This site requires a lot of work. We hope you find our efforts valuable and rewarding. Please consider offering your support. There is no minimum amount. Feel free to donate as you see fit, without restriction. Thank you...
These postings generally 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?
To help keep this page free for everyone, please consider a donation (click on the button in the left-hand column).
"Fukushima : The First Five Days"...a book taken from the records kept by the operating staff at Fukushima Daiichi during the first crucial days of the crisis. It is now available at all E-book outlets. For the PDF and bundle, click here... http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-the-first-five-days.html
NEW E-BOOK - "Kimin: Japan's Forgotten People" - the untold story of Japan's 300,000 tsunami refugees, ignored by the world's news media. Available at Amazon/Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/Kimin-Forgotten-Leslie-E-Corrice-ebook/dp/B00GMPBSTO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384733832&sr=8-1&keywords=Kimin%3A+Japan%27s+Forgotten+People and Barnes & Noble (Nook) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Kimin--Japan-s-Forgotten-People?keyword=Kimin%3A+Japan%27s+Forgotten+People&store=book
March 11, 2014
Fukushima Third Anniversary Press: The Negative
Over the past two weeks, there have been numerous Japanese Press articles commemorating the Fukushima nuclear accident. Most news reports continue to emphasize the negative. However, a few have posted a positive article or two, which was not the case at this time last year. The positive will be covered in a subsequent posting. The negative views seem to follow several common themes which are addressed here.
1 – A summation of the Fukushima accident is included in almost every newspaper article, regardless of the paper’s opinion on nuclear power. Though not as detailed as the ubiquitous reminders posted last year, they exist nonetheless…even in reports that have little or nothing to do with the Fukushima accident. For example, in a Japan Times article about the 267,000 tsunami refugees currently struggling to make ends meet, the paper includes “more than 97,000 people remain in makeshift residences in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima, home of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where hydrogen explosions and three reactor core meltdowns tainted large parts of the prefecture with radiation. Japan has been thrust into a debate about the use of atomic power because of the Fukushima crisis, characterized as the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl in 1986. All 48 of the nation’s commercial reactors are now offline, but the government wants to restart those that clear new safety regulations despite strong public opposition.” While more than 1,600 Fukushima residents were killed, and thousands more made permanently homeless by the tsunami, adding a “Fukushima” summation is quite inappropriate in a report on the human aftermath of the tsunami itself. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/10/national/267000-still-evacuees-three-years-on/#.Ux25BKOYYdU
2 – Life in Fukushima evacuation centers stresses people. A Jiji Press article can be seen as an example. It says “Sudden changes, which doctors think may be linked to stress from prolonged and uncomfortable living as an evacuee, highlight the plight of the 28,000 people still living in cramped temporary housing in Fukushima Prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.” The article points out that more people have died due to disaster-related causes than were killed by the tsunami: 1664 vs. 1603. However, nowhere in the article do we find how many people in the centers are there due to the Fukushima evacuation and how many are not. Nor is there a distinction between the number of disaster-related deaths from the tsunami, ripping people’s homes away and killing loved ones, and Fukushima evacuees who were not so-impacted by the tsunami. In fact, there is never a distinction made between Fukushima evacuees and tsunami refugees when this sort of article is published. Regardless, it is subtly but significantly implied that all of Fukushima Prefecture’s refugees are due to the Fukushima accident, which is certainly not the case. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014030700784
3 – The issue of contaminated water at Fukushima is found in most every news outlet’s third anniversary package. I’ll use a Mainichi Shimbun posting as an example. It begins, “Almost three years have passed since the outbreak of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, and we have yet to see the 30- to 40-year decommissioning process truly take off. Radioactive water continues to leak from the plant, breeding fears among the public.” It goes on to remind everyone that 1,000 tons of groundwater passes through and around Fukushima Daiichi every day, and allegedly some of it constantly flows into the Pacific. 