- And the beat goes on… NISA has announced that the Prime Minister’s office ignored their Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) data during the critical first five days of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. ERSS monitors plant technical data and makes predictions on plant conditions almost as fast as it happens. Six-month-old records show ERSS correctly predicting the possibility of severe fuel damage for unit #2 on March 11, and subsequently for unit #3 on March 13. NISA says that unit #1 exploded before they could transmit its data to the P.M.’s staff due to the electrical blackout across TOKYO after the earthquake, but they did get to send the unit’s 2&3 information. Government regulations dictate that ERSS will be used by the Prime Mister to anticipate necessary public protective actions. Mainichi Shimbun reports the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES), which developed the ERSS, activated the system just after the quake. Based on the assumption of a complete loss of power at the plant, JNES correctly predicted how the water levels, pressure and temperatures would change inside the No. 1, 2 and 3 RPVs, and immediately sent it to NISA. Why did the Prime Minister ignore the information? Yoshinori Moriyama, NISA deputy director-general for nuclear accident measures, says, "The data were not used because they were not based on facts.”
This is the second time following Naoto Kan’s resignation where we find his staff intentionally disregarded technical data they were required to use, by law, when making decisions concerning the accident at Fukushima. They also ignored their SPEEDI radiological projections. This strongly suggests all of Kan’s public protective decisions (and their critical inhibitions on Fukushima’s operating staff trying to alleviate the situation) were essentially arbitrary. Intentional violation of legal emergency procedures and withholding of information for half a year ought to be adjudicated!
- TEPCO reports the bottom head temperature of #3 RPV has dropped below 100 oC. Unit #3 has required double the water injections of the other 2 damaged reactors, so TEPCO found an alternative flow path to the hot, melted fuel mixture (corium) through the feedwater core spray piping. It seems to have worked very well. TEPCO will slowly reduce #3 injections to find the appropriate level to maintain the low temperature and also keep the formation of contaminated waste water as low as possible.
- Yet another nuke’s operation has been suspended. Ikata #1’s Sunday shutdown brings the national political moratorium on nukes to more than 85%. Combined with another shutdown announced for next week, only 11 of Japan’s 54 nukes will be operating. The utility, Shikoku Electric, says they will have their “stress test” data ready by the end of September so they can restart Ikata #3, which is ready to go. However, there are additional hurdles which have to be cleared after testing is complete. Japan’s two nuclear safety agencies must screen the results of the tests, and then the central government will decide whether to restart the reactors. Finally, restart has to be approved by the municipalities hosting the reactor. New METI chief Yoshio Hachiro said he and new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda want to get all idled nukes back in operation as soon as possible. However, Hachiro indicated that even passing stress tests might not be enough, “The most important thing is to employ a tougher safety standard.”
- TEPCO reports that the airborne contamination concentrations of Cesium 134 and 137 are below the detectability of their most sensitive instruments. This good news can now be added to the ending of water leaks to the ocean more than two months ago. Thus it seems all radioactive releases from Fukushima Daiichi to the environment have ended. This does not mean the levels are merely below government limits, but completely gone.
- New Environmental Minister and continuing Nuclear Disaster Chief Goshi Hosono says no matter what public fears might be, something has to be done with the radioactive wastes piling up in and around Fukushima Prefecture, “We have no choice but to ask Fukushima Prefecture to set up a temporary storage facility within the prefecture to safely store the waste." He also pointed out Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will not unilaterally make a decision on the issue, like his predecessor often did. Noda will reach a decision in consultation with the local governments.
The radioactive waste issue is building to a head across Japan. Of course, all news media editorials have chastised each and every official statement on the issue based on NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) philosophy. For example Mainichi Shimbun decries all possible temporary locations for radioactive rubble and soil as unfair to the local public, failing to consider the obvious…it must be stored somewhere until the ponderous governmental decision-making process reaches a conclusion. The most logical temporary location is within the 3km radius of Fukushima Daiichi. It’s already highly contaminated and no-one will be allowed to live there for years. This will be an unpopular decision, to be sure. But one that needs to be made, and made soon. We only wish The Mainichi would learn the difference between spent fuel and low level waste, about which they are clearly confused.
- Now they won’t eat the rice…Japanese consumers are extending their phobic fears of radioactive beef to fears of rice, whether the rice is radioactive or not! Mainichi Shimbun reports nearly half of the women interviewed in Kansai said they would not buy rice grown in Fukushima and Iwate Prefectures because of fear of radiation and a complete lack of trust in official reports on Cesium content. University of Tsukuba assistant professor Kiyokazu Ujiie said, "Regardless of whether the government-imposed limit is a safe level, [it] obviously isn't reassuring consumers. Damage caused by harmful rumors are severe, particularly in the Kansai region which is far away from the disaster-stricken areas.”
Another Japanese nuke will soon be shut down. Sendai #2, a ~900 Mwe Pressurized Water Reactor plant will be shut down for periodic maintenance and inspection next week. The plant operators will begin reducing power output on Wednesday, and have the unit completely off the grid by Thursday. Although this will make no difference to the politicians starving Japan's power grid in the interest of gaining votes, we thought everyone should know...The Sendai containments are a virtual light year in difference from the ones at Fukushima. Unlike the “light bulb” design of the Fukushima containment vessels, Sendai uses the much bigger, stronger GE Mark III structure, similar to the one at Three Mile Island. Remember, TMI's containment had what is thought to be a hydrogen explosion inside it, and remained robust and undamaged. If unit 1, 2 & 3 at Fukushima has Mark IIIs around them, it is possible that the three demolished buildings and large radioactive releases would have been avoided.
