Saturday, July 2, 2011

Des Moines Register: "Nuclear plants need scrutiny, not hysteria"

I thought I was reading Yomiuri or Asahi or the Japanese government's press conference transcript back in March and April.

But no, this is a June 29 Des Moines Register editorial, telling readers "Don't be irrational, don't be hysterical, and don't you dare be anti-nuke". And don't listen to those "baseless rumors":

Nuclear plants need scrutiny, not hysteria

"Right now the plants are safe."

That's what the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said of the two nuclear power plants along the Missouri River in Nebraska after recent flooding. There have been no "nuclear releases." Vital systems to ensure safety are protected. Flood waters are not expected to become unmanageable.

Gov. Terry Branstad said that state officials are monitoring the plants and that the public should not worry.

Yet some people worry.

People worry because just the phrase "nuclear power plant" conjures thoughts of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. People worry because the world is still watching as Japan deals with the Fukushima nuclear power plant from both a human health and economic perspective.

Iowans worry because the Nebraska plants are separated from us by only a river rather than the Pacific Ocean.

A healthy dose of concern about nuclear energy is necessary to help keep this country's power plants are safe. The United States must remain dedicated to rigorous scrutiny of plant safety regulations and emergency measures.

Yet the public's concern should not be irrational or used to feed an anti-nuclear energy agenda or imply that the U.S. government is lying to Americans.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what is happening online where anything goes and supposed reporters aren't held accountable for blatant misinformation. One online newspaper in Pakistan reported that a Russian nuclear energy agency has obtained information about an accident at one of the Nebraska plants. It stated President Barack Obama ordered media not to report the accident and imposed a "no-fly" zone over the plant because of radiation leaks.

"The rumors have been as difficult to combat as the rising floodwaters," said the spokesman for the NRC.

The situation in Nebraska -- like the situation in Japan -- is an opportunity to learn and inform conversations about nuclear energy.

This country has 104 nuclear power plants in 31 states, including Iowa. What's going on in Nebraska is a reminder of the need to ensure they are safe and there are plans in place to respond in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

They are also a reminder of the importance this country must place on protecting key areas -- including those with nuclear plants -- from flooding.

While the U.S. must continue to focus on conservation and cultivating alternative sources of energy like wind, the reality is nuclear energy provides 20 percent of the nation's electricity. Along with coal, petroleum, natural gas and wind, it is an important part of this country's energy portfolio.

That portfolio must be more, not less, diverse. As the world has seen in Japan, a disrupted energy supply can lead to an economic crisis.

Americans use a lot of energy. It has to come from somewhere, and providing it comes with risks. Yet we do not stop drilling for oil because there is an oil spill. We do not stop mining for coal because of a cave-in.

We cannot allow fears about nuclear energy -- unfounded fears, as of now in Nebraska -- scare us away from this important power source.

I particularly like the last three paragraphs.

A disrupted energy supply in Japan is not because of nuclear power plant shutdowns, but because too many thermal and hydro power generating plants had been shut down. Rolling blackouts were intentional, to teach the Japanese the lesson - "nuclear power is necessary". Besides, an economic crisis is the last thing that ordinary people in Japan care about right now. (I don't know about the politicians and big power company execs.)

So you don't stop drilling for oil because there's an oil spill. You do not stop mining for coal because of a cave-in. So you don't stop nuclear power generation just because a nuke plant has 3 meltdowns and releases 800,000 terabecquerels of radioactive iodine, cesium, strontium, plutonium, and poison the countryside and waterways and sicken the population for decades. That's such a small price to pay for a growing economy, according to the editor of the paper.

Unfounded fears?

This can't be written by an American in America. This has got to be written by Yomiuri... It's started to feel like a "Groundhog Day"...

UK's Nuke Plant Shut Down Because of Jellyfish

Fukushima is on-going, Fort Calhoun and Cooper in Nebraska are surrounded by water, a French nuke plant had a fire, and a UK's nuke plant was shut down by jellyfish.

What is the world coming to?

From Reuters (6/29/2011):

(Reuters) - An invasion of jellyfish into a cooling water pool at a Scottish nuclear power plant kept its nuclear reactors offline on Wednesday, a phenomenon which may grow more common in future, scientists said.

Two reactors at EDF Energy's Torness nuclear power plant on the Scottish east coast remained shut a day after they were manually stopped due to masses of jellyfish obstructing cooling water filters.

Nuclear power plants draw water from nearby seas or rivers to cool down their reactors, but if the filters which keep out marine animals and seaweed are clogged, the station shuts down to maintain temperature and safety standards.

Britain's Office for Nuclear Regulation said power plants follow a pre-planned programme when these situations occur.

Latest plant availability data from network operator National Grid showed Torness reactor 1 would return to service on July 5 and reactor 2 on July 6, but operator EDF Energy was unable to give a restart date.

Operators often take the opportunity presented by an unplanned stoppage to carry out maintenance work.

"We are working to clear the jellyfish from the waters near the power station. This work, as well as monitoring the area for more jellyfish, is ongoing," a spokesman for Britain's largest nuclear power operator, EDF Energy, said.

Scientists say jellyfish obstructing nuclear plants is a rare occurrence in Britain, though it has happened more often in other countries such as Japan.

But since it is happening in the UK, the article has to have a scientist who blames "global warming":

Increasing fishing activity and global warming are giving jellyfish populations a boost, scientists said, potentially making jellyfish invasions at nuclear power plants located near the open sea more common in the future.

"There are suggestions from some science data that over the past few years there has been an increase in swarms of jellyfish. It's possible it's linked to climate change," said Steve Hay, a plankton ecologist who specializes in jellyfish research at the Marine Scotland Science laboratory in Aberdeen.

He may well be right, but the article ends with a more mundane conclusion:

Overfishing of small fish which feed off jellyfish leaves them less exposed to natural predators and gives them more room to reproduce, the Marine Biological Association said.

Read the whole article at the link.

(h/t Irene)

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Starts Full Circulation Cooling of Reactors

The whole process is as follows:

  1. Take the highly contaminated water that has been stored in the Central Waste Processing Facility (about 120,000 tonnes of it) to the water treatment system;

  2. The water first goes through the oil separating system built by Toshiba;

  3. The water then goes to the system by Kurion, where different types of zeolite will remove 1) the oil/technetium, 2) cesium, and 3) iodine;

  4. Then it goes to the system by AREVA, where it gets further decontaminated; if TEPCO decides so, the AREVA system can come before Kurion;

  5. Then finally it goes to the desalination system built by Hitachi.

  6. After desalination, the "treated" water is stored in a series of tanks;

  7. The treated water is fed through the 10-centimeter diameter PVC pipes to the Reactor Pressure Vvessels of the Reactors 1, 2, 3;

  8. The water will leak through the RPVs and the Containment Vessels down to the reactor basements;

  9. Again highly contaminated, the water then is routed from the basements of the Reactors 2 and 3 to the Central Waste Processing Facility;

  10. Start at No.1 again.

To see the convoluted schematics, see my post here (opens new window).

As of July 2, TEPCO is injecting:

  • 3.5 tonnes/hour to the Reactor 1;

  • 3.5 tonnes/hour to the Reactor 2;

  • 9 tonnes/hour to the Reactor 3;

  • Total 16 tonnes/hour or 384 tonnes per day.

The water treatment system is processing more than that amount, even at the current 55% capacity (full capacity 1,200 tonnes per day). So, at least for now the highly contaminated water will not increase, and slowly decrease.

What's missing from this process is the cooling system for the circulated water. TEPCO is counting that by going through the treatment system the warm/hot water (remember the 4-sieverts/hour steam gushing out of the Reactor 1's basement) will cool off enough.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: "Warrior" Robot Vacuumed Reactor 3 Floor, Radiation Still Very High

Yomiuri Shinbun reports that the "Warrior" robot from iRobot went inside the reactor building for the Reactor 3 to vacuum the highly radioactive (or so TEPCO thought) sands accumulated on the floor right off the truck entrance.

It completed the task, braving the high radiation (more than 100 millisieverts/hour in some spots) on July 1. It took the robot 5 hours to collect dust and sand in 3 200-liter containers.

Unfortunately, the radiation level in the area only went down by 10 to 20 millisieverts/hour, and TEPCO is considering laying down the steel plates on the floor to see if they block the radiation.

