January 2, 2012
- A new Fukushima investigative panel will begin its work this month. The panel was assembled by Japan's Parliament (Diet) and is designed to work independent of the government itself. The prior investigative panel, which issued its preliminary report recently, was not designed to be politically independent. The new panel will interview all “interim” reports that have been issued by the government and TEPCO, as well as
hold extensive interviews with all persons involved. One key area of focus will be the accident response of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and senior cabinet officials who influenced Kan's decisions during the crisis. Panel Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa says that the panel will also focus on problems the government
and TEPCO were unable to address. (NHK World)
- The new panel is designed to verify the facts concerning the information available on Fukushima. In addition to Chair Kurokawa, the panel's nine other members include Nobel Laureate Koichi Tanaka
(Chemistry) and experts on nuclear reactors, a seismologist, a specialist in radiation treatment, a former prosecutor and a representative from areas affected by the nuclear crisis. At least one antinuclear proponent is on the panel. Excluded were bureaucrats and other individuals previously involved with
nuclear administration. In addition to the above, the panel is required by law to make proposals on how to prevent nuclear accidents from happening again and steps to reduce damage caused by contamination. It will also have the right to ask the Diet to exert its legal power of investigation on governmental affairs.
Further, the panel will investigate the direct causes of the crisis, and whether anyone failed to take proper measures to resolve the crisis or prevent it from worsening. This is the first time the government has assembled an investigative panel based on Japanese law. All ruling parties have formally agreed that this investigation will embrace political neutrality. (Yomiuri Shimbun) The prior investigative panel was assembled by Prime Minister Kan and his Cabinet, with no legal power and no promise of political neutrality. There will surely be divergent views that will result from the two team's work. How that will be handled will be very interesting, to say the least.
- On Sunday, Japan’s new radiological decontamination law went into effect. The law requires decontamination for 108 municipalities that have locations measuring radiation exposure above 1 millisievert per year beyond natural background level. The cleanup costs will be covered by the Tokyo government. The municipalities reside across eight prefectures including Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba. In conjunction with the law going into effect, the Environment Ministry opened an office in Fukushima City, with a staff of ~60, to focus specifically on Fukushima Prefecture cleanup. This winter, the office’s teams will decontaminate infrastructure inside the two evacuation zones. This will allow low-exposure access for teams to begin full-scale decontamination work by the end of March. However, fears of waste material storage and local officials playing on these fears could extend the delay far into the future. (Mainichi Shimbun) It’s about time! Radiophobic fears have
delayed the beginning of cleanup work for far too long. It has taken the passage of law to get the work started after nine months of stagnancy.
- An earthquake reported to be 7 on the Richter scale shook Japan Sunday afternoon. The epicenter was some 370 miles southeast of Tokyo near uninhabited Torishima Island in the Pacific. Tremors were detected the entire length of the Japanese main islands causing no damage and very little infrastructure interruption anywhere. However, all news outlets focused on damaged Fukushima Daiichi power station, as well as all nukes along the Eastern coast. There was no damage to any of them. (NHK World)
- 46% of the residents who left the Evacuation Preparation Zone (EPZ) have returned home. The EPZ lies outside the 20km no-go zone and the northwest evacuation corridor of between 20 and 30 kilometers. The EPZ was designated as a “just in case things get worse” evacuation area. The government announced it had lifted the evacuation order three months ago. Of the 59,000 residents who fled, more than 28,000 are back at home. Many of the 54% who remain in temporary shelters come from seaside communities that were swept away by the tsunami. Others who have not returned to the EPZ say lack of local jobs in their former communities and radiation fears are their greatest concerns. In Minamisoma City, ~25km north-northwest of Fukushima Daiichi, 52% have returned (24,000 out of 46,000). (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion says there is a 30% chance of a Richter scale-9 earthquake in the next 30 years. This is the first time the probability on such a severe earthquake has been run in Japan. Prior to march 11, 2011, it was felt that a Richter scale-9 earthquake was too improbable to consider. The government says the type of quake they are pointing to is not the type experienced on March 11, which was a subduction-zone quake producing a massive tsunami. Another March 11-type quake has a zero probability over the next 30 years because all the energy which was built up along the subduction fault has been released. The new prediction concerns a massive “slip-zone”
quake along the Japan Trench which runs parallel to the length of the island nation under the Pacific Ocean. (Asahi Shimbun) Slip-zone earthquakes are not known to be tsunami inducers because there is no uplifting of the sea floor.
