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Fukushima 51...4/11/13-5/6/13


May 6, 2013

  • Tokyo’s government is adding another layer of nuclear regulation. On Friday, Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said a new organization to boost nuclear safety is being considered. This body will include membership from Japan’s nuclear utilities in order to get the industry’s view on energy policy and nuke upgrades. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the current nuke watchdog, has no nuclear industry membership. Motegi said it would be wrong to cut the nuclear industry entirely out of the regulatory process.  He explained that following the nuclear accident in 2011, Japan has depended on imports for around 90 percent of its energy, which he calls unsustainable. The goal of no-nukes in Japan must be seriously reconsidered. (NHK World)
  • Tokyo Electric Co. says their contaminated waste water transfer will end in June. Some of the Fukushima Daiichi underground reservoirs have leaked and Tepco decided to move all 23,000 tons of stored water to above-ground tanks. 7,000 tons have been relocated and 16,000 remain in the cisterns because more tanks need to be installed. The new tank installations will be done in June. Until then, all reservoir leakage is being collected and pumped back into the pools. The waste waters have been stripped of their radioactive Cesium by the station’s improvised filtration system, but 62 radioactive isotopes remain in the filtered waters. Tepco plans remove the rest as soon as the ALPS isotopic elimination system’s testing is complete. Analysis shows that none of the leakage has entered the groundwater system under the station. (NHK World)
  • Japan will be part of Turkey’s turn to nuclear power production. Both Japan’s and Turkey’s Prime Ministers agreed to a $22 billion contract between the two countries. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this is “a very important step” and despite some internal criticism of teaming up with Japan following the Fukushima accident, “despite that, we have taken this step. What happened at Fukushima upset all of us. But these things can happen. Life goes on. Successful steps are being taken now with the use of improved technology.” Like Japan, Turkey is prone to earthquakes, making it essential that nuclear plants are designed to resist such events. Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe closed the deal the day after confirming a similar pact with United Arab Emirates. Abe said, “Japan will share its experience and the lessons it has learnt and will contribute to the improvement of nuclear security at the highest level.” Japan will assist French giant AREVA in building four units in Turkey with a total output of 4,800 MWe. Turkey relies heavily on fossil fuel imports from Russia and Iran to meet its current energy-production needs. (Japan Today) It should be noted that the Mainichi Shimbun calls the agreement with Turkey “double-dealing” in a technology with “two faces”. The paper says Japan should extend its post-Fukushima non-nuclear direction to its international business dealings. However, the opposite seems to be the case, “Within Japan, we look upon the Fukushima meltdowns with disgust and are groping our way toward a non-nuclear future. In the Middle East, Japan treats nuclear power as a business, putting profit first. This looks like a case of double-dealing.”
  • The self-imposed moratorium on Fukushima rice has ended. Hirono city farmers in Futaba County have planted 5 hectares of rice. Local grower Hisahi Owada says, "I hope we'll be an example for other farmers to come back to Hirono so that we can preserve farming in Futaba County. We seed the field when the wild cherry blossoms bloom and plant the rice seedlings when the frogs croak. We may be able to see fireflies in summer." The town lifted self-imposed restrictions on rice farming this spring after almost all rice samples from Hirono tested below the 100 Becquerels per kilogram national limit for radioactive contamination last year. The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives will purchase all the rice that is harvested this season and reserve some for the farmers' consumption. (Mainichi Shimbun)

