container vessel and is now burning through the earth.

Reactor 3: Radiation Went UP After Packbots Cleaned the Guide Rail to CV -EX-SKF, Nov. 22

  • After 2 Packbots wiped the guide rail to the Containment Vessel hatch on the 1st floor of Reactor 3, they were sent back in to measure the result of their operation in terms of radiation levels.
  • Well, the levels may have gone up. As you can see in the handout for the press on November 22, 2011, after the cleaning operation the measurement by the survey meter fluctuated so much that TEPCO couldn’t put down the single number for each location.
  • What had been 800 millisieverts/hour on November 14 was anywhere between 570 to 1,600 millisieverts/hour on November 19.

Ballot Initiative to Close Nuclear Plants Gets Go-Ahead for Signature Collection -San Clemente Times, Nov. 22

  • California’s Secretary of State approved a ballot initiative November 18 that seeks the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the Diablo Canyon plant.
  • The initiative was filed by Ben Davis Jr. in April after the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Davis drafted this and an earlier petition that led to the closure of the Rancho Seco power plant in June 1989.
  • As drafted, the latest initiative parallels existing state law prohibiting the creation of new nuclear plants until the federal government finds a solution to dispose of radioactive nuclear waste and reprocess spent fuel rods. If enacted, the initiative would essentially shut down the state’s two remaining nuclear plants by stopping them from creating additional waste until a federal solution arrives.

Commission OKs Progress Energy Florida nuclear costs -Tampa Bay Online, Nov. 22

  • Customers will pay $140 million next year so Progress Energy Florida can buy electricity from other sources while a nuclear plant remains shut down for repairs.
  • Consumer advocates opposed the power replacement charge, which will take effect Jan. 1, but it won unanimous approval today from the five-member Florida Public Service Commission.
  • The panel’s decision is a prelude to a determination next year whether a portion of the repair costs should be passed on to customers or paid in full by the company’s investors owing to problems that have delayed the work. The Crystal River plant was closed for repairs in 2009 but now isn’t expected to reopen until 2014. That’s about three years later than initially expected.
  • The repair bill is expected to total $2.5 billion. The utility wants customers to pay $670 million, or about a quarter of that amount.

Noda weighs public’s nuclear fears, firms’ export ambitions -Japan Times, Nov. 23

  • Long dependent on domestic appetite, Japan’s nuclear technology companies are increasingly looking to overseas markets, hopeful that foreign governments still trust in the reliability and safety of their technologies after the Fukushima nuclear accident.
  • Despite public criticism, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has so far answered calls by conglomerates for support as they try to strike deals with countries including Vietnam, Jordan and Lithuania.
  • Last month, Noda met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to reaffirm a $13 billion (1 trillion) deal in which Japanese companies will construct two plants for the energy-hungry nation. The government has offered low-interest loans to Hanoi over the purchase.

Decontamination work at homes in Fukushima not going well as radiation lingers -Mainichi News, Nov. 24

  • Work to decontaminate homes and yards in a district here is not proceeding as hoped, as radiation levels persist and decontamination workers worried about their health stay away.
  • The city began decontamination work in the Onami district on Oct. 18. Located in the mountains in the eastern part of the city, it has been heavily affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with radiation in rice over the nation’s provisional limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram detected, leading to a ban on rice shipments.
  • Although monitoring of six homes where decontamination was carried out found an average drop of 70 percent in radiation in front of entrances and on gravel parking spots, there was only a 30 percent drop for roofs and a 25 percent drop for asphalt in the yard. Furthermore, there was only a 22 percent drop for second floor interiors.

Nuclear power ‘gets little public support worldwide’ -BBC, Nov. 24

  • In countries with nuclear programmes, people are significantly more opposed than they were in 2005, with only the UK and US bucking the trend.
  • Most believe that boosting efficiency and renewables can meet their needs.
  • Just 22% agreed that “nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants”.
  • In contrast, 71% thought their country “could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind”.
  • Globally, 39% want to continue using existing reactors without building new ones, while 30% would like to shut everything down now.

Germany nuclear protesters clash with police -BBC, Nov. 24

  • Police in northern Germany have used water cannons against demonstrators waiting for the arrival of a shipment of nuclear waste from France.
  • Scuffles broke out between police and protesters after fireworks and paint were thrown at officers.
  • Protesters had tried to block a crossroads at Metzingen, near the shipment’s destination.
  • French authorities have stopped the train in Remilly, short of the border.

TEPCO: Radioactive substances belong to landowners, not us -Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 24

  • During court proceedings concerning a radioactive golf course, Tokyo Electric Power Co. stunned lawyers by saying the utility was not responsible for decontamination because it no longer “owned” the radioactive substances.
  • Radioactive materials (such as cesium) that scattered and fell from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant belong to individual landowners there, not TEPCO, the utility said.
  • That argument did not sit well with the companies that own and operate the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club, just 45 kilometers west of the stricken TEPCO plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
  • The Tokyo District Court also rejected that idea.

Radioactive Rice: 1270 Bq/kg of Cesium from Rice in Onami District, Fukushima City -EX-SKF, Nov. 25

TEPCO to RAISE Temperature of RPVs -EX-SKF, Nov. 24

  • After 8 and a half months of trying to lower the temperature of the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPV), which by the way are broken and probably devoid of melted fuel, TEPCO announced they would now try to raise the temperature to avoid hydrogen explosion.
  • The RPVs are thought to contain hydrogen. If the RPVs are cooled too much, the steam inside the RPVs will become water, making the atmosphere inside the RPV too dry and increasing the danger of igniting hydrogen. At the same time, TEPCO has started the preparation for injecting nitrogen into the RPVs to expel hydrogen inside the RPVs.

