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Conditions with reactors 1 & 2 have moderated, with no appreciable changes in pressures or temperatures since Monday. Temperatures and pressures for reactor #3 have increased, so the TEPCO operators have increased feed-water flow from 7 to 9 tons per hour.
Seawater contamination levels for Iodine and Cesium at the MEXT off-shore locations are no longer detectable, so regular postings have ended. All but two TEPCO near-shore sampling points are below health standards or not detectable. The two others are below 0.1 bq/cc.
JAIF reports TEPCO is developing a device to decontaminate the seawater contained inside their Daiichi break-wall and silt dams. They will fill a “container” with a zeolite absorptive material, then pump the contaminated waters through it. Inlet and outlet flows will be sampled to see how effective it is. If it works adequately, other similar devices will be made to increase the decontamination rate.
Kyodo news has reported that TEPCO plans on starting a process of “full restoration of a reactor's cooling system” on Sunday. No details were given.
Kyodo News also reports that the government actions taken for public protection during the first few days of the emergency, were based on potential “worst case scenarios” and not on actual monitored measurements of airborne contamination levels or radiation fields. The government continues to assume the worst case scenario in all continuing protective actions. They say that over-estimating is better than under-estimating.
The Greenpeace “flagship”, Rainbow Warrior, tried to enter the waters off Fukushima Daiichi on Monday, but were stopped by the Japanese. They cannot come past the 12 mile (20 kilometer) distance of the no-entry zone. They were told they were allowed to check fish and seaweed beyond twelve miles, but no closer. They will not be allowed to check anywhere else within the 12 mile international limit, without a permit. Greenpeace is outraged, of course, because the water is so deep at 12 miles that there is no food fishing or seaweed harvesting. They want to test the near-shore food fish and seaweeds used to allegedly provide independent analysis on the radiologicalsafety of the food. Thwarted, the Rainbow Warrior has gone to Tokyo harbor to anchor and try and get permission. The Japanese say they are not letting any other ships inside the 20 km. no-entry zone around Daiichi, so they have no intention of accommodating Greenpeace. (NHK News and Greenpeace)
The War Against The Atom intensifies...
A May 1 opinion-editorial in the NY Times has brought an infamous prophet of nuclear energy doom back to the public stage; Dr. Helen Caldicott from Australia. Her editorial, Unsafe at Any Dose, re-cycles her unwavering position that there is no safe level of radiation exposure, as well as her same open-ended allegations and appeals to fear of the unknown that have marked her irresponsible rantings since Three Mile Island. She once again unites the Hiroshima bombing with nuclear reactor accidents, which does little more than continue the mental damage of the Hiroshima Syndrome.
Helen Caldicott is the philosophical mind behind, and progenitor of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? However, their membership numbers but a tiny fraction of one percent of all physicians. Regardless, their position on nuclear energy is historically biased, bigoted, and irrational. To them, there is nothing good about atomic energy. Nothing! Their proliferate contribution to the Hiroshima Syndrome since TMI cannot be over-stated. They should be called Physicians for Psychological Irresponsibility!
Caldicott is perhaps the most arrogant and irresponsible of their anti-nuclear lot, attacking the most renowned and responsible scientific organizations in the world as being involved in some ridiculous sort of conspiracy (e.g. WHO). She even has the audacity to call for physicians of the world to unite against physicists in order to stop nuclear energy. She's gone totally off the reservation on this one! Caldicott may have medical credentials, but she is nothing more than a street-corner doomsday prophet...and should be treated as such. She's a rhetorical con-artist, at best.
Caldicott bases most of her “new” tactics on the arbitrary Linear, No Threshold corollary that radiation damage accumulates over the years, and the body does not in any way repair the damage. In addition, she has now decided to blame all birth defects and miscarriages that have been accumulated in Belarus and the Ukraine since Chernobyl, on the accident itself. None have originated from the myriad of birth defect and miscarriage causes that have nothing to do with radiation exposure, of course. They are all because of the reactor accident. Utterly preposterous! This is obvious scape-goatism, and has no place in rational debate. Further, she now broadcasts that radiation damage can have a 60 year latency period, and be passed on from generation to generation before the inevitable cancer occurs. In other words, our grandchildren will get it if we don't? She even asserts that nuclear power plants contribute “substantially” to global warming! Does Caldicott's unethical grandiloquence know no bounds?
What's even more insidious, she routinely takes references completely out of context in order to try and “prove” her manic biases. For example, Caldicott makes it sound as if the New York Academy of Sciences condones the Yablokov 985,000 Chernobyl cancer death theory, because they supposedly printed a copy of his book in their Journal. She fails to mention the disclaimer posted by the Academy which says, in part, “The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences issue 'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment', therefore, does not present new, unpublished work, nor is it a work commissioned by the New York Academy of Sciences. The expressed views of the authors, or by advocacy groups or individuals with specific opinions about the Annals Chernobyl volume, are their own. Although the New York Academy of Sciences believes it has a responsibility to provide open forums for discussion of scientific questions, the Academy has no intent to influence legislation by providing such forums.” What? The Yablokov piece wasn't sanctioned by the Academy in the first place? Clearly, Caldicott intentionally misrepresents one of the most august scientific bodies in America. Helen Caldicott has done this sort of thing for three decades, and she seems to have no desire to stop. She has gained her modicum of international fame, and she basks in it's egoistic glow.