400 tons per day is stored in large tanks “from which numerous leaks have been reported”. Additional reminders are posted about two underground water reservoirs having leaked, one tank overflowed, and the one tank leak that caused the Nuclear Regulation Authority to declare a level 3 emergency “the fifth most serious classification on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) of 0 to 7.” The article continues with statements about government money being used, the problems with the hi-tech isotopic removal system (ALPS), freezing the earth, and soil solidification to stem the groundwater flow. However, nowhere in the article is it mentioned that there has been no contamination detected in the ocean off-shore of F. Daiichi. The few points at the outlets of drainage ditches where radioactive Cesium has been sporadically detected have been well-below the 60 Becquerel per liter standard. Total Beta activity, which includes Strontium, shows nothing measurable at any sampling point. (Nuclear Regulation Authority data) A Becquerel is one radioactive emission per second. The lower limit of detectability is 0.001 Bq/liter. Radiation detection equipment is one of the most sensitive monitoring technologies known to man. By not mentioning the fact that the Pacific is not being contaminated, the Mainichi makes it seem as if Fukushima isotopes are pouring into the sea…which isn’t the case at all. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140304p2a00m0na011000c.html
4 – Technology and working conditions for decommissioning are lacking? Once again, we have the Mainichi Shimbun to exemplify this type of story. The article opens with a left-handed admission that the spent fuel removal from the unit #4 pool is going well, then explodes with the ominous, “Workers at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant began removing spent nuclear fuel rods from the No. 4 reactor's cooling pool in November 2013. But spent fuel in reactors No. 1, 2 and 3 has remained untouched, and we still lack technology that can withstand high levels of radiation in the decommissioning process. Considering this is a major undertaking that will take up to 40 years, we have barely taken the first step.” After a few paragraphs, we find that the worst is yet to come, “The biggest hurdle TEPCO faces is the removal of molten fuel in the No. 1-3 reactors. Effects of the March 11, 2011 tsunami left the three reactors without their cooling capacity, and temperatures in the reactor containment vessels rose at one point to at least 2,000 degrees Celsius. The majority of the reactors' 1,496 fuel rods are believed to have melted.” Later on, the Mainichi injects some serious doubt, “However, it is unclear whether the quantity and quality necessary for upcoming work at the nuclear plant can be maintained.” Nagoya University professor Akio Yamamoto says, "From the standpoint of the entire decommissioning process, we are now standing at the foot of the mountain range, where we cannot see the mountaintop. There are going to be steep slopes and drop-offs waiting up ahead, such as the removal of molten fuel. Those on the ground face excessive burdens, including dealing with contaminated water. We urgently need to improve compensation for workers." While there is a kernel of truth behind this barrage of fear, uncertainty and doubt, the subject matter does not tell us where things stand now…three years after 3/11/11. I thought the point of third anniversary reporting was reporting where things stand today, and not negative future speculations. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140304p2a00m0na012000c.html
5 - Another common topic is the risk of radiation exposure to Fukushima station workers. Japan’s second largest newspaper posted an article that seems to best exemplify the issue. About half of the people who have worked at the site, more than 15,000 individuals, have received exposure of more than 5 millisieverts. Nearly 3,000 had this level of exposure in but one month during 2011. The Asahi maintains that this is “a radiation exposure reference for humans”, but gives no other reason for using this as level of significant risk. It isn’t, of course. Radiation workers are allowed up to 50 mSv per year and 100 mSv over a five year period. A scientific consensus maintains that exposure below 100 mSv/year shows no discernable negative health effects. Regardless, the article points out that the labor Ministry has instructed Tepco to reduce these numbers as much as possible, which has been echoed by the NRA. Measures to meet these instructions are planned to be in place by next March, so the Asahi makes it sound as if the site workers are at risk until it happens. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201403090018
6 – Toddlers and adolescents among the Fukushima evacuees are full of fear. Japan Today says the Fukushima accident has made 2-11 year-olds deathly afraid of radiation. Mitsuhiro Hiraguri, director of the Emporium Kindergarten in Koriyama, some 55 km west of the Fukushima nuclear plant, says, “There are children who are very fearful. They ask before they eat anything, ‘does this have radiation in it?’ and we have to tell them it’s okay to eat. I do sometimes wonder if it’s really all right to keep children in Fukushima. But there are those who can’t leave, and I feel strongly that I must do all I can for them.” Toshiaki Yabe, an official with the Koriyama city government says fear of radiation is keeping little children from playing outdoors and it is causing physical problems. “Compared to before the disaster, you can certainly see a fall in the results of physical strength and ability tests - things like grip strength, running and throwing balls,” he stresses. 5 year-old boys are a little over a pound heavier than before 3/11/11, on the average, and 11 year-olds are nearly 7 pounds heavier. Hiraguri adds that stress is showing up in an increase of scuffles, arguments and even sudden nosebleeds among the children. One major reason for this fear seems to be the children’s parents, because they have certainly not learned these behaviors from their schools. “I try to keep from going out and from opening the window,” said 34-year-old Ayumi Kaneta, who has three sons. “I buy food from areas away from Fukushima. This is our normal life now.” A mother at an indoor Koriyama playground was overheard telling her child: “Try to avoid touching the outside air”. Japan Today reports, “Even three-year-olds know the word radiation”. Radiation levels around the Koriyama Kindergarten are now down around 0.12-0.14 microsieverts per hour, from 3.1 to 3.7 right after the quake, said Hiraguri, but this has not made a significant impact on many radiation-fearing parents and their children. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/children-of-fukushima-battle-an-invisible-enemy?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-03-10_PM
