The experts monitoring and reporting on the Fukushima nuclear disaster have, for several days now, stopped talking about melting reactor fuel or breached containment vessels. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the Energy Collective, and other groups now merely pass along information about pressure and temperature and make a note here and there about water being sprayed on something or not sprayed on something. They have not stopped talking about melting overheated fuel because they have determined that there isn’t any. They stopped talking about it because there isn’t anything to say. Reactors have melted down, the meltdown is still in process, and while everyone waits for the other shoe to drop … something more out of control than they have now, which hopefully will not happen … they talk about pressure gages and tonnes of water and temperature readings. Have you ever watched someone who is quite ill die over a period of days or weeks? This is often how it goes. You stop talking about fixing the damaged heart or repairing the useless lungs or shrinking the growing tumor, and if you talk about anything medical at all, it’s the dials and widgets attached to chrome rods and racks and draped with cables and tubes, flashing, beeping, oscillating behind the unconscious patient. This is how Fukushima looks to me today.
I take it that it is now understood that nothing can really be done about the fact that significant proportions of the fuel rods in two or three of the reactors as well as storage pools have broken down, fuel has gotten to where it is not supposed to be, fission, which is not suppose to be going on, has happened and the containment vessels are leaking in unknown and uncontrolled ways. Radioactive water is causing engineers to not be able to do anything in the plants, and they have no viable plan for dealing with the radioactive water. As they dump fresh water in the fuel storage pools and reactors, we presume that they create both additional radioactive water in the plant and radioactive vapor streaming out of the plant (which has lost most or all of its various overhead containment buildings owing to the once thought to be irrelevant blowing up of said buildings by uncontrolled hydrogen explosions), and some significant amount of this water is leaking into the sea, though that this is happening and how it is happening is generally unacknowledged. (Though the presence of radioisotopes from the plant in the sea is not something that can be ignored.)
Giant floating blobs of radioactive air stream irregularly away from the plant carried by winds across the Northern Hemisphere, and for the most part, have little health effect because it is so dispersed. But every now and then a still-concentrated blob of air is more quickly brought to the ground by local rainfall, causing what is claimed to be unsafe contamination of crops, land, homes, drinking water, or whatever else lies below. There is no evidence that this belching out of radiation will decrease in the near future, and there is no indication that there is a viable plan to stop it. Talk of covering the melted-down reactors and surrounding buildings and landscape with glue and plastic wrap does not impress us. In any event, such a plan is probably either rhetoric to buy time for the plant owners (time to do what, I’m not sure) or an intermediate step allowing for the overheated nuclear fuel (both in reactors and spent fuel rod pools) to finally slow down in output of heat and radioactivity. If they do.
Of course, everything I’ve just said is reading between the lines. No one at TEPCO is saying anything like this. And, I’m sure various NPAs (Nuclear Power Apologists) will now explain (see comment section of this and other posts) that more people die of snake bites than nuclear accidents, therefore this very expensive, farm land-killing sea-poisoning disaster if of no consequence. Indeed, this is what we should expect now and then if we want to use nuclear power, and it’s quite acceptable. I’m still waiting for someone to make the claim that the people of the region where this is happening were openly and clearly informed that this is the likely consequence of having nine nuclear reactors at this location for several decades. Because it is, you know. It really is.
As usual, following is Ana’s feed, various links to stuff on the web, and the IAEA summary. Enjoy. Or, perhaps, not:
TEPCO says it will decommission reactors 1-4. Edano thinks all 6 should be taken off-line, and scrapped. (NHK)
- Nishiyama [spokesman, gov. nuke regulators] said it is expected to take at least 20 years to finish the procedures to decommission the six-reactor Fukushima plant. Katsumata [chairman] said TEPCO considers it as an option to cover the troubled reactors with ”stone coffins” made of concrete and iron, a solution adopted in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear crisis. -kyodo news(Ana’s Feed is a collection of Analiese Miller’s facebook status entries posted as she takes in the news live in Japan.)
