Saturday, October 1, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: March 15 6AM Explosion Was "Somewhere in the Plant", Not Near Reactor 4

I just noticed something in TEPCO's past report on its facilities, which I linked in my previous post.

What I linked was their English report, and about the event in Reactor 4 it says this:

"At approx. 6:00am, March 15, an explosive sound was heard and the damage in the 5th floor roof of Unit 4 reactor building was confirmed."

I always assumed that the explosive sound was from Reactor 4. Then a few minutes ago I was reading the same report in Japanese, and what TEPCO says there is slightly different:


At approximately 6:00am, March 15, an explosive sound happened [somewhere] in the plant compound. Later, a damage in the 5th floor roof of Unit 4 reactor building was confirmed.

It does not say the explosive sound came from or near the Reactor 4 building. (Besides if I translate literally, it doesn't say "explosive" at all; it says "big sound" or "loud noise".) It lets readers naturally assume that the big sound was from Reactor 4 because of the damage you can see today, but technically TEPCO isn't connecting the two events - big sound and the damage in the Reactor 4 roof. ("Damage" is such an understatement.)

Checking the explosive events for Reactors 1, 2 and 3, TEPCO's Japanese and English reports both say "near Unit 1", "near the suppression chamber [of Unit 2]" and "near Unit 3".

Companies like TEPCO, as well as government ministries and agencies, craft their language very, very carefully. Particularly for the event like this nuclear accident with huge liabilities TEPCO has been extremely careful in not saying what it doesn't want to be construed in a wrong way.

It is possible that I am reading too much into this, but I do believe that TEPCO does not quite know what exactly happened in the early morning of March 15. It is clear that some explosive event happened, but TEPCO doesn't quite know where it happened. So in the Japanese report it said the explosive sound was heard somewhere on the plant, and in English report they decided to drop the location altogether.

Whatever happened that morning, it released a huge amount of radioactive materials that spread all the way down south to Tokyo and beyond.

TEPCO Now Says There Was No Hydrogen Explosion at Reactor 2

From Yomiuri Shinbun (3:03AM JST 10/2/2011):


Details of an interim report by TEPCO's internal "Fukushima nuclear accident investigation committee" (headed by Vice President Masao Yamazaki) were revealed.


The committee reversed the company's position that there had been a hydrogen explosion in Reactor 2, and now concluded there was no such explosion. As to the tsunami that triggered the accident, the committee says "it was beyond expectations"; of the delay in initial response to the accident, the committee concludes "it couldn't be helped". Overall, the report looks full of self-justification. TEPCO plans to run the report with the verification committee made of outside experts before it publishes the report.


At Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, the Reactor 1 reactor building blew up in a hydrogen explosion in the afternoon of March 12, followed by a hydrogen explosion of Reactor 3 in the morning of March 14. Further, in the early morning on March 15, there was an explosive sound, and the damage to the Reactor 4 reactor building was confirmed. Right after the explosive sound the pressure in the Suppression Chamber of Reactor 2 dropped sharply, which led TEPCO to conclude that there were near-simultaneous explosions in Reactors 2 and 4. The Japanese government reported the events as such in the report to IAEA in June.

So then what does TEPCO now think happened in Reactor 2 in the early morning on March 15? Yomiuri doesn't say in the article text, but at the bottom of the illustration that accompanies the article it says:

"There was no explosion, but a possibility of some kind of damage to the Containment Vessel."

So, before TEPCO completely changes story, here's what they say happened on Reactor 2 on March 15 (from the daily "Status of TEPCO's Facilities - past progress" report, page 6):

It says "abnormal sound was confirmed near the suppression chamber" at 6:14AM on March 15.

Now, this is what TEPCO says about Reactor 4 on the same day, about the same time, from Page 16:

It says "an explosive sound was heard" at 6AM on March 15. The Reactor 4 explosion occurred before the Reactor 2 "explosion" which TEPCO now says never happened.

The two sounds are 14 minutes apart, and TEPCO now claims they misheard the second one and there was no explosion in the Suppression Chamber of Reactor 2.

(By the way, the fire spotted at 9:38AM on March 15 on Reactor 4 was never reported to the local fire department or the local government, as I reported on March 15.)

Well I can't wait to read their report and see how they explain away how Reactor 2 is supposed to have spewed more radioactive materials far and wide than any other Reactors.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Three Plutonium Brothers Revisited

Now that the national government has finally owned up to the existence of plutonium and strontium outside Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (in case of strontium-89, as far as Shirakawa City, 79 kilometers from the plant), it seems like a good time to revisit what the government researchers were saying about "heavy" plutonium that we didn't need to worry about a bit, back in March and April.

Particularly the second guy, Keiichi Nakagawa of Tokyo University, said plutonium was so heavy it wouldn't disperse, and only the workers at the plant needed to worry.

(From my post on 8/8/2011)

Nakagawa: To begin with, this material is very heavy. So, unlike iodine, it won't disperse in the air. Workers at the plant MAY be affected. So, I'd caution them to be careful. But I don't think the public should worry.

My original post has the transcript (translation) of the video, which was captioned by Tokyo Brown Tabby. The Japanese video was compiled by sievert311.

#Radioactive "Ekiden" Race in Fukushima City in 1 Microsievert/Hr Radiation, for Teenage Female Runners

I just do not understand these people who insist on carrying out what was planned before March 11 just because... just because.