7 – The Press is doing its best to keep the nuclear debate in the headlines. We again turn to the Asahi Shimbun. Its article opens with “Proponents of nuclear energy say the environment, consumers and the nation’s economy will all suffer without the restart of nuclear reactors. Opponents say the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, proves that nuclear energy is just too dangerous to use. They also say Japan has already proved it can get along fine without nuclear energy.” The article pits Kazuhiro Ueta, a professor of environmental economics at Kyoto University, against Tsutomu Toichi, an adviser with the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. But before getting to the opponents, The Asahi provides some background, explaining how the nuclear moratorium is costing Japan dearly, and “Japan has often had to rely on shoestring operations and unorthodox methods to ensure enough electricity to cover peak demand in summer and winter.” The negativist, Kazuhiro Ueta, says none of Japan’s currently idled nukes need to be restarted because of safety questions, radiation exposures to plant operating staff, and his belief that Japan has survived very well without nukes. He adds that electricity costs are a small fraction of manufacturing costs and household expenditures, so the increased costs of fossil fuels can be ignored. The positivist, Tsutomu Toichi, says the current situation with old, poorly maintained fossil fuel units is not sustainable. Electricity rates have risen 20% since 3/11/11, and they will continue to increase as long as the nukes remain shut down. He adds that restarting nukes will not impinge on Japan’s move toward renewables. Finally, he believes the nuclear waste issue should not hold back restarts since the only thing that remains is a political mandate on a final disposal location. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/analysis/AJ201403060060
* * *
The above synopsis of the common negative Fukushima threads running through the Japanese Press uses specific articles as examples. For those who are interested, here are the headlines and links to some of the other articles posted recently.
Fukushima nuclear disaster taking toll on corporate and family finances; Mainichi Shimbun; http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20140311p2a00m0na018000c.html
Reactors still feared despite new rules; Japan Times; http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/11/national/nuclear-power-is-still-feared-despite-tests-walls-tougher-safety-standards/#.Ux8Ee6OYYdU
Plans to restart nuclear plants, move residents back to Fukushima criticized; Japan Daily Press; http://japandailypress.com/plans-to-restart-nuclear-plants-move-residents-back-to-fukushima-criticized-1145575/
Fukushima Three Years On; Japan Real Time/Wall Street Journal; http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/03/11/fukushima-three-years-on/
Fukushima Watch: Questions and Answers on Contaminated Water; Japan Real Time/Wall Street Journal; http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/03/10/fukushima-watch-questions-and-answers-on-contaminated-water/
Survey: 74% of voluntary evacuees not returning; NHK World; March 7, 2014 (NHK deletes archives after 3-4 days. See my summary of March 10 at http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-accident-updates.html)
And, finally three links to articles concerning the past weekend’s third anniversary antinuclear rally in Tokyo… http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140310p2a00m0na004000c.html -- http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/07/31/fukushima-protesters-urge-end-to-nuclear-power/ -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/09/national/thousands-turn-out-for-anti-nuclear-rally-in-tokyo/#.Ux25kqOYYdU
March 7, 2014
A Fukushima Third Anniversary “What If” Scenario
(Naoto Kan’s crime against Japan; Part II)
My March 1st commentary, Naoto Kan’s crime against Japan, left some interesting questions on the table – what if Kan had not ordered the crippling delays of March 12, 2011? Where would we be today, three years later? If I might be allowed to speculate…
At midnight on 3/12/11, the management team at Fukushima Daiichi knew they would have to depressurize unit #1’s containment. If allowed by Tepco/Tokyo, the plant’s staff would have quickly begun preparing for the manual initiation of the “vent” operation. The radiation levels inside the unit #1 reactor building would not have been as extreme as they were nine-plus hours later with the actual venting. The work to get the depressurization ready could have been finished in a comparatively quick fashion. The wind was blowing out to sea, so there was no risk to the local public. Weather forecasts said the sea-ward air flow would probably not fully shift for at least two days. We can thus conservatively speculate that without Naoto Kan’s interference, the depressurization could have begun on-or-about 1:30am with no risk to any member of the public.