May 3, 2013

  • Tokyo’s new Fukushima accident investigative committee met on Wednesday. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority panel will look at open items from last year’s congressional NAIIC report. First, they will study whether or not the pre-tsunami earthquake started the accident at F. Daiichi. The NAIIC said there was no evidence to prove the quake did not result in major equipment damage with unit #1 before the tsunami hit. NAIIC members continue to say that inspections so far have not been comprehensive enough to resolve the issue. The second item concerns the extent of melting the three damaged reactor vessels and the current location of the fuel that melted.  The third item is establishing exact pathways for radioactive material out of the containment structures and into the outer environment. To date, visual examinations inside and outside the structures have not identified any sources of the leaks. The NAIIC report left these issues open because high in-plant radiation levels would not allow experts to go inside and investigate. They insist that only comprehensive visual inspection by independent experts will provide concrete answers. The first item of business is the water leak reported by a few plant workers in unit #1, which they say occurred before the tsunami hit. Tepco says the cause was quake-caused water sloshing from the fifth-story spent fuel pool which trickled down air conditioning ducts connected to the fourth floor below the pool. The NRA wants to know if the water actually came from SFP sloshing, the air conditioning system being damaged by the quake, or a temblor-caused leak from a reactor cooling system. Over all, the panel says they need to identify weaknesses and shortcomings in the reactors and containment vessels that contributed to the crisis. (NHK World)
  • Traces of Tritium have been found in F. Daiichi groundwater. Tokyo Electric Company says 2 of the eight new sampling “wells” installed on the sea-side of the power station contain the radioactive isotope. The concentration of Tritium is 3.8 Becquerels per milliliter, roughly 20 times less than Japan’s limit for water in the environment. Since the samples from the two “wells” contain no other detectible radioactive isotopes, the Tritium could not have come from the underground wastewater storage reservoirs. In addition, there is no trace of sea-salt in the groundwater, adding further proof that the Tritium is not coming from the reservoirs. Tepco says it’s more likely to be residual from the leaks that occurred for several months after 3/11/11. (NHK World)
  • Tepco is installing new storage tanks for radioactive brine at F. Daiichi. The brine comes from the desalination system that is removing the sea-salt from the waters in the basements of the four damaged units. Desalination occurs in tandem with Cesium isotopic removal. There will be 120 tanks installed at the site with a total capacity of 4,000 metric tons. Because of the recent Press and political hoopla over minor leaks from the underground waste water reservoirs, Tepco will only fill the tanks to 75% of capacity to avoid the possibility of overflowing any of them. (Jiji Press)
  • Japan has agreed to supply nuclear power technology to the United Arab Emirates. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting the Middle East to investigate economic exchanges, spurred by Japan’s trade deficit due to their massive increase in fossil fuel imports caused by the nuclear moratorium. Japan essentially wants to trade various technologies for oil and natural gas, with nuclear expertise at the head of the list. Japan imports 0.8 million barrels of oil and 5.5 million tons of natural gas from the UAE every day. Abe wants to lessen the economic imbalance, and it seems UAE is open to the possibility. The UAE is the first of the region’s countries to make a formal pact with Japan. The agreement was signed in Dubai with UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashif. At the signing, Abe said he believes Japan can be a supplier of not only nuclear but renewable technology as well, “Japan can contribute to UAE energy supplies by means of nuclear energy, conservation and renewable energy.” Last summer, the UAE announced they planned to build the first two of four nukes by 2017, in partnership with South Korea. Thus, Japan will “provide a small part of the technology for the facility”, said Foreign Minister Yutaka Yokoi. The UAE’s next two plants are planned for 2020. (NHK World; Japan Times; Japan Daily Press)

April 29, 2013

  • A government panel is investigating ways to stop the waste water build-up at Fukushima Daiichi. The most talked-about method would be to “imbed” the outer walls of the turbine and reactor buildings for units #1 through #4. It is estimated that 400 tons of groundwater seeps into the building basements every day and mixes into the contaminated water. The current method of building more and more storage tanks for Cesium-stripped waters is under intense criticism due to recent underground reservoir leaks and fears that Tepco will eventually run out of space to erect more tanks. One possible solution concerns use of the “ALPS” filtering system that would remove all remaining isotopes except Tritium. However, political and social fears of Tritium’s weak radioactivity would probably keep the water release from happening. Antinuclear groups say they will take all action necessary to bar a release even if the Tritium were also removed because the water would have been previously radioactive and unacceptably “tainted”. (Kyodo News)
  • Tokyo Electric Company is making filtered vents for their BWR containments. Tepco says they are developing their own equipment because outsourcing will take one to two years. The company believes they will shorten the manufacturing and installation period to six months and the total cost will be less if they do it themselves. Tepco is believed to be the only Japanese nuclear utility doing this in-house. The hardened, filtered vents requirement is expected to be part of the new nuclear regulations coming this summer. Tepco plans to have its first installation completed at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station this summer, perhaps in time to restart of the first upgraded unit this fall. Critics say they are not sure how Tepco will test their new venting technology. They are also skeptical of Tepco due to on-going Fukushima equipment issues at F. Daiichi. Even with the vent upgrade, it is uncertain that any of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units will be allowed to restart because of regulatory concerns that linger over nearby geologic anomalies. (Japan Times)
  • Several Japanese utilities want to apply for nuke restart permission as soon as the new regulations are in effect. Kansai Electric Co. is looking to resume operations of Pressurized Water Reactor units #3 and 4 at the Takahama nuclear station. Kepco runs the two PWRs now in operation at their Oi station. The company wants the additional restarts in order to add a “stable supply of electricity” to their system. Kepco says they have taken necessary measures to meet the new rules, including construction of additional tsunami barriers at Takahama. Reactivation of the two units has been factored into the company’s upcoming plans to increase household electricity rates. (Japan Times) In addition, Kyushu Electric Co. is considering seeking permission to restart at least one PWR at Sendai station, and Shikoku Electric Co. may do the same with a PWR at Ikata station.
  • Radioactivity has been detected in the groundwater flowing beneath F. Daiichi. The concentrations are barely detectible, ranging from 0.03 to 0.048 Becquerels per milliliter. The miniscule isotopic levels have been found in 13 of the 22 new groundwater testing wells (piezometers) installed since the recent underground reservoir leaks have been detected. A piezometer is a casing-lined hole drilled in the ground to test various groundwater parameters. The detected radiological levels are similar to what is natural to many groundwater flows throughout the region. A trace of radioactive Strontium has been detected, but that is a commonly-found residual from above-ground nuclear weapon tests many decades ago. The radioactive concentrations are the same for the “wells” near the three problematic reservoirs as with reservoirs that are empty. Regardless, the Japanese Press keeps the uncertainty angle alive. A News on Japan headline reads, “Groundwater at No. 1 plant tainted”. Jiji Press says any “causal relationship” with the reservoir leaks is unknown and NHK World reports “…the detected radiation density is so low that it cannot determine whether it is linked to the recent leakages”. (Jiji Press; NHK World) 

