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An Emailer tells us our Wednesday report of not being able to find “melt-through” evidence coming out of Japan is incorrect, and references an article in Yomiuri Shimbun. The headline says, “Melt-through at Fukushima? / Govt (sic) report to IAEA suggests situation worse then meltdown”. The article speaks of melt-through as if it is a firm fact, but a deeper look at the IAEA report gives a very different view. First, Yomiuri Shimbun is affiliated with the Associated Press, which has a track record of spinning nuclear information in the most terrifying direction possible. Second, the major news media or “official” sites from Japan say nothing about melt-through. Third, and most importantly, is the actual Japanese government report submitted to the IAEA. The report itself is available to anyone at...
Please be advised...this is an exhaustive document, nearly 300 pages in length. It is not light reading. We suggest using the links from the table of contents in order to find the portions of the report of greatest reader interest, at least at first. We have skimmed the entire report and find some interesting information contained in each chapter. For our current purposes, we focus on chapter IV, “Occurrence and Progress of Accidents in Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations”, which details the separate TEPCO and NISA analyses of the sequence of events leading up to and after core melt for all three units. The serious possibility of RPV leaks developing through instrument penetrations, piping gaskets, and/or control rod drive penetration seals is in each unit's report. It is stated that units 1 & 2 may have had some of it's molten core material (corium) seep through these possible points of leakage and drop (drip?) to the floor below the RPV, on top of the many-feet-thick base mat. But there is no use of the term “melt-through”, and no implication as such. It should be noted, Unit 3's report speaks of the possibility of steam and water leaks from the RPV, but there appears to be is no mention of corium leaks.
Melt-through is a theoretical, massive failure of the solid, thick, cast-steel bottom head, allowing the main body of the molten core to drop onto the base mat en-mass (all at once). This would be like the bottom falling out of a paper cup filled with water, dropping all of the water on your feet. From the report made to the IAEA, there seems to be nothing approaching melt-through given the remotest mention. It appears that Yomiuri Shimbun has embraced the western news media's affection for fear-oriented spin-doctoring.
Now, for today's updates...
IAEA has received the above-mentioned report on Fukushima, but has asked for another, “more transparent” document by June 20. The submitted report, although of considerable length, leaves a lot to be desired. Specifically, many key points in the report are “estimated” or “presumed”, but should be evidentially supported at this point in time. What is conspicuously lacking are the control room records from all three Fukushima units of concern.
More and more, it seems the Japanese government is trying to avoid release of some information, hoping no-one will notice. Do they think the rest of the world is ignorant?
NHK World reports Prime Minister Kan has revised his schedule for resigning. He now says he wants to stay in office until the end of August. His opponents are understandably livid.
NHK also reports the governor of Saga Prefecture is attempting to block the start-up of the two undamaged, totally functional Genkai reactor plants, which were shut down for maintenance when the tsunami hit. Industry Minister Barri Kaieda said actions such as this will cause summer power shortages and a large negative impact on quake and tsunami restoration. Kansai Electric Company and TEPCO have already told their customers to cut usage in July by 15% or face rolling blackouts. Undaunted, the Saga governor says the concern for nuclear safety takes precedence over the national need for electricity.
Since when should nuclear fears take precedence over recovery from the worst natural disaster to hit Japan in recorded history? The Saga governor's move is absolutely irresponsible!
Temperatures for RPVs #1 & 2 remain stable. RPV #3 temperatures continue to slowly increase. TEPCO says the increase is because they have reduced the amount of water being injected.
TEPCO has built a sea-water decontamination system to remove the above-limits level of Cesium from the waters inside the silt dams surrounding the water intake structures at Fukushima. The system is now being tested. It is designed to decontaminate up to 30 tons of water per hour. In addition, TEPCO has beefed up the barriers between the slowly rising waste waters in and around the four stricken turbine buildings, to reduce the possibility of leaks to the sea.
TEPCO is also busily preparing to flush humid, high-airborne-activity air through filtration units, in order to make it feasible for workers to enter unit #2. The filtration system will use scrubbing material which will remove both radioactive particulates and reduce humidity.
JAIF reports radioactive Strontium has been confirmed to be widespread beyond the 20km “no-go” zone. The concentrations are detectable, but well below limits for Strontium exposure. Kyodo News calls the detected levels “trivial”. “Detectable” does not mean “dangerous”.
JAIF reports, just as TEPCO's new system for cleaning up turbine building waters is being completed, critics in Japan (un-named) say the equipment should not be used until it is protected from earthquakes. TEPCO and NISA respond that the urgency of the situation takes priority over making the system earthquake-proof.