- Citizen's groups and the local government of Kashiwa are working together on decontamination efforts. This marks a significant milestone for the city. Back in June, the city announced "The radiation [from Fukushima] is at a non-problematic level," and citizens grew frustrated with a lack of action. Largely due to internet sources saying radiation in Kashiwa was high and the city was lying, residents circulated a petition to try and force the government to remove any detectable Fukushima contamination from schools and public facilities. They got over 10,000 signatures. This shocked the city officials, resulting in formal actions to comply with the resident's wishes. A cooperative effort to decontaminate schools has begun. However, public distrust continues. In addition to city monitoring teams, a group of around 10 people are radiation measurements in parks using the same methods as city employees. They send the data to the city at the same time as the government monitors. Representative Teruo Kawada, 36, said, "We want to continue living in Kashiwa with our children. We won't depend only on the government, and we want to do the work cheerfully, not solemnly." It is expected the cooperative effort will take three years and cost 3.3 billion yen. (Mainichi Shimbun) Kashiwa is ~190 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi and located in the less-than-10 becquerels per square centimeter zone. Even the most concentrated areas of contamination are many
times less than anything warranting decontamination efforts. Back in June, the most fear-inducing internet source was a You-Tube posting of someone using a hand-held monitor which showed higher than expected radiation levels (~5 microsieverts) coming from road gratings near schools. In each case, roads were
made of material containing crushed granite and other naturally radioactive materials. Some school rooftops made of the same material showed the same readings. While the levels were mostly due to the construction materials, the You-Tube video voice-over said it all came from Fukushima. Once again,
radiophobia has caused unnecessary fear and a local government a lot of money.
- In what might become a common sight across Japan, a “Cesium scanning facility” was opened in Kashiwa City in October. It has become a profitable business. More than 3,000 residents have had groceries, garden materials, and other commodities scanned as of the end of 2011. Motohiro Takamatsu, a software ngineer, saw the opportunity to make some money off of radiation fears, and it has worked, "To have Kashiwa become contaminated with radiation, that was a big deal for me," He imported several gamma spectroscopy machines from Germany to equip the shop. Customers can check items themselves at a price of 980 yen per 20 minutes. (Japan Times)
Today's Fukushima updates begin with a stark example of news media “spin-doctoring”. The following summaries are from two separate sources, both of which are among the most widely-read newspapers in Japan. The juxtaposing of the two shows how one news event can be spun into two differing conceptions.
- Environment Minister Goshi Hosono has asked Fukushima Prefecture to allow a temporary contaminated waste storage facility to be built in Futaba County, home of Fukushima Daiichi. Hosono met with
Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and the mayors of eight towns and villages in the county. Sato told Hosono he would respect opinions of local residents on whether or not to accept the request. Hosono cited two reasons for the government's plan. First, several locations in Futaba county have radiation levels of 100 millisieverts per year or more, which will make relocation of the population unreasonable even if the locations were fully decontaminated. Second, the prospective sites are close to the areas of highest contamination levels, so transport of the waste material will pose little or no risk. After the meeting, Hosono said, "I received some positive opinions." The government hopes to buy up all the possible properties before building the facilities. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- On the other hand, another news source put it this way…Hosono's request is reported to have, “...sent ripples of concern through local governments and residents in Fukushima Prefecture.” Evacuees of Futaba County who hope to eventually return home are firmly against the request, while those who are resigned to permanent relocation support it. The negative responses took the lead. Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba feels the facility will keep everyone away and said, "Residents will not be able to return because the negative image is so strong." Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo doesn't trust the Tokyo government and fears the waste facility will be used permanently, "We want the government to legally guarantee (that the facility will be used only for 30 years)." A 60-year-old farmer said, "Is it fair that we send electricity to Tokyo but waste will be put in Futaba county? If we accept it, no one will be able to live here." The one positive response posted at the end of the report is a woman who has given up hope of ever returning to Futaba