Once More Into the Breach -TIME, Nov. 25

  • Japanese troops are being sent once again into the heart of the Fukushima radiation zone to battle contamination from the stricken nuclear power plant.
  • Specially trained troops will enter the 20-kilometer (12.4 miles) exclusion zone around the plant next month to decontaminate abandoned government buildings and facilities. Once safe, the facilities will serve as headquarters and staging areas for full-scale decontamination operations.
  • About 400 troops from the Ground Self Defense Force’s Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit will be sent to Fukushima. They’ve been there before: Four members of the unit were injured in a hydrogen explosion at the plant on March 12. Several helicopter pilots and crew received large doses of radiation while dumping seawater on one of the damaged reactors.
  • The soldiers are expected to finish their work in about a month. No word on when, or if, all the contamination will be gone.

Japan plans to set special radiation limit for infant food -Mainichi News, Nov. 25

  • Japan’s health ministry on Thursday proposed categorizing food and drink products in four groups, including one for infant foods, in setting tougher radiation standard levels.
  • While the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has been working to lower the upper limit on radioactive cesium exposure to 1 millisievert per year from the current provisional level of 5 millisieverts, it has decided to give special consideration to infants who are more vulnerable to radiation than older people.

Cesium levels hit tens of billions of becquerels at river mouth -Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 25

  • Researchers have sounded the alarm over river water containing cesium levels at tens of billions of becquerels a day flowing into the sea near Fukushima Prefecture, site of the crippled nuclear power plant.
  • A joint study by Kyoto University and the University of Tsukuba, among other entities, estimated that water at the mouth of the Abukumagawa river running through the prefecture was contaminated with cesium levels of about 50 billion becquerels a day.
  • They called for immediate and continued monitoring of the situation.
  • The daily radiation levels are equivalent to the total of amount of cesium in low-level contaminated water released into the sea in April by Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
  • The Abukumagawa river runs to the north in the prefecture, near Koriyama and Fukushima, the prefectural capital, and flows into the Pacific Ocean at Iwanuma in Miyagi Prefecture.

Cesium from Fukushima plant fell all over Japan -Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 26

  • Radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have now been confirmed in all prefectures, including Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, about 1,700 kilometers from the plant, according to the science ministry.
  • The ministry said it concluded the radioactive substances came from the stricken nuclear plant because, in all cases, they contained cesium-134, which has short half-life of two years.
  • Before the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, radioactive substance were barely detectable in most areas.

No-go zone a wasteland frozen in time -Japan Times, Nov. 26

  • Eight months ago, people left the town of Namie in haste. Families raced from their homes without closing the front doors. They left half-finished wine bottles on their kitchen tables and sneakers in their foyers. They jumped in their cars without taking pets and left cows hitched to milking stanchions.
  • If the dormant Chernobyl plant in Ukraine provides any guide, the land surrounding the Fukushima facility will one day grow wild, with contaminated villages eventually bulldozed and buried. Maybe decades from now, Japan will tailor the area to adventure-seeking tourists, or use the region as a wildlife preserve. For now, though, the land surrounding the nuclear plant still preserves the history of those who were ordered to evacuate.
  • Only emergency workers and select residents with special permits are allowed to enter the zone, and then only for brief trips. When two Washington Post reporters entered the zone with the help of a local rancher, only a few cars were seen traveling along the main roads. The rancher, Masami Yoshizawa, said that only about 1,000 of the area’s 3,500 cows are still alive. At one point, while driving, he spotted a few brown cows with yellow tags on their ears.
  • “Those are probably mine,” he said.

Fukushima dairy farmer loses hope of returning as vegetation overruns farm -Mainichi News, Nov. 27

  • Once every 10 days, Namio Kanno, 64, checks on his home and dairy farm in the Yamakiya district in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture. Eight months since the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, there is nothing he can do as the farm he spent 38 years on becomes overrun with vegetation.
  • “The maximum limit is three years,” Kanno said about his evacuation from Yamakiya, which has been designated as a “planned evacuation zone” by the national government. “Any longer than that, and I won’t be able to return the pasture to the way it was.”
  • There are no cows left at the farm now, because Kanno gave them up before he evacuated. “How much time and money is it going to take to decontaminate the area, including the forests?” Kanno asked. “Is it even possible to scrape away the surface of the ground when the ground surface consists mostly of rock?”

German police clear nuclear waste train protest -BBC, Nov. 27

  • Protesters had blocked the tracks near the site in northern Germany where the spent nuclear fuel is to be stored.
  • The 150 tonnes of uranium, originally from German nuclear plants, is being moved in 11 containers from Normandy, France, where it was reprocessed.
  • It is the last of 12 such shipments from France because of a German move away from nuclear power.
  • Reports said 1,300 people had been detained following the clearing of the protest.

Monju reactor may be axed: Hosono -Japan Times, Nov. 27

  • The Monju fast-breeder reactor had been expected to play a key role in establishing Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle, in which spent fuel from domestic nuclear power plants would be reprocessed and reused as plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.
  • The reactor first achieved criticality in 1994. But the Monju project has been plagued by a series of problems, including a leak of sodium coolant that started a fire in 1995.
  • Although the reactor resumed operations in May last year, it experienced further problems three months later and was suspended again.
  • The science ministry has requested 21.5 billion for the Monju project for the 2012 fiscal year, roughly the same amount as for the current fiscal year.

A New Urgency to the Problem of Storing Nuclear Waste -NYT, Nov. 27

  • Few countries , apart from Sweden and Finland, have moved forward on centralized disposal sites, deep in the earth, designed to hold the waste permanently.
  • France is evaluating a permanent disposal site for spent fuel , near the remote northeastern village of Bure. The country gets roughly three-quarters of its power from nuclear plants and reprocesses its fuel, a technique that reduces the quantity of waste but is expensive and also creates plutonium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.
  • Japan also hopes to choose a site and build a geological disposal facility in the coming decades.
  • Meanwhile, every aspect of nuclear power in Japan including waste storage has been turned upside down by the Fukushima disaster in March, which followed a giant earthquake and tsunami. As a result of the accident, Japan has doubled or tripled the amount of non-spent fuel and high-level waste, according to Murray Jennex, a nuclear expert at San Diego State University. Even things like the building that houses the turbine are contaminated, he noted.
  • So thats really increased their demand for storage, and Im not sure what theyre going to do with it, Dr. Jennex said.

