Sea water has now been replaced with fresh water for cooling reactors, and, apparently, spent fuel storage pools. Work continues on restoring power and repairing cooling systems, but the cooling systems remain unrepaired. An interesting development overnight (overday in Japan): A very high radiation reading in Reactor 2 showed what apparently was high enough radiation to cause workers to immediately evacuate, as well as a high enough rate of short-lived radioactive isotope to make it a certainty that fission was happening, if not currently, within the previous few hours, and that radioactive stuff was leaking, according to the engineers, from the core.

Then, later, it was determined that the reading was a mistake. The person who took the reading ran away the moment the reading showed this high level. That may be because the workers who were injured in the radioactive “puddles” in Reactor 3 suffered those injuries in part because they did not believe the high readings they were getting. Policies and procedures were updated, we were told, so that would not happen again.

In the case of last night’s reading, however, it is normal that a second reading would be taken, but that did not happen because the first reading was so astoundingly high that, apparently, running away seemed to be the best thing to do.

At present, we don’t have any reports of new readings that are lower than the very high reading taken some time ago. What we have is the engineers deciding that the very high reading was too high to be believed. I’m not sure how to interpret that. Probably, it was just a bad reading.

Now that you have the necessary background, I give you Ana’s Feed and the usual links to recent news reports and commentary, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) update. Ana is asleep right now, and has not heard about the retraction of the high reading.

Ana’s Feed starting at about 9PM CT 25 March:

Kyodo news: On word from NISA, the highly radioactive pool of water in the turbine room of the no.2 reactor may be coming form the core.

  • Some old tracks were repaired to allow a cargo train into the disaster area with 600 tons of much needed fuel. It got stuck on a hill and stalled for a few hours, but did make it eventually, and there are plans to run supplies in everyday. This will help the people to GTHO. So, that’s good.
  • Kids in shelters are making models of the homes and neighborhoods they’d like to return to in Fukushima – playgrounds, amusement parks, bowling alleys… “It is comforting for adults to see this hope of the children.” (NHK)
  • Speaking of 40 years – it was just the 40th anniversary of the Daiichi plant, TEPCO’s first. Some old head (whose name I missed) came out to say he was “very sorry that the events are happening on the anniversary.” :S

Levels of Iodine 131 in seawater keep rising – up to 1,850 times the legal limit now. -kyodo news

Radioactivity in water of turbine building for reactor no.2 is 10 MILLION TIMES higher than normal. (NHK)

  • Samples contain some very short half-life materials. (NHK)
  • Details on composition of water in turbine room no.1: PDF
  • Over 1,000 millisieverts per hour found in water at No.2 reactor -kyodo news
  • Some details on water sample of turbine room no.2:
    • I-131, 13 million Bq/cm^3
    • I-134, 2.9 billion Bq/cm^3
    • Cs-134, 2.3 million Bq/cm^3
    • …Cs-137, 2.3 million Bq/cm^3
    • (NHK broadcast)

Yukio Edano, on Sun. morning talk shows, said that disclosure of information to residents has not been good enough. He calls on local governments to work with incoming NISA experts to make sense of the data for citizens, speedily, and to give them “a full explanation.” (NHK)

“…preparedness against tsunamis never became a priority for Japan’s power companies or nuclear regulators. They were perhaps lulled, experts said, by the fact that no tsunami had struck a nuclear plant until two weeks ago. Even though tsunami simulations offered new ways to assess the risks of tsunamis, plant operators made few changes at their aging facilities, and nuclear regulators did not press them.” source

(Ana’s Feed is a collection of Analiese Miller’s facebook status entries posted as she takes in the news live in Japan.)

Links to news stories and updates:

IAEA Briefing on Fukushima Nuclear Accident (27 March 2011, 13:30 UTC) edited for brevity. Please note that IAEA information is usually several hours old compared to contemporary news reports, but is more carefully vetted and should be considered reasonably accurate. (source)

1. Current Situation

The restoration of off-site power continues and lighting is now available in the central control rooms of Units 1, 2 and 3. Also, fresh water is now being injected into the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) of all three Units.

Radiation measurements in the containment vessels and suppression chambers of Units 1, 2 and 3 continued to decrease. White “smoke” continued to be emitted from Units 1 to 4.