The above may be bad enough, but to this writer's view, she steps way over the line by suggesting that Hershey's Chocolate might contain TMI radiation and cause cancer! OK...so I'm a chocoholic! I'll admit it. But, taking a swipe at the hallowed halls of Hershey's...that's inexcusable!
Regardless, read the editorial yourself.... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01caldicott.html
...or for some additional evidence, check this one out... http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/11/nuclear-apologists-radiation
At the Fukushima emergency site since Friday...
Unit #1 reactor temperature at the feedwater nozzle has risen to 142 oC since Friday, when the 10 ton per hour injection rate (for the two previous days) was lowered to the prior 6 tons per hour rate. Reactor pressure, which had increased slightly at the end of the 48 hour increase in water insertion, has dropped to ~ 63 psi. #1 water level indications remain unchanged. The above parameters indicate, to this writer, a full reactor vessel, with completely unreliable water level monitors. They may well have been compromised due to severe overheating at some point during the first few days of the emergency.
Units 2 & 3 RPV temperatures and pressures continue to decrease. The feedwater nozzle temp. on unit 3 is now at 90 o C, which is well below the cold shutdown temperature criteria. Bottom of reactor temps on all three RPVs is not currently available.
TEPCO has reduced it's estimated fuel damage level for reactor #1 from 70% down to 55%. They say the reduction is due to recalculation.
JAIF reports that TEPCO plans on filling the primary containments of units 1, 2 & 3. It seems this is planned in order to cool the vessels to some degree, but mostly to provide additional shielding around the fuel cell portion of the reactor vessels and lower the whole body exposure levels inside the rest of the building. Please be reminded that a foot of water reduces radiation fields by a factor of 10.
TEPCO reports it is installing an “exhauster” to the interior of the damaged Unit #1 reactor building in order to improve the working conditions. It seems the exhauster is some sort of portable air cleaning technology that will strip the air of radioactive contaminants. Kyodo News reports there will be four units installed to filter the internal air.
TEPCO reports there are now 1000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi, and they plan on having about 3,000 at some point in the future. By having three times the current number of workers, the radiation exposures to each individual should be lowered because each person will spend less time in higher radiation areas. Collective doses will not drop, but individual doses will. But no women. Since March 23, when it was discovered that a second woman had received an exposure level in excess of the emergency worker limit, TEPCO has not allowed any women to work at Fukushima Daiichi. No specific reason for banning women from the work effort was given, other than their gender. They really like shooting themselves in the foot, don't they?
TEPCO has committed to building a 12 meter high stone levee around the Daiichi power station in order to protect it from an unlikely, but not impossible future tsunami. The main concern is a report out of Japan that an 8.0 Richter scale earthquake/aftershock is possible, and could spawn another tsunami of huge proportions. When this will happen is not reported.
The tunnel accesses for Unit 2 & 3 turbine buildings will have concrete poured into them to prevent possible radioactive leaks to the sea. NHK News says the accesses will be filled, TEPCO says they will be blockaded similar to Unit #4, and JAIF says they will be reinforced to keep cracks from forming.
As soon as debris removal permits, a steel pillar will be erected beneath spent fuel pool #4 in order to reinforce it. While TEPCO has recently reported there has been no compromise of the spent fuel pool's integrity, the hydrogen explosion may have weakened the steel reinforced concrete supports beneath the pool. The concern seems to be the above-reported 8.0 earthquake possibility.
Hiroshima Syndrome-related political news items since Friday...
A TEPCO Vice President, at a village meeting in Fukushima Prefecture, was asked whether or not the nuclear emergency was a “man-made disaster”. He responded, as a personal opinion, that he felt it was in fact a man-made disaster.
Personal, speculative statements of this sort should be avoided, because this is the sort of “juicy” quote that gets broadcast all over the world. Actually, it sounds like he was echoing our next item...
In a related report from NHK News, Prime Minister Kan has gone on record that TEPCO failed to “fully address nuclear safety issues that came to light before March 11.” He added that this official position is based on findings that had come from “previous accidents and warnings” that TEPCO had not heeded. He did not elaborate on what previous accidents he was referring to, nor what the previous findings may have been. However, a most probable reason for Kan's statement follows...
JAIF reports the Japanese government has denied TEPCO's request for assistance in paying out compensations to the displaced people from the 20 kilometer no-entry zone around Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO has requested the assistance saying Japan's laws allow for government compensatory aid in exceptionally massive national disasters. Asahi Shimbun reports the law states operators of industrial facilities are exempt from liability for off-site damages with nuclear accidents caused by “an extremely large-scale act of god.” However, Prime Minister Kan's regime has denied that Fukushima Daiichi qualifies because the emergency cannot be classified as something unexpected. In other words, the quake/tsunami, and the resulting loss of power accident of March 11 should not have surprised anyone...it was expected. Never mind that the 45 foot high tsunami was unique to recorded history. This sort of thing happens rather regularly, it seems.
