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Fukushima 13...7/13/11-7/27/11


July 27

  • The new waste water decontamination system recently developed by Toshiba is being shipped to Fukushima Daiichi. The new system has been given the acronym SARRY. It consists of 14 cylinders containing minerals that strip suspended and dissolved materials from the water flowing through them. The minerals have been tested to reduce Cesium from water by a factor of a million. The first shipment of tanks and related equipment left the port in Iwaki on Monday, with two more shipments expected soon there-after. The plan is to have it operating in early August. SARRY is simpler in design than the improvised process now operating sporadically at Fukushima, and it was tested before shipment to insure a much more reliable operation. Combined with the volume of waste waters now being decontaminated, the amount of radioactive waste water should be reduced much faster. Between the two systems, all radioactive waste waters should be decontaminated by the end of the year and meet that criteria for phase two completion.

    Meanwhile, the current system has once again experienced irregular operation since Sunday. For the past three days, the amount of water processed has been less than the amount being injected into the RPVs. There was no such system anywhere in the world before Fukushima's accident, thus it has gone through a prolonged “debugging” process that has created more news media interest than its successes...and it has been a relative success. The 25,000 tons of water decontaminated thus far has averted additional radioactive releases to the sea. Without it, contaminated aqueous releases would occur with every heavy rain storm.

  • In a confusing NHK World article we first find robot has been sent into #3 reactor building by TEPCO to inspect piping system's and their integrity, as well as measure radiation exposure levels along the way. The article says the robot is also being used to try and find ways to cool the RPV with less water. However, the article makes no mention of how the use of this robot could possibly discover ways to reduce RPV water flow and maintain the same cooling function in the process.

    Later in the article we find out that TEPCO is now injecting 390 tons of water into the three RPVS (units 1, 2 & 3) every day. The waste water decontamination system has been running about a month and has cleaned 25,000 tons of waste water. Since roughly 12,000 tons have been injected in the past 30 days, there is at least 12,000 tons of clean water in reserve. Enough for another month. This should be plenty of time to get the new SARRY system in operation before the supply runs out, even if the current system would be lost completely.

    Near the end of the article, TEPCO is reported to have said unit #3 needs higher water flow than either unit #1 or #2 because it has “leaks and other problems” not encountered with the other two RPVs. From our perspective, this is more evidence that the most severely damaged fuel cell, and thus the more severely damaged RPV, is unit #3.

    At the article's end, TEPCO allegedly says they want to eventually be able to send men into the reactor building and pour water directly on the RPV. This makes no sense whatsoever! At some point in the future, the RPV and Drywell will be filled with water, the drywell dome will be removed, the top vessel head will be removed and the interior will be cleaned of as much melted material as possible. Is this what TEPCO means?

  • NHK World also reports a senior member of the Japanese government council on disaster preparedness says nuclear plants must prepare for the biggest possible tsunami, no matter how small the likelihood of such an event. Kansai University Professor Yoshiaki Kawata heads the council's survey team and said the potential impact of another Fukushima-type tsunami may be unlikely, but is not impossible. He cited evidence of similarly extreme tsunamic waves from 400 year-old historical records in Fukui Prefecture. This is in addition to geologic records from a thousand years ago of yet another huge tsunami. Japan's nuclear regulators can no longer ignore these rare but not impossible events any more.

  • Japan's Food Safety Commission (FSC) has set an ingestion limit to radiation exposure at 100 millisieverts per year. They justify the limit by saying it seems to be the point at which risk of cancer begins to increase. They point out that children are believed to be more susceptible to radiation damage, but feel the new limit will also provide them adequate protection. The FSC admits, however, the evidence for children being more susceptible than adults is unclear due to a lack of available research on the issue. The idea of increased susceptibility in children is largely a prudent assumption. The FSC limit does not include background radiation exposures in Japan, which are much lower than the new limit.

  • A Yomiuri Shimbun article headlines that “experts” are skeptical about the Fukushima Prefecture's public radiation exposure program. They cite Makoto Akashi, executive director of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, who says, "I don't think it's possible to make a precise estimate of their radiation exposure." He is the only person quoted who has any kind of expert credentials. All other people in the article are Fukushima residents complaining about the detailed complexity of a questionnaire they are asked to fill out before getting a whole body count. Does this really indicate that “experts” have their doubts, or is Yomiuri Shimbun exaggerating in its headline?

  • The number of cattle that were fed contaminated straw is now ~3,000. Beef sales across Japan have dropped nearly 50% over the “beef-phobia” that seems rampant nation-wide. Just about every news media outlet has an article about this each day. So far, less than a dozen cattle have been found to have meat contamination slightly above the health limit for consumption. All of the meat from these cows will be confiscated by the government and burned. The rest of the lot have Cesium levels well below the health standard. However, phobic fear of radiation has taken this situation to the extreme. Kyodo News and Japan Times report that Japan's Isotope Research Institute, Inc., has received more than 150 requests and samples of beef for them to scan for Cesium. Obviously many people in Japan don't trust government reports on the situation. It also seems that the $190 fee per scan isn't dissuading them, either. What makes this even more curious is that the limit on Cesium isotopes in meat is based on the amounts caused by fallout from nuclear weapon's tests in the South Pacific more than 5 decades ago that never hurt anyone, but this seems to be overlooked in all news reports.

