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Fukushima 4...3/29/11-4/3/11


April 3

It is with great sadness and disappointment that I bring you the first item of today's update. TEPCO reports to Asahi Shimbun that Friday's “campaigner” invasion of Fukushima Daini was but one of a number of instances of harassment of TEPCO employees and defacement of TEPCO property. These phobia-based acts began the day of the quake/tsunami, March 11, and have occurred since. Perhaps the most frightening of all has been the wide-spread posting of the names, addresses, and alma maters of the TEPCO president and other senior executives on the internet for nuclear-phobes to know who the “culprits” are. I have prayed for twenty five years that phobic fears caused by the Hiroshima Syndrome would not lead to senseless violence. I'm afraid these prayers are not being answered. Rather than summarize the Asahi report, please go to...

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201104020226.html

Everyone who has read this site can understand that the fundamental problem is the Hiroshima Syndrome itself. Mass remediation can resolve the damage, but not in the short term. I pray that the Syndrome's damaging tendrils will not lead to mortal consequences for anyone. Those who foment and/or indulge in violent acts ought to be punished to the full extent of the law, regardless. My greatest fears are becoming reality...a reality I wished would never happen.

It is possible that some, if not most of these acts could have been avoided if TEPCO's information flow had been considerably less inept from the outset. Yes...inept. This writer has lambasted TEPCO for informationally-thin reports from the beginning. Now, the Japanese news media is doing the same. In psychologically explosive situations, appearance means everything. TEPCO appears to be coldly indifferent and sinister to the nuclear-phobic segment of the Japanese public. Intense anger and free-floating phobic fear are a combustible mixture. Whether or not it is true, it looks as if TEPCO is covering something up. I pray they are not. I pray their problem is naïve ineptitude, and not something intentional. Right or wrong, when a nuclear emergency occurs, the whole world is watching. It is anything but business as usual. Full disclosure is essential.

Today's updates...

  • Kyodo News reports Japanese government officials believe that radioactive releases from Fukushima Daiichi will continue for several months. What they are basing this estimate on is unclear. Is it an exaggeration or something realistic? The answer will come as time passes.

  • Asahi Shimbun reports that public concerns are rising over the other Boiling Water Reactor power plants in Japan. Fukushima Daini and Hamaoka power plants have already experienced demonstrations of public anger. The safety of BWRs has been a source of pride to the nuclear community for decades. It's not the type of nuclear plant that precipitated the emergency at Daiichi...it began with the tsunami and became a complete loss of AC power emergency. Any industrial facility, no matter what type, would have experienced an emergency condition. Aerial photos taken before and after the tsunami (prior to the first hydrogen explosion) reveal little or no damage to the power complex structures at Daiichi. Nuclear plants are very, very tough. Unfortunately, nuclear-phobes in Japan are thirsting for scapegoats. TEPCO and BWRs currently slake that thirst.

  • TEPCO reports that the earthquake preceding the tsunami was 10 times greater than the design criteria for the Daiichi and Daini nuclear power complexes. However, there was no mention of what the actual “as-built” integrity of the power plants is, which GE has always said is right about the earthquake level experienced March 11. Another glaring omission from TEPCO is that the earthquake is/was not the culprit. Without the tsunami, it is probable that Daiichi and Daini plants would be operating (or at least in near-operation) and providing power for disaster recovery.

  • NHK reports that the contamination levels of drinking waters in all Fukushima-area municipalities are below safety standards, and consumption is no longer restricted. This includes the town of Ii-tate, which is closest to the Fukushima Daiichi power complex. This information comes from the Japanese Health Ministry.

  • The Japanese government continues to politically over-react to Fukushima. Now, Yukio Edano (Chief Cabinet Secretary) is calling for an independent body to investigate the Fukushima Accident. He added (groan), “An objective investigation should be carried out as soon as possible to prevent a recurrence.” Geologists in Japan have reported that a quake and tsunami of this magnitude has a probability of once every 10,000 years. Thus, no matter what this independent body's findings are, regulations will be re-written. Because a seismic event like this won't happen in the foreseeable future, the politicians will take credit for preventing another Fukushima....just like TMI thirty years ago.

  • A second US Navy barge has arrived full of fresh water. It has been connected to the first barge to replenish the water already used. When the fresh water from barge number 1 began to supply the power complex does not seem to be available.

  • TEPCO has poured uncontaminated fresh concrete into the cracked cable “pit” of Unit #2, hoping to stop the contamination getting into the sea. They say this has resulted in no change to the levels of contamination going into the sea. TEPCO is bringing polymer experts from Tokyo to help in stopping the leak from the pit. TEPCO believes the pit's contamination comes from a “puddle” in the #2 turbine basement.

  • IAEA reports that TEPCO has admitted that seawater contamination has come via, “...a series of trenches/tunnels used to provide water to the sea water intake pumps and supply service water to the reactor and turbine buildings.” (no comment)

  • Reactor Vessel and Primary Containment temperatures for Units 1, 2 & 3 continue to decrease. Pressures continue to remain stable, as well. One Emailer asked an important question. Since enough electric power has been restored, and/or portable generators have been available, a continuous flow of water has been flowing through all three reactor vessels, removing decay heat. Where is this removed heat going? There are several possibilities concerning heat exchangers and/or cooling equipment connected to the pressure vessel's piping, but there has been no explanation as to “which, what, or whatever”. Glaring omission, here. Thanks Tim.