Later in Kan's statement, he appears to contradict himself, “The government has been promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy and cannot escape from the responsibility.” Then he tries to wiggle out by adding, “(In this case) the government intends to assume responsibility for making sure the payments are made appropriately.” Kan then promised the Lower House that he will personally insure that adequate compensation will be paid to all victims of the earthquake and tsunami, because it is a government responsibility to do this in cases of massive, unexpected national disaster....except for the nuclear emergency, of course. So how can Fukushima be an unexpected national disaster one moment, and a not-unexpected disaster in the next?
It looks like Kan's government is doing it's best to divorce itself completely from TEPCO, and also deny any responsibility relative to nuclear emergencies. The Soviet government was brought to its knees over Chernobyl, and Kan does not want it to happen with the Japanese government. He and his supporters have panicked and making statements that do more harm than good. Regardless, nuclear emergency hindsight always seems to be twisted in favor of the notion that nuclear power plants must be built to a level of perfection not demanded of any other human endeavor. This includes the ability to survive an “act of god” unscathed.
In another example of irrational panic, NHK News reports a small group of TEPCO share-owners have petitioned the company to shut down all of their nuclear facilities, including two multi-unit stations which are operating safely. They say that fixes to nuclear plants after severe accidents are not the issue. Each accident is a different scenario from all others that have occurred previously, so we cannot anticipate how another will occur. This is another old rhetorical gimmick...I call it the “we will never know enough” fallacy.
Sunday, Kyodo News printed an editorial by G. Balachandran, of India. While he ultimately calls for the Indian government to be stricter on nuclear safety issues, he seems to take a surprisingly rational approach to Fukushima. He acknowledges that the quake and tsunami themselves did no apparent structural damage to any of the buildings at Daiichi. He adds that none of the 14 nuclear power stations along the Eastern coast of Japan show any structural damage either, unlike nearly all of the other buildings along the “ground zero” coastline not built to nuclear standards. In addition, the numerous earthquakes common to Japan did not seem to lower the integrity of any of the nuclear power plant structures. He concludes that there is no reason to doubt the ability of nuclear plants to survive the impacts of earthquakes and tsunamis. Balachandran blames the Fukushima emergency on a lack of strict government regulatory pressure to keep nuclear plant systems as close to state-of-the-art as possible. Other countries have had portable emergency electricity generators available in the unlikely event of emergency diesel failure for a decade or more (like the USA), but Japan's regulatory agency did not mandate such for all Japanese nuclear plants until after the accident occurred. He concludes by asking the Indian government to take a firmer, more strict control of nuclear safety innovations than the Japanese government did.
In the interest of “balancing” the above, Kyodo News gives full license to nuclear energy naysayers and their terrifying prophecies, in another Sunday editorial written by anti-nuclear author A.V. Yablokav. Yablokav is the creator of the 985,000 Chernobyl cancer death fiction. He cites Chris Busby of The European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR), which bases all their radiation cancer predictions on the unrealistic concept that low radiation exposures are actually more dangerous than high exposures, called the Petkau effect. Busby predicts that the radioactivity already released from Fukushima Daiichi will cause 400,000 cancers over the next 50 years. More releases will mean more cancers, of course. In order to mitigate these effects, Yablokav recommends an immediate expansion of the no-entry zone to 50 kilometers, have all evacuees checked for radiation every week for the rest of their lives, and build new hospitals to accommodate the expected 8,000 to 10,000 cancers per year from Fukushima Daiichi.
Please note that the cancer latency period generally believed to be 20-30 years by the international medical community is arbitrarily stretched to a ridiculous level by Busby and Yablokav. This seems a clear acknowledgment to the “we really don't know the future effects of radiation exposures” propaganda inflicted on the world by rhetorically unethical prophets of nuclear energy doom. Actually, we really don't know the dangerous future effects of the Hiroshima Syndrome.
- Units 2 & 3 RPV temperatures and pressures continue to decrease. The feedwater nozzle temp. on unit 3 is now at 90 o C, which is below the cold shutdown temperature criteria. Bottom of reactor temperatures on all three RPVs is not currently available.
- TEPCO has reduced it's estimated fuel damage level for reactor #1 from 70% down to 55%. They say the reduction is due to recalculation.
- JAIF reports that TEPCO plans on filling the primary containments of units 1, 2 & 3. It seems this is planned to cool the vessels to some degree, but also to provide additional shielding around the fuel cell of the reactor vessels and lower the radiation levels inside the rest of the building. Please be reminded that a foot of water reduces radiation fields by a factor of 10. TEPCO reports there are now 1000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi, and they plan on having about 3,000 at some point in the future. By having three times the current number of workers, the radiation exposures to each individual should be lowered because each person will spend less time in higher radiation areas. Collective doses will not drop, but individual doses will. But no women. Since March 23, when it was discovered a second woman had received exposure in excess of the emergency worker limit, TEPCO has not allowed any women to work at Fukushima Daiichi. No specific reason for banning women from the work effort was given, other than their gender. They really like shooting themselves in the foot, don't they?
