Fukushima 11...6/13/11-6/27/11

June 27

  • On Friday, June 24, Asahi Shimbun reported the control room records kept by the operators in Fukushima units 1, 2 & 3, and TEPCO's executives/administrator's records are available through the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) website. The control room records from March 11 through March 19 were handwritten, but the subsequent records (more than 10,000) were transcribed electronically. We have been scouring all NISA site pages since Friday and can't find it. If anyone finds the documents on line, please link us through the contact page of the site. Regardless, two disturbing articles have emerged based on these documents.

    First, Mainichi Shimbun reports the documents say that early attempts to vent the pressure from unit #1 primary containment on March 11 all failed. The final attempt on March 12 to relieve the severe over-pressure condition was successful, but didn't begin until less than an hour before the unit's hydrogen explosion. It is possible that the venting failures and resulting extreme pressure build-ups caused leaks to occur from the Primary Containment and into the reactor building. This suggests the initial hydrogen explosion at Fukushima was not due to venting. It is likely that the first hydrogen explosion at Fukushima was due either to multiple venting component failures, operator error, or a combination of the two. Inexcusable error #1!

    Second, Asahi Shimbun reports that at 1:17 pm on March 13, control room operators for unit #3 had similar reactor pressure vessel and primary containment indications to those which occurred at unit #1 five hours into the emergency on March 11, when it is believed the #1 fuel cell was uncovered. In other words, there was sufficient information some 22 hours before the unit #3 hydrogen explosion to notify NISA and local governments that another detonation was possible. This did not happen. At 2:07 pm on March 13, operators wrote that they believed a hydrogen build-up was occurring inside the unit #3 reactor building. TEPCO's executives must have been told because of another entry at 5:20am on March 14 which says the “head office” wanted the operators to check the hydrogen level in unit #3 yet aagain. 6 hours later, unit #3 refueling deck exploded. NISA and local governments were taken entirely by surprise. Inexcusable error #2!

    If these two reports are any indication of what really happened...these documents could make America's Watergate scandal come back to mind

  • The waste water decontamination system is officially in operation, albeit at a lower capacity than was initially hoped. Regardless, all Japanese news media and JAIF are reporting this good news. The recycled waters can now be reused, minimizing the total amount of waste water being produced. The water decontaminated during the “test runs” is already being used for RPV injection in all three damaged units. Of the 16 tons per hour now being injected in all three RPVs combined, 13 tons is from the recycled waters. The system is operating at less than full capacity because the Cesium absorber components are stripping the isotopes faster than anticipated, requiring shorter full flow operations before having to replace them.

  • Mayor Jitaro Yamaguchi of Mihama Town has gone on record as being in favor of restarting two reactors located within his jurisdiction. Specifically, Mihama units #1 and #3. After meeting with Nuclear and Industrial Safety (NISA) officials on Friday, Yamaguchi said he feels all appropriate measures to avoid another Fukushima accident have been taken by the plant's operating staff, so there is no reason for them to remain idle. He adds that the official decision to restart is not his, but rather resides with the Fukui Prefecture's governor, who has voiced his concerns over restarting any of the 14 reactors in his Prefecture. However, Yamaguchi hopes his personal decision will help sway the governor and get the plants operating in order to avoid power shortages in the summer.

  • Sunday's nationally televised town meeting in Genkai for possibly restarting two reactors has produced mixed results. NISA feels it went very well. Six of the seven local residents chosen to be on the Q&A panel were not so optimistic. Some said NISA's answers to questions were less than convincing because they used terms such as “unlikely and likely”, rather than something more assuring. Others said the terminology used by NISA was difficult to understand, including a university student who said NISA was using difficult words to try and make everyone feel safe.

    These two objections are central to this site's position on public information. (1) If something is possible, say it is. If it's impossible, than say that. “Likely and unlikely” are not convincing to a world conditioned to black and white options. (2) Never use highly technical terminology when confronting the public and/or the press. It only adds to the confusions already present. Keep it as simple as possible. This site is an example that nuclear energy can be explained simply.

  • The Tokyo Institute of Public Health has proclaimed that analyses of 100 sampling locations across the city show no radiological health hazards to the population. It is difficult to identify which locations may or may not have higher exposure levels than before the Fukushima accident because many locations have never been monitored before. Regardless, the levels posted on the Institute's website agree with natural background estimates for the Tokyo Metropolitan area, and no locations come anywhere near health standard limits.

June 24

  • JAIF reports the humidity level in reactor building #2 has been lowered to between 45% and 60% (depending on location). Teams are now allowed to enter the building to take radiation readings and replace the questionable water level and pressure instruments for the Reactor Pressure Vessel, located on the ground floor. Surveillance cameras are also being installed. However, when the first team reached the second floor, they were met with higher radiation levels than the ground floor, so they left the second floor and went no further. Work scheduled to start on the second floor on Thursday will be delayed because of the higher rad levels.