  • IAEA states that there has been no increase in radiation levels, airborne activity, or contamination off-site since yesterday. Not trying to be overly optimistic, but, does this indicate that radioactive material releases will continue for several months?

  • TEPCO says freshwater injections to all three distressed reactors is now being provided by portable pumps powered by the “off-site transmission line”.

  • It seems the pumps being used to replenish the four spent fuel pools are not yet connected to the off-site transmission line. Let's hope this happens soon.

  • Some of the Turbine Building lights for Units 1, 2 & 3 have been turned on. It's been dark in there for three weeks. This is a good thing. I wonder...will TEPCO blame the personnel contaminations and over-exposures on a lack of adequate lighting? I hope not. Portable lights and hand-held illumination would make this excuse vacuous. Bad HP is bad HP.

  • Now, for another niggling question. We can understand the contamination of the waters in the Turbine basements cam from the reactors and spent fuel pools. But, the considerable volume of the waters hasn't been addressed. It seems way too much for spent fuel pool water sprays and reactor vessel pressure relief transients. Could it have come from the tsunami? The Turbine Buildings were never claimed to be water-proof. Just wondering...

April 2

Before today's relatively brief list of updates, there seems to be some confusing information on both the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) and International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) charts for the status of the three Fukushima Daiichi Units that remain in an emergency condition. Specifically, the water levels in each reactor pressure vessel. Both the JAIF and IAEA charts say that all three reactor fuel cores are currently partially uncovered (present tense phrasing), and the charts have been displaying this for more than two weeks! Paradoxically, scrolling down from the JAIF chart on page 2, to page 5 (of 6), we find that all three reactors have water levels listed. This becomes very curious at best. Here's why.

With all Boiling Water Reactors (BWR), water levels are not measured relative to the fuel core, but rather well above the top of the fuel cells. In fact, all water levels displayed are actually located in the steam separator (#6 in the below diagram), which is between 10 to 15 feet above the top of the fuel cell (# 15 in diagram).

There are no water level detection devices that monitor the fuel core itself. This is because during routine operation, the water in the reactor core boils at a terrific rate. Thus there is always a roiling mixture of water and steam in the fuel core. Yes... the fuel cells are built to operate in a steam environment. They are necessarily much, much tougher to damage than the Pressurized Water Reactor fuel cores (like TMI) which have no boiling in the core. In the BWR, if a full automatic shutdown (SCRAM) happens, the control rods are literally rammed into the core, stopping the chain reaction in less than a second. This immediately stops the majority of the boiling, and the level of the steam and water mixture drops, suddenly and rather dramatically, because most of the steam bubbles collapse. By keeping the range of operating water level way up above the core, the fuel core below never gets uncovered, even if the rector experiences SCRAM from 100% power. Thus, the water level detectors only measure water levels beginning many feet above the top of the fuel in the core! Any water level shown on the water level monitors means the core is completely covered and there's lot's of water on top of that. Many feet of water, in fact. JAIF's data page (5 of 6) displays detected water levels in all three reactors, and because of the well-above-the-core location of the detectors, there's at least 15 feet of water indicated to be on top of each fuel core!

The cores cannot be partially uncovered on charts and then shown to be totally immersed using the data the charts are supposed to be based on. This is a terrible contradiction.

And, in a hot reactor condition driven by decay heat, like we had at Fukushima for at least 5 days before fire truck pumps were available to supplement the steam-driven feedwater pumps, there was unquestionably steam engulfing the fuel cells sticking out above the water levels during partial uncoverage periods between feedwater injections. In other words, the hot, uncovered fuel cells in the reactor cores were probably never really dry! All the water inside the reactor pressure vessel must be boiled off before the steam temperature can increase to temperatures capable of causing severe fuel damage like TMI (severe meltdown – NRC, 2009). We don't know if a complete loss of water level was ever the case in any of the three Fukushima cores of concern. And, we won't know until the pressure vessels are opened and visually inspected.

Further, no licensed reactor operator in the world would intentionally leave the fuel cores of three at-risk reactors partially uncovered for two weeks. As soon as the ability to pump enough water into the reactor to keep the core covered is available, the operator will keep the core covered, with many feet of water level above the core to provide an appropriate margin of safety. No reactor operator in the world would neglect doing this. For JAIF and IAEA, posting status reports that say the fuel cells are, and have been partially uncovered for two weeks, is an insult to reactor operators everywhere! I have refrained from mentioning this out of respect for JAIF and IAEA, but the resolution of the the posted water level contradiction is way over-due.

Now, for today's relatively few available items of update...

  • Work continues to remove the water from all four turbine building basements. Further improvement in the ability to bring all three reactors into the optimum safety condition of cold shutdown, and restoring normal cooling and water cleaning systems on the spent fuel pools, will not happen until the contaminated water is removed from these areas.

  • Plant workers are testing the spray of synthetic resin on debris outside the common spent fuel pool building. Before further spraying happens, it should be determined whether or not it is effective in keeping dust and debris from becoming airborne.

  • Radiological monitoring devices located at the outer boundary of the TEPCO property have been re-energized and are providing radiological data.