- TEPCO has committed to building a 12 meter high stone levee around the Daiichi power station in order to protect it from an unlikely, but not impossible future tsunami. The main concern is a report out of Japan that an 8.0 Richter scale earthquake/aftershock is possible, and could spawn another huge tsunami. When construction will happen is not reported.
- The tunnel accesses for Unit 2 & 3 turbine buildings will have concrete poured into them to prevent possible radioactive leaks to the sea. NHK News says the accesses will be filled, TEPCO says they will be blockaded similar to Unit #4, and JAIF says they will be reinforced to keep cracks from forming.>
- As soon as debris removal and radiation levels permit, a steel pillar will be erected beneath spent fuel pool #4 in order to reinforce it. While TEPCO has recently reported there has been no compromise of the spent fuel pool's integrity, the hydrogen explosion may have weakened the steel reinforced concrete supports beneath the pool. The concern seems to be the above-reported 8.0 earthquake possibility.
- TEPCO reports it is installing an “exhauster” to the interior of the damaged Unit #1 reactor building in order to improve the working conditions. It seems the exhauster is some sort of portable air cleaning technology that will strip the air of radioactive contaminants. Kyodo News reports there will be four units installed to filter the internal air.
It seems that TEPCO raised the water flow into #1 reactor vessel on Wednesday, from 6 tons/hr to 10 tons/hr, in an effort to fill the vessel. They stopped the increased flow this morning (EDT), and resumed the 6 tons/hr flow. As a result, the feedwater inlet temperature dropped to 107 oC, and the bottom head decreased to 98 oC. However, there seems to have been no corresponding drop in pressure inside the vessel. In fact, it went up a few psi., indicating the vessel may be filled. On the other hand, reactor water level monitors have not shown a change. This poses numerous questions concerning the reliability of the instruments measuring the internal reactor vessel parameters, and many of the assumptions made by the Japanese based on the indicated values. What transpires will surely be interesting.
Reactor pressures and temperatures for Units 2 & 3 continue to slowly decrease. Both of their primary containment pressures remain at atmospheric. In addition, all the seawater contamination and on-site airborne activity levels remain essentially the same as two days ago. Some 20,000 tons of water have been pumped from the turbine basements into storage tanks (condensers, mostly), but there remains another ~60,000 tons to move. The remote-operated chore of removing debris from around the four reactor buildings continues, as well. Things have literally leveled off at Fukushima Daiichi, and all day-to-day changes are constructive. But, around the rest of the world...
The Hiroshima Syndrome Effect Gets Ugly
Throughout the early years of anti-nuclear protests in the 1980s, public demonstrations were largely peaceful in the United States. Violence occurred on rare occasion, but only in hotbeds of nuclear anxiety like Germany. Until Fukushima, there had been no nuclear accidents worthy of news media exploitation for some 25 years. During that long period of relative lull, the Hiroshima Syndrome retreated back into the public's subconscious. I had embraced the hope that two decades of nuclear education in the schools of the world would temper possible over-reaction if another nuclear emergency worthy of news media focus should happen. Unfortunately, nuclear education has had little mitigating impact on the aggressive, insidious conditioning of the Hiroshima Syndrome. Fukushima brought it back to the conscious fore-front of the world's collective mind with a ferocity I could never have imagined.
The Hiroshima Syndrome claims two human lives, and threatens many more...
- Asahi Shimbun has reports that a Fukushima cabbage farmer committed suicide on March 24, allegedly due to the government's banning the consumption of all cabbages and vegetables from Fukushima farms. His wife claims, "I think (he committed suicide) to protest TEPCO. Stop the nuclear power plant as soon as possible."
- BBC reports that a proposed six-unit nuclear station at Jaitapur in India has become that country's focus of fear, and spawned a violent protest which has claimed a life. On Monday, a dissenting activist was killed by police in their attempt to quell a riot that broke out over government plans to build the Jaitapur power complex. Actually, the violence broke out at the police station itself! A rumor spread that the police were part of a government plan to build the plant at all costs! The rioters feared that the fishing industry, their financial lifeblood, would collapse due to radiation from the power complex. The next day, Tuesday, protestors attacked the hospital where the dead activist's body was being autopsied, out of fears that the results of the autopsy would not be impartial. The hospitals are part of the “secret plan” too?>
- BBC also reports the Indian government scientifically assigned an earthquake criteria for the new power complex at Jaitapur, in the Maharashtra region, to be zone 3 (moderate risk) and gave the utility the go-ahead on construction. Although the locals say it's really a zone 4 region (high risk), they argue that no nuclear plant can be built strongly enough for unexpected, worst case seismic activity like Fukushima (zone 5 – severe risk). The government responded that all of Japan is a Zone 5 region, while none of the western coast of India is Zone 5. Jitendra Raul, leader of Tarapur Progress Community said, "Should we wait till the time there is some big incident or some big blast inside the power plant?" The situation then reached the horrifyingly ridiculous level. Praveen Gavhankar, an Indian farmer and fruit shipper, said he and thousands of villagers in western Maharashtra (the Indian state) have pledged to kill themselves because they have become totally frustrated over the government's determination to allow the building of the power complex at Jaitapur, which they believe to be a high-severity earthquake zone. Mr Gavhankar says, "the people have decided that, rather than letting a Fukushima happen in Jaitapur fifteen years later, it's better to die today and stop the plant." (A mass suicide threat? Due to phobic fear of radiation? OMG!)
