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Fukushima Commentary 11...11/13/13-12/21/13


Topics include Japan's energy problems, Fukushima evacuee compensation, antinuclear guarantees on Fukushima spent fuel transfer, antinuclear walkout in Warsaw, Japan's PMs chasing Unicorns, and much more.

December 21, 2013

 Guest Commentary on Japan’s Energy Situation

This past week, an on-line colleague sent me his position on Japan’s current energy situation. His name is Lars Hanson. He has been giving me insights on Japan, its history and culture for a few years. I think his insights are poignant and timely. His communique was spurred by a recent Tepco Press release I posted, about the operational commencement of a new 1,000 MWe coal-fired generating plant at Hitachinaka. Here’s what Lars had to say… 

“Thanks for forwarding [the Tepco Press release].  No surprises here, though. 

The understandably adverse reaction to nuclear power in the wake of the accidents at Fukushima and the subsequent shutdowns of Japanese nuclear power plants has left Japan facing an enormous shortage of energy.  The result has been (so far) an average of $12 billion a month in fuel importation costs, as well as damaging the highly energy-dependent Japanese economy.  (It is ironic that Japan's entry into World War II was in part spurred by the Japanese economy's need for energy sources… specifically fuel.)  It seems to me that the fuel shortfall can only increase as Japan strives to replace the lost nuclear generating capacity with fossil-fueled energy sources. 

The Japanese experience also should serve as a lesson in the limitations of "renewable" energy sources.  Of these sources, it seems only hydroelectric and biofuel sources are truly renewable and dependable, and thus capable of supplying base load needs.  Of these two, biofuels can only be produced domestically if Japan is willing to convert vitally needed agricultural land to growing biofuels.  The land issues in Japan truly are a zero-sum game.  Either bio-fuel must be imported, or, if the decision is made to convert arable land to producing biofuel, then additional food must be imported.

It is considerations of energy sources that drove Japan's economic decisions to rely on nuclear power, despite a general Japanese public aversion to things nuclear in the wake of the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It appears that Fukushima may reverse those decisions but only at a large cost to the Japanese economy.  In the long run, if the Japanese economy is to survive and prosper, it seems quite likely the Japanese will once again have to turn to nuclear power, albeit with far greater safety restrictions 

The Japanese economic challenges admittedly are exacerbated because it is an island nation without the natural energy resources required to support its once-booming economy.  The choices are starker for Japan than elsewhere, perhaps, but the contrasts in possible energy solutions nevertheless seem to parallel those for other regions of the world.  Consider Japan's economy as a microcosm of the global economy and the parallels should become clear.” 

Thanks, Lars.

December 13, 2013

Fukushima evacuees get more and more money, but not the tsunami victims

A significant number of Japan’s tsunami refugees have given up and permanently moved elsewhere. Of the 300,000 whose homes were swept away by the raging torrent, more than 20% have moved to other parts of Japan: mostly young families that no longer hope their plight will ever be alleviated. Reports on tsunami victim suffering are few and far between inside Japan, and non-existent outside the island nation. Meanwhile, regular reports are posted, both inside and outside Japan, on the Fukushima evacuees, which are emotionally-oriented and us journalistic “cherry-picking” to make their condition seem deplorable. However, an objective comparison between the tsunami refugees and Fukushima evacuees paints a very disturbing, and downright infuriating picture.

First, we look at the tsunami refugees. The plight of a construction company executive in Miyagi Prefecture seems to be not uncommon. His home along the shoreline of Higashi-Matsushima was lost to the black-water surge on 3/11/11. The now-deposed Naoto Kan government promised 27,000 temporary housing units for Tohoku’s displaced families, but only a few hundred have been completed. This past summer, the man gave up and bought a house in Osaki, far inland from his ancestral home. His four children, the eldest of whom is a third-year middle school student, became afraid of the sea after the 2011 calamity. He wanted them to return home and resolve their fears, but the lack of promised government support forced him to give up. The land along the shore will not be ready for reconstruction before 2017 at the earliest. If it becomes available, he would have to buy property himself and build a new home out of his own pocket. “It’ll take more time to develop land to prepare it for collective relocation. For my children, I could no longer wait. It’s heartbreaking to leave our ancestral hometown, but I decided to place priority on my family members who survived the disaster,” he said.

With most other Miyagi locations, the situation is similar – the promised reconstruction has not manifested. The swept-away community of Natori has long-planned on collective relocation and government-funded housing units, but none of it has happened. Many residents have given up, moved elsewhere and built homes out of their personal savings and/or through expensive loans. Initially, 3,068 Tokyo-funded housing units were planned for Natori, but the town officials now say they will need only 1,025 because so many people have left in frustration.

