In the beginning of the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, in the hours and days after the earthquake and tsunami struck, nuclear power experts assured us that no matter how bad it seemed, nuclear material would stay in the reactors. It was unlikely that the reactors would melt down, and if they did melt down a little, that would be OK because the melted down stuff would stay within the reactor vessels. No problem. What actually happened, however, is that the nuclear material in three of the reactors totally melted down, and then melted through in perhaps two or three of the reactors, but at least, probably, did not reach “China Syndrome” levels of out-of-control.
What actually did happen, though, may have been worse.
To examine that idea we need to get a handle on some terminology. There is a video down in Ana’s Feed explaining this in some detail, but I’ll give you a very brief summary here. A “meltdown” is when the fuel rods in a reactor get hot enough (from lack of proper cooling) to literally melt, and the melted stuff “melts down” to the bottom of a reactor’s vessel, the vessel in which the fuel rods and control rods (rods that dampen the nuclear chain reaction) normally reside. A “melt through” is when this mass of molten radioactive stuff breaches the vessel and gets out, where it would normally be trapped by a containment vessel or structure of some kind, depending on the design of the reactor and the plant.
In the case of Fuskushima, the material in some of the reactors melted down pretty much completely, as far as we can tell, and then melted through, escaping form the reactor vessel. We were told this would not happen because each vessel was so thick, but in fact, the very thick walled vessel has lots of holes in it by design, and the objects plugging those holes were apparently no match for the masses of molten radioactive stuff. Having said that, we are not assuming that one or more vessels were not breached, cracked, or burned through in some other way as well (evidence suggesting that has been presented before and not refuted) so let’s leave that on the table as a possibility. In any event, stuff melted through.
A “China Syndrome” (a term made widely known in the Jane Fonda movie) is when the molten mass of nuclear stuff that has melted through accumulates in a sufficient concentration and is sufficiently hot that it breaches the containment and goes into the substrate of the building … into the ground, the geology, the water table, whatever. What could happen is that this stuff stays hot, maybe undergoes fission if concentrated enough, and so on, but given the kind of fuel and the state of the fuel at Fukushima, what actually would happen is that the nuclear stuff would just find its way through cracks and spread through groundwater pretty much like any other stuff, but not as easily as a normal liquid (like an oil spill).
But that may not have happened. According to the analysis referenced below in Ana’s feed, the base of the system … the containment designed to catch the bad stuff … more or less worked and the radioactive stuff is sitting there somewhere in the basement, somewhat spread out.
Now, here’s the problem. Because there is so much radioactive stuff in the buildings and in the cracked spent fuel storage tanks, water has to be pumped in more or less all the time, although at a much lower rate than a few months ago when it was boiling off at a high rate. In theory, water that is pumped in is then pumped out, cleaned up, and reused. But what seems to be happening, in addition to this, is that water is doing the Elvis thing … it is leaving the building, via one or multiple routes to the groundwater. So, instead of getting all spread around in the underlying geology and then spreading through the groundwater, it is being held at a higher concentration in a smaller number of locations under the reactors, but still getting into the groundwater.
This might be better than being loose underground, but maybe not. The fact that this material is so concentrated means that the basements of these plants cant be accessed, and thus, cleaned up. The wreckage of the damaged plants … damaged by the earthquake, the tsunami, by multiple explosions (some hydrogen gas explosions, one possible nuclear explosion) in combination with the presence of quite a bit of radioactive water, combined with piles of nuclear stuff of unknown extent, location, or configuration means only one thing, which has not really been fully admitted by TEPCO, though it has been implied: The basements of the melted-through reactors can not be approached by robots, humans, or any other agency for many, many years. The Fukushima plants will be a source of radioactive contamination of the nearby ocean for several years until some way to contain the plant from below is devised. Then, there will be several more years before engineers can begin to get at these lower, inner areas of the plants to even see what is in there. That is something that was never planned for, has never been done before, and may not be possible. But it will be expensive!
There is still argument over the very interesting question of how much damage, and of what kind, was caused by the earthquake vs. the tsunami. There is a politicized and rather stupid reason why these arguments are happening. Yes, we want to know that happened, and the details will be useful in the future, but the reason people are arguing about it is to decide which “I told you so” position is right. There are those maintaining that the plant was designed to handle an earthquake and not a tsunami, and it was the tsunami that did the damage. This is reminiscent of the early days after Katrina when people who otherwise wanted to be seen as smart told us the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life (“It was not the hurricane, it was the flood, that damaged New Orleans”). Here, we are being told that the tsunami (which was caused by the earthquake) was the real culprit. The reason why this is not important is this: Today, we can look back on the planning process for the Fukushima plants and identify the fact that people knew tsunamis of this magnitude were possible, but put that fact aside. It does not matter if the earthquake or the tsunami did the critical damage that destroyed the cooling systems. Both types of disasters were expected, eventually, and either way, there was no real backup solution. Thus the meltdowns. And the melt through. And the river. Underground. Running through it. The current evidence suggests that the earthquake knocked out the cooling systems. A government panel assessing the causes of the Fukushima disaster is explicity not addressing the earthquake, because TEPCO has already decided that it better darn well be the tsunami. What-ever.
In any event, this is an interesting finding: The tsunami that hit Fukushima was a previously unobserved, or at least, very rare form of wave, which started as two separate waves, combining to form one large wave.
We’ve discussed the problem of ocean contamination and accumulation. From a Woods Hole report (reference in the feed):
… discharges from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plants peaked one month after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that precipitated the nuclear accident, and continued through at least July.
Their study finds that the levels of radioactivity, while high, are not a direct threat to humans or marine life, but cautions that the effect of accumulated radionuclides in marine sediments is poorly known.
The release of radioactivity from Fukushima–both as atmospheric fallout and direct discharges to the ocean–represents the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history.
Concentrations of cesium-137, a radioactive isotope with a 30-year half-life, at the plants’ discharge points to the ocean peaked at more than 50 million times normal/previous levels.
Concentrations 18 miles offshore were higher than those measured in the ocean after the Chernobyl accident 25 years ago.
The radiation is, of course, diluting quickly as it mixes with the ocean water. The study does not cover the last several months.
I’m not sure if we are quite ready to call this one yet, but there is continued discussion on the idea of an actual nuclear explosion at Reactor 3. There are several reasons to think this happened, and the current theory is that cooling water dropped low, the spent fuel pool at reactor 3 heated up, lots of the water produced hydrogen which then exploded, and this had the effect of compressing the already nearly critical fuel pellets in the pool, which caused the nuclear explosion. To refresh your memory, here is the explosion:
One of the more disturbing reports of the last month comes from an undercover reporter, Tomohiko Suzuki, who claims that no progress is being made in the cleanup, and that radiation safety measures and monitoring of workers is more play-acting than real. Others have voiced concern that the already declared “cold shutdown” of the plant is also a bit of a sham.
Please enjoy Ana’s feed below, more than a sampling of the news and information about Fukushima and other nuclear power related issues over the last few weeks. We’ve provided some study questions to help guide your examination of this material:
- Will some parts of Japan become unoccupied, rather than being cleaned up?
- The annual maximum radiation dose recommended by the government in Japan is 1 milliservert. At what level were the residence of the Namiemachi and the Yamakiya areas in Kawamatamachi exposed so far?
- What species of wild monkeys will be fitted with radiation mounters in order to sample radiation levels in forests?
- Will the government bail out, or take over, Fukushima?
- Everyone has heard of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Have you heard of the Third Major party, which starts with ‘N’?
- What will be the effects of long term consumption of baby formula contaminated with radioactive Cesium? What about baby food?
- How radioactive are the children of Koriyama and is that too much?
- In the US we learned that Nuclear Power Apologists attempted to sabbatoge work to make US plants safer based on what has been learned so far from Fukushima. Specifically, four commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conspired to do what they could do to make sure we get to have our Fukushima too, some day! Can you name the four regulators?
- What is the best way to dispose of 16,000 tonds of radioactive tree bark and wood chips? If possible, can your solution please also take care of a big-ass pile of radioactive concrete debris? And some rice?
A complete list of these updates can be found HERE.
Ana’s Fukushima Feed
Nuclear plant in Ohio starts producing power again after discovery of cracks in concrete shell -Washington Post, Dec. 6
- A nuclear reactor where cracks were discovered in the plants concrete shell nearly two months ago began producing electricity again Tuesday, despite objections from a congressman who says unanswered questions are lingering about what happened.
- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off on restarting the plant after FirstEnergy assured it that the cracks dont pose a threat. Regulators said theyve done their own checks and reviewed testing already completed by the plant operator.
- U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who has been a longtime opponent of the plant and its owner, criticized the NRCs decision, saying that its still unknown what caused the cracks or whether its a bigger problem.
Japan Split on Hope for Vast Radiation Cleanup -NYT, Dec. 6
- Futaba is a modern-day ghost town not a boomtown gone bust, not even entirely a victim of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that leveled other parts of Japans northeast coast.
- Its traditional wooden homes have begun to sag and collapse since they were abandoned in March by residents fleeing the nuclear plant on the edge of town that began spiraling toward disaster. Roofs possibly damaged by the earths shaking have let rain seep in, starting the rot that is eating at the houses from the inside.
- The roadway arch at the entrance to the empty town almost seems a taunt. It reads:
- Nuclear energy: a correct understanding brings a prosperous lifestyle.
Tsunami Revelations: Scientists Discover that the Japanese Tidal Wave Was a Merged Tsunami the First Ever Observed -TIME, Dec. 6
- Satellites from NASA and European agencies show at least two wave fronts created by the quakenot just one as you might expect from a single quake. Those wave fronts merged to form a single, double-high wave out to sea. As it traveled towards land, ocean ridges and undersea mountains pushed the wave fronts together, keeping the tsunami stable even as it hurtled towards the coast.
Cesium-laced baby formula sparks concern, but risk low -Japan Times, Dec. 7
- Manufacturers and mothers with young children were quick in reacting Wednesday to news of cesium-tainted baby formula being sold in markets, even though the reported contamination levels were well below the government-set limit.
- Although experts stressed that such levels would not harm the health of babies even if they continued drinking the contaminated dry milk product, Meiji Suteppu (Meiji Step), mothers with young children weren’t ready to breathe a sigh of relief yet instead expressing a sense of distrust in dairies.
- “The amount of cesium may be small but babies drink such products every day, some more than five times each day,” Ai Tatsuno, a mother of four including a 2-year-old told The Japan Times.
- Talks to set a new limit for baby food products are ongoing in the health ministry, since infants and young children are especially vulnerable to effects of internal radiation exposure.
Hardship continues for Fukushima evacuees despite gov’t compensation measures -Mainichi News, Dec. 7
- Hitomi Koizumi, 33, evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama in October, taking her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son to Yamagata, as she was worried about the slow progress of decontamination work around her home. Her 30-year-old husband, who had a local job, stayed behind.
- The family spent about 300,000 yen on the move. Commenting on the compensation measures recommended Tuesday by the Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation, Koizumi said, “The phrase ‘voluntary evacuation’ made me feel guilty. I’m glad the government has acknowledged the situation, and it’s a help to get a decent amount of money.” However, she added, “There is pain from the splitting up of our family that can’t be compensated with money.”
Panel to say Fukushima crisis prevention measures inadequate -Japan Times, Dec. 8
- A government panel investigating the nuclear crisis will point out in its interim report that measures could have been taken to prevent tsunami from wrecking the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, sources said Wednesday.
- The panel, led by University of Tokyo professor emeritus Yotaro Hatamura, is also expected to say that evacuees received insufficient information and instructions that would have helped them to reduce their exposure to radioactive fallout, the sources said.
- The report is expected to be released Dec. 26, and panel members hope to include a proposal over the lessons to be learned from the country’s worst nuclear accident.
Long and tough road ahead for work to decommission Fukushima nuclear reactors -Mainichi News, Dec. 8
- After the expert committee of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) compiled a report on procedures to decommission the No. 1 to 4 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on Dec. 7, the actual work is expected to move into high gear after the turn of the year. As in the case of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, the workers would try to remove melted nuclear fuel after shielding radiation with water, a technique called a “water tomb.” But the work would have to be done in a “territory where humans have not stepped into before,” said a senior official of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the troubled Fukushima nuclear power station. The work is so difficult that it is expected to take more than 30 years to finish decommissioning the reactors.
- The key part of the decommissioning work is to remove a total of 1,496 fuel rods from the No. 1 to 3 nuclear reactors and 3,108 fuel rods from nuclear fuel pools of the No. 1 to 4 reactors. The government and TEPCO are expected to start decommissioning the reactors early in the New Year after unveiling detailed plans around Dec. 16 that the nuclear plant has been brought under control by achieving a stable state called a ”cold shutdown.”
- According to experts, filling the containment vessels with water completely to shield radiation is the “foremost and biggest hurdle.” In order to carry out the task, it is necessary to spot and repair damaged parts in the containment vessels. But it is not an easy task. Up to about 5,000 millisieverts per hour of radiation – lethal levels – have been detected in the reactor building of the No. 1 reactor.
Japan mulls $13 billion Fukushima bailout -source -Raw Story, Dec. 8
- Some analysts expressed doubt that the government would take the drastic step of taking control of the giant monopoly, which still has political clout, but the idea has proponents in some sections of Japans ruling party.
- You have an essentially bankrupt operation, and if you are going to save it, its going to cost a lot, said Andrew Dewit, a Rikkyo University professor who writes about energy policy.
- Youve got a very bad picture getting worse, and dithering just ups the cost.
- Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa was mentioned as saying a public fund injection could not be ruled out. It is better to keep all options, so I dont deny it, Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying in an interview on Thursday.
Tepco Shares Fall on Mainichi Report of Government Takeover -Bloomberg, Dec. 8
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. fell more than 10 percent after the Mainichi newspaper said the company will be taken over by the government after the Fukushima nuclear disaster brought it close to collapse.
- The governments Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund may buy preferred shares worth at least 1 trillion yen ($12.9 billion) from the utility by next summer, the Mainichi said, without saying where it obtained the information. The Sankei newspaper reported the government may inject 1.5 trillion of public funds, while Kyodo News reported Tepco may seek 3 trillion yen, including public funds and loans, during the four years from April.
- Tepco said in a statement theres been no decision on a possible nationalization. Its too early to discuss a government takeover, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said today in Tokyo.
