Fukushima 21...11/25/11-12/7/11

December 7

  • At least half of members of the government panel investigating the accident at Fukushima Daiichi are skeptical of TEPCO’s week-old interim report. While most informed sources feel TEPCO’s conclusion of the tsunami as the cause of the accident is correct, the panel’s majority rejects that judgment based entirely on distrust of TEPCO. "The claim that tsunami alone caused the accident is nothing but a hypothesis," said panel member Hitoshi Yoshioka, vice president at Kyushu University, "I feel a majority of panel members feel this way. It is close to a common understanding that it would not be good to trust as [it] is TEPCO's analysis that tsunami was the cause of the accident. There are many important weak points in the safety of Japan's nuclear plants so it is implausible that everything would be all right as long as tsunami measures were implemented."  Yotaro Hatamura, chairman of the panel, goes even further by saying there may be a cover-up occurring. He feels the earthquake caused the accident at Fukushima and was exacerbated by the tsunami. If what he feels is true, he then believes all nuclear utilities in Japan have been covering up inadequate earthquake protection issues for more than five years. Other members of the panel believe there was structural damage to the piping on the three damaged reactor vessels that contributed to the accident’s cause, although there is no empirical evidence to support their beliefs. Only one brief dissenting comment has been reported. Kazuo Oike, the director of the International Institute for Advanced Studies said, "The accident would have been unthinkable without the tsunami. Isn't the tsunami the cause of the accident?" Regardless, the panel’s majority says TEPCO’s conclusion of the accident being tsunami-initiated could well be a convenient, compelling excuse acting as a smoke screen over the real cause. The ramifications of this sudden rhetorical turn could have far reaching ramifications, casting doubts on all nuclear utilities inside and outside Japan. (Asahi Shimbun)  This startling exercise in speculation serves to validate what we have been saying since the panel of non-nuclear “experts” was formed. This is worse than the blind leading the blind. It’s patently absurd!
  • Fukushima Prefecture is seeking the impossible. They have set a goal for the decontamination of farmland and forests at no detectable radioactive cesium in agricultural, livestock and forestry products. They admit their goal is “overly ambitious” caused by widespread fears associated with detectable levels of Cesium in agricultural products and its impact on the product market. "We need to remove radiation promptly because our products have suffered tremendous damage from shipment restrictions and negative publicity," an official said. Another prefectural government official said, "Products are not being traded or prices have fallen sharply if an extremely small amount of cesium is contained." (Asahi Shimbun) There is no way to discriminate between Fukushima Cesium and the residuals from A-bomb tests in the 1950s. The weapon’s Cesium has been around so long that detectable levels exist in topsoil much, much deeper than the 5cm guideline now promoted by Tokyo. It would make a bit of sense to set a pre-Fukushima level as the goal, but a “zero” goal is clearly unrealistic and unobtainable.
  • TEPCO has reported the maximum volume of Strontium-laced water that reached the sea over the past few days. Roughly 300 liters escaped the desalinization building and entered a 600 meter-long drainage ditch. Roughly half may have entered the sea before sandbags were dropped into the ditch outlet and stopped the flow. Strontium is a weak Beta radiation emitter which can only produce exposure to living tissue if swallowed or otherwise ingested. While the total number of becquerels is huge (26 billion), after natural dispersion, the actual diluted amount compared to typical sea water background is tiny.  (NHK World)
  • TEPCO reports the Xenon level in the air space of the unit #2 primary containment continues to be below detectable concentration.
  • The firefighters who labored mightily during the early days of the Fukushima accident will be given free medical and mental check-ups. 260 individuals who were at the power complex between March 11 and March 25 will be screened for illnesses such as leukemia and cataracts, as well as mental disorders that might emerge. The checkups will again be offered later in 2013 for these medical and mental possibilities. Cataracts screening alone will available from 2014 and beyond. (Japan Times)
  • Akita Prefecture, in northern Japan, had agreed to accept waste materials from other prefectures for incineration and disposal.  Due to local resident’s radiophobia, Akita has decided to ship the residual ash back to the six prefectures from which the garbage came. Since July, Akita incineration facilities have been receiving waste shipments and burning them. But, due largely to sensational Press coverage, local residents have protested burial because the ash has detectable levels of Cesium. (A clear case of NIMBY) 245 tons of sealed, packaged ash below Japanese standards for Cesium radioactivity has built up and stretched storage capacities to their limits. As a result, Akita decided to ship the ash back to where it originated. (NHK World) Once again, no one seems to be mentioning the pre-Fukushima A-bomb Cesium. While some Cesium in the ash may be from Fukushima, a considerable fraction is unquestionably from the bomb tests in the 1950s. It’s possible the ash’s concentration effect with pre-existing cesium may be the reason for some of the ash packages having detectable levels. The “detectable is dangerous” superstition also contributes to the problem.
  • The new investigative panel to the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy intended to map out Japan’s future direction in energy production, met for the first time. In the most “newsworthy” area of interest, opinions are sharply divided over whether the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear power generation. Some members are decidedly against the nuclear option, while others are not so sure they should turn their backs on it. The panel's draft report calls for a policy of the "best mix" of energy sources by promoting renewable energy and reducing dependence on nuclear power generation. In a minority opinion, some panel members, “…disagree with the way the draft concludes that the panel reached an agreement to reduce its reliance (on nuclear energy)." On the other hand, the majority opinion supported the draft report, saying, "It is a step forward because it has found common ground amid many differences in opinion." The panel will reconvene later this month to try and iron out their differences. (Mainichi Shimbun)

