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These postings address four questions. What Japanese decisions border on the irrational? Is the Fukushima accident ongoing? Does Fukushima have the potential for world-wide apocalyptic disaster? Are the Fukushima radiation levels health-threatening?
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September 30, 2014
Earthquake fears supplanted by volcano fears with Japanese nukes
Last weekend, a major volcanic eruption shocked Western Japan. Mount Ontake erupted and killed at least 48 sight-seeing mountain climbers, and injured more than 40 others. It was the first deadly volcanic eruption in Japan since 1991. The world’s hearts go out to the friends and families of those who died. It’s a terrible tragedy.
What makes me spitting-mad is that it took virtually no time at all for the antinuclear demographic of Japan, some of Japan’s nuclear-critical Press, and a few uncaring specimens of the international news media to exploit this tragedy in the attempt to promote antinuclearism and keep Japan from restarting their much-needed nukes. Why? Because a non-erupting volcano, Sakurajima, is about 50 kilometers from the Sendai nuke station.
That’s the main reason, folks. Here’s how the inconsiderate antinukes of Japan try make a rhetorical connection; Fukushima was caused by a tsunami beyond anything Japan had never before experienced, so it is possible for a volcanic eruption many times greater than ever experienced in Japan. This could possibly cause another Fukushima-like accident. Whether or not the scenario is realistic makes no diffetrence.
I can’t make up stuff like this!
On Sunday, a major antinuke demonstration was held in Kagoshima City to protest the impending restarts of the two Sendai nuke units. This was one day after the Ontake tragedy struck with terrible suddenness. Wall Street Journal’s Asia office says that more than half of the 20 antinuke speakers spoke of the volcanic eruption, arguing that nukes are not protected against super-massive eruptions, thus Sendai should not be restarted until a 30-kilometer evacuation plan was approved by all parties. (1)
The very next day! Don’t these people have any sense of decorum? Obviously, they don’t!
What’s worse is the fact that the some of the world’s news media has chimed right in with coverage of this undignified effrontery, including Japan Today and Reuters. (2,3) At least Reuters had their antinuclear piece of the pie buried near the end of their article. But, Japan Today and WSJ-Asia used the nuclear critic’s disgusting lack of propriety as a headline and story focus!
It should be noted that articles about earthquakes threatening nukes with the impending possibility of doom have subsided since last year, after the Nuclear Regulatory Agency found there was no evidence for temblor damage causing the Fukushima accident. Japan’s nukes were completely unscathed by the worst quake to ever strike Japan. The antinuclear demographic can no longer bang that drum because nukes clearly demonstrated they can take the worst quake nature can produce and survive unscathed. It is certain and beyond rational doubt that Japan’s nukes are virtually temblor-proof, which 3/11/11 showed conclusively.
But, the potential for volcanic harm to nukes is an area that fits right into the unspoken, but undeniable antinuclear mantra; stoke the fires of fear by creating rhetorical worst-case scenarios that feed on uncertainty and doubt (FUD). But, this time, the antinukes have gone way too far, way too soon. The bodies of the dead from the Ontake volcano tragedy were still warm when Japan’s antinukes used them for their indecorous, repugnant purpose. Japan’s antinukes could not wait to make their new scare-topic heard. Only out-of-control fanatics with stone-cold hearts beating in their chests would ever do such a thing.
May those who died on Mount Ontake rest in peace. May those who desecrated their memory…the very next day…rot in Hell!
September 27, 2014
A Plea to Tepco and Tokyo – Just Do It!
Tepco says that nearly 135,000 tons (~33.75 million gallons) of contaminated waste water has been treated by their advanced purification system (ALPS). ALPS removes the vast majority of contained radioactive isotopes, other than biologically-innocuous Tritium. The removal factor is greater than 10,000, which means that at most one radioactive isotope in 10,000 makes it through the process. ALPS receives its water from the output of the Cesium-absorption system, which also has an isotopic removal factor of over 10,000. By combining the two systems-in-series, we find that the total removal factor for radioactive isotopes is more than 100 million!
This is a very, very, very efficient water purification process which rivals those used at research facilities around the world. In fact, the water coming out of ALPS, and stored in uncontaminated tanks, is so pure it probably would meet water quality standards anyplace in the world…other than Japan.
58 of the 62 targeted isotopes are removed so effectively that their radioactive “signatures” are no longer detectible. Three of the other four are stripped down to barely detectible levels that are below drinking water standards (even though no-one in their right mind drinks seawater). The other isotope, Strontium-90, currently remains but is at a concentration that is about double Japan’s ridiculously low national standard for release. In fact, the ALPS system, with all of its on-again/off-again warts, is so effective that it meets all Japanese regulatory standards for discharge, except for the Strontium. And, if the water was re-run through the ALPS system (which is being considered), even the Strontium would be gone.