Greenpeace's fear-mongering director Kumi Naidoo has told the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan the 20km evacuation zone is way too small. He says it should be at least 70km, like Chernobyl. He announced his team has discovered radiation levels outside the “no-go” zone are much higher than the government reports, and he admonished them for allegedly downplaying the risks of exposure. References to Chernobyl were numerous. He concluded with a warning (death threat?), “Enough lives have been lost already due to the earthquake and tsunami!”
Finally, Japan Times reports Japanese novelist Hariki Murikami has received an international prize for literature in Barcelona, Spain. In his acceptance speech, he attacked the Japanese government for ever allowing nuclear power plants in his homeland. Why? He said one nuclear disaster should have been enough, (Hiroshima) but now they have two, counting Fukushima. The Hiroshima Syndrome strikes again...
The level of conflicting information coming from numerous Japanese government bodies continues. The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) preliminary report on Fukushima underscores the problem of uncoordinated reporting to the public, which greatly reduces public trust in the government and TEPCO. It seems Japanese “officialdom” has not taken the IAEA finding to heart. On May 25, we reported TEPCO analysis of the situation inside and outside RPVs #1, 2 & 3, between March 11 and March 16, revealed #3's fuel cell began melting at ~60 hours after the tsunami, and #2 fuel cell melting started ~101 hours post-tsunami. Now, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) says the TEPCO numbers are incorrect. The differences between NISA and TEPCO estimates are considerable. NISA says melting in RPV #2 & 3 fuel cells both began at ~80 hours after the tsunami. Which is correct? TEPCO or NISA?
One of the most important lessons learned from Three Mile Island, more than three decades ago is... there needs to be one source of public information, coordinated between all governmental, utility, and nuclear community groups. As time passes, it seems Japan's nuclear program has not grasped this critical point. This is but one of several examples where Japan seems to have ignored TMI's lessons learned, and now they are dearly paying for their negligence. Continued contradictory reporting out of the disparate Japanese informational sources provides nothing but anxiety for the people of Japan and the world. Japan has nothing to gain and everything to lose by proceeding with informational negligence.
Perhaps the following will clear up some of the confusion?
All Japanese news services and the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) report the government panel to investigate the Fukushima emergency, announced May 30, has met for the first time. Chairman Yotaro Hatamura, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said his panel needs to convincingly answer the public's questions. But he emphasized they will not judge who is responsible for the accident. The panel includes members of the Japanese academic community, at least two nuclear technical “advisers”, a Japanese author of crisis management books, and the mayor of Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture. The mayor has been a strong critic of nuclear energy, saying “I think it was a mistake that this dangerous thing was considered safe." The team will address four major areas of concern; the technical side of the accident, social issues, the regulatory system in Japan, and “other” related topics. Four teams of investigators will be formed, each assigned one of the above areas.
Other updates for today...
JAIF (and all news media) report radioactive “hot spots” existing in locations outside the “no-entry” zone. A hot spot is a localized point of radiation levels higher than the surrounding area. These “spots” are collection and concentration locations caused by rain run-off, wind patterns, and topography. For example, low level contamination over a wide area can become concentrated in drainage low points due to run-off by rain. When the water evaporates, the contamination stays in the low point and naturally increases the potential exposure for those in the immediate vicinity of the hot spot. Three small locations outside the “no-go” zone are being analyzed; two in Date City and one in Minami-Soma. If a person stayed in the near vicinity of any of the three all day, every day for a year, they would possibly exceed the 20 millisievert per year emergency exposure standard by a tiny bit. The reports fail to mention that even the most extreme exposure possibility for these hot spots pales in comparison to many natural background levels found in populated areas around the world which have never harmed anyone. In fact, those populations are generally healthier and have lower cancer rates than their national peers. The reports also fail to tell the Japanese public one critically important radiation fact; radiation level drops by the inverse square of the distance. If you double the distance between you and the hot spot, the exposure level decrease as much as a factor of four. Triple the distance, and it drops by a factor of nine. Also, the less time spent very near a hot spot reduces exposure even faster. In other words, don't just stand there and gawk at the “hot spot”...walk calmly away. While the radiation level is not dangerous to begin with, by minimizing time and maximizing distance the exposure can be effectively avoided.
Kyodo News reports the government has told the IAEA that Japan's main regulatory agency (NISA) failed to act swiftly on the nuclear emergency because it is a wing of the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade. The ministry promotes all Japanese Industry, including nuclear. NISA's working within the Ministry set up a conflict of interest which compromised their actions at Fukushima. NHK World alleges they have a document saying NISA will be split from the Ministry in the near future, and become an independent agency.
JAIF reports that NHK World has yet another “document” which says the nuclear emergency center, 5 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi, was “dysfunctional” during the first few day of the emergency. One stunning point in the report; more than 20 emergency-related agencies were supposed to assemble at the emergency center as soon as possible once the emergency was declared. The desired agencies included national and local governments, police and Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Only three responded. If all agencies had responded per the emergency plan, public protection measures would have happened sooner through a coordinated, rather than seemingly-haphazard effort. While the horrific impact of the tsunami along the ~100 kilometer coastline surely occupied many of the identified agencies, there seems to have been little or no effort extended to supply even one staff member to the nuclear emergency center.