  • Asahi Shimbun today reports that “External power has been restored to all four reactors and lights have been turned on in the central control rooms.” This is an example of misleading information being broadcast in all news media reports around the world. The reactor is inside the reactor building. The reactor building (RB), as well as the concrete vault rooms for pumps and piping located between the turbine buildings, and the control rooms for each unit, are NOT the reactors. None of the equipment in these areas needed for cold shutdown have been re-connected. Only the control rooms. The reactors are equipment inside the RBs. To indicate that the four RBS and control rooms are “all four reactors” is a gross mis-statement. All news media ought to get it right on this point, at least.

  • To make matters worse, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) is doing essentially the same thing. Kyodo News reports the discovery of a cracked concrete pit completely outside one of the Fukushima buildings (see below) has NISA saying, ''We will also check whether there are cracks at other reactors as soon as possible.'' This makes it sound like the discovered crack is possibly on something attached to the reactor itself, or perhaps physically part of the reactor pressure vessel. I hope this is a translational problem, and not something endemic to future NISA statements.

  • On another note, Asahi is entirely correct in saying that the current situation with high radiation levels will limit the amount of time workers can do their jobs. Once the substantial radiation sources from the four pools of turbine basement contaminated waters have been removed... radiation levels in the most important areas of work needed to bring all three reactors to a cold shutdown condition... work can progress.

  • NHK, Asahi, and Kyodo News report that one source of seawater contamination has been “confirmed”. A relatively small 2 meter deep pit for plant power cables was found to have 4 to 8 inches of contaminated water in it, and it's walls were cracked. TEPCO says this cracking lets the contaminated water get into the ocean. Concrete will be used to fill the cracking and stop the leak. However, this discovery is but one straw in a rather large bale of hay. The volumes of water that must have been leaking into the ocean in order to cause the concentrations of contamination detected to date, are far, far, far more than could ever have come from a relatively small cable pit. NHK seems to believe TEPCO has found the source of the entire flow of contaminated water into the sea. No way! Not even four cracked pits could do it.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports that “All units are currently being cooled by injection of fresh water, using temporary pumps, with backup power supplies in place in case of further electrical power issues. TEPCO reports that water temperatures in the units are below 100 C in the pressure suppression chambers, and that no reactor coolant is being leaked to containment.” Lot's of good news indeed.

  • MIT also reports “The EPA has continued to monitor the potential pathways for radiation exposure of the U.S. population. To date, radiation detected in milk is on the order of picocuries (10-12 Curie) per liter. This is 5,000 times lower than the FDA’s Derived Intervention Level. A Derived Intervention Level is the point at which the FDA would act to take the food in question out of our food supply.”

April 1

 

Before today's update, I want to address something that's becoming an issue with all those trying to present a rational alternative to the irresponsible reporting common to western news media. I call it informational fatigue. I spent more than 5 years involved with the dissemination of rational nuclear information, after TMI happened and throughout the Chernobyl accident period. The hours were long, it seemed like I never had a day off, and the results were disappointing. I wanted to straighten out the whole mess and make the world see the light. Didn't happen, and it won't happen now...at least not in the near future. Before the world sees the light and nuclear energy can become the single-most effective alternative to the burning of fossil fuels (as it ought to be), the Hiroshima Syndrome must be remediated. I've understood this for more than 25 years, and it has never been more obvious than now.

Ever since TMI, Hiroshima Syndrome-based nuclear safety issues and radiation fears have been a ready-made headline for the western Press. It's right up there with war, national elections, and serial killers as an issue the news media can rely on for lead stories. If none of the “automatic headlines” are actually occurring, the fall-back is to cover “controversies” relative to any of the “headline” topics. Plus, the Press will bend over backwards to keep any headline-worthy controversy alive. With nuclear energy, the controversial possibilities are numerous, and all of them exploit the Hiroshima Syndrome.

The duration of news media exploitation of the Hiroshima Syndrome will last as long as the public finds it entertaining. Yes, I said entertaining. News broadcasting is always presented in the most entertaining way possible. In the entertainment world, you either make the audience laugh, or make them cry. Unfortunately, the “make them cry” approach has drawn the best video ratings and resulted in the highest newspaper circulations since the assassination of JFK. That's why pain, suffering, and fear-mongering satiate the news media's appetite for negativity. They blame it on us...the public...because that's what sells best. Right or wrong, this is the way it is with western news dissemination. The duration of the news media's focus on TMI and Chernobyl-based nuclear angst and ennui was years. The exploitation of nuclear phobia with Fukushima will similarly perpetuate. We can expect nothing less. Dig in. Hunker down. Take no prisoners. The siege will be long and tiring. War Against the Atom III : Battle of Fukushima, has been joined.

This does not mean our efforts are hopeless. The volume of rational voices today, far outnumbers the voices existent in the past. So many times in the mid 80s, I felt like I was a single voice crying out amidst an unending sea of mythic turmoil. I persevered. So can you. Your resolve will be tested, but you cannot allow it to make you turn your back. That's what the news media wants. That's what the prophets of nuclear energy doom want. The internet provides us with a weapon that didn't exist in the 1980s; absolute freedom of speech to all peoples, everywhere, all around the world. This page (and website) was read by more than 10,000 people, in more than eighty countries, in March. I'm really not much different than you. The American Declaration of Independence teaches us that when an individual or group of individuals discovers something that is wrong, they are morally obligated to do whatever they can to correct it. Let this be our ongoing principle.