Here's one of them, Tohoku Athletic Association, who is planning to hold the 27th Annual East Japan Women's Ekiden, of all place, in Fukushima City. Fukushima TV Network is a co-sponsor, with the backing from Sankei Shinbun.

"Ekiden" is a long-distance relay where the teams run the full marathon length (42.195 kilometers) in several stages on the road, with a runner of one stage handing off the team sash to his/her team mate who will run the next stage. It is quite popular in Japan as well as outside Japan, and there is even an "ekiden" event for elementary school girls with much shorter distance. (But long enough to kill one 11-year-old girl in Saitama City during practice, and no it was not heat exhaustion.)

From Sankei Shinbun, as appeared in Yahoo Japan News (therefore don't expect the link to last very long; 9/28/2011):


It has been decided that a joint team of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefecture who suffered in the March 11 earthquake/tsunami will be entered in the 27th Annual East Japan Women's Ekiden which will be held on November 13, the sponsors announced on September 28.


The event is sponsored by the Tohoku Athletic Association and Fukushima TV Network, and backed by Sankei Sports and others. Female runners from 17 Prefectures will run in Fukushima in late autumn. In addition to the prefectural teams, the three disaster-affected prefectures will form a joint team, and run the 42.195 kilometers in 9 stages in friendship and hope for the recovery of their prefectures.


There is a concern over radiation effect from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant Accident, but according to the sponsors, "We've been measuring the air radiation level along the course, and currently it is over 1 microsievert/hour maximum. It is trending down". In preparation for the event, Fukushima City is planning to decontaminate locations including the Shinobugaoka Athletic Field which the Ekiden starts and finishes.

It is reaching the point of criminality, of knowingly exposing young women, majority of them in mid to late teens in junior high schools and high schools, to radiation higher than that of the radiation control zone in a nuclear power plant. They will run in their shorts and sleeveless tops, without the masks of course. Last year, the youngest runner was 13 years old.

Fukushima City is where Greenpeace detected cobalt-60 in a park in a residential neighborhood, where decontamination work in certain districts resulted in "raising" the radiation levels.

This is lunacy. The coaches and corporate sponsors and others with vested interest would never dream of not going to the event. But the ones that I don't understand are the parents of these underage girls. Once in a lifetime chance to run in a big event must mean so much to the parents that they are willing to send their daughters to a radiation control zone to run.

Prof. Yukio Hayakawa: Radiation Contamination Route Map

Professor Yukio Hayakawa of Gunma University has been revising his radiation contour map that he first made available in April. Now, he has a version of the map dated September 30 that indicates the routes and the timing of contamination, as you see below.

Professor Hayakawa says in the September 30 post that he specifically prohibits the use of the map by newspapers and television networks, as he protests the "unjust" firing of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hachiro, which many in Japan, including politicians and some people in the mass media, considered as a hit job by a pro-nuke faction to bring down Hachiro.

Click on the map for a bigger view, or go to this link for a cleaner map.

For PDF file of the map, go here.

Some Japanese seem to think Professor Hayakawa is controversial because he doesn't mince his words to appear "nice" to the "victims" in Fukushima Prefecture. He openly accuses Fukushima farmers for "producing the poisonous (radiation-contaminated) produce and spreading them all over Japan". He says they had a choice of not farming this year, but they did.

Some contrast to Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University, who openly calls for the consumption of radiation-contaminated foods by adults in order to save the children and to save the farmers.

OT: Ig Noble Peace Prize Goes to the Mayor of Vilnius in Lithuania

for crushing an illegally parked Mercedez with an armoured tank....

A team of Japanese researchers won the Ig Noble Prize for Chemistry, for "determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm."

Hehehe. For the list of Ig Noble Prize recipients and their achievements, go to the Ig Noble site.

The award ceremony was on September 29, 2011, and proud recipients attended the event.

Ministry of Education Maps of Plutonium and Strontium Show Wide Dispersion of Supposedly Heavy Nuclides

On September 30 the Ministry of Education and Science posted the blurry maps plotting the locations where plutonium and strontium have been detected.

(On the same day, September 30, the national government abolished the evacuation-ready zone between the 20 and 30 kilometer radius from the plant, "allowing" the residents to return.)

The Ministry's 10-page document is in Japanese only for now.

According to the Ministry, the survey for plutonium and strontium was carried out in early June to early July in 100 locations within the 80-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant by government researchers. One location each in 59 municipalities within the 80-kilometer radius was picked, based on the air radiation level and the high population density. The remaining 41 locations were picked from within the 20-kilometer radius evacuation zones.

The Ministry claims it is the first time plutonium has been detected outside the plant, but all that means is that it is the first time a government ministry has admitted to the existence of plutonium outside the plant. As the readers of this blog already knows, as early as April the researchers were taking soil samples outside the plant and have them tested for plutonium and found it (see here and here).

The Ministry's conclusion is that the amount of plutonium is not that big to cause any alarm, and that they should focus more on the decontamination of cesium-134 and -137.

As for strontium, the Ministry does sound a bit more nervous. It says the ratios of radioactive strontium to cesium-137 in these locations were calculated; the ratios varied too much, indicating there was no correlation between the deposition of radioactive strontium and radioactive cesium. The Ministry will conduct further, more detailed study in locations that had higher strontium ratios.