  • A recent Tokyo symposium of newspaper reporters was covered by Mainichi Shimbun. The reporters met to discuss what some believe to be a loss of interest in the Fukushima accident. Most of the reporters who spoke argued that the public around the world has lost interest, so their papers have not pursued regular coverage. Many Japanese reporters feel their perception of the Japanese public's reduced interest is due to placing too much faith in government statements that the situation is improving.

    We have found the amount of available news media coverage dwindles as each week passes. We also find many science websites have stopped their regular Fukushima updates, which may be the result of decreased website activity. Decreased site activity is taken to be an indicator of the public's level of interest. But, we question if a waning of news media and internet interest in Fukushima is actually due to a lack of public interest? We feel that not providing on-going updates is a disservice to everyone. Much is happening in and around Fukushima, and much more needs to be done. We feel the world needs to be given the opportunity to “keep up” on Fukushima. Thus, we will continue to provide as much information as possible, no matter what the news media and other internet sites might believe.

July 25

  • Yomiuri Shimbun reports on the the first publicly posted internal radiation exposure results for Fukushima residents. The sensitive internal dose monitors used in the research (Whole Body Counters – WBC) were run by the Fukushima Prefectural government, and not by a central government agency or TEPCO. Out of the initial 122 scans made back in June, none revealed an internal exposure which is health threatening. The limit of exposure before regular health check-ups would be recommended is 1 millisievert per year, and all were below this level. It should be noted that Japan uses the ICRP position that actual health threats (significant lymphocyte reduction) are not expected below 500 millisieverts per year, and their selection of a 1 millisievert “trigger point” is ultra-conservative. The report also notes about half of the monitored residents showed detectable Cesium in their urine, which was announced last week commented on in a previous update.

  • JAIF reports on a Tokyo gathering of more than 1,500 temporary contractor workers who have taken part in the country's northeast coast disaster region. Many have been involved with Fukushima Daiichi, but most have toiled in the earthquake/tsunami cleanup. The meeting was to discuss working and temporary living conditions for all workers. Common complaints for both the Fukushima and quake/tsunami workers are being paid only 35% to 50% of what they were promised, inadequate food and cramped sleeping quarters. Temporary Fukushima workers also complained of being sent into jobs without being briefed on radiation exposure risks or heat-exposure mitigation. Organizers say the workers have not come forward before because they found it inappropriate to complain when they thought about the even greater hardships of people in the disaster-hit areas

  • TEPCO reports that because the waste water decontamination rate has been consistently greater than the amount being injected into all RPVs, they increased water flow to unit #1 on July 20. They say that the bottom head temperature quickly fell below the 100oC cold-shutdown level. It has remained there for six consecutive days. TEPCO also says they have brought new fresh water supplies to the site so the flow of non-contaminated waters to the RPVs will not stop, even if the new cleanup system completely fails.

    We wish to note that NISA is no longer posting RPV data on a daily basis, and have stopped their day-to-day listing since July 21, so we have not been able to follow the trends from there. Nonetheless, TEPCO's announcement is certainly good news.

  • For the past 3 days, flows through the waste water decontamination system have fluctuated. At times, flows are not greater than the waters being injected to the RPVs. TEPCO has been investigating the cause. On Sunday, the system was shut down to fix a failed desalination device, and at the same time add new piping flow paths between components to improve reliability and increase flows. The shutdown period was seven hours before restart later Sunday. TEPCO says nearly 25,000 tons of waste water have been decontaminated, up to this point.

  • Some 400 Fukushima City employees and 3100 volunteer residents have begun removal of weeds, sludge and other debris from roadside ditches near schools that have been monitored to be high in radiation levels. This weekend's work reduced radiation fields around the ditches by one-half. In addition, high pressure sprays and scrubbing equipment are being used to sweep road-tops into the freshly-cleansed ditches to allow possible loose contamination to be removed. The roof and sides of one contaminated home were sprayed, as well as the plants around the house. No figures were given on before-and-after radiation levels.

    Fukushima City calls this an “experiment”, but in reality there is nothing experimental about it. These are environmental decontamination practices proven successful around the world. These methods are new to Fukushima City, but calling them experimental is misleading.

  • This morning, Mainichi Shimbun had a most interesting editorial concerning what seems to be two opposing approaches found with the main Japanese news media sources in Japan toward the recent declaration that Fukushima phase one is complete. They judge themselves as being in the middle of the road. On the positive side, they feel Sankei Shimbun has been the most praiseworthy when they say, "Stable cooling of the plant was realized within the goal of three months. We would like to praise this achievement, which was made after overcoming difficulties." Other less-positive news media like Yomiuri Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun point out that the most-critical waste water treatment system has questionable reliability and below-expected capacity. Perhaps the most negative comments come from the business-oriented Nihon Keizai Shimbun which says they are “certain radioactive waters continue to leak from the plant”, thus phase one criteria have not been met.