The “venting” would have depressurized the inner Primary Containment Vessel, likely averting compromise of its physical integrity. The accumulating hydrogen gas would have been blown out to sea along with the airborne radioactivity, averting a hydrogen explosion. By allowing the venting to occur until the mobile diesel was feeding electricity into unit #1 (at ~3pm), a sequential re-energizing of some, if not most of the emergency cooling systems would have ensued. At the time the diesel began operation, the staff was preparing to send water into the core via the Standby Liquid Control system. All they needed was electricity to run the SLCC pump. The high pressure SLCC pump would probably have been feeding the reactor fuel core no later than 4pm, avoiding severe melting of the fuel inside its core.
Since units #1 and #2 were tandem, they shared the auxiliary electrical system. It is probable that unit #2 would have been repowered before six pm. Venting of unit #2 would have been un-necessary. By sundown of March 12, 2011, both units #1 and #2 would have been in a safe condition and steadily progressing toward cold shutdown.
The team that found an operational switchboard inside unit #1 and spliced half of the available cable between it and the mobile diesel, could have set to work with unit #3 after their work was done ~4pm on March 12. A second diesel was slowly making its way down from units #5 and #6 located on the bluff overlooking the four lower units. There is every reason to think plant manager Yoshida would have set every available person to the task of getting that second diesel to unit #3 a quickly as possible once units 1 & 2 were out of the woods. While additional personnel would be clearing the access road for the 2nd diesel, an operational switchboard inside unit #3 reactor building would have been found. There is no reason to think the one found inside unit #1 was a singular discovery. The remaining cable from unit #1 could have been spliced into the switchboard and laid out to the outside, awaiting the mobile diesel’s arrival.
Operator records say the level of water in the #3 reactor did not reach the top of the fuel core until ~4:45am on March 13. Thus, plant staff would have had about 12 hours to repower the blacked-out unit and prevent the core inside unit #3 from losing its water cover. It is quite possible that the second diesel would have arrived at the scene, been spliced into the cable, and been feeding power into unit #3 in plenty of time to save the core from severe meltdown. If there would have been a need to vent unit #3 before power was restored, it would have occurred while the wind was still blowing out to sea. The wind did not shift on-shore until early morning of March 14, so any venting of unit #3 on March 13 would have placed no member of the public at risk. More importantly, it is likely the #3 hydrogen explosion at ~11am on March 14 would have been averted if the unit had been repowered early in the morning of March 13.
By averting the three hydrogen explosions and making all venting operations while the wind was blowing out to sea, the situation three years after would be much, much different. To begin, the 20 kilometer exclusion zone around F. Daiichi, and the evacuation “corridor” stretching to 40 kilometers northwest of the nuke station, would not exist. It is possible that the initial 3km evacuation radius would have remained as such for a time, at least until all three affected units reached cold shutdown condition. However, it is unlikely that the relatively small number of people inside the zone would have been kept from their homes for an extended period. There would not have been 85,000 people forced by the government to leave their homes. In fact, nearly all of the currently mandated evacuees would have been home for the last three years.
Second, the unit #4 reactor building would not have exploded, and nothing inside would have been damaged relative to the reactor, safety systems or spent fuel pool. The damage to the unit was due to hydrogen gas that migrated from unit #3 through the tandem-unit air-conditioning system. There would have been no explosion, no unit #4 containment building “tilting and in danger of collapse” speculations, no American government panic due to thinking the water in the spent fuel pool had boiled away, and no confabulated prophecies of apocalypse due to the 1533 fuel bundles in the SFP.