Japan’s Yukio Edano rebuffs Tepco bailout claim -BBC, Dec. 8
- Japan’s trade minister Yukio Edano has denied reports that troubled nuclear firm Tepco is about to receive a huge government bailout.
- Mr Edano said Tepco, which runs the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, had made no requests for public money.
UN Atomic Agency Money Goes to Terror Fight, Not Nuclear Safety -Bloomberg, Dec. 8
- The agency classifies safety as one of its top three priorities, yet is spending 8.9 percent of its 352 million-euro ($469 million) regular budget this year on making plants secure from accidents. As it focuses resources on the other two priorities – technical cooperation and preventing nuclear- weapons proliferation – the IAEA is missing an opportunity to improve shortcomings in reactor safety exposed by the Fukushima disaster, said Trevor Findlay, a former Australian diplomat.
- The IAEA did not seize the opportunity of this dreadful event to advance the agency’s role in nuclear safety, said Findlay, who is finishing a two-year study of the Vienna-based agency at Harvard University. Director General Yukiya Amano has been tough on Iran and Syria, but not when it comes to nuclear safety.
- Its mission statement encapsulates the same conflict as Japan’s failed nuclear-safety regime: playing the role of both promoter and regulator of atomic power, according to scientists, diplomats and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News.
New Report Details Conspiracy to Delay, Weaken US Nuclear Safety in Wake of Fukushima -Congressman Ed Markey, Dec. 9
- As part of his ongoing investigation into U.S. nuclear safety since the Fukushima meltdowns, today Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congresss leading voice for nuclear safety, released a blockbuster new report that details how four Commissioners at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) colluded to prevent and then delay the work of the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima, the entity tasked with making recommendations for improvement to NRC regulations and processes after the Fukushima meltdowns, the worst nuclear disaster in history.
- Major findings in the new report include:
Four NRC Commissioners attempted to delay and otherwise impede the creation of the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima;
Four NRC Commissioners conspired, with each other and with senior NRC staff, to delay the release of and alter the NRC Near-Term Task Force report on Fukushima;
The other NRC Commissioners attempted to slow down or otherwise impede the adoption of the safety recommendations made by the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima;
NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko kept the other four NRC Commissioners fully informed regarding the Japanese emergency, despite claims to the contrary made by these Commissioners; and
The consideration of the Fukushima safety upgrades is not the only safety-related issue that the other NRC Commissioners have opposed.
A copy of the report Regulatory Meltdown: How Four Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners Conspired to Delay and Weaken Nuclear Reactor Safety in the Wake of Fukushima can be found HERE:
Radioactive water leaks inside nuclear plant in southwestern Japan -Washington Post, Dec. 9
- Radioactive water leaked inside a nuclear power plant in southwestern Japan but did not escape into the environment, the government said Saturday, the latest problem for the countrys nuclear industry amid an ongoing crisis at another plant.
- Tetsuya Saito, spokesman for Japans Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said 1.8 tons of radioactive water leaked from a pump in Genkais No. 3 reactor, and the cause was still under investigation.
- The water was funneled into a storage area and posed no safety risk, he said.
- Kyushu Electric issued a statement Friday about a pump problem but did not mention the leak. Officials at the utility were not immediately available for comment Saturday.
- There have been various problems at Genkai, Saito said. But there is no safety problem as a result of what happened this time.
- Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto complained that Kyushu Electric has not been fully open with information.
Scientists Assess Radioactivity in the Ocean From Japan Nuclear Power Facility -National Science Foundation, Dec. 9
- They report that discharges from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plants peaked one month after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that precipitated the nuclear accident, and continued through at least July.
- Their study finds that the levels of radioactivity, while high, are not a direct threat to humans or marine life, but cautions that the effect of accumulated radionuclides in marine sediments is poorly known.
- The release of radioactivity from Fukushima–both as atmospheric fallout and direct discharges to the ocean–represents the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history.
- Concentrations of cesium-137, a radioactive isotope with a 30-year half-life, at the plants’ discharge points to the ocean peaked at more than 50 million times normal/previous levels.
Radiation levels in Koriyama children exceed annual limit: survey -Mainichi News, Dec. 9
- Radiation levels detected in children in this city near the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant exceed the government-set annual limit, a municipal government study has revealed.
- The survey, the first of three to be conducted before March 2012, examined accumulated radiation levels in all 25,551 elementary and middle school children residing in the city, measured on a 24-hour basis daily, between the period of Oct. 5 and Nov. 6. Final survey data excludes the 0.06 millisieverts dosage presumed to be accumulated through natural exposure to radiation.
- The average radiation level according to the survey data announced on Dec. 8 was 0.12 millisieverts, which calculated over a one-year period equals 1.33 millisieverts – 0.33 millisieverts more than the annual limit set by the government for both children and adults.
Residents exposed to high doses of radiation -Yomiuri, Dec. 10
- A Fukushima prefectural government survey on residents’ external radiation exposure showed those in government-set evacuation zones were likely exposed to annualized radiation doses of up to 14 millisieverts, government sources said Friday.
- This is the first statistical data indicating external radiation exposure among people living around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
SDF battling with brooms, brushes -Yomiuri, Dec. 10
- Self-Defense Forces members have begun decontamination work in the no-entry and expanded evacuation zones in Fukushima Prefecture, using only such low-tech implements as brooms, deck brushes and shovels.
- The central government has commissioned private companies to do decontamination work in some areas on a trial basis, but they, too, lack sophisticated resources, and some Environment Ministry officials involved with the decontamination work are frustrated by its slow pace.
- “The areas to be decontaminated are so wide. I wonder when the radiation levels will go down so residents can return home,” one official said.
- SDF members will be engaged in the work for about two weeks.
- “To attain the goal, we’ll have to make our personnel finish a substantial amount of work,” an SDF senior official said.
- The central government asked the SDF to do the decontamination work as an advance party, with the aim of securing rest areas for private decontamination companies and bases to store materials before the government starts a full-fledged decontamination project in 12 municipalities in the no-entry and expanded evacuation zones from January.
- About 900 SDF members currently are involved in that work at municipal offices in Tomiokamachi, Namiemachi, Narahamachi and Iitatemura of the prefecture.
Moment of Truth for the No.3 Official at the Ministry of the Environment: “No One Trusts the Radiation Measurement by the National Government” -EX-SKF, Dec. 11
- 41-year-old Satoshi Takayama is the No.3 official at the Ministry of the Environment below the Minister (Goshi Hosono) and the Vice Minister (Katsuhiko Yokomitsu, former TV/movie actor). In a rare moment of truth, in a press conference in Shizuoka, Takayama blurted out, “No one trusts the measurement by the national government”.
- The occasion in Shizuoka was to persuade the local municipalities in Shizuoka (there are 35 of them) to accept the disaster/radioactive debris from towns in Iwate Prefectures.
- Let’s see, will he be able to keep his job?
Meiji ignored info on cesium-tainted baby food for 2 weeks -Mainichi News, Dec. 10
- Food maker Meiji Co. received information on three occasions in mid-November about radioactive cesium in its baby food but paid no heed to the leads for about two weeks until it finally looked into the matter when approached by Kyodo News and a citizens’ group earlier this month, Kyodo learned Friday.
- Meiji, which subsequently found up to 30.8 becquerels per kilogram in its Meiji Step milk powder, said it had initially concluded that “further investigation was unnecessary” because, of the three occasions, one was an anonymous call and the two others cited Internet information that the company was unable to confirm.
- “We would like to respond with better sensitivity from now on,” a Meiji spokesperson said.
TEPCO N-plant to get foreign insurer -Yomiuri, Dec. 10
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. will likely conclude a new contract with a foreign insurer for the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, as Japanese firms have refused to renew the current arrangement, according to sources.
- The premium for the new insurance policy is expected to jump more than 10-fold from the current amount of between 200 million yen and 300 million yen a year per plant.
- Electric power companies are obligated to obtain damage insurance for each nuclear power plant in case of an accident and other irregularities.
- The Japan Atomic Energy Insurance Pool, a group of Japanese insurance companies that provide coverage for nuclear power plants, refused to renew the existing policy contract with the Fukushima plant after it expires Jan. 15 next year.
- The Law on Compensation for Nuclear Damage prohibits operating nuclear power plants and decommissioning reactors without insurance.
Wild monkeys to carry forest fallout monitors -Japan Times, Dec. 11
- Fukushima University researchers plan to measure forest radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture by placing special monitoring collars on wild monkeys, in light of the nuclear crisis.
- Each of the collars contains a small radiation meter and a Global Positioning System transmitter, and can be unclipped by remote control. This will allow a team led by robotics professor Takayuki Takahashi to recover the collars and collect the data within one to two months after the monkeys are released back into the wild, they said.
- Radiation in forests is currently monitored mainly from the air, for example by helicopter, but the researchers believe they can get more detailed data through wild monkeys and aim to implement the project in an area of the city of Minamisoma by spring.
Nuclear Fools -Hullabaloo, Dec. 11
- It’s clear the anti-regulatory right won’t be happy until their zealotry causes huge numbers of people to die. There’s just no other explanation for this sort of thing:
Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko is a longtime proponent of reforming safety standards at nuclear power plants and was the first chair to win the seat without the support of the industry. The other four members were all strongly backed by the nuclear industry when they were nominated and confirmed.
In early December, the four other commission members wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff William Daley accusing Jaczko of “increasingly problematic and erratic” behavior.
In his own letter to Daley, Jaczko responded to the allegations, Reuters reported. “Unfortunately, all too often, a majority of this current commission has taken an approach that is not as protective of public health and safety as I believe is necessary,” he wrote.
New concerns about Hanford nuclear waste plant -seattlepi, Dec. 11
- The federal government says a one-of-a-kind plant that will convert radioactive waste into a stable and storable substance that resembles glass will cost hundreds of millions of dollars more and may take longer to build, adding to a string of delays and skyrocketing price tag for the project.
- In addition, several workers at southeast Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation have raised concerns about the safety of the plant’s design and complained they’ve been retaliated against for voicing their issues.
- The turmoil has some in the Pacific Northwest uneasy about the plant’s long-term viability and fearful that a frustrated Congress could balk at paying more money for a project long considered the cornerstone of cleanup at the highly contaminated site.
Mayor irate as utility fails to reveal glitch at suspended reactor -Japan Times, Dec. 11
- The utility detected the leak Friday morning but only told local governments it was having pump troubles with its No. 3 reactor, which is undergoing a regular check.
- The lack of disclosure upset Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto.
- “It should have been reported properly (to the town of Genkai and Saga Prefecture). I have been repeatedly telling Kyushu Electric to change its corporate culture,” he said.
Radiation rose slightly after water leak at Genkai plant -Mainichi News, Dec. 12
- The reading at an outlet for seawater cooling the No. 3 reactor’s secondary cooling system was 473 counts per minute at 3 p.m. Friday, against the usual range of 433 to 472 cpm, not high enough to immediately impact human health, it said.
- On Friday morning, 1.8 tons of primary coolant water containing radioactive materials leaked within the reactor’s purification system. The utility claimed the radiation reading is unrelated to that leak and said it will investigate the cause.
Japanese Engineer: “There Was a Nuclear Explosion in Reactor 3 in Addition to a Hydrogen Explosion” -EX-SKF, Dec. 12
- There are foreign nuclear experts who have said the explosion in Reactor 3 on March 14 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was a nuclear explosion. But this Japanese engineer and whistleblower at JNES (Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization) Setsuo Fujiwara says there were two explosions at Reactor 3: a hydrogen explosion, and a nuclear explosion at the Spent Fuel Pool.
- “The amount of cooling water decreased in the Reactor 3 SFP prior to the explosion, and hydrogen was generated from the zircaloy-water reaction. The upper part of the cladding melted, and the pellets fell out and piled [at the bottom of the pool?]. Inside the SFP, it was like a nuclear reactor becoming critical, and the water boiled. Then there was a hydrogen explosion above the surface of the water in the SFP, and due to the pressure from the explosion, voids (steam bubbles) in the boiling water were compressed. The void coefficient was negative, so the reactivity of nuclear fission was suddenly heightened, resulting in a nuclear explosion from the prompt criticality. When you see the slow-motion video of Reactor 3’s explosion, you hear three explosive sounds. It is the evidence that the nuclear explosion occurred after the hydrogen explosion.”
Full radiation cleanup won’t begin until at least late March -Japan Times, Dec. 12
- The Environment Ministry said Sunday that full-fledged efforts to decontaminate areas highly polluted by radioactive matter from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster cannot begin until late March or later.
- The government needs time to obtain the consent of individual landowners and to secure temporary storage sites for contaminated soil removed from irradiated areas, ministry officials told a panel of experts commissioned to discuss the issue.
NRC ‘Coup’ Leader, Bill Magwood, Consulted For Fukushima Parent Company -HuffPost, Dec. 12
- Bill Magwood, the man at the center of an effort to overthrow the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and his most likely successor if the move is successful, served as a consultant for Tepco, the Japanese company that owns the Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to information provided by Magwood as part of his nomination and confirmation process, which was obtained by The Huffington Post.
- On Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a letter signed by Magwood and three other commissioners attacking the panel’s chairman, Gregory Jaczko, setting off a firestorm in the energy industry. Issa and the four commissioners framed the dispute as personal and managerial, but emails released by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) show a political and ideological battle underway over post-Fukushima safety standards.
- Issa and Markey appeared opposite one another on MSNBC on Monday, continuing to debate whether the issue is one of personality or the politics of nuclear safety. Magwood’s previously unreported relationship to Japan’s nuclear industry, via the firm he founded and ran, Advanced Energy Strategies, sheds new light on that debate.
Nuclear industry seeks end to regulatory spat -Reuters, Dec. 12
- The nuclear industry asked the White House and Congress on Monday to resolve a nasty power struggle at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an internal fight that will be scrutinized at two Congressional hearings this week.
- The Nuclear Energy Institute, the main lobby group for the utilities and power companies that run the country’s 104 nuclear reactors, said the fight has put the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s credibility at stake.
- “Safe performance of nuclear energy facilities and the NRC’s credibility are the two most important factors for policymaker and public confidence in nuclear energy,” NEI president Marvin Fertel said in a statement. “As such, the industry is concerned with anything that threatens the credibility of either.”
Fukushima rice in cesium limbo -Japan Times, Dec. 13
- Autumn is high season for freshly harvested “shinmai,” the new rice marketed as a seasonal favorite in Fukushima Prefecture. But the farmers there fear their fare will go unsold because harvests around three cities have turned up excessive levels of radioactive cesium, prompting shipment bans.