  • NHK World reports the reason for both the low efficiency of the waste water decontamination system, and the higher than expected radiation levels on one of the Cesium absorbers, was a valve incorrectly being open when it should have been closed. The open valve allowed the water being pumped through the system to bypass two of the three Cesium absorber units, causing the single absorber removing more Cesium than by design. Asahi Shimbun says the total system's operating data became confused because of the mistake. TEPCO has analyzed the Cesium concentration of the 2,500 tons of water which has passed through the system, and it has been reduced by a factor of 100,000. That's what was hoped for prior to the “test” runs. Now that the system is properly aligned, a final test is being run. This last test will include a desalination component to remove salt from the sea water mixed into the volume. Due to the system's operation, water in the Waste Treatment Facility has dropped more than 40 centimeters (~16 inches), allowing more water to be transferred into the Facility from #3 Turbine Building, lowering the level in the drainage trench from #3 Turbine Building more than 12 centimeters (~5 inches). The system seems to be working as planned.

    TEPCO has also reduced flow to the #3 RPV down to 9 tons per hour, to slow the production of contaminated waters. In addition, holes caused by flying debris in all 4 turbine building roofs are being plugged to reduce rain water build-up inside the facility, and sandbags are being piled around possible trench leakage points just in case rain water leaks into the buildings enough to fill the outer drainage trenches.

  • Asahi Shimbun reports the international anti-nuclear response to Fukushima, combined with Japan's increased need for “thermal” electricity generation to fill in for their politically-idled nuclear plants, has caused a “domino effect” which is driving up prices for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). Northern hemisphere summers usually witness a drop in LNG demand and prices, but not this summer. Prices have actually risen more than 20% since March 11, due to anticipated increases in need from Germany, Switzerland, and (of course) Japan. LNG prices have risen some 200% in the past 2 years due to increased demand from the rapidly expanding economies of China and India, but this post-Fukushima effect has added to the costly trend. Japanese energy adviser Akira Ishii predicts LNG prices will sky-rocket next winter. He says the current price of $13 - $15 per million BTUs will be more than $20 per million BTUs. Russia, the world's largest exporter of LNG, is looking forward to substantial profits.

  • Another Asahi Shimbun report says Japan's Health Ministry is very displeased with 69 contractor employees being unaccounted for by TEPCO whole body scanning. They are also displeased with the contractors, who sent the 69 people to Fukushima in March and April, exhibiting “careless personnel management” which caused them to miss scanning. Twenty two contractor companies are involved with Fukushima Daiichi, but they in-turn use more than 600 sub-contractors totaling about 4,000 employees. The 22 contract companies at Fukushima number about 1,100 employees of their own. The “unaccounted for” workers are sub-contractors.

    Japan's nuclear emergency decision-making process is now known to be a dangerously confused mess. The nuclear regulatory program in Japan is internationally understood as an overly-cumbersome failure. Add to these a confounding nuclear employment system with one of the most reckless worker radiation protection systems ever witnessed. Japan's nuclear program was, and still is, a system-wide nightmare.

  • JAIF reports that topsoil removal and disposal from 41 Fukushima schools has been completed, which should allow the institutions to let them have outdoor activities. The radiation fields are now below 0.5 microsieverts per hour, which is slightly above natural background levels assumed for the region.

  • The Health Ministry has found ~ 15 residents of Fukushima to have experienced internal exposures of about 3.2 millisieverts over the two month period of mid-March to mid-May, above the ICRP guideline for the public of 3 msv. It is assumed most of the ingestion occurred in the days following the wind shifts that blew contamination into populated areas. The winds blew out to sea for the first several days of the accident at Fukushima, thus none of the citizens should have been exposed to airborne radioactivity before the winds shifted.

  • Fukushima's government has raised the number of children who will get dosimeters. It will be ~280,000. The increase is due to amplified parental complaints across the Prefecture. The government has said they will also supply air conditioners to districts asking for them in order to greatly reduce any possibility of airborne contamination inside the schools.

  • One of the Genkai nuclear plants is ready to start up. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) says all safety upgrades for emergency power reliability have been taken, including mobile power trucks and waterproofing of diesel generator enclosures. There is no reason to keep the plant from operating. The local mayor of Genkai agrees, but the Saga Prefecture governor does not. NISA will have a public meeting on Sunday, broadcast on cable TV and the internet, to explain why the plant is safe. Some anti-nuclear groups are complaining that NISA is not allowing enough public attendance to cover their full range of concerns.

The Hiroshima Syndrome to be amplified...

  • JAIF reports that the most active Japanese anti-nuclear bomb group is planning an anti-nuclear conference for July 31. The Japan Congress against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs plans to host their international anti-nuclear conference next month in Fukushima Prefecture, to emphasize their belief that nuclear weapons and reactors are equally dangerous. The selection of Fukushima Prefecture for their protest is tactless, at best. Of course, with the world-wide Hiroshima Syndrome as a profound psychological back-drop, it makes perfect psychological sense, and will surely attract considerable news media attention to give them an unprecedented international audience.

    We do not condone nuclear weapons in any way, shape, or form! We totally agree with their position on nuclear bombs. But, openly inter-connecting the horrors of nuclear detonations with nuclear power plant accidents is worse than a mere matter of misunderstanding and/or misconception. It's deplorably misleading.

June 22

  • So far so good on opening reactor building #2 for ventilation. TEPCO reports the first doors were opened Monday and the humidity just inside the doors dropped from 100%  to  ~60%. Another set of doors will be opened today, followed by opening a “cargo entrance”, which will allow ventilation of nearly the whole building. Hopefully, ventilation will allow access to the building so that RPV monitoring instruments can be repaired and/or replaced in order to have reliable water level and pressure indications.
  • TEPCO also reports they are sending water to the equipment storage pool of unit #4. The pool was discovered to have a very low water level on June 11, exposing some of the highly radioactive components to air. It is possible that the high radiation levels on the refueling deck are due to the exposed equipment. Once covered by several feet of water, the aqueous shielding will reduce the refueling deck’s radiation levels considerably and allow recovery work to resume.