- “Estimates of the costs of decommissioning a single reactor under normal circumstances run upward of $500 million, and the company faces the likelihood of enormous liability claims from a disaster that has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.” -NYT
In addition to the “special sheets” that may be used to cover the reactor buildings, a “special resin” is being sprayed around the exteriors of reactors 4 and 6 today, also in an effort to contain radioactive dust. If this is effective, it will be used around the other buildings as well. (NHK)
- Correction: resin spraying canceled for rain.
Radioactive iodine 4,385 times legal limit found in seawater near plant. -kyodo news
- NISA says this is NBD cuz no one’s fishing there anyway.
IAEA finally adds some geographic data to their measurements (what took so long, do you think?) NISA says the agency did not insist on wider evac. zone, so they’re good for now. (IAEA Confirms Very High Levels of Contamination Far From Reactors)
- Edano: One of the sample reading have exceeded IAEA recommended levels, and we have been advised to take careful decisions. We are aware that extended exposure at these levels can cause health risks, so we’ll continue monitoring. (NHK)
- Gov: This is not the time to change the evacuation zone. (NHK)
- Ban proposed on access to nuclear crisis area but poses problems (-kyodo news)
“In a potentially negative development, Flory [deputy director general, IAEA] said the agency had heard there might be “recriticality” at the plant, in which a nuclear chain reaction would resume, even though the reactors were automatically shut down at the time of the quake… (High radiation outside Japan exclusion zone -IAEA AlertNet)
- That could lead to more radiation releases, but it would not be “the end of the world,” Flory said. “Recriticality does not mean that the reactor is going to blow up. It may be something really local. We might not even see it if it happens.”
“”As of now, the levels we’re seeing are not harmful to humans. We’re basing this on Japanese studies following the Chernobyl incident in 1986 where levels of iodine-131 were four times higher than what we’ve detected in our rainwater so far,” said Starosta.”North Shore Outlook – Japanese radiation reaches North Shore
Workers at the plant are concerned about their health. They are working in groups, with one dosimeter. No individual is certain of his own, individual, exposure. Some have left. (NHK)
- Governmental standards require that each individual be equipped with monitoring devices. TEPCO says that those without monitors are assigned to low-risk areas. (NHK exclusive)
- “Following the warning issued to the company on Thursday, Nishiyama said, ”From today, all of the workers will wear dosimeters. And if each individual cannot get one, the work should not take place.””
900 people will collect in a shelter in Iwate Pref. tomorrow night to share hot soup and pledge to begin anew. (NHK)
291 schools in the effected prefectures have no prospects of resuming class. (NHK)
- 41% are designated evacuation centers
- 21% have been destroyed
- 10% have lost all their students
A radioactive substance about 10,000 times the limit was detected from groundwater around the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday. … A Tokyo Electric official said the radiation level is ”extremely high.” -kyodo news
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said 510 Bq of radioactive cesium (over the limit of 500Bq) was detected in beef from Tenei, Fuku. Pref., 70km from the plant…. NISA says they will conduct a “fresh examination.” -kyodo news
News stories and updates:
As the situation at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down, the salient facts remain the same… nobody has suffered or will suffer any radiological health consequences. Economic damage and inconvenience … have been significant, but tiny in comparison to all other human activities – the nuclear power plants in the stricken region have suffered less damage and caused less trouble to local residents than anything else that was there.
They sleep anywhere they can find open space — in conference rooms, corridors, even stairwells. They have one blanket, no pillows and a leaded mat intended to keep radiation at bay.
They eat only two meals each day — a carefully rationed breakfast of 30 crackers and vegetable juice and for dinner, a ready-to-eat meal or something out of a can.They clean themselves with wet wipes, since the supply of fresh water is short.
These are the grueling living conditions for the workers inside Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. They’ve been hailed as heroes risking their lives by braving high levels of radiation as they work to avert a nuclear meltdown.
The UN atomic watchdog said Wednesday radiation in a village outside the evacuation zone around a stricken Japanese nuclear plant was above safe levels, urging that Japan reassess the situation.
In its first such call, the International Atomic Energy Agency added its voice to that of Greenpeace in warning over radioactivity in Iitate village, where the government has already told residents not to drink tap water.