- Consumers are deeply worried as well. Where was the contaminated rice found? What about rice from other prefectures? How are authorities measuring the contamination?
- Following are questions and answers on rice contaminated by fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Biggest radiation dose outside Fukushima zone -report -Reuters, Dec. 13
- Residents outside the Fukushima exclusion zone were likely most exposed to radiation in the four months after the nuclear plant was wrecked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the local government said on Tuesday.
- Their exposure of 19 millisieverts is just below the annual limit set by an international nuclear safety body, it said.
- The greatest exposure was in the town of Iitate, where residents were allowed to take their time to leave, located 40 km (25 miles) northwest of the plant and outside the 20 km evacuation zone imposed by the government.
- According to the estimates, those living within the 20 km zone, who were urged to leave quickly, were likely exposed to 0.18 to 2.3 millisieverts in the four months after the disaster.
- That is less than the estimated 0.84-19 millisieverts for those living near the plant but outside the evacuation zone.
Real cause of nuclear crisis -Japan Times, Dec. 13
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), the operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station, has been insisting that the culprit that caused the nuclear crisis was the huge tsunami that hit the plant after the March 11 earthquake. But evidence is mounting that the meltdown at the nuclear power plant was actually caused by the earthquake itself.
- According to a science journalist well versed in the matter, Tepco is afraid that if the earthquake were to be determined as the direct cause of the accident, the government would have to review its quake-resistance standards completely, which in turn would delay by years the resumption of the operation of existing nuclear power stations that are suspended currently due to regular inspections.
- The journalist is Mitsuhiko Tanaka, formerly with Babcock-Hitachi K.K. as an engineer responsible for designing the pressure vessel for the No. 4 reactor at the ill-fated Fukushima nuclear plant.
- He says if the earthquake caused the damage to the plumbing, leading to a “loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA)” in which vaporized coolant gushed into the containment building from the damaged piping, an entirely new problem “vulnerability to earthquake resistance of the nuclear reactor’s core structure” would surface and that this will require a total review of the government’s safety standards for nuclear power plants in Japan, which is quite frequently hit by earthquakes.
Regulators up scrutiny of Fort Calhoun nuclear plant after finding more problems -Washington Post, Drc. 13
- Several new problems have been found at a Nebraska power plant that suffered flood damage earlier this year, federal regulators said Tuesday, so inspectors will be watching the plant north of Omaha even more closely as repairs from flooding are made.
- NRC spokesman Victor Dricks told The Associated Press that the new problems at the plant include deficiencies in the Omaha Public Power Districts emergency response and either a design or installation flaw that contributed to a fire in June. Inspectors also found flaws in the way the utilitys analysis of how the plant would withstand different accident conditions such as earthquakes, tornadoes or loss of coolant.
- The plant was already facing extra oversight because of the failure of a key electrical part during a test in 2010 and deficiencies in flood planning that were also found last year. Fort Calhoun might not be receiving so much attention if it hadnt had the other recent regulatory problems.
Japan minister questions radioactive water dump -TerraDaily, Dec. 13
- Japan’s industry minister Tuesday rejected a plan by the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to release low-level radioactive water into the sea without approval by local fishermen.
- “It should not be allowed socially, if not legally, that they forcibly go ahead with the discharge of water without gaining an agreement from fishermen concerned,” Yukio Edano, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, told a news briefing.
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said last week that it must release some contaminated water as tanks designed to store it at the plant stricken by Japan’s monster quake were expected to hit their limit by next March.
Fukushima – Could it Have a China Syndrome? -Fairewinds video, Dec. 13
- Last week, Tokyo Electric announced that the core inside the nuclear reactor had definitely melted through and had also melted partly through the containment at Fukushima. I wanted to talk about that today because I think that there have been a lot of exaggerations and misunderstandings on the internet about what is actually going on. So the question I would like to talk about today is, can Fukushima become what is called The China Syndrome? And what exactly does The China Syndrome really mean?
U.S. Nuclear Agency Suffers Leadership Meltdown -NPR, Dec. 14
- The government organization charged with keeping nuclear power safe is having a meltdown. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission consists of five commissioners who direct the work of hundreds of nuclear engineers and other experts. They write the rules for how nuclear reactors operate.
- Now four of those commissioners say the chairman of the NRC is a bully who’s destroying their ability to do their job.
- Jaczko denied the accusations, except to say that he can be outspoken about safety. But advocates of nuclear power have targeted Jaczko because he helped deep-six the idea of putting a nuclear waste dump in Nevada, called Yucca Mountain.
- A view from the outside of the Washington hothouse comes from Peter Bradford, who spent five years as an NRC commissioner. He says this isn’t just about Republicans vs. Democrats.
- “There is a sort of nuclear party that transcends Republican and Democratic labels,” Bradford says. “The four signers of the letter are all very much in the nuclear party, and the chairman is not.”
Fukushima Plant Should Be Nationalized, Former Premier Says -Bloomberg, Dec. 14
- Japans wrecked Fukushima nuclear station should be taken over by the government to ensure a full account is given of the events that led to the worst atomic crisis in 25 years, a former Japanese prime minister said.
- Many questions remain unanswered about the disaster nine months ago when an earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling and power at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Tomoyuki Taira, a Japanese parliamentarian, wrote in a commentary in the journal Nature today. The two are members of a parliamentary committee probing the accident.
- The legislators, both members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said its particularly important to establish whether self-sustaining reactions are continuing in the damaged cores and whether explosions that rocked the station in the days after March 11 were nuclear in origin.
- Our investigation has already shown that key pieces of evidence remain incomplete, Hatoyama and Taira said. We believe that independent scientists must be given access to the nuclear plant and that the plant should be brought into national ownership.
Gov’t to designate ‘difficult-to-return zones’ near crippled Fukushima nuclear plant -Mainichi News, Dec. 14
- The government is expected to consider designating areas that are exposed to more than 50 millisieverts per year of radiation from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant as zones that are difficult for local residents to return to possibly for the next several decades and buying out tracts of land there.
- The government has started to consider dividing the region affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis into three zones according to levels of radiation they are exposed to. Under the current scheme, the region is divided into “evacuation zones” which fall within a radius of 20 kilometers from the troubled nuclear power station and “planned evacuation zones” that are exposed to more than 20 millisieverts per year of radiation.
- Under the new scheme, the government will divide the region into three zones; “preparatory zones” that are exposed to less than 20 millisieverts per year of radiation, “restricted residential zones” exposed to radiation of more than 20 millisierverts but less than 50 millisieverts per year, and “difficult-to-return zones” that are exposed to at least 50 millisieverts per year of radiation. In dividing the region into three different zones, the government will discuss details with local municipalities so that it could designate community-based zones in the region because levels of radiation differ from one place to the other in the same municipalities.
Interim storage facilities planned for near N-plant -Yomiuri, Dec. 14
- The Environment Ministry plans to build interim facilities to store soil and ash contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in the prefecture’s Futaba county, sources said Tuesday.
- The ministry is expected to officially announce the plan by the end of the year. The ministry said it would select a location for the storage facilities by the end of fiscal 2012 at the latest. It now plans to choose municipalities to hold the material.
- The ministry believes limiting candidate sites for the interim storage facilities to within Futaba county, instead of elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture, would boost facility construction and speed up decontamination work, the sources said. The ministry plans to start building the facilities as early as the summer of 2014.
Japan May Declare Control of Reactors, Over Serious Doubts -NYT, Dec. 14
- On Friday, a disaster-response task force headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will vote on whether to announce that the plants three damaged reactors have been put into the equivalent of a cold shutdown, a technical term normally used to describe intact reactors with fuel cores that are in a safe and stable condition. Experts say that if it does announce a shutdown, as many expect, it will simply reflect the governments effort to fulfill a pledge to restore the plants cooling system by years end and, according to some experts, not the true situation.
- If the task force declares a cold shutdown, the next step will be moving the spent fuel rods in nearby cooling pools to more secure storage, and eventually opening the reactors themselves.
- However, many experts fear that the government is declaring victory only to appease growing public anger over the accident, and that it may deflect attention from remaining threats to the reactors safety. One of those a large aftershock to the magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11, which could knock out the jury-rigged new cooling system that the plants operator hastily built after the accident is considered a strong possibility by many seismologists.
- Claiming a cold shutdown does not have much meaning for damaged reactors like those at Fukushima Daiichi, said Noboru Nakao, a nuclear engineering consultant at International Access Corporation.
Critical mass -Nature, Dec. 14
- More than nine months after the nuclear-reactor disaster at Fukushima, fundamental questions about what happened remain unanswered. Without answers to these questions, Japan, and the rest of the world, is in the dark on what went wrong, what must be done now, and how to avoid similar accidents in future.
- Following the accident, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operated the Fukushima plant, initially released only a heavily redacted nuclear-reactor manual. When finally released in an undoctored format in late October, the manual revealed just how lacking the company was in terms of contingency measures. This concealment gives some idea of why even senior political figures struggled for answers in the wake of the disaster, and why they have now chosen to pose their questions in this very public way.
- This all points to a problem in Japan that predates Fukushima and seems to afflict every Japanese regime: the absence of a strong and independent scientific voice to advise the government. In this case, such a voice be it from a chief scientist appointed by the government or from a truly independent nuclear regulator could have helped to direct evacuations, medical relief, screening for radiation and decontamination efforts. It also would have helped to lead the studies needed to find answers to the questions mentioned above.
Nuclear Watch: Radiation Estimates -NHK Feature, Dec. 15
Radiation doses vary with evacuation patterns -Yomiuri, Dec. 15
- Evacuation patterns affected the differing levels of external radiation to which residents of Fukushima Prefecture were exposed in the first four months of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to the prefectural government.
- Just after the crisis began, the government initially failed to disclose data from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), which was used to analyze how radioactive substances would spread from the nuclear plant.
- The latest data renewed the anger of affected residents, who said they would have evacuated elsewhere had they been aware.
France’s ACRO Finds Radioactive Cesium in Vacuum Cleaner Filters in Fukushima, Iwate -EX-SKF, Dec. 15
- ACRO has analysed dust of vacuum cleaners from 13 dwellings. Excepted Osaka, chosen as a reference because it is located 600 km from the plant, all dust samples are contaminated with cesium 137 and 134 following the catastrophe of Fukushima.
- It is in the district of Watari of Fukushima-city that the contamination is highest with almost 20,000 becquerels per kilogram for both cesium. This district, located about fifty kilometres from the plant, is known to be particularly contaminated and the sale of rice is prohibited.
- Homes are also significantly contaminated in Ichinoseki in Iwate province to the north and in Kashiwa in Chiba to the south, situated in the northern suburbs of Tokyo. In both cities, located about 200 km of the plant, contaminated dust is nearly 6,000 becquerels per kilogram.
‘Absolutely no progress being made’ at Fukushima nuke plant, undercover reporter says -Mainichi News, Dec. 15
- Conditions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are far worse than its operator or the government has admitted, according to freelance journalist Tomohiko Suzuki, who spent more than a month working undercover at the power station.
- “Absolutely no progress is being made” towards the final resolution of the crisis, Suzuki told reporters at a Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan news conference on Dec. 15. Suzuki, 55, worked for a Toshiba Corp. subsidiary as a general laborer there from July 13 to Aug. 22, documenting sloppy repair work, companies including plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) playing fast and loose with their workers’ radiation doses, and a marked concern for appearances over the safety of employees or the public.
- According to Suzuki, TEPCO and the subcontractors at the plant never explicitly tell the workers to take these measures. Instead the workers are simply assigned projects that would be impossible to complete on time without manipulating the dosage numbers, and whether through a sense of duty or fear of being fired, the workers never complain.
- Furthermore, the daily radiation screenings are “essentially an act,” with the detector passed too quickly over each worker, while “the line to the buzzer that is supposed to sound when there’s a problem has been cut,” Suzuki said.
- Despite the lack of progress and cavalier attitude to safety, Suzuki claims the cold shutdown schedule has essentially choked off any new ideas. The crisis is officially under control and the budget for dealing with it has been cut drastically, and many Hitachi and Toshiba engineers that have presented new solutions have been told there is simply no money to try them.
Radiation leaks caused illnesses, Dimona reactor employees say -JTA, Dec. 15
- Employees at the Dimona nuclear reactor told an Israeli court that they were sickened with cancer and other illnesses due to radioactive leaks.
- During a hearing Wednesday in Petach Tikvah District Court, the attorney for 44 employees and their families presented internal memos claiming that the leak of radioactive substances was caused by safety problems.
- A former deputy head of Dimona’s Negev Nuclear Research Center safety division also testified that there had been radiation leaks, Haaretz reported.
- The employees of the Dimona reactor and the Soreq Nuclear Research Center in the mid-1990s who filed suit want to be recognized as victims of work-related accidents. Some of the plaintiffs have died since the suit was filed.
Gregory Jaczko, Nuclear Regulatory Comission Chief, Again Faces ‘Bully’ Claim -HuffPost, Dec. 15
- The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday he was “mortified” by allegations that he verbally abused women who worked at the agency.
- “I have never intentionally berated, threatened, bullied or intimidated any member of the staff,” Gregory Jaczko told a Senate committee. “I have a wife, I have a sister … and I have interacted and worked with a tremendous number of people at the agency, including a large number of women.”
- Jaczko’s comments came on the second day of congressional hearings into his behavior as leader of the 4,000-employee agency, which oversees safety at the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors.
- Boxer said Wednesday’s GOP-led House oversight hearing on Jaczko’s behavior amounted to little more than a “witch hunt” that “attempted to assassinate the character of a dedicated public servant.”
- “Frankly, I was shocked and appalled,” said Boxer, D-Calif.
- Boxer said she asked committee staff to investigate whether Jaczko had mistreated women. The staff reported that a woman at the agency told them that Jaczko was “the most fair person” she had ever met, Boxer said.
- Boxer called Jaczko a “proven leader” who has advanced important safety reforms at the commission. She accused the other four NRC commissioners of “slow-walking needed reforms” prompted by the nuclear crisis in Japan.
- “I think this all about safety, dressed up as something else,” Boxer said.
Cotter Corp. won’t try to rebuild uranium milling program in Caon City, must move toward final clean up -Denver Post. Dec. 16
- Cotter Corp. has decided it is “no longer economic” to process uranium at its contaminated Colorado uranium mill and will move toward clean-up of the site next to Caon City along the Arkansas River?.