This will place more than 80% of Japan's nuclear capacity in an idled condition. Let's make a prediction...when idled nukes pass the “stress test”, will they be allowed to restart? Probably not. It's not a question of if the plants are safe enough. It's politics. What the politicos feel will garner the most votes will drive their decisions. Meanwhile, Japan's energy infrastructure continues to weaken. Yomiuri Shimbun says that power usage has dropped 20% since the government invoked mandatory industrial cutbacks of 15% and asked residential customers to voluntarily reduce consumption. However, as more and more nukes are idled, even these power consumption reductions will not be enough. Winter peak demand will still be as much as 10% above what existing supplies can produce. In addition, many outdated, “mothballed” fossil fueled units have been restarted to compensate for the political moratorium on nukes, and they are dirty, inefficient, and unreliable.
TEPCO has announced a plan for de-fueling Fukushima Daiichi units 1, 2 & 3 RPVs. If they are correct and all three fuel cells have severely melted, with some fuel having leaked out of one or more of the RPVs, this will be an entirely new process to the world. Stage one will remove all radioactive debris from inside and outside the three reactor buildings. This will reduce the radiation fields somewhat, extending the amount of time workers can stay in the buildings (stay times). Stage two will begin with entries into the Primary Containments (PCV) surrounding the RPVs to find leaks and seal them up. Then, they will begin increasing the water levels the RPVs and PCVs to make sure all leaks have been sealed and no more waste waters will leak into the basements of the attached structures. Most of stage one and two will have to be done remotely using robots because the radiation levels are so high that workers would not be able to do the job because of very short “stay times”. The third stage will be to completely fill the RPVs and PCVs with water, which will provide two important benefits. (1) Water is a very effective radiation shield and will reduce the exposure fields immensely, increasing human “stay times” dramatically. (2) The tops of the RPVs (Vessel Heads) will be removed under water and the extent of actual damage inside the RPVs will be known for the first time. Then, planning for removal of the solidified corium can begin, and not before (with any degree of confidence). This will differ considerably with the de-fueling of Three Mile Island in the 1980s, and in no way comparable with Chernobyl (which might never be de-fueled).
Of course, critics in Japan are immediately finding fault with TEPCO's plan, which should surprise no one. Many international anti-nuke groups say the plan is overly-ambitious and too dangerous to be allowed. They want all three RPVs entombed like Chernobyl for. It would make their “Fukushima is another Chernobyl” propaganda seem realistic. Is the TEPCO plan ambitious? Yes! Unrealistic? No!
An Asahi Shimbun article contains the following important statement, “A survey of residents near the quake-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant indicated that the level of lifetime internal exposure for them is estimated at less than 1 millisievert.”
The Japanese government has released detailed radiation exposure maps of the 20km no-go zone and the evacuated corridor 32 km. to the northwest. Unfortunately, its only in Japanese and Google translate won't work on it. (firewalls?) Anyway, NHK World summarizes some of the extremes. The highest reading is Okuma Town, which is located between 1 and 2 km southwest of the plant, with an exposure level of 139 microsieverts/hr (~1000 msv/yr). The lowest, at only 1 microsievert/hr (9 msv/yr), are the coastal areas 3km north of the power complex. 9 msv/yr has never hurt anyone and is well below the statistically safe 50 msv/yr natural background levels found around the world, which we advocate as a rational health standard. Some readings in the northwest evacuation corridor were around 19 millisieverts/hr (~100 msv/yr), but inside most of the mapped area we posted Wednesday the readings are well below 50 msv/yr. In other words, if natural background levels were being used rather than the arbitrary risk models now in effect, many of the Fukushima evacuees could go home and no-one would be at harmed.
Most Japanese news services have headlined that two Fukushima workers “showered with radioactive water”. Misleading, to say the least. It turns out the two men were near a “container” which had a mistakenly-open valve on its piping. Water sprayed from the pipe and the men were covered by the spray. One was wearing rain gear, so he was minimally exposed (~1.4 msv). The second man was wearing standard anti-contamination cover-alls, which are not waterproof, so he received ~14 msv exposure. No exposure limits were exceeded and neither man was injured in any way.
TEPCO's use of the term “showered” is unfortunate, at best. It makes it seem the men were bathing in contaminated water, which is entirely not what happened. When will TEPCO wake up and anticipate the worst possible “spins” by the world's Press? Their terminological naivety is massive.
The Mainichi Shimbun reports TEPCO will build a large underground barrier around the Fukushima unit #1 to prevent contamination of area groundwater by waste waters in the plant buildings. Only one problem with this...groundwater flow is from land to sea, not the reverse direction. Later in the Mainichi article, we find out it will be a barrier between the unit #1 buildings and the sea, and has nothing to do with groundwater protection. Now, that makes sense. It's protecting the sea. Regardless, The Mainichi contradicts its headline within the very same article. Combined with it's “penetrating” Beta radiation error two days ago, The Mainichi has exhibited some serious reporting failures this week.