    We wonder why Asahi Shimbun and NHK World receive no mention in the Mainichi editorial. We feel these have been the two most reliable news media outlets among the Japanese Press since March. Asahi takes a similar position to Mainichi on the phase-one completion announcement, so it makes sense they would not acknowledge Asahi because it is their biggest competitor in the nationwide newspaper business. On the other hand, not mentioning NHK may be due to its historical practice of not taking sides on any issue.

  • JAIF tells us that Hitachi has been awarded the preferential negotiating rights for a future nuclear power plant in Lithuania. Their bid beat out America's Westinghouse company. Almost immediately, Prime Minister Kan said he wanted his staff to look into it because it did not fit well with his personal plant to phase out all Japanese nuclear technology.

    First an electricity shortage due to a de-facto moratorium on restarting idle nuclear plants, and now Kan wants to damage Japan's future economy in order to fulfill his personal agenda.

  • Finally, we find that two of Japan's World Cup soccer championship squad were TEPCO employees, and they used to work at Fukushima Daiichi before World Cup qualifying began last year. They officially remained on the TEPCO employee list until the March 11 accident when their company-funded team, Mareeze, was designated “inactive”. It is expected the team will be dissolved and the two team-mates will be forced to find jobs with other companies that sponsor women's teams. Regardless, congratulations ladies. We all wish you the best of luck.

 

July 22

In remarks made to NHK World late Tuesday, American NRC Chairman Robert Jaczko said something we have been saying for several months...sort of said it, anyway. Jaczko told NHK that if Japan had adopted safety rules similar to those implemented in the Unites States over the past decade, the “damage at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant could have been smaller”. Largely due to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, the NRC mandated terrorist-based safety improvements which included protecting and upgrading the reliability of emergency power sources. Parallel Japanese emergency power upgrades could have saved Fukushima. On one hand, we are pleased that someone with international respect and tacit authority has finally stated the obvious. On the other hand, saying the accident at Fukushima “could have been smaller” falls short of what seems intuitively obvious to the informed observer. It could have been avoided altogether. Of course, if Jaczko said this, it would make his recent push for new Fukushima-inspired American nuclear regulations seem empty, at best.

Now for other Fukushima news...

  • Mainichi Shimbun reports TEPCO's public information announcements in March concerning the venting (depressurization) of unit #1 during the first two days of the accident were false. The newspaper uses TEPCO's official report submitted to NISA on May 23 as their evidence. And, they are correct. However, the unit #1 control room records from March 11 and 12 provide almost conclusive evidence that TEPCO was not providing full disclosure through March 15 on several accounts, not just unit #1 venting. With the unit #1 venting issue, control room records show that initial efforts to vent failed, and subsequent efforts were partially successful, at best. The partial success caused containment pressure to drop, and radiation monitors to increase at the plant's property boundary. Within an hour, the radiation monitors readings dropped considerably, indicating that venting had stopped. TEPCO's news releases in mid-March cast a very different picture. Mainichi Shimbun's report hits this specific nail on the head, but it's literally the tip of a considerable iceberg.

  • The Japanese news media has widely reported the discovery of “high radiation” in places as far from Fukushima as 150 kilometers. The exposure levels reported vary between 0.2 and 0.5 microsieverts/hr. These levels are similar to levels monitored in Iwaki City, only 50 km. from Fukushima. What the news reports fail to include...and we blame this on the government agencies releasing the information...these exposures are within the natural background levels in these and other parts of inland Japan prior to Fukushima happening. Please keep in mind that the current intensive nation-wide monitoring program inspired by Fukushima is looking at radiation levels in areas never examined before. Are the new readings typical natural levels for the geographic location, or not? Are there academic institution records for the regions that can be used for comparison? Clearly, more work needs to be done before blaming the radiation readings on Fukushima. Besides, are these reported levels actually health-impacting “high radiation”? Not even close.

  • JAIF and TEPCO report the first sturdy barriers to prevent any future contaminated water reaching the Pacific Ocean are now in place. They have fabricated thick, steel-coated, concrete-filled “sheets” which have been slid into place to completely seal off the water intake structure's openings to the sea. We cannot copy the pictures of what they have done, but a quick click on the following URL will let you see for yourself...

    http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1311042451P.pdf

  • The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station owner, Chubu Electric Company, has announced that an 18 meter-high tsunami embankment will be built to protect the power complex from 14-15 meter high tsunamis like the one that devastated Fukushima Daiichi. NHK World reports Chubu Electric will make the embankment as much as 1.5 kilometers in length (1 mile). Chubu also says they will build a water-proof structure for a emergency sea water pumps to supply the three reactors at the station in case a Fukushima-type accident strikes the facility. They believe these upgrades will improve local public opinion, allowing local governments to permit restarting all three units. They plan to finish the upgrades by December, 2012.

    Once again we find Japanese tsunami upgrade plans that completely miss the point. They should move their emergency diesels from their present locations and put them in seismic, water-tight structures. The added embankment protection might work, but moving the diesels probably will work.