One Miyagi community is more optimistic, but the process of reconstruction stagnates nonetheless. Onagawa, with over 1,000 listed as killed or missing due to the tsunami, planned on building more than 2,200 refugee housing units. To date, none have been completed. The town government hopes that about 200 units will be finished in 2014. They want for 580 units by March 2016, but it doesn’t look good. Officials say the delays have been due to precious little flatland for rebuilding. Further, many of the registered property owners are among the dead and/or missing, so the land cannot be sold until their estates are settled. One official said, “We are doing our best...We feel sorry for residents.” To most Onagawa refugees, these words provide little solace.

At least 20 major municipalities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures report comparable unrealized promises. Only a few hundred of the 27,000 Tokyo-pledged housing units have been built. The prefectures optimistically estimate that about 15,000 might be done by April 2016, but they fear it will probably be much less. Officials in the three prefectures estimate they actually need about 75,000 units to accommodate the tsunami refugees remaining in the area, but they fear that such a large number will never be realized. On top of all of the empty housing promises, tsunami refugees receive only $400-600 per month to help them with temporary housing and other living costs – a fact posted in this commentary several times in the past.

Next, let’s look at the Fukushima evacuees. 17,000 emergency housing units have been built for the roughly 84,000 evacuees that so-qualify. Yes…they were literally slapped together as prefabricated units, and about 300 of them need repairs per month. However, when compared to the number of units built for tsunami victims…well…let’s face it…there is no comparison! As far as temporary housing is concerned, the Fukushima evacuees are far, far better-off than the tsunami refugees.

Perhaps even more importantly, Tepco and Tokyo’s financial records show that each Fukushima evacuee receives $7,500 per month in general compensation. They have each recently been awarded a lump-sum of $75,000 for psychological injury. In addition, Tokyo wants another lump-sum pay-out of up to $60,000 for emotional damage to each of the ~25,000 mandated evacuees the government expects to remain estranged for at least another 5 years. In contrast, the world’s Press continually posts reports concerning what appears to be a minority of Fukushima refugees with financial problems.

These are but a few examples of how the Press cherry-picks problems experienced by some Fukushima evacuees, makes them seem to be endemic, and ignores the far greater plight of the tsunami refugees. No wonder many of the tsunami refugees who seriously want to go home are reluctantly leaving. No wonder the majority of the Fukushima refugees say they don’t want to go home, but remain in temporary housing and other local facilities. Tokyo’s Recovery Agency says about $50 billion has been spent on the Tohoku region’s refugee assistance. $30 billion has been paid-out to the 84,000 nuke accident refugees, thousands of which could go home right now but choose to remain estranged. The remaining ~$20 billion has been given to the 300,000 tsunami refugees who will never go home.

Do the numbers.

There’s something terribly wrong here.

The world’s Press doesn’t seem to give a damn and the Tokyo government avoids any mention of this gross disparity. Why? It’s simple. With the tsunami refugee situation, there’s no radiation with which to promote fear, uncertainty and doubt. It seems the world’s Press wants everyone to think all is going great with the tsunami victims and horrible with the Fukushima evacuees. How long will this smokescreen be allowed to persist?

References:

1 - http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000842498

2 - http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=269

3 – http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/17/national/fukushima-evacuees-housing-units-crumbling/#.UojN7IEo4dU

4 - http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201310260046

5 - http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/comp/images/jisseki-e.pdf 

December 6, 2013

Japan’s Nuke Watchdog Wastes Time on New Nuclear Accident Scenario

This past Monday, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority announced a new worst-case nuclear accident scenario. But, this one does not concern nuclear power plants. It purports a disaster at the Tokai nuclear fuel reprocessing facility.

Tokai has been shut down since 2007. The reason for the shuttering was on-going technical problems. Just when these difficulties were about to be resolved and the facility restarted, the Fukushima accident happened, bringing with it a wave of earthquake fears. Tokai cannot resume operation until all mandated seismic retrofits have been approved by the NRA. However, the influx of nuke restart requests by electric utilities have put the Tokai inspection on the back burner.

Now adding insult to injury, the NRA has concocted a worst case accident scenario based on assumptions related to the back-up of radioactive liquids at Tokai waiting to be handled. There are 3.5 tons of liquids containing Plutonium to be converted into a powder intended for use in the making of mixed oxide fuel for reactors. In addition, 430 tons of liquids containing fission products sit in limbo. The NRA studied the worst possible calamity that might occur with each volume, no matter how unlikely, and posted their conclusions. Unfortunately, the NRA report is available only in Japanese, but the Asahi Shimbun ran a lengthy article about it on Tuesday.