In addition, the power outage all along the sea coast caused a blackout of the emergency center, and it's back-up diesel generator failed to operate. This failure was not caused by the tsunami because the center was much further inland than the wave ever reached. Without power, the very few agency representatives at the emergency center were moved to the Fukushima Prefectural Office in Fukushima City within 24 hours. They did what they could from there.
Despite all the indignation thrown at TEPCO, NISA, and Prime Minister Kan by the local politicians in Fukushima Prefecture, it now seems that they themselves are also at fault. Political hypocrisy in Japan seems to know no bounds!
NISA's daily listing of technical and environmental conditions (parameters) within the damaged RPVs shows units 1 & 2 continue to be in a stable condition, with essentially no thermal changes since Monday. Unit #3 temperatures, however, continue to increase. It's a mystery that none of the Japanese press are asking about this, or why TEPCO doesn't seem concerned.
Many western news sources have reported Japan “admitting” there have been reactor vessel “melt-throughs”, which allowed the melted fuel inside the RPVs to drop to the primary containment floors. We cannot find anything remotely resembling these reports in the Japanese Press or any of the “official” Japanese information sources. Besides, the temperatures inside the RPVs would not be above 100oC if the fuel wasn't in there.
Hiroshima Syndrome updates...
The Japanese Fisheries Agency has refused to let the Fukushima Daini operators release sea water from the tsunami, which collected in some of the building basements, back into the sea. The sea water can corrode equipment if it is allowed to remain. However, there are very low levels of radioactive cobalt-60 in the waters, which is 1.5 times the limit for release. TEPCO says they will filter the waters before releasing them, bringing the concentrations below the limit. Further, no other reactor fission products have been detected above limits. Regardless, the Fisheries Agency says “No!” because “below limits” does not mean “no radiation”.
Asahi Shimbun reports sewage treatment facilities in the Prefectures around Fukushima, and as far away as Tokyo, have not incinerated the sewage for months because of detectable levels of Fukushima isotopes. Incineration is the routine method of sewage disposal in Japan, but many tons of the material have accumulated since March, stored in large bags. The storage locations are almost full. The problem is the concentration-effect of burning the contaminated sewage, making very low levels in the sewage much higher in the ash. Sewage ash is typically shipped to cement factories, where it becomes ~80% of the dry material in the cement. The other 20% is mostly fly-ash from Japan's coal-burning plants, which has higher natural radioactive material concentrations than the sewage ash containing Fukushima isotopes. (See “Nuclear waste : Is It?” page) In addition, the burning itself raises fears of releasing radiation into the atmosphere. The high-efficiency filters on the exhaust stacks of incinerators would remove nearly all possible airborne activity, but this doesn't seem to matter. Phobic fear of radiation in any form and at any level is literally constipating north and central Japan.
Lastly, in the body of the above “hot spot” reports, we find many Japanese news media saying radiation releases typically spread “concentrically”, implying the hot spot causes are unusual. Hiroshima Syndrome readers know that concentric radiation spreading is only germane to nuclear weapon blasts. Reactor releases spread according to the meteorology at the time of release, and the surrounding topography.
Friday, June 3, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) posted their May faculty report on Fukushima. MIT identifies the key issues specific to Fukushima and possible corrective actions to be considered with respect to currently operating and future nuclear power plants. The report is brilliant. We at hiroshimasyndrome.com fully agree with almost everything contained in the report, with the exception of the unit #4 spent fuel pool fire issue. It is astonishing that we agree on so much, given the often conflicting informational flow relative to the nuclear emergency.
MIT correctly gives caution to the reader...the situation in Japan cannot be evaluated with a high degree of confidence, at this point, because the situation continues to evolve and new information on emergency actions taken in the days following March 11 continues to emerge. MIT concludes that corrective actions (improved safety) for nuclear plants should be addressed on a plant-specific basis...changes should occur only if they have site-specific relevance. For example, changes in safety regulations for U.S. plants that already have waterproof rooms and adequate flooding protection for emergency diesel generators and their related equipment would not be relevant.
We at hiroshimasyndrome.com highly recommend that everyone read the MIT posting, and pass the URL to all friends and family concerned about nuclear energy issues and the impact of Fukushima. It's very, very good stuff.
And now, updates of this past weekend's events in Japan...