So, why doesn’t Tepco mitigate the on-going build-up of stored waters at F. Daiichi significantly by releasing the huge, highly-purified volume to the sea? Tepco says there is currently nearly 500,000 tons of wastewater in storage. By releasing everything already purified, the total would drop to about 365,000 tons…still a lot, but much less severe. This would be a full 27% reduction. The release would immediately mingle with the massive volume of water in the ocean with the only discernible impact being a reduction of the ocean’s salinity near the point of discharge. These are the facts.
The reason for the hold-up seems based on two related reasons… unfounded fear and rumors. The fear stems from a most significant aspect of the Hiroshima Syndrome; a conviction that there is no absolutely safe level of radiation exposure. This fear of radiation stems from the bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki in 1946, and a purely extrapolated assumption known as the Linear/No Threshold Hypothesis (LNT). A significant number of studies from around the world since 1980 clearly demonstrate that LNT is absolutely incorrect with exposures below 100 millisieverts per year*. (see of “Radiation: The No Safe Level Myth”, and the bibliography at the end, listed in the left-hand column).
Attendant to LNT is the notion of radiation damage being accumulated over time, which is yet another false assumption. The “accumulation” concept gives no credit to the body’s natural cellular and DNA repair mechanisms. In fact, highly-confident research shows that these repair processes “up-regulate” as low level exposure increases, which means that their function accelerates and becomes more robust. Yet another assumption is that children are more vulnerable to radiation exposure than adults because their rate of cellular replication is so great. Once again, there is not credit given for natural cell and DNA repair mechanisms.
The extreme negative psychological impact of LNT on the Japanese cannot be overstated. The Press has preached the no-safe-level gospel since 3/11/11. The political regime in Tokyo on 3/11/11, and for nearly 2 years there-after, used LNT to push the nation’s official limits for radiation down to levels that are unrealistic, unwieldy, and downright ridiculous. LNT has been proven to be incorrect and should be eliminated, but huge bureaucracies have built up around it over the decades since WWII. Dismantling bureaucracies is many times more difficult than constructing them. LNT remains politically viable, despite it being wrong.
Thus, the first reason why Tepco and Tokyo aren’t dumping the ultra-safe, purified ALPS effluent to the sea is because of a national LNT-predicated fear of radiation, not mention a socio-political cowardice on the part of both. Tepco and Tokyo fear being castigated by the Press and hammered by Japan’s antinuclear demographic. In addition, antinuclear groups around the world would condemn Tepco, and the international pseudo-scientific prophets of nuclear energy doom would post new predictions of apocalyptic genocide. Tepco has tired of countering this barrage, and so has Tokyo.
Rumors are an off-shoot of this fear. In most cases, the gossip is based on a distrust of Tokyo and Tepco by a numerically-significant fraction of the general public. Irresponsible and incorrect hear-say has had its greatest negative impact on the Fukushima food businesses. The current focus is with Fukushima’s fishing industry. There are certainly those in the fishing business who simply don’t trust Tepco or Tokyo. But, it seems most don’t want the purified waters released because rumors circulated in the marketplace might severely harm their business.
Two points should be made. First, there are already unfounded rumors surrounding the assumption of hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater seeping into the sea every day. (see Fukushima Commentary of September 10 - Fukushima groundwater is not contaminating the Pacific Ocean) There are already rumors in the marketplace damaging fish sales. How could the release of ultra-pure water to the sea make the situation any worse? Second, the avoidance of gossip should never be given greater consideration that reality. Fukushima’s fishermen may fear the possibility of rumors, but delaying the inevitable is not the answer. The waters will eventually be discharged. There is no other option, and any future release will be no safer that what would be the case now.
What would be the best thing Tepco and Tokyo should do? Start dumping the stored waters already run through ALPS as soon as the Fukushima fishermen and the public have been fully informed.
Wait a minute…they have already been informed!
Damn the radiophobic fears and unfounded rumors…JUST DO IT!
*- The 100 millisievert (10 REM) threshold of actual harm was chosen conservatively. Many studies show that levels much greater are also safe depending on the energy level of the radiation and the type of radiation being considered.
September 21, 2014
227th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 227th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Dr. Jim Conca, Brian Wang, Harold Bailey, Leslie Corrice and Dan Yurman.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… The symbol “Pu” for Plutonium was originally due to a joke?
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include…why nuclear energy does not lead to nuclear weapons, the first water-based nuclear battery, reactors planned in the Middle East, Vermont Yankee lowered Vermont’s cost of electricity, and Tokyo’s double-standard relative to tsunami refugees and Fukushima evacuees...