****

Today's updates...

Physical/Technological -

  • TEPCO says a barge from the “United States' Forces” was towed to the Fukushima site by Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force on Thursday afternoon, March 31. It was/is filled with fresh water and will be used as an additional source of freshwater for reactor replenishments, using the existing water replenishment supply tanks and piping inside the power plants.

  • The JAIF's daily chart of status, used every day by Wiki, has some questionable information. It says Reactor Vessel pressures and temperatures for Units 2 & 3 are “Unknown/stable” and “unknown”, respectively. The data from IAEA points out that the temperature readings for Unit #3 are unusual and unexpected, making them unsure of their accuracy, However, all other Reactor 2 & 3 parameters are given without qualification. There needs to be a better level of collaboration, here. In addition, JAIF blames the Unit 4 hydrogen explosion on the #4 spent fuel pool. This is little more than a “best guess”. Until conditions allow for visual inspection of the fuel cells in the pool, JAIF's conclusion cannot be confirmed. Has anyone considered investigating a possible hydrogen pathway from Unit #3 through common auxiliary spaces? Common control rooms usually mean common auxiliary spaces.

  • IAEA reports that temperatures and pressures in Reactor pressure vessels for Units 1 & 3 continue to decrease. It seems that feedwater is being fed continuously through the vessels. Outlet flow is cooled somewhere in the existing system and then pumped back into the reactor vessel. Some sort of closed loop. How this is being done should be explained fully.

  • Temperature inside the Unit 2 reactor vessel has risen 4 degrees C. However, primary containment pressure has remained at atmospheric. Thus, we have another day of data to indicate that there has been no compromise of Unit 2 reactor vessel integrity.

  • IAEA respectfully reports that they have received no updates on the replenishment of Unit No. 1 Spent Fuel Pool since march 29. (two days over there) Get on your horse, TEPCO. Alienating IAEA spells D-O-O-M!

  • The Unit 2 temporary pump for replenishing #2 Spent Fuel Pool malfunctioned. Until repairs are made, injection will be through a fire truck pump. (Gotta love those firemen!)

  • NHK News reports they have video given to them by TEPCO, taken from “a camera installed on the tip of a long arm of a special construction vehicle.” NHK says it shows Unit #4 spent Fuel Pool. While the (standard construction grade) walls and roof of the refueling deck were blown off by the hydrogen explosion, the internal crane used to move the fuel cells around in the pool “stayed in place without falling into a spent-fuel storage pool”. This seems to have surprised NHK. In addition, “the structure below the storage pool was hardly affected, as it was more strongly constructed (than the walls and roof).” So much for the earlier speculations of a cracked pool leaking water. Unfortunately, NHK does not post a link so that we can view the video.

  • Asahi Shimbun reports that a “host” of countries and expert organizations have come to Japan to support the resolution of the Fukushima emergency. This includes the US armed services and an American remote control robot. One group glaringly missing is the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC has offered to help, but the Japanese seem to have respectfully declined.

  • The Nuclear Energy Institute uses the term “concrete vaults” to describe the rooms and structures connecting the Turbine Buildings to their Reactor Buildings. Excellent descriptive term. I would suggest that the basements under the turbines are “vault-like”, too.

Radiological -

  • (correction from yesterday's report) Four drinking water systems remain in “restriction” for use, in all of Fukushima Prefecture. Three of the restrictions are for infant consumption only.

  • (Not to the surprise of this writer) TEPCO reports they have found contamination in the ground waters (underground waters – NHK Japan) of the multi-plant complex. I can't read the analytical results because I get a “bad encrypt” alert when I try to open the attachments. <sigh>

  • IAEA has submitted the results of 76 samples of vegetables, fruit, seafood, and milk from the 9 Prefectures surrounding Fukushima (Including Fukushima) to Japan's Ministry of Health. 51 of the samples produced negative results relative to the legal limits of contamination levels, or were otherwise found to be devoid of contamination. The 25 samples that exceeded the legal contamination limits were all from Fukushima Prefecture.

  • For a full and complete breakdown of an important press conference between the IAEA and the news media on radiological status, please go to the IAEA link below...

    http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

  • Kyodo News reports that TEPCO may not have enough personal dosimeters (portable exposure-measuring devices) for all the workers now at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant complex. This concern comes from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency because there are fewer dosimeters on-site than there are workers. Currently some 800 individuals toil there, in shifts, around the clock. They are not working simultaneously, and those “off-shift” move to makeshift quarters in a building far away from the radiation fields. (The cafeteria, I think) If the off-shift location is known to not have a radiation field or contamination, then the dosimeters are technically only needed for those on-shift and working. Given TEPCO's HP track record to date, the lack of possible exposure at the off-shift location ought to be verified multiple times.

Hiroshima Syndrome -

  • Early this morning (late afternoon – Japan), TEPCO reported that a “sound truck” of “campaigners” drove through the main security gate at the Fukushima Daini power plant complex, 10 km south of Fukushima Daiichi. They drove around the site for more than 10 minutes, broadcasting their verbal demands loudly, and then left. The Fukushima police were called, but the “campaigners” were gone before the police could arrive. TEPCO has since blocked the gate with vehicles. Who were the “campaigners”? TEPCO doesn't say, but we can be sure it was a group of Japanese prophets of nuclear energy doom unwittingly exploiting the Hiroshima Syndrome.