The pool was discovered to have a severely low water level on June 11? It took TEPCO 10 days to report it and begin refilling the pool? What was the reason for the hold-up? Is this yet another example of a confused command-chain and an information system so paranoid that they fear revealing new discoveries? Haven’t they learned that this is no longer “business as usual”?

  • On the opening day of the IAEA conference on nuclear safety (after Fukushima), Director Yukiya Amano said the Agency’s recommendations for safety improvements are worthless if they are not applied. This rings true for Japan’s nuclear program, which could have avoided the emergency at Fukushima if they had followed all IAEA earthquake/tsunami recommendations dating back to the early 1990s. Specifically, enclosing the emergency diesels and their fuel tanks in sturdy, water-tight structures. French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet added that commitment to nuclear safety is a national responsibility, not an international responsibility, which might need to change. IAEA has admonished Japan for failing to implement a number of safety measures and recommendations during the years leading up to the Fukushima nuclear emergency. IAEA has no legal authority to require regulatory compliance. Enacting a United Nations mandate allowing for legal authority could take years, but Director Amano said the urgency of the current situation world-wide will not allow that much time, “We have to move by days, weeks, months, and I cannot wait years”.
  • NHK World reports Germany and Switzerland have politicked for tougher nuclear regulations at the IAEA conference. Although both countries have announced they are abandoning the nuclear energy option, they say that the contamination from nuclear accidents know no borders. They cannot realistically expect their neighbors to abandon nuclear energy since most of their populations do not want to lose the nuclear option.
  • Yomiuri Shimbun reports that work is moving at a “fever pitch” to build the plastic enclosure which will surround demolished reactor building #1. The giant cover will prohibit further radioactive material releases from the building. The structure is being fabricated at Port Onahama, in Iwake, Fukushima Prefecture, using more than 60 sturdy poles for ribs, and about 11,600 square meters (more than 100,000 ft2) of thick plastic sheeting. Once fully completed, it will be disassembled and shipped to Fukushima Daiichi for reassembly surrounding the reactor building. If successful, similar plastic enclosures for units #3 and 4 will soon follow.
  • Japan’s Ministry of Health says TEPCO has fallen short of the June 20 mandate for finishing the whole body exposure scans for the 3,700 workers at Fukushima Daiichi from March to mid-April. The ~125 workers who still need the scans are contractor employees. The contractors have agreed to scan 69 of the employees themselves. The rest are either currently being scanned or not available due to illness. 30 of the first 69 contractor employees, however, cannot be located. In addition, the dosimeters they were “loaned” while at Fukushima were taken with them. Further, their dosimeter readings were not recorded until the dosimeters were returned to TEPCO later in April. The contractor companies say they have no records of the employees. Regardless, all dosimeters issued by TEPCO should have remained at Fukushima and the addresses of the contractor employees should have been recorded. The Ministry calls TEPCO’s contractor exposure administration “sloppy”.
  • Mainichi Shimbun reports not all residents of Iitate, a voluntary evacuation village outside the Fukushima “no-go” zone, are leaving. Plus, not all businesses are closing. Several hundred residents of the village’s total population are staying in their homes, and nine businesses with 550 employees are remaining open because they are “indoors” and have no outdoor activity. Many of those residents staying are elderly and fear the evacuation itself might cause them more harm than the low levels of radiation currently found in the village (between 0.3 and 0.7 millisieverts per hour). Five municipal volunteers will  take turns keeping public services operating, and 370 residents will take turns patrolling the streets to deter possible burglaries.

Iitate is literally a village-wide “hot spot” where radioactive airborne isotopes concentrated due to weather and topography, then precipitated out of the atmosphere. There is virtually no airborne activity remaining, but the deposited Fukushima isotopes are producing a higher radiation field than would normally be the case with Iitate’s natural background. What the radiation level in Iitate was before the Fukushima emergency started has not been reported.

  • At a meeting with Fukushima Prefecture Governor Sato, TEPCO President Shimizu said, “We have brought distrust to nuclear power as a whole and terrible trouble to everyone in society.” He added he takes full personal responsibility for the decisions that allowed the nuclear accident to happen.
  • NHK World reports the waste water decontamination system which has worked sporadically for a week, has a 99% removal rate for Cesium isotopes. Not the 99.9% performance level they had hoped for. Regardless, the system will soon be in full operation with this reduced decontamination factor in order to stop adding more water to the basements and trenches of units #1-4.

TEPCO has reduced the water injection flows about 10% to all three reactors to slow the waste water build-up. The lower injection rates have not affected the temperatures inside RPVs #1 & #2, but temperatures inside RPV #3 are slowly rising once again.

  • All currently operating Japanese nuclear plants will be shut down by early next year for scheduled refueling and planned maintenance. Unless local government attitudes toward restarting the nukes radically changes, all nuclear plants will be idled. Power shortages across Japan will be severe and rolling blackouts a routine occurrence.