- A letter from Cotter president Amory Quinn says Cotter “will not seek to renew” the radioactive materials license Cotter has from the state health department.
- Cotter plans to decommission and decontaminate the mill site and to request license termination, Quinn said in the Dec. 12 letter.
- The decision marks a possible turning point in a long-running controversy over the mill.
- Caon City residents opposed to the mill applauded the move.
- “We think this is the first sign of serious progress on getting this place cleaned up. They have stated now that they are going away. The challenge is to see that they clean it up properly before they do,” said Sharyn Cunningham, leader of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, who praised Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office “for engaging” on the issue.
Japans Prime Minister Declares Fukushima Plant Stable -NY Times, Dec. 16
- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan has declared an end to the worlds worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, saying technicians have regained control of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
- Today, we have reached a great milestone, Mr. Noda said in a televised address to the nation. The reactors are stable, which should resolve one big cause of concern for us all.
- The declaration, nine months after a calamitous earthquake and tsunami set off a huge radiation leak, could set the stage for the return of more evacuees to affected areas.
- But even before Mr. Nodas announcement, some experts called the news premature, an attempt to quell continuing public anger over the accident and paper over remaining threats to the plant. The experts argue that the devastated plant remains vulnerable to large aftershocks, which could knock out the jury-rigged cooling system that helped workers bring the reactors into a relatively stable state known as a cold shutdown.
- They also say the milestone of a cold shutdown, necessary before dismantling can begin, means less than usual because the nuclear fuel at three of the plants reactors has melted and some of it has apparently escaped the reactor vessels. That means that removing the fuel from the reactors, always a delicate process, will be much harder and more time-consuming.
Japan marks nuclear reactors milestone -CNN, Dec. 16
- Japan’s Prime Minister said Friday that a “cold shutdown” has been achieved at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a symbolic milestone that means the plant’s crippled reactors have stayed at temperatures below the boiling point for some time.
- “They’re making this out to be some big milestone, some big thing. But the reality of this is that it’s not,” said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at U.S. nuclear power plants. “The problem is, with these reactors and the condition that they’re in, to suggest that they’re in cold shutdown really doesn’t do justice to the situation. They’re no safer today than they were basically in June.”
- Officials could start removing spent fuel rods from the facility next year, but it could be up to a decade before they are able to access the reactor vessels, he said.
- Removing spent fuel rods is the next step, but officials need to further survey the area before that happens, he said.
- “We are considering sending a robot into the fuel tanks to really have a good idea (about) the situation. This will be necessary when we take out the fuel,” Nishizawa said. “But I don’t believe what we see will be 180 degrees different from our simulations. But as we say, seeing once is better than hearing 100 times, so we will have a good look at what’s happening inside.”
Fukushima Dismantling to Start as Cold Shutdown Announced -Bloomberg, Dec. 16
- It’s an achievement to have restored cooling and gotten water temperatures to 100 degrees, said Arnie Gunderson, a Vermont-based nuclear engineer who has testified to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Fukushima, said in a phone interview.
- But I don’t know why they choose to say cold shutdown because that’s an affront to those in the industry who really know what the term means, he said. That nuclear core is still in a configuration where the center is extraordinarily hot.
- Besides maintaining stable cooling of the reactors and spent-fuel pools at the plant, Tepco has to manage storage tanks holding millions of metric tons of contaminated water.
- Now the hardest part starts, which is the cleanup, said Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California, who worked as a consultant on decommissioning Chernobyl.
- Gunderson said that declaring the cold shutdown at Fukushima risks further eroding people’s faith in the government’s ability to regulate the nuclear power industry.
- I actually think it’s going to blow up in their face, he said. In the eyes of the Japanese public, the last thing they need to do is exaggerate. And this is an exaggeration.
Battle to control Fukushima has just ‘stored up’ dangers -Independent, Dec. 16
- Much of the fuel in three of Fukushima Daiichi plant’s six reactors has melted through the base of the containment vessels. Engineers are still pumping 4,000 tonnes of water a week on to the fuel to keep it cool, leaving 200,000 tonnes of heavily contaminated water on site. Despite the efforts, the rush to bring the plant under control is storing up complex problems, according to Tomohiko Suzuki, who spent a month working at the plant during the summer and has released a book this week about his experiences. “The question is, can they maintain this temperature for years and years?” he told reporters in Tokyo yesterday. “I believe the problems there are just starting.”
- Nuclear experts say the state of the molten fuel is still uncertain, with some speculating that the government is preparing to build a giant concrete “nappy” underneath the complex to stop radioactive substances leaking into the ground.
- Mr Suzuki, for his part, paints an appalling picture of managerial callousness at the plant, claiming that after the first explosion on 12 March Tepco sent out a message to labour-dispatch companies saying: “Send us people who don’t mind dying.”
- In the first few days of panic, workers were not issued radiation-measuring equipment and were not properly logged in, he said. “There’s no way to track down the people who were at the site in March and April.”
Opinion: Fukushima power plant is far from ‘cold’ -Deutsche Welle, Dec. 16
- The Daiichi power plant operator Tepco and the Japanese government had announced at the end of summer to have the situation under control or a cold shutdown by the end of this year. For a cold shutdown, temperatures inside the reactor buildings need to be below 100 degrees Celsius. But it is just the beginning the start of a point from which the plant can be disassembled.
- Or so it goes in theory. But experts are saying it could take another 30 years before the plant can be levelled. Experts believe parts of the fuel rods burned through the floor of the reactor pressure vessel and are now lying on the ground and that they are far from “cold,” but that they are still around at a temperature of 3,000 degrees Celcius.
- Referring to the current situation at Fukushima as a cold shutdown is thus irresponsible. But what else are the government and Tepco to do? They are hoping to pacify the population by talking about a cold shutdown, but it wont work. The Japanese people are infuriated nine months after the earthquake and tsunami which led to the meltdown in the Daiichi plant Tepco was speaking of nuclear fission in reactor 2 just a couple of weeks ago. Nuclear radiation is still extremely high in the Fukushima prefecture and contaminated water continues to flow into the sea. High levels of radiation continue to be found in rice, meat, vegetables, seafood, milk and tea in the region. And thousands of people have been displaced by the nuclear disaster and continue to live in evacuation shelters. They will receive a small amount in compensation but it will be payed out of the pockets of Japanese tax payers and not out of Tepcos.
NUCLEAR CRISIS–9 MONTHS ON / Govt pressure on N-agency cast doubt on meltdown -Yomiuri, Dec. 16
- Nine months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This is the first installment in a two-part series that looks into problems facing the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, among other issues, and what is required to create a new nuclear safety agency in April.
- When did a meltdown occur at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant after the March 11 disaster?
- “It’s a core meltdown. We believe the fuel has started to melt [in the No. 1 reactor],” Koichiro Nakamura of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said at a press conference at 2 p.m. the following day.
- But the agency quickly reversed itself and expressed doubt whether a meltdown had occurred. The agency finally admitted on June 7 there had been a meltdown.
- Ahead of his press conference, Nakamura asked then agency Director General Nobuaki Terasaka, 58, whether he could say a meltdown had occurred.
- Terasaka gave him the green light, saying, “We have no choice but to mention it.”
- An hour after the press conference, staffers at the Prime Minister’s Office were taken aback by Nakamura’s remarks when they watched live coverage of the press conference on TV.
- “What’s this media coverage [of the press conference]?” shouted Keisuke Sadamori, then secretary to the prime minister and a former METI bureaucrat.
- He telephoned the agency and demanded that it inform the Prime Minister’s Office in advance whenever it had important information.
Former Japanese PM Hatoyama: #Fukushima Reactor 3 Nuclear Explosion Likely -EX-SKF, Dec. 16
- It turns out that former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had more than just the recriticality back in March and April to talk about in his Nature article that was published on December 15, a rather awkward day it must have been for the Noda administration who was going to declare the end of the Fuku I Nuke Plant accident.
- In concluding that it may have been a nuclear explosion at Reactor 3, Hatoyama forgoes the mechanism of how a nuclear explosion could have happened and focuses on the evidence of transuranic elements scattered far outside the plant, saying a hydrogen explosion wouldn’t be powerful enough.
- Hatoyama, as a former prime minister and a high-ranking official of the Democratic Party of Japan, has had access to more detailed information about the accident from both the government source and TEPCO, in addition to the data from nuclear experts that he invited to his study group on the Fukushima accident, though he complains in the Nature article how he was frustrated with the slow response from TEPCO. (He is referring to the 99% blacked out operation manual from TEPCO.)
Hatoyama: Nationalize Fukushima N-plant -Yomiuri, Dec. 16
- Only by bringing the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into government hands can scientists thoroughly discover what caused the nuclear crisis, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama says in an article published in the Dec. 15 issue of the British science journal Nature.
- In the article, Hatoyama criticizes Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled plant, for disclosing only limited information to Diet committees. He also hints at the possibility of recriticality at the plant and says there is still much about the crisis that needs clarification, including the state of the molten fuel within the nuclear reactors.
- Hatoyama also says that he and Taira obtained data on samples of contaminated water TEPCO obtained from the basement of the plant’s No. 1 reactor and asked an outside research institute to reanalyze them.
- Results showed that radionuclide chlorine 38, one of the isotopes released during recriticality, “was indeed present,” he claims.
- TEPCO reported at one point that it found chlorine 38 in the sampled water, but the utility later retracted that statement, saying there was a mistake in the analysis.
Latest #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Video -EX-SKF, Dec. 17
- The video was shot on December 14 and 15, in preparation for the big day on December 16, the declaration of the end of the plant accident.
Editorial: Gov’t declares cold shutdown at nuclear plant, but crucial steps lie ahead -Mainichi News, Dec. 17
- The public has keenly waited for the nuclear reactors to be brought under stable control, but Japan is still standing on thin ice and is miles away from a situation where it can really declare that the crisis is under control.
- It is expected that the government will soon reorganize the radiation-contaminated no-go zone and planned evacuation zones around the plant into three zones. Even in areas with low levels of radiation, thorough decontamination work and health checks are needed to ensure residents can return home. Naturally, such efforts by themselves are far from sufficient.
- The nuclear crisis has contaminated a farming belt, and it will be difficult for residents to return to their homes without re-establishing new foundations for their livelihood. While Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has referred to plans for the government to purchase contaminated land, the nation’s politicians face an unprecedented challenge in dealing with areas where residents’ homecoming will remain difficult over long periods of time.
- The government is set to submit special bills on the recovery of Fukushima during the ordinary Diet session next year. It bears a heavy responsibility to respect the voices of residents and embody Fukushima’s recovery from a long-term perspective as it aims to bring the seemingly infinite nuclear crisis under control.
Daunting tasks await despite declaration of cold shutdown -Japan Times, Dec. 18
- “At this moment, we can’t say anything for sure until we take a look inside the reactor cores,” Yamana told reporters in October.
- Before taking the fuel out of the reactors, workers are expected to start within two years removing the spent nuclear fuel stored in pools inside units 1 through 4. They also must repair the damaged primary containment vessels of reactors 1, 2 and 3 so they can be filled with water to block radiation.
- But there are doubts over whether flooding the vessels will actually work, as Tepco already has tried to cool the reactors using such a technique and gave up after its efforts were unsuccessful. The report, however, says there is currently no alternative method for removing the fuel.
- The report, which highlights the tasks Tepco will have to deal with in the medium to long term, also says there is no existing technology capable of recovering fuel that has melted through a reactor pressure vessel and accumulated at the outer primary container.
Protesters Swarm the Square in Central Tokyo Where Noda Is to Give Speech -EX-SKF, Dec. 18
- Here’s the scenes at the square, in three parts, recorded live by Yasumi Iwakami’s crew (here, here, here). It looks both the political left and the right were up against the Noda administration and shouting at the administration officials together. And old and young, somewhat reminiscent of the scenes that I watched earlier this year in Egypt.
- Signs read:”Cold shutdown is a lie”/”Noda is a liar”/”Protect children”/”Which nuke plant’s accident is over? You liar”/”Cold shutdown? Accident Over? Who are you to decide?”/”Democratic Party of Japan’s policy sucks”
Huge protest planned in Kudankulam over PM’s statement -youtube, Dec. 18
- With the Prime Minister announcing that the Kudankulam plant will be operationalised in a couple of weeks, at Ground Zero, villagers have called for a huge protest rally today, from Kudankulam to nearby Radhapuram in Tamil Nadu. “If the Nuclear Power Corporation of India or the Department of Atomic Energy tries to restart the work at the Kudankulam nuclear plant, we will lay a siege with thousands of people and their families immediately at the site, and number two in order to protest against PM’s statement made in Russia we are going to hold a rally from Kudankulam to Radhapuram,” said SP Udhayakumar, Convenor, People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy.
Nuclear waste site hunt could point to granite -AP, Dec. 18
- The likely death of a planned nuclear waste site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain has left federal agencies looking for a possible replacement. A national lab working for the U.S. Department of Energy is now eying granite deposits stretching from Georgia to Maine as potential sites, along with big sections of Minnesota and Wisconsin where that rock is prevalent.
- Three decades after the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act said the federal government would handle disposal of high-level radioactive waste, the United States still has no agreed-upon solution for where and how to dispose of about 70,000 metric tons of it. About 10 percent is from the military’s nuclear weapons programs; most of the rest is piling up at commercial reactor sites around the country.
- The new study was done by the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, an offshoot of the U.S. nuclear weapons program that has grown to work on a variety of federal science projects, including Yucca Mountain. The lab now is operated under government contract by Sandia Corp., a subsidiary of defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp.
Gov’t to reclassify Fukushima no-entry zones possibly in April -Mainichi News, Dec. 19
- The government plans to reclassify the current two-tier no-entry zones, designated last April, into three categories, including one covering areas with estimated annual radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts or higher to which residents are unlikely to be able to return.
- The current no-entry zones cover areas within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled plant and areas with an estimated annual radiation exposure of 20 millisieverts.
High school in Minami-Soma to close due to N-crisis -Yomiuri, Dec. 19
- Shoei High School in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, has told the prefectural government it will be closed for an extended period, making it the first school to formally announce it will close due to the nuclear crisis, sources have said.