Plutonium-238 (top number in the map), Plutonium-239+240 (bottom number):

Strontium-89 (top number in the map), -90 (bottom number):

Ministry of Education Admits to Plutonium in Iitate-mura in Fukushima

35 kilometers northwest of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Jiji Tsushin (5:42PM JST 9/30/2011):


Ministry of Education and Science disclosed on September 30 that plutonium has been detected from the soil in Futaba-machi, Namie-machi and Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture, which derived from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. According to the Ministry, it is the first detection of plutonium outside the plant.

Readers of this blog have been alerted to the existence of neptunium-239 (which decays into plutonium-239) in the soil of Iitate-mura, so it should be no surprise. It is no surprise at all either that it has taken more than 6 months for the Ministry of (Re-)Education to admit.

Neptunium-239 has reportedly been detected in Date City also. That's even further away from the plant (60 kilometers).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

WSJ: Potassium Iodide That Never Came

for the residents near Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, because of "miscommunication" between the government agencies in the post-accident confusion.

(And after more than 6 months WSJ still tries to give two versions of the same story - one for the Japanese, one for everyone else, withholding information in the Japanese version. See the bottom of the post for more.)

But if you read the article carefully, "miscommunication" alone does not explain the actions taken by both the national government and the Fukushima prefectural government.

But here's the Wall Street Journal article by Yuka Hayashi (9/29/2011) to form your own opinion (emphasis is mine). The WSJ article has a map of Fukushima that shows the affected municipalities:

TOKYO—Government officials failed to distribute to thousands of people pills that could have minimized radiation risks from the March nuclear accident, government documents show.

The disclosure is the latest evidence of government neglect of emergency procedures in the chaotic days after the disaster, in which an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The Fukushima area and some municipalities surrounding the stricken plant had ample stocks of potassium iodide, like most local communities near nuclear reactors around the world. That is a relatively safe compound that can prevent thyroid cancer, the most common serious outcome of a major nuclear accident.

Government disaster manuals require those communities to wait for the central government to give the order before distributing the pills. Though Japan's nuclear-safety experts recommended dispensing pills immediately, Tokyo didn't order pills be given out until five days after the March 11 accident, the documents show.

By then, most of the nearly 100,000 residents evacuated had gone to safer areas and the release of radiation from the plant had subsided from its earlier peaks.

Potassium iodide, which blocks radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid gland, is most effective when taken just before exposure, or within two hours after. It has little effect when administered days after the release of radiation.

In interviews with The Wall Street Journal, several national and local government officials and advisers blamed the delay on a communications breakdown among different government agencies with responsibilities over various aspects of the disaster.

They also cited an abrupt move by the government shortly after the accident, when local officials raised sharply the level of radiation exposure that would qualify an individual for iodine pills and other safety measures, such as thorough decontamination.

"Most of our residents had no idea we were supposed to take medication like that," said Juichi Ide, general-affairs chief of Kawauchi Village, located about 20 miles from the plant. "By the time the pills were delivered to our office on the 16th, everyone in the village was gone."

Mr. Ide said the boxes containing pills, also known as KI, for Kawauchi's 3,000 residents still sit in its now-empty village hall.

The towns closest to the plant had pills in stock, and two of them—Futaba and Tomioka—did distribute them to residents without awaiting word from Tokyo. Two communities farther away from the plant, Iwaki and Miharu, handed out KI pills to their residents based on their own decisions. While Iwaki residents were told to hold off until the government gave instructions, those in Miharu took the pills, leading late to a reprimand from prefectural officials.

Japanese radiation experts say results of subsequent tests among Fukushima residents suggest few had been exposed to dosages large enough to raise the risk significantly of developing thyroid disease, even without the medication. [This statement is simply not true. Actually, the expert at Nuclear Safety Commission the article cites later said in August that at least 40% of the evacuees must have reached the level where they should have taken the KI pills.]

Still, officials from two government bodies—the Nuclear Safety Commission and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency—are asking why the residents weren't given the pills known to be highly effective, particularly among young children.

A NISA official said the agency is investigating the case.

"It was very clear to us experts what we needed to worry about the most was to provide protection against the risk of thyroid cancer among children," said Gen Suzuki, a physician specializing in radiation research who was summoned to the Nuclear Safety Commission following the March 11 accident as a member of its emergency advisory team. "I had simply assumed local residents had been given potassium iodide."

When he learned recently [in August, as clearly stated in the Japanese version of the article] that wasn't the case, Mr. Suzuki said he was "flabbergasted."

The NSC, a national government-policy advisory body, recently posted on its website a hand-written note dated March 13 as proof that it recommended distribution and ingestion of the pills.

NISA, the main nuclear-regulatory body charged with administering the government's nuclear-disaster headquarters, says the note never came.

Kenji Matsuoka, director of the Nuclear Emergency Preparedness Division at NISA, said the agency was still investigating the case of the lost memo. "We are sorry if the message was lost because of the chaos at the disaster headquarters," he said. "Our priority at that time was getting people out as quickly as possible."

Officials in Fukushima prefecture in charge of distributing potassium iodide to local communities say they waited in vain for an instructions from the government's disaster headquarters, headed by then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The failure to disburse the preventive pills follows other examples of how the Japanese government failed to implement available measures aimed at protecting local residents from the harms of radiation.

Some local officials have accused the government of failing to share the data from its radiation-projection systems, which, they said, resulted in their evacuating residents into highly contaminated areas.