December 5

TEPCO’s recent release of its interim report on Fukushima has literally turned into a bad soap opera.  Most of the Japanese news media are lambasting TEPCO for stating the obvious. For example, there is no doubt that regulatory overconfidence in tsunami protection for nuclear plants is the root cause of the Fukushima accident. The degree of regulatory control of nuclear operations in Japan is essentially dictatorial. The owners and operators of nuclear power stations do what the government tells them, and avoids doing more than what is required. The TEPCO report correctly identifies regulatory overconfidence as the reason why the accident was possible, in the first place. Adequate beyond-design-basis safety upgrades would probably have averted the accident. However, the Press is now pointing a guilty finger at TEPCO as the fundamental culprit. For example in an Asahi Shimbun article, “Genki Yagawa, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said the disaster had happened because the company's mind-set was that no serious accident would ever occur.” It’s as if the news media wants to absolve their government of culpability and lay all blame of TEPCO. Not that TEPCO is merely an innocent child of the system, for they had sufficient reason to make upgrades independent of their regulatory bodies. But, the clear attempt at government absolution is a deplorably misleading direction on the part of the Japanese Press, but recommendations for such upgrades from IAEA in the mid-1990s  and 2002 were rejected by Tokyo as too unlikely to warrant the costs.

Across the Japanese news realm, the TEPCO report is being widely criticized for telling it like it is. It sounds like the accident’s progression is given in great detail. (The report remains in Japanese only) It is almost entirely devoid of speculations, which we feel is a credit to the writers of the report. However, the Press is saying the report leaves questions unanswered and should be summarily condemned, if you will. Tadashi Narabayashi, a professor of nuclear reactor engineering at Hokkaido University, said, "I do not see any evidence of new knowledge. What sticks out is the inclusion of only the facts without giving the cause.” This sort of attack is groundless. The report was obviously intended to give the facts and avoid speculation as to cause. This is one time TEPCO should be praised for their informational effort, and the Press should be severely admonished.