- The only private high school within a former emergency evacuation preparation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Shoei High School stands in the Haramachi district of Minami-Soma. Its students were forced to evacuate, and the school has given up on seeking new enrollments for next fiscal year.
- Although the district’s designation as an emergency evacuation preparation zone was lifted Sept. 30, no students or parents have asked the school to resume classes at its original site.
IAEA offers help in decontaminating Fukushima -NHK, Dec. 19
- The International Atomic Energy Agency has offered to help Japan decontaminate areas near the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and dispose of melted nuclear fuel rods.
- IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano made the offer on Monday when he met with Japan’s nuclear crisis minister Goshi Hosono in Tokyo.
#Fukushima I Nuke Plant 230-Tonne Leak: TEPCO Admits It Is Highly Contaminated Water -EX-SKF, Dec. 19
- TEPCO took the Kyodo News’s line (see my post from yesterday) and announced that part of the highly contaminated, untreated water from the reactor basements stored in the nearby Process Main Building did leak into the trench, and got diluted by not-so-contaminated groundwater or dew condensation water dripping from an electrical duct.
- Probably several tonnes of the highly contaminated water diluted with low contamination water resulting in 230 tonnes of water in the trench, hints TEPCO.
- It sure looks like they waited until after the “cold shutdown/accident over” declaration on December 16 to tell you the bad news.
Gov’t to tighten laws for nuclear plant operations -Mainichi News, Dec. 19
- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government plans to introduce relevant bills during the parliamentary session starting next month.
- The revised laws and regulations will allow the government to order the suspension of a nuclear plant if its operator fails to meet the latest safety requirements, irrespective of the age of the facility, the sources said.
- The tighter laws and regulations could force the operators of some reactors to decommission them if they cannot take any measures to meet the new standards, the sources added.
- The government is also considering setting the maximum period for the use of a nuclear power station at around 40 years, they said.
Fukushima probe to avoid assessing quake damage -Japan Times, Dec. 20
- A government panel investigating the triple-meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant will not provide in its interim report any in-depth analysis on how badly the March 11 earthquake damaged key facilities before the tsunami arrived, sources said Monday.
- The decision leaves open the possibility that facilities key to securing the plant’s safety were seriously damaged by the 9-magnitude temblor.
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. has asserted that the direct cause of the disaster was the larger-than-expected tsunami.
- According to the sources, the panel decided it is difficult to determine the impact of the quake, because they cannot inspect the insides of the reactor buildings due to high radiation.
- The members will continue to carefully assess the controversial issue as it compiles its final report, which will be worked out by the latter half of 2012.
- Some outside experts, including former engineers of nuclear plant makers, have argued the earthquake severely damaged the Fukushima plant before the tsunami hit the facilities and triggered the meltdown crisis.
Small fire at Japan nuclear lab; no radiation leak -TerraDaily, Dec. 20
- A building housing an experimental nuclear reactor in Japan caught fire Tuesday, but there was no leak of radioactive materials, officials said, amid nervousness over Japan’s atomic industry.
- The quasi-public Japan Atomic Energy Agency said sound insulation on the ceiling of a building housing a reactor in central Ibaraki prefecture caught fire around 9:30 am (0030 GMT).
- Sparks from welding tools ignited the glass wool insulation as a maintenance crew worked to place a covering over the roof, said an agency spokesman.
- The reactor has been stopped for routine inspection since February.
- Firefighters were at the scene, but the fire died out on its own two hours after starting, the spokesman added.
Radioactive water floods tunnel at Fukushima plant -Asahi, Dec. 20
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Dec. 19 released a photo showing about 230 tons of radioactive water that had accumulated in an underground tunnel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
- The tunnel, adjacent to the central waste treatment building, may have been flooded with water leaked from supposedly waterproof storage containers of highly radioactive water in the building.
- The water in the tunnel was discovered on Dec. 18.
- TEPCO said the tunnel is about 4.5 meters wide and about 54 meters in length. The radioactive water reached a height of about 50 centimeters and had one-100th the radioactivity concentration of the highly radioactive water in the building, according to the utility.
Controversial nuclear shipping plan remains on hold -Vancouver Sun, Dec. 20
- A controversial plan to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators across Ontario’s Great Lakes and eventually to Sweden for recycling continues to remain on hold, nearly two years after it was first proposed.
- This week, Bruce Power, Canada’s only private nuclear power operator, said there was no update on what it will do with the school bus-sized generators left over from a refurbishment of its Bruce A nuclear reactor.
- “From our perspective, there’s really nothing to say on this as the status has not changed,” company spokesman John Peevers wrote in an email.
- The company has not ruled out the idea of a shipment but would not elaborate on what other alternatives it was also considering.
- If a decision is not made soon, Bruce Power will lose two licences approved by Canadian Nuclear and Safety Commission (CNSC) allowing for the transport of the 1,760 tonnes of radiation-laced steel to be moved through Ontario roadways to the Great Lakes, up the St. Lawrence Seaway and across the Atlantic Ocean.
No nuclear waste here, North Shore Tribal Council says -Soo Today, Dec. 20
- The First Nations of the North Shore Tribal Council strongly reject the prospect of the North Shore of Lake Huron becoming a site for the long-term storage of nuclear waste for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).
- The City of Elliot Lake has publicly expressed interest in possibly becoming one of the sites for the long-term disposal of nuclear waste for Canadas nuclear industry.
- Elliot Lake has a long history of uranium mining that resulted in the boom and bust of the city, as well as significant and lasting environmental damage to the local watershed and nearby ceremonial grounds.
- In addition, there are dozens of tailings ponds surrounding Elliot Lake currently waiting for a solution for their safe disposal.
- We cannot idly stand by and watch as they inject Mother Earth with this cancer, says Chief Lyle Sayers [shown], chairman of the North Shore Tribal Council. We must ensure that the future natural resources of this area are there for our children, generations to come, and businesses alike.
Uranium report says local sites not viable -fredericksburg.com, Dec. 20
- Uranium mining and milling in Virginia would present human health and safety and environmental risks, which could be mitigated with best-management practices, according to a long-awaited National Academy of Sciences study released Monday.
- The NAS National Research Council study, supported by a grant from Virginia Tech and funded by Virginia Uranium Inc., makes no recommendation as to whether mining should be allowed.
- The study comes as the Virginia General Assembly could decide during its session starting next month to lift a mining moratorium imposed in 1982.
- Virginia Uranium believes this study provides a clear road map and path forward for operating the worlds safest uranium mine in Virginia, Wales said in a press release.
- The study shows that major technological and regulatory advances over the past 30 years have dramatically improved the environmental and public health performance of the uranium mining and milling industry.
US nuclear chief comfortable with stability at crippled Japan plant and move toward next step -Washington Post, Dec. 20
- Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said significant progress has been made at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant since the March disaster and that he welcomes Japans decision to now move toward a cleanup and the plants eventual closure.
- Measures taken by Japan have been consistent with how the U.S. would handle a similar crisis, he said.
- I feel very comfortable that they have really completed the requirements that are necessary to move on to the next stage, Jaczko told reporters a day after inspecting the Fukushima plant. These are really significant milestones that have been achieved and I think they made the right determination to move on to the next stage in the decontamination and decommissioning activities.
Fukushima to ask SDF on Tues. to end relief ops after cold shutdown -Mainichi News, Dec. 20
- The Fukushima prefectural government said Monday it will ask the Self-Defense Forces on Tuesday to end their disaster relief activities in the prefecture and withdraw troops, following the central government’s announcement last week that the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been stabilized.
- Around 400,000 SDF troops have taken part in rescue operations as well as the transportation of relief goods and other activities in the prefecture since Gov. Yuhei Sato requested the dispatch of SDF troops immediately after the quake and tsunami, according to the SDF. Currently, about 90 SDF members are engaged in decontamination work in the prefecture.
Higher power rates, public funds mulled for TEPCO -NHK, Dec. 21
- TEPCO is facing financial difficulties amid uncertainty over the resumption of its nuclear reactors and increasing fuel costs for thermal power plants.
- The utility will ask the government to approve an increase in electricity rates starting sometime in fiscal 2012.
- The government is also considering a plan to inject about one trillion yen of public money, or nearly 13 billion dollars, into the company through a government-backed fund. Such a move would essentially place the utility under state control.
New nuke agency to have 500 staff, 50 billion budget: Hosono -Japan Times, Dec. 21
- The new nuclear safety agency to be launched in April under the Environment Ministry will consist of about 500 staff members and is expected to secure some 50 billion in the fiscal 2012 budget, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Tuesday.
- The figures are larger both in terms of the organization’s scale and budget compared with the existing nuclear regulatory body, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which has around 400 personnel and a budget of about 40 billion. NISA, a part of the trade ministry, will be integrated into the new agency.
- Public confidence in NISA was shaken after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Questions were raised about whether it is appropriate that METI, which promotes nuclear power, should also be responsible for oversight.
- The new agency is expected to focus on enhancing crisis management functions, the environment ministry said. It will also be in charge of conducting health surveys for people affected by the Fukushima crisis, it said.
Failure Guru to Report What Went Wrong at Tepcos Fukushima Nuclear Plant -Bloomberg, Dec. 21
- Yotaro Hatamura, an engineering professor who studies industrial accidents caused by design flaws and human error, will issue a report next week after a six-month investigation into the Fukushima disaster.
- His 10-member team has compiled a massive report on what happened at the nuclear power plant when it was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the response by its operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), according to a statement from Hatamuras office. Hatamura, 70, has said the probe will focus on what went wrong and not who is responsible.
- The committee is unlikely to have had the time to get the information needed for a full investigation, especially from officials higher ranked than Tepcos onsite staff, said Shinichi Kamata, a professor of organization and strategy at the National Defense Academy of Japan, who sits on Japan Airlines Co.s safety advisory group with Hatamura.
- Even if somebody acknowledges his mistake, there is only so much hed talk about, Kamata said in a phone interview earlier this week. We dont know how much will come out of Tepco headquarters or the Prime Ministers Office.
Gov’t, TEPCO set 40-yr work plan for scrapping Fukushima reactors -Mainichi News, Dec. 21
- The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday they would seek to finish scrapping the four crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in the next 30 to 40 years in a newly unveiled work schedule describing measures to be taken following the plant’s stabilization.
- The plant operator known as TEPCO would start removing the nuclear fuel stored in the spent fuel pools of the Nos. 1 to 4 units within two years and the melted fuel from the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors within 10 years, but progress is expected to rely heavily on whether applicable technology is developed.
- After attending a meeting between the government and TEPCO to decide on the road map toward decommissioning, industry minister Yukio Edano told a press conference, “I do not completely deny the possibility that the process will not go as we expect…but I think we have a strong will and a good chance to realize” the plan in the road map.
- A survey of the inside of the primary containment vessels is expected around the latter half of fiscal 2017, and that of the reactor cores around fiscal 2020, government officials said. It is expected to bring to light what has happened inside the reactors in the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
- As for the schedule related to removing the nuclear fuel stored inside the spent fuel pools, TEPCO will start the work from the No. 4 unit from 2013, and move on to the No. 3 unit by the end of 2014. All of the fuel inside the pools is expected to be removed within 10 years.
- The No. 4 unit is being given priority apparently because it contains a large amount of fuel among the spent fuel pools and the outer wall of the building housing the reactor and the pool has been severely damaged by a hydrogen explosion.
Fukushima local decontamination costs bust estimates -Mainichi News, Dec. 21
- The prefectural government here has said that radioactive decontamination operations now under way in three municipalities will cost an average of about 1.3 million yen per household, far over the funds allotted.
- The figure – revealed by prefectural environment department head Hiroyuki Aratake in answer to a question in the prefectural assembly – is for cleanup operations now under way in the cities of Fukushima and Date, and the village of Kawauchi.
- Regarding the cleanup cost for the some 600,000 homes in the decontamination area, Aratake said that based on the 700,000 yen per household estimate, the total cost would come to about 420 billion yen. This must be covered by the 184.3 billion yen allotted for cleanup in the prefecture’s September supplementary budget as well as funds set aside in the central government’s third supplementary budget. If it is not enough, the prefecture plans to ask Tokyo to cover the difference.
Town assembly votes to call for shutdown of all reactors in Fukushima Pref. -Mainichi News, Dec. 21
- The assembly of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture – a town where all residents have been evacuated along with the municipal government in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – voted on Dec. 21 to demand the closure of all 10 reactors in the prefecture.
- The motion, carried by a vote of 10 to nine, was the first by a municipal assembly in the Futaba district – host to the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant – calling for the central government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to put an end to nuclear power in Fukushima Prefecture. The vast majority of Namie Municipal Assembly members have indicated they understand the decommissioning of the 10 reactors at the No. 1 and 2 Fukushima nuclear plants, but concerns over the loss of nuclear-related jobs made the vote a close one.
- “Some 170,000 Fukushima Prefecture residents, including all 21,000 from Namie, have been made refugees (by the nuclear disaster), and are beset by fears for their health,” the town assembly stated, taking aim at the central government’s response to the crisis.
Nuclear Watch: Next Steps -NHK Feature, Dec. 22
Health ministry seeking stricter food-cesium rules -Japan Times, Dec. 22
- The health ministry is proposing much stricter regulations on radioactive cesium in food that would lower the current limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram to 100.
- Changes would also be made to the cesium limits for milk and water. For example, limit for milk would be lowered from 200 becquerels per kilogram to 50, while the limit for water would drop from 200 becquerels to just 10, finally bringing Japan’s standards in line with those used by the World Health Organization.
- The proposal will be submitted to the ministry’s Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council on Thursday, and then to the science ministry’s Radiation Council.
- Once approved, the new limits will take effect in April. Specific limits for other items, including rice and beef, would be phased in over 6 to 9 months.
- The new regulations are intended to limit the total internal exposure from food to less than 1 millisievert per year for those on a normal diet.
- However, it is unclear just how many food makers are monitoring their products for radiation.
Tons of tree bark pose new radiation hazard -Japan Times, Dec. 22
- At least 16,000 tons of radiation-contaminated tree bark and wood chips are piled up in unattended storage spots in lumber mills in Fukushima Prefecture, a local industry group said Wednesday.
- The roughly 200 members of the prefectural wood-industry association, Fukushimaken Mokuren, are requesting compensation for storage and disposal costs by year’s end. Unlike quake rubble, the costs of handling such debris are not covered by state subsidies, the group said.