  • JAIF reports that currently 37 of Japan's nuclear power plants are not operating, mostly due to Prime Minister Kan's de-facto moratorium on restarting them. 11 of them will qualify to be considered for restart following the still-ambiguous first phase of safety stress tests. The four damaged Fukushima units will never be restarted. Thus as many as 22 of the currently idled nukes will remain in operational limbo after phase one stress testing. Every nuke shutting down hereafter will only add to the in-limbo list. It is planned that 5 will shut down by autumn, six more by winter, and the other two by next spring. It's unlikely any of the nukes planned for phase one of the stress test will be operating by autumn. However, if all of them are operating by next spring, they will merely maintain the current power shortage in Japan.

  • Since a couple Emailers have asked...although still not working up to optimal design level, the waste water treatment system is decontaminating between 37 and 39 tons of water per hour, when it's operating. It has been running about 85% of the time, this past week. That's where the ~800 tons per day comes from.

  • Japan's Prime Minister may be politicking for a nation-wide nuclear phase-out, but the minority Liberal Party of Japan says they will not support it. They feel Kan's position is overly hasty and poorly thought-out. They feel adding new electrical capacity through renewables, and maintaining Japan's current nuclear generating capacity, makes much more sense. Further, in order to meet Japan's promised CO2 reductions on time, adding “thermal” (fossil-fueled) plants to fill the gap will make compliance essentially impossible. Minister of the Environment Satsuki Eda says Japan will meet their promised 25% CO2 emission reductions by 2020 using renewables such as numerous small hydroelectric generation from streams and creeks, and be able to remove nuclear from the mix. But, this is quite misleading. No such technology exists for hydro generation on water flows this small. Clearly, Kan's cabinet is grasping at straws by supporting his personal anti-nuclear stance, trying to save their boss' job ...and their own jobs, as well.

July 20

  • The waste water decontamination system at Fukushima Daiichi gets a lot of Japanese media attention because of irregular shutdowns due to piping leaks and moderately fluctuating flows through the system. What seems to be missing from all of this coverage is that the system has been continually decontaminating an average of over 800 tons of waste water per day since Saturday, and has averaged 700 tons per day since it was put into full-scale operation. Currently, the total amount of water being injected to the 3 RPVs is 400 tons per day. Thus, the “troubled” water decontamination system is treating double the RPV water injection rate every day. Yes, it will take a very long time to treat the more than 100,000 tons remaining to be decontaminated by this one system system, but the chance of restarting radioactive releases to the sea decreases with each day that passes. In addition, by adding Toshiba's new system reported on last week, all waters could be decontaminated by the end of the year.

  • The Japanese nuclear disaster task force, created in April, has announced the newly-revised plan for the second step towards bringing the Fukushima emergency to an end. The first stage's completion was announced Monday, marking RPV temperature control and the virtual stoppage of continued air and water releases to the environment. The next stage has several target goals to be met by the end of the year. On the public side, the government will expand regular health checks on Fukushima residents, including frequent thyroid cancer screening tests on children, for as long as 30 years. Environmentally, a comprehensive radiation monitoring program will be directed toward finding what parts of the evacuation zones are safe for re-population. Plus, radioactive debris and sludge is to be stored and disposed of, but no detail on procedure or method is included. Technologically, they will clean up all the waste waters now accumulated at Fukushima Daiichi, cool the reactor bottom heads (where most of the corium has collected and solidified) to below 100oC (the cold shutdown target), and have all four spent fuel pool cooling systems in place and operating to keep the pools at a “normal” temperature (below 40 oC). Also implied by the task force is completion of encasing the explosion-damaged reactor buildings on units 1, 3 & 4.

    The task force's “goals” for the end of the year should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the events surrounding Fukushima. Two points in the announcement bear looking at, though. First, Monday the government announced the plan to re-populate the “safe” areas of the currently evacuated zones, but no prospective time-table was mentioned. Nuclear Disaster Minister Hosono says this could start as early as August, but the task force's plan makes it sound like early next year. Who should the evacuees believe? Second, the below-100oC criteria for cold shutdown...TEPCO could do this now on RPVs #1 and 2! With the waste treatment system decontaminating twice the amount of water injected every day, and the decided possibility of a second, more efficient system being added in the near future, there will be more than enough decontaminated water to raise injection flow rates while continuing to reduce the contaminated water volume. Units 1 & 2 each use less than half the daily injections as is the case with unit #3. It's about 100 tons a day, each. Doubling their flows would drop temperatures below the cold shutdown target inside of a week, and keep them there. Total injection flows for all three RPVs would still be at least 100 tons per day less than what the current waste water clean-up system is processing. Add Toshiba's new system and the numbers get much better.

    Another “target” for the plan is reducing public exposure to radioactive releases from the four damaged units. NHK reports the current radiation levels measured on the power complex property are 2 million times lower than they were at the height of the emergency on March 15, and below public exposure standards at the property boundaries right now. Further, NISA and TEPCO documentation on the current airborne radioactivity level on-site show them to be well below legal limits in Japan. In other words, this specific “target” has already been met! So, why include it as a target at all? Because the public perceives that “radiation leaks” from Fukushima are continuing, and political decisions are always driven by public opinion.