See "Warrior" in action, as videoed by the fellow iRobot "Packbot", which was then screen-captured by TEPCO on a notebook PC screen:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Japan's Electric Companies Defend Nuke Plants, Diss Opponents as "Spreading Baseless Rumors", and Say Their Loss Is National Loss

First off, the 73-year-old chairman of Kyushu Electric, whose Genkai Nuclear Power Plant may re-start as soon as sometime this month. (If this particular nuke plant goes, the entire Japanese archipelago, except for Hokkaido and Okinawa and several far-flung islands in the Pacific, will be "downwind" from this plant.)

Shingo Matsuo (pictured right), chairman of Kyushu Electric Power Company who operates Genkai Nuclear Power Plant, told Asahi Shinbun that the anti-nuclear movement since the Fukushima accident is hurting his business and therefore it is hurting the nation. He calls it "emotional" reaction, the same sort of "baseless rumor" (i.e. radiation, remember?) that is hurting farmers and fishermen in the affected region.

From Asahi Shinbun (7/1/2011):

九州電力の松尾新吾会長は30日、朝日新聞の取材に対し、東京電力福島第一原子力発電所の事故をきっかけに定期検査中の原発の運転再開が遅れている ことについて「車検の済んだ車に乗るなというようなもの。エモーショナル(感情的)な側面がもたらした一種の風評被害」と述べた。

Commenting on the delay in re-starting the nuclear power plants that have been in regular maintenance due to the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, Shingo Matsuo, chairman of Kyushu Electric Power Company, told Asahi Shinbun on June 30 that "it is the same as telling someone not to drive a car that has passed inspection. We're suffering a kind of "baseless rumor", brought about by the emotional reaction."


Chairman Matsuo pointed out that the stable supply of electricity from Kyushu is indispensable for the recovery from the March 11 earthquake/tsunami, emphasizing the importance of re-starting the Reactors 2 and 3 at Genkai Nuclear Power Plant (in Genkai-cho, Saga Prefecture [in Kyushu]).


Due to the delay, the fuel cost at Kyushu Electric is increasing by 600 million yen (7.42 million) a day. According to Chairman Matsuo, "We're wasting the fuel cost, and that's negative on the national scale."

The governor of Saga Prefecture, Yasushi Furukawa, is willing to approve the re-start of the aging plant, and Genkai-cho (where the plant is located) has already voted strongly in favor of the re-start. The governor's father worked for Kyushu Electric, and was the general manager at the Genkai PR Center.

Genkai's Reactor 3 uses MOX-fuel. Last December, the reactor went into maintenance earlier than scheduled when the radioactive iodine 4 times the normal level was found in the cooling water for the RPV.

Then, there's this managing director at Kansai Electric Power Company who said their reactors "will never break, even if they are hit by the Taepodong missiles from North Korea." It was his answer to a shareholder's question about the safety of the nuclear power plants that Kansai Electric operates, during the annual shareholders' meeting on June 29.

From Sports Hochi (6/30/2011):

「北朝鮮が原発に対してテポドンを撃ってきたらどうしますか。その対策を教えて下さい」―男性株主の質問に、原発事業の担当役員である豊松秀己常務取締役 (57)が答弁に立った。「テロ対策は、侵入があれば治安機関に通報する。大規模テロには対策本部を設置し、テポドンの場合は国民保護対策本部を作って国 と対応する」その上で「仮に着弾があっても、堅固な立派な格納容器と思っている」と言い放った。関電の原子炉11基は日本海に面する福井県内にあるが、弾 道ミサイルの標的になっても「大丈夫」との強弁だった。

"What if North Korea attacks your nuclear power plants with their Taepodong missiles? What is your countermeasure?" asked a male shareholder. Managing Director Hideki Toyomatsu, who is in charge of nuclear power generation business, stood up to answer. "For an act of terrorism, if there's an invasion we will inform the authorities. For a big-scale act of terrorism, we will set up the headquarters to deal with the terrorism. If it's a Taepodong missile attack, we will form the headquarters with the national government to protect the citizens." He added, "Even if the plant is hit by the missile, our solid and well-built Containment Vessel will withstand the hit." Kansai Electric has 11 reactors in Fukui Prefecture facing the Japan Sea. Toyomatsu confidently said "Not a problem" even if one of them becomes the target of a ballistic missile.

 根拠は不明だが、自信満々の“安全保障宣言”。原子力発電に長年警告を発してきた京大原子炉実験所の小出裕章助教(61)は、この発言を大いに疑問視。 「仮に格納容器が壊れなくても、配管1本が壊れるだけで炉心溶融(メルトダウン)が起こりえる。格納容器が大丈夫だからというのは、もともと成り立たない バカげた返答」と、関電の見解を一蹴した。

We don't know the basis for this confident "declaration of safety and security". Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, who has been sounding alarm against nuclear power generation for a long time, dismisses this remark as nonsense. "Even if the Containment Vessel itself is intact, a meltdown can happen if one pipe is broken. To say that Containment Vessel withstands a missile attack is just an impossible, nonsensical answer."

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have been strongly pushing for the re-start of all nuclear reactors that have been stopped. Minister Kaieda, who made a ton of money selling books on how to invest in high-risk high-return assets toward the end of Japan's asset bubble, has been visiting the municipalities with nuclear power plants to persuade the municipal governments to allow the re-start. And now the electric companies are saying silly things like these in their effort to ridicule the anti-nuke sentiment as unscientific and unreasonable.

To further teach the citizens of Japan the lesson, the Japanese national government simply ordered 15% electricity cut (link in Japanese) for large factories and offices starting July 1, in the areas supplied by Tokyo Electric and Tohoku Electric, with a fine for the offenders. Kansai Electric has decided to join this wonderful effort to cut electricity consumption.

Never mind that there is more electricity supply than demand anyway, and never mind that more than half the thermal power generation (LNG, coal) are kept off-line.

It is almost as if the government and these large electric power companies would rather see people die from heat exhaustion trying to save electricity, as long as they can teach them the lesson - nuclear power is good, it is necessary, and it is safe. Anyone who says otherwise is unreasonable, unscientific and hysterical.

They did that after the Bikini Atoll. They did that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They got away with it every time. We'll find out if this time is different.

#Radiation in Japan: Professor Kosako: "Come the harvest season in the fall, there will be a chaos"

Professor Toshiso Kosako of Tokyo University, who resigned in protest against the Kan Administration's policy to allow 20 millisieverts/year external radiation exposure for children which he called unacceptable and unconscionable, gave an interview for the first time since his resignation to Wall Street Journal (or so it looks).

Kosako says:

  • There will be chaos and scandal when the rice is harvested in the fall, as it will contain radioactive materials;

  • Japan is looking like a developing country in East Asia without democracy;

  • The government uses the high ceiling for radiation in schools so that it doesn't need to spend money to ameliorate the situation;

  • The government hasn't done enough to investigate ocean contamination.

So far, I am unable to find the equivalent Japanese article in the Japanese version of WSJ. Interesting by itself, but not surprising as the paper has put out dramatically different versions of the same news in Japanese and in English.

From WSJ (Yuka Hayashi, 7/1/2011):

TOKYO—A former nuclear adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan blasted the government's continuing handling of the crisis, and predicted further revelations of radiation threats to the public in the coming months.

In his first media interview since resigning his post in protest in April, Toshiso Kosako, one of the country's leading experts on radiation safety, said Mr. Kan's government has been slow to test for possible dangers in the sea and to fish and has understated certain radiation dangers to minimize what it will have to spend to clean up contamination.

And while there have been scattered reports already of food contamination—of tea leaves and spinach, for example—Mr. Kosako said there will be broader, more disturbing discoveries later this year, especially as rice, Japan's staple, is harvested.

"Come the harvest season in the fall, there will be a chaos," Mr. Kosako said. "Among the rice harvested, there will certainly be some radiation contamination—though I don't know at what levels—setting off a scandal. If people stop buying rice from Tohoku, …we'll have a tricky problem."

Mr. Kosako also said that the way the government has handled the Fukushima Daiichi situation since the March 11 tsunami crippled the reactors has exposed basic flaws in Japanese policymaking. "The government's decision-making mechanism is opaque," he said. "It's never clear what reasons are driving what decisions. This doesn't look like a democratic society. Japan is increasingly looking like a developing nation in East Asia."

Specifically, Mr. Kosako said the government set a relatively high ceiling for acceptable radiation in schoolyards, so that only 17 schools exceeded that limit. If the government had set the lower ceiling he had advocated, thousands of schools would have required a full cleanup. With Mr. Kan's ruling party struggling to gain parliamentary approval for a special budget, the costlier option didn't get traction.

"When taking these steps, the only concern for the current government is prolonging its own life," Mr. Kosako said.