In case anyone has forgotten, the clean-up of the mountains of earthquake and tsunami rubble and debris continues. NHK World reports that nearly all the several million tons of debris from the Fukushima coast (except for the 20km no-go zone), and the two adjacent Prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate, has been removed and disposed of. However, the other nine Prefectures which were also hit by the tsunami still have more than half of their debris to remove...roughly 12 million of the original 23 million tons. Local officials say that at this rate, it will be next March before the mess will be finally cleaned up. It seems the Fukushima accident region has received the most intensive clean-up focus, at the expense of the other nine Prefectures.
What's wrong with this picture?
Just for the record, JAIF's daily plant status posting shows that, as of August 23, over 56,000 tons of waste waters have been decontaminated by the two clean-up systems now in full, continuous operation at Fukushima Daiichi. The volume of waters that remained to be processed was around 96,000 tons. Currently, 20,000 tons of decontaminated water is being stored for injections into RPVs 1, 2 & 3. More good news the news media, including Japan's, fails to report on.
Many of the Japanese news media outlets are reporting on the recent death of a worker employed by a subcontractor at Fukushima. He died of leukemia, a form of cancer linked to massive fallout and bomb blast exposures at Hiroshima in 1945. The worker's total exposure while at Fukushima was ~0.5 msv, which is more than 200 times less than the lowest level theorized to cause biological harm. So, why is this worthy of news coverage? Because it appeals to the Japanese public's widespread radiation phobia! As the Worldbytes documentary “After Fukushima : The Fear Factor” (Aug. 27 update) points out, the news media believes that the word “radiation” terrifies most people and attracts them to news reports. Keeping the public terrified seems to be an on-going media ploy, even in Japan.
Telling it like is isn't, Mainichi Shimbun reports on two workers who recently ignored their dosimetry alarms while working on one of the waste water decontamination systems. The dosimeter's alarm set-point for exposure on the specific job was 15 msv. The two workers were nearing the end of their work, so when their dosimeters alarmed at 15 msv they continued working to completion. As it turns out, the exposure was almost entirely Beta radiation. Now, here's where The Mainichi report gets absurd...”Beta rays are a type of radiation that can penetrate the skin and enter the body.” To the contrary, Beta particles are a type of radiation that cannot penetrate the skin and enter the body. This is yet another example of the Japanese news media needing an education on the realities of radiation.
Yomiuri Shimbun reports the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology report on 2,200 soil samples taken around Fukushima Daiichi shows 34 locations with Cesium concentrations that exceed the USSR standards used to effect “forcible evacuations after the Chernobyl disaster.” The Yomiuri speculates this was the reason why former P.M. Kan said some residents of some areas around Fukushima may not be able to return home for a very long time. Whether or not this will be the case remains to be seen because it seems no-one else in the government has made any comments, of any kind, on the issue. Regardless, the 34 “Chernobyl-like” cesium concentrations are all inside the 20km no-go zone and the expanded evacuation zone that runs out to 40km northwest of the crippled power complex. As might be expected, the largest number of very high concentrations (>3 million becquerels/m2) are nearer the plant, within a roughly 5-6km radius. The remaining the remaining very high “hot spots” follow a surprisingly direct, linear path to the northwest. (Image : Ymiuri Shimbun)
Here's what's troubling...the map follows almost exactly what the SPEEDI airborne contamination forecast predicted during the week-long period of copious releases beginning with the unit #1 hydrogen explosion of March 12. The very same SPEEDI data Kan and his government emergency response team refused to use when making evacuation decisions... because they didn't understand it! This was clearly a violation of Japanese law. Basic Plan for Emergency Preparedness; Volume 10. “Nuclear Emergency Response” (May 2000) states “[While] the National Government predicts the state of nuclear reactor installation, it carries out radioactivity influence prediction by SPEEDI network system, and connects information required for enforcement of emergency response to the local government.” How different would the evacuations have been if SPEEDI would have been used? Kan and his staff ought to be held legally responsible for this intentional act of negligence.
Meanwhile, in Europe...
- The New York Times reports that April's permanent shutdown of eight nukes in Germany has produced a power shortage. This has reopened the nuclear issue...somewhat. Not that the public wants the government to reconsider their nuclear moratorium. They don't. However, business and industry have scrambled to try and live with a sudden loss of 12% of Germany's electricity production. “It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just go for renewables,’ and I’m quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt,” said Joachim Knebel, chief scientist at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. And, he's not alone. Newspapers have begun reporting that after shutting down the nukes, the nation has bought power from France and the Czech Republic to avoid a shortfall. Most of the purchased power comes from nukes. German power companies have had little or no choice.
While the government touts their belief in renewables, it looks more and more like they will need to build new coal or natural gas plants to meet demand, and increase greenhouse emissions. The Times asks, “If Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, falls back on dirty coal-burning plants or uncertain supplies of natural gas from Russia, isn’t it trading a potential risk for a real one?” Lazlo Varro of the International Energy Agency says, “The nuclear moratorium is very bad news in terms of climate policy. We are not far from losing that battle [climate policy], and losing nuclear makes that unnecessarily difficult.” But, coal and natural gas don't have that terrifying word “radiation” attached to them. Another example of the Hiroshima Syndrome at work.
Japan's Prime Minister has resigned. Naoto Kan’s resignation comes 5 1/2 months since the March 11 trifecta of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident challenged his leadership and spawned accusations that he has mishandled the crisis. Kan was waiting for a bill promoting renewable energy to pass the Diet, and when this happened Friday (Japan Time) he made his announcement. Several news sources in Japan speculate he will become an anti-nuclear “guerrilla” activist.