Others blame the authorities for taking weeks before asking some residents outside the initial evacuation zones to evacuate, despite signs of radioactive dangers. The government was widely criticized for declaring food, including beef, to have been safely tested, only to find later that contaminated meat had been sold in grocery stores.

Potassium iodide is an inexpensive and readily available substance that governments and local communities with nuclear reactors typically have on hand. Following the Chernobyl accident in 1986, Poland gave 10.5 million children at least one dose of KI soon after the accident, with very few reports of resulting side effects. In the U.S., Congress passed a law in 2002 promoting distribution of the pills to communities near nuclear plants, but the law hasn't been implemented.

Japan's NSC recently posted on its website a document dated March 13 stating Fukushima residents aged 40 or younger should be given potassium iodide, if radiation screening confirmed they received certain levels of exposure. The commission says the document was sent to NISA, the coordinator of disaster response, at 10:46 a.m. that day, two days before the worst day of the accident on March 15, when explosions of two reactors sent thick radioactive plumes across many towns of Fukushima prefecture.

As with most of the correspondence between government officials following the accident, the statement was sent to disaster headquarters in Tokyo by fax, rather than via e-mail. An NSC representative stationed in that office then handed a copy to a NISA official, according to Hideaki Tsuzuku, director of the radiation-protection and accident-management division at the NSC. "It's not for us to know what kind of judgment was made and action was taken after that," he said in an interview.

NISA's Mr. Matsuoka says the agency can't confirm whether a NISA official received the memo, adding that an investigation into the case continues.

NISA issued an instruction March 16 for residents of towns within 20 kilometers of the plant to take KI pills, nearly four days after the government issued an evacuation order for those same towns.

People close to the situation say the delay may have been caused in part by an abrupt change in the standard used in determining what level of radiation exposure would trigger distribution of the pills. According to official disaster manuals written before the accident, anyone who showed radiation readings of 13,000 counts per minute—a measure for external exposure, as opposed to the more commonly used benchmark of sieverts, which measures health effects—was to be given KI pills, as well as a thorough decontamination, including showering and a change of clothes.

On March 14, Fukushima prefecture raised that cutoff to 100,000 cpm. Once the level was raised, people registering between 13,000 and 100,000 were given wet wipes to clean off the top layer of their clothing. They were not given pills.

During March, roughly 1,000 residents registered readings of 13,000 cpm or higher—102 had readings above 100,000 cpm.

"When they told us they wanted to raise the screening level, we instantly knew we had a serious level of contamination," said Mr. Suzuki, the NSC adviser. "They were implicitly telling us they had more people than they could handle logistically, amid the shortage of water, clothing and manpower."

Naoki Matsuda, a professor of radiation biology at Nagasaki University and an adviser to the Fukushima prefecture government, recalled a meeting with prefectural staff after a day of screening local residents on March 14. They reported gauges on radiation monitors set for 13,000 cpm going off repeatedly. "It was very clear the previous level of 13,000 cpm wouldn't work," Mr. Matsuda wrote in an essay posted on the university's website. "We discussed how the staff should turn off alarm sounds and refrain from wearing protective suits and face masks in order not to fan worries among residents."

The NSC was initially cautious about allowing the higher screening benchmark. On March 14, it issued a statement advising Fukushima to stick to the current level of 13,000 cpm, noting that level is equivalent to a thyroid-gland exposure level at which the International Atomic Energy Agency recommends disbursing KI. The World Health Organization advocates one-tenth of that level for giving the medication to children.

The NSC relented on March 20, after the prefecture used the new benchmark for days. In a statement, the commission noted 100,000 cpm was permissible according to the IAEA's screening standard in the initial stage of a nuclear emergency.

Before the government's March 16 order to disburse the iodine pills, two towns located near the plants, Futaba and Tomioka, with a combined population of 22,500, independently ordered some of their residents to take the pills that were in their stock, according to town officials.

Those in other nearby towns never did so, including Namie, where contamination was later confirmed to be worst among Fukushima communities.

In all, after the government's March 16 order, the prefecture delivered to all communities located within 50 kilometers of the plant enough KI pills and powder to be given to 900,000 people. Most were untouched.

It doesn't make sense to me. The article says there were enough potassium iodide pills to give to the residents but the prefecture waited for the national government to give orders to do so. Then what was the move by the Fukushima prefectural government to raise the standard from 13,000 cpm to 100,000 cpm?

It could be interpreted in two ways:

  • They waited for the orders, and they were unwilling to do anything on their own. So they raised the standard so that they wouldn't need to administer KI pills and violate the pre-determined government protocol of waiting for the national government to give orders; or

  • Contrary to what the article says, they did not have enough KI pills to give to the residents. If they were worried about 1000 people exceeding 13,000 cpm, that would mean they didn't even have 1,000 doses.

Either way, to cover this ineptitude, the national government and its experts went on PR blitz, telling everyone inside and outside Japan that everything was under control, that potassium iodide side effects would be more dangerous than a remote threat of thyroid cancer, that the level of radiation was not enough to warrant the distribution of the pills.

Now the new administration is just the same or worse than the old one, and it is determined to extend and pretend. "Cold shutdown" (of the reactor vessels, nothing more), "decontamination" of forests and mountains by picking up dead leaves and cutting off some branches, and this minor nuclear accident will be over. The government will continue to ask local governments like Tokyo to burn the radioactive debris and sludge to share the pain of Fukushima.