 

April 25, 2013

  • The Tokyo government says qualifying nukes may be restarted this fall. Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said some reactors will probably resume operations if they meet the new regulations coming this summer. He said the restarts will begin “autumn at the earliest.” This is the first public statement of a restart timeline since Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister. The rule that might most inhibit restarts is the installation of radioisotopic-filtering systems on the containment depressurization vent lines of many Japanese nukes. This will mostly impact Japan’s Boiling Water Reactor plants. The Pressurized Water Reactor plants with large, domed containments seem to be most likely to meet the filtered-vent ruling in time for fall restarts. This could include any of the 22 currently idle PWRs in Japan. The two operating units at Oi station are PWRs. However, before any restarts, the owning company must receive local government consent. Motegi said that the central government will be making efforts to get the local approvals. While Tokyo does not foresee any electricity shortfalls this summer, they want nukes restarted in order to reduce the increasing fuel costs of running non-nuclear power plants. (Sankei Shimbun; Japan Times; Japan Daily Press)
  • The Fukushima government calls Tepco’s waste water handling “sloppy”. After making an on-site inspection, the Fukushima Prefectural Safety Council said, "It requires sophisticated supervision to store contaminated water. The work is sloppy." The Council was created this past December to monitor decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi. It has 13 officials from municipalities near the power station. Their inspection of Tepco’s waste water handling program occurred on April 24. The Council’s strongest technical conclusion was that the inner sheet of the three-layer liner of waste water reservoirs is too thin.  It is 6.4 millimeters thick and made of bentonite. Susumu Nakamura, council member and professor at Nihon University, said, "The leakages could have been prevented if it had been 50 centimeters to 1 meter thick." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Tepco has shut down the spent fuel pool cooling system for unit #3 at F. Daiichi. They are replacing the temporary power supply with a “multiplex distribution system”. The company believes the change-over will take about 33 hours. They estimate that pool’s water temperature will increase about 5oC during the shutdown. It was at 16oC when the system was turned off. Tepco says, "There is no problem. The water temperature was low enough at 16 degrees when it was shut down." The company also said they will shut down the SFP cooling system for unit #4 as soon as unit #3’s system is re-energized. Unit #4 SFP cooling will be down for about nine hours. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo will create an expert panel to seek a permanent resolution to the high-level nuclear waste issue. High-level waste includes spent fuel bundles and highly radioactive power plant decommissioning materials. In 2000, the government decided on deep geological burial. Last year, Japan’s Science Council recommended overhauling the policy and instead use temporary above-and-below ground storage instead. The industry ministry will form the expert group and begin discussion next month. (NHK World)
  • Tohoku Electric Co. wants Tepco to compensate them for profit losses due to the Fukushima-caused nuclear moratorium. Their main concern is money lost due to not to operating their nukes and replacing them with more costly fossil-fueled sources. Tohoku Electric is also including losses stemming from not being able to build the planned Namie-Odaka nuclear station in Fukushima Prefecture. The company says they have invested about $190 million in preliminary siting and design work. A Tohoku Electric spokesperson said, "Seeking compensation from TEPCO has been considered as one of our management issues." The company believes legislation on Tepco’s compensation to Fukushima accident victims allows the company to be compensated. Sources close to the issue say Tohoku Electric and Tepco are discussing the issue. Whether or not Tohoku pursues legal action remains to be seen. (Jiji Press)
  • The Sendai District Court has rejected the recent appeal over evacuation of all children from the city of Koriyama. Fourteen parents initiated the suit last year, but only one family remained active after a lower Fukushima court had rejected it. The Sendai High Court ruled on Wednesday, effectively ending  the lawsuit. The court explained that radiation levels may vary in Koriyama and some places in the city exceeded the current national standards. But, they ruled that the Japanese government has no responsibility for evacuating the children to other areas of Japan. The court said that if parents feel the radiation levels are a danger to their children, they should leave on their own accord and not have the government shoulder the expenses. (Japan Daily Press)
  • At the same time, a new citizen lawsuit has been filed against a nuke’s operation. The suit was filed on Wednesday against Chugoku Electric Co.’s Shimane nuclear station. All three units there are BWRs. A total of 428 plaintiffs from Shimane and Tottori Prefectures, including dozens from outside the region, want the start of the nearly-completed unit #3 to be permanently banned. A parallel lawsuit by the same group was filed against the state in Matsue District Court demanding nullification of Tokyo’s approval to complete the unit. The plaintiffs charge that nearly 470,000 people living within 30 kilometers of the station could never be evacuated fast enough if a Fukushima-type accident occurred there. They feel the two other currently idled units already pose a serious health threat and the third unit would only make it worse. (Kyodo News)