Today the IAEA has finally confirmed what some analysts have suspected for days: that the concentration per area of long-lived cesium-137 (Cs-137) is extremely high as far as tens of kilometers from the release site at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, and in fact would trigger compulsory evacuation under IAEA guidelines.
…soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition…
This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident…
Radiation fears have prevented authorities from collecting as many as 1,000 bodies of victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami from within the 20-kilometer-radius evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, police sources said Thursday.
One of the sources said bodies had been ”exposed to high levels of radiation after death.” The view was supported by the detection Sunday of elevated levels of radiation on a body found in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, about 5 km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
Typical amounts of radiation in Hong Kong exceed those in Tokyo…
A vehicle of what appears to be right-wing campaigners tried to enter the radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and then broke through the gate of the nearby Fukushima Daini power plant Thursday, the government’s nuclear safety agency said.
The driver of the vehicle was later seized by police…
With no permanent waste repository in sight, the nuclear industry is storing spent fuel at reactor sites. The crisis at the nuclear plant in Japan, due in part to exposed spent fuel, is forcing American scientists and policy-makers to look for safer courses of action.
Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will review all data on radiation leaked from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, citing errors in a computer program.
The utility says it found errors in the program used to analyze radioactive elements and their levels, after some experts noted that radiation levels of leaked water inside the plant were too high.
The company and the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency say previously released data may have shown the levels of tellurium-129 and molybdenum-99 to be higher than they really were.
But they say that levels of iodine-131, which has a significant impact on humans and the environment, remain unchanged.
“He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term,” the mother of a 32-year-old worker said [asking] to remain anonymous because the plant workers and their families have been told not to speak to the media.
Current International Atomic Energy Agency briefing:
Overall at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the situation remains very serious.
The Unit 1 condenser is full. Pumping water from the Unit-1 turbine building basement to the Unit-1 condenser has been stopped as of 22:30 UTC on 28 March. For Units 2 and 3, in order to prepare for removal of the water from the turbine building basement, pumping of water from the condenser to the suppression pool water surge tank started at 07:45 UTC 29 March and 08:40 UTC March 28 respectively.
For Unit 1 fresh water has been continuously injected into the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) through the feed-water line at an indicated flow rate of 8 m3/h using a temporary electric pump with diesel backup. In Unit 2 fresh water is injected continuously through the fire extinguisher line at an indicated rate of 8 m3/h using a temporary electric pump with diesel backup. In Unit 3 fresh water is being injected continuously at about 7 m3/h into the reactor core through the fire extinguisher line using a temporary electric pump with diesel backup.
The indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV on Unit 1 has decreased from 281 °C to 251 °C and at the bottom of RPV decreased from 134 °C to 128 °C. There appears to be a corresponding decrease in RPV pressure with a slight decrease in Drywell pressure. The indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV of Unit 2 has increased from 177 °C to 181 °C. The temperature at the bottom of RPV was not reported. Indicated Drywell pressure remains at atmospheric pressure. The indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV in Unit 3 is about 89 °C and at the bottom of RPV is about 114 °C. The validity of the RPV temperature measurement at the feed water nozzle is still under investigation.
No further information is available regarding the plan to commence the pumping of water into the Unit 1 Spent Fuel Pool by concrete pumping truck from 29 March. On Unit 2 the temporary electric pump supplying water to the spent fuel pool experienced a malfunction. Spent fuel pool water supply was changed to a fire truck pump but a crack was discovered in a hose on 30 March 04:10 UTC. Pumping water to the spent fuel pool was therefore stopped. Pumping was subsequently restored and water was fed into spent fuel pool in Unit 2 from 10:05 UTC on March 30. Water injection into the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 by concrete pump was completed at 09:33 UTC on March 30.
Units 5 and 6 remain in cold shutdown.