Oh wait a minute.... I just noticed the part that this WSJ English article mentions but is completely missing in the WSJ Japanese article on the exact same topic. It's this part in red:

The NSC was initially cautious about allowing the higher screening benchmark. On March 14, it issued a statement advising Fukushima to stick to the current level of 13,000 cpm, noting that level is equivalent to a thyroid-gland exposure level at which the International Atomic Energy Agency recommends disbursing KI. The World Health Organization advocates one-tenth of that level for giving the medication to children.

I don't know who the editor is at Wall Street Journal Japan, but the paper sure behaves just as good as the Japanese counterparts. Omit the very inconvenient part that the Japanese authorities may not want the citizens to know from its Japanese version, but state it clearly in the English article to calm their journalistic conscience.

#Radiation Map by Ministry of Education: Chiba and Saitama, and Closing in on Tokyo...

Light-blue areas of elevated air radiation in western part of Saitama Prefecture and western part of Chiba Prefecture look set to come in to Tokyo.

From the Ministry of Education's aerial radiation monitoring (using helicopters) maps released on September 29:

Air radiation (microsievert/hour, 1 meter off the ground):

Cesium-134 and -137 deposition (becquerels/square meter):

And again, for reference, Professor Hayakawa's map (version 4), which by the way does not show much contamination in the western part of Saitama:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 2 Achieves "Cold Shutdown"

and Yomiuri Shinbun has this extremely hopeful diagram that they came up with to celebrate the occasion. It shows part of the melted fuel inside the shroud of the Reactor Pressure Vessel and part of it at the bottom of the RPV, both cooled below 100 degrees Celsius inside the RPV, supposedly.

Yomiuri says:


TEPCO announced on September 28 that the temperature at the bottom of the reactor of Reactor 2 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was 99.4 degrees Celsius as of 5PM on September 28. It was the first time since the March 11 accident that the temperature there dropped below 100 degrees Celsius.


Now one of the two conditions for the stable "cold shutdown", "temperature below 100 degrees Celsius", has been achieved.

The other condition is to suppress the release of radioactive materials. Then the national government will make a declaration that the Fukushima accident is over, residents will return home, and we can all forget about the accident ever happened.

The red dot on the bottom right of the RPV indicates the location where TEPCO has been measuring the temperature.

Never mind that the basement of Reactor 2 is flooded with highly contaminated water. Needless to say, the RPV leaks, and the Containment Vessel (drywell) leaks. And we know that the suppression chamber leaks after it exploded in March 15.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Will Accept and Burn Disaster Debris from Tohoku, Renews Efforts to Invite Olympic Games to Tokyo

If I thought Yokohama City was so slow in responding to citizens' concern on radiation contamination, I certainly didn't know what the Tokyo Metropolitan government could do.

It doesn't even tell the citizens.

First, the Tokyo government didn't tell anyone that they started dumping the radioactive ashes in the landfill in the Tokyo Bay in May. And now, without bothering asking the citizens, again, it will start bringing the disaster debris from Tohoku that are likely to be radioactive and burn in Tokyo.

NHK News (9/29/2011):


The Tokyo Metropolitan government has decided to bring in the disaster debris from Iwate prefecture to Tokyo and burn them, and will sign an agreement with the Iwate prefectural government on September 30.


In the disaster-affected areas in Tohoku, the amount of debris from tsunami is simply too huge for the affected municipalities to process by themselves. The national government has requested the prefectures and municipalities not affected by the disaster to take the debris and process. Responding to the request, the Tokyo Metropolitan government has decided to accept the debris from Iwate Prefecture for 2 and a half years till March 2014, and will sign an agreement with the Iwate prefectural government on September 30.


The Tokyo Metropolitan government will conduct public bidding to decide which contractors will get to process (incinerate) the disaster debris before starting to accept debris from Miyako City in Iwate Prefecture starting next month. The debris will arrive in Tokyo in containers by rail. Radioactive materials will be measured when the debris are shipped, and when they are burned. After incineration, the ashes will be buried in the landfill beyond Aomi in Koto-ku.


According to the government, the density of radioactive materials measured on the debris and in the ashes from burning the debris in Miyako City was lower than the national standard to allow burying. Outside Tohoku, Tokyo will be the first to accept the disaster debris from Tohoku. The Tokyo government plans to accept the total of about 500,000 tonnes of debris. The Metropolitan bureau of environment says "We want to contribute to the recovery and rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas".

The landfill beyond Aomi, Koto-ku is the same one in the Tokyo Bay that the Tokyo Metropolitan government has been dumping the radioactive ashes since May. (See my 9/13/2011 post.)

As to the "safe" level of burying the radioactive ashes and debris, that's totally meaningless now that the Ministry of Environment has allowed the burial of just about anything, even the ashes that measures over 100,000 becquerels/kg of cesium, as long as there are measures in place at the processing facilities that will prevent the leakage. Uh huh.

Apparently, when the Tokyo Metropolitan government answered questions from the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on September 28, it was already a done deal. Assemblyman Hirofumi Yanagase, who has been active in alerting the citizens about dangerous radiation levels at sludge plants and waste incinerators in his district in Tokyo, fumes (link is in Japanese):

"The government said during the question and answer session in the Assembly on September 28 that the details were still being worked out. But then less than half a day later they announced a concrete plan of accepting 1,000 tonnes of debris from Iwate Prefecture by the middle of November."