Our Aug. 24 update reported TEPCO finding possible evidence of a 10 meter tsunami for Fukushima Daiichi in 2008, but withheld its finding until March 7, 2011. Since then, the Japanese news media has been buzzing with reports on the issue. NISA says TEPCO told them of their findings on March 7, written on “a piece of paper”, but with no supporting documentation. NISA did not ask for documentation, either. NISA seems quick to blame TEPCO as the sole culprit. NISA says they ordered the company to submit a written report as soon as possible and suggested the need to reform the facilities. Conversely, TEPCO says this is not true and NISA never ordered them to do anything. TEPCO further claims they sent their findings to the Japan Society of Civil Engineers (JSCE) which decides tsunami-prevention measures for nuclear plants, in 2008. Traditionally, JSCE makes a determination on the viability of a finding before it is sent to NISA. JSCE never got back to TEPCO about it, so the utility didn't contact NISA until now.
Some of TEPCO's statements to the press aren't helping the utility's image. For example, Japan Times quotes an anonymous TEPCO official as saying “That was only one of the research activities,” downplaying its significance relative to other risk studies occurring in 2008. NHK World reports a TEPCO spokesperson said it did not publicize the results because they were based on a hypothetical situation. Does anyone at TEPCO care about how often they have informationally shot themselves in the foot since March 11?
An article in Yomiuri Shimbun concerns teachers learning about radiation in order to meet recent government curriculum mandates. To pay for the teacher's training, two Ministries have re-designated 77 million yen previously intended for “expenses for nuclear power education support projects”. The government hopes to train at least 1,400 teachers before next spring, when the new curriculum becomes law. 140 workshops in 11 Prefectures are scheduled to be held before Sept. 1. In addition, 10 Japanese Universities have made radiation training a requirement for teacher certification renewal. Tetsuo Ito of Kinki University's Atomic Energy Research Institute said, “Teaching everything from [the nature of] radiation to the fear of it will help reduce discrimination and prejudice over the issue.” All teachers quoted by The Yomiuri said they knew nothing about radiation before taking the training. Whether or not the training reduced their personal anxieties is not mentioned.
JAIF reports that yet another nuke will be shut down for scheduled inspection and refueling by Friday. The Tomari #2 nuclear plant is already reducing power output in anticipation of Friday's operational suspension. This will bring the number of inactive reactors around the country to 41, or 76% of the total number of 54. JAIF mentions that 11 of the idle nukes have completed their scheduled outage work and are ready to restart. However, politics and radiation fears will keep them shut down until 2the new year, at the earliest.
JAIF also reports that all Prefectural cattle shipping bans have been lifted, including Fukushima. In the future, bans will be ordered for farms and specific locales where Cesium tainted beef is detected. Their method of detection will be to test the meat of cattle raised where soil Cesium contamination exists. With Farms that do not have cesium in the soil, one head of each herd will be tested as a precaution.
Suddenly, private agencies that screen food products for radioactive contamination have been swamped with requests from food producers, distributors and consumers,for a wide range of foods...not just beef. In fact, Mainichi Shimbun says the demand far outstrips the number of facilities that can test for Cesium. What was first a beef-phobia is rapidly becoming a wide-spread food-neurosis.
Mainichi Shimbun now ads its voice to the speculation that the government will buy up all the highly contaminated land around the towns Futuba and Okuma, and make it a nuclear waste dump. In fact, some of the evacuees interviewed by The Mainichi are in favor of it. They experienced the economic benefits of Fukushima Daiichi before the accident, so now they feel obligated to assume some of the responsibility for the accident. However, there has been no official confirmation or denial of the rumor from Tokyo.
The Hiroshima Syndrome strikes again...
To accommodate the public's phobic fears, the Japanese government has further lowered the schoolchild radiation exposure limit. The new standard is one millisievert per year, which just happens to be what is considered to be the national average for natural background exposures. Students who are at schools where this limit might be exceeded will be allowed to go outside if the school's radiation field is below 3.8 msv/yr. The students who go outside in the school fields between 1 and 3.8 msv/yr. must be decontaminated before going back into the school building.
Asahi Shimbun seems to be hell-bent on amplifying unfounded radiation fears by making the exception sound like the rule. Using essentially hear-say evidence, The Asahi reports, “some who continue to work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant say things like they will never marry because of cancer fears due to the leaked radiation from the plant. “ In addition, one worker allegedly said, "While we have to do everything we can to stop (the nuclear accident), in a sense we are all guinea pigs." And yet another who says, "Since I have no idea when I will develop cancer, I probably can never get married even if I go to a place that matches couples."
If these quotes are in fact representative of what Fukushima workers believe about radiation exposure, then TEPCO has done them and the world a terrible disservice by not teaching their people about the realities of the biological effects of ionizing radiation. Deplorable...
TEPCO reports the new waste water treatment system, SARRY, was shut down Monday in order to remove a clump of sludge from piping in the system. The sludge was discovered due to a hot spot found by radiation monitoring. The system was out of service for 12 hours and no worker received more than 3.5 msv exposure. NHK World called the hot spot a “radiation leak”, which further demonstrates the critical need to educate Japan's Press on radiation realities.