Here is the Asahi’s version of the scenario in a nutshell. In both cases, the assumption is that a natural catastrophe strikes the facility, resulting in a prolonged full-station blackout just like Fukushima Daiichi. The Plutonium liquid is speculated to begin boiling in as little as 23 hours, spewing radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere. The fission product liquid is assumed to begin boiling in about 55 hours. The NRA says the Plutonium liquid could spawn a hydrogen explosion at the 11-hour mark that would damage its containment system and provide a pathway for a radioactive release. A fission-product liquid-based hydrogen explosion is postulated to happen in 38 hours. If the meteorological conditions are also in a worst-possible condition, the combined atmospheric releases could contaminate Tokyo, which lies about 130 kilometers southeast of Tokai. The entire scenario is predicated on the Tokai staff doing nothing and bringing in no outside power sources to alleviate the blackout. Assuming that the Asahi article is relatively accurate, the report is sure to touch off a new wave of antinuclear scare-mongering both inside and outside Japan.

The Asahi reports leaves the door open for several important questions.

First, where is the heat coming from to cause the postulated boiling of each mixture? Decay heat would not seem to be a realistic source due to the 240,000 year half-life (T1/2) of Pu-239, 6540 year T1/2 for Pu-240 and 387,000 T1/2 for Pu-242…the three main isotopes in the mix. (Only Pu-239 is fissionable) As half-life increases, radioactive intensity decreases and the heat production drops with it. Decay heat alone doesn’t seem capable of causing Plutonium-containing liquid tanks to boil. On the other hand, the half-lives of the isotopes in the fission product liquid are many times shorter than Plutonium isotopes and would produce more decay heat. Even then, the probability of sufficient decay heat to cause boiling seems questionable because the shortest-lived, greatest heat-producing isotopes have decayed away to nothing. If the wildly speculative boiling of the volumes did take place, it would seem that the 23-hour assumption would apply to the fission product liquid and the 55 hour time-frame apply to the Plutonium liquid. If there is another source of heat which could be considered, I’m not aware of it.

In addition, how would hydrogen would be generated in sufficient quantity to cause a containment-shattering explosion? Both liquids are the result of the removal of the fuel pellets from their Zirconium tubes, followed by chemically converting the material into liquid form, followed by separation of the Plutonium from the fission product matrix. The hydrogen which caused the explosions at F. Daiichi came from the extremely high-temperature oxidation of the Zirconium tubes in the fuel cores on units 1, 2 & 3. But, the Tokai liquids have no Zirconium to deal with. So, how would the hydrogen be produced…and produced in the huge quantities needed for detonation?

Next, if the potential ramifications of the speculated Tokai accident are so grave, why has the NRA put the station’s request for restart and subsequent reduction of the liquid volumes at the bottom of the review pile? Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency, owner/operator of Tokai, wants their inspection request moved toward the top of the list. They have also asked the NRA to have some of the most-stringent quake mitigation requirements delayed in order to get the facility running ASAP. JAEA says it can process the Plutonium liquid in 18 months. The vitrification of all the fission product liquid would take a lot longer, but every day of operation would reduce the severity of the worst-case scenario. The high level nuclear waste topic has been vaulted to the top of the nuclear issue heap in Japan, so it would seem appropriate to get Tokai back in operation and temper the situation. But…alas…the processing of the JAEA request languishes.

Lastly, why did the NRA undertake this speculative, assumption-predicated project in the first place? The agency says they only have the resources to handle only a handful of restart applications at a time. Wouldn’t that time and money have been better spent on getting qualified nukes back in operation and begin turning around the fossil-fuel-based $1 billion per month trade deficit? I think the NRA has wasted their time and needs to reconsider their priorities. 

Reference:

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201312030046

November 29, 2013

Fairewinds’ Gundersen Guarantees Problems with Unit 4 Spent Fuel Removal

Last week, the staff at F. Daiichi transferred 22 unused fuel bundles from unit #4 spent fuel pool (SFP) and loaded them into a common storage facility 100 meters away. The process went without a hitch. However, America’s provocative antinuclear voice, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education, says the dangerous part is yet to come. In fact, he assures us that there will be accidents during the removal of the irradiated spent fuel bundles which will release so much radiation that workers will have to evacuate.