2. Radiation Monitoring
On 30 March, deposition of iodine-131 was detected in 8 prefectures, and deposition of cesium-137 in 12 prefectures. On 30 March in the prefectures where deposition of iodine-131 was reported, the range was from 2.5 to 240 becquerel per square metre. For caesium-137, the range was from 3 to 57 becquerel per square metre. In the Shinjyuku district of Tokyo, the daily deposition of both iodine-131 and cesium-137 on 30 March was below 30 becquerel per square metre. No significant changes were reported in the 45 prefectures in gamma dose rates compared to yesterday.
Most of the previously imposed recommendations for restrictions on drinking have been lifted. As of 28 March, recommendations for restrictions based on I-131 concentration remain in place in four villages of in the Fukushima prefecture, in three of these villages, restrictions continue to apply for infants only.
Two IAEA teams are currently monitoring radiation levels and radioactivity in the environment in Japan. On 30 March, one team made gamma dose-rate measurements in the Tokyo region at 7 locations. Gamma-dose rates measured ranged from 0.03 to 0.28 microsievert per hour, which is within or slightly above the background. The second team made additional measurements at 7 locations in the Hirono area, South of Fukushima-Daiichi NPP. The measurement locations were at distances of 23 to 39 km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The dose rates ranged from 0.5 to 4.9 microsievert per hour. At the same locations, results of beta-gamma contamination measurements ranged from 0.04 to 0.34 Megabecquerel per square metre.
Since our briefing of yesterday, significant data related to food contamination has been submitted by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Seventy-six samples were taken from 28-30 March, and reported on 30 March. Analytical results for 51 of the 76 samples for various vegetables, fruit (strawberry), seafood (sardines), and unprocessed raw milk in eight prefectures (Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Niigata, Saitama, and Yamagata), indicated that iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137 were either not detected or were below the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities. However, it was reported that analytical results in Fukushima prefecture for the remaining 25 of the 76 samples for broccoli, cabbage, rapeseed, spinach and other leafy vegetables, indicated that iodine-131 and/or caesium-134 and caesium-137 exceeded the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities.
The Joint FAO/IAEA Food Safety Assessment Team met with local government officials in Gunma prefecture on Wednesday. Farmers and producers were also represented and the meeting attracted media coverage. The questions to the IAEA/FAO team mainly focused on technical issues of remediation strategies, including the implications of long term releases if the NPP is not stabilized, the disposal of contaminated produce, mechanisms of 131I and 137Cs contamination, other possible radionuclides that may be produced/should be monitored, contamination of fruit and mushrooms, occupational exposure risks in the handling animals and agricultural products, feeding strategies for animals in affected areas, monitoring of soil and fallout and remediation strategies and methodologies. There were also discussions with producers and farmer organizations over the development of strategies for the next cropping season.
Local government officials briefed the FAO/IAEA Team on current knowledge of the extent of contamination in Gunma prefecture, including the principal agricultural products affected and levels of contamination found.
The Joint FAO/IAEA Team presented their report and responded to inquires at a follow-up inter-ministerial meeting in Tokyo. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Japanese Cabinet Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Agriculture. Strong interest was expressed as to the remediation of the agricultural land, continued possible contamination of agricultural products, and the need to maintain communication with relevant ministries in the future.
New results from the marine monitoring stations 30 km off-shore were reported for 28 March. These results indicate a decrease for the northernmost sampling station for I-131 and a slight increase for Cs-137 as compared to values measured on 27 March. For sampling points situated towards the south of the transect an increase has been recorded, both for I-131 and for Cs-137 as compared to the previous day, with maximum concentrations in water below 30 Bq/l and 20 Bq/l respectively, still considerably lower than the maxima recorded on 23 March. This increase can be correlated with trends in concentrations measured close to the discharge points.
The latest analyses in seawater 330 m south of the discharge point of NPP Units 1-4, and 30 m north of the discharge point of Units 5-6 were made available for 29 March. In particular readings of 130 000 Bq/l of I-131, 32 000 Bq/l of Cs-137 and 31 000 Bq/l of Cs-134 were reported near Units 1 – 4.
The Russian Federation, Ireland and Switzerland reported the detection of very small amounts of iodine-131 and cesium-137 in air. Highest levels found are in the order of a few millibecquerel per cubic meter. The levels are not of any radiological concern.
For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.