NHK World also reports that on March 7 TEPCO told NISA of the possibility of a 10 meter high Tsunami. The article says TEPCO actually discovered the possibility in 2008. Why they waited until 2011 to submit their findings is a mystery. Would expeditious submittal have resulted in safety changes that might have averted the Fukushima accident?
JAIF reports that on Friday TEPCO is going to try an alternative flow path for water to #3 RPV in the hope of possibly reducing water flow needed to remove decay heat. The new flow path is described as “injecting water directly onto the facility's fuel”. This sounds like either the feedwater sparger or core spray sparger, both of which are inside the RPV shroud and above where the melted-down core used to be located. The spargers are pipes encircling the inner upper area of the RPV with numerous holes in them to spray cooling water. If this is successful, will TEPCO do the same for RPVs 1 & 2?
The Japanese government has revised its estimate of how much radioactive material was released by Fukushima Daiichi from March 11 to April 5. The main reason for the reduction is a close analysis of radiation readings at the plant site and elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture on March 15, after the hydrogen explosion of unit #4. It seems the March 15 releases were actually about half of the original estimates. The Nuclear safety Commission says it has a high degree of confidence in the new estimate.
Japan's Science Ministry has completed what they believe is the most extensive aerial survey of radiation levels in Fukushima and its three adjacent Prefectures. They have not released the data because they are continuing the survey over 18 other Prefectures in order to get reasonably confident comparative numbers. To no-one's surprise, the highest readings were within the 3km evacuation radius of Fukushima Daiichi, and indicate it may be years before people in that area will be allowed to return home. When completed, this might be the most comprehensive background-based survey ever attempted, and should reveal some interesting information.
The source of the latest Fukushima beef cattle Cesium issue has been discovered. All 12 of the most recent “tainted” carcasses came from the same farm, and the farmer was feeding them hay from an open-air storage structure on the property. With only a roof above, and no walls to block airborne radioactivity, the hay became contaminated. Since no other farm's beef seems to have spawned above-health-standard Cesium levels in their cattle, the Prefecture would like Tokyo to lift the current beef ban and limit it to the affected farm only.
Now that the 1,300 Mwe Kashiwa nuke has been shut down for refueling and maintenance, TEPCO has announced they will try and avoid an electricity shortfall by installing new gas turbines at their “thermal” stations. Once again, Japan is trading the theoretical risks of radiation for the actual risks of fossil fuel pollution.
NHK World says the Japanese government has announced they have drafted a basic plan for decontamination of the zones that need it. This is not only in the 20km no-go zone and the northwest corridor extending more than 30km, but also other locations found to be “hot spots”. The plan includes power-washing the roofs and sides of buildings and houses, mud removal from drainage ditches, power-rinsing of cracks in asphalt roads, as well as vegetation trimming of contaminated leaves and stems. Finally, all soils reading above government limits will be stripped and discarded. The detailed report is to be released on Friday.
The government-sponsored independent panel investigating the causes of the Fukushima accident have interviewed 126 individuals covering more than 300 hours of inquiry. However, the head of the panel, Yotaro Hatamura, says they are not close to completion. The group has interviewed plant operators, TEPCO executives, and government officials. Few of the sessions have been public, and much of what has been uncovered has not been shared with the Press. Hatamura says this is because the four teams of panel investigators are researching independently. When finished, they will combine their findings in one comprehensive document. Hatamura admits some new discoveries have been made which have not been in the news or any official record to date, but he declined to say what they are.
A Kyodo News poll of Fukushima parents who have transferred their children to schools in other Prefectures, shows that more than 70% did this because they fear radiation. Their main fear is a lack of evidence on the long term negative health effects of radiation exposure.
Have any of them ever heard of radiation hormesis? There is no data on negative health effects with low level exposures because all health effects are beneficial. (see our “Radiation : The No Safe Level Myth” page)
Meanwhile, back in the States...
This final item is being mentioned because of considerable western news media interest...the 5.9 Richter scale earthquake centered in Virginia on Tuesday caused a widespread blackout of a large part of the state. Included in the blackout area is the North Anna nuke. It shut down automatically when the quake happened, and all four of its primary emergency diesels started automatically when the blackout happened. One of the diesels stopped working because of a leak in its cooling system, but the other three continued to provide power. A fifth diesel was started to replace it. There are seven days of diesel fuel stored on site. Off-site power was restored on Tuesday night. All RPV cooling systems are operating, there have been no radioactive releases, and the plant is in a safe condition. The news media's rhetorical attempts to make it sound like another Fukushima are groundless.
Before getting into updates for the weekend's Fukushima (and related) events, something should be mentioned concerning JAIF's posted pressure readings for units 1 & 2 RPVs. They don't make any sense. The RPV pressures listed are below atmospheric...way below. The instruments show relative vacuums inside the vessels. At the same time, the Drywell (DW) and Suppression Chamber (SC) pressures are slightly above atmospheric. If the instruments are correct, the direction of water flow ought to be into the vessels from the DW and SC, since higher pressure fluids always flow into lower pressures. That's a law of nature. However, the constancy of water injections and build-up of waste waters demonstrate flow is out of the vessels and into some location at or above atmospheric. Thus, RPV internal pressure must necessarily be higher than wherever the water is going after it leaves the RPV, which is most likely the DW and/or the SC. It seems the RPV pressure instruments are severely damaged, giving entirely incorrect readings, and should be posted accordingly.
Now, back to Fukushima information...