and says the government might as well put their waste facility there. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- An unidentified “nuclear expert” has said that design flaws in the depressurization (venting) piping between unit's #3 and #4 caused their hydrogen explosions. There are interconnections in the common discharge ducting between the units that lead directly to the fourth floor air conditioning ductwork of both units. The air conditioning system interconnects to the refueling deck in each reactor building. The expert said, “Under that structure, venting could turn into a self-bomb.” In unit #3, a “back-flow prevention valve” designed to keep exhaust gasses out of the air conditioning system may have been forced partially open by high flow during the several venting episodes of March 13th and 14th. The expert said this could have been the invasive pathway for the hydrogen which exploded and demolished the unit #3 refueling deck. He further said system diagrams show no such back-flow prevention on unit #4's interconnection to its air conditioning system. Since units #3 and #4 have common ductwork leading to the external exhaust stack, the venting of unit #3 could have sent hydrogen gas into the unit #4 reactor building and caused its hydrogen explosion. NISA, Tokyo's nuclear “watchdog”, cannot deny the possibility. On Dec. 22nd TEPCO says they found “traces” of gas inflow in the unit #3 air conditioning ductwork, but not enough to cause the hydrogen explosion. NISA says they are now developing new regulations requiring all primary containments to have an independent venting pathway separate from other neighboring units. They also say they will require hydrogen back-flow protection for all interconnections to venting pathways. (Asahi Shimbun)
- The membership of Tokyo government’s Fukushima investigative panel is as follows, with summary credentials… Yotaro Hatamura (chairman and professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo), Kazuo Oike (former president of KyotoUniversity), Shizuko Kakinuma (National Institute of Radiological Sciences'
Research Center for Radiation Protection), Yukio Takasu (former ambassador to the United Nations), Toshio Takano (former prosecutor, Nagoya High Public Prosecutors Office), Yasuro Tanaka (former chief judge of the Sapporo High Court), Yoko Hayashi (lawyer), Michio Furukawa (mayor of Kawamatamachi,
Fukushima Prefecture), Kunio Yanagida (writer), Hitoshi Yoshioka (vice president of Kyushu University). (Yomiuri Shimbun) As we have said previously, the panel is devoid of anyone with nuclear operating experience. Thus, any conclusions drawn concerning operator actions are open to criticism.
- One of the points open to criticism concerns the unit #1 Isolation Condenser (IC). Whether or not it was fully operational just after the station blackout struck, without the knowledge of control room staff and plant management, is not the issue here. The panel concluded that if plant staff had realized the loss of IC cooling function, alternative cooling could have been started and the meltdown prevented. (Yomiuri Shimbun via michele Kearney) However, for unit #1 the only alternative would have beeen depressurizing the RPV and using low pressure diesel-driven fire pumps to maintain water level in the core. What the
panel failed to consider (for political reasons?) was even if the situation with IC was instantly discovered, there was no way for them to quickly depressurize long enough to get low pressure flow to the core. Depressurization of the RPV would dump steam into the primary containment’s torus, which would have to be vented to the outside atmosphere after continual RPV depressurization was occurring. By law, venting could not begin until local evacuations had been verified. The plant manager and local officials initially decided to evacuate a 2 kilometer radius. As it turns out, the Prime Minister unilaterally expanded
the radius to 3 kilometers, effectively doubling the number of people who had to be removed from the surrounding area. In addition, the P.M. ordered venting to be delayed until his staff held a Press Conference at 3am, March 12th. By 3am, the meltdown was unquestionably in full progression. The mandated evacuation itself was not completed until 9am, March 12th,some six hours after the press conference in Tokyo. In other words, rapid identification if IC dysfunction and preparations for alternative low pressure pumping supply would have in no way stopped the progression to meltdown! If there’s a primary culprit in the meltdown of unit #1, it’s politics. Is the panel missing something here, or are they protecting the man who assembled them…Prime Minister Naoto Kan?