In the grossly misleading video of November 15 entitled “Remove TEPCO Before Removing Fuel”, (1) Gundersen states that the company’s attention to detail with spent fuel removal will be for naught. He says Tepco is incompetent, “outgunned”, and has no commitment to informational transparency. In the video Gundersen says, “Tepco has never been committed to getting information to the public in an accurate and timely manner.” He adds that the staff at F. Daiichi hasn’t the expertise and they don’t have the money to do the job right. Gundersen calls for a complete stoppage of the fuel transfer process, a replacement of Tepco staff of qualified fuel transfer operators because they are “not engineers”. Further, he demands “citizen oversight to make sure the job is done correctly.” He goes on to say this won’t happen because “The nuclear priesthood will circle the wagons and not tell us everything that is going on [because they are not] concerned about the dose Fukushima Prefecture is getting and the health effects being hidden.”

Gundersen asserts that the irradiated spent fuel in the pool are brittle and the racks holding them have been deformed to the point that the bundles will not be capable of removal without breaking them. He says, “I assure you there are not many surfaces that are vertical and horizontal anymore.” Gundersen believes there must be rack deformities due to the large chunks of debris that fell on them from the explosion of March 15, 2011. He then adds “and we know that after the accident they boiled violently,” which he says must have warped the plates. Finally, because of small debris pieces that he says must have worked their way between the fuel bundles and the rack side-walls, the removal will create so much friction that the bundles will “likely snap”, releasing enough radiation to force the staff to abandon the operation.

This is absolute balderdash. First, for neutrons to cause embrittlement, Zirconium would need to have the property of neutron absorption. Steel can absorb neutrons and become somewhat embrittled over decades of bombardment at full power operation, but not Zirconium metal doesn’t do that. Fuel bundles are a grouping of Zirconium tubes filled with uranium fuel pellets. The reason Zirconium is used as the structural metal is because it is essentially transparent to neutrons. Neutrons pass through it like light passes through a window pane. In fact Zirconium itself is described as a “strong, malleable, ductile, lustrous, grayish-white metal…resistant to corrosion…and very poor at absorbing neutrons” (2) Hardly something easily embrittled by neutrons.

There is a kernel of truth with what Gundersen says, but he confabulates it into statements that bear no resemblance to the seed it came from. Zirconium can be embrittled if immersed in water and heated to around 900oC. If this happens, the metal strips Oxygen atoms from the water molecules in the process known as oxidation. However, none of the spent fuel bundles in F. Daiichi’s unit #4 SFP have ever been heated to more than about 300oC. Further, the alleged boiling of the pool never happened. Japanese pilots flying over the pool said the pool was never empty and it wasn’t boiling. For Gundersen to assert to the contrary is nothing more than the intentional perpetuation of a myth convenient to his argument.

Thus, Gundersen’s claim of the unit #4 fuel bundles being brittle enough to easily “snap” completely collapses. In addition, his claims of the F. Daiichi staff being incompetent and Tepco not being trustworthy enough to tell us what is really happening are nothing more than rhetoric. Antinuclear pundits have long-maintained that Tepco, and everyone working for them, is incompetent. Finally, his reference to the fictitious “nuclear priesthood” is merely an appeal to a time-worn main-stay of the antinuclear persuasion since Three Mile Island in 1979. It does not exist, never existed, and never will. If there is a “priesthood” with respect to nuclear energy, it is comprised of the leaders of the antinuclear demographic, one of which is Gundersen.

Arnie Gundersen’s statements are clearly the irresponsible rantings of a prophet of nuclear energy doom. He should be given the same credibility as a hooded figure standing on the street-corner hold a sign proclaiming “The End is Near”.

References:

1 - http://fairewinds.org/media/fairewinds-videos/remove-tepco-removing-fuel

2 - http://www.chemicool.com/elements/zirconium.html

November 24, 2013

184th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 184th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers.

Fact or fiction…there are more naturally-occurring radioactive isotopes than non-radioactive?

Now...the Carnival. For the full articles posted this past week, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include – The electrical impact of closing Vermont Yankee, antinukes criticize Japan for giving them what they want, Greens who admit nuclear energy is needed, and why the nuclear renaissance is not over.