From Dr. Jim Conca of Forbes Magazine –
A Nuclear Primer – It’s All About Uranium
Nuclear energy is growing around the world after a decades-long lull, especially in developing countries, creating worry that nuclear energy can lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. While the basic principles of nuclear physics are the same for nuclear energy as for atomic weapons, that’s about where the similarities end. Nuclear Energy does not lead to nuclear weapons. It never has. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/09/20/a-nuclear-primer-its-all-about-uranium/
From Brian Wang's Next Big Future (2) –
First Water-based Nuclear Battery can be used to Generate Electrical Energy for decades with photovoltaics breakthrough
Companies constantly seek ways to improve battery life and efficiency. For the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the University of Missouri have created a long-lasting and efficient nuclear battery that could be used for a variety of complicated technologies such as space flight and military applications. Using strontium-90 to boost electrochemical energy in a water-based solution, a nanostructured
common element found in sunscreens and UV blockers, with a platinum coating, collects and effectively converts energy into electrons. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/09/first-water-based-nuclear-battery-can.html
Two UAE reactors should be operational by 2020 and Saudi Arabia could complete twelve nuclear reactors from 2022-2034
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) board of management approved ENEC's application to build two additional Korean-designed APR1400 pressurized water reactors. The Saudi Royal Family is planning to invest $80 billion to build at least a dozen nuclear power plants as fast as possible, with the first reactor to come on-line in only eight years. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/09/two-uae-reactors-should-be-operational.html
From Meredith Angwin's Yes Vermont Yankee -
The Electricity Rate Decrease Shows the Ongoing Value of Vermont Yankee
(Guest post by Harold L. Bailey)
Harold Bailey, former member of the Vermont legislature, notes that Vermont Yankee honored its "revenue share" agreement with the local utilities. It paid $17 million dollars to these utilities, thereby lowering the electricity rates for Vermont consumers. Yet, the Vermont Public Service Board still needs to rule whether the plant will be allowed to build dry cask storage for decommissioning. Bailey hopes the PSB will see the value of a smooth decommissioning process, and will allow the dry cask pads to be built. http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2014/09/electricity-rates-decrease-thanks-to.html#.VB78CaN0wdV
From The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary –
Fukushima Evacuees Prosper while Tsunami Refugees Languish
Japan’s tsunami victims are woefully under-compensated and most want to return home, but can’t because their homes are gone. Meanwhile, many of the Fukushima evacuees can return home but choose to stay away and prosper from huge government-mandated handouts. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html
From Dan Yurman’s Neutron Bytes -
GE Hitachi gets ESBWSR design certification from NRC
In a long and winding, and expensive, path, GE Hitachi this week finally got what it came for from the NRC. The company’s 1600 MW Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). The reactor features passive safety systems and a simpler design than its predecessor. In the U.S. DTE is referencing the ESBWR for its license application for the FERMI 3 reactor in Michigan and Dominion is referencing it in its application for a new unit at North Anna in Virginia. http://neutronbytes.com/2014/09/16/ge-hitachi-gets-esbwsr-safety-certification-from-nrc/
* * *
Fact or Fiction (?) answer – Fact.
Nicholas Kemmer of Cambridge theorized the existence of Plutonium and proposed the names Neptunium for element 93 and Plutonium for number 94 because Neptune and Pluto were beyond Uranus (the source of the name for Uranium). Chemists Edwin M., McMillan and Philip Abelson of Berkeley Laboratories confirmed Plutonium’s existence in 1940. Glenn Seaborg was on the team that first produced Plutonium from neutron bombardment of Uranium, later in 1940. Seaborg facetiously said that the symbol for Plutonium should be Pu, and not Pl (the first two letters of its name), since its pungent aroma was enough to make someone say “Pee-Yoo!” Seaborg never thought his little joke would ever come to anything, but the naming committee accepted “Pu” as the symbol. http://fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/pubs/00818011.pdf
September 19, 2014
Fukushima Evacuees Prosper while Tsunami Refugees Languish
The Hiroshima Syndrome has been posting the ever-increasing payouts to Fukushima evacuees on a regular basis since 2013. At the time of this writing, the roughly 75,000 mandated Fukushima accident evacuees have received $42.57 billion (USD) in personal and property compensation. Nearly all of this has been “loaned” to Tepco by the government. On November 18th, Japan Times reported that 17,000 temporary housing units were built for the 75,000 mandated Fukushima evacuees. (1) More than 30,000 evacuees live in government-sponsored temporary units within the Prefecture. Another 20,000 live in rented apartments in other prefectures, the cost of which is part of what each person receives in compensation. Thousands more live with family and friends, which their monthly stipends of $7,500 per person easily covers.