Third, there would be no explosion-spawned rubble for the staff to cart away and bury, and wastewater storage issues would be many times less severe than we find today. There would certainly not be a thousand huge tanks holding a thousand tons of contaminated water each. There might not be any external storage tanks at all! Plus, there might not be any contaminated groundwater to speculate as flowing into the Pacific on a daily basis.
Fourth, the decommissioning of damaged unit #1 (and perhaps unit #3) would be several orders of magnitude less daunting, and occur with much less exposure to the decommissioning staff than is now the case. There would be no leaks out of the containments, thus the PCVs would already be flooded with water, drastically dropping the radiation fields inside and outside the buildings.
Fifth, Tepco’s required evacuee compensation outlays would be much less. Let’s assume the government would have mandated the current $1,000 per month/per person payment for psychological damage and stress, for all 85,000 of the current evacuees, regardless. This would make the total about $85 million per month. Tepco is currently paying out more than $1 billion per month for a buffet of compensations.
Sixth, Fukushima Prefecture’s agricultural business would probably have continued without a significant glitch. The reason for consumer aversion to Fukushima Prefecture’s produce is the possibility of it containing a trace of radioactive material from the accident. But, if there were no “fallout” (the Press’ term…not mine), only the most paranoiac radiophobes would be reluctant to eat Fukushima produce.
Seventh, there would be no rational basis for fearing an increase in child thyroid cancers in the prefecture. All the Iodine would have been blown out to sea. Without the rural Iodine contamination, there would be no child thyroid cancer scare.
Finally, nearly all of the several million tons of tsunami debris that remains along the prefecture’s coastline would probably have been removed, at this point. By the end of 2013, Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures, which were more severely pummeled by the tsunami than Fukushima, had removed more than 95% of their coastline debris. In Fukushima, there is still about 40% of the tsunami residue to be handled. The delay is largely due to radioactive contamination fears. It is safe to assume the debris removal along the Fukushima coast would be much the same as with the two other Prefectures, were it not for Fukushima contamination.
On the other hand, there would still be some downsides. As mentioned above, unit #1 at F. Daiichi would still have to be decommissioned due to a severe partial meltdown. It is possible unit #3 would be decommissioned, as well, since it is possible that some fuel damage would have occurred before being repowered on March 13. The decommissionings, however, would not take 30-40 years. It would be more like the time-frame America experienced with Three Mile Island in the 1980s… ten years… maybe.
Next, there probably would have been a considerable “voluntary” evacuation worse than with with Three Mile Island in 1979. We should keep in mind that Japan had what was probably the most radiation-averse population on the planet due to the bombings of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. The massive differences between reactors and bombs, as well as the great dissimilarities between bomb fallout and nuclear plant accident airborne releases, were virtually unknown to the population of Japan on 3/11/11. All they knew was nuclear bombs, and most (except the current populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) believed the misconceptions that a nuclear reactor is just like a bomb and a fission is a tiny nuclear explosion. There was probably no worse place on Earth for a reactor plant accident than post-WWII Japan. Regardless, a significant voluntary evacuation would probably have been the case, with a small but significant fraction refusing to ever go home out of fear of nuclear energy. Such is the case with the Hiroshima Syndrome.
Also, Fukushima Prefecture’s fishing industry would still have been harmed because all of the released Iodine, Cesium, Strontium, and etc. which would have fallen into the Pacific Ocean from the depressurizations. Reluctance to eat the catch off Fukushima’s coastline would have happened anyway. Asian nations would probably have reacted just a radiophobically as they did after the actual nuke accident. In addition, the Fukushima radiation paranoia now surfacing along the Pacific coast of North America would still have occurred.
Finally, we should not overlook the loss of life and the extreme damage caused by the 3/11/11 tsunami. Fukushima Prefecture says more than 1600 people were killed by the black water surge…about 8% of the total for the entire coastline. While no official numbers have been posted by the Press, it is safe to assume that at least 10,000, and perhaps as many as 25,000 tsunami survivors lost everything – their homes and all belongings – on that fateful day. These unfortunate Fukushima residents would still be disaster refugees, without a doubt. They would be part of what the current tsunami refugees call themselves – Kimin; Japan’s forgotten people.