From Yes Vermont Yankee (2) –

Vermont Yankee's Closing Will Hurt Vermont

 http://www.vnews.com/opinion/9299386-95/column-yankees-closing-will-hurt-vermont

Where Vermont Power Will Come From After Vermont Yankee

http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/11/where-vermont-power-will-come-from.html#.Uo-RzShfWec

From The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary (2) –

Antinuke Groups Reveal an Agenda Conflict in Warsaw Walkout

and

Former Tepco Engineer Tries to re-open the F. Daiichi Earthquake Debate

http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html (for both)

From Nuke Power Talk

The Nuclear Renaissance: Putting it in Perspective

http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.kr/2013/11/the-nuclear-renaissance.html

From Rod Adams’ Atomic Insights

Professional antinuclear greens resist; greens concerned about climate change embrace

http://atomicinsights.com/professional-antinuclear-greens-resist-greens-concerned-climate-change-embrace/

From Margaret Harding

Ms. Harding is interviewed a pronuclear group in Italy – Atomi Per la Pace – on Youtube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFBkvY8_9yE

From Dr. Robert Hayes in Oklahoma City’s News OK

The Electromagnetic Pulse

http://newsok.com/the-electromagnetic-pulse-emp/article/3907531

From Next Big Future (2) –

Russia unveils plans for 21 nuclear reactors by 2030 and this includes two 1200 MWe fast nuclear breeder reactors.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/11/russia-unveils-plan-for-21-new-nuclear.html

and

Safety-related concrete has been poured for the base-mat of the second AP1000 unit at the Vogtle plant in Georgia.  

 http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/11/construction-underway-of-second-vogtle.html 

From Jim Conca

The Real China Syndrome -- Bad Air

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/11/24/the-real-china-syndrome-bad-air/

From Deregulate the Atom

OCI Conference was More Like a Workshop and Well Received 

http://deregulatetheatom.com/2013/11/oci-conference-was-more-like-a-workshop-and-well-received/

Fact or Fiction answer – Fact!

There are 564 known naturally-occurring isotopes produced in the various stellar phenomena of the universe. 300 of the isotopes are unstable and emit radiation. The vast majority have such short half-lives that they decay away to nothing in only a few minutes. (source – Principles of General, Organic and Biological Chemistry; Robertson-Honecker, et al; West Virginia University; McGraw-Hill Co. Inc.)

November 22, 2013

Antinuke Groups Reveal an Agenda Conflict in Warsaw Walkout

Yesterday, hundreds of environmental activists walked out of the UN Climate Conference in Warsaw. Among the dissenters were Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, two of the most prominent international antinuclear groups. Among the cited reasons for their action was frustration with Japan for lowering its emission targets. (NHK World) In the process, these leading antinuke groups have revealed that they have a conflict of agenda.

Ever since Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s regime has sought restarts of some nukes, both groups have loudly protested his energy policy. They claim that all idled nukes should remain shuttered and decommissioned, to be replaced by renewables. During the nuclear moratorium, Japan has had no choice but to restart moth-balled natural gas and coal-fired generators to compensate for the loss of 30% of its electrical supply system. In the process, the emission-belching thermal units have made it impossible for the nation to meet its previous commitment.

But Greenpeace and FOE are blasting Japan for doing exactly what the groups want – keeping the nukes off-line. Now, they also want Japan to meet more-stringent emission goals in tandem with the nuke moratorium. In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it too. “Along with backsliding by Japan, Australia and Canada, and the lack of meaningful leadership from other countries, governments here have delivered a slap in the face to those suffering as a result of dangerous climate change,” said Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International. (AFP) Friends of the Earth International's Asad Rehman said: "Climate change is probably the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.” For decades, both groups have called nuclear energy the greatest threat to mankind, but now they make the very-same dire claim with respect to climate change. (The Guardian)

Greenpeace and FOE have long-held that it is entirely possible to replace all fossil-fueled and nuclear electric generation with solar, wind, and energy efficiency. The facts say otherwise. The massive amounts of money needed for such a staggering replacement, not to mention the gargantuan amount of land area that would be sacrificed to construct solar and wind farms, is necessarily prohibitive. Plus there’s the serious problem of both solar and wind being unavoidably intermittent in their power output. Finally, energy efficiency is has been a major contributor during Japan’s nuclear moratorium, and they have literally reached their limit on that one. While all three alternatives are attractive and should be a part of the solution, to believe a full-scale shift to renewables at this point in time is a pipe-dream.

The bottom line is this. If nukes are mankind’s greatest threat, Greenpeace and FOE must necessarily be willing to accept that Japan cannot meet the desired reduction in emission standards. If climate change is really the greatest threat, then both groups must accept the operation of nukes. They cannot have both. Replacing both with renewables and energy efficiency is mere rhetoric. It simply won’t work.

The fastest, cleanest and most economical way to get Japan back on the emission-reduction track is to get their nukes up and running. Japan knows this and looks forward to it happening in 2014. The result will greatly improve the nation’s imbalance of trade and lower their volume of emissions.  But, no matter what Japan does, Greenpeace and FOE will cry “foul” and scream bloody murder.