Thousands of Fukushima refuges have been told they can return home because decontamination is complete. But, roughly 75% refuse to repopulate. Why? Because the money spigot is turned off one year after returning home. If they choose to remain estranged, the cash keeps flowing. In fact, Tokyo has extended the compensation period to March, 2021. (2) Further, the first report of resentment towards Fukushima evacuees has emerged. (3) Numerous Iwaki residents say the payouts to the evacuees living it the city have been frittered away on luxury cars and locally-labeled “disaster relief mansions." One Iwaki resident says, "The food the evacuees eat and the clothes they wear are different. They can afford it from their compensation funds. They have time and money to go gambling since they're not working." In the city’s Takaki District, a poll shows that 2/3 "feel envious of their [evacuee’s] compensation."
On the other hand, less than half the sum paid to Fukushima evacuees has been given to the more than 200,000 Tsunami refugees, mostly in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. Plus, there seems to be no resentment toward tsunami refugees because their living conditions and income levels are not worthy of contempt. The refugees get a few hundred dollars each per month from Tokyo. The current statute on the government stipends runs out next March. It is possible the compensation period will be extended, but no-one is counting on it. About 90,000 of the refugees live in cramped, prefabricated housing units. Others rely on the kindness of family and friends.
In addition, the rate at which new housing is being built in the two prefectures is alarmingly slow. In Iwate Prefecture, the prefectural and municipal governments planned 5,946 public housing units. However, only 754 units (12.7 percent of the total) had been completed by the end of July. Housing construction has been delayed due to difficulties in buying land, and local governments balancing the limited funds between all recovery projects. The Miyagi Prefectural Government had planned to build 15,561 housing units for disaster victims by the end of fiscal 2015, but it is likely to take one to two more years to build the first 3,800.
Meanwhile, only 1,600 units in Fukushima Prefecture are behind schedule, but are expected to be complete by early 2015. (4) Clearly, the prefecture getting the most media attention, both inside and outside Japan, is getting the most government support with recovery! It becomes irksome when the hard, cold facts are faced – more than 300,000 lost everything due to the tsunami are treated much worse than the 75,000 people of Fukushima who were ordered to leave their still-intact homes because of ridiculously low public exposure limits. In other words, the 300,000 whose homes are actually gone get much less support than the 75,000 whose homes are hypothetically unlivable for a few years (at most).
Tens of thousands of the younger Iwate and Miyagi tsunami refugees have given up hope and moved to other parts of Japan. (5) Local governments planned to help disaster victims rebuild their homes through collective relocation of communities to higher ground, and/or raising the ground level in devastated shoreline areas. The number of pending requests to rebuild on government-reclaimed land in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures has dropped more than 20% in the last 18 months. One municipality experienced an 80% drop-off. Of the more than 25,000 stand-alone residences planned to replace the homes destroyed or swept away on 3/11/11, the number has plummeted to a bit less than 20,000….and the majority are way behind schedule. Many former homeowners are permanently moving into disaster recovery housing complexes. Others are simply leaving for other parts of Japan. Iwate University professor Junichi Hirota said, "The longer the decisions on relocation sites and land reclamation are delayed, the larger the number of disaster victims who will abandon their efforts to rebuild their homes will be.”
In other words, most the tsunami victims are woefully under-compensated and want to return home, but can’t. Reluctantly, many have decided to leave the region out of frustration. Meanwhile, most of the Fukushima evacuees who can return home choose to stay away and prosper from the government-mandated handouts.
2 - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/04/national/japan-enacts-bill-to-extend-nuclear-calamity-damages-claim-period/#.Up85W4Ao4dU -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131206_38.html
September 10, 2014
Fukushima groundwater is not contaminating the Pacific Ocean
It is widely reported that hundreds of tons of highly contaminated Fukushima Daiichi groundwater pours into the Pacific Ocean every day. But, an objective look at the evidence tells a completely different story. It’s long-past time for the Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to broadcast the truth – there is no groundwater contamination being released to the Pacific Ocean at F. Daiichi. There are several reasons why I make this claim with the highest possible confidence.
It has been repeatedly posted in Fukushima Accident Updates (1) that the seawater in and around the port at F. Daiichi shows no evidence of a highly-contaminated groundwater influx. It is important to note that the inner harbor (quay) at F. Daiichi has been sealed off from the outer port and the open sea for nearly 3 years. If highly contaminated groundwater was actually out-flowing for the past 3 years, it would necessarily have been inside the quay and the concentration of radioactive isotopes would have constantly increased. However, the opposite has been the case. The concentrations have been steadily diminishing for more than 3 years. Current testing inside the quay shows that all isotopic concentrations are so low that the contained seawater meets Japan’s national standards for release.(2) If there were huge volumes of radioactive water entering the quay, the test result’s trend should be exactly the opposite.