    Finally, the problem with disposing of sewage sludge and contaminated tsunami debris. Government health standards for routine disposal methods are not trusted by local residents surrounding the disposal sites and processing plants. For example, even though the government arbitrarily lowered its sewage contamination limit for burial by a factor of seven, local residents living near the burial site at Yanaizu have blocked using it. Why? The town's anti-dumping proclamation points out that government health standards cannot be trusted and, "We are concerned about possible health damage that could emerge several years later." Plus, they say, there is no convincing proof that lower radiation exposure levels are safe. It's clearly a case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) based on phobic fear of radiation. Once again, the Hiroshima Syndrome rears it's ugly head.

Meanwhile back in the USA...

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Chairman Robert Jaczko has announced that an American nuclear “regulatory overhaul” will be completed in the next 90 days. Changes will be made to insure that “there is no repetition of what happened in Japan”. Included in the changes will be increased back-up power sources to further reduce the chances of a full power plant blackout. The changes will be based on recommendations made by the NRC's Post-Fukushima task force, reported in this update last week. However the Nuclear Energy Institute points out, “The task force report does not cite significant data from the Fukushima accident to support many of its recommendations.” In other words, Jaczko and his task force are using Fukushima to effect changes that have nothing to do with “what happened in Japan”.

    Further, it seems these “changes” are little more than politically-expedient window dressing. The multiple back-up power sources already mandated for US nukes provide a high degree of confidence that the Fukushima emergency would not have happened here. For example, the emergency diesel generators at US nukes are enclosed in independent seismic structures that are water-tight, and have been for the better part of a decade, at least. If Japan had done the same with their diesels, it is likely the Fukushima accident would never have happened. If Jaczko wants to make the “better mousetrap” even better... fine! But, the NRC's program announcement makes it seem like Fukushima's accident could likely happen here unless the proposed changes are made. There is considerable high-confidence evidence that American nukes already avoid a “repetition of what happened in Japan”.

July 18

**Congratulations to Japan for their heart-pounding, come-from-behind, fairy-tale upset victory in the Women's World Cup of soccer. We hope this will bring great optimism to Japan, especially for those who have most suffered from the great earthquake and tsunami of 2011.**

  • A joint statement from TEPCO and NISA announces the situation at Fukushima Daiichi has “stabilized”. The major goals set by TEPCO in their “road map” for completion of phase no. 1 in their plan to recover from their nuclear emergency have been met. The reactor pressure vessels and spent fuel pools and are being cooled in a reliable and consistent fashion, airborne and liquid releases to the surrounding environment are below the levels listed as goals in the plan, and measures to avoid further releases are making positive headway.

  • Kansai Electric Company has been forced to shut down its Oi #1 reactor because of an inexplicable pressure drop in a storage tank for emergency core cooling (ECCS) water. Plant procedures require that they shut down, investigate the cause of the pressure drop, and repair any discovered problems before restarting. The pressure drop reduces the reliability of the ECCS tank to provide sufficient replenishment waters for a severe nuclear emergency, because the tanks needs a minimum pressure for the system to operate at full capacity. Even though the pressure returned to normal within an hour, shutdown was required to find out why it happened. The tacit moratorium on reactor restarts will keep the plant shut down, adding even more stress to the power shortage now gripping Japan.

  • The Japanese government has announced they will “reconsider” total evacuation of the current 20km. no-go zone, reports Mainichi Shimbun. One requirement for localized re-population is to meet the technical conditions for “cold shutdown” on all three severely fuel damaged reactors, and another is to have decontaminated all the waste waters in the turbine and reactor building basements. Before any parts of the no-go zone are re-populated, they must not have contamination or radiation exposure levels at or above national health standards. Re-population will also be considered for areas evacuated outside the no-go zone.

  • Then new Nuclear Crisis Minister, Goshi Hosono, proposes creating a new, comprehensive nuclear regulatory agency independent of all other government bodies. Prime Minister Kan merely wants NISA to be removed from the Ministry of the Economy and made independent. But Hosono proposes removing NISA from its Ministry, the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) from the Prime Minister's Cabinet, and taking radiation monitoring responsibilities from the Ministry of Science, then blend their functions into a completely new body. He said, “It is important to attempt unification.” Please recall that IAEA said, in mid-June, that the Japanese nuclear administration system is too complex to make swift decisions in dealing with emergencies. We concur.

  • Yomiuri Shimbun says the Cesium-contaminated cattle situation continues to grow. The number of cattle found to contain Cesium isotopes now numbers at least 143 animals. Of these, two produced meat slightly above health standards for consumption. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry reports, "This is nothing less than a colossal blunder by our ministry. It was beyond our expectations that straw would become a source of radioactive contamination.” The article also notes that 12,000 cattle have been found “clean”. The standards are set at least an order of magnitude below the statistical threshold for actual health effects, but phobic fear of radiation at all levels makes this a top news story in Japan.

  • NISA has announced there will be four specific areas of nuclear safety addressed in the proposed “stress tests” to be administered to about half of the currently-idled nukes in Japan. They are (1) earthquake resistance, (2) tsunami protection, (3) complete loss of electrical power, and (4) decay heat from reactor fuel cells. Computer modeling will be used to analyze each plant's strengths and weaknesses. Each plant's operating staffs will conduct on-site tests, and their parent utility companies will insure the computer modeling gets done. The results will be submitted to NISA and NSC, then they will jointly decide which plants pass and which fail. In any case, it is unlikely that the test results will be completed by the end of the year, which means nation-wide power shortages will continue through the remainder of 2011.