- TEPCO has reported that one of the several operational temperature detectors inside unit #1 is malfunctioning. It's indicated temperature has swung back and forth more than 20 oC since December 22nd. The other detectors have indicated no such changes, so the one monitor in-question must be indicating incorrectly.
The executive summary of the government panel's investigative report on the Fukushima accident released Monday, is a severe disappointment. It does draw a few conclusions that are unquestionably correct. Pointing a guilty finger at the nation's overly complicated regulatory system (with no legal power to enforce safety
improvements) as culpable in making the accident possible, makes all the sense in the world. The report states, "The government's nuclear regulatory body did not require Tepco to take specific measures, such as additional construction, after they received simulation results from Tepco in 2008 and early in 2011 regarding the impact of tsunamis on their facilities." We also agree with the findings that a lack of extreme accident procedures relative to manual operation of valves and pumps, and inadequate operator training with respect to a complete station blackout, are clearly the fault of TEPCO.
But many other judgments are clearly the result of politically motivated agendas which conform to misinformed public opinion and irresponsible speculations published in the Press. It seems the panel was never intended to produce conclusions predicated on sound operational practices or nuclear engineering expertise. No-one with any of these most-important credentials sits within the group. The group is headed by a university professor specializing in engineering failures, which is the closest to appropriate expertise we can find. The rest of the panel is made up of seismologists, former diplomats, and judges. Is this the kind of panel we can trust to make technological and operational judgments that we can hang our hats on? Of course not! Thus, we can, and should, ignore allegations of operator error causing the meltdowns and hydrogen explosions of units #1 and #3. These conclusions are actually quite preposterous when one looks at the previously available evidence. Appearance holds greater weight than reality with the panel members, largely because they probably can't tell the difference! Further, the panel supports the politically desirable position that operator error caused the developments which transpired after March 11. They are clearly trying to downplay irrational government decisions and focus the burden of blame on TEPCO for the accident. It seems the report is intended to lessen the distrust the Japanese now hold for the Tokyo government.
We also find the lack of pre-tsunami earthquake information relative to physical impacts on the accident wholly
misleading and, again, politically directed. This is clear intent to keep alive the notion of the earthquake being the cause of the nuclear emergency, not the tsunami. It is unthinkable that an objective panel of investigators would have interviewed more than 450 individuals intimately involved with what happened at the crippled power station, as well as the operating staff on-shift when the earthquake hit, and not have been provided with enough information to hypothesize the possible effect of temblor damage. It seems the lack of earthquake damage evidence did not fit the panel’s political agenda, so they decided to say nothing at all. The seismic experts on the panel should have been able to deduce something. Not that they could have drawn firm conclusions, but saying nothing at all about possible quake contributions is a perverse mockery.
We must not forget that the panel was created by Kan back in May when his political and public standing was at an
all-time low. He never wanted to include operational and technical expertise in the group. Politicians always try to populate investigative panels with individuals they can trust to draw the conclusions least damaging to the boss,
especially when the leader is under heavy fire. In this case, Kan hit the jackpot. We are concerned that the final report will do its best to absolve the former Prime Minister of all possible malfeasance during the first two weeks of
the emergency at Fukushima Daiichi.
Now for some related updates...
- TEPCO has gone on record as being “dissatisfied” with the investigative panel's report. They mainly focus on the panel's conclusion that the utility should have made precautionary safety upgrades before the natural disaster hit, “It is not exactly right to say that we should have done so before March 11, although in hindsight the steps we had taken were not sufficient," a TEPCO official told a press conference. TEPCO contends the 2008 study of a possible massive tsunami was based on hypothetical calculations that could not be supported by a scientific consensus, at that point in time. The utility also says plant operations experts were in-fact working on steps to be taken during potentially serious accident to facilitate containment depressurization. TEPCO maintains the report fails to consider either of these bodies of evidence. (Mainichi Shimbun) We should be aware the 2008 tsunami estimate was for a 10 meter wave. The actual tsunami that hit Fukushima was 14 meters high. It is thus unlikely that upgrades in 2008 would have averted the accident.