Mr. Kan's office referred questions about Mr. Kosako's remarks to a cabinet office official, who declined to be identified. The official said the government is making "utmost efforts" to improve radiation monitoring in the sea and working closely with fishermen and others.

"Particularly close attention is paid to the safety of rice as Japan's staple food," the official said, adding that the government would suspend the shipment of crops if radiation exceeding a set standard is detected.

As for schools, the official said the government was working to lower the ceiling for acceptable radiation, and "is also considering additional steps. "

Mr. Kosako, a 61-year-old Tokyo University professor who has served on a number government and industrial panels, stepped down from Mr. Kan's nuclear-advisory panel on April 30, fueling concerns about the government's handling of the accident. Saying that many of his recommendations were ignored, the scientist described the government's ceiling on schoolyard radiation levels as "unacceptable." The image of him wiping tears at a press conference as he said he wouldn't subject his own children to such an environment was widely broadcast.

Having spent the past two months focusing on teaching radiation-safety courses at his university, Mr. Kosako said he is now ready to begin speaking his mind again, starting with foreign audiences. Over the coming weeks, he will be giving speeches in the U.S. and in Taiwan.

He said he is especially concerned with contamination of the ocean by the large amounts radioactive material from the damaged reactors dumped into surrounding waters. The government has released only sketchy information about what's drained into the sea as a result of efforts to cool the smoldering Fukushima Daiichi reactors. Mr. Kosako has urged more seawater monitoring, more projections of the spread of polluted water and steps to deal with the contamination of different types of seafood, from seaweed to shellfish to fish.

"I've been telling them to hurry up and do it, but they haven't," he said.

As he resigned, Mr. Kosako submitted to government officials a thick booklet that contained all the recommendations he had offered during his six-week tenure. A copy of the booklet was obtained by The Wall Street Journal from an independent source.

From the time of his appointment on March 16, Mr. Kosako and some of his colleagues were offering recommendations touching on a broad range of topics. It was weeks before the public learned of some of them, such as a March 17 call for using the government's SPEEDI radiation-monitoring system to project residents' exposure levels using the "worst-case scenario based on a practical setting."

On March 18, they urged the government's Nuclear Safety Commission to re-examine the adequacy of the government's initial evacuation zones, based on such simulations by SPEEDI.

The SPEEDI data weren't released to the public until March 23, and the evacuation zones weren't adjusted until April 11. Critics say the delay in the adjustment may have subjected thousands of Fukushima residents to high levels of radiation exposure.

Professor Kosako had been considered a pro-nuke "government scientist" until his resignation. Maybe he is still pro-nuke, but it was during his press conference at the end of April when he announced resignation that many people were made aware of this thing called WSPEEDI, which can predict radioactive fallout dispersions globally, not just Japan. Only after that revelation by the professor, the government decided to quietly sneak in the WSPEEDI simulation results sometime in mid May on the Ministry of Education website. They showed a very extensive contamination in Tohoku and Kanto.

For WSPEEDI simulation maps from the early days of the accident when, if disclosed, they would have mattered, see my posts here and here.

Toshiba Pushes for Spent Fuel Processing Plant in Mongolia, in Discussion with US Government

Toshiba owns and operates Westingshouse Electric (77% ownership), and has continued to sell nuclear power plants all over the world after the Fukushima accident. So does Hitachi with GE, and so does Mitsubishi Heavy Industries with AREVA. Business as usual, no matter what.

From Kyodo News Japanese (10:08PM JST 7/1/2011):

米原子力大手ウェスチングハウス・エレクトリック(WH)を子 会社に持つ東芝の佐々木則夫社長が5月中旬、米政府高官に書簡を送り、使用済み核燃料などの国際的な貯蔵・処分場をモンゴルに建設する計画を盛り込んだ新 構想を推進するよう要請、水面下で対米工作を進めていることが1日、分かった。

It became known on July 1 that Norio Sasaki, the president of Toshiba which owns Westingshouse Electric, a major nuclear energy company in the US, sent a letter to a high ranking official in the US government in mid May urging the US government to promote the new scheme that includes a plan to build an international storage and final processing plant for the nuclear spent fuel in Mongolia.

 モンゴルでの核処分場計画は、新興国への原発輸出をにらみ、モンゴルで加工したウラン燃料の供給と使用後の処理 を担う「包括的燃料サービス(CFS)」構想の一環。米国とモンゴルが主導し、日本にも参加を呼び掛けた。経済産業省が後押ししてきたが、外務省が慎重姿 勢を示すなど政府内に異論もある。

The plan to build a processing plant in Mongolia is part of the "CFS [Comprehensive Fuel Service?]" scheme to process uranium and to process the spent fuel in Mongolia, eying the lucrative nuclear plant markets in developing countries. The US and Mongolia have been leading the effort, and have asked Japan to join. But there is a difference of opinion within the Japanese government; the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has been pushing for the idea, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not too keen.

As I wrote here before, Mongolia does have faults that are capable of producing Magnitude 8 earthquakes. How to transport the spent fuel rods to Mongolia should be a problem, though. Either China or Russia has to agree to have them transported overland. Russia is unlikely to allow that, as it is in direct competition with the US and the West to win nuke plant contracts in developing nations with a packaged deal like the CFS. And China? Maybe, if the US/Mongolia/Japan let China in on the scheme, in exchange of allowing the use of the facility and some "technology transfer" from the US and/or Japan.

It looks like the Cold War has never ended in the minds of politicians and nuclear industry people.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool Photo

TEPCO took this photo when they sent carbon-based workers on June 29 to the 5th floor of the Reactor 4 reactor building. They released other photos on June 30 as part of press handouts but this had to wait a day.

It looks like a nice radon hot spring water, doesn't it?. The temperature is rather high for comfortable bathing, at constant 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit).

Here's what they released separately as the press handout on June 30:

The fuel pool valve is totally rusted, probably from seawater.

The radiation level turned out to be "benign" for the plant, and TEPCO says the workers can now go up there for the work of installing the cooling system for the Spent Fuel Pool.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Radiation: Like an Angel's Smile

A medical doctor in Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture has a cheerful message about radiation exposure after the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident. As you've already heard from the other good doctor Shunichi Yamashita, yes indeed, "radiation is good for you", and it is good for Fukushima's future.

The doctor has a slide presentation on radiation in Fukushima Prefecture on his website and this is his conclusion:

Conclusion: A small radiation is good for your health

There are two sides to radiation.

Small dose: Like an angel's smile (even at 50 millisieverts/year)

Large dose in short time: Like a devil's violence

From now on, the number of cancer patients in Fukushima will decrease.

Food items with a small amount of radiation will fetch "premium".

Fukushima Prefecture will be the Number One health land in Japan, and people will flock to Fukushima.

Our future is bright.

Like Disneyland, I suppose.

His conclusion is that Fukushima has "an angel's smile", i.e. almost harmless, if not beneficial, small amount of radiation.

Looking at his presentation, he seems to have come to the conclusion because:

  • Fukushima has received a small amount of radiation when it rained on March 15 and radioactive iodine and cesium that were in the air fell on the ground with the rain because of the events on March 14 and 15 (Reactors 2, 3, 4 had explosions) that released a relatively large amount of radioactive materials;

  • Now it's mostly only cesium on the surface emitting gamma rays;

  • They will never know the radiation exposure level in Fukushima until actually measured;

  • There are people living in the places with high radiation; and

  • There are data to prove that the long-term radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts/year decreases the number of cancer cases.

He tells us to just think of it as soaking in a radium [radon] hot spring (hormesis effect), particularly if we're over 40.

Still, the doctor thinks that the community should do everything to protect children. His suggestion? Surround them with lead panels that will block radiation. (Lead poisoning anyone?)

What we can do for children:

Remove surface soil from schoolyards.

Put up lead panels on classroom walls.

Shorten the commute time to and from school.

Drive children to school, and school should allow cars inside the school gate.

Shield children's room in the house with lead.

Shield children's bed with lead.

If these measures cannot avoid 1 millisievert/year radiation exposure, then consider relocating children.

It seems to me to be infinitely better not to use lead panels around children and simply relocate them first, but I am no doctor.

Japan's Kan Administration to Formally Push for Numbering the Citizens in a Program Called "My Number"

Never waste a good crisis. What better crisis than the March 11 triple-whammy of earthquake, tsunami, and a Level 7 nuke plant accident?

Japan's embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his administration have formally decided on their plan to assign a unique number for every single Japanese citizen so that they (the government) can smoothly manage and handle important individual information like income, public insurance, medical care, pension, and tax.