Towns avoid govt help on decontamination -Yomiuri, Nov. 28

  • As early as mid-December, the government plans to begin designating municipalities that will be subject to intensive investigation of their contamination, which is a precondition for the government paying for decontamination in place of the municipalities.
  • Municipalities with areas found to have a certain level of radiation will be so designated. The aim of the plan is to promote the thorough cleanup of contaminated cities, towns and villages, including those outside Fukushima Prefecture.
  • However, many local governments are reluctant to seek such designation, fearing it may give the false impression that the entire municipality is contaminated.

Japan’s Decon Bubble: This Is the Way They’ll Decon Orchards in Fukushima (VIDEO)-EX-SKF, Nov. 28

Fukushima fallout: time to quit nuclear power altogether -Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 28

  • At the risk of being melodramatic, the ripple effects of Fukushima go well beyond northern Japan. Clearly, nuclear accidents have become global events. Though fully 25 years have passed since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine during the former Soviet Union, residents still cannot pick the mushrooms growing in certain parts of southern Germany due to radiation damage carried by the wind. Radiation knows no geographic borders. If a nuclear accident occurs on Chinas shores, the citizens of Korea and Japan are inevitably vulnerable to radioactivity.
  • Even ignoring the numerous environmental risks, nuclear power doesnt make sense on a pure dollars-and-cents analysis. Nuclear power simply isnt economical when you factor the impact of indirect expenses and fees, and thus cant compete in an open, unsubsidized market for electricity. More often than not, in fact, taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for radioactive waste disposal and storage. Costs for insurance coverage of nuclear energy facilities have become astronomical. And the costs to shutter a nuclear plant after it has passed its life expectancy nearly equal the construction costs of building the plant in the first place.

Rigging opinions on nuclear power -Japan Times, Nov. 28

  • Athird-party committee of the Hokkaido government on Wednesday reported that the then chief of the regional government’s nuclear power safety measures section asked Hokkaido Electric Power Co. in July 2008 to collect opinions that favored the use of MOX (mixed oxide) nuclear fuel in the No. 3 reactor of its Tomari nuclear power plant.
  • The chief made the request because a majority of opinions collected by the Hokkaido government up to that point had been decidedly against the use of MOX fuel, which contains both plutonium and uranium, the committee said.
  • This is just the latest revelation of attempts to rig public opinions on nuclear power.

Fukushima nuclear plant director is sick -Raw Story, Nov. 28

  • The director of Japans crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is stepping down due to illness, the facilitys operator said Monday but it was not clear if his condition is radiation-related.
  • Masao Yoshida, 56, who has been on site at the plant since Japans March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, has been hospitalised for treatment of illness, a spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric Power Co.(TEPCO) said.
  • We cannot give you details of his illness because they are private matters, Chie Hosoda said. He is hospitalised where he is able to take time in his convalescence.
  • However, there were mixed messages from TEPCO, with senior official Junichi Matsumoto saying according to Jiji Press, We have heard from doctors that his condition is not related to radiation but it was not a definitive diagnosis.
  • Another TEPCO spokeswoman Ai Tanaka told AFP: We have not yet heard from doctors about any causal relationship to radiation.

Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 2: Temperature Gauges Go Haywire -EX-SKF, Nov. 28

  • From TEPCO’s own words in the press handout on November 28 (page 3):
  • Gas temperature of Suppression Chamber of Unit 2:

11/26 17:00, read 52.7?, but at 11:00 pm on the day we confirmed that it read Overscaled (digital recorder).
11/27 5:00, it read 102.6?. Though the readings were not stable, as there were no significant changes or variations in the temperatures of the same types of 2 thermometers and the pool water in Suppression Chamber, we have been investigating the causes for this event including the possibility of malfunction of the measuring instruments. Later, we inspected the measuring instruments and estimated that the readings were overscaled due to certain impacts on the signal detection line seeing that signal from the temperature detector is not stable. We will keep monitoring readings of this instrument and also monitor the temperature using instruments close to it.

  • Temperature inside the Primary Containment Vessel (Drywell) of Unit 2 (base line temperature of the air conditioning unit, local cooling equipment):

11/27 5:00, read 78.2?
11/27 6:50, it was confirmed that it read approximately 84 , increasing in a staircase pattern. On the other hand, it was also confirmed that the temperature changes of the bottom of the Reactor Pressure Vessel and the water in the pool of the Suppression Chamber were smaller than that of the inside of the Primary Containment Vessel (Drywell) and that there was no significant change in the temperature. Now we have been decreasing the flow rate of water injection as stated below and therefore it is expected that the temperature inside the Primary Containment Vessel will rise, but, as the line temperature of which rose in a staircase pattern was only one line of the five lines and the rest of the lines did not show the same changes, we have been investigating the causes for this event, including the possibility of malfunction of the measuring instruments.

North Anna Power Station, Virginia Nuclear Plant, Back At Full Power After August Earthquake -HuffPost, Nov. 28

  • Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna Power Station was back at full power on Monday. It’s been offline since the Aug. 23 earthquake that shook the East Coast.
  • The plant had some minor damage, ranging from small buckles and cracks in tile floors to damaged bolts on large metal parts that transfer power from transformers to the electrical grid and into homes. The quake also caused 25 massive nuclear storage containers at the plant to shift, but they remained intact.