Now for today’s updates…

  • Miyagi Prefecture has begun testing children near the Fukushima Prefecture border for possible thyroid damage. The children are from the two Miyagi locations that have whole body exposures of more than 1 millisievert per year. Both locations are below 5 msv/yr, many times less than the 100 msv exposure the news media tells everyone is the threshold of possible cancer. However, some residents are taking rational advantage of the opportunity, "As it borders Fukushima Prefecture and the radiation level is high, I hope to get rid of my worries. I want test opportunities to be offered regularly," said Toru Sakuma, a 28-year-old self-employed resident who took his 1-year-old boy Haruki for the test.
  • The TEPCO interim report also addresses the feelings of the plant operating staff during the days March 11 – March 15. The over-riding emotion was one of helplessness. The station blackout effectively eliminated all operator–initiated recovery efforts, although some cooling systems running off the batteries started automatically. However, the magnitude of the loss of control and the total loss of lighting in the control rooms caused the people to feel that there was no hope. This section of the report also identifies the efforts plant operators made in the attempt to recover cooling functions. Some efforts were temporarily successful, while others completely failed. Finally, we find for the first time in the news media, an explanation of what the staff evacuation announcements during the early days of the accident meant. Aftershocks were so severe that workers not in anti-seismic structures were sent to outdoor assembly areas to take roll-call and find out if anyone had been hurt. Those in seismic structures stayed at their posts through-out. There was never an abandonment of the site. (Japan Times)
  • In addition, the so-called “Fukushima Fifty” who allegedly braved life and limb by staying at their posts while others fled in mortal terror, were also those inside seismic structures during aftershock assemblies. The term additionally refers to the men who did not move to Fukushima Daini on March 14 (after the #3 refueling deck explosion) to minimize radiation exposure while the plant manager and staff tried to figure out what to do next. Again, there was no plant abandonment. (Japan Today)
  • TEPCO reports that ~45 tons of water has leaked from their Fukushima Daiichi desalinization system. The source of the system’s leak has been found and repaired. The desalinization system has been returned to full operation. The water had been stripped of radioactive Cesium down to a level of 45 bq/cc, which is well below health concern if the leak somehow found its way out of the plant. But, radioactive Strontium remained at 13,000 bq/cc. Although unverified, some of the Strontium-rich water may have reached an external ditch. The ditch runs 600 meters from the desalination system to the sea. The possible (but unverified) leak into the ditch seems to be through a crack in the desalinization building’s wall. TEPCO staff has blocked the ditch’s outlet to the sea. There is no evidence of the contaminated water having actually reached the sea off Fukushima Daiichi. (JAIF)
  • Although TEPCO has filed the above report, Japan's nuclear agency (NISA) has ordered the TEPCO to explain the cause of the latest leakage of radioactive water into the ocean, and what measures will be taken to prevent a recurrence. In addition, the fisheries cooperative associations in Fukushima lodged a protest with TEPCO over the leakage. (NHK World) Obviously, NISA has a better grasp of the leak situation from Tokyo, some 240km from Fukushima, than TEPCO. The fisheries associations simply don’t trust anything TEPCO says.
  • Japan's Minister in charge of the nuclear crisis has apologized for the government's slow response in the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Goshi Hosono told an assembly in Iwaki City he would do everything he could to decontaminate the area around the plant. (JAIF) Once again, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Millions of tons of tsunami debris lies moldering outside the no-go zone around Fukushima, but there seems to be no one apologizing for what the tsunami did there, nor is anyone promising quick clean-up. Just saying…

December 2

Wednesday's reports out of Japan on TEPCO's estimates of unit #1 RPV's complete melt-through to the primary
containment floor, is literally full of more holes than the RPV itself. As more detail on the data TEPCO fed into the computer simulation emerges, we find little to hang our hats on. From the information contained in Japan Times and Asahi Shimbun articles posted Thursday, TEPCO based their assumption entirely on worst-case scenarios for the accident event sequence....that never happened! For example, all cooling flow to #1 RPV was assumed to have stopped immediately at the onset of the earthquake and not re-started for “days”, causing the fuel to be uncovered, begin melting down after three hours, and continue to be melted for at least 48 hours. This entirely contradicts control room operator records which show the fuel did not begin to be uncovered until after midnight,
more than 8 hours after the earthquake. In addition, there were at least two cooling water injections (~80 tons each) before uncovery...one about two hours after the earthquake and another just after fuel uncovery began. Further, cooling water flow (seawater) to #1 RPV began at 7pm on March 12 and ran almost continuously thereafter, with a few several-hour interruptions through March 15 due to hose damage caused by the #3&#4 reactor building explosions. In other words, the most critical data leading to the TEPCO's melt-through conclusion
are entirely fabricated! Complete fictions!

What makes it even more of a fairy-tale is TEPCO's statement that the entire core of unit #1 may have melted
through the RPV and dropped to the containment floor beneath. If that happened, the hole in the bottom of the RPV would be huge and still gaping, so there would be no way for a measurable water level to exist inside, at this point. Yet, JAIF's Thursday data report, based on TEPCO data, shows a water level which is ~4.5 feet below the top of what used to be the fuel cell, which is more than 15 feet above the bottom of the RPV. A complete RPV melt-through of the core would result in zero water inside the RPV...there should be no water level to report.

There seems to be a virtual mountain of severe problems with TEPCO's melt-through announcement for all three units. The above is literally the tip of the iceberg. The entire simulation may well be not worth the paper it was printed on. To add another level of fiction to the mix, Asahi Shimbun says someone (anonymous) with the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization believes the accident was perhaps two times worse than the TEPCO simulation purports. A fiction predicated on another fiction, if you will. But, what makes matters worse are the incessant mentions in the Japanese press of the China Syndrome superstition, supported by TEPCO statements to the news media. All reports say China Syndrome was averted, but each strongly implies it to be an entirely possible reality for the world to fear. Right! So is Godzilla!