April 22, 2013

  • Tepco briefly shut off cooling flow to F. Daiichi’s unit #2 spent fuel pool today for inspection of the temporary power supply. Two dead mice were found inside the portable enclosure. No damage to the internal transformer or switchgear occurred. A protective cover was placed over the device to keep any other rodents out and #2 SFP cooling flow was restarted. The shutdown lasted about four and a half hours. SFP temperature increased roughly 0.1oC during the cooling stoppage. However, some Japanese news media reported this as yet another SFP power loss due to “rats”. Contrary to Tepco’s news release, the Press says the company has not yet taken measures to keep rats out of the temporary power supply for unit #2 SFP. (Tepco News Release, Japan Today; NHK World)
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency has inspected F. Daiichi. IAEA team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo said, "Extraordinarily committed workers have made significant accomplishments at Fukushima Daiichi since the March 2011 accident, but Japan continues to face difficult challenges as it works to decommission the site. We saw that TEPCO has achieved the stable cooling of the reactors and spent fuel pools at the site." He added that Tepco should replace all temporary devices with permanent ones, but the F. Daiichi staff’s prompt response to problems has been exemplary. Much of the Japanese Press focused on a specific portion of the IAEA summary report referring to the recent SFP power losses and waste water reservoir leaks. For example, NHK World said that Lentijo urged the government and Tepco to boost management of wastewater, plus examine and explain the impact on the plant's immediate environment. Kyodo News quoted the following from the IAEA summary, "Measures should continue to improve management issues regarding radiation releases and exposure from the site, particularly issues created by the storage of accumulated water.” Japan Times posted, “Tepco should continue its efforts to improve the reliability of essential systems, to assess the structural integrity of site facilities and to enhance protection against external hazards.” In all three cases, Lentijo’s actual statement was not included. (IAEA Public Information; NHK World; Kyodo News; Japan Times)
  • The seismic fault issue with two Japanese nukes has resurfaced. First, Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority has rejected Tohoku Electric Co. contention that the “crush zones” running under the Higashadori nuclear station, Aomori Prefecture, are not seismic. Tohoku Electric says the zone has “lithified” [hardened], which could not have happened if the seam had moved within the NRA-specified time-frame. NRA commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki accused Tohoku Electric of merely trying to change the NRA’s conclusion that the anomalies might be seismic. He stressed that just because the zone has not moved in the past few hundred thousand years does not mean it will not move in the future. The second issue concerns Japan Atomic Power’s Tsuruga nuclear station, Fukui Prefecture. In December last year, the NRA said there was a possibility that the D-1 crush zone directly beneath unit #2 was an active fault. Japco criticized this finding, saying it lacked scientific backing and the investigation had been one-sided. However, the NRA says Japco’s counter-argument is “unclear” and insufficient to reverse the watchdog agency’s prior judgment.  (Jiji Press; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Four mayors of municipalities near the Hamaoka nuclear station say they will firmly oppose restarts. Elections were held in Kakegawa and Fukuroi, with the winners stating their antinuclear positions. Kakegawa winner, incumbent Saburo Matsui, said "it's very hard to say that this is really the place for a nuclear plant," and, "I will not recognize a restart until the safety of the plant has been confirmed." Fukuroi winner, incumbent Hideyuki Harada, said "Even when the new safety measures (at the plant) are completed, I still will not approve reactor restarts." Concurrently, the mayors of nearby Kikugawa and Yaizu also declared they "will not recognize" any move by plant owner Chubu Electric Co. to restart the Hamaoka station. A Chubu Electric executive said they will "refrain from commenting on the election results, but [the company] is developing thorough safety measures that we hope will lead to local public approval for reactor restarts." The Hamaoka station is about 200 kilometers from Tokyo. It has been the focus of antinuclear activism since former PM Naoto Kan shut the plant down due to fears that a Fukushima-type accident at Hamaoka would force him to evacuate the Tokyo metropolitan area. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Official assessments of Fukushima resident’s radiation exposure have been over-estimated. A collaborative study by experts from four universities in Japan reveals that the Fukushima populace has experienced much lower exposures due to Cesium than previously thought. The team believes prior assessments were based on Chernobyl-area findings after the Ukraine nuclear accident in 1986. However, it seems the Chernobyl methodology calculated that internal exposures in excess of several millisieverts would be common in Fukushima. However, “…internal exposure levels of [Fukushima] residents are much lower than estimated. In particular, the first sampling-bias-free assessment of internal exposure of children in the town of Miharu, Fukushima, shows that the Cs137 body burdens of all children were below the detection limit of 300 Bq/body in the fall of 2012.” The team studied Whole-Body-Counter examination data covering more than 100,000 individuals from June 2011 through December, 2012. Prior official assessments were calculated based on contamination levels found in various Fukushima communities, assuming everyone ate locally-produced foods contaminated with radioactive Cesium. However, that was not the case. Residents were very careful about their eating choices and produced the extremely low internal exposures measured by Whole-Body-Count. For the complete report, go to…  https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/pjab/89/4/89_PJA8904B-01/_pdf