Japanese Nukes Taken to Court
Over the years preceding Fukushima, residents of communities near several nuclear plants in Japan had filed numerous legal demands. Their primary complaints had been that the plants were neither built to withstand the frequency of earthquakes in Japan, nor an unexpected worst-case temblor. Their first complaint alleges that the number of earthquakes a power plant experiences over its operating lifetime have never been taken into consideration. They theorize that numerous earthquakes, as is typical of Japan, will weaken the plants and make them less safe. After enough quakes have occurred, the plants will inevitably fail and release radiation. Their second complaint was that building the plants to withstand what the scientists believe to be “worst case” quakes fails to consider that temblors of an even greater magnitude are not impossible. All pre-Fukushima lawsuits had been rejected by the Japanese courts. Now that Fukushima has happened, the lawsuits are re-emerging. (all below from Asahi Shimbun)
- Yoshika Shiratori, who represents a group demanding the shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear power station, says what is happening at Fukushima is exactly what she and the others had feared. "What we dreaded has become reality," she said, "I often hear the argument that the recent quake was beyond the scope of expectations. But when someone says that, I can feel my chest begin to constrict." What has been added to their previous concerns is the backup generator issue, citing the diesels that were drowned at Fukushima. Chubu Electric, the owner of the Hamaoka plants, has begun procurement of the mobile diesel generators and pumps recently mandated by NISA. In addition, they have promised to build a 12 meter-high tsunami break-wall to lessen the impact of a tsunami similar to Fukushima Daiichi. Chubu Electric believes that such a break-wall would have prevented the flooding of diesels at Daiichi. Regardless, Shiratori and her group say that it is not possible to foresee what a future earthquake and tsunami might be, so they are asking for a court injunction to suspend operation of Hamaoka station. "If power companies, the state, the courts and the the public do not alter their opinions, it would amount to disrespect for life," she said. It seems Shiratori and her group disrespect Japan's critical need for electricity necessary for recovery from the quake/tsunami disaster that has actually happened.
- The Shika nuclear power station faced a legal attack eerily resembling Fukushima in 2006. The Kanazawa District Court ordered Shika Unit #2 shut down because they concluded design criteria for earthquake resistance was inadequate. The court determined that the reactor would likely lose power, including emergency power, if it was struck by a quake more powerful than the utility was legally prepared to deal with. "There is a real probability that residents will be exposed to radiation in an accident triggered by a seismic movement the power company has not anticipated," the court said. Hokuriku Electric reinforced the building structures to meet with the new regulations imposed in September, 2006. In 2009, all “fixes” were completed and the Court reversed the initial ruling, dismissing the plaintiff's filing. Masaaki Iwabuchi, legal representative for the plaintiffs, wants to reopen proceedings, but there is no legal way to reopen, at this point. So he has publicly criticized the courts for aiding and abetting in a national laxity with nuclear safety, "The accident (at Fukushima Daiichi) was not something beyond all expectations," he said. "The court is partially to blame for giving tacit approval to the operation of nuclear power plants."
- In Shimane Prefecture, a lawsuit demanded the suspension of the Shimane nuclear station. Matsue District Court turned down the plaintiffs' demand in May, 2010. "The scrutiny of active faults and quake resistance of nuclear reactors are conducted based on national earthquake standards that incorporate the findings of the latest research," the court said. In suits involving nuclear licensing, the Court looks to see if the state has made any unreasonable assumptions in its planning decisions. The opponents appealed the decision. The tsunami at Fukushima struck just a week after the Hiroshima High Court held its first hearing on the appeal. "With the tsunami triggered by the quake, results of studies on which the state based its arguments were shattered," said Shunichiro Tsumanami, lawyer for the plaintiffs, "The court should make its own judgment on safety, rather than taking what the state and a power company says at face value." In other words, not even the Japanese Courts can be trusted when it comes to nuclear power plants. Plaintiff Koji Asaishi said the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant ought to force judges to rethink the state court's opinion on nuclear safety, "The court has not taken (the safety issue) seriously, saying experts appointed by the state approved of safety preparedness," he said, "Judges must now have realized how slipshod the national safety screenings and scrutiny are."
When it comes to nuclear power plants, all official organizations, including the courts, that reject the demands of Hiroshima Syndrome-infested opponents, are immediately accused of being inadequate, incompetent or otherwise part of a plot to support nuclear energy at the expense of public safety. It is impossible to alleviate all “concerns” for building and operating nukes, in a public arena where insatiable notions of perfection made by nuclear opponents are given free license. The question ought to be “How safe is safe enough? Do nukes really need to be safer, or are they safe enough already?” Clearly, nothing short of a total nuclear moratorium will be acceptable to the hardened nuclear naysayers. As long as the Hiroshima Syndrome keeps the nuclear safety debate focused on the unrealistic notion of there being no safe level of radiation exposure, the question will not obtain a rational answer.