Pressure in the RPV showed a slight increase at Unit 1 and was stable at Units 2 and 3, possibly indicating that there has been no major breach in the pressure vessels.

At Unit 1, the temperature measured at the bottom of the RPV [reactor pressure vessel, which hold “the core” … gtl] fell slightly to 142 °C. At Unit 2, the temperature at the bottom of the RPV fell to 97 °C from 100 °C reported in the Update provided yesterday. Pumping of water from the turbine hall basement to the condenser is in progress with a view to allowing power restoration activities to continue.

At Unit 3, plans are being made to pump water from the turbine building to the main condenser but the method has not yet been decided. This should reduce the radiation levels in the turbine building and reduce the risk of contamination of workers in the turbine building restoring equipment.

No notable change has been reported in the condition of Unit 4.

Water is still being added to the spent fuel pools of Units 1 to 4 and efforts continue to restore normal cooling functions.

… three workers who suffered contamination are still under observation in hospital.

2. Radiation Monitoring

Dose rates at the Fukushima site continue to trend downwards.

[see the IAEA site for details of IAEA radiation monitoring across the region.]

New data from monitoring of the marine environment, carried out from 24 March 22:55 UTC to 25 March 03:32 UTC about 30 km offshore, show a decrease in both caesium-137 and iodine 131. The contamination at these locations is influenced by aerial deposition of fallout as well as by the migration of contaminated seawater from the discharge points at the reactor. The measured radiation doses rates above the sea remain consistently low (between 0.04 and 0.1 microsievert per hour). The first results of model predictions received from the SIROCCO Group at the University of Toulouse are being assessed.

Recommendations relating to the restriction of drinking water consumption, based on measured concentrations of iodine-131, remain in place in seven locations (in one location for both adults and infants, and in six locations for infants).

As far as food contamination is concerned, samples taken from 23 to 25 March in five prefectures showed iodine-131 in unprocessed raw milk, but the levels were far below the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities. Caesium-137 was also detected in samples of unprocessed raw milk taken on 23 March in Chiba prefecture, but at levels far below the Japanese regulation values. Caesium-137 was not detected in any of the samples taken from 24-25 March in the other four prefectures.

For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.

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Comments

  1. #1 Ana
    March 27, 2011

    Ha! There is no evidence that I was sleeping! ;) I did hear about TEPCO’s measured retraction (kyodo news says TEPCO says the data is partly erroneous), but have not of yet seen any new info. You?

  2. #2 Ana
    March 27, 2011

    “With regard to the captioned result of the measurement that was previously announced, we have judged that the estimation concerning the measured value of ionide-134 was wrong. Therefore we informed that we would take, analyze and evaluate samples, and announce the results once we have summarized the results.
    (previously announced)

    Since then we have taken samples and analyzed and evaluated the density of the gamma nuclide including iodine-134, and now we announce the summary of the results of the measurements as shown in the attachment.” -TEPCO

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu11_e/images/110327e15.pdf

  3. #3 Ana
    March 27, 2011

    “But they [TEPCO] confirmed the overall high radiation readings at the plant.” -NYT

  4. #4 CrisisMaven
    March 27, 2011

    You see, the problem with this is that the reported values, of iodine-134 to boot (with a 53 min half-life), were so out of whack that they should have known something was amiss. Say, an Indycar race driver were to say he saw he clocked 10,000 miles per hour, would you not think he’s insane? Would he also himself not know it to be impossible even IF his speedometer had actually shown such a “measurement”? THIS makes me wonder who’s running the show in Japan if they report findings even a first year nuclear chemist would have known to be false.

  5. #5 Ana
    March 27, 2011

    Instead of 10 million times normal atmospheric radiation levels in the turbine room of reactor no.2, TEPCO now says 100,000 times normal (they do not back off their initial gauge-topping reading of 1,000mSv/hr.) -kyodo news

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    March 27, 2011

    OK, It may be the case that reports of your sleeping are exaggerated but I’m going to stick with my story. I’ve been a bit distracted for the last couple of hours. No sleeping, though.

    I’m sure the screw-up in readings will be fodder for selectively ignoring any number of future announcements.