From the Asahi article below, they will also get information about bank accounts of the citizens.

It will be sold as a good, convenient thing in Japan, along with "large scale" wind farms and solar farms (key word is "large-scale"), "smart grid", and a host of other government initiatives (like "eco-towns" to be built by shaving off hills and mountains) after the quake/tsunami/nuke accident. More power and control to the government. Will the Japanese buy it?

From Asahi Shinbun (6/30/2011):

菅政権の政府・与党社会保障改革検討本部(本部長・菅直人首相)は30日、国民一人ひとりに番号を割りふって所得や社会保険などの個人情報を管理す る「社会保障・税の番号制度」の大綱を正式決定した。番号の名称は「マイナンバー」で、2015年1月の導入を目指し、今年秋の臨時国会にも法案を提出す る。

The Kan Administration has formally decided on the framework to introduce "the numbering system for social security and tax", in which a unique number is assigned to each Japanese citizens to manage income and public insurance. The number will be called "My Number". The administration aims at introducing this numbering system in January 2015, and will submit the legislation during the extraordinary session of the Diet in autumn.

 共通番号は、消費税率を引き上げた後の低所得者対策に所得の正確な把握が不可欠になるとして、菅政権が「税と社会保障の一体改革」と共に制度設計してき た。一つの番号で様々な情報を結びつけることで、課税や給付の漏れを防いで公平感を高めたり、住民票など手続き時の書類を減らしたりする狙いがある。

The Kan Administration has been designing the system along with the tax and social security reform, in order to better assess the impact on low-income households after the consumption tax rate is raised. By tying various information to one common number for a citizen, the government can increase the sense of fairness among citizens in taxation and distribution of public benefits. The number may be used to reduce the paperwork when registering the domicile.


The numbers will be used in pension, medical care, assisted living care, welfare, workers insurance, and tax. It will be also used for deposit withdrawal and insurance payout at the time of a disaster like the March 11 earthquake/tsunami. The government will consider expansion of the use of the numbers by 2018.

OK.. Benefit for the citizen: sense of fairness, ability to withdraw money from the bank when disaster strikes. Benefit for the government: information on bank accounts, income, tax, where the citizen lives.

They don't even bother to translate "My Number", pronounced in Japanese as "ma-i nan-bah" into Japanese. I'm not sure whether all Japanese know what "my" is and what "number" is, but that's precisely the point, probably. If you tell them exactly what it is in Japanese, there may be some who will say "Wait a minute...".

"Oh don't worry the government already has our numbers anyway, just the matter of putting all those numbers together, what's the big deal? Nothing is private any more in this day and age" would be the comment from the defenders of "My Number", I am assuming.

Raw Footage of Fort Calhoun Nuke Plant Fly-by from AP

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: iRobot's "Warrior" to Do the Vacuum Cleaning on Reactor 3 Floor

TEPCO announced on June 30 that the "Warrior" robot from iRobot will vacuum clean the floor of the Reactor 3 reactor building in the area where the high radiation has been detected.

The US-made "Warrior" and Japanese-made vacuum cleaners. (Both Hitachi and Toshiba, TEPCO's affiliate companies at Fukushima I, manufactures vacuum cleaners as well as nuclear reactors...)

The press handout on June 30 says:

"Since radiation dose on the floor is high, we plan to conduct cleaning from July 1 in order to reduce the radiation exposure for the workers, removing the accumulated sand with vacuum cleaners and robots."

Accumulated sand?? From where?

2,700 Becquerels/Kg Cesium from Teas Picked by Elementary School Children in Itabashi, Tokyo

Children from 3 public elementary schools in Itabashi-ku in Tokyo did the tea picking in early May, the tea leaves were roasted and made into the final blend tea and was about to be given to the children. For some reason, the municipal officials decided to test the tea, and found radioactive cesium to the tune of 2,700 becquerels/kilogram, more than 5 times the loose national provisional safety limit of 500 becquerels/kilogram.

The public elementary schools and junior high schools in Itabashi are run by the Itabashi Board of Education. There are 53 elementary schools in Itabashi.

From Sankei Shinbun (6/30/2011):


Itabashi-ku (special ward) in Tokyo announced on June 30 that 2,700 becquerels/kilogram of radioactive cesium were detected in the final blend tea grown and processed in Itabashi, exceeding the national provisional safety limit of 500 becquerels/kilogram.


The tea farm is not a commercial operation but for people to experience how it is like to pick tea leaves. The final blend tea was made from the tea leaves picked by elementary school pupils. There is no other farm that produces and ship tea in Itabashi-ku.


In response, the Tokyo Metropolitan government has decided to test radioactive materials in 5 types of vegetables produced in Itabashi-ku and Nerima-ku.


According to Itabashi-ku, 300 pupils from 3 public elementary schools picked the first-pick tea ("ichiban-cha") on May 9, from which 20 kilograms of the final blend tea was made and ready on June 15. Before giving it to the pupils, Itabashi-ku tested the tea for radioactive materials to ascertain the safety. There was no radioactive iodine detected, and the amount of radioactive cesium in the second-pick tea was below the provisional limit.


Itabashi-ku plans to dispose the entire tea without giving it to the pupils, and says "there is no effect on health by having them pick tea leaves."

The famous last word in Japan since March 11, "There is no effect on health." At least, an increasing number of Japanese people now know that it simply means "there is no immediate effect on health."

According to the Itabashi-ku official website, cesium-134 was detected at 1,300 becquerels/kilogram, and cesium-137 was detected at 1,400 becquerels/kilogram.

I wonder how they are going to dispose the tea, though. I hope they just don't throw it in the garbage that gets sent to the waste disposal plant in Itabashi, which then burns the tea in the ordinary incinerator and spread cesium in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#Radiation in Japan: Radioactive Cesium from Urine Samples of 10 Children in Fukushima City

From Sankei Shinbun (6/30/2011):


A citizens' group in Fukushima Prefecture "Fukushima Network to Protect Children from Radiation" tested the urine samples from 10 children in Fukushima City, age 6 to 16, and announced on June 30 that a small amount of radioactive materials was detected from all samples.


The highest amount of cesium-134 was from an 8-year-old girl, at 1.13 becquerels per liter. The highest amount of cesium-137 was from a 7-year-old boy, at 1.30 becquerels per liter.


The samples were taken in late May, and sent to the French laboratory ACRO (Association pour le Contrôle de la Radioactivité dans l’Ouest) to testing for radiation. ACRO has experience in surveying the radiation exposure in children after the Chernobyl accident.


ACRO's president David Boilley said in the press conference, "There is a very high possibility that children in and around Fukushima City have been exposed to internal radiation. Prior to the [Fukushima] accident, these numbers would have been zero."

France's CRIIRAD Report Critical of Japanese Government Response to Radiation Contamination

The French non-profit organization Commission de Recherche et d'Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité, or CRIIRAD, visited Japan from May 24 to June 3 to collect information on the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident and radiation contamination as the result of the accident. The CRIIRAD issued a short, preliminary report on the findings.

Unlike the team from the IAEA who was in Japan approximately the same time meeting government officials and nuclear industry executives, the CRIIRAD seems to have come to a very different conclusion regarding the Japanese government's response to the crisis.

From the report in English (emphasis is mine):


The major preliminary findings of this research have been already presented at various public events organized in Fukushima city (Lecture on May 29th, press conference on May 30th ) and Tokyo (Press conferences on May 31st and June 1st, Audience at the Congress on June 1st, lecture and workshop on radiation monitoring on June 2nd). These findings and statements aresummarized below.

A more complete scientific report will be made available in the forthcoming weeks following analysis of soil and food samples returned to the CRIIRAD laboratory.

1 / Lack of appropriate information and protection against harmful effects of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accidents

Since March 12th, the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors and pools containing spent fuel have released huge amounts of radioactive substances in both the atmosphere and the ocean. According to official data, the most important radioactive releases in the atmosphere occurred between March 12Th and March 30th .

The Japanese government requested the evacuation of the inhabitants within a 20-km radius and indoor confinement for people living within a 20 to 30-km radius. But these countermeasures have revealed to be largely insufficient :

1. The people living outside the 20-km radius should have been evacuated according to wind direction and meteorological conditions. Winds and radioactive particles do not abide by administrative policies.

2. Confinement is efficient only in case of minor doses when the contamination of the air lasts over a short period of time. In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, the radioactive releases in the atmosphere persisted over several days (and are still occurring, though on a much lower level). Under such circumstances, confinement is not efficient due to the exchange rate between outside and inside air. The air inside the buildings will be contaminated at a level comparable to the outside air quality.