- The companies have stopped shipment of bark and wood chips commonly used for compost or to line the floors of livestock barns after radiation above the state-set limit from the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was detected by the group during voluntary monitoring that began in August, it said.
- Compared with limit of 400 becquerels per kilogram for leaf mold, the levels on bark and wood chips averaged 400 to 500 becquerels and even passed 1,000 becquerels in some areas, while no detectable radioactivity was measured on debarked timber, it said.
- The association asked Tepco to burn the tainted debris at its coal-fired thermal power plants, but the utility has rejected that request on grounds that such a move could cause its facilities to malfunction, it said.
- Industrial waste disposal businesses have also refused to process the materials over public fears that radioactive ash or other material will concentrate at the incinerators, it added.
Lack of exercise a concern for Fukushima children -Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 22
- A 34-year-old woman watched her son running around an indoor play center in Fukushima city.
- Its the first time in a long while I have seen him breaking a sweat as he plays, she said.
- The boy, a second-year elementary school student, has, like many of his contemporaries, spent much of his time cooped up indoors since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
- His mother wont let him play outside because of the threat of radiation, so he has been watching television and DVDs after coming home from school instead of playing in the parks or vacant lots that were his old stomping ground.
- “I think thats why he looks glum when he is eating his meals. I am worried,” the woman said.
Construction of largest-output reactors postponed -NHK, Dec. 22
- Japan Atomic Power Company has decided to postpone construction of 2 new reactors at the Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan citing delays in safety screening procedures.
- The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency had been reviewing quake safety plans for the plant’s No.3 and No.4 reactors before the start of their construction, slated for March of next year.
- Japan Atomic Power Company aims to put the 2 reactors into commercial operation in 6 or 7 years, but the outlook remains unclear as the country’s nuclear energy policy is under scrutiny.
US approves new nuclear plant design -Nuclear Daily, Dec. 22
- The US approved a new nuclear plant design Thursday, paving the way for the country’s first new nuclear power facilities since 1996 to be built.
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the green light to Westinghouse’s 1,100 megawatt AP1000 pressurized water reactor design, which is slated for use in two nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina.
- Both plants are already under construction.
Nuclear renaissance? US OKs new reactor design -MSNBC, Dec. 22
- Opening the door to a new generation of nuclear reactors, federal regulators on Thursday approved a design that a nuclear watchdog group acknowledged is an improvement but still not ideal.
- “The design provides enhanced safety margins through use of simplified, inherent, passive, or other innovative safety and security functions, and also has been assessed to ensure it could withstand damage from an aircraft impact without significant release of radioactive materials,” NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in a statement.
- The Obama administration, which has offered the project in Georgia $8.3 billion in loan guarantees, is “committed to restarting Americas nuclear industry – creating thousands of jobs in the years ahead and powering our nations homes and businesses with domestic, low-carbon energy,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Thursday in praising the approval. He said it “marks an important milestone towards constructing the first U.S. nuclear reactors in three decades.”
- The Union of Concerned Scientists, which says it is not against nuclear power in principle, said in an earlier analysis of the AP1000 that its simplified design “is far less vulnerable than existing reactors to a total loss of AC power” during an accident. “As a result, risk assessments by the designers find that the probability that these reactors will experience a severe accident is much lower. For example, these analyses show that the probability of a core meltdown is 100 times lower than that for todays plants.
- But the group added that “little experience with full-scale reactors operating at full power is available to validate computer models of these safety systems, producing significant uncertainties.”
- It also faulted the AP1000 for “less robust containment systems, less redundancy in safety systems, and fewer safety-grade structures, systems, and components.”
Radioactive leak at St. Francisville nuclear plant reported by Entergy -NOLA, Dec. 22
- Officials at Entergy Corp.’s nuclear power plant near Baton Rouge say they have notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about a leak of radioactive hydrogen. The Advocate reports that an elevated level of tritium was found Wednesday in a groundwater monitoring well at the Entergy River Bend Station in St. Francisville.
- Entergy says the leak is not considered a public health threat because it was only in one of 31 monitoring wells.
Cooling system stopped without director’s consent -NHK, Dec. 22
- A panel investigating the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says operators halted one of the reactors’ emergency cooling systems without informing the plant director.
- This suspension on March 13th allowed reactor No.3 to heat up for nearly 7 hours before it finally melted down causing a hydrogen explosion the following day.
- The government panel says the operators stopped the cooling system in the early hours of March 13th. They tried to use fire pumps instead because they were afraid the system’s batteries might lose power.
- But the panel says the operators could not pump water into the reactor since there was no power to open the reactor’s valves. Without it, they were unable to reduce the inside pressure and pump water in.
- By the time the operators gave up on the pumps and tried to switch to the cooling system again, it wouldn’t restart. They finally managed to pump water into the reactor 7 hours later using car batteries to open the valves.
TEPCO omits total cost of decommissioning nuclear reactors from work schedule -Mainichi News, Dec. 22
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, did not specify the cost of decommissioning the plant’s reactors in its work schedule announced Dec. 21 – apparently to obscure the possibility of the utility becoming insolvent and no longer viable as a company.
- The utility, however, will inevitably come under pressure to process and release accounting information on the snowballing costs of decommissioning the No. 1-4 reactors at the plant, which was crippled in the aftermath of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
- The government is considering injecting taxpayers’ money into the utility and nationalizing it to turn it into an entity dedicated to providing compensation for the nuclear crisis. The government is also poised to launch a full-scale debate on the fate of TEPCO’s management with major lenders to the utility.
On Our Radar: Indias Growing Nuclear Sector -NYT, Dec. 22
- The rapid expansion of Indias nuclear energy sector, which is expected to triple in size by the end of the decade, is stirring anxiety about insufficient regulatory safeguards, construction in quake zones and the displacement of farmers and other landowners.
NRCs Post-Fukushima Response: Going in Circles? -All Things Nuclear Blog of the UCS, Dec. 22
- One of the most important tasks before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today is moving forward quickly on implementing the safety improvements recommended by its Fukushima Near-Term Task Force, and considering additional safety enhancements that have been identified by the NRC staff.
- For a while it appeared that this was actually taking place.
- Following the October 20 release of a vote of the 5-member Commission, a press release stated that The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has directed the agencys staff to begin immediately implementing seven safety recommendations from the NRCs Near-Term Task Force on lessons learned from the reactor accident at Fukushima. These seven safety recommendations were categorized by the staff as actions that could be taken without delay. They include a crucially important upgrade to the requirements for nuclear plants to be able to cool the reactor core and spent fuel during a station blackoutwhen there is no AC electrical power. Such a station blackout resulted from the tsunami in Fukushima and led to the reactor meltdowns.
- However, the Commission took a step backwards in a second vote on December 15. The Commission has now reserved for itself the future right to reject any of the safety upgrades the NRC staff is now working to implement, even though it originally instructed the staff to implement them without delay.
Sato calls for wider nuke-crisis payments -Japan Times, Dec. 23
- Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato is urging the central government to make all residents of his prefecture affected by the nuclear crisis eligible for compensation.
- Sato, together with municipal leaders from the prefecture, submitted a petition Thursday to Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano calling for universal compensation after a government panel earlier this month recommended damages be paid to people only in 23 municipalities relatively close to the plant.
- This would exclude the Aizu region, which covers the western third of the prefecture, and the southern part of the prefecture.
- “All prefecture residents have sustained damages, such as harmful rumors and psychological effects. In each region, they are equally victimized,” Sato said in a meeting with Edano.
Tepco may seek more funds for Fukushima aid -Reuters, Dec. 23
- Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) could seek several hundred billion yen in additional aid from a government-backed support mechanism for nuclear disaster compensation, The Nikkei business daily reported.
- The call for additional support is being considered after a government panel allowed compensation for residents who fled the disaster area without being ordered to evacuate, the paper said, quoting unnamed Tepco sources.
- Tepco had initially calculated about 1.01 trillion yen ($12.93 billion) in compensation payments for the year ending March 2012, but now expects the figure to be higher, the paper added.
New Take on Impacts of Low Dose Radiation -Space Daily, Dec. 23
- Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), through a combination of time-lapse live imaging and mathematical modeling of a special line of human breast cells, have found evidence to suggest that for low dose levels of ionizing radiation, cancer risks may not be directly proportional to dose.
- This contradicts the standard model for predicting biological damage from ionizing radiation – the linear-no-threshold hypothesis or LNT – which holds that risk is directly proportional to dose at all levels of irradiation.
- “Our data show that at lower doses of ionizing radiation, DNA repair mechanisms work much better than at higher doses,” says Mina Bissell, a world-renowned breast cancer researcher with Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division.
- The authors believe their study to be the first to report the clustering of DNA double strand breaks and the formation of DNA repair centers in human cells. The movement of the double strand breaks across relatively large distances of up to two microns led to more intensely active but fewer RIF.
Major Milestones Passed At The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant -Forbes, Dec. 23
- The clean-up effort at Tokyo Electric Power Companys Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has reached important milestones.
- Earlier this month, on-site nuclear waste removal systems filtered their ten millionth gallon of water (about 37,900 cubic meters), according to UOP, a Des Plaines-based Illinois division of Honeywell, which is involved in the remediation.
- Since October, the six-unit nuclear plant has been in cold shutdown mode, where the the temperature of the reactor cores have stabilized to below 100 Celsius (212 F). In May, the Unit 1 reactor vessel temperature hit 112C at the feedwater nozzle, for example. A cold shutdown is the first step towards recovery.
Gov’t starring in own show to bring Fukushima nuclear crisis ‘under control’ -Mainichi News, Dec. 23
- The road map for settling the crisis consisted of two steps. Step 1, which was to be carried out between April and July, focused on stably cooling the reactors, while step 2, covering the period between July and January 2012, aimed at achieving “cold shutdown conditions.” The government looked to speed up work to have step 2 completed by the end of this year.
- One of the goals that TEPCO initially announced for step 2 was filling the reactor containment vessels with water. However, the utility abandoned this plan after it emerged that there were holes in the containment vessels. Eventually, officials decided to delay such measures for five years or more. The company also established a goal under step 2 of “dealing with and reducing the amount of radioactive water” on the site, but when the road map was rewritten, it was decided that there would “ongoing treatment” of contaminated water after the completion of other processes.
- The latest announcement that the goals of the road map have been achieved is merely the result of officials lowering their own hurdles. It reminds me of the time during World War II when the Imperial Japanese Army headquarters called the Japanese army’s retreat a “shift in position.”
- The definition of “cold shutdown conditions” is a situation in which the temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels is below 100 degrees Celsius, and the radiation levels within the grounds of the nuclear complex are under 1 millisievert per year, among other factors. However, the heat gauges onsite have error margins of up to 20 degrees Celsius, and the exact temperature inside the reactors remains unknown. Furthermore, the amount of radiation includes only radiation in the atmosphere, and does not take into account radioactive materials released into the sea – highlighting the vagueness of the standards.
- Even Haruki Madarame, chairman of the Cabinet Office’s Nuclear Safety Commission, stated, “We have never used the term ‘cold shutdown conditions’ before. Applying definitions to a nuclear reactor that has had a meltdown is difficult.”
- The government view disclosed by nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono that “the situation is under control onsite, but not offsite,” is based only on circumstantial evidence; no one has actually seen inside the reactors.
Fukushima nuke plant worker stopped coolant injection over damage fears -Mainichi News, Dec. 23
- A worker at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear station manually stopped a coolant injection system in the plant’s No. 3 reactor following the disaster for fear that the reactor would be damaged and lead to a radiation leak, its operator said.
- Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has defended the worker’s judgment as appropriate after analyzing the sequence of events and releasing its findings at the order of its government regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
Government evacuation order to come under fire -Japan Times, Dec. 24
- A government panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear crisis is expected to state in an upcoming report that the evacuation order issued shortly after the accident began was irrational, sources said.
- The government ordered people living within 20 km of the plant to evacuate, but the panel believes the order led some residents to move to areas where radiation was actually higher and created mass confusion, the sources said.
- The nuclear safety agency and the science ministry had SPEEDI data that could have prevented some of the unnecessary radiation exposure, but decided to sit on it instead of reporting it to the crisis management center at the prime minister’s office, the sources said.
- Their thinking, according to the sources, was that the data were “merely a hypothetical calculation result.”
AEC chairman warned people within 170 km of Fukushima plant might need to relocate -Mainichi News, Dec. 24
- The head of the government’s nuclear energy panel warned in March that all residents in areas within a 170-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant might need to be relocated in a worst-case scenario, sources close to the government have disclosed.
- Japan Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Shunsuke Kondo made the warning in a report numbering about 20 pages, which he compiled on March 25 – two weeks after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was hit by a massive tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake – and submitted it to then Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
In Japan, Radiation Fears Reshape Lives -NPR, Dec. 24
- Nine months after Japan’s nuclear accident, life in Tokyo seems to have snapped back to normal, with a vengeance. The talk shows are back to their usual mindless trivia about pop stars and baseball contracts. The date of the tsunami and nuclear accident, March 11 known here as just 3/11 has faded into the background.
- But while the horror has receded, for many of us, particularly women with families, things will never be the same.
- There’s no getting past the fact that the nuclear accident dumped radioactive particles into the atmosphere, soil and sea.
- While Fukushima Prefecture in the northeast was hardest hit, radiation “hot spots” keep turning up in neighborhoods far from the accident. The latest was at a school, minutes from where I live in Tokyo.
- What’s more, figuring out what’s “safe” to consume has become all but impossible.
- The bottom line is that no one really knows how much this ongoing exposure is going to raise our risk of cancer. The true impact is still unknown, yet to be learned as the world watches. The legacy of 3/11 is to turn us all into a nation of guinea pigs.
After Fukushima: A Changing Climate For Nuclear -AP, Dec. 24
- Nuclear power had enjoyed 25 years of relative quiet, but the Fukushima accident reminded people that despite improvements in safety, nuclear plants could still go horribly wrong.
- For some, though, nothing has changed much.
- “We don’t see Fukushima as having a significant impact on the U.S. industry,” says Scott Peterson, vice president of the industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was renewing 10 licenses for U.S. plants, extending them 20 years in operation. We were continuing to move forward in examining new reactor designs.”
- In Japan, the four reactors that failed were finally stabilized this month. The cleanup will cost many billions, and the government says: No more nukes.
- Germany says the same: The government will throw its weight and wealth into solar and wind energy to replace nuclear power.
- George Perkovich, director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says if Germany succeeds, nuclear could be in even deeper trouble.