Next, we should look at Tepco’s continual ocean testing out to 15 kilometers, dating back to December of 2011, revealing no evidence of highly contaminated waters flowing into the sea. This has been continually verified by the NRA since they began their own sampling in September, 2013. (3) Once again, if 300 tons of highly contaminated groundwater were actually flowing into the sea itself, the testing results of the surrounding ocean would show it…but they don’t.
To prevent any possible future contamination of the Pacific, Tepco has built an underground barricade all along the shoreline between the four-unit turbine building basements and the quay. This is an example of producing defense-in-depth on the fly. The soil-solidified barrier was completed between units 1 and 2 on March 25th, between units 2 and 3 on February 6th, and, between units 3 and 4 on March 5th. (4) Its integrity is proven by the groundwater samples taken between the barrier and the quay shoreline, all three showing isotopic levels well-below the national standards for release.(5) With the barrier complete, future Pacific contamination from F. Daiichi groundwater is quite improbable.
But, there was no discernible groundwater contamination making it into the ocean before the soil-barrier was completed. What prevented it? Soil is an awesome filtering medium for radioactive isotopes and keeps them from migrating over extremely long tracts of time. Strong evidence for this comes from the country of Gabon, and the several “natural” reactors discovered in the African nation over the past 50 years. (6,7) No less than three large Uranium deposits in Gabon have been studied in detail - Oklo, Okelobondo, and Bogambe – all within 40 kilometers of each other. Between 1.7 and 1.5 billion years ago, their U-235 abundance was about 4.5 times greater than we find in the Earth today; roughly the same 3% concentration artificially manufactured for modern power plant fuel. Underground water sporadically flowed through the deposits over a period of several million years. The water down the spontaneously-released neutrons from U-238 and spawned subsequent fissions in the U-235. While the underground water was inside the deposits, chain-reactions occurred, producing a lot of radioactive isotopes – identical to the ones popularly reported with respect to F. Daiichi.
Further, the Gabon studies have shown that all isotopes have moved no more than a meter from the periphery of the deposits in more than 1.5 billion years…and this includes the inert gas Xenon which has been locked in the mineral aluminum-phosphate for the entire time. The surrounding soil and rock layers filtered the isotopes out of the water carrying them from the deposits, and they have remained there ever since! These observations show that nuclear waste isotopes can be successfully sequestered underground, even in locations as (technically/politically) unsuited for nuclear isotopic releases such as Oklo, Okelobondo, Bogambe, and F. Daiichi.
Most of the groundwater contamination found at F. Daiichi comes from wells located nearest the highly contaminated waters in the underground equipment/cabling tunnels stretching from the turbine basements to the seawater intake structures along the quay shoreline. As we move farther and farther from the tunnels, the groundwater concentrations drop dramatically. By the time we reach the wells closest to the shoreline, albeit inside the new soil barriers, the concentrations are orders-of-magnitude lower. Clearly the soil has been filtering the radioactive isotopes from the groundwater contaminated by the trenches for as long as it has been studied, effectively keeping the contamination from reaching the Pacific. With the soil-solidified barriers now in-place, there is even more reason to understand that no contamination is getting into the quay, and entirely misleading to extend this to something “highly contaminated” besmirching the Pacific Ocean.
Thus, the notion of 300 tons of highly contaminated groundwater flowing into the sea is, was, and will continue to be an assumption…a speculation…a conjecture – anything but a fact. The assumption initially came from two sources: Tepco and the NRA. Why did they broadcast this fact-vacuous assumption? On July 26, 2013, Tepco’s president Naomi Hirose vowed to improve Tepco’s public disclosure policy, saying “even if the evaluations do not show enough evidence, we will swiftly and honestly mention risks and worst-case scenarios without fearing the impact.” Rather than counter exaggerated, confabulated claims made by so-called antinuclear experts that are regularly trumpeted by the Press, Tepco decided to beat them to the punch. The NRA promptly followed suit. Ever since then, the results have created a public relations nightmare. The most ill-fated of their worst-case speculations has been the notion that highly-contaminated groundwater is continually going into the sea.
Although Tepco and NRA worst-case speculations have been tempered with terms like “might”, “may”, and “possibly”, the Japanese Press reports them as statements of certainty. In turn, the historically-nuclear-adverse Press outside Japan took the Japanese reports, added a few scary “spins” of their own, and created an international uproar. The antinuclear prophets of doom feed on it like hungry Jackals. Both inside and outside Japan, most of the public has no idea of the realities involved. Speculations wrapped in embellishment abound, and it can be traced back to Hirose’s worst-case-scenario promise.