Appeal Challenges Uranium Mine Threatening Grand Canyon -Center for Biological Diversity, Nov. 28

  • Conservation groups and American Indian tribes today filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit Court challenging a lower court ruling that allowed a uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park to re-open without updating decades-old environmental reviews. The Arizona 1 uranium mine is located near Kanab Creek immediately north of Grand Canyon National Park.
  • In 2010, conservation groups and tribes sued the Bureau of Land Management for failing to modernize 23-year-old mining plans and environmental reviews prior to allowing Denison Mines to resume uranium mining after the mine was shuttered in 1992. A federal judge in Phoenix this fall sided with the Bureau and the uranium industry saying no new plans or reviews were needed, prompting todays appeal.
  • These uranium mines have been closed for nearly two decades. The public has a right to evaluate their impacts to water and wildlife before they re-open. Relying on old and outdated plans and reviews doesnt cut it, said Taylor McKinnon, with the Center for Biological Diversity. Allowing this decision to stand would shield mines from any further federal or public review once they have initial approval. That might be wonderful for the uranium industry but itd be terrible policy for our public lands.

Special Report: In Chernobyl, A Disaster Persists -Planet Arc, Nov. 28

  • As Japan battles to prevent a meltdown at its earthquake-hit Fukushima Daini nuclear plant, the people of Ukraine are preparing to mark the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident.
  • The physical and financial legacies of that disaster are obvious: a 30-km uninhabited ring around the Chernobyl plant, billions of dollars spent cleaning the region and a major new effort to drum up 600 million euros ($840 million) in fresh funds that Kiev says is needed to build a more durable casement over the stricken reactor.
  • Just as powerful are the scars that are less easily seen: fear and an abiding suspicion that despite the reassuring reports by authorities and scientific bodies people may still be dying from radiation after-effects.
  • While debate about the health impact continues, there is little doubt people in Ukraine and neighboring Belarus carry a psychological burden. Repeated studies have found that “exposed populations had anxiety levels that were twice as high” as people unaffected by the accident, according to a 2006 United Nations report. Those exposed to radiation were also “3-4 times more likely to report multiple unexplained physical symptoms and subjective poor health than were unaffected control groups.”
  • The official short-term death toll from the accident was 31 but many more people died of radiation-related sicknesses such as cancer. The total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate even 25 years after the disaster.
  • “(The disaster) brought suffering on millions of people,” said the Emergency Ministry’s Holosha.
  • “About 600,000 people were involved in mitigating the consequences of the accident. About 300,000 of them were Ukrainians. Out of those, 100,000 are disabled now.”
  • A 2008 United Nations study cited a “dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence” in the Ukraine and just across the border in Belarus. Children seemed to be especially vulnerable because they drank milk with high levels of radioactive iodine.
  • “One arrives at between 12,000 and 83,000 children born with congenital deformations in the region of Chernobyl, and around 30,000 to 207,000 genetically damaged children worldwide,” German physicians’ organization IPPNW said in a report in 2006.

Dry weather starts to bite French nuclear output -Reuters, Nov. 29

  • Dry weather conditions are starting to hit output at France’s nuclear reactors with EDF forced to stop one reactor in northern France to protect river flows, EDF said on Monday.
  • France, the European Union’s biggest power exporter, this year experienced its driest March-May spring period in 50 years and its hottest since 1900. While rain fell over the summer, France experienced another dry bout this autumn.
  • Nuclear plants use water to cool their reactors. French power producer EDF, which operates the country’s 58 reactors, is not allowed to keep reactors operating if water temperatures rise beyond a set level or if flows fall below authorised limits.

Cesium find makes Date rice off-limits -Japan Times, Nov. 29

  • The government on Tuesday ordered a ban on the shipment of rice harvested in two more districts in Fukushima Prefecture, after tests detected dangerously high levels of radioactive cesium.
  • Chief Cabinet Secreatary Osamu Fujimura said the central government has instructed Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to impose the ban on about 1,900 kg harvested in the Oguni district and 1,500 kg in the Tsukidate district, both in the city of Date.
  • On Monday, the Fukushima Prefectural Government announced that a combined 3,400 kg of unmilled rice harvested by two farms in the Oguni district and by one farm in the Tsukidate district contained between 580 and 1,050 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. The government’s limit is 500 becquerels.
  • One of the farms in the Oguni district already has sold 9 kg of the tainted rice, the prefectural government said, adding it has yet to establish the identity of the buyer. The remainder of the Oguni rice has not reached the market, it said.

Only specialist firms should clean up areas with high radiation, say health experts -Mainichi News, Nov. 29

  • If workers perform decontamination work on dozens of occasions a year in areas where radiation levels are 0.23 to 2.5 microsieverts, the ministry estimates that their annual external exposure will be well below 1 millisievert and believes that they do not have to undergo radiation exposure screening by their employers. Based on this estimate, the regulations and guidelines will allow local residents and volunteers to participate in decontamination in such areas.
  • However, the proposal adds that businesses specializing in radiation must be commissioned to decontaminate areas if workers are required to be engaged in decontamination work for long periods and their external exposure to radiation exceeds 1 millisievert a year. Businesses engaged in such work will be obligated to strictly control workers’ exposure to radiation.

Fukushima guilty of world’s worst sea contamination -AlJazeera, Nov. 29

Japan Accident Plans Inadequate: Greenpeace -Bloomberg, Nov. 29

  • Japans plans for containing nuclear accidents are completely inadequate and havent been updated nearly nine months after the disaster at Fukushima, Greenpeace International said.
  • Government maps simulating a reactor meltdown project a release of low-level radiation only as far as 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), the environmental group said in a statement yesterday. The bulk of radioactive contamination extends as far as 30 kilometers from the leaking Fukushima plant, according to Japans science ministry. Some areas may be uninhabitable for decades, government officials have said.
  • The governments maps are based on a radiation release in the order of 10,000 times less severe than what could happen during a major incident, Jan Vande Putte, a nuclear campaigner with a degree in radiation protection from the University of Utrecht, said in the statement. Hoping for the best is absolutely the wrong way to devise an emergency response plan.