  • As if the above isn’t disturbing enough, this morning we find another article concerning the melt-through theory (above), this time citing “experts” other than TEPCO. Some say they agree with TEPCO, while others don’t.  On the positive side, Hiromi Ogawa, a former engineer at Toshiba Corp., said "The simulation
    referred to lots of data collected from many experiments, and thus I think the results are very precise. Still, the situation will have to be confirmed visually." On the negative side, Kenji Sumita, past deputy chief of the Nuclear Safety Commission, said, "There are many computer simulation methods. I want to see
    simulations conducted by organizations other than Tepco. I don't believe the fuel got as close as 2 or 3 cm to the steel shell, but I am not sure how credible their details are." Clearly, distrust of TEPCO runs deep. (Japan Times) We feel it is important to point out something all Press reports fail to mention…the news media tells everyone the corium penetrated within 37cm of the steel shell buried in the concrete, which technically marks the limit of the primary containment floor under the RPV. All reports make appear that if the steel shell would have been penetrated, it would have been China Syndrome. What is being conveniently omitted is the ~8ft of steel reinforced concrete below the steel shell.

Now, for some real updates...

  • The Japan Chemical Analysis Center in Chiba has reported that the concentrations of radioactive Xenon in
    the atmosphere for the first 3 months of the Fukushima accident were above normal. The peak concentration occurred soon after the unit #1 hydrogen explosion, which decimated its refueling deck, at 400,000 times normal. (normal = 3.4 millibecquerels.m3, or 3.4x10-3 becquerels/m3). From March 14-22 the average was 1,300 becquerels/m3. Keisuke Isogai from the Center commented on the potential risk, “Since the detected amount translates into a cumulative external exposure to radiation of only 1.3 microsieverts over the three-month period, it won't cause a health hazard." (Mainichi Shimbun) How can something 400,000 times “normal” be safe? That’s a huge number, and huge numbers are inherently scary. First, Xenon is an inert gas that cannot chemically combine with anything. If breathed in, it immediately gets exhaled out and cannot enter the body’s biology. Thus, the only exposure is external. Second, Xenon-133, the primary isotope, is a beta radiation emitter. Beta radiation is non-penetrating. It all gets absorbed by the outer layer of skin. No living tissue exposure whatsoever. Thus, the exposure is essentially innocuous. (The outer three layers of skin are dead cells) In fact, there could have been a billion-billion times normal Xenon levels and there would still be no health threat.
  • TEPCO has released their interim report on the Fukushima accident (in Japanese only…grrr). The report is based on over 250 interviews with plant operators who were at the accident scene from March 11 through the end of May. It begins with what sounds like an attempted shifting of blame as to why the accident was even possible, by saying the government endorsed their existing tsunami protection before March 11. The report also says the utility did everything in its power to stop the progression of the accident events, but workers could not keep up with on-site developments and the meltdowns ensued. It does not, however, contain explanations of what measures the operators at unit #1 took to try and cool their RPV, nor how a massive release of airborne material could have come from unit #2 without a hydrogen explosion. (NHK World)
  • The Tokyo government has announced the independent panel intended to investigate the cause(s) of the Fukushima accident has been expanded to ten people. However, it seems none of them have any nuclear engineering or operating experience. While no new names have been given, the membership is reported to include, “...doctors, a management consultant and a former public prosecutor.” To make matters worse, the committee's report is not expected before June 2013, which means the start-ups of idled nukes probably won't happen until next summer...if then. (Yomiuri Shimbun) Anti-nuclear Ex-Prime Minister  Kan’s de-facto nuclear moratorium doth obtain.

Today marks the 69th anniversary of the world’s first sustained nuclear chain reaction, also known as “The Chicago Pile”. (see “Before the Beginning” page, left) Technically, it marked the beginning of the atomic age. It was not part of the Manhattan Project, and was in no way connected to nuclear weapon development, but it did begin the development of what Einstein called “the benign uses of my idea”. Rod Adams of Atomic Insights has posted a
fine commemorative essay…


November 30

  • The misconception of a hydrogen explosion inside the unit #2 containment structure on March 15 refuses to go away. TEPCO has once again gone to the Press to try and stanch the misinformational flow by using some previously unreleased information. TEPCO now says the explosion of the unit #4 refueling deck was heard in the unit#2 control room and at the Emergency Response Center (TSC) and incorrectly believed to have been from the unit #2 refueling deck. This error in judgment was because units #1 and #3 had experienced explosions due to hydrogen from their damaged fuel cells, so the belief the same had occurred at unit #2 was logical. In addition, with no fuel in the unit #4 RPV, it was believed a refueling deck explosion with unit #4 was not possible. The disbelieving Press countered with questions about a severe radiological release which occurred in parallel with the “impulsive sound” and rapid pressure drop inside the unit #2 containment on March 15, indicating a hydrogen explosion in the unit #2. TEPCO says they have not been able to determine the reason for the coincident spike in radiological releases. TEPCO added they still believe the airborne surge came from unit #2, but they have no idea how it was released. (JAIF, NHK World)

If unit #2 experienced a meltdown similar to units 1&3 with all things being equal, the refueling deck ought to have suffered the same fate as with the first two. What prevented it? Two possibilities emerge...