Japan's Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) reports TEPCO has replaced one of the pressure sensing gauges for RPV #1 with a new one. The older gauge has steadily indicated about 6 atmospheres of pressure since March, and the readings did not change with conditions inside the RPV. Many informational sources, including this web site, have felt the pressure gauges on units 1, 2 & 3 were damaged during the early days of the emergency and have been giving a false readings. The new gauge shows a pressure at just above one atmosphere, which now conforms with the temperatures indicated inside the vessel. TEPCO has added the replacement of the pressure gauges for units #2 & 3 to their “as soon as possible” list of jobs to be done, in addition to recalibration of the two sets of water level instruments.
JAIF also announced TEPCO has permission to transfer ~1,500 tons of contaminated water from turbine building basement #2 to the basement area of a waste treatment storage facility. Transfer started immediately upon getting the OK from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) on Saturday. It is calculated that this will add three more days of time before the buildup of waste waters will potentially reach a point of overflowing drainage trenches. TEPCO believes it's new water purification system will be running by June 15, well before the potential for further sea contamination which might occur ~June 20. The current rate of build-up is ~500 tons a day, and once in operation the clean-up system will decontaminate ~1,200 tons per day. The decontaminated waters will be used as “make-up” for injection into the three RPVs, to keep the damaged fuels cooled. With no new water being added to the mix, this could avoid the on-going issue of overflowing into the sea.
JAIF also says TEPCO has amassed 270 one-hundred-ton portable storage tanks, and will be shipping them to Fukushima Daiichi as soon as possible. These tanks will provide ~30,000 tons capacity for decontaminated waters, and become the source of RPV replenishment supplies from the purification system. This will effectively keep water replenishment of the three RPVs in a closed-loop arrangement, and effectively eliminate adding more water to the system.
JAIF also states the successful cooling of unit #2 spent fuel pool has not reduced the reactor building's excessive humidity. It must be coming from somewhere else inside the structure. TEPCO is now considering opening all doors to the building and letting natural circulation dissipate the moist air. However, TEPCO must analyze the internal atmosphere for airborne activity and weigh the pros and cons of possibly having further, albeit relatively small, releases to the outer environment.
Radioactive Cesium concentrations in the sea water immediately adjacent to #3 intake structure, inside the multi-barrier port/quay, have dropped by a factor of 10,000 since May 11. (not a typo) Current concentrations are ~1.2 Bq/cc, which is about 20 times the regulatory limit. Cesium is not very soluble in water, and is relatively heavy, so it may well be precipitating out and dropping into the mud and sand on the intake's sea floor. Sea water samples taken adjacent to #2 intake show Iodine concentrations have dropped considerably since May 11 too, now at ~60 times the legal standard.
Current thermal conditions inside Unit #1 & 2 RPVs are essentially stable, as has been the case for nearly two weeks. However, temperatures in the #3 RPV have risen considerably over the past 5 days, and the inverse temperature gradient for #3 RPV, reported several times in past updates, has returned. The feed water nozzle is at 138 oC and the bottom head is at 170 oC.
Japan Times and Asahi Shimbun say that the venting of unit #1, which began about five hours before it's refueling deck hydrogen explosion, may have led to the explosive hydrogen build-up. There are two venting pathways out of the primary containment, one through a particulate filtering assembly which would remove nearly all fission products except for inert gasses, and the other up the tall external chimney next to unit #1. The two pathways have a common point of cross-connection between them, separated by an electric-operated isolation valve. When all power was lost, it is believed the cross-connection valve opened (the electricity held it shut). This is not a “fail-safe” condition. The valve ought to have automatically shut upon de-energizing. After manual venting began, some of the gasses intended to be directed up the outer chimney, were instead by-passing into the outer containment structure and eventually migrated onto the refueling deck.
While the stuck-open cross-connecting valve may have contributed to the unit #1 hydrogen gas build-up, the fact remains that the operators could not (or were not allowed to) begin manual venting until the pressure-suppressing torus was more than two times it's maximum design pressure. As stated last week in this page, the severe over-pressure condition probably caused leaks through the suppression pool's weak points, initiating the gas build-up many hours before the venting began. TEPCO seems to be blaming the H2 build-up on a design flaw with the cross-connect valve. However, unit #3 had a type of cross-connect valve that automatically closed upon loss of power, effectively eliminating the unit's interconnected pathways as a possible source for its H2 explosion. What will they blame the source of unit 3 & 4 H2 on?
NHK World News reports that some of the roadside drainage ditches in and around Fukushima City have radiation levels of 3-4 microsieverts at one meter above the top of the leaves and other run-off debris. The readings at just above the surface are about 100 microsieverts. General background readings across the City are believed to be between one and two microsieverts. The readings were taken by Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) staff. Contamination is believed to have been washed from surrounding buildings caused by rain, and concentrated in the ditches. NSC recommends that crews who clean out the ditches wear masks and other protective clothing to prevent contamination. The debris will be buried outside the City. NSC also says people walking near the ditches in the course of their daily activities can wear masks to prevent any possibility of inhaling radioactive dust.