April 19, 2013

  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority is inspecting the two operating nukes at Oi station. An NRA-mandated panel comprised of officials from the watchdog group and Kansai Electric Company (Kepco) convened today. Their assessment will be submitted to the Commissioners by the end of June. The panel will use the NRA’s proposed guidelines, to be imposed in July, in order to decide whether or not units #3&4 can be allowed to operate until September. Both plants were restarted last summer to ease an impending summer power shortage and lessen the increasing cost of electricity due to the nuclear moratorium. If either or both units do not meet the impending standards, their operation will be curtailed. One issue that could impede continued operation is the use of a meeting room in a building near the power plant buildings as a temporary emergency command center. The temporary facility is inside a seismic-protected structure. Kepco feels it meets the proposed requirements and will only be used until the permanent facility is finished in 2015. NRA Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said he finds the meeting room near the reactors to be a possible problem in case a Fukushima-type explosion destroyed one or more of the nearby reactor buildings. Another issue concerns the geology running under the station’s property. Experts are divided over whether or not any seams are seismic and the NRA wants the issue to be decided. Kepco says their studies indicate the seams are not seismic. (Japan Daily Press; NHK World)
  • The home visitation restrictions for the Fukushima no-entry zone have been eased. The relaxed rules are specific to the four communities nearest the F. Daiichi nuclear station; Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka and Namie. The new restrictions say these residents can visit their abandoned homes once per month. Previously, they were allowed to make their visits only three or four times per year. The government says applications for visitation will be introduced on April 24th. (Kyodo News)
  • Fear of the possibility of radiation restricts Fukushima evacuee relief. Yamagata Prefecture has refused to take uncontaminated waste soil from a Fukushima temporary housing project because of radiation rumors. The soil in the Aizuwakamatsu project contained 26 micrograms of lead per liter, more than double the health standard of 10 micrograms. In the past, local contractors shipped such material to Yamagata’s disposal treatment facility in Yonezawa, Yamagata; but Fukushima radiation rumors have changed all that. When the Yamagata Prefecture’s government heard of the planned shipment of 150 tons, they put an immediate halt to it. Their reasons? Residents' radiation rumors. It doesn’t matter that the reconstruction project is more than 100 kilometers from F. Daiichi and some fifty kilometers from the nearest exclusion zone boundary. It doesn’t matter that Yamagata is literally thumbing their nose at disaster evacuees. The Aizuwakamatsu project’s landowner said, “We have explained to the Yamagata Prefectural Government that we will also conduct radiation checks on the soil and asked them to accept it over and over again. We don’t understand why they refuse to accept it.” One Fukushima Prefecture official said, “If other prefectures follow suit that would only encourage harmful rumors about Fukushima to spread.” Akira Imai, professor at Fukushima University, said, "An attempt to protect an area from harmful rumors could result in promoting harmful rumors about Fukushima.” When asked why Yamagata is not accepting the soil, the prefecture’s deputy chief of the environmental counsel gave this convoluted answer, "Unlike debris from the Great East Japan Earthquake in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, the waste soil (in Aizuwakamatsu) is not something that could hamper reconstruction unless it is taken away right away." (Japan Daily Press; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • NRA officials estimate a worst-case scenario for F. Daiichi waste water reservoir leaks. If all the underground reservoirs failed and dumped their entire contents into the surrounding soils, a constant above-standard release of radioactive Strontium to the sea could last for up to ten years. The Strontium limit for unrestricted release is 30 Becquerels per liter. The NRA team speculates that a peak of 1000 Bq/L could occur seven years after complete cistern failure. The long time of release would be because the reservoirs are located nearly a kilometer from the coastline and the contamination would slowly percolate through the soil before reaching the sea. The other isotope of main concern, Tritium, would never exceed limits over the ten year period. The NRA also pointed out that the dilution factor once the Strontium and Tritium reached the sea would be enormous and probably not harm oceanic flora or fauna. (Sankei Shimbun)
  • Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) says they have discovered more geologic seams running under the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear station property in Niigata Prefecture. Tepco previously found that anomalies running under units #1&2 might fail the seismic regulations expected to be issued in July. Now they say seams running below units #3, 5, 6, & 7 might also fail the impending 400,000 year criterion for seismic activity. The current benchmark for judging a seam as seismic is movement within the last 120,000 years. While none of the anomalies fail the existing 120,000 year criterion, all of the suspect seams appear to have moved between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago. (Jiji Press)