Yanagase also wonders if his colleagues in the Assembly are even aware of radiation and radiation contamination in Tokyo at all. Probably not, Mr. Yanagase, from what I read and hear.

NHK also reports that the Tokyo will launch the campaign to invite the 2020 Summer Olympics to Tokyo but with the reduced budget, after the lavish and unsuccessful campaign by Governor Ishihara the last time (for 2016) was heavily criticized. Now Isihara says he will only use 7 billion yen (US$91.5 million) of taxpayers' money instead of 14 billion yen he spent the last time.

Oh and the national government now wants Tokyo and 7 other Prefectures in Kanto and Tohoku (Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba) to build intermediate storage facilities of highly contaminated soil in their own prefectures, according to Yomiuri Shinbun (9/28/2011). Half of Tohoku and most of Kanto are to have a nuclear waste dump, and Tokyo wants to invite Olympics.

Tokyo looks set to become the most radioactive capital in the world. I bet the governor of Tokyo likes that: "Ichiban (Number One)!" I doubt that it will win the Olympics bid, ever again.

#Radioactive IODINE from Milk from Miyagi Prefecture

(UPDATE: Now, Niigata Prefecture's site says it is radioactive CESIUM, not iodine.)


Niigata Prefecture announced the result of the test for radioactive materials in milk and milk products on September 29.

Iodine-131 was detected from the milk from Miyagi Prefecture.

According to the Niigata prefectural government site:

Date tested: September 28
Item: Milk
Place produced: Miyagi Prefecture
Radioactive cesium: ND
Radioactive iodine: 19.1 becquerels/kg

Remember those detections in wide areas of Japan in mid August to early September of iodine-131 in sewer sludge, and mostly dismissed as a patient or two in each city being treated for thyroid-related illnesses?

I wish Niigata Prefecture say where in Miyagi, but these milk cows did eat or drink something that was freshly contaminated with radioactive iodine, and I don't think that something was the radioactive sewer sludge.

Fuku I Hydrogen Gas Update: It Was 63% Concentration

and no need to worry, TEPCO will take care of it.

TEPCO also says since there is no oxygen in the pipe that leads to the Reactor 1 Containment Vessel, there is NO DANGER of explosion.

(Uh huh. "There is no danger of explosion" was what they said to the fire department and the Self Defense Force right before Reactor 1 blew up, and then before Reactor 3 blew up.)

From Yomiuri Shinbun (9/28/2011):


TEPCO announced on September 28 that the concentration of hydrogen gas in the pipe that leads to the Containment Vessel of Reactor 1 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was 63%.


TEPCO says there is no danger of explosion because no oxygen was detected in the pipe. The company will inject nitrogen in the pipe on September 29 to expel hydrogen.


The high concentration of hydrogen was found in the pipe that was to be used as part of the filtering system to suppress the leak of radioactive materials in the Containment Vessel. TEPCO will measure the levels of hydrogen gas in the similar pipes in Reactors 2 and 3.


It is considered that hydrogen gas was generated when the nuclear fuel was heated to high temperature right after the accident and the cladding and water reacted. If there are more than 4% hydrogen and more than 5% oxygen in the atmosphere, the chance of explosion increases. It is possible that there is hydrogen gas in the upper part of the Containment Vessel and in other pipes. The company says it will take measures to address hydrogen gas before proceeding on any work from now on.

Looking at TEPCO's handout for the press on September 28 (Japanese only for now), all they will do is to try to expel hydrogen in the pipe alone by injecting nitrogen from the far end of the pipe. They must be operating on the assumption that all the hydrogen in the pipe is from the initial zirconium cladding and water interaction, not the recent or on-going radiolysis, and once the hydrogen currently in the pipe is expelled, that will be the end of the story.

The idea seems to be that as long as the "MO11" valve is closed off, they can just purge hydrogen from the pipe and not worry about any "fresh supply" if any from the Containment Vessel, and they are free to cut the pipe for their gas management system.

There's a word for that in Japanese, "ba-atari-teki", and it can be translated as "ad hoc". The word seems to describe how TEPCO has been dealing with the crisis very well. (Remember the bath salt as tracer?)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#Radiation Map by Ministry of Education: Gunma Looks Worse Than Expected

On September 27 the Ministry of Education and Science announced the result of their latest aerial survey of radiation contamination they did over Gunma Prefecture, and many people are dismayed that the contamination in the prefecture looks worse than feared.

So far, the Ministry has done the aerial surveys and mapped air radiation and soil contamination in: Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma.

From 9/27/2011 map, on air radiation (microsievert/hour, 1 meter off the ground):

Cesium-134 and -137 deposition (becquerels/square meter):

Professor Hayakawa's map that he's been updating since April (current version is 4.0):

Monday, September 26, 2011

Japanese Researcher: 2,600 Bq/Kg of Cesium-137 from Rice Grown on Soil Taken from Iitate-Mura

Kazue Tazaki is a professor emeritus at Kanazawa University in Ishikawa Prefecture. She took the contaminated soil from Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture where the villagers were required to evacuate, and grew rice using that soil.

Rice planting and growing was banned in Iitate-mura this year.