    Anyway, what, then, is the conclusion: Is there a leak in 1? 2? 3? and is there fission in 1, 2 or 3?

  7. #7 Lyle
    March 27, 2011

    What is amazing is that with all the robotics in Japan, they have not gotten one to do the measurements. You might have to carry it down the stairs, but that should be manageable. If necessary of course they could apply to Darpa for one of theirs. I saw a program once where a robot was sent in to actually image the melted core of the Chernobyl reactor (Chernobylite is the name of that mineral).
    In general its surprising that some industries are so insular in some areas.
    (Actually they could use a larger version of a remote controlled toy car to do the deed, see the robots that are used by the bomb squads.

  8. #8 SoulmanZ
    March 28, 2011

    I need someone to explain how 1000 mSv/hr “at the water surface” makes sense as a measurement?

    Sv is a weighted tissue dose. Are they saying that is what feet would get (being what is likely to be near the water?) … or more likely are they shorthanding a total body dose, therefore massively overestimating what protected feet would actually get

    considering all the beta emitters in the water at the moment, there will be a lot of betas flying around which should mean distance >1m will greatly reduce dose

    obviously the area has gotten nastily radioactive, but why use such vague and non-specific measures? Surely dose “at dosimeter on worker’s belt” is a far better measure than “dose at water’s surface”?

    thoughts?

  9. #9 healthphysicist
    March 28, 2011

    I can’t explain 1,000 mSv/hr at the water surface, because radiation data frequently gets messed up. Why would someone say 1,000 mSv/hr? I’d say 1 Sv/hr. Likely, someone has a handheld instrument that reads out in units of mSv/hr, and that’s what they saw (or think they saw). Whether the instrument was working correctly, was properly calibrated, and was being observed and interpreted correctly, who knows? Not me.

    Sv is two things. But let’s backup. Dose is energy absorption per mass of tissue. It is measured in Gy. Since different radiations can cause different biological effects for the same dose, some radiations are weighted higher. This is one use of Sv and is called the dose equivalent.

    We also weigh tissue types based on liklihood of cancer. Some tissues are more likely to be carcinogenic than others for a given dose equivalent. This is called the effective dose equivalent and also has the unit of Sv. This use of the unit is inappropriate at high doses where radiation sickness is the biological endpoint of concern, not cancer. It is really only used where one wants to compare partial body irradiation to whole body irradiation with cancer as the biological endpoint.

    There may be a lot of beta emitters in the water, but only the ones in the upper 2 cm’s or so, will penetrate the water and reach the air.

    This is interesting…it’s hard to see the slide show, but if you click on the first item under “DOE News” on the right, you can download the slideshow and see it better:

    http://blog.energy.gov/content/situation-japan/

  10. #10 AML Exam
    March 28, 2011

    This is even making it worst. The trouble they are having with those nuclear reactors poses greater danger to people living nearby. If this nuclear meltdown would happen its immediate effect would not be visible rather it will be years after. These radioactive materials are very dangerous not only to the humans but also to nature itself. I really do hope that this will not progress to something bad, to something that will not be favorable to us.

  11. #11 healthphysicist
    March 29, 2011

    To AML Exam – If by “nature itself” you mean the local ecology, then you should realize that if people evacuate the area for decades, the ecology will actually thrive. Radioactive materials are less deadly to an ecology than human habitation. The areas around Chernobyl are thriving with biodiversity.

  12. #13 healthphysicist
    March 29, 2011

    No, it is true.

    Mousseau even says so (bottom of Page 2):

    “One of the great ironies of this particular tragedy is that many animals are doing considerably better than when the humans were there,” he said.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0426_060426_chernobyl.html

    It is true that there is an anecdotal aspect to some people’s experience (expecting to find a wasteland but instead finding thriving). And it is also true that some species are suffering detriment. But overall they are doing better. This has been extensively scientifically studied, I am not using anecdotes. Here is but one example:

    http://www.amazon.com/Ecology-Chernobyl-Catastrophe-International-Collaborative/dp/1850706565#_

  13. #14 Stephanie Z
    March 29, 2011

    You’re kidding me, right? Because some boars can now live there without being hunted, the ecology is doing well? Did you even notice the rest of the quote: “But it would be a mistake to conclude they are doing better than in a control area. We just don’t know what is normal [for Chernobyl]. There just haven’t been enough scientific studies done.”