April 16, 2013

The Fukushima Daiichi waste water leaks continue to dominate the news…

  • Tepco has released a press handout to explain the Thursday’s pipe flange leak. They found no abnormality with the flange itself, nor the gasket used to seal the connection. Here’s the URL… http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130412_09-e.pdf A few Japanese news outlets reported on this, but all they had to say was Tepco had yet to find the cause of the leak, implying the Tepco investigation is a failure. Regardless, Tepco is replacing the old gasket with a new one and restarted the system this morning (Tuesday).
  • Some Nuclear Regulatory Authority officials have raised doubts over their staff’s monitoring of the Fukushima waste water situation. An NRA in-house team said Tepco must not have adequately tested the underground reservoirs before using them, even though Tepco maintains they did the required testing and found no defects. The team feels the on-site inspectors may have lacked sufficient understanding of the risks associated with the cisterns which may have led them to accept Tepco’s test results. NRA member Toyoshi Fuketa said the problem is serious and the NRA must set the right priorities in the future. (NHK World)
  • Tepco has removed the soil contaminated by Thursday’s pipe-flange leak. Only, it isn’t the kind of material commonly called soil. It is a mixture of crushed gravel and absorbent material spread liberally over and around the reservoirs. The material thickness is several inches. It is designed to keep rainwater seeping into the pool. In this case, it sopped up the contaminated water and was easily removed, securely bagged and placed in low level waste storage. The storage bag had a radiation reading of 28 millisieverts per hour. (Jiji Press)
  • Critics speculate that the staff at F. Daiichi might be forced to dump their wastewater to the sea. Professor Kazuhiko Kudo of Kyushu University says the company is faced with two options. On one hand they could build more above-ground tanks in what he calls a race against time because reactor cooling leaks may produce radioactive water faster than the company can build the tanks. On the other hand, they could strip the waters of residual radioisotopes and dump it. Kudo feels Tepco will be forced to utilize the second option. In that case, the waters will still have radioactive Tritium in them. Tritium is a naturally-occurring isotope of hydrogen found in all water systems around the world. Tepco says such a move would not be made “easily” because local fisheries have said they will oppose the release. Kenji Nakada of the Fukushima Federation of Fisheries said, “We are against the release of water even if Tepco cleans contaminated water. Any release of water that has been used for cooling is not acceptable.”A sea release would also upset many Asian nations on the Pacific coastlines and cause trade problems. (Japan Daily Press; Bloomberg News)
  • There has been no contamination of groundwater or the Pacific shoreline from the cistern leaks. Drainage pipes adjacent to the reservoirs are collecting any leakage making its way out of the triple-layer sheeting that lines the reservoirs. The water seeping into the drain pipes is being collected and returned to the reservoirs. Tepco’s analyses of the numerous drain pipes that surround the reservoirs generally show barely-detectable Beta activity (less than 1 Becquerel per milliliter). One drain for cistern #1 reads one Bq/ml, and one for cistern #2 shows 5 Bq/ml. In addition, groundwater sampling at three locations downstream from the cisterns, toward the shoreline, shows no detectible radioactive material. Tepco says there is “no possibility of outflow to the sea”. (Mainichi Shimbun; Tepco Press Release; Sankei Shimbun)

Here are the other updates…

  • Japan’s first legal ruling on nukes has been decided. The Osaka district court has rejected a petition from 260 residents of eight prefectures to close the two operating units at Oi nuclear station. Judge Kenichi Ono said both units meet the government safety standards and pose no recognized danger to the public. The lawsuit argued that control rods would not automatically insert to stop a chain reactor quickly enough should the simultaneous movement of three regional faults occur. The court found there is no basis for the plaintiff’s assertion. Kansai Electric Company says they have taken all required post-Fukushima safety upgrades at the Oi station. The company also feels the Oi units will meet the proposed safety regulations scheduled for July, thus the two units will be able to operate until their scheduled shutdowns in September. (Japan Daily Press; NHK World)
  • Another antinuclear lawsuit, rejected by a lower court in December, 2011, is currently being considered by Sendai’s high court. It was originally filed by parents on behalf of 14 children in the city of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, in June of that year. Koriyama is located about 60 kilometers west-southwest of F. Daiichi. The plaintiffs demand that all children in the city of more than 330,000 be evacuated because they have “the right to live free of radiation”. The plaintiffs said the children should be moved to locations that have radiation levels no higher than Japan’s generally-acknowledged natural level of 1 millisievert per year. Some Fukushima medical experts say there is no evidence of negative health effects below 100 mSv/yr. However, the lawsuit says the International Commission on Radiation Protection believes there is no zero-risk level for exposure. The plaintiffs say not all scientists and nuclear experts agree about what should be considered a safe level of exposure, so the worst should be assumed and the children evacuated. Their main concern is long term risk because it is presumed children are more susceptible to radiation damage than adults. When the suit was rejected in 2011, only 10 of the plaintiffs still lived in Koriyama and their parents filed the appeal in Sendai. The court’s schedule has finally brought the case to the table. However, only one of the original plaintiffs remains. Those no longer qualified to pursue the litigation either have children older than the maximum age statute or have moved away over fear of radiation. Lawyer Toshio Yanagihara says the government is more worried about a population exodus than in saving the children, "I don't understand why an economic power like Japan won't evacuate the children -- something even the fascist government did during World War II," he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid air bombings. "This is child abuse." A 12-year-old whose parents joined the initial filing but have since left the area, said in a letter presented to the court, "Even if I am careful, I may get cancer, and the baby I have may be hurt." (Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Daily Press)
  • An eminent Canadian radiation expert says the massive evacuations due to F. Daiichi were un-necessary. Dr. Jerry Cuttler stresses that the 1,100 people who died because of the chaotic evacuation were victims of emergency measures taken to avoid low-level radiation exposures that are completely safe. Cuttler calls for a complete rejection of the Linear/No Threshold assumption used to set public protection standards, and replace it with a realistic model based on conclusive scientific evidence. A complete lack of news media coverage in Japan makes it unlikely that the public will know of this report. Here’s the link to the free copy… http://atomicinsights.com/wp-content/uploads/Cuttler-2013-Fukushima-and-beneficial-effects-low-radn-Apr9.pdf