Chernobyl Turns 25
On yesterday's 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, western news media focused on the accident with an intensity not witnessed for more than 20 years. Much of the reason behind the news media's “Chernobyl resurrection” has been due to the emergency at Fukushima Daiichi. But, some of the reason for the news media's renewed interest is because the events at Fukushima have eased considerably, and the changes occurring this past week have been quite positive and non-fear-inducing. It's almost impossible to make the important reduction of seawater I-131 levels, and in most cases a complete loss of detectability, sound scary. (As of this morning, all but one TEPCO I-131 sampling locations are either undetectable or below health standard, and all MEXT locations read no detectable I-131) It's difficult to make the low levels of airborne activity at the accident site itself sound ominous. (All airborne tests yesterday were below worker protective standards) It's most challenging to make the background levels of whole body exposure in the cities of northern Japan seem forbidding. And, the reactor temperatures and pressures continue steadily inching their way to a cold shutdown level, so there's no basis for “spiraling out of control” headlines. The news media wants to keep Fukushima fears in the headlines. It's very, very good for business. In the news media's thirst for chilling nuclear reports, their focus now shifts to the historically tried and true...fear of radiation as it relates to Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
There's little interest in resurrecting Chernobyl and Hiroshima in the Japanese Press, but the western news media has broadcast numerous fearsome reports covering death estimates from Chernobyl, comparisons between Chernobyl and Hiroshima radiation (e.g. the Hiroshima Syndrome), and annual anti-nuclear demonstrations (mostly in Europe) showing increased support due to Fukushima. All three topics need to be addressed here. To summarize the reports, the death estimates relative to Chernobyl vary greatly, from as few as 50 to as many as 985,000. Next, the grossly misleading n”fact” that Chernobyl released 400 times more radiation than Hiroshima. And finally, the protest rallies all boil down to the exploitation of widespread fear of radiation. Now for the details...
Chernobyl death estimates
The lowest estimate on Chernobyl deaths comes from the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. UNSCEAR reports at least 50 died from both non-radiation injuries and radiation over-exposures due to fighting the massive radioactive releases from the demolished power plant. They say that while theories abound on possible cancer deaths over the 20-30 year period beginning in 1986, as of 2011 there is no actual evidence to show whether or not these theories have manifested, “Among the residents of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, there had been up to the year 2005 more than 6,000 cases of (non-fatal) thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases can be expected during the next decades. Notwithstanding the influence of enhanced screening regimes, many of those cancers were most likely caused by radiation exposures shortly after the accident. Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population is not likely to experience serious health consequences as a result of radiation from the Chernobyl accident.”
On the other hand, the highest widely-broadcast estimates come from notorious nuclear naysayers like Greenpeace, using unprovable, eschatological (e.g. prophetic of doom; apocalyptic) radiation risk models. In 2004, Greenpeace reported there had been 200,000 Chernobyl cancer deaths over the preceding 18 years, and recently said that by 2016 there will be a another 93,000 Chernobyl cancer deaths world-wide. This is primarily based on the never-proven, completely unverifiable Petkau theory which purports that long exposures to very low doses of radiation are many times more dangerous than huge, Hiroshima levels of exposure. However, the most extreme number comes from a little known (in the West) Russian book, “Chernobyl : Consequences of the catastrophe for the People and the Environment” (2007), estimating that 985,000 people had died due to Chernobyl by 2004, and perhaps another half million would die by 2036 (the 50 year anniversary). This gross estimate is based on the irrational assumption that all cancer deaths within 100 kilometers of Chernobyl are due to the accident.
Chernobyl vs. Hiroshima radiation
Perhaps the most ubiquitous and misleading “fact” found in all Chernobyl 25th anniversary western news reports is that Chernobyl released 400 times more radiation than Hiroshima. The reality is that Chernobyl released about 400 times more fission products than Hiroshima. What's not reported is the radiation exposures from Chernobyl were thousands of times less than Hiroshima because most of the bomb's radiation exposures were not from fission fragments! Where did the bomb's enormous, deadly radiation exposures come from, and how do they compare with Chernobyl?
The seriously damaged reactor fuel cell at Chernobyl had accumulated fission products for years. On the other hand, the bomb burst at Hiroshima produced fission products for no more than a second! It took Chernobyl years to accumulate 400 times the volume of released fission products that Hiroshima produced in a second!
Not all of the radioactive material released by Hiroshima was from fission. A significant fraction of the released radioactive atoms were what we call “activation products”. The gigantic, albeit brief neutron burst from the detonation at Hiroshima inundated all of the particulates sent airborne with the blast, and made the dust and debris radioactive. Only a vanishingly tiny fraction of Chernobyl's releases were from neutron activation, at most.
Hiroshima fallout “fell” faster than the radioactive material released from Chernobyl. Bomb fallout is very heavy which naturally concentrates it's radioactive matrix, while reactor releases are very lightweight and naturally disperse and dilute. Chernobyl releases experienced a much greater dispersal over a much wider area than Hiroshima. Thus, Hiroshima's surface contamination was considerable and produced a measurable radiation field for whole body exposure. Chernobyl's surface contamination levels paled in comparison.