3. Stable iodine tablets are useful to reduce the absorption of radioactive iodine and therefore limit the risks of thyroid cancer particularly among young children. This risk is well-known since the Chernobyl accident. In order to be fully effective, iodine tablets must be ingested several hours before contamination occurs. In Japan, iodine tablets were not distributed proficiently. Testimonies collated during the CRIIRAD’s mission in Japan indicate that several local authorities, at municipal levels, opted to distribute iodine pills, as in the case of the city of Miaru [Miharu-machi] where the Mayor decided to distribute pills to his inhabitants on March 15th requiring them to actually ingest them. This initiative has been criticized by the Fukushima prefecture authorities. In Iwaki, a civic administrator was ready to organize the distribution of iodine tablets since March 12th. While the municipality was able to distribute the iodine tablets to the citizens on March 18th, people have been told not to take the pills unless expressly ordered to do so by the authorities...the instruction to ingest the pills was not issued. Other highly exposed inhabitants (like those living in Iitate) have not been issued any iodine tablets.

4. In case of radioactive releases in the atmosphere, the fallout on the ground will rapidly contaminate the food chain, in particular leafy vegetables and milk. The Japanese authorities decided to launch a special monitoring program only as of March 18Th. The first results revealed a massive contamination on several food samples. As an example, spinach sampled in Ibaraki prefecture on March 18th confirmed a contamination of 54 000 Bq/kg with iodine 131. The CRIIRAD calculated that for a child aged between 2 to 7 years old, the consumption of 200 grams of spinach delivers a dose exceeding the annual dose limit of 1 milliSievert. Additional results published later showed that iodine 131 contamination found in grass collected in Iitate about 40 km north-west of Fukushima Daiichi reached 2.5 million Bq/kg. The contamination of vegetables in the area has certainly been very high. It should be noted that for a child aged 2 to 7 years old, the mere consumption of 5 grams of such foods will deliver a dose exceeding 1 milliSievert. The authorities should have advised people, without delay on March 12TH , not to consume foods most at risk in areas where the radioactive fallouts were detected by gamma air dose monitors (this includes locations such as Onagawa, 100 km north of Fukushima, and Tokyo about 230 km south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant). Conversely, the Japanese authorities claimed that consuming such contaminated foods was the same as receiving a dose from a scanner.


CNN Has the Most Details in "Radioactive Iodine, Cesium Found in Urine Samples of 15 Fukushima Residents" News

For reference, the information contained in the Kyodo News Japanese reporting the same news (final version) is highlighted in blue (not in the exact words but content).

From CNN (6/27/2011):

(CNN) -- Japanese researchers have found radiation in all 15 people tested last month from the area near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Cesium was found in the participants, ranging from 4 to 77 years old, through two rounds of testing conducted by Nanao Kamada at the Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine of Hiroshima University.

Kamada insisted that the cesium numbers are minute and do not represent a health threat.

The people tested lived in the towns of Iitate and Kawamata, located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the nuclear plant.

The participants were also tested for radioactive iodine, which was found in the urine of six Fukushima prefecture residents.

The urine samples from a 77-year-old man in the first round of tests indicated radioactivity as high as 3.2 millisieverts. However, no iodine was found from the urine of the same man in the second round of tests, ruling out the possibility of air contamination.

"The cause might be that they ate contaminated vegetables and mushrooms before the restrictions, not by inhaling contaminated air," Kamada said, referring to a large scale restriction on Fukushima produce following the incident at the plants on March 11.

The data indicated that accumulated external exposure was between 4.9 and 13.5 millisieverts for the two months after the accident -- a number which could exceed the government limit of 20 millisieverts per year if they continue living in the area.

"From the perspective of protecting human health from radiation, it is clear that they unfortunately cannot continue to live in their homes," Kamada said. About 7,500 people were evacuated from the communities by the end of May, although some folks continue to live in Iitate.

The first test was conducted May 5, while the second was conducted at the end of the month. The results were announced to the residents June 19.

Kyodo added extra (in red, below) which is not in CNN, and which, it turns out, the doctor never said:

"If they do not eat contaminated vegetables from now on, there is no need to worry. But they cannot continue to live in their homes if the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident doesn't wind down," Kamada said, indicating agreement with the national government's policy that designated the area as "planned evacuation zone".

Kyodo News never mentioned radioactive iodine, never mentioned external exposure. It did mention the age of the subjects (4 to 77), radiation of about 3 millisieverts and the dates of the tests in the earlier version of the news, but deleted the information in the final version. In the earlier version, there was no mention of Professor Kamada agreeing with the national government policy or commenting on the Fukushima plant.

Of course, CNN in turn could be making up the stories...

(h/t doitsujin for CNN link)

Rejoice! Mito City Board of Education Declares Swimming Classes Are Safe at City's Schools

Sometimes, it makes one wonder why he/she should care about people in Japan, and I had one such moment when I read this article by Tokyo Shinbun.

Schools in Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture, just south of Fukushima Prefecture, have started PE classes using swimming pools.

From Tokyo Shinbun (6/29/2011):


The Board of Education in Mito City [in Ibaraki Prefecture] measured the radiation in swimming pool water at 32 elementary schools and 13 junior high schools in the city on June 27. The water was from tap water, and there was no radioactive materials detected. Safety of the water thus assured, the city's Board of Education issued the notice the same day that the schools may start the swimming classes.

 二十八日は、二十二の小学校、三の中学校で水泳授業がスタートした。笠原小では新たに購入した高圧洗浄機で念入りにプール内やプールサイドを洗い 流すなどして、今月上旬から準備を進めていた。気温三〇度近い晴天の下、プールに飛び込んだ同小六年の竹内康君(12)は「すごく気持ちいい。水泳をした かったのでよかった」と笑顔だった。

On June 28, 22 elementary schools and 3 junior high schools started the swimming classes. In one of the elementary schools, they've been preparing for the pool opening by washing the pool and the poolsides with a high pressure washer since the beginning of this month. A 6-grader boy was all smiles, after diving in the water on a hot, sunny day, "It feels great. I've been wanting to swim, so this is great."


According to the city's Board of Education, there are some parents who don't want their children to use the swimming pools even after the safety has been confirmed. If parents don't want swimming classes for their children they can submit the requests to the schools, and the Board will accept such requests. There are already several schools with parents requesting that their children do not participate.


According to the Ibaraki prefectural Board of Education, 42 municipalities out of 44 in Ibaraki have already started the swimming classes or are about to start. Hitachi City is waiting for the national standard to be set for swimming pools, and Kita Ibaraki City has decided not to hold swimming classes.

Good for Kita Ibaraki City.

The key is this: by default, swimming classes are on, for everyone. The parents have to submit a request to not have their children participate in the swimming classes.

"Yes, you can refuse to participate in the swimming classes. Now, DO YOU REFUSE?"

Or "Yes, you can refuse to participate. Your child's grade in PE will be 1, lowest grade, because without participation we have no way of grading him/her."

Or both. Sadly. That's Japan, and very a regimented educational system under the Ministry of Education and Science, with prefectural and municipal Board of Education as the Ministry's extension, even in this unprecedented nuclear accident that has spread a large amount of radioactive materials all over the northern hemisphere and even some in the southern hemisphere.

School schedules and events must be maintained at all costs.

Contaminated Water at #Fukushima Increased to Over 120,000 Tonnes

121,000 tonnes of highly contaminated water alone as of June 29, according to TEPCO, an increase of about 16,000 tonnes since the end of May.

From Asahi Shinbun (1:07AM JST 6/30/2011):

東京電力は29日、福島第一原子力発電所1~4号機などにたまった高濃度の放射能汚染水が28日現在で約12万1千トンに上ると発表した。5月末時 点から1万6千トン増えた。内訳は1~4号機の原子炉建屋やタービン建屋などに計約9万9440トン、汚染水を一時保管している集中廃棄物処理施設に計約 2万1730トン。

TEPCO announced on June 29 that the highly contaminated water in the buildings of Reactors 1 through 4 was about 121,000 tonnes as of June 28. It is an increase of 16,000 tonnes since the end of May. There are 99,440 tonnes of water in the reactor buildings and turbine buildings of the Reactors 1 through 4, and 21,730 tonnes in the Central Waste Processing Facility that temporarily stores the highly contaminated water.


TEPCO thinks it will be able to reduce the amount of the water by 3,000 tonnes in one week starting June 29. However, that schedule assumes the water treatment system to run at the operating rate of 80%. From June 17 to 28, the system ran at about 55%, processing 7,230 tonnes of water.