    The first round of tests will be for 10 of the 19 currently-idled plants which have not been “directly affected” by the earthquake/tsunami of March 11. The other nine, plus those to be shut down for routine inspection and refueling by the end of the year, will not be included in the first round of testing. By spring of 2012, 35 Japanese nuclear plants will be idled and no more than 10 will be operating. In addition, there is no way of knowing if the Prefectural governments will accept positive results as sufficient reason to let any of the first 10 plants restart.

  • NHK World reports TEPCO is hastily building a metal roof over a large hole in #3 turbine building to keep approaching typhoon Ma-on rainwater from adding more volume to the waste waters in the building's basement. The new roof will be 15 ft. by 45 ft. in area. NHK adds that there are no plans to cover reactor buildings 1, 3 and 4, and protect them from rainwater buildup. What NHK fails to report is that the buildups in the reactor building basements have come from reactor pressure vessel and primary containment leaks, as well as overflow from the turbine buildings. In other words, direct rainwater buildup is not an issue for the reactor buildings, which are tightly sealed by the concrete structures below the refueling pool level.

 

July 15

 

Many of Japan's news sources (e.g. Mainichi Daily, Yomiuri On Line, etc.) have reported that Prime Minister Kan's regime will begin the full phase-out of nuclear powered electricity because he feels that nuclear accidents cannot be completely prevented. Other news sources (Kyodo News, NHK World) report Minister Edano saying Kan's announcement is incorrect relative to the government at-large. Kan may personally desire the rapid, full phase-out of nukes, but not the government in total. Edano insists a nuclear-free Japan is a possible path for the future rather than a firm official policy of the government. Kan's remarks should be taken as a place from which to begin a national energy debate, which Edano insists all government officials want. However, other cabinet officials are not so kind. Kansei Nakano, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, said, "We ministers never heard about this before. We want the prime minister to explain his real intentions and the content of his remarks." Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, "I took it as his (Kan's) personal opinion," adding the premier's personal opinions are not government policy. As of this morning, Kan has publicly admitted the nuclear phase-out announcement was, in fact, his personal opinion.

  • Can the Japanese public believe anything he says?

  • Toshiba has quietly developed a new waste water decontamination system they say could be used in parallel to the one now sporadically operating at Fukushima Daiichi. NHK World reports the system consists of 14 large tanks filled with Cesium and Strontium absorbent materials. It is designed to reduce water contamination levels by a factor of one million. The system operating at Fukushima has a decontamination factor of 10,000. Toshiba says they have created a simpler, more efficient system by learning from the problems encountered in building and running the one now at Fukushima. Toshiba says the new system could be operating at the power complex by early August.

  • JAIF reports TEPCO will install new cooling systems for the spent fuel pools (SPF) of unit's # 1 and #4. Unit #4, with the most stored fuel cells producing the higher level of on-going decay heat, will be given first priority. It's target date is late July. The cooling system on SPF #1 is planned to be operating by early August.

  • Government sources say much of the 20-30 km. evacuation zone around Fukushima could be lifted by the end of August. This is the first phase of the plan to re-inhabit the radiologically safe areas that were evacuated as a precaution beginning March 12. With the on-going control of cooling water flow to the three damaged reactors and the possibility of additional hydrogen explosions unlikely, the prospect of people having to re-evacuate in the future is very low. However, the waste water decontamination process must become more reliable before actual re-population can occur. The major portion of the zone being considered for re-population is called the “emergency evacuation preparation zone”, where public withdrawal was essentially voluntary. It is estimated that 38,000 people have left the area. Whether or not they return when the precautionary order is lifted remains to be seen. The 20-50km “planned evacuation zone” to the northwest of Fukushima Daiichi will remain in effect.

  • NHK World reports Kyushu Electric Company had as many as 141 company employees involved in the “Email scam” reported last week. We still want to know why it is OK for nuclear opponents to use this tactic, but it's considered exceedingly unethical for nuclear power companies to do it.

  • JAIF reports TEPCO's Fukushima Daini power complex and Japan Atomic Power Company's Tokai Nuclear Power Station were both completely cut off from the nation-wide transmission system due to the magnitude 9 earthquake of March 11, same as Fukushima Daiichi. Both station's emergency diesel generators automatically started and were supplying the plant's emergency cooling systems within minutes of the wide-spread blackout. Both stations were subsequently hit by the tsunami, with a wave over 20 ft. hitting Fukushima Daini and a wave slightly smaller at Tokai. All emergency diesels operated through the tsunami and provided all the electricity needed to keep the reactor fuel cells cool and intact until the transmission systems were re-energized several days later. Why the Fukushima Daiichi Power Station was hit with tsunami 42-45 feet high is still being evaluated.

  • We now know more about why the diesel generators on units #1 through #4 were lost due to the tsunami. Japan Times reports there are two diesels for each unit (8 total) and all are located in the basements of their interconnected turbine buildings. In the basements!