June 20

  • Japan Today, Japan Times and Asahi Shimbun say TEPCO has released a detailed 41 page time-line of what happened in the Fukushima Daiichi control rooms beginning on March 11. If the articles are correct, it seems the Plant Manager wanted to vent reactor containment pressures rather early into the emergency on March 11, but it seems he needed TEPCO home office approval. It was several hours before getting permission, but it was too late. Radiation levels were too high to send men into Units #1 and 3 for long enough to start venting, so teams were set up so each man would only be in a high radiation area for a short time. Once the venting began on Unit #1 began on March 12, the hydrogen explosion occurred an hour later. This slowed the attempts to vent Unit #3. When venting began March 14, another hydrogen explosion soon followed.

    However, the news articles have many questionable entries, such as initiating venting of unit #3 on March 13, and then initiating venting again on March 14. Were there two initiations? Why did the second cause the explosion and not the first? Plus, Unit #2 seems to have had 80 tons of cooling water pumped into the core by March 12. This certainly delayed damage to the core. Regardless, why didn't units #1 and 3 have water pumped into their cores for as long as unit #2? And, there is nothing reported about the Unit #4 explosion. The allegedly detailed time-line is full of holes and creates a whole new set of questions. We will analyze the TEPCO time-line as soon as it is available to us.

  • The waste water decontamination system which went into full operation this past Friday ran for about 5 hours, and had to be shut down. JAIF reports the reason for the shutdown was a Zeolite cartridge unexpectedly reaching its maximum radiation level. Zeolite has a chemical affinity for cesium, which is why it was chosen for use in the system. The cartridges were supposed to last for about a month each, based on the removal rate taken from the test run last week. It reached its limit about 150 times sooner than anticipated. TEPCO is trying to find out why. One possibility is the oil removal component somehow making the Zeolite more efficient. Another could be hot spots from nearby piping causing a false high radiation reading on the installed detector. But, what isn't being suggested by TEPCO...

    ...Could this possible mean that the system is doing a better job than the test run indicated it would? It's supposed to remove radioactive isotopes, so what's the problem? This is a new system, created jointly by American, French and Japanese water decontamination experts. It has never been used before, anywhere in the world. Could it actually be better than we think? Remember, the new cooling system for unit #1 SPF was supposed to cool the pool in 10-15 days, but it did the job in 10-15 hours. Could this be yet another technological underestimation that turns out to be a blessing for Fukushima?

  • TEPCO reports an equipment storage pool on the #4 refueling deck has lost a third of its water level due to evaporation. This has exposed one of the large internal reactor components stored in the pool, either the moisture separator or the steam dryer. Both have been neutron irradiated for years and are very radioactive. The uncovered component is a serious radiation source which makes unit #4 entry a problem. Water level must be recovered in order for the water to shield the radiation emitted from the component.

  • TEPCO has opened the doors to unit #2 reactor building to try and reduce the high humidity inside. Airborne activity inside the building is so low that TEPCO does not believe off-site levels will be worthy of concern.

  • JAIF reports TEPCO's new “road map” for bringing the three damaged reactors to cold shutdown includes stricter control of employee working hours, automatic recording of worker exposures, and bringing in more whole body counters to expedite monitoring for internal radioactivity in workers. It's about time! TEPCO's HP (Health Physics - mitigation of exposure levels) record has been nothing less than deplorable, up to this point. It would be interesting to find out how worker dosimetry is automatically recorded.

  • TEPCO's most recent analysis at 12 of their 13 off-shore sea water locations show no detectable Iodine (it's all decayed away) and no Cesium isotopic concentrations. One location, 8km due east of Fukushima Daiichi shows less than 10 Bq/liter of both Cesium isotopes. The health standards are 60 Bq/liter for Cs-134 and 90 Bq/l Cs-137. Also, the airborne activity level at the Fukushima Daiichi plant site is more than a factor of ten below the nuclear employee/worker threshold for wearing face masks, and is about the same as air outside the undamaged Daini plant 15 kilometers south of Daiichi. Obviously, face masks are now worn as a precaution, but not because of high airborne levels because there are none! This is all good news, and the world should be told. So, why isn't this in news media reports anywhere in the world? Why isn't this being reported by the Japanese government, the IAEA, the American NRC, or any of the other nuclear organizations that have been besieged by criticism? Why is the good news being with-held?

  • Economy and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda has asked local governments to allow restarting of nuclear power plants that were shut down for safety checks following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. He said he had confirmed that all power companies have implemented measures to avoid another serious accident, including hydrogen explosions, in keeping with new NISA regulations. He added that without the nukes now ready to go, and those that will be ready in the next month, japan can expect a major electricity short-fall by mid-summer.

  • Fukushima Prefecture's government will undertake an unprecedented study of the effects of the nuclear emergency on their citizens. They will monitor a representative number of residents from the Prefecture for a period of at least 30 years, not only the external radiation exposures but also internal isotopic depositions using whole body counters. Asahi Shimbun says this differs considerably from the follow-up public exposure monitoring after the Chernobyl disaster, where only external exposures were tracked. Since it will be impossible to track possible Fukushima health effects with the entire Prefectural population of some 2 million, they will first begin looking at those living it the higher exposure areas of Iitate and Namie Cities, and then subsequently expand it to areas of lower radiation levels outside the evacuation zone. The actual data will be compared to the estimated exposure data which has been used to date. All Fukushima residents will be sent questionnaires asking them to tell everything they did and everywhere they went for the period between March 11 and March 25, when the vast majority of the releases from Fukushima Daiichi were occurring. The results of this poll will determine how many residents will ultimately be selected for the study.