April 14, 2013

152nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome is privileged to be hosting the 152nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. For the full reports, please click on the individual links. This week, we are proud to have a submittal from Massachusetts Institute of Technology concerning the movie Pandora’s Promise. Other Blog topics include – using risk vs. benefit as a framework for analyzing nuclear opinions, the nuclear waste storage program in the Netherlands, a former NRC chairman says he is now antinuclear, how Smart grid ads can be demeaning to women, hypocritical environmentalists and the resurrection of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in the Japanese Press.

…From the Dept. of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT

PANDORA’S PROMISE Screening and discussion with filmmaker Robert Stone  http://web.mit.edu/nse/events/pandoraspromise.

…From Entreprenuclear -

Risk vs. Benefit and the Best of Intentions http://entreprenuclear.blogspot.com/2013/04/31-risk-vs-benefit-and-best-of.html

…From Nuclear Tourist -

COVRA- Storing Nuclear Waste with Style http://nuclearliteracy.org/day-56-covra-storing-nuclear-waste-with-style/#jp-carousel-1516  

…From Atomic Insights (2) – 

Jaczko comes out as avowed antinuclear activist  http://atomicinsights.com/2013/04/jaczko-comes-out-as-avowed-antinuclear-activist.html
Better Way to Clean Up Hanford Tanks  http://atomicinsights.com/2013/04/atomic-show-201-better-way-to-clean-up-hanford-tanks.html

…From Yes Vermont Yankee

The Oversold Smart Grid, Dismissing the Work of Women   http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-oversold-smart-grid-dismissing-work.html

…From Next Big Future (2) –

Oil and Taxes will pay for Molten Salt Reactor development…  http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/04/terrestrial-energy-will-make-integral.html 

Some who call themselves Environmentalists are Hypocritical about China’s Nuclear, Wind and Solar Power http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/04/environmentalists-are-hypocritical.html

…From The Hiroshima Syndrome/Fukushima Commentary

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt Resurfaces in Japan  http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html

...From ANS Nuclear Café – 

Nuclear Energy Innovation Summit at American Nuclear Society Student Conference  http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2013/04/10/nuclear-energy-innovation-summit-at-ans-student-conference/

…From Nuclear Diner (2) – 

US Draft Report on Climate Change  http://www.nucleardiner.com/archive/item/us-draft-report-on-climate-change?category_id=1 

Former NRC Chairman on US Nuclear Power Safety  http://www.nucleardiner.com/archive/item/jaczko-comments-on-us-nuclear-power-safety?category_id=1

…From Nuke Power Talk – 

Speaking on Nuclear Power: How Others See Us http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.com/2013/04/speaking-on-nuclear-power.html