Just before noon on Saturday, TEPCO announced they had finished installing the portable desalination unit for SPF #4 and placed it in operation. JAIF says it is a reverse osmosis (RO) unit, so the water run through it should come out ultra-pure. RO systems have notoriously slow flow rates, so using them for clean-up of the large volumes of contaminated waste water is impractical.
Sunday, TEPCO reported the new waste water decontamination unit, SARRY, was placed in operation last Friday (Aug. 19). Operation is in parallel with the previous system, which has received considerable bad press for two months. The combined decontamination rate is now 70 tons per hour, which is an increase above the first unit which was de-conning 45 tons per hour during the week prior to Friday.
TEPCO also announced that all temperature monitoring instruments on unit #1 RPV are indicating readings less than 100 oC, and the levels have remained below this critical point for more than a day. While this is one of the criteria for establishing the optimum safety condition called “cold shutdown”, the most important goal is stabilizing the RPV cooling system and insuring its ability to survive any possible future natural calamities.
Japan's self-inflicted nation-wide power shortage is getting worse. No, it's not just another nuke being idled. To the contrary, Yomiuri Shimbun reports that numerous “thermal” (fossil fueled) power plants have been “extended” beyond their design operating limits and are failing. Three units suspended operations briefly (2-4 days each) in July for repairs. Five have been shut down in August. One August shutdown was brief (2 days). But the other four have had much longer periods of inactivity, with no end in sight. The 360 Mwe Akita plant has been shut down since Aug. 2. The other three, totaling 1,700 Mwe, have been shut down anywhere from four to 12 days. One of them (the 1,000 Mwe Misumi coal-fired unit) was shut down briefly in July, and is down again (since Aug. 10). Officials fear that continuing summer demand will stress more and more “thermal” units, forcing their suspensions.
In addition, TEPCO announced it's Kariwa unit #7 in Niigata Prefecture, will be shut down for routine inspection and refueling on Tuesday. They have already begun output reduction leading to the suspension of service. NHK World reports the Niigata governor will not allow any restarts until the complete results of the government fact-finding investigation are made public and the cause of the Fukushima emergency is established. JAIF says that by current plant scheduling, and if no idled nuclear plants are allowed to restart, all 54 Japanese nukes will be shut down by the spring.
When will Japan's governments bite the bullet and restart the idled nukes?
It seems the ban of beef shipments has been lifted for all Prefectures except Fukushima. Higher than health limit Cesium levels were found in five more cow's meat on Saturday and another 3 on Monday (Japan time), in addition to the four discovered earlier this month. NHK World points out that cow's meat for the first four was sampled back in March, and in April for the last 8. All 12 were sampled between March 15 and April 19. The farm where five of the cows were raised says they did not use rice straw for feed. Rather, they used hay. The government is investigating where the hay came from.
Japan Times reports on an agricultural experiment to “coax” Cesium out of rice paddy soil in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. A water-based chemical is being sprayed on the surface of the soil which will harden and theoretically draw the cesium to the surface. Then, the hardened surface soil can be stripped off and disposed of, leaving the remaining dirt safe for rice production. Preliminary tests showed that that 98% of the Cesium is in the uppermost inch of soil. There is no detectable cesium below a two inch depth.
Mainichi Shimbun reports that polls taken recently suggest the Japanese public currently reject's Prime Minister Kan's desire to de-nuclearize the country as soon as possible. 74% of the newspaper's respondents say they favor a gradual reduction in nuclear energy, if at all. Politically, most of those who seek to become Prime Minister after Kan steps down say they favor a wait-and-see policy on the nuclear issue. The newspaper speculates that those who refuse to take a firm stand on de-nuclearization are tacitly admitting they will promote nukes if they get into office.
The Yomiuri Shimbun says they have interviewed several experts, and the consensus feels the 3km evacuation radius around Fukushima Daiichi will remain “uninhabitable” for many years, if not decades. They feel many locations within the 20km no-go zone will be re-populated without danger, but none inside of 3km. These opinions are based on the measured radiation fields and fears that another severe nuclear accident might happen at the stricken power complex. Japan Times says the government is considering buying the most highly-contaminated properties withing the no-go zone. The Yomiuri suggests these land buy-ups will be used to store radioactive wastes created by contamination clean-ups and sewage sludge produced in Fukushima Prefecture. There has been no confirmation on this speculation.
We have noticed something very curious about the reported number of people who have been evacuated from the 20km no-go zone and the northwest corridor 20-35km from Fukushima Daiichi. Back in April, some western reports were as high as 140,000. (Reuters, March 12) Now, Mainichi Shimbun says the total is actually 48,903. That's still a lot of people. But, it does demonstrate how numbers associated with nuclear emergencies are often exaggerated, especially by the western news media.
NHK World tells us that the “chief” of the Fukushima power plant didn't know a backup cooling system for one of the plant's reactors was manually shut down on March 11th. Plant manager Masao Yoshida was not told the system had been shut down to prevent it from possibly being damaged. An un-named worked revealed this to the government's fact-finding panel investigating Fukushima. Yoshida said his not being told was a significant error.
The report has caused serious speculation. University of Tokyo Professor Koji Okamoto said the reactor must have lost all cooling functions due to the stoppage, and the failure of communication may have made the accident worse by delaying orders for water injections and government evacuations of nearby residents. We can't judge the validity of Okamoto's speculation since the report doesn't say which of the three units is being referred to. We need to know which unit it is because two plants (#2 & 3) seem to have had two systems operating at the time. Regardless, this is the only evidence of operator error in the current Fukushima accident record.