By the way, the water treatment system is stopped again, for yet another unknown reason. On June 29 alone, the system had to be stopped at least twice for water leakage in different parts of the system before the alarm that sounded in the evening shut down the entire system again. TEPCO is investigating.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Radioactive Tellurium Detected in Seawater at Water Intake

Radioactive tellurium was detected for the first time in the seawater at the water intake canal for the Reactor 1, but TEPCO thinks it's just a mix-up for some unknown reason, according to Yomiuri Shinbun (6/29/2011).

So I went to look for the original data at TEPCO.

It turns out that tellurium-129m (half-life 34 days) was found near the water intake canal for the Reactor 1, AND tellurium-129 (half-life 70 minutes) was found near the water intake canal for the Reactor 4. Tellurium-129 was also found in deep-sea water 8 kilometers off the coast of Fukushima.

Some kind of a mix-up.

TEPCO dumped 143 pages of "confirmed" data (no English yet) on types of nuclides and density found at and around Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in air and water on June 29. The company releases many of the data everyday or at a regular interval but the nuclides announced daily are iodine-131, cesium-134 and -137 only. For other nuclides, after being excoriated by NISA in early days of the crisis, they've stopped releasing the data until "confirmed".

It was on page 74, as part of the "confirmed" results of the seawater samples taken on June 4:

Te-129m (half-life 34 days): 720 becquerels/liter, outside the silt fence in front of the Reactor 1 water intake canal.

The legal safety limit for the exhaust water from a nuclear power plant is 300 becquerels/liter.

Then, on page 99 for the test results for the samples taken on June 12:

Te-129 (half-life 70 minutes): 230 becquerels/liter, outside the silt fence in front of the Reactor 4 water intake canal.

Te-129 was also found in the deep seawater 8 kilometers off the coast of Minami-Soma City and Onahama on June 7 (pages 27, 28) and June 9 (page 39) separately.

No data on this file on radioactive strontium (89 and 90), which is reported separately. No word ever on plutonium in any water or ocean soil.

Wildfire Approaches Thousands of Drums with Plutonium-Contaminated Waste at Los Alamos Lab

At least they are not saying "they are safe".

From AP:

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — A wildfire near the desert birthplace of the atomic bomb advanced on the Los Alamos laboratory and thousands of outdoor drums of plutonium-contaminated waste Tuesday as authorities stepped up efforts to protect the site and monitor the air for radiation.

Officials at the nation's premier nuclear-weapons lab gave assurances that dangerous materials were safely stored and capable of withstanding flames from the 95-square-mile fire, which at one point was as close as 50 feet from the grounds.

A small patch of land at the laboratory caught fire Monday before firefighters quickly put it out. Teams were on alert to pounce on any new blazes and spent the day removing brush and low-hanging tree limbs from the lab's perimeter.

"We are throwing absolutely everything at this that we got," Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said in Los Alamos.

The fire has forced the evacuation of the entire city of Los Alamos, population 11,000, cast giant plumes of smoke over the region and raised fears among nuclear watchdogs that it will reach as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste.

"The concern is that these drums will get so hot that they'll burst. That would put this toxic material into the plume. It's a concern for everybody," said Joni Arends, executive director of the Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, an anti-nuclear group.

Arends' organization also worried that the fire could stir up nuclear-contaminated soil on lab property where experiments were conducted years ago. Burrowing animals have brought that contamination to the surface, she said.

Lab officials said there was very little risk of the fire reaching the drums of low-level nuclear waste, since the flames would have to jump through canyons first. Officials also stood ready to coat the drums with fire-resistant foam if the blaze got too close.

Lab spokeswoman Lisa Rosendorf said the drums contain Cold War-era waste that the lab sends away in weekly shipments for storage. She said the drums were on a paved area with few trees nearby. As of midday Tuesday, the flames were about two miles from the material.

"These drums are designed to a safety standard that would withstand a wildland fire worse than this one," Rosendorf said.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NISA Removes Hidehiko Nishiyama from His Spokesman Job

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has removed Hidehiko Nishiyama from his position as the spokesman for the agency on June 29 and sent him packing back to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), because his love affair with a young woman (almost his daughter's age) has become a distraction, hindering the proper function of the agency. The woman also works at METI.

At the press conference on June 23, Nishiyama, 54-year-old career elite bureaucrat (Tokyo University Law School - Harvard Law School) married with 2 adult children (the daughter works for TEPCO, I don't know about the son), expressed regret that his private life was revealed in a major weekly magazine Shukan Shincho, but denied that he would resign his post as the NISA's spokesman.

He has been the familiar face of the Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident, ever since he became the third NISA spokesman on March 13. The first spokesman was quickly removed from the job after he said during the March 12 press conference that the fuel inside the Reactor 1 was probably melted. The second spokesman was also quickly removed when he said on the March 13 morning press conference, "I don't want to do this but I was told to do it so here I am."

Well, Nishiyama is gone now. His successor is Yoshinori Moriyama.

Ah, the end of an era.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Some Kind of Fissioning Still Somewhere?

Radioactive iodine (I-131) inside the silt fence at the water intake canal for the Reactor 2 continues to be detected, although the amount is nothing like what it used to be back in April.

From TEPCO's press releases, the amount of iodine-131 inside the silt fence at the water intake canal for the Reactor 2, in becquerels/liter

6/22: 310
6/23: 1,000
6/24: 180
6/25: 1,300
6/26: 1,600
6/27: 1,200

Fort Calhoun Nuke Plant: Borated Water in Reactor, Spent Fuel Pool, Normal Procedure, Says Plant CEO

Bits and pieces about the Fort Calhoun Nuke Plant in Nebraska:

  • They are using boric acid in the reactor and the spent fuel pool (CNN);

  • The "waterproof" turns out to be "aqua dams" and levees in front of the buildings that house key systems (CNN);

  • Spent fuel dry casks are outside the flood protected area "because they are sealed and bolted down" (Iowa Independent);

  • 2/3 of the active fuel rods are still inside the reactor ("baseless rumor" floating in cyberspace).

On CNN interview, the CEO of the plant says he and his people are battling "blowing in the wind" rumors like the Japanese government over Fukushima I Nuke Plant and radiation contamination. But if you look at the accompanying video, it makes you wonder: why weren't they better prepared, if this flooding was totally expected and it is business as usual, as the CEO tries to tell us?

(By the way, I don't think this video is what CNN intended to upload. The only intended part seems to be the brief interview with the CEO. The rest of the video shows punctured aqua dam, pumping of water from behind the sandbags, not very assuring.)

From CNN (6/28/2011):

Fort Calhoun, Nebraska (CNN) -- Tim Nellenbach is on a mission as he shows a small group of journalists around his workplace. The manager of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant and his colleagues are bent on dispelling rumors about the condition of their facility: rumors about a meltdown, about a loss of power. The rumors are patently false, they say, and it's frustrating to have to deal with them while also battling a genuine crisis.

These officials are also acutely aware of comparisons to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, which crippled a nuclear power plant there, leading to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

"There's no likelihood of a Fukushima-like incident here," Nellenbach says.

So does Gary Gates, CEO of the Fort Calhoun plant.

"It is not another Fukushima. The difference is the rapid flooding that occurred at Fukushima. This was a predicted event, to a degree, from the Corps of Engineers. The floodwaters at Fort Calhoun are outside the plant. There is no water inside the plant. The reactor is covered with borated water. The spent fuel is covered with borated water, which we want it to be. That's intentional. That's where it should be. The floodwaters are outside Fort Calhoun, not inside," Gates explains.

Still, there is a genuine crisis at the plant. Floodwaters from the swollen Missouri River have engulfed this facility. The parking lots are underwater. The river's fast-paced currents are swirling against several buildings in this compound. Catwalks had to be constructed to allow workers to move from one building to the next. The buildings housing the reactor core, the spent fuel rods and other crucial components are protected by small levees and aqua-berms. But outside those barriers, the water is at least 2 feet above ground level.

The Fort Calhoun plant has 40-foot deep spent fuel pool underground, as well as the above-ground dry cask storage. (Information from wiki)

The Iowa Independent reported on June 24 that the dry casks storage facility is not protected from the flood, because the dry casks are bolted down and secure.

As for the baseless rumor that the 2/3 of the nuclear fuel rods are still inside the reactor, I'd say that was true after all, if they are putting boric acid in the cooling water.

The NRC chairman Jacko, who toured the site on Monday, had these discomforting words to say, according to CNN's article:

"In the end," Jaczko said, "this challenge is yours."