What you have just read is speculation, of course. But one cannot honestly deny…if Naoto Kan had not interfered with the emergency actions of the trained and experienced staff at Fukushima Daiichi, the situation today, three years after the fact, would be very different and much less gloomy.
* Addendum - Reader J. W. pointed out there would be at least two other important differences for Japan. Japan's 50 other nuclear power plants would have continued operation, perhaps with pauses for upgrading in the light of Fukushima lessons. As a result, the Japanese economy would be in much better shape. Very true, J.W. Thanks for the input.
March 4, 2014
PBS Fukushima Report is Fear-mongering at its Worst
The February 28 PBS report, Inside the slow and dangerous clean up of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, is fear-mongering at its most disturbing extreme. The obvious intent is to scare and upset the viewer with exaggeration, innuendo, and thinly-veiled conspiracy theory, all predicated on proliferating fear, uncertainty and doubt. (FUD) There seems to have been little or no effort towards rational informing of the viewers.
Even the lead-in by anchor Judy Woodruff drips with fear and doubt, “Now we take you to a place that garnered headlines around the world three years ago, but has hardly been seen since, because it’s so dangerous.” Hardly seen since? Who is she trying to kid? Fukushima has been in the Japanese Press every day for three years, and the internet has been inundated with apocalyptic scenarios made by leading international antinukes on a regular basis. Plus, what about the Fukushima radioactivity reporting coming out of the Pacific coastline of North America the past two months? “Hardly seen”? Give me a break. In addition, the implication that the Press in Japan isn’t covering Fukushima “because it’s so dangerous” is a complete fabrication! They are all over it… like white on rice.
The report itself begins with end-of-the-world insinuations by PBS’ Miles O’Brien, when he says the evacuation zone around F. Daiichi “remains a post-apocalyptic landscape of abandoned towns, frozen in time. We were on our way to one of the most hazardous places on Earth, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.” Who wrote the script? Harvey Wasserman? Arnie Gundersen? Helen Caldicott? This is straight out of the antinuclear persuasion’s “Fukushima 101” rhetorical guidelines. The apocalyptic beginning follows with a quote from the plant manager posed in a fashion that makes it seem as if he is not taking his job seriously enough, “After all, if you are just cleaning up after an accident, there is a lack of quality, meaning speed is the only concern. I feel that isn’t enough. We need to look ahead, 30 to 40 years.”
Next comes two misleading statements – “Engineers believe some of the nuclear fuel has melted right through the steel containment vessels on to a concrete basement floor, where it is exposed to groundwater.” (Which it isn’t) – “As the ground water passes through the pump, it gets mixed in with the contaminated water that is used to cool the melted-down cores.” (What is O’Brien talking about? What pump? How is the pump mixing the waters? Is he making this up, or does he simply not have a clue?)
Next, the commentary turns to the wastewater tank issue. After implying that the storage tanks were thrown together in slap-dash fashion, O’Brien says that “no one disputes the plant is steadily leaking radiation-tainted water into the sea.” However, he conveniently neglects to point out that the alleged out-flow, inside the barricaded inner harbor, has contamination levels have become so low that they meet Japan’s limits for open discharge to the sea. Further, he neglects to say that all open water sampling outside the quay for more than a year shows nothing…nada…zero Fukushima contamination! He does present so-called “balance” by citing the plant manager, “When you go out to the open ocean, there is very little contamination found. Basically, the contamination is limited to the port.” But, this seems to be a left-handed way to say that Tepco cannot be trusted.
Finally, O’Brien’s piece turns to the usual antinuclear rhetoric intended for fomenting FUD. “At the port, they are bolstering the last line of defense. This water-shielding wall should be complete in September. Behind it is a system that injects a chemical into the ground that turns water into a viscous gel, stemming the flow to the sea. The company is also testing an idea to bury cooling pipes near the melted reactors to freeze the ground, making impermeable ice plugs in walls that would keep the clean and contaminated water apart. But all of this is clearly not sustainable. (emphasis added) In about three years, they will run out of space for new water holding tanks. Then what?” Which assumes everyone will just be sitting on their hands for the next three years.