1) The “blow out panel” on the unit #2 refueling deck was discovered to be open several days after March 15. Although there is no record as to how or when it happened, it is possible the panel was opened early enough to provide a pathway for hydrogen-impregnated gasses to get out of the building before reaching an explosive concentration. And/or,

2) Unit #2 may have had a much less severe fuel damaging experience than with units 1 and 3. While most reports to date say unit #2 had a full, core-relocating meltdown the same as units 1 and 3, control room records indicate its core was uncovered and without cooling water injection for no more than 3 hours. Control room records show the duration core uncovery and lack of cooling with units 1&3 was at least 2-3 times longer than unit #2. Due to unit #2 having the lowest rate of decay heat production of the three reactors, three hours of core uncovery and non-cooling seems too short for a core-relocating meltdown. If unit #2 had less fuel damage, it only follows that it would have produced less hydrogen...perhaps too little to generate an explosive concentration on the refueling deck.

  • TEPCO has announced several rather startling things about the early days of the Fukushima accident, some of which relate to the above. Their new hypotheses are based on temperatures, amounts of cooling water and other data taken from instrument readings. First, they now believe the fuel cell in unit #1 had a full
    meltdown, and complete core relocation to the bottom of the RPV. They also believe a considerable fraction of the molten material made its way through the bottom head and dropped to the concrete containment floor below. In addition, the corium ate its way more than 2 feet into the containment floor before solidifying. With unit #2, they now say no more than 57% of its fuel cell actually melted, and some of the corium relocated to the bottom head. Unit #3 is now believed to have suffered a 63% core melt with more relocation than unit #2. (NHK World, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun) We have been saying for months that the least severe core damage was with unit #2. This is the first “official” announcement confirming our position. However, we feel core damage in unit #2 may have actually been much, much less than even this new announcement purports. We also question the relatively low estimate on unit #3 core damage. Unit #3s’s fuel cell produced enough hydrogen to decimate not one, but two refueling decks. Further, the #3 hydrogen explosion was greater than either of the other two. That’s a damn lot of hydrogen! Wouldn’t this indicate unit #3 may have had the worst fuel damage?
  • Analysis of the gas inside unit #2 primary containment vessel has been completed. TEPCO states the test results show Xenon to be non-detectable. They add that any Xenon which may exist below the detectability
    of their equipment must surely have come from spontaneous fission. (TEPCO Press Release)
  • Because of a sudden alarm from the airborne “continuous dust monitor” near the Fukushima Daiichi's Main Anti-Earthquake Building (Emergency Response Center, or TSC), all personnel were told to put on full
    face masks as a precaution. The requirement for full face masks was relaxed around the TSC several weeks ago (as reported here). Investigation into the cause of the alarm found to be a clogged filter. The filter was replaced and the monitor re-calibrated. The reading shows a 7.9x10-6 bq/cc radioisotope level in the air, which is well below the level requiring full face masks. (1x10-4 bq/cc). Full face masks are no longer needed. (TEPCO Press Release)
  • The governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Yuhei Sato, has agreed to the prefectural assembly’s expressed desire to have all nukes within their borders decommissioned. TEPCO points out that such a move, including six completely undamaged units, will have severe economic effects on the prefecture and negatively impact the nation’s energy infrastructure for more than a decade. (NHK World) We will add that the move is one of pure political panic, and leaves all rationality at the doorstep. Yes, it will keep all incumbents in office, but short-term political gain will never compensate for the damage that will occur in the long term. It’s like throwing away six good, safe apples because another four have gone bad, at a time when everyone is hungry.
  • NISA has decided to establish what the relative age of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi units had to do with the accident, if anything at all. The agency said there was no evidence that showed the age of the three units had anything to do with the accident. But a few contributing experts said it is too early to make such a judgment when the cause of the accident is still under investigation. (NHK World) The accident was due to the tsunami causing a total, long-term blackout. Period! End of discussion! How much money is going to be wasted in order to prove the obvious? Why not spend the money on tsunami recovery, which really needs it?
  • On the other hand, the investigative panel created to establish the cause of the Fukushima accident several weeks ago (re: above), has had its first two members appointed. In other words, it doesn’t really exist yet. Regardless, neither man has any nuclear background or experience, but both have extensive science and technology backgrounds. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former president of the Science Council of Japan, will be head of the panel and Nobel chemistry laureate Koichi Tanaka will be a panel member. The decision for the appointees to not have nuclear experience was a political compromise in the Diet. (Japan Times) Impressive-sounding credentials do not mean that either of them knows the difference between a neutron and a ping-pong ball. We’re sure they are experts in their academic and experiential specialties, but the subject matter of nuclear science and technology has been largely alien to all other scientific disciplines since World War II. For example…renowned cosmologist and theoretical physicist Micheo Kaku’s superstitious fairy-tales concerning meltdowns, as well as his misconceptions concerning fundamental nuclear processes. In addition, are these two newly-appointed men subject to radiophobia? We also think a critical criteria in the selection process should be whether or not a person suffers the Hiroshima Syndrome.