Professor Tazaki just harvested the rice, and measured the concentration of cesium-137. The result?

  • From the rice grains: 2,600 becquerels/kg

  • From the straw: 2,200 becquerels/kg

  • From the roots: 1,500 becquerels/kg

  • Soil contamination: 50,000 becquerels/kg

Roughly an equal amount of cesium-134 is to be expected. The transfer rate of cesium-137 in this case was about 0.05.

From Toyama Shinbun, local paper in Ishikawa Prefecture (9/27/2011):


Kazue Tazaki, professor emeritus at Kanazawa University has compiled the result of her experiment of growing rice using the soil from Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture where high radiation levels have been recorded. 2,600 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from the harvested rice, more than 5 times the provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg) set by the national government. It was prohibited to plant rice in Iitate-mura because of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The professor's data will be extremely valuable in studying the effect of radiation in the soil on the agricultural crops.


Professor Tazaki collected the soil from the rice paddies in Nagadoro District of Iitate-mura, area with very high radiation, when she visited Fukushima Prefecture in late June. At her home in Kanazawa City, she planted the seedlings of "Koshihikari" which were germinated in Tawara-machi in Kanazawa City on the soil from Iitate-mura.


She harvested the rice in mid September, had it analyzed at a laboratory in Fukui Prefecture for cesium-137 in various parts of the rice and calculated the radiation levels per kilogram. The highest cesium-137 concentration of 2,600 becquerels/kg was found in (unprocessed) rice, 2,200 becquerels/kg from the straw, and 1,500 becquerels/kg from the roots. 50,000 becquerels/kg was detected from the soil itself.


To compare, "Koshihikari" rice planted in the rice paddies in Tawara-machi was also analyzed but no radioactive materials were detected at all.


Professor Tazaki says, "I myself was very shocked to find that the edible part of the rice had the most radiation. The decontamination of the soil should be carried out as soon as possible". She will teach farmers in Minami Soma City in Fukushima on a decontamination method using diatomite unique to Ishikawa Prefecture.

Professor Tazaki found a bacterium that absorbs radioactive materials like uranium and thorium in Tanzania earlier this year, where she taught geology after she retired from Kanazawa University in 2009.

Her result makes me very suspicious of the results announced by Fukushima Prefecture. Iitate-mura does have high soil contamination but it is by no means the highest. Judging by the rice hay contamination there are many other locations within Fukushima that may have radiation levels just as high and still grow rice because they lie outside the 30 kilometer radius from the plant. And yet the prefectural government says it's found 500 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium at most from one location, and the rest is below 200 becquerels/kg.

It is also possible that the professor scraped the top soil only, whereas farmers in Fukushima tilled deeper and thus mixing the highly contaminated soil in the top 5 centimeters with the uncontaminated soil below, lowering the overall radiation.

Well, despite the official ban with the threat of fines, the rice grew in Iitate-mura after all as at least one farmer spread the seed rice directly in the rice paddies. And as this Iitate-mura villager tweets, the rice has grown better than ever with far less work and resources. Why not test that too for radiation, instead of cutting it down?

Japan's National Tax Agency To Test Wines and Sake for Radiation

Now it's National Tax Agency joining other government ministries testing radiation independent of each other. Why National Tax Agency? Because the Agency taxes alcoholic beverages.

The Agency will test wines, sake, and beer. Water and the resulting liquors will be tested but not the ingredients - grapes, white rice, hop, wheat, etc.

Hmmm. That's like Shizuoka Prefecture insisting that the only thing people need to worry about is the radioactive materials in a brewed cup of tea, not the tea leaves...

From Asahi Shinbun (9/27/2011):


Now it is a season for Japanese sake and wine making, and the National Tax Agency announced on September 26 that it will conduct the test for radioactive materials in liquors before they are sold in the market, starting October.


All the brewers within the 150-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (part of Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Niitaga, Tochigi and Ibaraki) will be tested. Outside this area, randomly selected brewers, about 20 to 40% of the brewers, will be tested. The agency will test the liquors and the water that is used for brewing to see if radioactive materials are below the provisional safety limit for drinking water (including 200 becquerels/kilogram of radioactive cesium).


The test will be done according to the time of brewing. In October, fruit liquors including wines will be tested; from November to January next year will be sake, and beer in February.

Rice for sake brewing is different from rice for eating, and each prefecture seems to have its specialty brand or two. Hyogo Prefecture's Nada district is the most famous place for sake brewing in Japan. In east Japan, Niigata Prefecture is famous, and unfortunately the prefecture has also been affected by the radioactive fallout from the plant accident.

Grapes were flowering in April and May. Radioactive cesium has been constantly detected from summer wheat, though not exceeding the provisional safety limit. I haven't seen the test on hops.

Fuku I Hydrogen Gas Update: TEPCO Was Going to Cut the Pipe Without Testing

In case you're wondering what happened to the precise measurement of the hydrogen gas inside the pipe that leads to the Reactor 1 Containment Vessel, the worker who tweets from Fukushima I Nuke Plant says (in Japanese) it will be a few more days till TEPCO can even get the instrument for measurement.

"I'm so glad that we didn't cut the pipe. It may sound incredible but there was no measurement [of flammable gas] scheduled in the initial work plan. But they decided to measure one day before they were going to cut the pipe. Close call. There is no instrument that can measure hydrogen alone, at Fuku I. It will come on September 28, so the measurement may be done on either September 28 or 29. The result seems obvious, but..."

