Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant "Roadmap" Monthly Progress Report (1): Workers Picking Up Radioactive Debris for Future Testing, Getting 0.3 Millisievert for 1-Hour Work

Hardly anyone seems to pay serious attention to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant itself these days, except occasional, perfunctory mentions of how radioactive materials are still spewing from the reactors and how the groundwater is being contaminated because the basements are leaking (almost always without citing the actual numbers).

All the talk about imminent collapse of Reactor 4 has all but died down, and no sensational stories about the plant are circulating on Japanese Twitter.

So what is TEPCO, now officially the government company with the capital infusion of 1 trillion yen (US$12.8 billion), doing these days at the plant?

Very prosaic, mundane jobs like picking up concrete debris to save for later testing, trying to unclog the pipe to insert a thermocouple, hosing down the fuel assembly. They have been also building the multi-nuclide absorption towers (Toshiba), trying to replace Kanaflex hose for the transport of contaminated water, trying to clean the subdrain pit water, and asking workers from affiliate companies how they are doing.

This post is the first installment from the monthly report, about the workers picking bits of concrete rubble near the blown-up reactors at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. In the report, it is the last item, but it stuck with me as I browsed through the report yesterday while listening to the press conference given by Naoto Kan and his "Zero Nuke" group of politicians.

The workers got 0.3 millisievert radiation exposure for one-hour work of picking up concrete bits, and the concrete bits are not very "radioactive" in Fuku-I standard (it would be considered extremely high outside the plant), at 2,000 microsieverts/hour (or 2 millisieverts/hour).

Where is that former Prime Minister who supposedly scolded top executives at TEPCO and urged them to go to Fukushima I Nuke Plant, saying he himself would go with them? Why isn't he picking up the pieces of radioactive rubble, instead of the workers who may be paid only 8,000 yen (US$102) per day for their work?

From TEPCO's July 30, 2012 monthly progress report on the "Roadmap to decommissioning the reactors at Fukushima (available in Japanese only), pages 84 to 89 (I added the labels):

The former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was busy trying to re-invent himself as champion of "ordinary citizens" who are against nuclear power plants and as key man who can connect these citizens with the power that be (Prime Minister Noda and his high-ranking ministers like Mr. Edano), when he and his supposedly anti-nuclear group of politicians held a press conference and the closed meeting with those "citizens" on July 31. But that will be another post.


Anonymous said...

Incompetence since day 1 , how have they been getting away with it ? its mind boggling...

Anonymous said...

It's not incompetence. They've known - not since day 1, but certainly since day 3 that the situation is uncontrollable. There is nothing they can do to control the slow, steady advancement of contamination.

Therefore 100% of the effort is to control people's understanding of the facts, to disburse the radiation as widely as possible, to hide the truth; to deflect responsibility; and to keep the flow of money incoming.

In that context, everything they have done makes sense.

Recently they've actively involved the US government. I believe this will accelerate the coverup and misinformation campaign. If I were Japanese, I would reject this outright, because the US will certainly leverage this situation to exploit whatever assets Japan has left.

In the end, the Japanese will pay dearly for this disaster. With their wealth, with their health and eventually with their national pride - but not before the vultures come in to pick over their meager belongings.


Apolline said...

Dear Ultraman, I feel and understand very well you are so bitter writing this post. It is my introduction sentence for the translation of your post...

These workers and japanese people are sacrified upon the altar of money and cover-up.

Thank you for your sensitivity and work. Good night.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

James, yeah they may finally succeed this time. They tried with Commodore Perry with his black ships, they tried after Meiji restoration by lending huge amount of money with high interest, hoping that Japanese wouldn't be able to repay and they would take the collateral (to their dismay, Japanese government repaid the money).

Thank you Helios, good night.

Anonymous said...

Under Mr Kan's leadership, the Japanese government failed to inform the citizens of the true danger they faced from TEPCO's triple meltdown. In fact the meltdowns themselves were covered up for a long time. Food and other goods from the contaminated area were not quaranteened. People were not given the support needed to evacuate their children from the prefectures affected. In a rich country, instead of stopping the sale and consumption of contaminated foods (and arranging for imports of safe food), safety standards were discarded and people were told there was no immediate danger.

These are crimes against humanity. I think Kan might understand that now.

So what is Kan to do? If he works every day of his life trying his best to stop nuclear energy production and nuclear technology export from Japan, it can never be enough. He can never repair the damage that was caused under his leadership in the months after the TEPCO meltdowns.

But that does not mean he shouldn't try.

And if he gives it 100%, and if he keeps giving 100% for the rest of his life, then perhaps Japan's people might be able to forgive him posthumously.

Atomfritz said...

Yes, really sad. This damn nuclear cuckoo egg.

Fifteen months after the accident they start to run out of liquidators, after having used up some 7000 (or 17000?) workers.
And still they didn't manage to clean up the radioactive rubble covering the whole area.
Chernobyl cleanup needed about one third of a million liquidators, for a single reactor...

And in the background I hear some people far away say "we are doing God's work".

Anonymous said...

OT: Here's a great newspaper survey that we'll never likely see in Japan, although I challenge Asahi and others to give it a go

Q: Since Japan started burning low-level radioactive waste in incinerators all over the country, have you changed your trash separation behavior?

A1. I'm not separating my trash at all anymore

A2. I'm separating my trash much less carefully than before.

A3. Not much change

A4. I'm trying harder to separate my trash better than before to offset the government's actions

A5. I am a nuclear industry cronie and think your question is a baseless rumor.

Anonymous said...

Answer 2 seems to me a popular choice. Why should one waste time to separate your garbage, if the Japanese government anyway decided to contaminate their own territory.

The only reason against answer 1 is that one has to be careful enough not to get directly in trouble by not separating at all. Although in case of household garbage is does not matter at all.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:06 - I see other people doing this too. Seems like they are less willing to take actions to protect the environment post-TEPCO. What a shame. Yet another externality of nuclear energy that will never be considered by economists. Japan's ecological ethic is degrading.

anonymous said...

First thing you learn about nuclear fission is that there is no 'off' switch. From there, it is all downhill.

Anonymous said...

OT2: Here's a great newspaper survey that we're very likely want to see in Japan, although time might catch up on us:

Q: Since workers fell unconscious at the plant, have

B1. Neurological breakdown been detected?

B2. Chromosomal abnormality been detected?

B3. Tritium oxide and uranium oxide levels been detected in the environment?

B4. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels been released at the stationed point of work?

B5. The easy questions should be dealt with later.

Anonymous said...

@10:05 absolutely right: after you turn it off you still have to dispose of 50,000 kW (10, 15 thousand households, all full power) of heat. Like a Baron Munchausen riding a rocket that slows down one week after you pulled the brakes, or Dr. Stranamore.
The other thing that you need to learn is that it is NOT cheaper than oil once you factor in long term storage of spent fuel, goverment subsidies and liability caps.
The last thing is that governments extract and stockpile plutonium from the spent fuel.
Once you are aware of these three simple facts you know it all.

Anonymous said...

No doubt the bagging of small concrete bits will provide important information.

Are these pieces collected doing a clean-up following the removal of the remains of the top floors of #4 ?

Anonymous said...

Quote "governments extract plutonium from the spent fuel"
Maths: more plutonium = more anthropogenic sediments
less extraction = more spent fuel
more spent fuel = more anthropogenic sediments (substitution)
If more plutonium = more anthropogenic sediments = more spent fuel
Then more plutonium = more spent fuel
Right? lol

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