November 28

We have previously commented on radiophobia (morbid fear of radiation) being the new darling of the Japanese
news media. Radiophobia has caused anxieties to germinate and blossom into psychological problems, and the Press is all over it. It's blamed on Fukushima radiation, of course. This judgment caters to popular belief, but shifts the burden of guilt away from the root issue behind this psychic damage...the Hiroshima Syndrome. Using only death statistics from Hiroshima/Nagasaki and using logarithmic graphing, the Linear/No-Threshold (LNT) hypothesis on radiation risk was created more than 50 years ago. LNT visually depicts the idea that there is no level of exposure to radiation that poses absolutely no risk. Thus, it appears there is no absolutely safe level of radiation. Mortal fear of radiation gained a foothold with Three Mile Island when the no-safe-level concept was greedily embraced by the Press. It became a world-wide affliction with Chernobyl. It is now the foundation of the situation in Japan.

One of the LNT's arbitrary corollaries is the belief that pregnant women, infants and small children are more susceptible to negative radiation health effects than adults. This aspect of the Hiroshima Syndrome is arguably the most compelling to the public mind because of its appeal to human emotions. There is, and never has been any
conclusive human evidence to support the idea. In fact, research on the demographic in high natural background fields indicates the opposite to be true...increased low level exposures make infants and children less susceptible to radiation-induced maladies. Dr. Mortazavi, head of the Ramsar, Iran research team, calls it “radiation-resistivity”. Regardless, subtle death threats to pregnant women and children make headlines, and the Japanese Press is gobbling it up.

Because of an historic Japanese government and industry failure to educate their public in the realities of radiation, radiological ignorance has produced a fertile field for radiophobia to grow and mature into a full-fledged epidemic. Now, the Tokyo government has taken steps that threaten to blow everything out of proportion and make fear of
radiation a legitimate money-maker...

  • People living in the voluntary northwest evacuation corridor who have not left their homes will be given financial compensation similar to those who did panic and leave. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry (MEXT) decided to expand the coverage of compensation to those who have stayed behind because of possible costs due to remaining in their homes (lost income, etc.) and the costs of what is perceived as a growing sense of anxiety producing psychological damage. In addition, the panel
    also decided to give children and pregnant women larger amounts of money because they are thought to be more susceptible than other people to radiation damage. (Mainichi Shimbun)

On to other updates...

  • TEPCO reports they have reduced cooling water flow to all three damaged RPVs, one ton per hour each. They say it is supposed to lower the concentration of hydrogen inside the pressure vessels by increasing the concentration of water vapor in the mix. Higher RPV temperatures mean more evaporation which will dilute the level of hydrogen. TEPCO adds the temperatures inside the RPVs have barely increased as a result of the lesser flows. (TEPCO Press Release) While the change makes some superficial sense, the question hanging “out there” is whether there is actually hydrogen remaining in the RPVs. If the cores are all totally melted, then the source of hydrogen no longer exists. The Zirconium is admixed with the other fuel cell materials into “corium”, which is not known as a hydrogen generator.
  • On Friday, one of unit #2s suppression pool temperature readings suddenly jumped 50oC, to more than 102oC. The two other instruments showed no change. One of the five Primary Containment monitors also suddenly jumped 6oC on the same day. Since most of the instruments showed essentially no changes, it seems the two instruments have either failed or have gone out of calibration. (TEPCO)
  • Japan's Science Ministry has released an aerial survey map indicating the “plume pathways” from Fukushima Daiichi during the airborne releases in March. The Press seems surprised that most of the heaviest concentrations are on the windward sides of the mountainous regions to the north, northwest and southwest of the power complex. The Ministry says the mountains could have blocked the contamination from being deposited at a greater distance. (JAIF, NHK World) The report shows two things. First, the
    Press has little or no understanding of the effect of mountains on meteorology. Weather climbs up a mountain so air density decreases. Rainfall increases as a result. The air can't hold as much moisture at high elevation as it can at low elevation. The same holds for airborne material. As it rises, it precipitates
    out at an increasing rate causing a faster build-up of contamination on the ground. Second, the Ministry should have said the mountains are a block to more distant deposition. It's a natural meteorological phenomenon. The Ministry's statement makes it sound as if it's possible the mountains might not
    act as a barrier, and that makes no sense. Are mountains an absolute barrier which will wring the air out of all the airborne material? Of course not! But, they will always reduce the concentrations significantly. They are unquestionably a meteorological barrier.
  • Fukushima Prefecture plans to use a new disposal process for the handling of tsunami debris along its coastline. By design, the equipment can reduce the debris volume by a factor of 300 while virtually
    eliminating releases of airborne material. The device, built by a Tokyo environmental company and tested in Hirono Town, Fukushima Prefecture, actually reduced the volume by a factor of 268. The debris is treated in a high temperature, oxygen-free environment that produces gas, oil and a ceramic powder. The powder contains nearly all the radioactive Cesium. (JAIF)
  • Most communities along the devastated Tohoku coastline of northeastern Japan await government designation of their contamination levels before decontaminating. However, many have said they do not want to be designated by the government. Why? Because they fear government designations of  contamination levels will give the false impression that the entire municipality is contaminated. Municipalities in Tokyo and Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba prefectures are candidates for the government designation. However, only 30 percent of the municipalities in Gunma Prefecture and 40 percent in Ibaraki Prefecture want the Tokyo designation. The rest have declined. Without the designation, communities cannot get government funding for decontamination. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • In a related story, we find another rational Japanese voice calling for education as a solution to radiophobia which is paralyzing recovery efforts in the Tohoku region. Kobe University Prof. Tomoya Yamauchi says, "It will be a problem if decontamination activities stall due to local governments' fears of stigmatization. To prevent misunderstanding of radiation, the government needs to do more to disseminate correct information." (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