Most importantly, 99% of the radiation from Hiroshima was neutron and gamma exposure from the explosion itself. On the average, neutron/gamma exposures of 5 sieverts per person who died at Hiroshima in the 5 years after the bomb blast (man-sieverts). Five sieverts times 50,000 deaths equals a collective exposure of 250,000 person-sieverts for those who died. However, there were unquestionably millions of person-sieverts absorbed by the bodies of the million or more Hiroshima-exposed Japanese who did not die!
In comparison, neutron exposures from Chernobyl were virtually non-existent to the surrounding public, and must be dismissed here. However, gamma exposures to the surrounding public at Chernobyl were measurable and statistically analyzable. WHO estimates that the collective Gamma dose for the Chernobyl-exposed areas of Europe was/is about 80,000 person-sieverts, while the collective dose for that population from natural background radiation is 500,000 person-sieverts. This means that Mother Nature is more than six times a greater cancer-death risk than Chernobyl?
It's this sort of philosophical irresponsibility that permeates the misleading notion that Chernobyl realistically compares to Hiroshima in radiation levels. Misuse of information is bad enough, but making claims of death and suffering based entirely on irresponsible fiction is ethically and morally corrupt.
Public demonstrations on the anniversary of Chernobyl are not uncommon in Europe. This year, attendance has swelled because of Fukushima. But, the arguments against nuclear energy have not changed much in two decades. Some of the quotes come from European leaders, who necessarily respond to public opinion within their borders. In Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev catered to his nation's Chernobyl-based distrust of official nuclear information by saying, "I think that our modern states must see the main lesson of what happened at Chernobyl and the most recent Japanese tragedy as the necessity to tell people the truth." (i.e. the Japanese are lying as much as the Soviets did) In Austria, Chancellor Werner Faymann echoed his nation's long standing opposition to nuclear energy (they have huge coal deposits...wink, wink) by boasting that since Chernobyl there have been 160 new nukes built world-wide, but none in Austria. He charges that the “cyclical nature of the nuclear lobby” wants the world to forget that Chernobyl and Fukushima ever happened. What world-wide nuclear lobby is he talking about? A random conspiratorial suggestion? Unfortunately, no. The “world-wide nuclear conspiracy” theory is widespread among nuclear opponents...and they believe it!
However, the juiciest, and most predictable quotes come from the hard-core prophets of doom, like German anti-nuke fanatic Remi Verdet who feeds the phobic fear of radiation by saying, "Radioactivity knows no borders," then adds, "We're here to remind people that zero risk does not exist." Closer to Chernobyl itself, "Authorities are covering up the facts. Contaminated products get straight to the dinner tables of Belarusians," said Irina Sukhiy, head of the Eastern European (Russian?) environmental group Ekodom. "There are no clean territories — radiation have spread across the country." And then there's Green Party (Germany) activist Vladimir Volodin who says the authorities in Belarus are covering up the true horror of Chernobyl by classifying Chernobyl deaths as something different.
Then there's the so-called grass-roots efforts. The one I found most creative is from an anti-nuke picnic in southern France attended by about 600, where a large sign read, "We can't stop tsunamis but we can stop nuclear power stations". Cute...misleading but cute.
The human beings doing these things are not merely saying something cliché to get themselves on TV...they believe it with all their heart. They have totally succumbed to the no-safe-level-of-radiation myth. They are inescapably enveloped in the arms of the Hiroshima Syndrome. They should not be an object of frustration. They should be treated with understanding. Theirs is a level of affliction that may never be resolved.
Conditions continue to improve at Fukushima Daiichi.
Our first update is clearly the best news to come out of Fukushima Daiichi since the explosion of Unit #1 refueling deck on March 12.
Seawater samples taken at nine of the 10 MEXT locations, 30 km off-shore, show no detectable I-131. One location, southeast of Daiichi, shows detectable I-131, but at a level below the 0.04 bq/cc health standard. All of the TEPCO sampling locations at 15 km off-shore show either no detectable I-131 (4 locations), or a level below the I-131 health standard (4 other locations). All of TEPCO's near-shore sampling locations continued to show a significant decrease over the weekend, with the two southern-most sampling points now below I-131 health standards, and one northwest point showing no detectable I-131. Four other near-shore locations have dropped by a factor of 10 since Friday, to below 0.1 bq/cc I-131. The last location, 30 meters from the station's port/docking break-wall is at 0.26 bq/cc, a factor of three decrease since Friday. Unquestionably, TEPCO's efforts to restrict the outflow of contaminated waters into the open sea has been a phenomenal success. I cannot find any mention of this in any western or Japanese news media source, at least not the numerous ones I check daily. The Japanese government should admonish both the foreign Press and their own news media for not reporting this! It's in the JAIF report this morning, so there is no excuse...