Japan insurers not to renew contract for Fukushima nuclear plant -Mainichi News, Nov. 29

  • A consortium of 23 Japanese property and casualty insurers has told Tokyo Electric Power Co. that it will not renew insurance expiring Jan. 15 on the utility’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, source of the nation’s worst-ever nuclear accident, sources close to the matter said Monday.
  • The damaged nuclear plant is expected to face far greater risks than other nuclear plants during planned post-accident damage control and decommissioning, they said.
  • Under the law, the government insures nuclear plants against accidents caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami waves, and private-sector insurers cover other accidents. As the Fukushima accident caused by the March disaster was subject to government insurance, TEPCO has received 120 billion yen in insurance money from the government.

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant operator ‘ignored tsunami warning’ -Guardian, Nov. 29

  • The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant ignored warnings that the complex was at risk of damage from a tsunami of the size that hit north-east Japan in March, and dismissed the need for better protection against seawater flooding, according to reports.
  • Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) officials rejected “unrealistic” estimates made in a 2008 internal report that the plant could be threatened by a tsunami of up to 10.2 metres, Kyodo news agency said.
  • The tsunami that crippled backup power supplies at the plant on the afternoon of 11 March, leading to the meltdown of three reactors, was more than 14 metres high.
  • The 40-year-old plant was built on the assumption that the biggest tsunami that could be expected on the Fukushima coast would be 5.7 metres high. Even at that height, the 2008 report said, water levels onsite could exceed 15 metres.
  • Kyodo quoted Tepco sources as saying the plant might have been better prepared for the disaster had it taken the report seriously.

Tepco study points to need to avert tsunami flooding -Japan Times, Nov. 30

  • An in-house investigation by Tokyo Electric Power Co. has found that the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was triggered by tsunami that flooded key structures after the March 11 earthquake, causing equipment inside to fail, sources said.
  • In an interim report of its investigation into the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, Tepco says it plans to take thorough measures to prevent buildings and important equipment from being exposed to water, the sources said Monday.
  • While vowing to take steps to avoid accidents that would result in further reactor core damage, Tepco says in the report that it also plans to have measures in place to prevent hydrogen explosions and massive releases of radioactive substances into the environment.

Hokkaido governor admits gov’t attempt to manipulate opinion on ‘pluthermal’ plan -Mainichi News, Nov. 30

  • Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi has admitted the prefectural government’s involvement in Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s alleged attempt to manipulate public opinion on a “pluthermal” plan at its nuclear plant.
  • Takahashi told a prefectural assembly session on Nov. 29 that she has “decided to accept” a third party fact-finding panel’s report, which concludes that an official who headed the prefectural government’s nuclear safety division was involved in the case.
  • When the power supplier’s third party panel initially pointed to the possibility of the prefectural government’s involvement, the governor categorically denied the allegations saying, “That’s absolutely impossible.”
  • However, on Nov. 29 Takahashi told the assembly, “It was inappropriate that the division chief in charge made remarks that could be interpreted as asking (employees of the utility to express their opinions as local residents in favor of the project).”

Fukushima Pref. to decommission all 10 local nuke reactors -Mainichi News, Nov. 30

  • The Fukushima Prefectural Government has decided to decommission all 10 reactors in its jurisdiction, including those at the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, in conjunction with its disaster recovery project, it has been learned.
  • A vision for restoration created by the prefectural government in August promoted the formation of a “society not relying on nuclear power,” but made no actual reference to decommissioning reactors. Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato was expected to formally announce the measure in a news conference on Nov. 30.
  • Earlier, Sato stated that the No. 1 to 4 reactors at the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex would be decommissioned, but when it came to the plant’s No. 5 and No. 6 reactors and those at the Fukushima No. 2 plant, he had simply stated, “It is inconceivable to restart them.”
  • In October the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly adopted a petition seeking decommissioning of all reactors in the prefecture.

Fukushima residents tour German renewable village; learn about non-nuclear energy sources -Washington Post, Nov. 30

  • A group of residents from the radiation-stricken area around Japans tsunami-hit nuclear reactors and a Tokyo actor are visiting Germany to learn how renewable energy could work in their homeland.
  • Among them is Tatsuko Okara, an organic farmer who lives 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the disabled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Okara told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she first began to worry about the impact a nuclear accident could have on her family after the 1986 meltdown in Chernobyl.
  • I would like to see Japan move away from nuclear energy, Okara said. But we will need another energy source, thats why we are here to learn how we could make it happen.
  • The group, organized and led by representatives of Greenpeace Japan, arrived Wednesday in the northeastern German village of Feldheim to learn how its 145 residents have taken advantage of the energy generated by a nearby windfarm and a biofuel plant that burns the waste from a local pig farm to become an entirely self-sustaining, energy-positive village.

Farmer who unknowingly shipped radioactive rice says prefecture’s testing not enough -Mainichi News, Nov. 30

  • “I shipped my crops trusting Fukushima Prefecture’s declaration about crop safety. It’s really a shame that things turned out as they have,” says farmer Ichiko Takahashi, whose rice was found to be over the government’s radiation limit after part of it was sold to consumers.
  • “If the testing methods are not changed, the same problem (of crops over the government limit making it through) will happen again.”
  • Even after the prefecture made its announcement that crops were safe in October, Takahashi had doubts that the radiation tests were sufficient and brought her crops in herself for testing. The results she received on Nov. 18 were under the provisional government limit of 500, but not by much, at 476 becquerels of cesium.

New analysis of Fukushima core status -World Nuclear News, Nov. 30

  • A new analysis of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi indicates more extensive melting probably occurred at unit 1 than previously thought, although the predicted status of units 2 and 3 remains about the same.
  • The bulk of unit 1’s nuclear fuel went through the bottom of the reactor vessel as well as about 70 centimetres of the drywell concrete below, according to the analysis released today. However, the corium did not breach the steel containment vessel 1.9 metres further down within the concrete, or the boundary of secondary containment some 7.6 metres further still.
  • Of the 10.2 metres of solid concrete that makes up the floor of the reactor building, the corium is thought to have melted and mixed with the first 70 centimetres only. The natural spreading and expansion of the corium, plus the addition of compounds of concrete, would have reduced the intensity of the heat produced until it reached an equilibrium and solidified in place. Tepco said it was confident the melting had ceased due to the absence of gases that would be released by the high-temperature reactions between corium and concrete.