That's eerily reminiscent of the Japanese regulators who have been basically saying this to TEPCO for over 3 months.

I also seem to remember it took TEPCO some time till it finally admitted that the Reactors 5 and 6 were fully loaded with nuclear fuel rods when the earthquake and tsunami hit at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, even though they were still in the scheduled maintenance.

I also remember those official and unofficial "debunkers" going after journalists and bloggers who spread "rumors" in the early days of the Fukushima accident.

Keeping Up the Appearance: TEPCO's Water Circulation System to Cool the Reactors

The system, as currently set up, is actually increasing the amount of highly contaminated water by 72 tonnes per day, because TEPCO is mixing in the fresh water.

This is the system diagram from TEPCO on June 28 press conference. It appears that the contaminated water is fed from the subdrain outside the Reactor 2 turbine building and from the Reactor 3 turbine building. Nothing from the Reactor 1. The treated water is combined with fresh water before it gets fed to the reactors. Water flow is being adjusted by the numerous valves (lower right of the diagram):

On a separate PDF file, there is an even more convoluted diagram of the contaminated water treatment system by Toshiba-Kurion-AREVA-Hitachi. By switching the valve, they can process the water in AREVA's system first, and then in Kurion's. Considering the frequent downtime of Kurion's system (vessels need to be changed often and flushed often), maybe that's a good idea.

This how it is all laid out physically, including PVC pipes connected to 4 kilometers long.

There are two more diagrams of the system. You can view all 4 diagrams in this file here.

Not so good news is hidden in one of the diagrams (page 3 of the above file) that says "Flow Rate of Treated Water Injected to Reactors: 13 cubic meters/hour".

The current total amount of water being fed to the reactors is 16 cubic meters/hour. They are using fresh (filtered) water in the amount of 3 cubic meters/hour.

So, at least for now, they are still ADDING the contaminated water by 72 cubic meters, or 72 tonnes, per day.

Well, that's infinitely better than adding 400 to 500 tonnes of it every day, like they have been doing for the past 3 months or so.

#Radiation in Japan: Government to Use SPEEDI for Radiation Exposure Survey for Fukushima Residents

The Japanese government, who hid and hid the SPEEDI simulation data that mostly correctly predicted the radioactive material dispersion in the early, crucial days of the accident (March 11 to about March 25, first 2 weeks) and as the result exposed tens of millions to external and now internal radiation that might have been avoided, now says they will use the SPEEDI to figure out the amount of external radiation for the residents in Fukushima Prefecture.

Are the Fukushima residents supposed to be grateful for that?

What about the rest of Tohoku and Kanto, where the high-radiation "hot spots" have been cropping up all over the place?

More than 3 months into the accident and with ever-accumulating radiation in people, many public and private institutions from the national government on down is eager to test the radiation levels. Yes, now let's collect the world-class data! (Sorry for being cynical.)

From Yomiuri Shinbun (11:29PM JST 6/28/2011):


The Japanese government's headquarters for the nuclear disaster countermeasures announced on June 28 that the SPEEDI system will be used for the survey of the Fukushima residents to determine the radiation exposure after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The SPEEDI system is designed to forecast the dispersion of the radioactive materials.


The government will use SPEEDI to calculate the air radiation levels from March 12 to March 16 to help determine the external radiation exposure for the residents.


Many radiation monitoring stations did not work after the March 11 earthquake, and the air radiation levels were not known until March 17 when the portable monitoring stations were used to measure radiation.


The government will use SPEEDI to calculate the amount of radioactive materials released and create the hourly radiation contour maps, then calculate the personal external radiation level for each resident by figuring out where he/she was during that period.


The government thinks it will take about 2 weeks to create and publish the maps, and one month to calculate the individual radiation levels.

The Japanese taxpayers footed the bill for this costly system so that it could predict the radioactive material dispersion in case of a nuclear accident AND warn them in advance. Having failed miserably in that task (thanks to the government who supposedly feared panic and/or couldn't release the simulations because they were just, well, simulations), now it will be used to tell people how much radiation they have been exposed, after the fact.

TEPCO's Shareholders' Meeting Finally Over after 6 Hours

From the tweet of the journalist at the event:

During the Q&A session, an irate shareholder shouted at the TEPCO's management, "Go inside the reactor and die!"

A great commotion inside the hall ensued, and a snicker in the TEPCO's press room.

Monday, June 27, 2011

#Radiation in Japan: Radioactive Cesium from Ashes from Household Garbage at Waste Disposal Plant in Edogawa-Ku, Tokyo

Not a water purification plant or at a waste water treatment plant, but a plant that burns regular, household garbage in eastern Tokyo was found with a high level of radioactive cesium in the fly ashes caught in the incinerator filter.

Edogawa-ku is located at the eastern end of Tokyo. Along with its northern neighbor Katsushika-ku, Edogawa-ku seems to have been in denial of the elevated radiation levels throughout the ward, and has only recently (June 18) started to measure the radiation at multiple locations within the ward.

The Edogawa waste disposal plant is located by the Edogawa River that separates Edogawa-ku and Chiba Prefecture. The plant can burn 600 tonnes of garbage per day with 24-hour operation, with 2 incinerators. It's in a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood, with 2 elementary schools nearby, and a nursery school right next to the plant, according to the Google Map.

From Sankei Shinbun (6/27/2011):

東京都と東京23区清掃一部事務組合は27日、一般家庭ゴミなどを処理する23区内の清掃工場のうち、江戸川清掃工場で発生した焼却灰から、1キロ グラムあたり8千ベクレルを超える放射性セシウムが検出されたと発表した。同組合によると、灰はフィルターで集められ、運搬時などは密閉しているほか、施 設周辺の空間放射線量の測定結果からも、外部環境への影響はないとみている。

The Tokyo Metropolitan government and the "Clean Association Tokyo 23" (organization of waste disposal facilities in Tokyo's 23 "ku" or wards) announced on June 27 that radioactive cesium in excess of 8,000 becquerels/kilogram was detected from the fine ashes from the waste disposal plant in Edogawa-ku. The plant burns regular garbage collected from households in Edogawa-ku. According to the Association, the ashes are collected by the filter, and the filter is in a sealed container during transport. The air radiation levels have been measured around the plant, and there appears to be no effect on the environment.


According to the Tokyo Metropolitan government, it was the first time that any municipal government measured the ashes from the regular waste disposal.



There are two types of ashes as the result of incineration at the waste disposal plants: "main ashes" that collect inside the incinerator, and "fly ashes" that are collected by the filter.


Rradioactive cesium of over 8,000 becquerels/kilogram was detected from the fly ashes produced at the Edogawa Waste Disposal Plant. Cesium from the main ashes from the plant, or the fly ashes and main ashes from the other waste disposal plants was less than 8,000 becquerels/kilogram.


The fly ashes at the Edogawa plant will be stored temporarily at a facility at the plant that can shield radiation. The main ashes will be buried in the final waste processing facility.


The Tokyo Metropolitan government will continue the survey of the ashes, and will ask municipalities in Tama region [western part of Tokyo] to conduct the survey.

There is no safety standard for radioactive materials in wastes OUTSIDE Fukushima Prefecture. So, the Tokyo Metropolitan government is using the standard that the national government has set for Fukushima Prefecture, and it will bury the main ashes and fly ashes as long as the radioactive materials detected are less than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram.

Now, here's the actual survey result, dated June 27. The amount of cesium detected from the fly ashes at the Edogawa plant is 9,740 becquerels/kilogram.

Other high but below 8000 numbers (page 3):

  • Katsushika: 6,610 becquerels/kg

  • Ota: 6,030 becquerels/kg

  • Koto: 4,850 becquerels/kg

  • Meguro: 4,180 becquerels/kg

Looking at the numbers for the air radiation in the surrounding areas (page 5), contrary to what Sankei reports, the areas do seem to have elevated levels of air radiation.

For the Edogawa Plant, the air radiation level inside the plant is between 0.07 to 0.16 microsievert/hour. Outside the plant, the level is much higher, between 0.21 to 0.24 microsievert/hour.

As I said above, a nursery school is right next to the plant, and there are 2 elementary schools nearby.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down...

TEPCO's Annual Shareholders Meeting Still Ongoing, Over 3 Hours

It will be the record, longest shareholders' meeting ever for TEPCO.

From the tweets from independent journalists and mainstream journalists attending the event, there are about 9200 shareholders attending, overflowing into the hallway.

Shareholders asking too many questions, and Chairman Katsumata is getting impatient, and will take only one more question.

They've been at this without a break, without a lunch.