Japan Times reports TEPCO's latest Fukushima airborne activity numbers show a decrease by a factor of seven orders of magnitude (ten million) compared to the releases occurring between March 12 and March 16. It should be noted the current release rates are estimated, leaving the door open for yet more negative speculation. This is because the continuing emissions are from the externally-decimated reactor buildings of units 1 and 3 and there's no way of measuring the actual release volumes. It could be anywhere between 100 and 200 million becquerels per hour (2x108 Bq/hr). Regardless, by simply “doing the numbers”, the release rates on the identified March days must have been ~10 million-million-million Bq/hr (1x1013). At 2x108 Bq/hr, the resulting radiation field is roughly 0.4 millisieverts/year. This is comparable to the estimated Japanese national background average of 1 msv/yr.
The becquerel-based numbers are impossible for any human mind to comprehend, but as is often the case with nuclear phenomena, the units being represented are very, very tiny. In nuclear statistics, big numbers often mean little consequences when they are compared to real world experience. Leaving these incomprehensible numbers without using real world experience to define them, can do no more than amplify existing fears. The only real-world concept mentioned in this report is the comparison to natural background radiation levels. Why not just say “current releases produce exposures at about 40% of natural background”, and leave the unimaginable, terrifyingly-enormous numbers out of the mental equation?
NHK World says the new waste water clean-up system at Fukushima Daiichi has ended its test phase and is now in full operation. There are presently two systems cleaning up the waste waters located in the basements of units 1 through 4. Regardless, the first system continues to be bashed almost every day by the Press (not just NHK) for not living up to pre-operational expectations. What is most interesting, it seems all Press outlets fail to report that as of Aug. 16, 50,000 tons of waste water had been de-conned by the first system. In addition, only Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the week of Aug. 10-16 witnessed a near-flawless system efficiency of 88% which cleaned up more than 8.000 tons for the first time...at the end of a lengthy first-system-bashing diatribe. Or, is that confusing the issue with facts?
Japan's Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has announced the creation of a detailed radiation exposure map of the entire evacuated area around Fukushima Daiichi. Readings were taken at one meter above ground level by slow-moving vehicles which recorded data every 10 seconds. JAEA reports that readings fluctuated by as much as a factor of ten between locations as close as 100 meters apart, showing the precise location collection areas of contamination due to rainwater run-off and topography. The agency also says they monitored from every road and highway in the evacuated areas.
To say that we want to see that map is an understatement. All contamination and radiation exposure maps have been largely theoretical, up to this point. Real-time, real-world data should be a significant improvement in deciding who can go home and who should not.
The international French news service, AFP, has posted an article which may well amplify the scandal surrounding the Japanese government deleting a website-posting of all Fukushima child thyroid examinations performed in March. An official interviewed by AFP spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the data showed that 44.6% of the children examined had “some” radioactive Iodine in their thyroids. He emphasized that none of the detected levels exceeded health standards, and none of the children were in any way at risk. When asked why the data has been withheld, he said, “No child had shown contamination levels beyond the safety limit,” adding that posting such results served no useful purpose.
What!? No useful purpose? And, deleting the data served what useful purpose?
On what seems to have been an otherwise “slow nuclear news day”, Yomiuri Shimbun posted yet another article on local government reluctance to re-start idled nukes. Some of the Prefectural governor's quotes include..."Unless the central government firmly sets out [the nation's energy policy for the future], local governments remain helpless," said Genkaicho Mayor Hideo Kishimoto...Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said that stress tests to check reactors' resistance to severe accidents would "merely be a psychological placebo. The accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant should be analyzed first, and we're not yet at the stage of discussing whether to restart [idled] reactors."
In other words, nothing new to report on restarting idled Japanese nukes.
For three months, the news media has mentioned that not everyone has evacuated the designated areas outside the 20km no-go zone. Asahi Shimbun posted an article concerning one of them. It begins, “Yoshiaki Shoji, 78, and his wife Toshiyo, 75, refuse to budge: It's as simple as that.” Shoji says, “ At my age, it would be much better to live in this place until I die (rather than move elsewhere)." And, the couple are not alone. There are enough anti-evacuees in Shoji's village, Iitate, that the municipal government has kept their offices open in order to maintain public services, including the police. Shoji says staying in his home was never a difficult decision because he feels the radiation levels around his home are not serious enough to affect his health. His main problems are mundane...no open markets (he drives to Date City for groceries), no newspaper (he goes to Kawamata village every day), and no mail. And, since most others have fled the town, Shoji feeds ten abandoned cats a day. “It is worse than in wartime," Shoji quipped. He also points out, “The buzz of cicadas and the beautiful local mountain scenery have not changed. The only thing that is different is people. The fields and animals have been abandoned by the villagers. It is very, very sad."
Finally, for those who doubt that the Hiroshima Syndrome causes serious psychological damage, please read the following article posted in the Mainichi Shimbun...
Unbridled fear of radiation, largely due to ignorance of the most ubiquitous phenomena in the universe, is causing serious health problems relative to Fukushima. It was only a matter of time before one of the news media outlets in Japan caught onto it.