  • Japan Today reports that Wikipedia stopped all anonymous editing of the Fukushima Accident for several hours after the emergency began. Wiki's spokespersons say it was because they were flooded with thousands of attempts to report fearsome stories that were of questionable validity. Wiki was concerned these frightening entries might cause wide-spread panic, so they shut it down completely until the flood of attempted editings subsided. Way to go Wiki!


June 17

  • Japan's Atomic Industrial Forum reports work has begun on installing a new spent fuel cooling system for SPF #3 using installed piping for cycling water through an external heat exchanger. It will be very similar to the one now being successfully run on the unit #2 SPF. TEPCO is still trying to devise a SPF cooling system for unit #4 SPF, which was discovered to have badly mangled installed piping located on the demolished refueling deck.

  • Final tests of the decontamination system for reactor and turbine building waste waters have have run into another snag. An unexpected leak was found in the new system during final testing. The replacement of a leaking valve on one of the Cesium removal containers will delay the full operation of the system until later today. The system should be operating at full capacity by Saturday, at the latest. Radio-chemical analysis during the test run, using all system components, indicates contamination in the waste waters gets lowered by a factor of 10,000. TEPCO says there is still about 10 days of storage space at the power complex should any other problems emerge.

  • TEPCO reports the scale modeling of massive plastic enclosures for reactor buildings 1, 3 & 4 is complete. Actual construction of the the first could start as early as next week. The ~10,000 square meter enclosures are expected to eliminate the potential for future airborne releases from the damaged structures. Unit #2 is not being designated for an enclosure because the outer walls of the building were not demolished by a hydrogen explosion and can be sealed in a less elaborate fashion.

  • NHK World tells us TEPCO reports the decontamination system for airborne radioactive isotopes has lowered the concentrations enough to open the access doors to reactor building #2. The airborne concentrations have been reduced by more than 90% inside the structure. However, the decontamination system has had very little impact on the high humidity in the building. They hope opening the access doors will be enough to ventilate the inside air and reduce the moisture levels. TEPCO feels opening the doors will have little radiological impact on the air outside and in the immediate vicinity of the building. There should be no above-limits release beyond the power complex perimeter.

  • Some ten of the utility companies in Japan that have nuclear power plants say they will soon be installing “vents” on the roof tops of their outer containment buildings. They say this should allow release of hydrogen build-ups in the (unlikely) event of another massive natural calamity. They don't want any more refueling deck explosions.

  • The Mainichi Shimbun reports the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has finally admitted there were never any dry spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi. The first week of the emergency in March, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczco insisted one spent fuel pool was dry and another had a level so low that fuel bundles were sticking out of the water. Bill Borchardt, NRC Executive Director of Operations, said the new video footage of unit #4 SPF showed that the pool was never dry, which closed the book on Jaczko's March speculations. Borchardt called this “extremely good news” and that the situation with #4 SPF “may not have been as serious as was believed.” Commissioner Jaszko has declined commet. He has been under fire for the last week under allegations of misleading the NRC's staff relative to his trying to close the Commission's nuclear waste disposal efforts in New Mexico.

    The NRC also said their initial suggestion that the Japanese widen their evacuation radius to 80 kilometers (50 miles) was based on their belief in SPF #4 being dry. NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell says the Commission still believes their recommendation of a 50 mile evacuation radius is appropriate, but not over the SPF issue. Meanwhile, the NRC is currently investigating existing station blackout regulations in light of what happened at Fukushima. JAIF reports initial findings include (1) not all American plants have met the technological guidelines the NRC has issued related to station blackout, and (2) Fukushima-inspired operator training upgrades for extreme emergencies has not been fully undertaken. The task force working on the project expects to file its formal recommendations by mid-July. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) says the NRC also feels that existing severe accident mitigation systems in America would reduce the effects of a full station blackout.

  • Most Japanese news media and JAIF report the “hot spot” situation outside the 20km no-go zone is becoming more intense. Localized evacuations are possible. It makes no sense to evacuate entire communities over high radiation readings limited to a small area. In most cases, the possible evacuations would be specific to a few houses near the hot spots (in some cases only one home each). In all cases, worst-case hot spot exposures have been measured to be just above the 20msv per year emergency standard, which we maintain is not actually risky to anyone when compared to much higher background levels around the world. However, this oft-attacked safety limit for exposure, combined with a general public fear of radiation at any level, makes consideration of localized evacuations politically correct.

  • NEI says the sea water decontamination system at Fukushima Daiichi is in full operation. During the test run, zeolite filters removed 20-30% of the radioactive isotope from the waters. NEI adds that TEPCO is attempting to find a way to improve the decontamination factor.

  • An Asahi Shimbun article reveals that fear of radiation is creating a new life-style in Fukushima City. More than 200,000 residents have had scans for radiation exposure since March 13. In addition, many people also have their pets get checked out. One person wanted a pet rock checked! Many persons are getting numerous checks, some just for peace of mind and others for business reasons. For example, a City taxi driver gets a “full-body sweep” every day so he can show his patrons a certificate of safety.