  • Violent anti-nuclear protests have erupted in Germany. A shipment of reprocessed spent fuel was being shipped from France to Germany. The spent fuel was German and the return was part of the contract with
    France. Thousands of fanatic German anti-nukes blocked the train so it could not enter Germany, many of whom were chained to the tracks with sophisticated devices.  At least 150 protestors and police were
    injured in the violence that ensued. In addition, about 1,300 were either arrested or detained for questioning. The number of protestors was estimated (by police) to be 8,000. After nearly three days of delay the train slowly trudged on as an estimated 20,000 protestors lined the right-of-way from the German border to Dannenburg, the train’s destination. After the 11 canisters on the train are loaded onto trucks, the material will be shipped to Gorleben for temporary storage sometime today. It is expected the anti-nuclear fiasco will continue today when the trucks move from Dannenburg to Gorleben. Protest
    organizers are bragging that today’s demonstration will break the all-time record for nuclear protests. The former record was 92 hours. In addition, last Thursday 10 masked protestors attacked the Gorleben facility tossing bricks and smoke bombs. All escaped before police could arrive. On Friday, molotov cocktails were hurled at police cars patrolling the facility gate, damaging two. The perpetrators again escaped. (JAIF) The problem is the high level nuclear waste issue. The protestors want no nuclear waste shipped until a
    permanent solution is reached. However, every attempt to reach a final solution is blocked by the very same people. The hypocrisy demonstrated by German nuclear waste critics is endemic. All anti-nuke groups do this.
  • After a 34 year de-facto moratorium on building new nukes, the United States will resume nuclear construction before the end of the year. Two new nuclear power plants will begin construction in Georgia, and two in South Carolina. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to issue final approval very shortly. This was announced in Japan because the plants will be supplied by Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba, Inc. Equipment purchases have already begun for all four units. The last American
    nuke to begin construction was in 1978. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

November 25

Radiophobia - Morbid fear of radiation, as from x-rays or nuclear energy. (Medilexicon.com)

We have been seeking a non-scientific term for phobic fear of radiation exposure...one that fits our goal of keeping website terminology in “everyday language” as much as possible. Unfortunately, the best available word seems to be the medical term “radiophobia”. For many members of the general public, this might be judged “too scientific”. If any reader can find (or create) a better, less-scientific term for radiophobia, please let us know through the “contact” form listed in the site menu at the left.Radiophobia has become the main focus of the news coming out of Japan. Here are several examples of radiophobia since Wednesday...