Institute of Applied Energy: Corium Could Be 2 Meters Deep into Concrete -EX-SKF, Nov. 30

  • TEPCO’s worst-case scenario (here and here) pales in comparison with the analysis by the Institute of Applied Energy, also presented on November 30 at the workshop held by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
  • The analysis done by the Institute of Applied Energy commissioned by the national government, 85% of fuel dropped to the Containment Vessel in Reactor 1, and 70% of fuel dropped to the Containment Vessels in Reactors 2 and 3. The researchers at the Institute pointed out the possibility of the damage to the stainless-steel shroud that surrounds the fuel core, and of the corium having eaten away the concrete floor of the Containment Vessel up to 2 meters deep. Because of that, they also said it was possible that the RPV got tilted.

Japan: Fukushima Dai-ichi Meltdown Deeper Than Previously Thought -HuffPost, Nov. 30

  • The plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said its latest simulation showed fuel at the No. 1 reactor may have eroded part of the primary containment vessel’s thick concrete floor. The vessel is a beaker-shaped steel container, set into the floor. A concrete foundation below that is the last manmade barrier before earth.
  • The fuel came within a foot of the container’s steel bottom in the worst-case scenario but has been somewhat cooled, TEPCO’s nuclear safety official Yoshihiro Oyama said at a government workshop. He said fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor were the worst damaged because it lost cooling capacity before the other two reactors, leaving its rods dry and overheated for hours before water was pumped in.
  • Another simulation on the structure released by the government-funded Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, or JNES, said the erosion of the concrete could be deeper and the possibility of structural damage to the reactor’s foundation needs to be studied.
  • JNES official Masanori Naito said the melting fuel rods lost their shape as they collapsed to the bottom of the vessel, then deteriorated into drops when water pumping resumed, and the fuel drops spattered and smashed against the concrete as they fell, Naito said.

Study Shows Worse Picture of Meltdown in Japan -NYT, Nov. 30

  • The findings are the latest in a series of increasingly grave scenarios presented by Tepco about the state of the reactors. The company initially insisted that there was no breach at any of the three most-damaged reactors; it later said that there might have been a breach, but that most of the nuclear fuel had remained within the containment vessels.
  • This is still an overly optimistic simulation, said Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor of physics at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, who has been a vocal critic of Tepcos lack of disclosure of details of the disaster. Tepco would very much like to say that the outermost containment is not completely compromised and that the meltdown stopped before the outer steel barrier, he said, but even by their own simulation, its very borderline.
  • I have always argued that the containment is broken, and that there is the danger of a wider radiation leak, Mr. Koide said. In reality, its impossible to look inside the reactor, and most measurement instruments have been knocked out. So nobody really knows how bad it is.

Containment vessels held: simulation test -Japan Times, Dec. 1

  • The primary containment vessels of reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant probably managed to contain the melted nuclear fuel, according to the findings of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. computer simulation released Wednesday.
  • If the findings are accurate, they suggest the crippled power plant has avoided the worst-case scenario, in which nuclear fuel would have burned through the concrete floors of the primary containment vessels and emitted massive levels of radioactive materials into the environment.
  • Tepco said the calculations were based on the pessimistic assumption that 100 percent of the fuel in reactor 1 melted through the pressure vessel and into the primary containment vessel, and that 57 percent of the nuclear fuel in reactor 2 and 63 percent of the fuel in reactor 3 penetrated through to the containment vessels.
  • The simulation also was based on projections Tepco made, including its calculations of the decay heat released by the melted nuclear fuel. The utility used the Modular Accident Analysis Program developed by Fauske & Associates LLC, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric and a pioneer in computer models that analyze severe accidents at nuclear power plants.

TEPCO, industry ministry secretly agreed to abandon nuclear reprocessing plant in 2002 -Mainichi News, Dec. 2

  • Senior officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held a top secret discussion in 2002 about abandoning the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant project, the Mainichi has learned.
  • The Mainichi obtained a memo written by a METI official with the names of the participants – then TEPCO Chairman Hiroshi Araki, President Nobuya Minami, Vice President Tsunehisa Katsumata and METI Administrative Vice Minister Katsusada Hirose – the date, and the meeting’s objective, as well as comments from those who were believed to have been involved. This marks the first time that such top-level deliberations between TEPCO and METI have come to light.
  • The pros and cons of the nuclear fuel cycle, including whether to continue with or abandon the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture are set to undergo review, and the revelation that TEPCO and METI officials were already suggesting abandonment of a nuclear reprocessing project – a major pillar of the nuclear fuel cycle vision – nine years ago is likely to affect the new national nuclear policy that the Japan Atomic Energy Commission of the Cabinet Office is slated to draw up by the summer of 2012.
  • According to the memo and testimony from those involved, the meeting was held at the urging of METI, which cited “a lot of problems with the Rokkasho reprocessing plant” that could benefit from a discussion between leaders from the ministry and the utility. The meeting took place around May 2002 in a private room in a Tokyo hotel.

Xenon 400,000 times normal found in Chiba air immediately after Fukushima nuke accident -Mainichi News, Dec. 2

  • Radioactive xenon-133 some 400,000 times normal levels was detected in the atmosphere here immediately after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, a radiation survey organization said.
  • It took three months before the volume of radioactive substances returned to normal levels.
  • The Chiba-based Japan Chemical Analysis Center made the announcement during a radiation research session in Tokyo on Dec. 1, organized by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.
  • Keisuke Isogai from the center denied that the high concentration of radioactive substance posed a health hazard.