    Some residents were found to have small levels of contamination on skin and clothing between March 13 and March 29. They were asked to shower and have their clothes washed to remove the traces of radioactive dust. Once re-scanned, they were all released with no activity remaining. Since March 29, none of the citizens getting scanned have been contaminated. Regardless, the nine screening stations across Fukushima City perform as many as 500 “sweeps” a day. Asahi says what began as a confirmation of exposure to contamination has become a process to ease people's fear of radiation.

    When we add this to the high sales of portable radiation detection devices across Japan, the City's decision to have children wear dosimeters at school, and a major upswing in background radiation monitoring points (somewhere between 100 and 1000) across the Prefecture, we see the business of radiation fear in Fukushima City is considerable. The good part of this is that the citizens of Fukushima Prefecture are getting informed about radiation levels around them, possibly creating one of the most detailed background radiation surveys ever recorded. Now that environmental I-131 has decayed to near-zero, Fukushima City is essentially back to natural exposure levels. Will the universities and government of Japan use this opportunity to educate the public about the actual biological effects of ionizing radiation? Only time will tell.


June 15

First, there's some international good and bad news. The bad news first...Italy has passed a public referendum and their people have overwhelmingly said “NO!” to the country's development of nuclear energy. However, they had already pulled out of the nuclear picture with a similar referendum after Chernobyl's disaster 25 years ago. All Italian plants in operation before Chernobyl have been in the process of sequential decommissioning for several years. Their closure and decommissioning was called a “50 billion Euro mistake” by then-economic minister Claudio Skajola. It seems Italy has joined into the Fukushima-fueled no-nukes-bandwagon in Europe. Sweden and the Netherlands have already shied away from nuclear development. The Swedish plan to expand their hydro-electric and renewables programs, and Netherlands with renewables alone. In May, Switzerland decided to phase out their 5 nuclear plants and replace them with hydro and renewables, too. But Germany...they plan to replace their nukes with coal-burners. Deplorable, to say the least.

Now the good news. China is moving ahead with its nuclear energy program undaunted. 12 new pressurized water reactor systems (PWR) are either under construction or firmly planned. The first two units at Yangjaing are more than two weeks ahead of schedule, with the second steel containment dome, more than 100 feet in diameter, put in place in early May. (See “Chernobyl Disaster” page for description of a domed containment) The first unit's containment outer concrete shield building is nearly finished, with heavy equipment installation of reactor system components in full swing. There will be six PWRs at Yangjaing planned for operation by 2017. In addition, the first two domed containment buildings at Haiyang are well under-way, with the tall, more than 100 ft. in diameter containment rings being put in place. The first two units are planned for operation by 2015. Units 3 & 4 have been approved by the government and will start construction soon. The final two units are expected to be approved by the end of the year and construction will begin soon there-after.

Mean while, with the three RPVs at Fukushima remaining in a relatively stable condition...

  • The number of reported high worker exposures at Fukushima continues to grow. The total is now over thirty. Eight workers are in excess of the 250 millisievert emergency worker exposure limit, and 23 others at greater than 100 msv exposure. All exposures combine internal and external measurements. The Health Ministry has ordered TEPCO to release the workers from duty and send them for a health exam. The Health Ministry has again admonished TEPCO for the unnecessary delay in having the workers examined, since all of them were exposed and/or internally contaminated during the hectic mid-March period at the plant complex. Giving them whole body scans more than 45 days after the fact, and delaying the reporting of their results another month is “unacceptable.” The Ministry further ordered TEPCO to scan all workers who have yet to be examined with the whole body counters (some 600 out of 3,700) by June 20. In addition, NISA has ordered TEPCO to check the exposures of the more than 4,000 others who spent some time at the plant complex since March 11 but are not company or contracted employees.

    The record TEPCO is establishing relative to exposure mitigation is disappointing and inexcusable. This will be addressed in full with a future update, after all evidence is in.

  • JAIF and IAEA report that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) needs to be removed from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, given full independence, and have legal jurisdiction over the Japanese nuclear utilities, similar to America's NRC. If and when this will happen is currently unknown. Japan's existing nuclear safety standards are woefully inadequate for extreme accidents, and do not measure up to international standards. They need a major nuclear safety over-haul. It's not only with earthquake/tsunami protection, either. Regulatory upgrades need to be created to cover all Beyond Design Basis Accident (BDBA) scenarios, especially those that can possibly lead to a prolonged loss of power.

    To speed up the political process, Prefectural governments in Japan that have nuclear plants are putting some heavy pressure on the government. First, it must be mentioned that the Saga governor has eased his stand on not re-starting Genkai units 2 & 3. He now says "I have no timetable (on the issue). Though we are also discussing about the necessity (of electricity), we want to put top priority on the confirmation of safety." Asahi Shimbun reports many other Prefectural governors are also holding back on giving permission for nuclear plant restarts until the government upgrades safety standards and has all nuclear plants meet the new standards. New mobile power generators and portable back-up pumps mandated at the end of March are not enough. Prefectural governors can legally block re-starting of operational units coming out of refueling and maintenance outages, as well as stop the initial start-up of new units. They cannot order shutdowns of currently operating units. But, presently only 19 of Japan's 54 nukes are operating, with the rest shut down due to planned outage, automatic shutdown due to the earthquake, and (of course) the six Fukushima Daiichi units. Five more are scheduled for regular outages by mid-summer. Unless the regulatory situation in Japan takes a major positive turn, there will be nation-wide power shortages through-out the summer.