- Another one of the problems found by the panel was a lack of cooperative information flow between the Prime Minister's team on the fifth floor of the government office building, and the crisis management team
in the basement. Both groups were at fault for not keeping each other informed on their findings. It seems that SPEEDI, the computer program for predicting contamination deposition, was up and running as soon as power to the building was restored on March 12th. However, the crisis management team did not make
SPEEDI data known to the Prime Minister's group on the fifth floor until March 16th. The higher contamination levels outside the 20km radius, to the northwest, were predicted by SPEEDI and could have made evacuations more expedient if it were used. (Japan Times)
- The report further claims that the lead nuclear regulatory agency, NISA, was a virtual non-entity during the accident. They made no effort to effect control of the situation, even though they had four inspectors located at Fuikushima. In fact, the inspectors fled the site on March 14, after the final hydrogen explosion, and did not return. In addition, NISA had little informational interaction with the TEPCO offices in Tokyo,
which the report says forced the Prime Minister to make direct contact with the utility himself. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- The report does take Prime Minister Kan partially to task for his naive orders concerning seawater causing recriticality. This was blamed on poor communication between the crisis team in the building basement
and the Prime Minister’s team on the fifth floor. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Prime Minister Kan and Chief Cabinet Minister Edano told the Press that TEPCO wanted to abandon Fukushima on March 15. Kan said he ordered them to stop the abandonment. However, the report states the abandonment story was totally false. TEPCO CEO Shimizu told the group that all non-essential personnel were being evacuated to avoid radiation exposure. He didn’t say anything about the operating staff abandoning the site. Kan told the Press that Shimizu was “not clear” on what he meant, so the Prime Minister assumed the worst. In his interview, Shimizu said he “clearly denied” ever making an abandonment statement to Kan. Since the former Prime Minister was not interviewed by the panel, the team assumed that Shimizu’s statement included too many “matter of course assumptions”. That is, Shimizu assumed the P.M. would understand that only non-essential personnel would be temporarily
evacuated, but he never actually said it. (Japan Times)
Updates not related to the panel
- TEPCO announced they will soon be using endoscopic technology to examine inside unit #2's containment. The 10 meter long, 8 millimeter in diameter probe will be slipped inside the containment structure through a hole made by an industrial drill. The drilling will commence at some point in January. The high radiation-resistant probe will measure temperatures and radiation levels found at various levels inside the thick concrete and steel structure. This will provide the first direct information relative to conditions inside the containment structure. (NHK World)
- Nikkei.com surveyed their readers and found that 78% did not agree with the government's decision to declare cold shutdown at Fukushima. The declaration was based on the technical status of the four damaged units at Fukushima Daiichi, but readers felt it should have been based on the “aftermath” of the accident. "We can't agree with the prime minister's assertion that matters have been settled at Daiichi. The crops in Fukushima are still contaminated. No progress has been made in reducing the uncertainty felt by the residents," said Michio Furukawa, the mayor of Fukushima's Kawamata town, in a statement that summed up the dissenter’s position. In addition, Nikkei readers say that the possible impact of the
earthquake on the accident has not been established, but should have been before declaring cold shutdown. (Reuters) Extending the definition of cold shutdown to surrounding areas of contamination and/or resident’s feelings of uncertainty makes no sense. Think about it…crops in cold shutdown? Resident’s feelings in cold shutdown?
The post-TMI de-facto moratorium on nuclear plant construction in America may have ended. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the Westinghouse/Toshiba Pressurized Water system design, acronym AP1000. This is also significant news in Japan because Toshiba owns Westinghouse’s nuclear division. The new system has 30% fewer operating parts, which means fewer things to potentially malfunction. It also uses passive (no power needed) safety systems for fuel cell cooling in the event of an accident condition. In fact, an electrical blackout like the one which crippled Fukushima Daiichi should have little or no effect on AP 1000 safety system operation. Although the designers could not have foreseen it, the AP 1000 meets all NRC “lessons learned” recommendations enacted as a result of Fukushima. American Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the certification "marks an important milestone toward constructing the first U.S. nuclear reactors in three decades.”