Tepco Says Fukushima Reactors Withstood Earthquake Jolt -Bloomberg, Dec. 4

  • okyo Electric Power Co. said critical units of its Fukushima nuclear plant withstood shaking from the March 11 earthquake, Japans strongest on record, before being swamped by the tsunami that followed.
  • The surge knocked out cooling systems that led to meltdowns in three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and the worst radiation release since Chernobyl in 1986, Tepco concluded in a report on the disaster. About 160,000 people were forced to flee the contamination and many areas near the plant may be uninhabitable for decades, government officials have said.
  • This isnt the end of the story. Tepcos analysis needs to be reviewed by independent experts, Tadashi Narabayashi, a former reactor safety researcher at Toshiba Corp. and now a nuclear engineering professor at Hokkaido University, said by phone before the release of the report. The utility has often made mistakes in simulations that analyzed what happened.
  • The companys findings will be followed at the end of the month by the release of a government report on its probe into the catastrophe, which is being led by engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura.

Trainees steer clear of Tohoku / Radiation fears apparently behind sharp drop in foreign interns -Yomiuri, Dec. 4

  • The number of foreign trainees in the disaster-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima has nearly halved since the March 11 disaster, with many apparently afraid to return to the Tohoku region due to radiation fears.
  • According to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, the number of trainees in these prefectures has plunged by about 2,000 from about 4,500 at the end of last year.
  • A seafood processing company in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, had 17 Chinese trainees before the Great East Japan Earthquake. They packed seafood and did other training, and all of them returned to China soon after the disaster. Although the company resumed operations in October, only two trainees have returned.
  • “Some of them want to come back, but they apparently can’t because their parents are strongly against it,” a company executive said. “We’ve cut production because our Japanese staff can’t work full-time since they have to clean up their homes and for other reasons.”

Miyagi Pref. begins thyroid testing for kids near Fukushima border -Mainichi News, Dec. 4

  • The Miyagi prefectural government began testing the thyroids of 83 children of up to elementary school age Sunday in the town of Marumori, which borders Fukushima Prefecture, to examine the health impact of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
  • The radiation level in the prefecture north of Fukushima is estimated to be below the annual limit of 1 millisievert in most areas but at 4.1 millisieverts and 2.8 millisieverts in two areas of the town, prompting concerns among residents, particularly those with children, it said.
  • It is considering testing also for internal exposure using a whole-body counter, it said.

Tepco: Staff at nuclear plant felt helpless -Japan Times, Dec. 4

  • The desperation and helplessness workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant felt in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 disasters are described in a report detailing Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s in-house investigation.
  • “I felt I could do nothing. Other operators appeared anxious, and said, ‘When we cannot control (the reactors) and are helpless, is there any point in us staying here?’ ” the chief of the reactors’ central control room is quoted as saying in an interim report Tepco released Friday. “So, I bowed my head and asked them to stay.”
  • The account is part of a separate volume that was attached to the report, which also describes the difficulties workers experienced trying to release pressure in the containment vessels in the first few days of the crisis to avoid damaging them.
  • In an apparent attempt to underline the severity of the situation, Tepco printed many of the workers’ accounts in bold face.

Japan looks to giant washer to clean Fukushima debris -Japan Today, Dec. 4

  • Japan is looking to launder tsunami debris in a giant washing machine to get rid of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident, a researcher says.
  • In a scheme they hope will result in finally being able to dispose of contaminated waste left by the waves that crushed towns on the countrys northeast coast, a cleaning plant will be built near the Fukushima Daiichi power station.
  • Shredded wasteincluding the remains of houses and cars destroyed by the tsunamiwill be put inside a huge water-filled drum where steel attachments will scrub away radioactive particles, the researcher told AFP.

More Radioactive Water Leaks at Japanese Plant -NYT, Dec. 4

  • The new radioactive water leak called into question the progress that the plants operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, appeared to have made in bringing its reactors under control. The company, known as Tepco, has said that it hopes to bring the plant to a stable state known as a cold shutdown by the end of the year.
  • The trouble on Sunday came in two stages, a Tepco statement said. In the morning, utility workers found that radioactive water was pooling in a catchment next to a purification device; the system was switched off, and the leak appeared to stop. But the company said it later discovered that leaked water was escaping, possibly through cracks in the catchments concrete wall, and was reaching an external gutter.
  • In all, as much as 220 tons of water may now have leaked from the facility, according to a report in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun that cited Tepco officials.
  • The company said that the water had about one million times as much radioactive strontium as the maximum safe level set by the government, but appeared to have already been cleaned of radioactive cesium before leaking out. Both elements are readily absorbed by living tissue and can greatly increase the risk of developing cancer.

17.9 Becquerels/kg of Cesium from School Lunch Milk -EX-SKF, Dec. 4

  • Despite the protest from the milk industry and the milk distributors, Chiyoda-ku, one of the 23 Special Wards in Tokyo, conducted the analysis of the food served in the school lunches at elementary schools, middle schools, kindergartens and nursery schools in the ward.
  • At one private nursery school, 17.9 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected.

More rice shipment bans in Fukushima city -NHK, Dec. 5

  • On Monday, the government ordered the prefecture to halt shipments of rice harvested this year in the part of Fukushima City that includes the Watari district.
  • The prefectural government says the new shipment ban affects 406 rice farms in the area.
  • Bans on rice shipments have already been imposed on another district of Fukushima City and 2 districts of Date City in the prefecture.

Radioactive Baby Formula: 30.8 Becquerels/Kg of Cesium from Powdered Milk by Meiji -EX-SKF, Dec. 5

  • The manufacturer will replace 400,000 cans of its baby formula free of charge.
  • The brand that radioactive cesium has been found is “Meiji Step”, a formula designed for infants 9 months and older.
  • As the article by Sponichi below states, Meiji is the largest manufacturer of baby formulas with 40% market share. Meiji did its own testing and disclosed the number. Will other makers follow suit?