November 20, 2013

Former Tepco Engineer Tries to re-open the F. Daiichi Earthquake Debate

In 2012, Japan’s congressional investigation into the Fukushima accident (NAIIC) said it was possible that the unit #1 accident was started by the 3/11/11 earthquake. A few plant workers said they saw water leaking in the vicinity of the unit’s Isolation Condenser before the tsunami hit, and the NAIIC said it had to be proven that it was not an indication of emergency cooling failure. Several months ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority sent in a team to find out what may have happened. They said there was no evidence of earthquake damage and the water had probably sloshed from the pool on the next-higher floor and ran down the walls. That should have put an end to the “earthquake caused the accident” speculations.

But…not so fast.

This past Monday, the Japan Times published an English translation of an article from the Japanese-only magazine Sentaku. A former Tepco “plant engineer”, Toshio Kimura, believes that key components in unit #1 were seriously damaged by the quake before the tsunami hit. He worked for Tepco for 17 years (1983-2000), 12 of which were at F. Daiichi. He says Tepco’s own data suggests his claim is factual. He explains, “An effective means of determining the true cause of the accident would have been to analyze recorded data related to transient phenomena — data that show what happened near the reactor cores.” This data was released by the company in August, but Kimura says it was incomplete. In September, Kimura prepared a report titled “Leakage from the piping in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by vibrations from the earthquake” where he delineated his claim. Unfortunately, Mr. Kimura’s view is based on gross naivety relative to how Boiling Water Reactors operate, and an obvious misreading of the time-line of the accident.

Mr. Kimura’s interpretation of the data immediately following the earthquake seems to be based on misconceptions relative to BWR operating phenomena. He says that as soon as the quake ceased, “about 30 percent of coolant inside the core started flowing backwards and that after the coolant flow returned to the normal flow direction, the core flow fluctuated and eventually became less than zero.” If he had any operational training or experience with a BWR, he would have known what really happened.

During full-power operation of a BWR, a massive amount of steam is constantly being produced inside the fuel core of the reactor vessel. Two large pumps are constantly recirculating the water flow through the core to uniformly admix the steam with the water. The monitored steam/water level is actually several feet above the fuel bundles showing the top of the mixture. When the reactor experiences a full, rapid automatic shutdown (SCRAM), the steam is quickly washed from the fuel core. Indicated water level necessarily drops due to the volume of steam no longer in the core area. Reactor operators and operation’s engineers call this phenomenon “shrink”. A reasonable analogy would be what happens when a pan of hot liquid boils-over on the household stove. When the pan is removed from the heat, the boiling almost immediately stops and the roiling mixture of bubbles and hot liquid rapidly “shrinks” down to only hot fluid.

The amount of shrink after a reactor SCRAM is in the 25-30% range, depending on the model type and size of the fuel core. Soon after the earthquake-induced SCRAM on F. Daiichi unit #1, the typical “shrink” occurred. Mr. Kimura, obviously unaware of this fundamental BWR operating phenomena, erroneously assumes the flow through the core had reversed! He further tries to support his misconception by making another, even wilder assumption. He says that if all flow through the core stops, natural circulation should keep flow through the core at about 10% of full-power level. He says that the apparent reversal of flow is evidence that a pipe must have broken somewhere in the systems attached to the reactor vessel during the quake. Kimura also says a pump “designed to draw up water from the bottom of the containment vessel” was operated occasionally, indicating a leak from the reactor into the containment. There is nothing about such a pump being operated in the operator records kept by the control room staff between the quake and the tsunami-induced power blackout. For that matter, all records kept by the control room staff show that all emergency systems were operating precisely as they were designed and the water level in the reactor was exactly where it was supposed to be.

But, this is not Kimura’s only misrepresentation. He says the water level in the reactor reached the top of the fuel core (TAF) and at radioactive vapor leakage out of the containment began 5:46pm, less than three hours after the quake. Kimura adds that plant management restricted access to the reactor building at 5:19pm, further proving that the meltdown had begun. However, where he got these times from is an absolute mystery. Unit #1 staff records show that the entry restriction due to high radiation exposure was at 9:51pm. Further, at 10pm, the water level inside unit #1 reactor was 55 centimeters (about 22 inches) above TAF. The meltdown hadn’t started yet.