Japan's Science Ministry is initiating a comprehensive soil sampling project covering all of Fukushima Prefecture. In addition to their own staff, some 80 experts from 35 universities across Japan are taking part. Up to this point, estimates of soil contamination have been made using theoretical modeling deduced from airplane and helicopter gamma radiation measurements. This will be the first direct soil sampling aimed at verifying (or refuting) the prior estimates. Samples will be taken according to a grid of 4-square-kilometer locations covering all of the land within 80 km of Fukushima Daiichi, and every 100-square-kilometers beyond the 80 km radius. There will be more than 2,200 locations sampled.
Japan's Environmental Ministry has approved burial and incineration of all debris (garbage) for 10 communities outside the 20km no-entry zone surrounding Fukushima Daiichi. Many municipalities have stopped their usual disposal methods for fear of radiation. The Ministry has quietly been checking municipal wastes for contamination and have found that these ten communities have no cause for concern. The testing of other community's wastes is on-going.
University researchers detected trace amounts of Plutonium in samples taken about a mile from the Fukushima power complex main gate on April 21, before the 20km no-entry zone was declared. They took the samples for NHK World News. The samples showed a trace level of reactor-based Plutonium, but much less than that of bomb-based Plutonium which fell on Japan from atmospheric weapons tests in the South Pacific. NHK reported the detection of Plutonium in April, but failed to tell us the levels were way too low to be of any rational health concern. Regardless, the professors who did the analysis say a close examination of the deposition of isotopes from the immediate vicinity of the power complex should be performed in order to gain real-world data on the spread of reactor-based contamination. We totally concur.
NHK World also reports that Germany is on the verge of ending their nuclear option. Chancellor Angela Merkel signed a new energy bill that will eliminate all nuclear power generation by 2022. The eight nuclear plants currently shut down for refueling and/or maintenance will not be re-started. The nine currently-operating plants will be phased out over the next 11 years. The Chancellor says the lost electricity generation will be replaced with coal and gas! Let this be a lesson to prophets of nuclear energy doom around the world...”No-Nukes” means increased global warming. It's unavoidable!
One final item...the MIT report (above) mentions an irrigation dam collapse near Sukagawa City, Fukushima Prefecture, caused by the earthquake on March 11. Our subsequent web search revealed the dam was 57 feet tall and nearly 500 feet long. It's collapse washed away many homes downstream. On March 12, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported a number of homes were “washed away”, but the number of casualties was unknown. Why was there no wide-spread media coverage of this earthquake catastrophe? What emergency actions occurred? Are there survivors? What has happened since?
Oh...wait...that's right! It wasn't nuclear...
Japan's Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) reports...
Since filling most of their identified storage facilities with contaminated waste waters, TEPCO has been brain-storming on what to do next. The water levels in the four turbine building basements are continuing to rise slowly due to leakage from reactor building components damaged by the emergency. Leakages from the turbine buildings are also raising water levels in the outside trenches. Reports of this situation have caused news media stories of increasing fears for more leaks to the sea. JAIF says TEPCO is examining the basements of other buildings for integrity, and will possibly use them for temporary storage. The contamination removal system for the waste waters is still about two weeks from completion. The identified basements are described as having “limited capacity”. TEPCO also told JAIF they are going to use the condenser in unit #3 as a temporary storage location, which is surprising considering the draining of the condensers to make room for the waste waters was a priority in April! Does this mean they haven't used the condensers yet? And, if they haven't, why not?
The unit #1 spent fuel pool's (SPF) new cooling system was placed in operation yesterday, and this morning the pool's temperature had dropped from 70oC to 38oC. TEPCO had said, earlier this week, they expected the new unit to drop temperatures this much over a period of weeks, not hours. Regardless, TEPCO will see if this lowers building humidity enough to start airborne activity removal systems.
TEPCO says there are 44 drainage tunnels and/or pits connected to the four water-deluged turbine buildings at Daiichi. Most have been plugged with concrete to reduce the risk of additional sea water contamination. The 17 remaining concrete pluggings will happen early this month.
As of this morning, ~1,800 workers at Fukushima Daiichi have been internally scanned. It is estimated that ~7,800 people have worked at the site since March 11, and most of them are still there. All who were at Daiichi in March need to be scanned first for they have the greatest potential for internal depositions.
Fukushima Prefecture is beginning to check evacuees from the “no-go zone” for possible internal contamination. They will use their single “whole body counter” at first, and expect to screen about 10 people per day. Fukushima Prefecture is trying to get two more counters from Okuma Town, which is inside the “no-go zone”, but they must be sure the sensitive instruments are free of contamination before use. The Prefecture is also asking all research facilities in northern Japan to donate their whole body counters to the effort. Because the evacuations began before the first hydrogen explosion at Fukushima #1, and further because the winds were blowing out to sea during the early days of high atmospheric releases, it is unlikely that many resident will have above-health-standard internal activity, if any. But, fears of “internal radiation”, especially since the reports of power station operators having high internal depositions, have increased considerably. This compels the Prefecture to take immediate action.