March 31

 

The emergency situation with Fukushima Units 1, 2 & 3, essentially remains as it was yesterday. Conditions inside reactors 1 & 3 have not changed. Reactor #2 has seen an increase in temperature and pressure, which seems to be in accordance with yesterday's announcement of TEPCO letting this happen to stop or restrict reactor vessel leakage. (No further editorial comment is necessary) Pressure inside the primary containment around the Unit 2 reactor has not changed, indicating that the pressure vessel is not, nor has it ever been compromised.

Most of the new news with Fukushima is radiological -

  • Roughly half of the contaminated water from Unit #1 turbine basement has been pumped into the Unit #1 condenser, lowering the water level on the floor from roughly 16 inches down to about 8 inches depth. How this pumping operation has been preformed without an electrical supply has not been reported by IAEA. TEPCO's most recent press release says the condenser has been filled, so some of the water needs to be transferred to the Condensate storage tank, which needs to be emptied of its uncontaminated contents first. This will be by pumping it to the suppression pool surge tanks. Once there is room for more water from the basement floor, pumping to the condenser will re-start. Asahi Shimbun adds that there will still not be enough storage room for all the water, so TEPCO is working on identifying other tanks as storage locations. (Big “puddle”, eh?)

  • The Unit #2 turbine basement contaminated waters cannot be pumped into the Unit #2 condenser until the condenser itself is drained of the water that has been in there since the plant automatically shut down, March 11. The existing water is mildly radioactive, at most, and should not be further contaminated with the highly contaminated water from the basement floor. The relatively clean condensate in the condenser is being pumped to two other tanks in the condensate system; the condensate storage tank (which is the main reservoir for system replenishment water during normal operation) and from there into the suppression surge tanks (not sure what this means). Once transfer of waters from the condenser is complete, the waters on the basement floor of Unit #2 can be pumped into the Unit #2 condenser. TEPCO reports the transfer of water from the condenser will be drained to the condensate storage tanks.

  • The same process of water transfers for Unit #2 is being performed for Unit #3, so that the waters now on the Unit #3 turbine basement floor can be pumped into its condenser.

  • The radioactive iodine levels in three of the four contaminated drinking water supplies in Fukushima Prefecture have dropped so significantly that the restrictions on their use have been lifted, even for infants. The fourth remains slightly above the restriction threshold.

  • IAEA monitoring teams have scanned several locations in Tokyo for radiation levels, and all report the readings are roughly natural background levels (which varies with location throughout the world).

  • One IAEA team northwest of the Fukushima Power Plant Complex, outside the 30 km evacuation zone, has found one soil sample that exceeds the IAEA threshold for evacuation. This is a localized situation, and not endemic of the entire area beyond the evacuation zone. IAEA does not recommend extending the zone further, but is currently working with the Japanese on possible local protective measures.

  • The most recent food analyses from nine Prefectures including Fukushima, are now devoid of contamination.

  • Singapore authorities report that all foods coming from Japan have been thoroughly tested and none have any contamination.

  • Asahi Shimbun reports the seawater samples taken 330 meters from the Fukushima Daiichi shoreline have risen to above the previously reported highest level of iodine. Where is it coming from? Hmmmmmm...

  • Asahi Shimbun also reports that TEPCO will be testing the use of a synthetic resin, to act as a dust suppressant on the exterior of the buildings at Fukushima Daiichi, and the ground surrounding the buildings. This is hoped to be a possible way of keeping the air free of radioactive contaminants, which might make outdoor work less stressful and theoretically safer (using the no-safe-level myth). They will also test the resin's use in the Unit #4 turbine basement after it has dried out.

  • Asahi also reports that the trench water level from Unit #1 has been lowered by one meter. How this was done, and where the contaminated water has been stored is not in the report.

There is a little new physical/technological news-

  • The IAEA tells us that the temporary freshwater pump for Unit #1 is sending water into the reactor at a rate of 8 tonnes per hour (8 cubic meters per hour), through the feedwater piping to the reactor. Freshwater is also being injected into Reactors 2 & 3 using a temporary electric pump at a rate of seven tonnes per hour, but through the “fire extinguisher line”. How the fire extinguisher line feeds the reactor pressure vessel needs to be further explained.

  • NISA and JAIF both report that any changes to nuclear regulations in Japan should include a requirement for mobile, portable diesels to be stored at each plant, in a robustly-built building that is water-tight. This additional power source ought to avoid future complete loss of electricity emergencies from becoming severe.

  • The four unit nuclear power complex at Daini, 10 km south of Fukushima Daiichi, has off-site power available to all four units. What this means as far as the potential to restart them and relieve some of Japan's national power shortage has not been reported.

  • Kyodo News reports Hidehiko Nishiyama, a NISA spokesperson, acknowledged there is a real possibility that “radiation” is continuing to leak into the sea, and that all possibilities will be checked. TEPCO continues to say the source of the seawater contamination is still unknown.