TEPCO told to probe radioactive water leak -NHK, Dec. 5

  • Japan’s nuclear agency has ordered the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to explain the cause of the latest leakage of radioactive water into the ocean, and what measures will be taken to prevent a recurrence.
  • TEPCO says it took workers about 21 hours before they noticed the leak.
  • The utility says the contaminated water contained radioactive cesium. It also contained levels of radioactive strontium that could pose health risks in case of internal exposure.
  • TEPCO says it will take at least two weeks to analyze the strontium level in the water.
  • The fisheries cooperative associations in Fukushima lodged a protest with Tokyo Electric Power over the leakage.

UK government shared intelligence with nuclear industry, documents show -Guardian, Dec. 5

  • The British government has been quietly exchanging intelligence on key policies with multinational companies in an effort to protect and promote their plans for new nuclear power stations, according to internal documents seen by the Guardian.
  • The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has also passed the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), which represents 260 companies, and the French nuclear company, EDF Energy, details of its court battle against Greenpeace, which is trying to block the nuclear plans.
  • The leakage of information has been condemned by Greenpeace as an “abuse of power” that prevents democratic scrutiny. The environmental group’s lawyers have written to the government and the high court in London complaining that the proper legal procedures have been breached.
  • With the government planning to build eight new nuclear power stations in England and Wales, there is a perception that ministers have been working closely with the industry to manage public opinion and prevent the kind of backlash against the technology that has happened in Germany and Italy.

Activists invade nuclear plant site in France -Mainichi News, Dec. 6

  • Greenpeace activists invaded a French nuclear power plant site before dawn Monday – a media stunt that deeply embarrassed the government as it was carrying out a safety review of France’s crucial atomic energy sites.
  • In one of at least four near-simultaneous attempts to invade nuclear sites across France, nine activists sneaked into one plant in Nogent-sur-Seine southeast of Paris. Some scaled a domed containment building above a nuclear reactor to hoist a banner that read “safe nuclear doesn’t exist” and paint an exclamation point, evoking danger, on the rooftop.
  • President Nicolas Sarkozy derided the “rather irresponsible” risks to lives, yet the guerilla-style tactics immediately stoked concerns about the vulnerability of France’s nuclear facilities to terrorists or any other would-be invaders.

Cesium in Baby Milk Powder Shows Lingering Threat of Radiation in Japan -Bloomberg, Dec. 6

  • The dose is pretty small, said Richard Wakeford, a visiting professor in epidemiology at the University of Manchesters Dalton Nuclear Institute. It wouldnt be necessary to ban the products from a radiological protection point of view, he said. But you can understand the kind of pressure that the manufacturer would be under in these circumstances.
  • Meiji shares fell as much as 13 percent in Tokyo yesterday, ending trading down 9.7 percent at a 30-month low of 3,020 yen. Rival Morinaga Milk Industry Co. dropped 3.5 percent to a three- year low of 275 yen and Megmilk Snow Brand Co. shed 3.6 percent.
  • The products were made at a factory in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, between March 14 and March 20, the company said. The raw milk had been produced before the March 11 disaster and water used in the production process wasnt found to be contaminated, Meiji said.

Tepco starts new round of nuke claims -Japan Times, Dec. 6

  • The second round covers the three-month period starting Sept. 1, following the first round, which covered the period from March 11 to Aug. 31.
  • Tepco has simplified the compensation claim form in response to complaints that the first form was too complicated.
  • The utility said it paid out around 5.3 billion in compensation to about 2,340 households in the first round and sent claim forms to around 70,000 households. This indicates the number of compensation recipients remains small.

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5 thoughts on “Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 41: Good News – it’s bad. Bad news – it’s worse than we think

  1. “… suggests that nuclear fuel beneath the plant may be as deep as 12 meters below the foundation level …”

    Uh – how is that supposed to happen? Really, to melt through the concrete alone the pellets would have to get so hot that they’d vaporize. If the concrete is cracked then fine particles or dissolved material could wash into the soil below, but in that case the material will be diluted so much that it would quench quickly and not continually produce huge amounts of heat through residual fission. Alternatively we can imagine the pellets have fallen into large cracks in the concrete and agglomerated enough to continue to fission (which is a possibility given the huge amount of fuel in the core). However, we can confidently dismiss the “continuing to melt its way through the earth” bit.

  2. Be careful what you dismiss. So far almost everything that has been dismissed in one of the Fukushima comment threads has come to pass, or some version of it. Remember back when these plants could not melt down? The containment could not possibly be eaten through (for much the same reasons you give here for the concrete being impenetrable)?

    “Confidently dismiss” and “Fukishma” do not go together very well these days. Especially with TEPCO lying it’s ass off.

    Though I do agree that that particular scenario is somewhat extreme. The fact remains that the idea that much of the core material is in containment is at this point absurd. For at least two reactors it has mostly gotten out. TEPCO seems to have no idea what is going on geologically below the plant.

    I would not want to rule anything out at this point.

  3. If the concrete is exposed to fierce heat it can (and will) experience all sorts of different failures. The strength of the concrete and its depth would only delay the escape of the molten fuel, not stop it, especially as fission has been occurring within the molten mass.

    As the above poster has pointed out, almost everything we’ve ever been told about Fukushima by the Japanese government, TEPCO, and other nuclear-industry apologists has turned out to have been wildly optimistic.

  4. I can’t offer any detailed comments of Fukushima, beyond saying it was clearly a massive boo-boo. However, if readers would like more perspective on how a nuclear plant operates from someone who has actually done it, I would recommend my novel “Rad Decision”. The book is free online with no sponsors or advertisements – just google the title. It captures both the good and the bad of atomic funhouses. As a bonus, the featured plant is similar in design to Fukushima and the climatic event also bears a strong resemblance to what happened in the early stages there. I am hearing from readers that the book is helpful in understanding that catastrophe.

  5. Japan’s disaster was the most dangerous disaster but this article has sidelined all the things and have presented brand new perspective on nuclear disaster. Keep it up!One should try to look everything from different angels and that’s the jist.

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