TEPCO management and directors and large institutional shareholders will bulldoze any motion to their liking and close the meeting, like they've done every single year. The only difference is that they are forced to do so with journalists tweeting near real-time and twitter followers aghast at the arrogance of the management and large shareholders and re-tweeting by hundreds.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: New and Improved Reactor Cooling System Using Treated Water Shuts Down After 1.5 Hour of Operation

Yes, yes it is a big system, which should have been carefully prepared and tested for at least one or two years and they did it in 2 months.

A leak was found on a joint of PVC pipes that transport the treated water.

In earlier Yomiuri article, 4 kilometer long PVC pipes feed the treated water to the reactors, and TEPCO people were worried about the leak all along.

I guess they were too preoccupied with Kurion's zeolite vessels (which require frequent change and system downtime) and didn't have time to test the 4 kilometer long network of PVC pipes.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (1:31AM JST 6/28/2011):


TEPCO started the cooling of the reactors using the water treated by the contaminated water treatment system at 4:20PM JST on June 27.


However, a water leak from the pipe joint of a water feeding pipe was discovered, and the water injection into the reactors were stopped after one and a half hour. TEPCO will investigate in the morning of June 28.


According to TEPCO, the contaminated water treatment system itself continues to operate. Cooling of the reactors is unaffected, as they are using the water from the storage tanks as before.


A leak was found on a 10-centimeter diameter PVC pipe. It is a pipe that feeds fresh water to the pump that pumps water into the reactors. A worker who went to adjust the flow rate found the leak. TEPCO says the leaked water was treated, and there is no effect on the work at the plant.

To clarify, this "fresh water" was made "fresh" by going through the 4-step contaminated water treatment system.

Fort Calhoun Nuke Plant: Flood Water Has "Seeped" into the Turbine Building But "Everything's Under Control"

I guess it all depends on the definition of the word "seep".

And all the buildings at the plant were supposed to be "watertight", according to the NRC.

From AP (6/27/2011):

Floodwater seeps into Nebraska nuke plant building

OMAHA (AP) -- Missouri River floodwater seeped into the turbine building at a nuclear power plant near Omaha on Monday, but plant officials said the seepage was expected and posed no safety risk because the building contains no nuclear material.

An 8-foot-tall, water-filled temporary berm protecting the plant collapsed early Sunday. Vendor workers were at the plant Monday to determine whether the 2,000 foot berm can be repaired.

Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson said pumps were handling the problem at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station and that "everything is secure and safe." The plant, about 20 miles north of Omaha, has been closed for refueling since April. Hanson said the berm's collapse didn't affect the shutdown or the spent fuel pool cooling.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks described the situation as stable. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko plans to inspect the Fort Calhoun plant on Monday as part of a pre-arranged visit to Nebraska.

(The article continues.)

Doesn't it all sound familiar for people who have been following Fukushima?

Hypothetical progression of the minor "incident" at Fort Calhoun, after the established Fukushima model:

"Everything under control, buildings are watertight."
"Well, there was some "seepage" in the turbine building, but everything is secure and safe. It's all part of the plan."
"Well, the turbine building is actually flooded, but the reactor building is secure."
"Well, there's some water puddles in the reactor building, but the Containment Vessel is secure."
"Well, ....."

In this picture of the plant (H/T Dominique), I see sandbags against some openings. Is this what they meant by "watertight"? (More photos at this link.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#Radiation in Japan: Government Wants to Offer Japan's Seafood to Developing Nations

As part of the ODA (Official Development Assistance) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a host of aid programs for developing nations around the world, the Japanese national government is going to buy up processed seafood [canned fish, for example?] from the earthquake-affected areas and offered them to developing nations.

It's not clear whether these seafood packages will be free or they will make the developing nations pay, even a token amount. But don't worry, says Nikkei Shinbun, they will be first tested for radiation by the WFP (UN's World Food Program).

From Kyodo News Japanese (6/26/2011):

政府開発援助(ODA)配分など2011年度の国際協力重点方 針案が26日、判明した。東日本大震災被災地の水産加工食品などを購入して途上国に提供するなど、国際社会にも「開かれた復興に資するためのODA活用を 最優先課題とする」と明記。被災地に外国人研修員を積極的に受け入れることで風評被害防止にも取り組むとした。

The government plan for the international aid programs for the 2011 fiscal year [that started in April 1] became known on June 26, which include the Official Development Assistance (ODA). The plan states that the government will purchase the processed seafood from the areas affected by the March 11 earthquake and offer them to developing nations, and that "it will make it the utmost priority to utilize the ODA for the recovery open to the international community". Under the plan, the government will also accept more foreign "trainees" in the affected areas to counter the baseless rumors [of radiation contamination].


The government will decide on the plan on June 27. There are critics who have been pushing for the reduction of the ODA budget as the recovery/reconstruction from the earthquake is likely to be very costly. In response to the critics, the government will frame the ODA as part of recovery/reconstruction. Part of the program cost will be included in the 3rd supplementary budget of the fiscal 2011.

Foreign "trainees" usually means cheap labors from developing nations. Before the earthquake/tsunami of March 11, there were many "trainees" from China working in the seafood processing plants at the ports in the Tohoku region, even as the jobs were not abundant for the locals.

A baseless rumor or ”blowing in the wind” rumor (風評), has become the euphemism for "radiation", as you already know.

The Japanese government wants to buy up fish and other seafood from fishermen in Tohoku, package them and sell them to developing nations so that Tohoku can recover.

(That's totally in line with the Japan-US plan to create the final processing plant for used fuels in Mongolia.)

Please keep in mind that this is what the national government (and probably the prefectural governments in Tohoku) wants, and not the fishermen themselves. I'm sure some fishermen will be all for it, but others won't be, as I've read about them who simply stopped fishing when they become aware that the fish were contaminated with radioactive materials.


If you want to write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, here's the web page that you can send your message. It's on their Japanese site only:

The fields from the top: Subject, Message (1000 characters), Email address, Phone number, Age, Gender (male, female), Occupation.

Required fields are Subject and Message.

Left button: Review the message

Right button: Reset

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Reactor 3's Radiation Remains High

2 Packbots from iRobot were apparently accompanied by 5 carbon-based workers and entered the Reactor 3's reactor building to take the radiation measurement on June 24.

The result was announced on June 25 by TEPCO, and the radiation level remains high. At many places it was higher than in the previous survey which was done on June 8.

This time, they either didn't take the measurements or didn't disclose the measurements near the staircase that leads to the contaminated water in the reactor building basement (southwest corner).

Comparing this map to the one they disclosed on June 9 (June 8 survey results) below, it is clear that they weren't disclosing all measurements done on June 8. Sigh. When will they ever learn?

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: T-Hawk on the Roof

Poor thing. The photo was taken on June 24 from the crane. TEPCO and some media called it an "emergency landing" on the roof of Reactor 2 building, as if the landing was controlled.

According to the tweets from a worker (Happy20790) who's been at the plant from the beginning of the accident, the strange lights that were seen in TEPCO's live cam at night were from T-Hawk operating at night. The worker also says that these T-Hawks are just too light and unstable, so they are tweaking the location of the camera to somehow balance better.

(People who know about nuclear power plants have said his tweets are credible.)

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Cooling of Reactors Using Treated Water to Start June 27 PM

(Reactors? What reactors?)

According to Yomiuri Shinbun (1:25AM JST 6/27/2011), TEPCO says the water treated by the contaminated water treatment system will be used to cool the reactors at Reactors 1, 2 and 3, starting June 27 afternoon.

TEPCO so far has 1500 tonnes of treated water. The run rate is about 500 tonnes per day, although in the past week or so they have reduced to less than 400 tonnes per day to prevent the overflow.

Just in time for their annual shareholders' meeting, which will be held on June 28.

And never mind that the corium may not be in the so-called (broken) reactors any more. "Extend and Pretend", which has worked for TEPCO and the Japanese government for the past 3 months.

The article also says that TEPCO will start the operation of the Spent Fuel Pool air cooling system for the Reactor 3 on June 30, more than 3 months ahead of the schedule outlined in the so-called "roadmap". How wonderful. More good news, just in time for the shareholders' meeting.

Maybe TEPCO's shareholders will be so pleased with the "progress" that they may be willing to approve the 100 billion yen (US$1.24 billion) underground dam construction (link goes to Mainichi English) to prevent the contaminated water from spreading underground.

The Japanese government still "extends and pretends" that the whole accident is just the matter to be resolved by a private entity (TEPCO), the stance they've taken from the very beginning.