Reactor #1 temperatures have dropped to 138 oC at the feedwater nozzle and 111 oC at the bottom of the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV). Pressure in the RPV is holding at ~75 psi. The Primary Containment pressure, outside the RPV, holds at ~22 psi.
Reactor #2 RPV temperature at the feedwater nozzle is down to 123 oC, and RPV pressure remains slightly below atmospheric. The Primary Containment pressure holds at atmospheric pressure.
Reactor #3 RPV temperature at the feedwater nozzle is way down at 75 oC (below cold shutdown level of 95 oC), and the RPV bottom is at 111 oC. RPV and containment pressures remain at atmospheric.
TEPCO reports that units #5 & 6 have had their high voltage (HV) circuits interconnected. They will next interconnect 5&6 HV circuits with Units 1&2 HV circuits. In order to do this safely, the power to the pumps currently sending water to RPVs 1&2 must be disconnected, and reconnected to their temporary diesel generators. Once the interconnection is complete, power to the pumps will be returned to the normal electrical supply. This interconnection will improve the reliability of emergency power in the vanishingly slim possibility that another major earthquake and tsunami hit before all three RPVs are in cold shutdown.
Asahi Shimbun reports that foreign news media have fired a return salvo at the Japanese government for accusing them of overly sensationalizing Fukushima reports. The foreign press does not deny they have exaggerated and sensationalized. However, they accuse the Japanese government of “mishandling” the nuclear emergency. CNN reporter Kyung Lah bashes the effort of the government saying, “It's a slower reaction than the international community expected.” (The international news media community, right?) Christoph Neidhart, correspondent of the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, said: "I think they (the government) were overwhelmed by data. They have tried to be honest. But I am not sure if they have done enough thinking." (Now, the government is too dumb?) Neidhart goes on to slam Japan in general because there has been little public outcry against nuclear energy. He says, “the apparent lack of a public debate on the issues facing the country was making it difficult for some foreign observers to understand. Contrary voices had been drowned out.” In other words, the foreign news media can't find enough voices of nuclear energy doom to “balance” their Fukushima reports with. Without a doubt, the foreign press is experiencing Hiroshima Syndrome withdrawal! Without someone to quote, who reinforces the misconceptions that fuel public fear, they have no story!! And they blame it on the government?
Now, on the home-front...
The Washington Post and ABC have together polled their readers/viewers about feelings towards nuclear energy. It's an article that seems intentionally confused, but after analyzing it several times, it seems that a slight majority of Americans still favor nuclear energy (about 51%), even after six weeks of western scare-mongering by the Press. More republicans are in favor than democrats, and more men than women, which has been the case for 3 decades. However, the results look less negative than similar polls taken soon after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, where more than half of those polled were against nuclear energy (53%). I other words, the percentage of Americans favoring nuclear energy today is about the same as the percentage that disfavored it 25 years ago. Of the 44% (?) currently against nuclear energy, nearly all said they now feel less confident in US plants than before Fukushima. (which is a surprise to whom?) But, on the other hand...
The Wisconsin State Journal says that no-one should “count out” nuclear energy in the effort to stop the burning of fossil fuels, just because of Fukushima. “Wisconsin should consider it an Earth Day imperative to do two things: Stop...Think... A pause to thoughtfully review the evidence will show the retreat from nuclear power to be unwise.” Check it out for yourself...
And now, an answer to the question underlying all Fukushima nay-saying in America...
Could it happen here?
First, keep in mind that all of the buildings and structures at Fukushima Unit's # 1 through 4 looked undamaged due to the earthquake and tsunami (from aerial photos). Further, Fukushima Daini's 4-unit nuclear power station, just 7 miles south (and well within the tsunami disaster zone), has not had the reactor fuel and spent fuel problems of Daiichi. Why? Because they did not have a prolonged complete loss of electric power situation. The Daiichi emergency is because of the loss of power...not the quake/tsunami!
Let's not quibble the fact that only a few American nuclear plants are anywhere near a subduction-type fault that caused Fukushima's quake/tsunami, or that those few are built to structurally withstand 9.0 Richter scale quakes and massive tsunamis. Let's just look at what has quietly happened over the past 35 years in America to make a loss of power accident, to the extreme degree of Fukushima, highly unlikely... if not improbable.
1. In 1976, the twin emergency diesels for all nuclear plants were required to be made independent of each other, so an accident to one would not compromise the other.
2. In 1988, the number of batteries backing up the diesels was increased in order to have at least 50% more time to recover from diesel failure.
3. In 2002, portable/mobile power supplies and water pumps were mandated for all nuclear plants in case the diesels failed and the batteries ran out.
While #2 (above) might not have avoided the Fukushima emergency, #1 could have and #3 definitely would have averted the accident. In addition, for Mark I containments like Fukushima, the pressure-suppressing torus was considerably strengthened in 1980, and additional containment vents were installed in 1992. If these had been the case with Fukushima (even without the emergency electric power upgrades), the strengthened torus could have averted Fukushima #2's torus damage, and the additional vent on Units 1, 2 & 3 may well have avoided the hydrogen explosions!
Regardless, if the Japanese had adopted only the portable/mobile generators and pumps upgrade, the whole thing could have been avoided!
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