Tepco and the NRA have every reason in the world to admit they are wrong about F. Daiichi’s groundwater constantly contaminating the Pacific. Ruthlessly clinging to this fictional worst-case assumption poses Pascalean quandary. Tepco and the NRAS have everything to lose and nothing to gain by continuing the false conjecture, but everything to gain and nothing to lose by admitting their obvious mistake.
I suspect that Tepco and the NRA do not have the courage to do the right thing. I hope they will prove me wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.
August 9, 2014
Did Fukushima Daiichi unit #3 have a “melt-through”?
On August 6th, Tepco announced that the fuel core of unit #3 at F. Daiichi may have melted about five hours earlier than had been previously estimated. In addition, the company said the added time-frame suggests that most of the corium (a mixture of melted fuel, control rods, structural metals and instrumentation) ate its way through the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) and fell to the concrete base-mat beneath. It is estimated that the corium then penetrated 0.68 meters into the ~2 meter thick base-mat. Tepco cautions that their “analysis entails some degree of uncertainty”. Their degree of uncertainty might be considerable, if not astronomical.
On July 26, 2013, Tepco’s president Naomi Hirose vowed to improve Tepco’s public disclosure policy, saying “even if the evaluations do not show enough evidence, we will swiftly and honestly mention risks and worst-case scenarios without fearing the impact.” (Fukushima Commentary, August 24, 2013) His statement was in response to incessant allegations of non-transparency by the Japanese Press and parallel pressure from the Nuclear Regulation Authority. In effect, Tepco said that if everyone wants worst-case scenarios, that’s what they will get. The recent announcement on unit #3’s core damage may well be a computer-generated worst-case assumption. Although the results were based on sophisticated computer simulations, the degree of confidence in the conclusion is only as good as the data fed into the program. Much of the data fed into the simulation seems decidedly assumptive, thus we might put the conclusion into serious question.
There are several reasons why. The first, and perhaps most important, reason is that there is no way to look at the actual condition of the RPV’s bottom head and inspect the condition of the base-mat beneath, at this point in time. It is hoped that the use of Muon tomography will give the world a decent idea of where the solidified corium is located. But, this is currently in the developmental stage. It could happen as soon as next year. Regardless, assumption-based conclusions on the location of unit #3’s corium, at this point, cannot be given any degree of confidence; even those using the best computer simulations money can buy. The proof will be in the pudding, and Muon tomography should show us how well everything turns out.
Next, the data used to run the computer simulation contains numerous technical assumptions. One assumption is that prior estimates of the amount of water injected into the RPV by the High Pressure Coolant Injection system (HPCI) were too high. By re-crunching the numbers relative to HPCI, Tepco now estimates that less water was being fed into the core and allowed the degradation of the Zirconium tubes (cladding) holding the uranium pellets much earlier than prior timelines have shown. The heat generated by this was thus assumed to be much greater than earlier estimated, causing the fuel to melt about five hours prior to that previously proposed. But, did this actually happen?
Tepco has posted that even though HPCI operated, perhaps at a lower-than-previously-assumed output, until 2:42 am on March 13, “We assumed that no cooling water was injected into the reactor after 20:00 (8pm) on March 12.” This, in itself, is highly speculative and smacks of a rather questionable worst-case speculation. Even if HPCI was working at a reduced capacity, some water must have been getting inside the unit #3 RPV until HPCI stopped! If HPCI were merely “spinning its wheels”, it would have over-heated the mechanism and caused it to fail many hours before it actually did. Of all the assumptive data fed to the computer, this may well be the most speculative. Tepco’s chart on water level in the unit #3 RPV began to drop at about 8pm on March 12th, but it took more than four hours for that level to reach the top of the fuel core (TAF). If there was absolutely no water being injected during this period, the level decrease would have been much faster; not nearly so gradual. This implies that some water was being injected by HPCI – maybe not as much as HPCI is designed to supply, but certainly not nothing.
Yet another assumption in the computer data-feed concerns the fact that the water level in the RPV, as measured by the precious little instrumentation that was working at the time, stopped decreasing about the time HPCI failed. Tepco assumes that the water-level instrumentation must have been damaged and was giving false readings. They based this assumption on the fact that calibrations run months after-the-fact showed the instrument readings to be in error. However, the calibrations occurred after the hydrogen explosion with unit #3 at 11am on March 14. The shock of the detonation may well have caused instrumentation damage. The instrumentation itself is designed to operate effectively at all pressure and temperature conditions up to, and including, the point where the safety relief valves (SRV) open. The SRVs first opened at 9:36am on March 13. Although there seems to be no technical reason why Tepco is assuming the instrumentation must have been giving false readings, the assumptionis made nonetheless.