You have to give TEPCO some praise for their dare. They were going to cut the pipe without measuring what could be inside the pipe. But don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet, because the worker also says TEPCO currently plans to cut the pipe anyway while purging the hydrogen gas inside the pipe with nitrogen gas. There seems to be no plan to deal with anything else than this particular pipe, although the regulatory agency NISA has asked TEPCO to conduct similar tests in Reactors 2 and 3.

TEPCO sort of knows how to operate a nuclear power plant. They have zero expertise in how to fix an utterly broken nuclear power plant, but they continue to be allowed to attempt, to the horror and dismay of the northern hemisphere.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

#Radiation in Japan: DoCoMo to Introduce Smartphone with Radiation Detection Jacket

Japan's DoCoMo is set to introduce a smartphone jacket with radiation detection sensor in the "CEATEC Japan 2011", an annual high-tech trade show in Japan, at Makuhari Messe in Chiba which will start on October 4, according to Sankei Biz (9/26/2011).

(Just when the government has launched a sort of smear campaign on small, personal survey meters as "inaccurate"...)

Apple's iPhone and iPod already have an attachment and an application that detects radiation.

According to the Sankei Biz article, DoCoMo's radiation sensor jacket, that will be attached to the back of a smartphone, will allow not only the radiation detection but also data collection over time and sharing, and mapping.

DoCoMo's press release says it will detect gamma radiation. It can detect radiation from 0.01 microsievert/hour to 100 millisieverts/hour, according to Asahi Shinbun. No information about the pricing.

In the photo, the plastic case next to the phone contains radium pellets.

#Radiation in Japan: Evacuation-Ready Zone to Be Abolished on September 30

The Japanese government says it will abolish the "evacuation-ready" zone in 5 municipalities that lie between 20 to 30-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on September 30, all at once. It may be construed as a declaration by the national government that it is now "safe" to return after slightly over 6 months after one of the worst nuclear accidents in history (which many thing is "the" worst).

Yomiuri Shinbun (9/26/2011):


The Japanese government will abolish the "evacuation-ready" zone on September 30. The "evacuation-ready" zone was set between 20 to 30-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the accident [where the residents are required to be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice and where no pregnant women and small children are supposed to be living].


Tadahiro Matsushita, Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, informed the heads of the municipalities in the zone in the morning of September 26.


In the "evacuation-ready" zone, residents are required to be ready to take refuge indoors or evacuate outside the zone in case of a nuclear emergency. The zone includes part or all of 5 municipalities - Minami Soma City, Tamura City, Naraha-machi, Hirono-machi, Kawauchi-mura. Currently, about 30,000 residents out of pre-accident area population of 58,000 have evacuated outside the area.


Each municipality will carry out decontamination of schools and homes based on the "recovery plan" [that it has submitted to the national government], and ask the residents who have evacuated to come back.

Fukushima Prefecture will build new homes for the returning residents, Yomiuri also reports:


On the national government's notice that it will abolish the "evacuation-ready" zone by the end of this month, Fukushima Prefecture is finalizing the plan to build temporary houses in the 5 municipalities whose designation as "evacuation-ready" zone will be lifted. The prefectural government has started the selection process for the locations.


The houses are for people who lost their homes in the earthquake and tsunami, so that they can live closer to their old homes [i.e. come back from their temporary shelters outside the area].


The 5 municipalities are Minami Soma City, Tamura City, Hirono-machi, Naraha-machi, Kawauchi-mura. The prefectural government will ask the municipalities how many houses they want built. Minami Soma City has already asked the prefectural government for 400 houses.

Japanese have always been good at construction projects. I mean, good at "dango" profit sharing of all scales and sizes between the contractors and subcontractors, and between them and the government officials.

And "decontamination"? Good luck to them if the data from Watari District in Fukushima City is any indication. Professor Tomoya Yamauchi of Kobe University compared the radiation levels before and after the district's "decontamination" effort, and found that it hardly made a dent. In a place where the removal of contaminated dirt didn't happen, the radiation level doubled in a month, possibly with new deposits of radioactive cesium migrating from the surrounding area. Scrubbing the roofs and walkways with power washer lowered the radiation by 30% at most. (Professor Yamauchi's report is here, in Japanese.)

But the "decontamination" projects, which are usually undertaken by the neighborhood associations with minimal support from the municipal government's cleaning contractors, seem to have an effect of making the residents feel the radiation may have gotten lower because of their own effort, and that it will be OK to continue to be living there.

A cheap, almost ideal solution for the politicians in the national government and the prefecture - decontamination by the residents, no need to pay for evacuation costs, a building boom for temporary houses creating jobs for the locals.

#Radioactive Train in Tokyo Metropolitan Area? Over 10 Microsievert/Hour Inside the Train

See for yourself. An expat from California measured the radiation level inside the train to Narita, and found it was extremely high right where he was sitting.

No, it was not his suitcase. It seems it was that particular seat where he was sitting.

Yes, his personal survey meter could be broken, as he repeatedly wonders in the video, and people just ignore the gaijin telling them the radiation level inside the train is the Fukushima level, while a woman sitting next to him praises his Japanese as native level. Surreal.

This line, Sobu-Yokosuka Line, belongs to JR East, which covers the entire Tohoku, Kanto and about half of Chubu.