  • The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) has begun the attempt to reclaim some of the tourism business which has been lost due to travelers fearing radiation. At Wednesday's Japan Travel Mart, the JTA posted radiation readings of high-volume Japanese tourist cities and compared them to natural background levels found in other cities around the world. Their data shows that Sapporo, Chiba, Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa, all have levels below that of New York, Beijing, Berlin, Seoul and Singapore. "Many people still believe Japan is dangerous but it's not true," said JTA director Shuichi Kameyama, "We must change the misconception." (Travel Weekly) This is an example of international radiophobia negatively impacting a nation's economy. We again applaud the comparison to natural background levels around the world.
  • Initial decontamination work on a few residences in the mountainous eastern wards of Fukushima City has generally reduced exposure levels 70%. However, further reducing the general area radiation levels seems unlikely since the exposure is being generated from the surrounding forests. High-pressure spray washing of porous materials such as roofing tiles and asphalt driveways has only lowered contact readings 25-30%.
    Replacement of roofing tiles and asphalt is an option which would eliminate the problem. While what level of decontamination is “good enough” has not been determined, a significant problem is finding companies that are willing to do the job. The prefecture's plan for decontamination is to hire 19 companies, but only two have been found. The numerous companies refusing the business say they fear for their worker's safety. (Asahi Shimbun) If this radiophobic trend continues, what should take a few months couldwell last for years. This shows the paralyzing impact of radiophobia with respect to recovery efforts in Japan.
  • A resort spa more than 130 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi is trying to sue TEPCO for a downturn in income since March 11. The attorneys for the spa admit the loss of business is due to fear of radiation. They say the root of the problem is fear that the spa’s ocean front and seafood (their biggest menu seller) might contain Fukushima Cesium. The lawyers say, “With radiation still spreading from the nuclear plant and no clear sign of an end, it is understandable that prospective customers fear for their health. Their anxieties are not caused by simple rumors.” (Mainichi Shimbun) Since there are essentially no further airborne releases from Fukushima and all leaks to the sea have been contained since late April, the radiophobia exhibited by prospective customers is clearly the cause of anxieties. Litigious exaggerations only exacerbate the debate and rumors have nothing to do with it.
  • In a desperate move to soothe radiophobic fear, the Ministry of the Environment has created an agency for the study of the long term health on of Fukushima residents due to Fukushima radiation exposure. The
    Ministry says they need to do this because no-one knows the risks of very low level radiation exposure. The new agency will have about 500 employees responsible for monitoring residents' radiation exposure levels, effect epidemiological studies to create a database, research the effect of radiation on the population and establish appropriate environmental standards for radiation protection. The Ministry does add that no specific health damage arising from radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant has been confirmed. They say it is unknown whether or not there will be such cases and, if there are, how serious they will be. Medical responses will be taken only after actual health problems have come to light, and if such damage could be recognized as a “pollution-caused” disease. (Yomiuri Shimbun) The agency’s alleged reason for existence is a radiophobic fiction. Extensive epidemiological studies following Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which continue to this day, clearly show no evidence of negative health effects due to low exposure levels. In fact, they show some statistical evidence of improved health in the exposed populations, which is precisely what radiation hormesis theory predicts for such doses.  What’s worse is the creation of an unnecessary bureaucratic fiefdom that, once entrenched, will be impossible to eliminate.

Now, for other updates…

  • An Asahi Shimbun headline says the operators for unit #1 shut off the only cooling system (IC) for their RPV for several hours on March 11. In the article itself, they mention the operators cycled the IC on and off. TEPCO says the system’s cycling didn’t speed up the onset of meltdown. However, once again TEPCO fails to do their homework and creates another informational gaffe. They say that constant operation of the IC would have delayed the meltdown, which is probably wrong. Control room records show the IC was being cycled on and off, by procedure, in order to keep from dropping the water level inside the RPV
    dangerously close to the top of the fuel cell. In other words, continuous IC operation would probably have uncovered the fuel cell much sooner and sped up the time-table for meltdown. Who’s minding the informational store at TEPCO? Speed Racer? Ultra Man?
  • Kyoto University and the University of Tsukuba have reported the Abukumagawa River is exhausting “billions of becquerels per day” into the Pacific Ocean. The river runs from near Fukushima City to its
    mouth in Miyagi Prefecture, with a watershed of ~5,400 km2. Run-off due to rain since March 11 has brought to Cesium to the river. As the river slows its flow entering the sea, the heavier Cesium-containing particulates precipitate out and concentrate on the immediate sea floor. Since 90% of the Cesium is contained in particulates, 10% goes out to sea. (Asahi Shimbun) This makes for great scary news reporting, with frighteningly huge numbers to increase anxieties in their readers. Whether or not this ought to be a cause for concern is not the issue. Nuclear numbers are necessarily huge because they are based on incredibly tiny sub-atomic events, and big numbers are necessarily frightening to the general public. It should be noted, the river’s contamination is not because of continuing releases from Fukushima. Airborne
    releases essentially ceased weeks ago. But The Asahi article says airborne releases are continuing…food for thought.


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