At least O’Brien mentions the high-tech ALPS isotopic removal system that only lets harmless Tritium through. But, it’s radioactive so it is given special fear-oriented attention. When American expert Lake Barrett tells O’Brien that Tritium levels will be so low as to meet Japanese drinking water standards, O’Brien says “TEPCO has no authorization from the Japanese government, local residents or fishermen to discharge any water at all, including what is leaking, from the Fukushima Daiichi site.” O’Brien is right, but he clearly uses this to imply that if Tritium was harmless they would be allowed to release it. I guess we’re not supposed to trust Lake Barrett, either. There is nothing about rampant fear of radiation in the public… nothing about rumors of radiation hurting the Japanese fishing industry… nothing about a Japanese news media that is blatantly antinuclear. Just narrative designed to instill FUD.
O’Brien closes his fear-mongering with, “Three years after the meltdowns, the crisis has not ended here. In some ways, it is still unfolding.” The clear implication being that the accident continues… it’s not over… be concerned… be very concerned!
Then, Judy Woodruff chimes in, “Next Wednesday, Miles will have a report on the Fukushima meltdown’s effect on fish in the surrounding waters… we, his NewsHour colleagues, are in awe of his courage.” I’m in awe of how twisted the story is. I’m disgusted that PBS has stooped this low. Are revenues down? Is this what Public Television has come to? And, what about the untold story of the refugees from the disaster that killed 20,000 Japanese and made 300,000 permanently homeless many hours before the Fukushima accident began? What about the tsunami victims?
Oh…wait a minute…my bad…the tsunami’s aftermath isn’t nuclear – it cannot be connected to Fukushima radiation. The tsunami story wouldn’t instil FUD in the viewers, so it just isn’t newsworthy enough!
* The term "pump" in the posted transcript of the PBS report turns out to have been a typo. The term used in the video is "plant". This still makes the statement dubious, at best. The groundwater seeping into the turbine basements does not "pass through" the plant. Yes, it mixes with the contaminated water in the cellars, but this water is stripped of Cesium and stored in wastewater tanks. It doesn't "pass through" the plant. *
March 1, 2014
Naoto Kan’s crime against Japan
This past week, a court panel in Tokyo rejected a criminal suit against former PM Naoto Kan concerning his actions during the first week of the Fukushima accident. Kan and five other officials allegedly caused the premature deaths of numerous people due to the chaotic Fukushima Daiichi evacuation. The panel said they could find no proof of the claim. I was waiting to see how the case would turn out before writing what follows. If criminal charges would have been filed, my opinion would be little more than adding insult to injury. I no longer feel this constraint.
There are numerous detailed reports concerning what happened at Fukushima, including my E-book Fukushima: The First Five Days. All of these sources show that soon after midnight of March 12, 2011, Naoto Kan made an executive decision. In my opinion, the events caused by Kan’s decision warrant criminal charges being brought against him, but not for the evacuation. His decision may have been the main reason for the severity of meltdowns with units #1, 2 & 3, and the sole cause of the hydrogen explosions at units #1, 3 & 4.
At ~12:20 am, site manager Yoshida wanted to begin the work of manually depressurizing unit #1 and asked the company’s home office for permission. Tepco-Tokyo dutifully forwarded the request to Kan, who’s approval should have been a perfunctory “yes”. However, Kan told them to not depressurize until (1) the entire 3km radius’ evacuation was confirmed, and (2) a 3pm Press conference in Tokyo was held to announce the impending depressurization. The Press conference was held at 3:06am, but the 3km radius could not be confirmed as evacuated until ~9am. I firmly believe these politically-mandated delays are the prime reason for the full core-relocating meltdown of unit #1 and the hydrogen explosion which decimated the upper story of the Reactor Building at 3:36pm. If these delays had not been ordered by Kan, the full meltdown could well have been mitigated and the building explosion completely avoided.