- Nuclear’s strength is that plants run 24/7, unlike solar and wind generators. They provide continuous and reliable electricity, so-called baseload power. But, says Perkovich, “If Germany comes along and figures out how to power a very big economy, including baseload needs, without nuclear, then that to me becomes a real, if not a death blow, a real challenge to nuclear, because it breaks the whole nuclear story that this is the only environmentally friendly way to provide baseload.”
Ameren seeks to renew license for nuclear plant -Washington Examiner, Dec. 25
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports ( – http://bit.ly/vWkdRr) that Ameren submitted a 1,500-page filing to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking for its operating license to be extended from 2024 to 2044. The request was not a surprise and comes after the St. Louis-based power company spent three years working on its application. It estimates the relicensing process will cost $33 million.
- “We evaluated every system, structure and component,” said Cleveland Reasoner, the plant’s vice president of engineering.
50 billion budgeted for new nuke agency -Japan Times, Dec. 25
- Some 50.4 billion to establish a new nuclear safety agency in April under the Environment Ministry will be allocated in the initial draft budget for fiscal 2012, the government decided Saturday.
- The agency is intended to replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the current regulatory body under the trade ministry, and take on related tasks, including environmental radiation monitoring that is currently carried out by other organizations.
- With a staff of 485, the new regulator will focus on reinforcing crisis management functions and upgrading nuclear safety regulations in light of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
- Its senior members will include one person to oversee the response of nuclear power plant operators in emergencies and provide advice to them, and another to take charge of ensuring the safety of local residents during disasters.
Long road back for Fukushima city hit by twin disasters -BBC, Dec. 25
- Minamisoma is far from a ghost town despite its proximity to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
- At night Christmas lights glisten on the lamp-posts along the main shopping street, accompanied by carols piped to loudspeakers. There is often a queue to get in to the best Chinese restaurant. The roads are busy with traffic.
- But the city’s mayor, Katsunobu Sakarai, who went on YouTube back in April to appeal for more help from the government and the outside world, knows there is much still to do.
- “We have not been able to rebuild,” he says in his reception room in the City Hall. “When I say that, I’m not only talking about drawing a line under the nuclear issue, but also the effect of the tsunami and earthquake.”
- “The biggest reason is because of the radiation from the nuclear power plant accident. The support from the government to deal with it has been inadequate, as well as for rebuilding the city. The reality is that it has not progressed.”
Radioactive Concrete Debris (3000 Bq/Kg) OK and Safe to Use in Fukushima Prefecture -EX-SKF, Dec. 25
- Asahi Shinbun and others report that the Ministry of the Environment, getting bolder by the hour with its 1 trillion yen budget, has decided unilaterally that it is “safe” to use radioactive concrete bits from the March 11 quake/tsunami disaster in Fukushima as substrates under the pavement of the roads and breakwaters in Fukushima.
- There will be no effect on the health of residents living nearby, assures the Ministry.
- Why are they doing this? Why because they enacted the law that says the radioactive concrete debris in Fukushima to be “recycled”.
- Why do they have to recycle radioactive debris? Why it’s green! Reduces CO2! Kyoto Protocol!
- The Ministry of the Environment is envisioning the concrete debris to be used for roads and breakwaters. If used for roads, the debris can be used if more than 30 centimeters deep from the surface. In that case, the additional annual radiation exposure for the residents living nearby will be 0.01 millisievert and less, and therefore “There will be no effect on health”.
Fumbling gov’t faces huge challenges in 2012 -Mainichi Perspectives, Dec. 26
- Many of the experts who have been involved in the government’s related committees since before the outbreak of the nuclear crisis on March 11 are pro-nuclear energy advocates. The inclusion of some anti-nuclear experts in discussions since March has created a bit of a stir, but they’re still vastly outnumbered. Talks remain under the tight control of bureaucrats from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), as well as staff dispatched from utility companies. The lineup is so skewed to nuclear energy promotion that it even gets a government insider anxious to get “someone like Koide” involved.
- The government is now reviewing its energy policy in terms of a management overhaul at the stricken plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and comprehensive reform of the electric power system. It is beginning to look like TEPCO will be nationalized to ensure stable power supply, with the government obtaining at least two-thirds of TEPCO’s shares. A final decision about the utility will be reached before account settlements for the fiscal year ending next March are made.
- Meanwhile, the most significant point of contention within power system reform is nuclear power generation. The government claims it will present concrete energy policy options to the public next spring, with plans to finalize new policy by summer.
Tepco seeks $9 billion more for Fukushima compensation -Bloomberg, Dec. 26
- Tokyo Electric Power Co asked a government-backed bailout body on Tuesday for an additional 690 billion yen ($8.8 billion) to help compensate victims of the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
- To help Japan’s biggest utility, known as Tepco, meet costs running into trillions of yen for compensation and cleanup, the government had already agreed in November to provide 890 billion yen through a bailout fund.
No direct link between soil radiation and contaminated rice: survey -Mainichi News, Dec. 26
- High radiation doses in rice produced here are not necessarily linked to soil radiation levels, and could be linked to a lack of potassium and insufficient cultivation of rice paddies, a joint governmental survey has revealed.
- The survey, conducted by the Fukushima Prefectural Government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, inspected the conditions of rice paddies in the prefecture where rice was found to surpass the provisional upper limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.
- An analysis of soil samples showed that the paddies’ levels of potassium – which prevents rice plants from absorbing radioactive cesium – were only about one-third of the average concentration of potassium in the city of Fukushima.
- Based on the assumption that unpolished rice absorbs about 10 percent of cesium in the soil, the government allowed rice to be planted in paddies where soil radiation doses were under 5,000 becquerels.
- However, rice tainted with nearly 800 becquerels of cesium was found in a paddy that had radiation levels of only 2,321 becquerels – less than half of the limit allowed by the farm ministry.
- In fact, the survey showed that nearly one-fourth of the inspected paddies, where radiation-tainted rice was grown, had radiation levels below the set limit – a finding that led the Fukushima Prefectural Government to conclude that there is no direct correlation between levels of radiation found in soil and the rice grown in that soil.
Parents wary of Fukushima village schools -Yomiuri, Dec. 26
- A survey by the municipal government of Kawauchimura, Fukushima Prefecture, part of which was designated an emergency evacuation preparation zone, has found that most residents do not intend to let their children return there for school.
- There is a primary school, a middle school and a day care center in the now-dissolved emergency evacuation preparation zone, and the survey was conducted on 142 residents whose 227 children were to attend or enroll in one of the facilities at the start of fiscal 2011.
- The survey was conducted by anonymous questionnaire in November. Eighty-eight people with 147 children responded. The children comprised 80 primary school students, 34 middle school students and 33 day care attendees.
- Only 26 children, or 18 percent, had parents who said they would allow them to attend the schools: 12 primary school students, seven middle school students and seven in the day care center.
Japan’s nuclear response filled with errors, report says -CNN, Dec. 26
- The Tokyo Electric Power Company didn’t train its operators well enough to deal with severe accidents, according to an interim report from the government committee probing the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. And neither Tokyo Electric nor government regulators prepared for the chance that a tsunami could trigger a nuclear disaster, the panel concluded.
- So when a roughly 15-meter (49-foot) tsunami hit the plant after the historic earthquake that struck Japan in March, operators misjudged the status of Unit 1’s isolation condenser, which had shut down when the tsunami knocked out the plant’s electrical system.
- The device is designed to remove heat from the reactor in the event of a crisis. When it shut down, “appropriate corrective action was not taken nor instruction was given,” the report states.
- And when operators began to suspect the isolation condenser wasn’t working, they didn’t report that move to the officials managing the emergency response, who believed the system was still operating normally.
- Those steps suggest that officials both at the scene and at Tokyo Electric’s headquarters “did not fully understand” the backup system.
- “Such a situation is quite inappropriate for nuclear operators,” the report states. As a result, “an earlier opportunity for core cooling was missed,” it found.
Fukushima Disaster Probe Places Regulator, Cellphones on List of Failures -Bloomberg, Dec. 26
- In a 507-page report published yesterday after a six-month investigation, Hatamura reserves some of his strongest criticism for Japans atomic power regulator, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, known as NISA.
- NISA officials left the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant after the March 11 earthquake and when ordered to return by the government provided little assistance to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) staff struggling to gain control of three melting reactors, according to the report.
- Monitoring the plants status was the most important action at that time, so to evacuate was very questionable, the report by Hatamuras 10-member team concluded. The committee found no evidence that the NISA officials provided necessary assistance or advice. Even though NISAs manual said to stay at the plant, their manager gave the officials permission to evacuate, according to the report, which doesnt name the manager.
Japan Panel Cites Failure in Tsunami -NYT, Dec. 26
- The panel attacked the use of the term soteigai, or unforeseen, that plant and government officials used both to describe the unprecedented scale of the disaster and to explain why they were unable to stop it. Running a nuclear power plant inherently required officials to foresee the unforeseen, said the panels chairman, Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus in engineering at the University of Tokyo.
- There was a lot of talk of soteigai, but that only bred perceptions among the public that officials were shirking their responsibilities, Mr. Hatamura said.
- But the interim report seems to leave ultimate responsibility for the disaster ambiguous. Even if workers had realized that the emergency cooling system was not working, they might not have been able to prevent the meltdowns.
- The panel limited itself to suggesting that a quicker response might have mitigated the core damage and lessened the release of radiation into the environment.
Fukushima accident shows need to prepare for the unexpected: panel -Mainichi News, Dec. 26
- A government panel investigating the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant said Monday the accident shows the need to prepare for unexpected events if the consequences of them happening could be disastrous, referring to the poor emergency responses of the plant’s operator and the government.
- The remarks contrast with the outcome of an in-house investigation conducted by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which blamed the larger-than-expected tsunami for the failure to prevent the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
As Nuclear Plants Age, No Easy Energy Solutions -Talk of the Nation on NPR, Dec. 27
- Nuclear power generates 20 percent of electricity in the U.S., but the nation’s reactors are aging and new plants are expensive and take years to build. Gas, coal, wind and solar are potential alternatives, but all have environmental or logistical drawbacks.
Listen to the story: – http://www.npr.org/2011/12/27/144324421/as-nuclear-plants-age-no-easy-energy-solutions
Radionuclides from the Fukushima accident in the air over Lithuania: measurement and modelling approaches -NIH, Dec. 27
- Abstract: Analyses of (131)I, (137)Cs and (134)Cs in airborne aerosols were carried out in daily samples in Vilnius, Lithuania after the Fukushima accident during the period of March-April, 2011. The activity concentrations of (131)I and (137)Cs ranged from 12 Bq/m(3) and 1.4 Bq/m(3) to 3700 Bq/m(3) and 1040 Bq/m(3), respectively. The activity concentration of (239,240)Pu in one aerosol sample collected from 23 March to 15 April, 2011 was found to be 44.5 nBq/m(3). The two maxima found in radionuclide concentrations were related to complicated long-range air mass transport from Japan across the Pacific, the North America and the Atlantic Ocean to Central Europe as indicated by modelling. HYSPLIT backward trajectories and meteorological data were applied for interpretation of activity variations of measured radionuclides observed at the site of investigation. (7)Be and (212)Pb activity concentrations and their ratios were used as tracers of vertical transport of air masses. Fukushima data were compared with the data obtained during the Chernobyl accident and in the post Chernobyl period. The activity concentrations of (131)I and (137)Cs were found to be by 4 orders of magnitude lower as compared to the Chernobyl accident. The activity ratio of (134)Cs/(137)Cs was around 1 with small variations only. The activity ratio of (238)Pu/(239,240)Pu in the aerosol sample was 1.2, indicating a presence of the spent fuel of different origin than that of the Chernobyl accident.
Noda vows to prevent recurrence of nuclear accident -Mainichi News, Dec. 27
- “The government will do its best to prevent a recurrence so that there would never be a nuclear accident,” Noda told the head of the panel, Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
- The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency chief Hiroyuki Fukano told a press conference later in the day, “I apologize from the bottom of my heart for the agency’s failure to prevent the accident and for causing great pain to many people such as by forcing them to evacuate.”
Enduring the nuclear winter -Irish Times, Dec. 27
- WINTER HAS arrived in Japans pulverised northeast, bringing freezing temperatures, snow and loneliness. Soyo Usuzawa (79), is one of many pensioners living alone in temporary housing and wondering what 2012 will bring. Nobody I know is in the mood for celebrating the new year. We just want things to return the way they were.
- For now, that seems unlikely. The elementary force of the March 11th magnitude-9 earthquake literally changed the world, accelerating the earths spin, shifting its axis between 4 and 10 inches and moving Japans main island nearly 8 ft closer to North America. Its impact on people is much more profound and hard to measure.
- Searching for a word that sums up the momentous events of 2011, the Japanese media has opted for kizuna, meaning human bonds or friendship reflecting what many see as the rekindling of human relationships amid the tragedy. But in Tohoku (the northeast), the words most often heard are suffering or endurance. Many people quote local poet Kenji Miyazawa, a sort of Japanese Patrick Kavanagh:
New plants to clean Fukushima debris -Japan Times, Dec. 27
- Three experimental plants are scheduled to open next month in Fukushima Prefecture to test ways to reduce the amount of radioactive material in debris and soil there, sources said Monday.
- Under the aegis of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, a government-backed research organization, the small plants will be built in Okuma, one of the two towns on which the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant sits, and in the towns of Tomioka and Naraha, which are straddled by the Fukushima No. 2 power plant, the sources said.
- In Okuma, contractor Kumagai Gumi Co. will set up a plant near town hall to test a special washer that will use water to decontaminate soil taken from schools and parks. The washed soil will be enclosed in concrete and its radiation levels monitored, the sources said.
- Hitachi Plant Technologies Ltd. will build a plant on a town-run playing field in Tomioka to treat schoolyard soil using a thermal process. It will also try to determine if the treated soil can be reused safely.
- In Naraha, contractor Toda Corp. plans to decontaminate some of the roughly 15,400 tons of debris in the town by shredding it into small pieces and washing it with water, they said.
Gov’t decides basic policy of reclassifying Fukushima evacuation zones -Mainichi News, Dec. 27
- The government decided on Monday its basic policy of reclassifying evacuation zones around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into three categories this spring now that the plant has been brought to a stable state of cold shutdown.