    The very same basements currently flooded with highly contaminated waters. The diesels have literally been under water since the tsunami hit. Toshiba blames their meltdown-causing location on General Electric, who built unit #1. Toshiba says they built the other three units just the way GE taught them.

    This is absolutely no excuse! In the mid 1990s, all American plants were told to move their diesels into buildings outside all other plant structures, encased in water-tight, earthquake resistant buildings. IAEA recommended everyone do this more than a decade ago. NISA and all the other overlapping Japanese regulatory bodies didn't follow IAEA recommendations. Further, Japan's Nuclear safety Commission studied a Fukushima-type loss-of-power scenario from 1991 to 1993. The study states similar research was done in America and France which resulted in emergency power upgrades to their nukes. The NSC concluded the possibility of a complete loss of power to a Japanese plant was too unlikely to make the upgrades.

    So, was it GE's fault? Absolutely not!

  • The Japanese news media is literally having a field day concerning the sale and consumption of beef from Fukushima containing cesium isotopes. The levels of Cesium-134 and 137 are below health standards for consumption, but the existence of these non-hazardous levels in beef people may have consumed for as long as a month, combined widespread phobic fear of radiation, makes it “newsworthy”. As it turns out, at least two farms in Fukushima Prefecture that supply feed to beef cattle growers have above-safety-standard Cesium levels in their hay. The cattle consumed this hay and that's how the Cesium got into the meat.

    Hay draws water and nutrients from it's surrounding soil as it grows. The soil the contaminated hay was grown has low Cesium levels. The cesium isotopes drawn in from the soil concentrate in the hay as it develops. Thus the hay has above-standard contamination levels. However, as we have mentioned in previous updates, Cesium is somewhat water soluble and quite indigestible. Most of the ingested Cesium passes quickly through the digestive systems of mammals and is not retained. We can see why above-standard contaminated feed results in below-health-standard beef.

  • The on-going power shortage in Japan due to the government not allowing fully functional nukes to restart, will get worse in two weeks. Kansai Electric Power Company has announced that two of its currently-operating nukes will be shut down for routine inspections, maintenance and refueling. The first, Takahama #4's pressurized water reactor (PWR) system with an electrical power output of 870 megawatts (MW), will shut down July 21. Oi #4, a PWR with an 1180 MW output, will be shut down July 22.

  • JAIF reports the American NRC has published an investigative task force report on recommended Fukushima-inspired safety regulations. We have read the report and found some subtle but significant exaggerations in the JAIF article, copied directly from NHK World. The article says the NRC wants disaster preparedness reviewed every 10 years, but the report says it will be a review the latest disaster research every ten years in order to see if existing regulations are still appropriate. The article says nuke plants must insure at least 8 hours of backup power, but the report says at least 8 hours of emergency diesel power , but with sufficient backups to bring the reactor core into cold shutdown within 72 hours. The article further says, “The report also notes that safety measures at US nuclear power plants have been voluntary,” but the report says some beyond-design-basis accident safety improvements have been voluntary because they only apply to some American rectors. For example, increased tsunamic safety is mandated for sea-side plants where tsunamis are possible. They are voluntary for nukes on rivers and lakes where catastrophic tsunamis are not possible.

    JAIF has been a model of informational responsibility and accuracy, up to this point. NHK might be as good as it gets with the Japanese news media, but they need to be checked for accuracy, none-the-less.

 

July 13

We have been reviewing past news media articles, looking for mention of the control room records we reported on in the past two updates. There are precious few. An Asahi Shimbun article on June 18 states the Press was told the control room records would be available on June 15, but the release was canceled because official permission from the “Prime Minister's residence” could not be obtained.  Asahi Shimbun noticed “holes” in the sequence of events, in their June 18 report. We know that in the early morning of March 12 the Prime Minister ordered TEPCO to pass all public information through his office to gain approval before release. We also know information was withheld and/or severely delayed in its release to the world to allegedly prevent public panic, which points directly at the Prime Minister as the culprit. Which begs the question...were the control room records doctored by the Prime Minister before they were released?

Coincidentally, today's update from Japan lays mostly in the political realm...

  • The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), Japan's largest business and industry organization, has called on the government to ''steadily promote'' nuclear power after it regains public confidence in its energy proposals released Tuesday. Keidanren openly promotes the rapid restarting of currently-idled nuclear power plants in order to avoid further power shortages which are hampering Japan's economic recovery from the earthquake/tsunami. Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura has also blasted the government over the “stress test” issue. He called the whole thing “ridiculous”. The group's press statement adds, “Energy policies adopted through the government's obscure decision-making process hamper stable economic activities."

    While not taking sides in this debate, we must agree with Keidanren's position that Japan's government has an obscure decision-making process...at best. We would add that decision-making obscurity played a key role in the three hydrogen explosions and considerable uncontrolled airborne and aqueous radioactive releases from Fukushima.