We applaud Fukushima Prefecture for taking this action, but also provide them with a warning; these are highly sensitive devices that will detect even the most minute isotopic levels. There will unquestionably be some residents with detectible Fukushima isotopes in their systems. 34 of the 87 Nagasaki University health staff who have worked at Fukushima have detectable internal activity, in harmless trace amounts. The widespread “unsafe at any dose” concept, combined with the Hiroshima Syndrome, will foment further fears. It can't be avoided. Most of the public absolutely believes any level of radiation exposure is inordinately dangerous, thus their fears are rational. It's the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis that's irrational...not your citizens. You have their undivided attention, so there is no better time than now to teach them the realities of radiation.
From the other Japanese sources...
Asahi Shimbun reports the IAEA investigation's preliminary report (announced Wednesday) concludes that “confusion over responsibility” caused inadequate preparation for the Fukushima emergency and the muddled flow of information presented to the world. In addition, several parts of the report emphasize that Japan had underestimated worst-case earthquake/tsunami potential, resulting in the design considerations for tsunami protection at Fukushima being inadequate. In other words, too many cooks spoiled the soup.
Asahi Shimbun goes on to say the IAEA feels the relatively high frequency of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan compels “securing an adequate number of personnel and equipment to be able to respond to a natural disaster striking simultaneously at a number of different reactors at a number of different locations.” IAEA also says that given the confused nature of nuclear responsibility across Japan, the actions taken the first few days of the emergency were as good as might be expected. However, the complicated organizational structure in Japan may have delayed making important safety decisions. Perhaps the most negative part of the scenario was “a lack of a joint understanding among those in related government agencies as well as at TEPCO.” This lead to confusion with who ought to have been calling the shots...the government or TEPCO?
One final note...IAEA applauds an individual at Fukushima Daiichi, “The head of a nuclear power plant did in fact act recognizing the responsibility of the position he held.” Could they be pointing at the plant manager at unit #1 who ignored TEPCO orders to stop cooling sea water flow on March 12?
Japan Times is running an article “Radiation-linked cancer an intangible numbers game”. They write, “Experts agree that exposure to more than 100 millisieverts in total increases the risk of cancer. However, scientists have yet to achieve consensus about the degree of risk of contracting cancer below that level.” The article emphasizes that no-one really knows the risk of exposures below 100 msv. The interviewed experts say that all radiation exposures, no matter how small, pose a risk. The disagreement is whether or not the risk is great or small. They point out there is no statistical evidence for cancer mortality below 100 msv, and the risk at and above 100msv is “estimated”. The Times quotes Masayori Ishikawa, a professor in the department of applied molecular-imaging physics at Hokkaido University and a radiation therapist, “Below 100 millisieverts, the chances are too small to get statistically significant data. With such a low risk, it would be difficult to have statistically significant data, even if information on about 1 million people were available.” Otsura Niwa, professor emeritus at Kyoto University, told the Times that a lack of evidence does not mean there is no risk, "It means that if there is an increase in the health risk, it is below the level detected by the best study in the world." In either case, the notion of radiation risk is not rejected for low exposures.
For journalistic “balance” there's Ikuro Anzai, a professor emeritus at Ritsumeikan University and life-long nuclear critic agrees, to a point, "The risk of cancer incidence is not zero even at low doses....But the levels we are now exposed to are not something people have to worry deeply about. Many people get scared simply by hearing the word radioactivity. But we have to base our worries on reality. It is very difficult, but we need to have rational fears." Later, he says everyone in Japan ought to take extra precautions to limit exposure and the ingestion of contamination, rather than waste time arguing about dose limits. He goes on to say washing food will remove “some” contamination.
Here's the bottom line...not one word about radiation hormesis or comparing exposures to natural background levels around the world. For those of us who have spent three decades learning about these fear-mitigating realities, it's disappointing and frustrating...but not unexpected. As long as the no-safe-level theory of radiation exposure remains a public paradigm, there will be no realistic basis to radiation fears. None!
Kyodo News and NHK World announced the motion for no-confidence by the House of Representatives toward Prime Minister Kan has failed...sort of. In a last minute act to keep his job, Kan announced he would voluntarily step down as soon as “tangible progress is made” toward tsunami recovery and the nuclear emergency at Fukushima. Kan, however, did not specify what conditions would constitute “tangible progress”. Regardless, Kan's last-ditch effort worked, causing numerous supporters of the motion submitted earlier this week to recant and/or abstain.