Of course, the usual prophets of nuclear doom attacked the NRC’s action. Friends of the Earth (an oxymoron if there ever was one) president Erich Pica may have best summed up all of the criticisms, "In the wake of the ever-expanding nuclear disaster at Fukushima...it seems incredible that the NRC had enough safety information to approve the AP 1000 reactor design. This is nothing short of a Christmas gift to the beleaguered nuclear power industry, and a lump of radioactive waste for everyone concerned about the safety and efficacy of this reactor design." Long-time nuclear critic, US representative Edward Markey, condemned the action saying the containment
around the system could “shatter like a drinking glass” if hit by a crashing jetliner or if subjected to a Fukushima-type earthquake.
From our perspective, the critics are merely spouting fearsome rhetoric to try and darken the good news. We at Hiroshima Syndrome are environmentally-focused and advocate the elimination of fossil fuel burning for the production of electricity. Nuclear power plant operation produces no greenhouse gasses. The approval of AP 1000 marks what we hope is a beginning of an energy direction that will eliminate the burning of fossil fuels before 2025, hopefully stemming the human contribution to climate change before it becomes catastrophic. It can only be done if we build a large number of nukes and supplement them with solar and wind generation. We feel that “no nukes” is the equivalent to climatic suicide.
Here's the weekend updates...
- The government’s Fukushima investigative panel has issued its preliminary report. Although the report’s technical and operating topics seem woefully ill-informed, the over-all conclusions relative to TEPCO accident preparations and the government’s inept public protection response appear to be spot-on. The panel stressed that disregard with respect to preparation for unexpected, potentially catastrophic events caused poor emergency responses by TEPCO and the government. Many problems were linked to the absence of measures to deal with severe nuclear accidents caused by tsunamis and failure to plan for a nuclear crisis combined with a natural disaster. ''It cannot be denied that people who have been involved in nuclear disaster response and those in charge of managing and operating nuclear power plants have lacked the big-picture viewpoint for seeing nuclear disaster preparedness,'' the report says. (Kyodo News) The report specifically admonishes the government for poor internal communication, self-inflicted problems with information gathering, failure to use high-tech computer predictions for the dispersal of radioactive materials, and virtual dis-use of the emergency facility located 5 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi due to inadequate radiation shielding. The reprimands toward TEPCO include inadequate tsunami protection even though a 2008 report said a huge tsunami was possible, absence of emergency procedures for a prolonged station electrical blackout, and lack of operator training needed to handle such an extreme condition. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- Japan's Atomic Energy Commission president Shunsuke Kono had a worst case computer scenario run on the Fukushima accident's potential for devastation. He had completed a 20 page report by March 25 and submitted it to Prime Minister Kan. The report postulated additional hydrogen explosions following those of March 12th through March 14th. It also assumed severe aftershocks that permanently knocked out all cooling flow to #4 SPF, causing all fuel bundles in the pool to melt. Kondo's report hypothesized additional radioactive releases would have contaminated a 170 kilometer radius with Chernobyl-type levels,
forcing permanent evacuation. In addition, areas as far as 250 kilometers from Fukushima, including Tokyo and Yokahama, would have to have been temporarily evacuated. In September, Prime Minister Kan admitted he initially believed it possible that, "All residents would have to be evacuated in areas 100, 200
or even 300 kilometers from the plant if the leak of radioactive substances can't be stopped." It seems the Kondo report put that nightmare into his mind. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- The new radiation exposure and ingestion limits to be enacted in the spring are causing problems for Japanese local governments and manufacturers. The new limits are several times more stringent than international standards, and much lower than those set by any other nation in the world. After announcement of the new standards, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry officials “looked proud” of their decision to make Japan the “scientifically strictest” nation on Earth. While the officials say they based
the new limits on relevant international standards, none of the new parameters are anywhere close to those of the international community. Ministry spokespersons did admit, however, the new standards are intended to reassure the radiation-fearful public of safety. As a result, all affected entities will have to purchase much-more-sensitive detection equipment than they now use, and train personnel on how to run the new technology. This will cost a lot of money. The most pressing problem concerns drinking water, which will be restricted to less than 10 becquerels of Cesium per kilogram. This is more than 100 times more restrictive than any other drinking water standard on Earth. To confidently test for a level this low equipment must be sensitive enough to detect 1 becquerel per kilogram, which is essentially research laboratory capability. An official for the Kita-Ibaraki municipal government said: "It is extremely hard for us to obtain a high-performance measurement instrument because of our budgetary constraints. We would have no option other than leasing it from an institution outside of our government." (Yomiuri Shimbun) The financial impact of implementing the new drinking water standard across all of Japan could be staggering, and not only in the cost of new equipment. The residual Cesium spread across Japan from South Pacific atomic bomb tests in the 1950s could make all water sources seem “unsafe” to a radiophobic population, and the investment in residual Cesium removal could be huge.