    While we still feel denying Japan the electricity critically needed for earthquake and tsunami recovery is a mistake, we also sympathize with what Japan's Prefectural governors are trying to do. Japan must upgrade their nuclear safety program, from the bottom up. Occasionally one must fight fire with fire, and it seems this is what the governors are doing. They do not want the plants shut down permanently, but they do want the government to do act now, and not whenever political expediency dictates.

  • TEPCO's decontamination device designed to strip water-borne isotopes from the liquid wastes building up in the four reactor and turbine buildings, is testing quite well. Preliminary operation using only American absorptive material reduced concentrations by a factor of 3,000. Next, a French removal process, using “special chemicals” will begin testing today. The two processes will be run in series, one after the other, to remove the maximum levels possible.

  • Japan Today reports that Fukushima City, the Prefectural capital, will be issuing all children dosimeters to wear to school beginning in September. This will number more than 34,000 pre-school, primary and secondary students. Parents with children under 3 years old (too young for pre-school) will be supplied dosimeters upon request. There will not be enough time to get this huge number of dosimeters for the summer because of the exceptional sales of personal dosimetry since March 11. The dosimetric cup-board is literally bare! The nearby city of Date has immediately followed suit, which will stretch the dosimetric short-fall even more.

    Does this mean the children are in danger before September? Of course not. The Iodine is essentially gone due to its relatively short half-life. The levels of Cesium and Strontium would not hurt anyone, including newborns. But, the parents don't know who to believe with the biological effects of radiation. The Hiroshima Syndrome emerges once again.

  • JAIF reports one of the workers at Fukushima forgot to put a contamination filter on his mask before going to work last Friday. TEPCO reports the worker, in his 60s, worked outside Reactor Building #2 for two hours before he noticed he was missing his necessary filter. TEPCO says they will look into whether or not bad management caused this error.

    WHAT? Sound Health Physics practices eliminate the possibility of this happening in the first place! Before anyone enters a radiologically controlled area, a detailed examination of personnel safety attire must be performed. Obviously it wasn't, in this case. Of course it's mismanagement! Who's TEPCO trying to fool?

  • Radioactive hot spots in the city of Date are becoming a grave concern. JAIF reports numerous locations showing radiation fields which could (if someone were there 24/7) exceed the 20 msv/yr public exposure limit. Local residents might more reasonably exceed the 1 msv/yr level recommended by the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP).

    The ICRP limits are conservative estimates based entirely on the fictional Linear, No Threshold Hypothesis (i.e. no-safe level). While the possible levels of exposure in Date are greater than the ICRP limits, they pale in comparison to natural background levels experienced by millions around the world, which have never hurt anyone.

  • More than 40 lawyers across Japan are forming a group to file a lawsuit against their government demanding they abandon nuclear energy. They plan to become a legally recognized organization by mid-July, and will file their suit soon there-after.

  • NHK world reports 47% of the Japanese public now want fewer nuclear plants for Japan, 18% percent want to abandon nuclear energy entirely, but 27% want to maintain the present nuclear energy supply system. One percent say they want nuclear energy expanded. NHK says the main reason for all the nuclear anxiety is dissatisfaction with the government concerning nuclear energy, with 74% saying they disapprove of their government's handling of the Fukushima emergency.

June 13

  • One of the most important items concerning a possible cause of the accident at Fukushima, contained in the recent Japanese report to the IAEA, was a conflict of interest in Japanese nuclear regulatory processes. NISA, the agency with the responsibility of setting and enforcing safety regulations, is a sub-group of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. When the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) went public with “beyond design-basis accident” (BDBA) recommendations in 1992, NISA ran a cost-benefit analysis on upgrading existing tsunami protection to meet the new recommendations. It was decided that the potential benefit did not justify the cost, and their nuclear plants were judged sufficiently safe without the upgrades. NISA was also felt there was no scientifically-credible reason to think an earthquake beyond 8.2 (Richter Scale) or a tsunami of more than 5.7 meters in height was possible. The NRC recommendations called for protecting plants from calamities up to 100% worse than established worst-case scenarios. NISA, and the Ministry they are a part of, felt this was statistically and financially unreasonable.

    The single-most important NRC upgrade not implemented, relative to the Fukushima emergency, was enclosing all emergency diesel generators and their fuel tanks in sturdy, safety-level, waterproof structures. As a result of not upgrading, the emergency diesels for units 1-4 at Fukushima Daiichi were “inundated” by the tsunami and the unprotected fuel tanks were washed away. Had the upgrades been made, it is likely that the complete loss of power would not have happened. The emergency at Fukushima Daiichi could have been avoided. It should be noted that the NRC made their BDBA upgrades mandatory for all American nuclear plants nearly 10 years ago.

  • The report to the IAEA also says 200,000 people have been screened for health effects since the quake/tsunami, and no health effects related to radiation exposure has been observed. More than a thousand children have been screened for possible I-131 build-up, with no thyroid issues discovered. Small levels of Iodine were detected in some of the children, but the levels varied between “trace” and “not significant”.