But, the political fire-storm in Japan continues. NHK World tells us that former Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has discovered Kan will step down before the end of June. From the NHK article, “Hatoyama told reporters on Thursday that Kan will resign after Diet legislation to help reconstruct disaster-hit northeastern Japan is passed and the compilation of a second supplementary budget is almost finished,” which Kan allegedly confirmed in a private meeting with Hatoyama earlier in the day. Kan's Democratic Party Secretary General, Katsuya Okada, denies Hatoyama's claim, resulting in Hatoyama saying Ozawa is “lying”. Meanwhile, Kyodo news reports that the political dickering is infuriating nuclear and tsunami evacuees who feel the political effort is taking away from government efforts toward recovery. They don't think putting someone else in charge will make their situation any better.
Japan Times this morning reports that some 70 members of Kan's party in the House were going to vote in favor of the no-confidence motion, but instead abstained after Kan's announcement. This surely swung the House vote against the motion. In reaction to the motion's failure, The Times quotes opposition party Vice President Tadamori Oshima, who slams Kan viciously, “You are an opportunist without principles. You aim to please by altering your opinions and behavior on occasion."
Asahi Shimbun reports the two workers who received over-exposure due to internal deposition of airborne radioactive material were actually assigned to twin units 3 & 4. They were working somewhere in or around the nuclear tandem on March 11 and 12, and were probably exposed to high airborne concentrations from the unit #1 Hydrogen explosion. Earlier reports of the workers being unit #1 control room staff seem to have been in error.
Before today's updates, we might return to an issue that has continued since mid-March...the possibility of a Zirconium fire in the spent fuel pools (SPF). Many reputable sources continue to mention the unlikely potential for Zirconium cladding catching on fire, and sources of questionable repute make it a factual possibility. After researching several metallurgical sites, we find the possible foundation of the issue. All of these knowledgeable sites say the same thing...in it's solid, metallic form Zirconium is non-flammable. (The site referenced below has it all on one page.) Any metal, including steel, will burn at incredible temperatures in excess of 4,000oC (~7,500oF). The problem with it actually happening is reaching a temperature that extreme in some place other than a laboratory or a facility specifically designed to reach those temperatures. A nuclear power plant SPF is simply the wrong kind of facility, and it's the wrong kind of Zirconium.
It seems the Zirconium fire possibility comes from the same confabulated kernel of truth that spawned the Zirconium explosion rumor/myth in March. If the Zirconium is powdered, it can burn at temperatures as low as 200oC. In a granular form (like sand), it can burn at ~500oC. But in a solid form (like nuclear fuel bundle cladding), it burns at a higher temperature than solid Aluminum (~4,000oC). For Zirconium metal, the boiling/burning temperature is 4,377oC. Decay heat levels in Fukushima's SPFs at the moment of the tsunami would have taken at least 10 days of accelerated evaporation to completely uncover the stored fuel and leave it dry. (Necessary for any ignition). The fuel bundles at Fukushima would then have been in an open-air environment, where reaching 4,000oC is essentially impossible. In fact, it's questionable that they could ever reach the Zirconium melting point of 1852oC.
Why so many highly regarded nuclear organizations continue to keep the Zirconium fire issue alive is a befuddling mystery.
See : http://www.espimetals.com/index.php/msds/316-zirconium; ESPI Metals; ESPI Corporation, Incorporated; Ashland, Oregon; January, 2008
Now, back to Japan and the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum's information...
The internal temperatures of RPVs #1, 2 & 3 remain stable, though the readings seem to fluctuate a few degrees C from day to day. All temperatures are consistently at or below 120oC.
A SPF cooling system for unit #2 has been completed and is being tested. Water from the pool is being sent through a heat exchanger outside the reactor building walls, where the water is cooled. The cooled water is then returned to the SPF. This is a relatively small cooling system and the cool-down will be slow.
TEPCO says they will have a sea-water “purification” system working by Thursday to remove the high contamination levels found just outside the unit #2 and 3 intake structure. This has been the location of highest radioactivity. The clean-up will be from waters inside the first ring of silt dams, installed last month. They expect the clean-up system will remove enough activity to stop the recent build-up outside the inner dam. It should be noted, the inner water's 2,300-times-government-limit contamination reading from Monday has dropped to about 5 times the limit this morning. The sudden increase on Monday is attributed to the leak discovered, and stopped, on May 11.
Two Fukushima unit #1 control room operators have been discovered to have ingested sufficient radioactive material to expose them to greater than the 250 msv/yr emergency dose limit. Japan Times reports they were in the control room when the #1 upper refueling deck experienced its hydrogen explosion on March 12. It is unlikely any operating personnel would have been wearing face masks, at that point. Thus, they probably breathed in a high concentration of airborne activity from the explosion's burst of contamination, swept into the control room through the ventilation ducting. JAIF continues that another 30 workers, also at the plant site on March 12, have internal contamination that will give them ~ 100msv exposures. As a result, the government has ordered TEPCO to immediately test more workers for internal radioactivity.