Based on his naïve assumptions, Kimura claims that Tepco is covering up the fact that the earthquake, not the tsunami, caused the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi’s unit #1. He says the cover-up is designed to try and persuade Japan that other, undamaged nukes can be restarted so that Tepco can turn their circling-the-drain finances around. The article itself adds, “Behind Tepco’s continued refusal to release all the data and to admit that the earthquake damaged the piping is a fear that serious doubts will arise about the safety of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which it hopes to restart as soon as possible.”

 Kimura also claims that if his “truths” were known, no bank would loan money to Tepco and they would quickly go bankrupt. But, alas, the man’s words are not worth the fonts used to write the magazine article and the Japan Times translation.

The Sentaku article closes with the following statement, “It likely will not be long before ‘lies’ by Tepco are brought to light.” To the contrary, it likely will not be long before the “gross misconceptions and base assumptions” by Toshio Kimura are brought to light.

Reference: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/11/17/commentary/cracks-in-tepcos-311-narrative/#.UopkZIEo4dV

November 15, 2013

Former Japan PMs are Chasing Unicorns

For several weeks, former Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi has proclaimed the antinuclear gospel across Japan. On Tuesday, another former PM, Morihiro Hosokawa, threw his hat into the same tumultuous ring. Both say that because more than half of the public favors the no-nukes policy, current PM Shinzo Abe should immediately turn away from atomic energy and plunge Japan into a full-speed-ahead development of renewables. The naivety of Koizumi and Hosokawa is monumental and disturbing. They are clearly chasing Unicorns.

Koizumi’s latest attack on Abe and the atom came at Wednesday’s National Press Club in Tokyo. He said his term as PM taught him to not turn away from public opinion. He feels continuing the move to restart idled nukes will eventually cost Abe his job, but the immediate adoption of a zero-nuclear policy can only benefit the incumbent. Koizumi said, "If the prime minister makes the decision, the opponents of a zero nuclear policy will shut up. A prime minister has the power to turn a difficult situation into a chance. It will be a waste if such an environment is not taken advantage of. I want Prime Minister Abe to use his huge power for a big project on which the public can cooperate." In previous articles, Koizumi has said nukes should not be restarted until the nuclear waste issue is resolved, but immediately added that the issue is not solvable because the public refuses to allow repositories to be built near them. He said, “I think it is too optimistic and irresponsible to assume we can find a final radioactive waste storage site in Japan.”

In contrast to Koizumi’s attack, LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba says, "There is no discrepancy between Koizumi's remarks and our party's policy. There is no change in the direction toward reducing our reliance on nuclear power." However, the Press seems to be doing its best to promote Koizumi’s position. One Japan paper even included that “Koizumi's remarks touch a sore spot with the government and are shaking it to its foundations.” The Press also wants to use Koizumi to try and “reinvigorate the anti-nuclear movement”.

Meanwhile, former PM Hosokawa also wants none of the currently idled nukes restarted. In a Tokyo newspaper interview on Tuesday, he said that nuclear waste issues should keep all nukes shut down, “I can’t understand why they want restarts of the nuclear plants when there is no place to discard the nuclear waste. It would be a crime against future generations for our generation to restart nuclear plants without resolving this issue.” Like Koizumi, Hosokawa now preaches the antinuclear gospel of needing to isolate spent fuel for 100,000 years, something he sees as impossible to preform safely.

In both cases, the former PMs both say energy efficiency and massive construction of renewables can more than offset the loss of nuclear energy. Two points to be made here. First, either neither are aware or otherwise neglect to mention that Japan has reduced its energy consumption mightily since 3/11/11. In fact, many industries have left Japan due to the cutbacks and continual energy shortage. In addition, the restarting of gas-fired generators, most brought directly out of mothballs, has destroyed Japan’s balance of trade due to huge increases in LNG imports. I guess both former PMs haven’t really considered the state of the economy, or else they are turning their backs on it. Either way, they are both “out to lunch”.

Second, it seems neither has clue about renewables. Hey, I’m as big a renewable supporter as there is, and have been for more than 3 decades. But, for renewables to replace Japan’s nukes a land area of about 900 square kilometers would have to be sacrificed to solar and wind farms, using state-of-the-art technology. The nation’s newest 70 Megawatt solar unit covers 1.27 km2 (Kagoshima). Japan is a largely mountainous country the size of California containing 127 million residents. There’s literally no place to build renewable facilities large enough to replace their nukes.

Plus, renewables are inherently intermittent. Solar is available but half the day, and only reaches peak power output for a few hours at mid-day when the sun’s ray are most direct. Further, Japan averages about 200 sunny days per year. Thus, solar units in Japan can only provide about 30% of their maximum output over the course of a full year (30% capacity factor). Wind is even less reliable. When the wind is below 8 miles per hour, there’s not enough energy to produce electricity. Peak output (which is always posted by the Press) occurs with wind speeds in excess of 20 mph. As a result, wind has a 27% capacity factor.