  • JAIF reports that the initial testing of the new system designed to decontaminate the waters in the turbine buildings and trenches, has hit a few snags. When the four units was turned on Friday, water was seen leaking from some of the piping connections on one of them. The test was stopped and all connections on all four systems were re-tightened. Sunday morning, the test resumed and one of the four units did not show any flow, indicating a blockage somewhere in its system. The reason for the lack of flow is being investigated. It seems the other three units are testing reasonably well. It is hoped that some or all of the units will be ready for service by June 15, as planned. The test runs are using non-contaminated waters.

  • Workers have entered the decimated unit #4 refueling deck for the first time. The spent fuel pool (SPF) has been discovered to be warmer than expected, at ~ 80oC. Also, a hole caused by flying explosion debris has been seen on the deck, but the location has not been reported. Plus, the cooling water supply piping to the SPF has been “mangled” making a speedy return to “normal” SPF cooling impossible. Replacement of the mangled pipe will be time-consuming because considerable debris and rubble will have to be removed first. It is not known if there might be a viable alternative piping system that might be used to resume normal SPF cooling.

  • Mainichi Daily News reports the fires that erupted on unit #4 refueling deck, after its hydrogen explosion, were probably from a “power generator” located on the deck. The first pictures taken by plant workers (above) show the walls near the generator blacked and charred, indicating the generator fire(s). The generator is not an emergency diesel. Regardless, this indicates that numerous reports of two spent fuel pool fires published since mid-March are without substance, which verifies what we have been saying all along. There were no spent fuel pool fire at Fukushima.

  • JAIF reports the sea water decontamination system has been started and is running at full water-flow capacity. However, the desired percentage of radioactive Cesium removed is less than expected. About 30% is being stripped from the flow by zeolite filters. The partially decontaminated water is being returned to its source location, so there will be no release to the sea. The “deconned” water will dilute the concentrations inside the silt fences slowly, at a steady rate of 30 tons per hour.

  • The Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) reports that there has been a 17% decrease in crime since March 11, with respect to the three most-damaged Prefectures; Iwate, Miyage, and Fukushima. However, burglaries in Fukushima Prefecture have increased by 40% over the last three months, compared to the same time-frame last year. Most have occurred in the 20-30km radius from Fukushima Daiichi where many people have left voluntarily. However, 42 burglaries have been reported within the 20km “no-go” zone since May 1. There may have been even more, since these were reported by the relatively few residents allowed into the 20km zone to get personal effects and/or reclaim their cars. Clearly, fear of radiation has not deterred burglars from increasing their activity.

  • NHK World reports that the significant majority of those who have been evacuated due to the earthquake/tsunami and nuclear emergency are dissatisfied with recovery efforts. The biggest issue seems to be whether or not rebuilding after the tsunami is going smoothly. Only 5% say it is, 15% say it is to some extent, 29% say they see little progress, and a whopping 48% say they see no progress. Professor Yoshiteru Murosaki, Kwansei Gakuin University, says the reason for the negative opinions is because the evacuees are not included in the recovery effort, so they see nothing that is actually happening. He recommends allowing evacuees to take part in the process.

  • The Ministry of Health announces that all tap water supplies in Japan are safe to drink, with all prior restrictions removed.

  • The Ministry also says they will concede to pressures from evacuated Fukushima farmers and test the soils on their farms. The farmers are frustrated with estimates of the contamination levels keeping them from their properties. They want to know for sure. (So do we.)

  • From the NISA post of daily conditions... The temperatures for unit 1 & 2 RPVs remain constant and unit #3 RPV has stabilized at ~155 oC at the feedwater nozzle and ~180 oC at the bottom vessel head. Still no reason for why water flow was reduced May 31-June 1 with temperatures allowed to rise.

Hiroshima Syndrome update...

  • JPA reports a number of illegal business scams have emerged in Fukushima Prefecture. Fake drugs and pure spring water are being sold as effective medicines against radioactive substances. The Prefectural police forces have been alerted and told to make arrests. Japanese “snake-oil salesmen” have begun to prey on fear of radiation.

  • Numerous Japanese news media and JAIF report of a relatively large anti-nuclear protest demonstration in Tokyo over the weekend. Police estimate that 2,000 people took part. While some of the attendees were protesting for the first time, the news media identifies most of them as traditional (habitual) dissenters who routinely show up for technological and social protests.

  • Muck-raking Japanese Journal Sekai has run an article calling for the immediate shut-down of all nukes because no decision has been made on nuclear waste disposal. The authors then add “...there is no solution for nuclear waste disposal”. Most of the article is literally a re-hash of nuclear waste misconceptions dating back to Three Mile Island. They now add the spent fuel pool issues at Fukushima, and assert that the over-heated spent fuel at Fukushima experienced “recriticality”, and imply this makes spent fuel much more dangerous than previously thought. They maintain the threat of spent fuel is so dangerous that its production can no longer be tolerated.

    The entire article literally drips with similar confabulations and exaggerations, plus it repeatedly promotes the “unsafe at any dose” myth of radiation exposure. Their report is not without its modicum of merit, however. Over-filled spent fuel pools can be avoided, and should be. Our position of recycling spent fuel, returning the good fuel to the reactors, and saving the fission products as a resource for future generations, would resolve the spent-fuel constipation issue.


<< Later Posts | Earlier Posts >>