Further, the measured water levels after TAF was exposed, never completely uncovered the entire fuel core. Even the computer simulation itself estimated that the core was never completely uncovered until the moment that the SRV’s were opened, depressurizing the system, and allowing low pressure fire pumps to inject water and quench the RPV’s internals. Without full core “uncovery” of the fuel core for many minutes, a full meltdown of the fuel is quite unlikely.
In addition, Tepco estimates that when about a fourth of the core was still water-covered (5:10am), the temperature above the core reached more than 2150oF (1200oC). This was not a temperature reached in air, but must have occurred in a steam-shrouded environment. In an enclosed steam environment, pressure rises in parallel with temperature increases. The saturated steam pressure would have been well in excess of the set-points for the SRVs to lift and exhaust into the suppression pool (Torus). This would have meant that the SRVs should have lifted on or before 5:10am – not 9:36am! Plus, we’re not looking at one or two valves that might have been stuck shut or malfunctioned. We’re talking about at least six of them. It is important to point out that SRVs work against spring pressure. They are fully “passive” in that no power source is needed for their operation. To assume all of these passive devices “stuck shut” and allowed pressure to skyrocket well above the design set-points borders on the absurd.
The above should be sufficient to make any rational adult skeptical of Tepco’s claim of a melt-through with unit #3 at Fukushima Daiichi. This does not mean that Tepco’s new estimate of unit #3’s core damage should be entirely rejected. For example, it is possible that HPCI injections were less than previously assumed. However, to say that there was no water going into the core at the point Tepco assumed is absolute speculation. In fact, without the conjecture that HPCI did nothing while it was unquestionably operating, the conclusion collapses.
It should be noted that nuclear energy worst-case scenarios rarely turn out to be correct. In fact, they are almost entirely wide of the mark. Cleverly-created worst-case scenarios, relative to nukes, have historically been the domain of hardened nuclear critics. To date, none of their tacit “guarantees” have come to fruition. Tepco’s recent worst-case scenario with respect to Fukushima unit #3 may be no better than the fantastical fabrications spawned by unprincipled prophets of nuclear energy doom.
August 2, 2014
Japan’s Press reinforces the Hiroshima Syndrome
Whenever the anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki (H/N) bombings approaches, the Japanese Press posts numerous articles about them. Since 3/11/11, most Press outlets bring the Fukushima accident into the mix. In the process they reinforce and underscore the Hiroshima Syndrome. This year, a new approach emerges.
The Hiroshima Syndrome is a strong aversion to, if not mortal fear of, nuclear power plants due to confusion between reactors and bombs. Reactors and nuclear weapons are extremely different; in fact, it is impossible for a nuclear power plant reactor to experience a nuclear detonation. Why? Nuke plants use fuel that is nearly 20 times too dilute to be used in a bomb. But, this is not the only point of confusion. Many nuclear-averse people believe the atmospheric releases from nuclear plants, including those from nuke accidents, are the same as bomb fallout. But, the differences between the two are as significant as the dissimilarities between reactors and bombs. (For a more detailed breakdown on these two roots of the Hiroshima Syndrome, see “The Uranium Explosive Myth” and “Confusion about Fallout” in the left-hand menu)
The Hiroshima Syndrome is not uncommon in Japan, infecting much of the public. An informal survey run for me by a friend in Japan covering more than 150 persons, showed that 2/3 did not know the differences between reactors and bombs. The Syndrome also seems to taint most of the Japanese Press outlets and builds the biases found in their reporting. Late in 2012, the Asahi Shimbun polled 50 news outlets in Japan and 47 admitted they were antinuclear, with more than half admitting to the perceived connection between Fukushima and H/N as a reason. Seemingly unaware of the above-mentioned differences, most Japanese news media treat reactors and bombs as if they are literally one-and-same. There have been numerous articles on the impending H/N anniversary, and most admix the Fukushima accident with the H/N.
In this instance, an editorial from Japan Times is selected as an example. (1) Right from the start, the headline underscores nuclear confusion, Fukushima disaster colors A-bomb anniversaries. The sub-head tells us of a new confusion being added to the mix; Parallels can be drawn between control of information during Occupation and today. The intent is to make parallels between actual post-H/N confidentiality and unabashed assumptions concerning Fukushima informational flow.