Mainichi Shimbun and NHK World report TEPCO's staff never anticipated the possibility of hydrogen explosions during the nuclear emergency at Fukushima. The reports come from interviews with Fukushima's operation's officials being held by the government's fact-finding panel on the accident. As part of its investigation into the crisis, the fact-finding panel is questioning TEPCO operators as well as officials with government regulators in order to try and resolve the confusions concerning what happened. The Mainichi quotes the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager, Masao Yoshida, as saying, “We made a serious mistake as we failed to grasp important information on the power station.” He then added, “Nobody was able to predict the explosion [for unit #1]”. Later on, Yoshida told the panel his staff never imagined that hydrogen would enter the outer reactor building spaces and explode because they were preoccupied with protecting the reactor fuel cell and the building's internal containment vessel.
The Mainichi further reports unit #1 had no instruction manual on venting, thus workers were forced to create a procedure for venting by studying a blueprint of the system. In addition, when the plant manager requested that the off-site emergency support teams find batteries and temporary lighting for the unit #1 control room, the communication resulted in confusion between off-site TEPCO officials. Some of the materials were mistakenly sent to Fukushima Daini, 10km south of Daiichi, and some others to an emergency personnel assembly area 20km from the plant. This forced Yoshida to send some of his plant staff to the two incorrect locations and retrieve the equipment. Mainichi also says some of the plant's crew stated that TEPCO's home office didn't provide enough assistance during the early days of the emergency. One un-named operator said, "The TEPCO headquarters didn't extend sufficient support to us."
NHK World adds that the Fukushima staff discussed possible ways to prevent explosions at the other reactor buildings after the unit #1 blast, but execution was limited by debris caused by the first detonation and elevated radiation levels. NHK also says Fukushima's operators were aware that a core meltdown could cause a hydrogen explosion, but had never considered the possibility of a detonation outside a containment vessel.
NHK World reports the completion of the second waste water decontamination system at Fukushima Daiichi. Curiously, the new system is being touted as having “all-Japanese components” versus the sometimes problematic “foreign-made components” previously used in the first de-con system. Regardless, a test run on the system began Tuesday and is planned to continue until late Wednesday (today). If all goes well, it will be put into immediate operation.
TEPCO is planning to use a portable desalination system to remove salt and other impurities from the spent fuel pools (SPF) at Fukushima. Salt water can corrode the stainless steel sheets that line the SPF's concrete walls and floors, as well as other steel components in the pools. The three SPFs of most concern are units 2, 3 & 4, because large volumes of salt water were used for make-shift cooling over several days. Desalination of unit #1 SPF is not mentioned. The system will be used first on #4 SPF because it has the largest number of spent fuel bundles in it. If successful, the system will then be used to desalinate the unit 2 & 3 SPFs.
NHK World reports a new subject in the national Junior High science curriculum is being taught to teachers in Tokyo. The subject is radiation...what it is, its practical uses, and its effects on the human body. The article explains, “Japan's education ministry requires in its new curriculum guidelines that radiation be covered in Junior High science classes starting in April. This is the first time in 30 years for the ministry to set such a requirement.” The teacher training is not compulsory, however. It is designed for teachers who have no background on the subject.
We applaud this program, since it seems the most critical issue producing public anxiety with respect to Fukushima's is wide-spread ignorance concerning radiation. We suggest the training be offered to the news media, as well.
The problem of Cesium-contaminated sewage sludge continues to get worse. Nearly 55,000 tons of the Cesium-laced material is now sitting in sewage and water treatment facilities across northern Japan, waiting for something to happen. 75% of it is below national Cesium contamination limits for burial, but the sewage treatment operators won't touch it because it has detectable radiation coming from it. The 25% with radioactive Cesium concentrations above the national limit must be handled differently, by law, but there seems to be no government guidelines for its disposition.
One thing that could help would be to train the waste and water treatment staffs about radiation, just like the Junior High teachers. Free-floating fears can only be resolved through knowledge.
The Japanese government and TEPCO announced they will develop a system to curtail what they believe to be continuing airborne releases from damaged reactor buildings. The system will use existing piping to draw gasses from the containment structures and filter out radioactive isotopes. The system(s) will be added to the heavy-duty plastic enclosures that will encase reactor buildings 1, 3 & 4. The government believes the current rate of airborne releases is in the order of a 100 million Becquerels per hour. TEPCO says the release rate was a billion Bq/hr at this time last month, thus airborne activity on-site is dropping.
This past Monday marked the 66th anniversary of Japan's surrender which ended WWII. Anti-nuclear groups in Japan used the occasion to once again demand a complete abandonment of the production of electricity from nuclear energy. In addition to their use of the false reactor-bomb connection during the Hiroshima anniversary earlier this month, the groups say the government employed the same tactics to deceive people into supporting pro-nuclear policies as it did during the war to gain national support. They purport WWII only benefited the powerful few at the cost of millions of lives, and similarly nuclear energy only benefits a small group of people at the potential cost of thousands of lives. Japan Times cites Yoshinobu Koizumi, of the Tokyo-based People's Research Institute on Energy and Environment, “Although some did voice their concern over the safety of nuclear energy — in the same manner that some believed the war was wrong — the government silenced them all.”
While the connection between bombs and reactors is based on a near-universal misconception, this new tactic employs a kernel of truth. The government did actively promote nuclear energy, and its tactics did distantly resemble the WWII government's propaganda machine. However, to say nuclear opposition was silenced the same as WWII critics is wrong.