And finally, a new reporting category...the Hiroshima Syndrome -

  • The Prime Ministers of Japan and France have met and agreed to improve the safety of all nuclear plants. This is purely a political move, for votes and looking good to the world's public. Nuclear energy is already the cleanest (no greenhouse gasses or pollutants during operation), and safest industrial undertaking the world has ever seen. By unwittingly appealing to the Hiroshima Syndrome, their statements make it sound as if nuclear plants are not safe, which is a confabulation at best. Do they know of the Hiroshima Syndrome? I seriously doubt it.

  • Kyodo news reports that there are 1000 tsunami-caused bodies laying around unattended in Fukushima Prefecture, because health workers refuse to take proper care of them or even attempt identification, for fear of radiation. They also fear burying the bodies because radiation may get into the soil, and will not cremate because radiation will get into the air. Phobic fear of radiation resulting from the no-safe-level myth strikes again.

  • The Telegraph, United Kingdom, reports that evacuees from Fukushima are being treated like the Hiroshima bomb survivors of 66 years ago. The Telegraph points out that Hiroshima survivors experienced being socially ostracized, and were denied (1) housing rental throughout Japan, (2) finding jobs, and (3) potential marriage partners. The Telegraph article is a prime example of the Hiroshima Syndrome at work, and how western press inadvertently exploits it.

  • The New York Times reports that Fukushima contamination has been found in milk near Spokane, Washington. The report says the levels are not anywhere near being hazardous, so why do they make the report at all? Why, the Hiroshima Syndrome, of course.

March 30

 

For the first time since March 11, when the tsunami inundated the Fukushima Nuclear power plant complex, there seems to be little or no new serious technological nor radiological consequences to report. Does this mean the emergency situation is “winding down”? That would be a matter of opinion. We can safely say it's not getting any worse, and surely not “spiraling out of control” as some American news sources have broadcasted. My definition of a “winding down point” is when the first of either Unit 1, 2 or 3 is placed in the optimum safety condition of cold shutdown. That will take several more days, at least. Emergency power cabling remains to be strung through the turbine buildings and connected to the appropriate equipment before we can again be moving in the direction of cold shutdown. Before that can be done, the radioactive waters in the turbine basements need to be removed so that workers can safely resume their tasks. There are some items that should be given attention, however...

Technological -

  • Today's reports from TEPCO confirm that 13 fire trucks have been at the facility since March 17. They have been used to pump water for various emergency mitigation tasks, including replenishing the reactors and spent fuel pools. This does not mean they were the only water pumping source for the three stricken reactors since March 17. For several days they were essentially backups for the steam-driven feed pumps for each reactor. When reactor pressures and temperatures became too low for the steam powered pumps to work, then the fire truck pumps became the main water “injectors”.

  • It appears that mobile emergency diesel generators have been brought to Fukushima in order to run mobile electric powered pumps to replace the fire truck pumps, for all three units. They are working successfully, per today's IAEA update. Remember yesterday when I said the types of temporary pumps needed to be clarified? Coincidence?

  • TEPCO now reports that the contaminated waters in the turbine basements will be put in tanks. Condensers, yesterday's purported location for the contaminated waters, are actually huge tanks. But, are the “tanks” of today the “condensers” of yesterday?

  • IAEA reports that the reason why the water in turbine #2 basement has a considerably higher contamination level than the other three has not been established. It seems a plausible pathway from the allegedly melted fuel cells in the reactor to the turbine building cannot be identified.

  • Water injections to the reactors and spent fuel pools, as well as “white smoke” suppressing sprays, are continuing on an as-needed basis.

  • TEPCO told the Japanese news media they were going to restrict the injection of water into Reactor #3 because the water levels are not what TEPCO and NISA expect during the injections. TEPCO says this will allow the temperature inside the reactor to increase and reduce the possible rate of leakage from the reactor vessel. WHAT?? Increase the water temperature inside a sealed container and the pressure increases with it. This is a basic law of physics, for crying out loud! If there is a leak...IF...the increased pressure will make it worse. Now, if they are doing this temporarily to see if there is a change in the how fast the water levels drop, to refute or confirm their “leaking reactor vessel” speculation...that makes a bunch of sense. But, to reduce the leak?? I don't think so.

  • The internal pressures of the primary containments of Units 1 & 2 remain at atmospheric pressure. The internal pressure of the Unit 1 primary containment remains at about 2.35 atmospheres. (JAIF)

  • TEPCO reports that on March 27, they have used sandbags and other blockage materials to insure that no contaminated trench waters reach the sea...which segues into...

Radiological news -

  • Seawater contamination levels off-shore from Fukushima have dropped significantly. (IAEA) And there has been officially “no confirmation” that the seawater contamination came from the ditches. However, IAEA reports that March 26 seawater samples taked 330 meters from the combined outlets of the four drainage ditches contained “74,000 Becquerel per litre of iodine-131, and 12,000 Becquerel per litre of cesium-137”. On March 27, the day TEPCO blocked off the trench discharges from the sea, these concentrations dropped to “11,000 Becquerel per litre of iodine-131 and 1,900 Becquerel per litre of cesium-137”. (Makes me want to scream “Who's your daddy?!”...but that would be unprofessional.)

  • TEPCO reports three workers checking the condition of a seawater pipe got wet, soaking themselves through to their underwear. The seawater in the pipe was tested and found to not have any contamination. The report also says they were wearing anti-contamination suits (anti-Cs), just to be safe. Anyone working on a water system should be wearing water-proof anti-Cs, so their clothing underneath cannot get wet. I see a problem here with worker radiological safety...do you?