  • Mainichi Shimbun reports a survey across Japan indicates that the public is terribly confused about nuclear “stress tests”. What are they? What purpose do they serve? Will they be required before idled plants can be restarted? What about the nuclear plants now supplying electricity? The main issue concerns who will supervise the program; the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). Public confidence in NISA is very low due to Fukushima. To compensate, the government has assigned the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) to monitor NISA stress test activities. But, public confidence in the NSC is also poor. This is not a way to re-establish public confidence. Literally ripping NISA out of the Ministry of the Economy and NSC out of the Prime Minister's Cabinet, giving them authentic independence, would do a whole lot more toward improving public confidence. (Japan Times, June 23)

    Kan's government says it will follow the stress test program of the European Union, and allow other nations to review NISA/NSC findings for independent verification. However, there is no current stress test program being used by the European Union. It does not yet exist. IAEA proposed stress tests on June 23 as a possible way to establish whether or not older plants have deteriorated relative to IAEA safety standards. The program is under development within the European Union. The Japanese government makes it seem that stress testing already exists in Europe, but it doesn't!

  • Asahi Shimbun reports the new, ambiguous stress tests are largely the result of political infighting between Prime Minister Kan and Industry minister Banri Kaieda. Kaieda wanted the idled nukes back on line as soon as possible to ease the current national power shortage. Kan wanted the nuke restarts delayed until public opinion was more amenable to it. It could be that Kan's sudden move in ordering stress tests before idled nukes are restarted is merely an assertion of his power, showing Kaieda who is in charge. Since there are currently no procedures or guidelines on how to implement stress tests, it could take months to get them drawn up and approved. Then, more time taken to perform the tests. Kaieda says it could possibly be even more months before any of the idled nukes that pass the test get restarted. In the interim, nearly all of the nukes currently operating will be shut down for scheduled maintenance and refueling.

    It is possible that the stress test delays could witness all Japanese nukes, fully 35% of Japan's electrical supply, idled in order to satisfy the Prime Minister's personal political agenda. Mainichi Shimbun reports a complete nuclear shutdown will increase Japan's 2012 CO2 level 16% above their 1990 levels. The Kyoto Protocol calls for a 6% reduction in emissions by the end of 2012. The article adds, “It will inevitably call into question the consistency between the government's policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and its suspension of operations at nuclear power plants.”

  • Yomiuri Shimbun (YOL) reports Kan has publicly boasted the government's “unified view” on stress testing will be appreciated by the public, and increase confidence in the government. YOL points out that the government position on the stress tests is far from unified (as we can glean from today's updates). The man seems delusional...

  • Yomiuri Shimbun also reports the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has published a paper on a survey of 216 major Japanese domestic companies, of which 163 responded. 69% say moving their businesses to other countries is a real possibility. The reason is two-fold. First, Japan has numerous severe earthquakes, and the cost of rebuilding a quake-damaged facility is potentially prohibitive. Second, many companies emphasized that government-induced power shortages, caused by keeping undamaged nuclear plants idle, could make doing business in Japan a long term problem. Companies in other countries now see dependence on the supply of goods from Japanese firms as a liability. This has resulted in Japanese firms being asked to move their production facilities overseas.

  • The wildly disorganized, fiasco-friendly world of Japanese government involvement in nuclear energy is about to add yet a new ingredient to the confused mess. Kyodo News reports the Japanese government has asked the Nuclear Policy Commission to “...set up a body to consider medium- to long-term steps for handling the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the current crisis is over, such as how to remove melted fuel and decommission the crippled reactors.” At the same time, Nuclear Accident Minister Hosono asked the Japan Atomic Energy Commission to set up a forum to discuss creation of the new body. Confused? You bet!

  • The governors of the 47 Japanese Prefectures have accused Prime Minister Kan of haphazard decision-making and emergency responses to the nuclear emergency at Fukushima, reports NHK World. The governors say public discontent is reaching a fever pitch over the Prime Minister's hit-or-miss responses, and he should be formally held accountable.

  • A Japan Today headline says Prime Minister Kan wants to nationalize the nuclear power production facilities across the country. Kan told a Parliamentary session that the Fukushima nuclear accident makes him doubt with the private sector's ability to deal with the “eventuality” of a nuclear accident.

    Kan is showing that he is a political opportunist who believes in Unicorns. His actions starting with March 11, and throughout the past four months, clearly demonstrate that he and his staff are inept when it comes to nuclear safety and accident recovery. If any official entity should be doubted relative to the ability to deal with a nuclear emergency, it's Kan and his regime. The public and the Press know this. Does he really think government will be trusted any more than the “private sector”?

  • An Asahi Shimbun poll indicates that 70% of Japan's registered voters want Kan out of office by the end of August. His regime is literally circling the drain.

  • Meanwhile, at Fukushima Daiichi...Waste waters continue to be decontaminated, preparations to build the plastic enclosures for units #1, 3 & 4 are on-going, and the RPVs temperatures remain controlled. In addition, JAIF reports TEPCO has discovered pockets of high airborne Cesium-134 inside reactor buildings #1, 2 & 3. The localized pockets have been discovered by radiation monitoring robots currently scanning all areas inside the buildings. The levels range from 50 to 65 times above government standards. TEPCO says they will implement air clean-up measures to reduce the airborne levels before workers will be allowed to enter the locations to perform accident recovery work.

 

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