- The government also lifted its declaration of a state of emergency at the Fukushima Daini power plant, located near the crisis-hit plant. That plant too was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami nine and a half months ago.
- Under the basic policy the government presented for reclassifying the evacuation zones designated last April, the area will be divided into the three categories – including one covering area with estimated annual radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts or higher to which entry will remain prohibited in principle.
- A second-category zone would cover areas with the risk of an estimated annual radiation exposure exceeding 20 millisieverts and up to 50 millisieverts, where residents would be restricted, and third-category areas with an estimated exposure of less than 20 millisieverts, where the government would allow residents to return in stages.
High radiation detected in male cedar flowers -NHK, Dec. 27
- Extremely high radiation levels of more than 250,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium have been detected in male flowers of cedar trees in the no-entry zone near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
- Japan’s forestry agency collected male cedar flowers at 87 locations in Fukushima Prefecture from late November to early December to measure the levels of radioactive cesium.
- The agency detected 253,000 becquerels of the radioactive substance per kilogram in the flowers collected at Omaru in the town of Namie, 11.3 kilometers from the plant. 29 locations saw levels exceed 10,000 becquerels.
- The maximum amount of cedar pollen measured in the air when in season by the environment ministry was 2,207 grains per cubic meter.
- The forestry agency says if people breathe this concentration for 4 months they would be exposed to 0.553 microsieverts of radiation.
Fukushima rice farmers asking ‘until when will this continue?’ -Mainichi News, Dec. 27
- With the government announcing a possible ban on future rice planting in areas where contaminated rice was detected, farmers in Fukushima Prefecture are on the verge of losing the little hope that has kept them going amidst months of torture.
- “What should I do? There’s really nothing to be done. I had to receive medicine from my doctor because I can’t even sleep at night,” says Eiji Watanabe, 62, a farmer from the Yoshikura (former Shibukawa) area in Nihonmatsu.
- On Dec. 8, the government banned the shipment of rice harvested in Shibukawa this autumn after detecting radiation doses surpassing the provisional upper limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram in some of the region’s paddies. A few weeks later, on Dec. 27, it was announced that rice planting in the region will likely be banned for the next harvest year.
- For farmers like Watanabe, however, – in whose rice radioactive cesium has not been detected – this means one more year of enormous financial and emotional damage.
- “I’ve lived through bad harvests and droughts, but I’ve always looked ahead with hope, because I knew there was a future. This time, however, it seems like there’s no hope for the next harvest,” said Morio Sato, 74, a seventh generation farmer, as his voice choked with sadness.
City in Fukushima hires lawyer to claim damages from TEPCO -Japan Today, Dec. 27
- The city of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture says it has hired a lawyer to claim damages on behalf of the citys residents, who were evacuated en masse after the March 11 tsunami destabilized the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Futaba lies within the 20-kilomerter no-go zone around the stricken plant.
- Fuji TV reported that residents had complained the filing process to claim damages from Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) was too complex. The city created its own filing procedures for residents that its claims are simpler, and formally asked TEPCO which runs the plant to simplify theirs as well.
- This marks the first time that a city administration has obtained a lawyer in Japan.
Conflict over handling nuclear crisis revealed – Japan Times, Dec. 28
- The report reveals a critical lack of knowledge and communication among plant workers and government officials at the prime minister’s office, which the panel says exacerbated the meltdown crisis at the plant.
- The report, however, also leaves unanswered some key questions about critical moments of the accident, including when Yoshida was preparing the bus to evacuate the workers.
- During previous interviews with the media, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano claimed Tokyo Electric Power Co. CEO Masataka Shimizu told the government that Tepco wanted to withdraw all of the plant workers early March 15, hours after Yoshida ordered his staff to prepare the evacuation bus.
- According to Kan, when he met Shimizu early March 15, Shimizu was still “not clear about if (all the workers) would be withdrawn or not,” and Kan felt Tepco could eventually abandon the Fukushima plant. Kan thus decided to take full control of the emergency operations at the plant by setting up a joint headquarters of the government and Tepco at the utility’s head office in Tokyo.
- But according to the panel’s report, Shimizu “clearly denied” to Kan that he was thinking of withdrawing all plant workers and abandoning the plant when he met Kan. The panel didn’t interview Kan and other top government officials during its investigation.
Leaky valve spurs Pilgrim shutdown -Boston Globe, Dec. 28
- The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth was shut down early yesterday after a leak was detected in one of four safety relief-valve systems.
- The steam that leaked was slightly radioactive and was contained inside the plant. It posed no threat to the public or to plant workers, said a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- The leak occurred in a small valve that triggers a larger safety valve to open to relieve pressure, said Rob Williams, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, which owns the power station. There are four such safety valve systems, which are used in the case of pressure buildup to vent steam from the reactor to the suppression pool, a doughnut-shaped reservoir of water at the base of the reactor building.
Report: U.S. nuclear renaissance unlikely after Fukushima -Los Angeles Times, Dec. 28
- A new study released Wednesday said that the regulatory fallout from the Fukushima power plant disaster in Japan in March will short-circuit the U.S. nuclear renaissance of new power plant construction.
- The report, “Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics,” was written and presented by Mark Cooper, a frequent critic of the nuclear power industry. The report can be found here. Cooper is a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law School.
- Cooper said that past nuclear disasters, such as the one at the Three Mile Island power plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, have tended to greatly raise regulatory barriers and have also severely multiplied the cost of reactor construction. After Three Mile Island, for example, the report said, the cost of nuclear power plant construction doubled in most cases and trebled or quadrupled in some rare instances.
Dying ringed seals trigger Fukushima radiation worries -global post, Dec. 28
- Scientists in Alaska are concerned that local ringed seals are being sickened and killed by radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
- Since mid-July, more than 60 seals have been found dead, and 75 seals have fallen sick, the Environment News Service reported.
- The disease causes “bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes, and patchy hair loss on the animal’s fur coats,” according to Reuters.
- At first, biologists believed the seals were suffering from a virus, but they now are testing the seals to see if radiation is a factor.
Japan May Plan Good Tepco, Bad Tepco -Bloomberg, Dec. 28
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) may be approaching the end of its life as a private company as the cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster drains cash and the government considers nationalizing the utility.
- Were probably seeing the beginnings of the end of Tepco as the entity that we know, said Penn Bowers, a utilities analyst with CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo. The government may wrap up the bad assets from Fukushima into a Bad Tepco, and leave other assets as a Good Tepco that could be listed, Bowers said.
Editorial: Gov’t should promote renewable energy as myth of nuclear power’s cheapness shattered -Mainichi News, Dec. 29
- “The cost of nuclear power generation is cheap” – we have repeatedly heard such a line as part of the reasoning for promoting nuclear energy. The myth of the cheapness of nuclear power generation collapsed following the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
- A government panel set up in the wake of the nuclear disaster estimates that the cost of nuclear power generation now stands at a minimum of 8.9 yen per kilowatt hour – 1.5 times higher than the figure presented by utilities and the government before the disaster. If the costs for decontaminating areas affected by radioactive materials, decommissioning the damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and compensating for damages emanating from the nuclear crisis soar further, the cost of nuclear power generation would be even higher.
- Considering the fact that the costs of coal-fired power generation and liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled power generation stand at somewhere near 10 yen per kilowatt hour, respectively, the superiority that nuclear power generation had enjoyed in terms of “cost performance” can be said to have been shattered.
- Even wind power generation and geothermal power generation could rival with nuclear power generation in terms of cost performance depending on conditions, while the cost of solar power generation is likely to become cheaper in 20 years time. The government should take this opportunity to proceed with full-scale measures to invest in and promote renewable energy sources, which had previously been shunned for their “high costs.”
Hosono seeks OK for N-storage / Officials in Fukushima Pref. asked to accept temporary waste disposal site -Yomiuri, Dec. 29
- Environment Minister Goshi Hosono on Wednesday officially asked Fukushima Prefecture and the heads of eight municipal governments in the prefecture’s Futaba County to approve construction of a midterm storage site for radioactive waste in the county.
- Hosono met with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and the mayors of eight towns and villages in the county and told them the central government plans to build the storage facility in the county.
- The facility will store waste, including soil, contaminated with radioactive substances released from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
- Hosono met with the governor at 9 a.m. at the prefectural government office building and told Sato: “I can’t find words of apology to ask for the construction of the facility in Futaba County. But we’ll make all possible efforts to obtain understanding.”
- Sato said: “It’s an extremely hard and severe request. I’ll consider it very seriously and will seek opinions of the mayors. I want the central government to carefully explain the project to local residents.”
- According to a road map the ministry released in October, the basic design of the facility and procurement of the land will be completed by the end of fiscal 2013, and contaminated soil and other waste may begin to arrive in January 2015.
Gov’t request for nuclear storage facility site sends shockwaves through Fukushima -Mainichi News, Dec. 29
- Some local residents, particularly those people who want to return to their homes in areas near the nuclear power station, are worried that such a storage facility could stay there permanently. But those residents who have given up hope of returning to their homes have tended to accept the government request.
- When the government plan was unveiled, Kowata was angry, saying, “Is the government going to put more burden on the people of Fukushima?” But when she visited her home briefly, she realized that levels of radiation were so high in the area near her home. “Even if we want to go back, I don’t think we will be able to live in our hometown that is tainted by radiation,” she said. More and more members of a women’s civic group formed in the wake of the disasters have tended to accept the interim storage facility as they now think that it would be needed to facilitate decontamination work, she said.
Last shelters in Fukushima Pref. close -Yomiuri, Dec. 29
- The last two evacuation centers in Fukushima Prefecture were closed Wednesday, more than 9-1/2 months after the March 11 disaster.
- All shelters set up in hard-hit Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures–which held 448,000 evacuees at their peak–have now closed.
- The evacuees have moved to temporary housing units, apartments rented for the evacuees or secondary shelters at hotels and other facilities.
Nuclear Power Play: Ambition, Betrayal And The ‘Ugly Underbelly’ Of Energy Regulation -HuffPost, Dec. 29
- So far, the White House is standing by Jaczko, one of the least industry-friendly leaders to serve at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a generation.
- For Washington’s tight nuclear policy circle, where scientifically trained political operatives move back and forth between the industry, the NRC, the Department of Energy and key congressional committees, it’s dj vu. Interviews with several senior officials who worked on nuclear energy policy in the 1990s reveal that at least two of those operatives – both with strong ties to the nuclear industry – were closely involved in the ouster of an earlier reformist regulator and are now involved in the current drama.
- What’s unfolding at the NRC is a textbook example of a little-discussed corporate tactic that is employed against public officials in extreme situations. Observers of the way Washington works tend to describe the corruption of the political system and the people within it in terms of action and reward: Do what industry wants, and benefit both professionally and personally. But when carrots aren’t enough, corporations have sticks to swing, too.
- Susan McCue, who served as chief of staff for Jaczko’s former employer and chief Democratic supporter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), wasn’t surprised to see the industry strategy at work.
- “They have a lot of power, and they wield it,” said McCue. “They can’t tell Chairman Jaczko what to do, and I think that frustrates them.”
NUCLEAR ACCIDENT INTERIM REPORT / Law dysfunctional in face of unimaginable disaster -Yomiuri, Dec. 30
- The government panel’s interim report said plans laid out by the Nuclear Disaster Special Measures Law did not function properly because the scale of the disaster was unimaginable.
- According to the law, in the event of a nuclear disaster an off-site headquarters is to be established near the nuclear power plant where the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency can gather information with representatives of local governments.
- However, because local governments were overwhelmed dealing with the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, of the six towns surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant only Okumamachi sent a representative to the headquarters.
- On March 15, following explosions at the plant’s Nos. 1 and 3 reactors, and with the No. 2 reactor in a hazardous condition, radiation measurements inside the headquarters reached 200 microsieverts per hour, forcing the office to relocate to Fukushima city.
Three Ways Japan Can Put a National Disaster to Good Use: View -Bloomberg, Dec. 30
- The first comprehensive report on Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis is 507 pages of the most sobering reading of the year.
- The verdict by a government-appointed panel: Disarray among regulators, dismal safety preparations, operational blunders, amateurish communication breakdowns and institutional inertia led to the worst radiation leak since Chernobyl in 1986.
- The findings, although damning, offer Japan the kind of opening that doesn’t come along very often short of war or the sort of natural disaster that struck last March. The report itself is an encouraging sign that the nation is willing to examine its failings and, we hope, take action. The year ahead is a fresh opportunity both to rebuild Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region and break with the sclerotic strategies of the past. Here are three ways to jump-start a process vital to the country’s future.
- – First, be straightforward. Japan must be forthright with its people in a manner that borders on cultural anathema. The government should tell the more than 100,000 displaced people that they may never be able to return home to the northeast as radiation continues to taint food and water.
Fukushima hospitals in financial strife / Services being cut as medical facilities’ losses top 12 billion yen due to nuclear crisis -Yomiuri, Dec. 30
- Due to the financial shortfall, hospitals that lost staff following the disaster have been forced to limit their services, such as reducing the number of inpatients they accept.
- Futaba Kosei Hospital in Futabamachi in the prefecture is located within the no-entry zone. The hospital suspended all operations shortly after the crisis started, leaving behind medicine, X-ray equipment and other large machinery.
- Hospital Director Shuichi Shigetomi, 61, went with other officials on two occasions to inspect the hospital. But all they could do in the limited time they were permitted was retrieve medical records and other items.
- The number of doctors at the hospital decreased from 12 to five, and that of nurses from 125 to 68. Doctors who did not leave are now working in other affiliated hospitals.
- Shigetomi expressed concern over the uncertainty surrounding Futabamachi’s recovery. “I don’t know what will happen to the town itself. I want the government to present future visions as soon as possible,” he said.
New Year despair for Japan’s nuclear refugees -Terra Daily, Dec. 30
- All over the country families will gather for a midnight trip to a shrine, many donning traditional kimono for the centrepiece of several days of celebration during one of Japan’s most important festivals.
- But for the many tens of thousands of people forced to flee when reactors at Fukushima Daiichi began spewing radiation, festivities are a long way from their thoughts.
- Many of the 1,000 or so refugees holed-up in a 36-storey Tokyo tower block say their mood will be altogether downbeat, after a devastating year which saw their hometowns engulfed by the worst nuclear crisis in a generation.
- “I can’t say a Happy New Year this year as I don’t feel happiness,” said Yuji Takahashi, who has been in the government-owned block since April.