The records kept by the staff and management team at F. Daiichi show that at 10pm on March 11, control room indication for reactor water level had been energized and there was more than 20 inches of water above the top of the fuel core inside unit #1. The meltdown could not have yet begun with that much water in the core. However, reactor building radiation levels were increasing. By 11pm, radiation levels at the Turbine Building access were increasing, as well. It may have been at this point that the fuel inside the reactor was beginning to be uncovered. But, as long as there was any water and steam inside the RPV, it is unlikely than a full meltdown would happen. When the actual melting of the core began is speculative, at best, but it does not seem to have begun before midnight. Soon after midnight, site manager Yoshida ordered the staff to prepare to depressurize the Primary Containment structure surrounding the reactor itself. The lower pressure would allow low pressure fire pumps to inject cooling water into the core and stop the progression of core damage. Local authorities said the 3km radius was fully evacuated at 12:30am, so Yoshida wanted depressurization to begin in earnest. They needed Tokyo’s approval. At 1:30am they were told of Kan’s two criteria for depressurization by Tepco-Tokyo.
It is quite likely that if the depressurization of unit #1 would have happened at 1:30pm, the amount of fuel melting in the core would have been severe, but a full core relocation unlikely. Some hydrogen may have begun seeping out of the PCV and into the outer reactor building. However, it is unlikely that the hydrogen level in the outer building would have been sufficient for the later-in-the-day explosion. When the actual depressurization occurred at ~ 10am, the fuel core was fully melted and had relocated to the bottom head of the pressure vessel. Also, large volumes of hydrogen gas had entered the outer reactor building in sufficient quantity to cause the subsequent explosion. The depressurization was way, way too late. The person most responsible for this situation was Naoto Kan.
The explosion with unit #1 came just six minutes after a high-voltage mobile diesel had begun sending electricity into unit #1. The staff was on the verge of starting the high-pressure Standby Liquid Control (SLC) system which would have been able to inject water inside the RPV. Flying concrete shards from the hydrogen explosion shorted out the heavy-duty cable that has been spliced between the diesel and a switchboard inside the reactor building. Flying debris also smashed into the diesel and knocked it out of commission. If it were not for the unit #1 hydrogen explosion, it is safe to say unit #1 would have been in a safe condition rather quickly, and unit #2 re-energized through tandem-unit interconnections soon there-after. If the depressurization would have been allowed at ~1:30am on March 12, 2011, it is probable that unit #1’s fuel damage would have been stanched at the partial/severe meltdown stage and the unit #1 hydrogen explosion would never have happened! Further, it is likely that unit #2 would have completely avoided meltdown since the fuel core did not begin to uncover until around 4:30pm on March 14th! In fact, unit #2 did not lose its steam-powered emergency cooling pumps (RCIC and HPCI) until a few hours before the core began to uncover. If there had been no unit #1 explosion, there would have been no fuel melting and relatively minor fuel bundle damage.
It is possible that unit #3 could have been saved, as well. A second high-voltage mobile diesel was on its way to unit #3 from units #5&6, when the unit #1 explosion occurred. The road was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami debris had to be removed as the diesel made its way down from the two undamaged unit on the bluff above units #1 through #4. It was a slow go. When unit #1 exploded, there was even more debris to clear than before, making the trip even slower. About half of the spool of heavy-duty cable used to splice the first diesel into unit #1 remained. The balance of the cable could have been used to connect the second diesel with unit #3 and reenergized the emergency cooling systems. The flow of water into unit #3’s core was not terminated until 2:42am on March 13th. The meltdown probably didn’t begin until after that time. Thus, unit #3 might have been saved if not for the hydrogen explosion with unit #1 at 3:36pm on March 12.
Kan would argue, I’m sure, that he ordered the delays to insure that no member of the public would be exposed to the radioactive gasses released by depressurizing unit #1. However, the wind was blowing out to sea on March 11th and was projected to stay that way for at least two days, which was not unknown to Kan and his emergency team in Tokyo. Real-time meteorological data from a computerized system, acronym SPEEDI, was available to Kan the entire time, but he negligently chose to ignore it because he felt meteorological forecasting was inherently inaccurate.
Clearly, Kan panicked and gave orders that exacerbated the severity of the accident. He more than “meddled” - he criminally interfered! While we cannot say that Naoto Kan’s negligence caused the Fukushima accident, it seems that we can point a guilty finger at the former PM and say that he was the primary reason for the severity of the accident and the one person most responsible for all three hydrogen explosions. In my honest opinion, he should be criminally indicted for executive malfeasance, meddling in the emergency actions at F. Daiichi, placing the station’s entire staff in an un-necessary state of danger, and causing completely avoidable anguish to be inflicted on the people of Japan.