  • The contamination level of all turbine building basements and drainage “trenches” remain at the same levels as before. No further Plutonium has been found in soil samples. IAEA reports that Pu-238 was detected in but 2 of the 5 soil samples of concern. TEPCO analytical equipment cannot distinguish between Pu-239 and Pu-240, so the two provide the same peak on a graphic read-out. Regardless, IAEA says it's possible that only the two samples with Pu-238 were contaminated from Fukushima Unit #3. The other three revealed Plutonium concentrations “as expected”...bomb test residuals from the 1950's?

  • All 68 food samples gathered March 24 through March 29 from eight Prefectures including Fukushima, were either totally “clean” or contained contamination levels below Japanese regulatory limits.

Political –

Kyodo News reports government spokesman Yukio Edano suggests that all of the reactors at Fukushima be scrapped. On the other hand, IAEA reports he said that Units 1, 2, 3 & 4 should be decommissioned, but not the seemingly undamaged Units 5 & 6. This is the first serious discrepancy I've seen between the Japanese news media and the most respected and august international organization in the nuclear community. Let's hope this does not become endemic.

Secretary Edano further said, “Some time is needed before...we can be sure that people are safe from radiation.” As long as the no-safe-level myth is used to determine “radiation safety”, statements like this will become commonplace. He should be more specific, like, “To be sure people are safe from enormous levels of exposure that are harmful.” But alas...he continues to reinforce the Hiroshima Syndrome in the collective mind of his people.

Finally, Prime Minister Naoto Kan is pushing for the removal of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. He says NISA's being in the Ministry makes it look like they are promoters of nuclear energy. Making them an independent agency removes the appearance of a conflict of interest. I think this is a good idea, for in politics appearance is more important than reality. Actually, NISA has continually admonished TEPCO for lax safety at Fukushima. The three workers over-exposed several days ago is but the most glaring TEPCO mistake relative to safety. There have been numerous other violations, and NISA has been on top of it. In reality, their political affiliation with the ministry of Economics has not compromised their job as overseers of nuclear safety in Japan. However, their removal from the Ministry will look good, won't it?

March 29

 

Since yesterday's update, very little progress has been made in the effort to restore power throughout the Unit 1 through Unit 4 power complex. TEPCO reports do, however, let us know something that has puzzled this writer for a few days. While there may have been enough steam from the reactor to run the steam powered feedwater pumps for several days, the temperatures inside the reactors for the past several days have been way too low to make steam powered pumping possible. How was the water being “injected” since the reactor temperatures dropped? Today, TEPCO reported that the pumping of water into Unit #3 reactor was switched from firetruck pumps to a temporary electrical pump. All three reactors were at ~ above 300 degrees C when the “injections” first started, a temperature that means the pressures must have been above the 1000 psi range (saturation temperature/pressure relationship, for you techies). Can fire truck pumps work against these pressures? It seems they can. Most high pressure fire pumps can move water at pressures up to nearly 1500 psi, and some even higher, however the amount of water moved would be very low...below 10 gallons every minute. However, once the reactor pressures dropped along with the temperature drops due to cooling water being injected, the fire truck pumps could work better and the flows of water increase considerably. Further, at the pressures that have been the case for the past few days inside reactors 2 & 3 (essentially just above atmospheric), the fire truck pumps would pump a lot of water, rather quickly. Reactor #1 pressure seems to be in the 500 psi range, however, suggesting that the combination of steam turbine and fire truck pumping is still the case. So, it seems the fire truck pumps have been injecting water into all three reactors for several days, if not longer. So why hasn't TEPCO told us this? Why does it have to be deduced from press release analysis? <groan>

 

On another note, it now seems that the replenishment water being injected into the slowly evaporating spent fuel pools is being pumped through the fuel pool cooling and filtering (cleaning) system's pipes, but the actual pumping is through temporary pumps. Firetruck pumps could do this quite easily for they would not be trying to pump against huge pressures. The lower the pressure the truck pumps have to work against, the higher the rates of flow. But, I can find nothing about the types of pumps being used in the TEPCO press statements. Another oversight by TEPCO?

On a related note, Emailer “Pascal” (who's in Japan...my bad, Pascal) linked me to a German visual/graphic presentation on the sequence of events at Fukushima. (ref. below) Some of the information is purely speculative concerning the amount of fuel damage which is allegedly the case in the three Fukushima reactors. The creator of the presentation references Japan Atomic Industrial Forum speculations on fuel damage, which assumes a lot of uranium and zirconium melting...50% or more in reactor #2, for example. I think it's overly pessimistic, but that's merely my personal opinion.

However, Dr. Matthias Braun, who put it together, makes a stunning statement on the water level issue relative to the 4 spent fuel pools. He states it would take pool number four, which certainly has the most decay heat production, ten days to boil dry. Unit 4's spray-replenishment efforts began on March 17, barely six days after the tsunami. Not nearly enough time for a dry fuel pool. In fact, probably not enough time to uncover the tops of the fuel cells. The pools are ~11 meters deep, with the 3.6 meter tall fuel cells at the bottom. This leaves 7 meters of water on top of the fuel. A quick use of the calculator using Braun's numbers, and we find six days of evaporation would drop water level about 6.5 meters, still leaving half a meter (1½ feet) of water above the fuel. Could earthquake sloshing have tossed that much water (60 tonnes) out of the pool? And, would not most, if not all of the water sloshed out have returned to the pool due to gravity after the shaking stopped? The plot thickens...