- With this past weekend’s shutdown of the last operating Genkai NPS nuke, 90% of Japan’s nuclear plants are now idled. As a result, Kyushu Electric has asked their customers to reduce electrical consumption at least 5% below the decreases experienced last summer, or face rolling blackouts. Across Japan, 5 plants have submitted their “stress test” data to Tokyo but there is no indication of the government working on the documents. Successful completion and acceptance of stress tests is needed before nukes will be allowed to restart. However, Kyushu’s government says they will not support restarts until Tokyo’s new nuclear regulatory body is established (in April?) and new, more stringent nuclear regulations are created
(who knows when?) In addition, the locals say they do not trust Kyushu Electric because of an Email scandal last spring. (JAIF)
- Tokyo’s Cabinet Office ran a survey between October and November to ascertain public opinion on numerous issues. 6,200 citizens responded. Of importance to Fukushima and radiation issues, we find that 38% are very concerned about protecting themselves from unfounded rumors. When asked what agenda should be the government’s top priority, resolution of the Fukushima accident came in sixth, relative to social security which was #1 and tsunami recovery which was #4. (JAIF)
- The government panel investigating the cause(s) of the Fukushima accident has once again pointed to operator error as a possible reason for unit #3's meltdown. Operators stopped cooling water flow into #3 RPV because emergency battery power was running low. The pumping system was powered by the plant’s emergency battery. Plant personnel tried to use low pressure fire pumps to re-initiate flow to the reactor, but pressures were way too high. Plus, operators could not open the valves necessary for low pressure
injection since there wasn't enough residual battery power to make it happen. Cooling water flow was not re-initiated for seven hours. The operators shut off the cooling system without first getting the plant manager's approval, which the panel believes to be an indication of operator error. (NHK World)
- In an article from another news source concerning the same unit #3 accident records, we find TEPCO defending the operator decision(s) concerning their actions on March 12th and 13th. The specific operator action of March 13 which the gov’t panel suggests as possible operator error (see above) was taken because battery power was almost depleted and a shift to low pressure fire truck pumps was in order. This was an action that, by prior training and common accident procedure, was officially left to the discretion of the control room operating staff. The Plant Manager was duly informed as soon as the system was turned off. (Mainichi Shimbun) It is unfortunate that the attempt to use low pressure fire truck pumps failed,
however the battery powering the high pressure system would have run out very soon, regardless. In other words, continued operation of the high pressure system for a few more minutes would not have prevented unit #3’s meltdown! A few months ago when this panel was formed, we said the lack of
operating expertise within the group could cause major misunderstandings and serious misjudgments. Well…it has happened!