Thus, Japan would need roughly 3,000 km2 of solar and wind farms to replace their idled nukes, which is roughly the land area of the state of Rhode Island. In addition, a massive amount of electrical storage must be found in order to compensate for when the sun isn’t shining and/or when the wind isn’t blowing hard enough. No storage technology currently exists on such an enormous scale.

Koizumi and Hosokawa have thrown themselves into the same political arena as another former PM, Naoto Kan. Maybe they forget that Kan was summarily voted out of office earlier this year whist preaching the anti-nuclear gospel. Have they lost their minds or are they posturing to become, like Kan, darlings of the international anti-nuclear demographic? One thing is for sure… chasing Unicorns is not going to work, no matter how much Press they get in Japan.

References:

  1. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131113p2a00m0na011000c.html

November 13, 2013

Japan makes a rational exposure calculation decision

This week, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority decided to use actual dosimeter readings for radiation exposures in repopulating communities. Previously, the agency took aircraft-borne monitor readings and estimated exposures based on the assumption that people remain outdoors 8 hours per day. It turns out that these estimates grossly over-stated the case. The change in methodology is to be applauded as rational and reasonable.

Three months ago, several hundred people returned to their homes in Tamura’s Miyakogi district, and each person was issued a dosimeter. In September, the government appropriated $27 million in funds to also give each of the prior returning evacuees a dosimeter to be monitored by the Prefecture. Since then, thousands of returnees have had their actual exposures monitored. All show that previous dose estimates were exaggerated. Some of the dosimeter-based exposures were seven times lower than had been estimated. The least level of exaggeration was by a factor of three. Many international experts have been saying Japan’s aircraft-based estimates of exposures were too high for nearly two years. Now, there’s actual data to show they have been correct all-along.

Those locations that have been opened to returnees have witnessed less than 40% of the pre-3/11/11 population take advantage of it. The government’s goal has been for 100% repopulation. Those staying away say they are either skeptical of government assurances, don’t trust Tepco, believe any radiation exposure is tantamount to a death sentence, or a combination of the three. But, there are many reluctant individuals who don’t know what to think and opt for the cautious path. These might be the ones the new data could positively influence. The new methodology does not change the long-term goal of having all repopulated areas eventually below Japan’s goal of 1 millisievert per year.

The precious few news outlets carrying the good news speculate the shift to dosimeter-based exposure postings is a ploy to get people to return home once their communities are cleared for repopulation. Skeptics claim the move will increase distrust in the government. Ichiro Kowata, an Iitate evacuee, apparently sums up the general criticism, “Younger people say they can’t trust statements that suddenly declare areas to be safe when they have been called dangerous until now.” On the other hand, radiation specialists are fully supportive of the use of dosimeter-based data. Hirosaki University’s Shinji Tokonami says, “We support the idea of focusing on individual dose readings, but it will be a difficult problem how to put it in place.” Will thousands accept the new, much more=correct exposure data, or reject it? Only time will tell.

One thing is for sure… this is in no way a government ploy to get more Fukushima evacuees to go home. Radiation dose estimations based on aircraft monitoring are historically wrong. Such estimations are regularly skewed to the extremely conservative. Actual measurements are always lower than the aircraft-based projections. The real should always take precedent over the assumptive. If the new dosimeter-based data convinces some evacuees to go home, there should be rejoicing rather than continued protestations of doubt. Isn’t that what most of the evacuees and most everyone else in the world wants?

The Press also adds that Tokyo wants those communities with exposures below 20 millisieverts per year (by aircraft monitoring) to be opened to repatriation, and imply this new data source is a scheme to make it successful. As posted here many times, there’s millions of people around the world who live in natural background regions at or above 20 mSv/yr, and have cancer rates below their national peers. Besides, the Press is merely speculating on what the Tokyo government is thinking…implying a nefarious agenda, if you will. The Japanese Press is bending over backwards to perpetuate fear, uncertainty and doubt…and nothing more.

The NRA should be roundly commended for shifting from assumption to actuality. The world should know what a correct thing Japan’s NRA has done. The question becomes whether or not the international Press will pick up on this. I’m not optimistic. As of this writing, I have found nothing about it outside of Japan. The international Press should be happy that returning evacuees are actually at many times less risk than had been assumed. Alas, it seems they don’t care.

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