Emailer “Ronald” is also to be commended for doing a wonderful job keeping me abreast of the American news media spin-meisters, since I'm avoiding that rhetorical snake-pit as much as possible. You're a better man than I, Gunga Din! Seriously, I'm glad he's doing this. Last evening, he alerted me to how the American cable news channels were broadcasting that Plutonium had been detected coming from Fukushima, and this means meltdown and a reactor vessel leak. I immediately linked up to IAEA, Asahi Shimbun, Kyodo news, NHK (Japan's CNN), and TEPCO press release sites.

It turns out, five soil samples taken on the TEPCO property at Fukushima were found to have a trace of Plutonium in them. This probably came from Unit #3 which uses Mixed-Oxide fuel for the reactor. In everyday language, recycled nuclear fuel. 95% of the spent fuel is perfectly good for re-use, and 5% is fission by-products. Recycling (reprocessing) removes the by-product elements, and what you have left is about 99% Uranium isotope 238 (U-238) and 1% Plutonium (three isotopes, we'll soon get to). This is good fuel for reactors. Mix it with near-natural Uranium, form it in new fuel pellets, and put it back in the fuel cycle. Yes, power plant fuel is eminently recyclable.

With that in mind, we can now look at the next item in the Plutonium reports coming from Japan. The concentration of Plutonium in the soil samples is about the same as the amount of Plutonium found with many places in Japan due to American, Russian and French atmospheric bomb testing in the 1950s. Not much, but the question immediately arises as to how can the two sources be distinguished from each other? Might not the Fukushima Plutonium be from the old bomb tests, and not from Reactor #3? Actually, for a nuclear laboratory analyst, making the distinction is quite simple. Bomb Plutonium is only one isotope, Pu-239. It's peak on a graphic read-out is unique to it's elemental/isotopic mass number Pu-239. Reactor Plutonium is about two-thirds Pu-239, one-third Pu-240, and about a percent or two of Pu-238. Each of these have a graphic peak unique to each respective isotope (Pu-238 and Pu-240). With Bomb Plutonium, we get only the Pu-239 peak. With reactor Plutonium we get all three peaks. The soil samples at Fukushima have all three peaks. It's from Fukushima, and probably Reactor #3.

Does this mean Reactor #3s fuel cell is melting down? Probably not. There's no doubt there's been at least high enough temperatures inside reactor #3 during the first 4 days after the tsunami to cause the Zirconium cladding around the fuel pins to crack, pit, and generally deteriorate due to metallic oxidation and the generation of hydrogen. Yes, the Zirconium alloy tubes hold the fuel pins in place, but they also provide a very good barrier preventing the fission by-products on the surface of the fuel pins from escaping into the boiling water inside this Boiling Water Reactor's fuel cell. The heat damage to the Zirconium inside reactor #3 is undoubtedly extreme, including possibly some localized Zirconium meltage. The amount of fission product material released must have been terrific, even if there was no Uranium melting (which no one should speculate on, at this point). Plus, at the elevated core temperatures needed for Zirconium heat damage, the fuel pins inside the tubes would have swelled a tiny bit, increasing the surface area on the outside of the pins which would further exacerbate the expunging of fission products. Could this account for all the contamination found in the Unit #3 basement and/or it's external drainage trench? No. But, throw in the neutron activation levels we can now understand to also be in the contaminated water mix, and it all seems possible.

 

Does the discovery of Plutonium on-site mean reactor #3 is having a meltdown? If it did have a meltdown, it would have happened more than 10 days ago, before cooling water injections began. Now now. Then where did the Plutonium come from? The pathway scenario identified days ago...reactor pressure relief valves dumping contaminated steam into the suppressing water volume in the torus. The torus eventually gets to a high enough pressure for it's pressure relief valves to open, releasing it's highly-contaminated steam to the secondary containment. From there, due to voluminous sprayings upon the thick layer of debris covering the refueling deck, mixing of the reactor isotopes with the fuel pool isotopes gives us a highly-concentrated contamination “soup”.

Is the reactor vessel leaking? As long as the temperature inside the Unit 3 reactor is below the boiling point, and the internal pressure steadily remains slightly above atmospheric, there is no hard evidence to say the reactor vessel is leaking. Rather, the pressure and temperature read-outs for the Unit #3 reactor indicate no leak from the vessel. Water level readouts are variable on Boiling Water Reactors because of the steam mixing with the boiling water. The other two parameters are a much better indicator of vessel integrity. Further, if there were a vessel leak, the pressures and temperatures inside the primary containment of Unit #3 would be increasing, which doesn't seem to be the case. [Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) data] Finally, if #3 reactor is leaking, why is it's primary containment pressure half the level of pressure in Unit #1? Should be the other way around, if there's a vessel leak from Unit #3. There have been no speculations of Unit #1's reactor leaking, so why speculate on reactor#1's condition?

Reference:

Braun, Dr. Matthias; “The Fukushima Daiichi Incident”; March 27, 2011; http://passworld.co.jp/ForumImages/2011/03/29/Fukushima.pdf; Pg. 32

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