- Another report from the panel, however, seems to be well within the member’s area of expertise…politics. “Sources” say the interim report due Monday from the Fukushima investigation will show there were severe communication problems between the government’s crisis management center and the Prime Minister which caused poor decisions relative to public protective actions. The Prime Minister was not in the crisis center, but rather assembled a team of bureaucrats and TEPCO executives in his private working room elsewhere in the Diet. These questionable decisions were sometimes made worse because of bad information given to the Prime Minister by the bureaucrats and TEPCO executives in his room, often ignoring what the crisis management team suggested based on computer simulations. Since the group in the Prime Minister’s office was not familiar with the simulations, they literally ignored them. In addition, many of the Prime Minister’s decisions were based mostly in speculation and not on hard evidence. As a result, many evacuees fled to locations within the northwest corridor where contamination was often higher than the areas within the 20km zone which the residents had abandoned. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- In an article from yet another news source, we find that the government panel’s interim report will find the Prime Minister’s evacuation orders were “irrational”. The article states, “The government ordered people living within 20 km of the plant to evacuate, but the panel believes the order led some residents to move to areas where radiation was actually higher and generated mass confusion.” While SPEEDI projections on
where the highest levels of contamination were available (and correct), the PM’s personal advisors told him the data was “merely a hypothetical calculation result”. Because of this seriously flawed advice, Prime Minister Kan issued the 20km evacuation order based only on distance. SPEEDI projections would have “provided a clear picture of areas with relatively higher or lower radiation levels” and made the evacuation locations realistic rather than “irrational”. (Kyodo News)
- TEPCO's most recent data (12/21) reveals airborne radiological concentrations at the Fukushima Daiichi plant boundaries are all non-detectable. Some locations on-site still show detectable airborne contamination, but it now seems that releases to the surrounding environment have essentially stopped.
- US NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is in Japan and has inspected the Fukushima Daiichi site. He says the three damaged reactor systems at the plant site are in a “very stab e condition”. He added, "The
temperatures have decreased significantly, the amount of heat that's being produced from the reactor fuel itself is very, very low now. So it simply doesn't have the kind of energy, if you will, that's needed to have any kind of off-site releases of radiation.” (Japan Times)
- TEPCO has built a massive storage facility for the Cesium-filled “vessels” (containers) produced by the waste water clean-up system at Fukushima. Each vessel remains in operation until the radiation levels being emitted from it are at a pre-determined high level. Then the vessel is replaced with a fresh one. More than 300 vessels have been used, and they are housed in the new, shielded building. The building is ~40 meters wide and more than 120 meters long. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- Osaka has become the second municipality that says it will accept tsunami debris from the Tohoku region for disposal. They are planning on using the debris for land-fill (burial). Of course, all debris will have to be proven free of Fukushima contamination before Osaka will accept it. No target date for accepting the material has been set. (Japan Today)
In one of the most horrendous editorials to yet come out of Japan, Mainichi Shimbun says the recent cold shutdown announcement is essentially a scripted government stunt. Their rationale stems from “road map” modifications made over the past few months which The Mainichi says were employed to insure that the time-table for declaring cold shutdown would be met. If a new situational discovery would cause the time-table for cold shutdown to be extended, the condition would be moved to the post-cold shutdown part of the road map. Rather than re-set the
cold shutdown clock, they changed the map. The Mainichi reports, “It is apparent the government is trying to close the curtain on a performance it has written and acted out [in order] to stress to international society that
it has brought the crisis under control quickly.” The editorial’s writer has the audacity to say, “The latest announcement that the goals of the road map have been achieved is merely the result of officials lowering their own hurdles. It reminds me of the time during World War II when the Imperial Japanese Army headquarters called the Japanese army's retreat a ‘shift in position.’" While all other news media outlets in Japan have published similar accusations, they have at least attributed them to politicians, alleged experts, and local residents. The Mainichi editorial boldly goes where no ethical Press source should go…making bold, provocative, unfounded statements to fulfill what seems to be an administrative agenda designed to condemn the government.
To make matters worse later in the article, the editorial prints “facts” that have been created out of old news stories we now know to have been entirely false. For example, The Mainichi says SPF #4 had boiled away by March 14, but the unit’s hydrogen explosion that day caused water from another pool on the refueling deck to be blown into the SPF and brought water in the pool back to a safe level. Because of this, the fuel bundles in the SPF were saved, preventing another huge release of radiation at some moment in the future. Absolute poppy-cock! The
pool never boiled away…not even close. Where they got the idea that SPF #4 was saved due to water being sloshed in from another pool is a mystery. Did the writer make it up? A second example is The Mainichi saying a unit #2 hydrogen explosion was averted only because the unit #1 explosion had “forced open a window in the No. 2 building, releasing the trapped hydrogen.” Yes, a large “blow out panel” was discovered to be open on the unit #2 refueling deck in the weeks following the accident, but no-one knows how it was opened…no-one except the Mainichi’s editorial staff, it seems. Did they make this one up, too?