It has taken way too long for this to be discovered and reported! TEPCO says the sensitive devices used to make these determinations were not available for use until March 22. That's slow, but forgivable considering the monitoring locations were without power until then. Regardless, whole body scans should have started immediately on those who were on duty at the time of the explosion. Yet, these two operators were not scanned until mid-April, nearly a month after scans began. Why were they not the first in line, and why has it taken more than another month to get their scan results out?
TEPCO is full of thin excuses. They say the actual “reading” of each person takes a “long time”, and then at least a week to verify the results. Plus, they originally had only four units available. (They now have nine counting those at Fukushima Daini)This writer had annual whole body counts in the late 1980s (required in US plants) which took less than 30 minutes for the scan itself, and the detailed read-out was ready within the hour. They could tell me whether or not I had a banana on my cereal that morning! The Japanese whole body counters could be lower-grade than those we used in the 1980s, but this is unlikely with one of the most electronically advanced nations on Earth. However, not examining the workers most-at-risk before examining others, is inexcusable!
On Tuesday, an “impact sound” emanated from a rubble pile adjacent to reactor building #4. A remote-controlled machine removing the rubble seems to have hit a buried oxygen tank and caused it to burst. No-one was hurt and no increases in airborne activity were detected.
Numerous parents in Fukushima Prefecture, living outside the no-entry zone, have sent their children to schools in other prefectures. The school-child exodus numbers about 10,000. The reported reason is fear of radiation. In addition, another 5,000 children have been enrolled in new schools inside Fukushima Prefecture, away from the higher contamination areas mapped out in April from airplane monitors. Those children who remain in their schools are being urged to wear long-sleeved shirts to accommodate parental fears of their kids getting Fukushima “fallout” on their skin.
The International Atomic energy Agency (IAEA) has submitted a preliminary report on their Fukushima investigation to the Japanese government. The report points out that “Japan” initially underestimated the impact of the tsunami on Fukushima Daiichi, but eventually took all conceivable and appropriate measures. The JAIF article summarizes, “It (the report) urges the government to correctly assess the risks of all natural disasters, and draw up protective measures in the design and operation of nuclear power plants. The report adds that Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) should be independent and given a clear role based on IAEA standards, so it can respond appropriately to disasters.”
59 evacuees from the no-entry zone have been allowed to re-enter and re-claim their automobiles. The cars were found to be free of contamination. As each day passes, more “clean” cars will be returned to their owners.
JAIF has confirmed the plans for financial compensation to companies and businesses proven to have lost income due to rumors concerning radiation. Public evacuees forced to leave the no-entry zone will also be compensated for “mental suffering”.
Now, from the rest of Japan...
NISA reports the slow, relatively small oil leak from units 5 & 6, which has gained some media attention since Monday, was completely contained within the break-walls of the “dedicated port of Fukushima Daiichi, NPS”. None of the oil has reached the open sea. This morning, TEPCO says the leak has stopped.
NHK World News and Kyodo News report the “opposition parties” (e.g. those not in government control) have submitted a “no-confidence motion” to the Lower House of Representatives. This means they have lost confidence in Prime Minister Kan and want the immediate resignation of his cabinet (and him). The House will formally vote on the motion Thursday. If it passes, prior governmental practice demands the resignation of the cabinet occur as soon as possible, followed by the Prime Minister. The opposition parties claim Kan's responses to the quake/tsunami were inept and inadequate. It is somewhat surprising that several House members from Kan's own party agree with the opposition and have signed the motion. In addition, former Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa and former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama say they intend to vote in favor the motion. Ozawa says he feels Kan's handling of the nuclear emergency has been poor, but he cannot formally vote since Kan recently asked for (an received) Ozawa's resignation from Kan's cabinet. Is Kan's ship sinking? The opposition parties outnumber Kan's DPJ party in the House, so the motion has to be taken seriously by everyone. Of course, Kan rejects the motion as something inappropriate at this point in time. By law, he can respond to the passed motion by dissolving the House and demanding a new, nation-wide election.
Regardless, it seems to this writer that changing captains in the middle of a storm, even one demonstrated to be unworthy, is not the way to go.
Japan Times reports that Diva Soprano Anna Netrebko and lead tenor Joseph Calleja of the Metropolitan Opera have refused to go to Japan for the upcoming tour of Nagoya and Tokyo. They both cite fears of radiation from Fukushima. It is implied that they don't trust the “official” reports that radiation levels have returned to normal in both cities. It doesn't matter that opera mega-star Placido Domingo safely performed in Japan last month, either. The tour, the Met’s seventh in Japan, begins Saturday and runs through June 19.
Is this yet another example of the Hiroshima Syndrome's world-wide psychological impact?
Of course it is!