Japan’s new secrecy policy has been used to allege covering up information relative to Fukushima Daiichi. There is a kernel of truth to this. The government’s policy includes the security measures at all Japanese nukes in order to keep sensitive information from falling into the hands of terrorists. However, many news outlets have posted articles where antinuclear activists and politicians allege that the new policy allows the government to withhold the “truth” about the impact of the accident, alleging a sumptuous buffet of supposed health problems….many of which are not medically connected to any level of radiation exposure. Many of these allegations are based on exaggerations and embellishments that stagger the mind. The reality is quite different. But, this does not dissuade the Times from trying to make the connection between Fukushima and H/N.
After WWII, America invoked what was essentially a top-secret tag to all things associated with nuclear weapons. In addition, some American military officials tried to downplay the effects of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. For example, in September 1945, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves “announced to the press that if any Japanese had died from exposure to radiation, ‘the number was very small.’ . . . Vegetation was growing in Hiroshima, and radiation levels were so low, ‘you could live there forever.’ ” (1) Obviously, paranoiac secrecy and misinformation were not uncommon with respect to American interests. It seems the Times’ uses Groves’ statement correctly.
However, immediately following the Grove’s reference, we find, “Skip ahead to 2011: Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, the head of Fukushima Medical University, makes controversial remarks suggesting that an exposure limit of 100 millisieverts per year is acceptable. The comments, which made international headlines, were contested. Referring to the remarks, The Japan Times’ Eric Johnston wrote, “According to a 2006 study by the U.S. National Academy of Science, an exposure of 20 millisieverts will produce 2,270 cancer cases per 1 million people annually.” This is supposed to show that Fukushima secrecy is as severe as that which occurred after Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Actually, it is trying to combine apples and oranges. Dr. Shunichi’s statement is based on scientific evidence. On the other hand, there is no actual evidence of negative health effects below 100 mSv/year exposure with humans. The NAS study extrapolates from much larger exposures and derives the 20 mSv/2,270 cancers per million number based on the severely flawed and contentious Linear/No Threshold notion. Thus, the Times’ attempt to make a Fukushima and H/N parallel crumbles.
To make matters worse, the above is immediately followed by, “Jump to spring 2014: On April 14, the Mainichi Shimbun reports that in an effort to collect data on internal radiation exposure, the Foreign Ministry sent an email to municipalities that ‘suggested the data could be used to play down the radiation effects from the disaster.’ The data was to be used by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but ‘the email suggested that the IAEA report is expected to evaluate radiation exposure among residents at lower levels than reports by other international organizations.’” How does this relate to a possible connection between Fukushima and Hiroshima/Nagasaki? Your guess is as good as mine. I can’t find even a most-distant connection. Also, the Times is cherry-picking from an Email posting. Cherry-picking an Email posting? That’s stooping extremely low!
Undaunted, the Times sinks lower into the confabulatory abyss. During U.S. post-war occupation, many doctors and researchers in Japan found it difficult to get involved in the H/N aftermath. They faced a lack of funds, American Occupation-based restrictions, being required by the Allied authorities to translate all reports into English, and not having access to autopsy data. Censorship of reports written by Japanese researchers was not uncommon, and many reports that did make it through the restrictions suffered years of delay before seeing the light of day. The Times tries to connect this to Fukushima by referencing assumptions made by Japan’s most anti-nuclear news outlets, alleging government attempts to stop medical research with respect to Fukushima. These allegations are entirely vacuous. To connect speculative Fukushima newspaper reporting with actual H/N historical evidence is disinformation at its worst.
Finally, The Times tries to connect suppression of anti-atomic bomb protests after WWII with the speculative notion that the new state’s secrecy law will cause the same thing to happen with respect to Fukushima protests. This is a bold-faced fabrication. There is nothing in the law even remotely referring to antinuclear protests. Attempting to draw a parallel between what actually happened seventy years ago with something that is not happening now is morally corrupt. To add insult to their fantasy, the Times cites Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University. He says, “You find a similar power with the Japanese government as existed during the U.S. Occupation. Self-censorship will become more prevalent. Journalists will censor themselves before asking questions. The activists who try to find out information about the nuclear industry may get in trouble, they may not, but they’ll worry about what they otherwise wouldn’t.” In other words, fear that the secrecy law might someday be used to dissuade protests could keep demonstrators from demonstrating. If this sounds circular…it is! I wonder how many college professors the Times’ had to canvas to find one who fit their agenda.
The attempt to confuse Fukushima with Hiroshima/Nagasaki is clear. Millions of Japanese, and millions-more around the world, are already confused about reactors and bombs. The effects of not knowing the differences between reactors and bombs are considerable, and has caused severe psychological damage. By trying to add to the existing confusion by making unfathomably specious parallels between post-H/N secrecy and Fukushima, based on assumptions completely alien to Japan’s new sate’s secrets law, can only make the negative psychological impact of the Hiroshima Syndrome worse than it already is.