April 11, 2013

The waste water leaks at Fukushima Daiichi have become a continuing saga…

  • On Tuesday Tepco reported a third waste reservoir may be leaking at F. Daiichi. This time, it was the cistern that was receiving the waters from the first leaking reservoir. The discovery was made when the receiving pool had reached 55% capacity. Contaminated water was detected between the layers of waterproof sheeting that line the outside and bottom of the reservoir. The analysis on the third pool’s leakage revealed 10,000 Becquerels per milliliter of contamination. The company immediately suspended the water transfer upon finding the new leak. Tepco had planned to move water to empty cisterns, and keep the level in each below 80% of capacity. This is because they believed the leaks in the first two pools came from the upper part of the plastic liners. However, it seems the third pool’s leak is lower in the ground. Now, Tepco is reconsidering their plans. Company spokesperson Masayuki Ono says the company is losing faith in the temporary underground reservoirs. Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi ordered Tepco to immediately address this latest issue and assure the public that the toxic water will not seep into the Pacific Ocean. Tepco says they plan to have all reservoirs emptied and the water moved to more reliable storage by June. (NHK World; Kyodo News; Jiji Press; Japan Daily Press)
  • On Wednesday, Tepco said they would soon transfer water from the first leaking reservoir to one that has not yet been used. The company said the water transfer will be a temporary measure until enough empty above-ground tanks are available. None of the hundreds of above-ground tanks have leaked. Tepco planned to begin the water transfer on Thursday. (NHK World; Kyodo News)
  • Today, Tepco reported that a flange (pipe joint) on the water transfer system sprung yet another leak. About 22 liters of water escaped and seeped into the ground near the flange. Water was being pumped out of reservoir #3 (the source of the first leak discovered last weekend) at 2pm, but was stopped 3 minutes later when the leak was seen by plant staff. It is believed the leaked water contained 290,000 Becquerels of radioactivity per milliliter. Tepco says they will fix the problem and re-start the transfer. More than 25,000 gallons of waste water remains to be pumped out of reservoir #3. (NHK World; Kyodo News; Jiji Press
  • Tepco is also sampling their groundwater pumping wells for contamination. They report that all four of the wells show no detectible Beta activity. All of the 60+ isotopes in the leaking water reservoirs are Beta radiation emitters. The ground water pumps are being used to try and divert water away from the flooded turbine building basements of F. Daiichi units #1 through 4. This sampling should show if the groundwater under the plant property is being contaminated by the waste water leaks. (Tepco Press Release)

Now, here are the other Fukushima updates…

  • 99% of residents in Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures have no internal Cesium contamination. Tokyo University researchers examined 22,000 volunteers from the area between March and November of last year. The team, headed by Professor Ryugo Hayano, first ran soil samples in the region in order to compare their results to the data from the 1986 Chernobyl accident. They wanted to examine people living in Tohoku locations with similar soil contamination found in some populated localities near Chernobyl. Of the 212 Japanese who were found to have internal Cesium, the concentration is about 10 Becquerels per kilogram of body tissue. This equates to an internal exposure of about 0.04 millisieverts per year. On the average, this is about one-one hundredth of the internal exposure found in Chernobyl-area residents living in areas of similar soil contamination levels. It was noted that four elderly people who routinely eat wild mushrooms and local game have a 1 mSv/yr Cesium exposure rate. While the team agrees that these are relatively good numbers, they said that checks on internal exposure should be continued. The team’s results were published in the journal Transactions of the Japan Academy. (Japan Daily Press; Jiji Press; Japan News)
  • A new government committee is investigating the Fukushima accident. The Special Committee for Investigation of Nuclear Power was created to address open questions posed by the Diet’s Independent Investigative Panel (NAIIC) when they released their report last summer. Members of the NAIIC are being grilled by the new group concerning their personal views on nuclear issues. The initial reports are discouraging. NAIIC Chairman Kyoshi Kurukawa proclaimed, “The accident has not been brought under control.” This touched off a wave of criticism of the new Nuclear Regulatory Authority, which the NAIIC members all said they do not trust. Seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi maintained, “We cannot say the world’s top-class safety measures will be in place [as the NRA claims].” Lawyer Shuya Nomura said, “The public is extremely concerned, especially about the latest contaminated water leak. Many people worry if it’s a good idea to leave the plant up to Tepco and the regulators. Regulators should demonstrate they can properly carry out the decades-long decommissioning process.” Former nuclear engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka charged the NRA with rubber-stamping everything Tepco is doing, “They make a risk assessment, submit their plans to the government and they’re approved. It’s the same old routine.” Tanaka also said the authority has been too lenient in granting operators a five-year grace period for installing some safety equipment required under new regulations to take effect later this year. Finally, he asserted, “The new regulation standards will be toothless unless the causes of the accident are brought to light,” calling for a congressional take-over of the Fukushima plant recovery effort. Fukushima resident Reoko Hashisuka said, “Disaster victims have been frustrated by the Diet’s response. Give us peace of mind.” In addition, the members agreed the NRA has downplayed the risk of low-level radiation exposure. (Asahi Shimbun; Japan Today) Comment – This essentially quashes belief in the objectivity of the NAIIC’s members. It seems they all have strong antinuclear biases.
  • Negotiations for a rad-waste storage site in Nahara Town are under way. Nahara lies within to 20km-wide restricted zone around F. Daiichi. Of immediate concern is the 475,000 tons of earthquake and tsunami debris that has been untouched for more than 2 years. Governor Matsumoto met with Environment ministers and insisted the town will only allow local storage of materials from the town proper. No debris from outside of Nahara Town will be accepted. The contamination level of the quake and tsunami debris was monitored at 100,000 Becquerels per kilogram or less, depending on the sample location. That number was posted last April, so the radioactive decay of the Cesium-134 isotope has dropped considerably. (Japan Today) 

 

 

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