    Or his statements to Hannah: “But many scientists, Mousseau included, have done a great deal of ecological research at Chernobyl and have found decreases in the number and diversity of many taxa, decreased sperm counts and brain size, and physical mutations, particularly in Mousseau’s specialty species, the barn swallow.”

    The end of the Cretaceous was great for mammals. That doesn’t mean an extinction event represents a healty ecosystem.

  14. #15 healthphysicist
    March 29, 2011

    You’re kidding me right?

    My first link was provided in regards to what Mousseau said, I never used boars to support my position. We have no way of determining how the animals would be doing in a control area. We can only compare life in the specific area before and after the event, which is what my original comment referred to. And Mousseau said that many animals are doing better in this area after the event. I (and he) said we can find detriment in some species, but overall things are better. Compared to a control group, they might be doing poorly (or not), but compared to how they were doing they are thriving.

    My second link was provided as an example to illustrate the scientific evidence backing up what I’ve said.

    From a consortium consisting of the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and others:

    “The recovery of affected biota in the exclusion zone has been facilitated by the removalof human activities, e.g., termination of agricultural and industrial activities. As a result, populations of many plants and animals have eventually expanded, and the present environmental conditions have had a positive impact on the biota in the Exclusion Zone. Indeed, the Exclusion Zone has paradoxically become a unique sanctuary for biodiversity.”

    http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Chernobyl/chernobyl.pdf

    Again, this is a comparison of before and after, not with a control group.

    “Healthy” ecosystem is too vague to address. Just like defining what a healthy human is, isn’t so simple.

  15. #16 Stephanie Z
    March 29, 2011

    Then your first link is a quotemine, because the full quote, as I provided, plus the other information given in the article, doesn’t support your premise. Just like the only positive mentioned in the IAEA report is that people aren’t nesting where another animal would like to. It’s chock-full of negative impacts on the local wildlife, but you don’t mention those. I don’t have access to the book, but I’m getting a good sense of how selectively you’re reading and citing.

    Also, you should probably reread your own words before you start trying to criticize mine. I wasn’t the one making the healthy ecosystem claim. You were. “If by “nature itself” you mean the local ecology, then you should realize that if people evacuate the area for decades, the ecology will actually thrive.”

  16. #17 healthphysicist
    March 29, 2011

    Quote miners don’t provide a link to a quote along with their quotation at the same time. I provided the full quote in the link so I didn’t have to type it all.

    The full quote does support my premise. The animals are doing better than when humans were there (my original point), but it would be a mistake to conclude they are doing better than in a control group (I didn’t make that mistake).

    I provided the IATA report with all its negatives that I was and am fully aware of. But overall there is greater biodiversity, compared to when humans were there (my original point). How many times do I need to repeat this?

    Something can thrive (by which I meant overall reproductive success) compared to how it had been doing, and the ecosystem still be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how you define healthy. For example, there may be many more individuals of a particular species of bird (thriving) once the humans leave due to a contamination event, but the individuals don’t live as long as they did due to increased cancer from the event. Which ecosystem is healthier (before vs. after the event)? I don’t know.

  17. #18 Stephanie Z
    March 29, 2011

    Yet that didn’t stop you from making the claim. And you still don’t get or aren’t discussing the distinction between some species showing up and the overall health of all the various species in an area.

    Enjoy your spherical cows.

  18. #19 healthphysicist
    March 29, 2011

    All I said on 3/29/11 at 9:31 a.m, specifically regarding this point is:

    “The areas around Chernobyl are thriving with biodiversity.”

    And you started arguing against it, even though your sourced biologist agrees with me. The WHO, IATA, etc. agree with me. Virtually every scientific study agrees with my original statement.

    If anyone wants to read about the health of specific species, I’ve provided some good starting resources, though there are more current studies.

    Enjoy your cult.

  19. #20 Stephanie Z
    March 29, 2011

    You realize everyone can read “all” of what you wrote, right? And that it was 9:21?

    For someone who insists that Greg needs to provide more context, you’re awfully quick to leave it out.

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