Saturday, February 4, 2012

Japan Earthquake Visualization Map 1/1/2011 - 1/1/2012

A very clever video posted by Storymonoroch on Youtube.

From March 1 to March 10, 2011, things sort of quieted down. Calm before the storm, literally. The video also has a graph overlay of the cumulative number of earthquakes.

UK's The Independent: "Bird numbers plummet around stricken Fukushima plant", according to a US Researcher

The Independent's David McNeill reports that the group of international researchers (US, Denmark, and Japan) is set to publish a paper in a scientific magazine next week about their findings in Fukushima Prefecture that "bird populations there have begun to dwindle" and that "the effect on abundance is worse in the Japanese disaster zone".

A funny thing is though, it has just been reported by Japan's NHK that this group of researchers ARE GOING TO STUDY the effect of radiation in bird species in Fukushima starting MAY.

First, The Independent (2/3/2012):

Researchers working around Japan's disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant say bird populations there have begun to dwindle, in what may be a chilling harbinger of the impact of radioactive fallout on local life.

In the first major study of the impact of the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, the researchers, from Japan, the US and Denmark, said their analysis of 14 species of bird common to Fukushima and Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city which suffered a similar nuclear meltdown, showed the effect on abundance is worse in the Japanese disaster zone.

The study, published next week in the journal Environmental Pollution, suggests that its findings demonstrate "an immediate negative consequence of radiation for birds during the main breeding season [of] March [to] July".

Two of the study's authors have spent years working in the irradiated 2,850 sq metre zone around the Chernobyl single-reactor plant, which exploded in 1986 and showered much of Europe with caesium, strontium, plutonium and other radioactive toxins. A quarter of a century later, the region is almost devoid of people.

Timothy Mousseau and Anders Pape Moller say their research uncovered major negative effects among the bird population, including reductions in longevity and in male fertility, and birds with smaller brains.

Many species show "dramatically" elevated DNA mutation rates, developmental abnormalities and extinctions, they add, while insect life has been significantly reduced.

Now, about Professor Timothy Mousseau, NHK ran the news yesterday. From tweets by Jun Hori of NHK:


A research team from the United States will begin the study in May this year on the effect of radioactive materials released from the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant accident on the animals living in the surrounding areas.


The group is led by Professor Timothy Mousseau of South Carolina University in the US. Professor Mousseau and his group have been studying the effect of radioactive materials from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident on birds, insects and plants in the surrounding areas for over 13 years.


According to the result of the study by Professor Mousseau's group in the areas surrounding Chernobyl, even population decrease and anomalies have been observed in birds, insects and other life forms even in the low-radiation areas (1 to 3 microsieverts/hour) .


By studying the birds, insects and other life forms for a long period of time, Professor Mousseau believes the effect of low-level radiation may be revealed in the aftermath of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. He says he would like to conduct a long-term research with the help from the Japanese researchers.


In preparation for the research, Professor Mousseau is scheduled to visit Fukushima in mid February. He says, "The alternation of generations is much quicker in birds than in humans, so we can study the effect of radiation on genes. It will give a vital clue on the effect on humans."

Hori's tweets and NHK News do not mention anything about Professor Mousseau's group having already studied the subject last year and about to publish a paper. The news is presented as if they are going to study it starting May.

NHK's report has tremendously irritated the Japanese researchers like Professor Bin Mori (who has been studying the spiders and lizards in Fukushima after the accident and publishing the results on his blog, calling other biologists to follow suit). If the article by The Independent is correct (which seems to be, if the professor is publishing the paper next week), the international researchers were studying the effect of low-level radiation in birds in Fukushima last year while the Japanese government was (still is) pushing the idea hard that there would be no negative effect on health from low-level radiation.

It is somewhat similar to the case of SPEEDI data sharing. While the Japanese government kept telling the citizens that the SPEEDI system didn't work, the SPEEDI simulation data was being sent daily to the US military.

But then, in the case of SPEEDI info sharing, the US military knew enough to ask for information, so the information was given. None of the politicians in the Kan administration bothered to ask for it (even if the use of SPEEDI was specified in the disaster response manual that the government had created), therefore it was not given. Maybe it is the same thing here; Professor Mousseau asked to do the study, therefore he was allowed. Hardly any of the Japanese biologists asked, or bothered to go to Fukushima (unlike Professor Mori), therefore lost the great opportunity to collect information firsthand.

That should further irritate Professor Mori...

California's San Onofre Nuke Plant Unit 2: Steam Generator Tubes Showing "Many, Many Years" Worth of Wear

even though they are only 22 months old.

Overload, most likely. Mitsubishi's design flaw?

From LA Times (2/3/2012):

San Onofre nuclear plant radiation leak, worn tubes raise concerns

A week of problems at the San Onofre nuclear power plant has raised new safety concerns among some activists.

Officials of Southern California Edison, which operates the facility and is a majority owner, insist that the plant is perfectly safe, but others say the mishaps are one more sign of problems.

The situation is "further evidence that California should move beyond nuclear power. California should plan for the orderly phase out of ... aging nuclear power plants, including San Onofre, and shift to clean-energy alternatives like energy efficiency and renewable power," Bernadette Del Chiaro, director of clean-energy programs for the advocacy group Environment California, said in a statement.

Nuclear regulation officials said Thursday that extensive wear had been found on tubes inside a unit at the San Onofre nuclear plant.

Another unit at the plant was taken off-line after a small radiation leak earlier this week.

Dozens of relatively new tubes that carry radioactive water in a steam generator showed "many, many years" worth of wear, even though the tubing is 22 months old, said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nearly 70 tubes, made from a metal alloy and formed into a U-shape, had 20% of their interior lining worn off, while hundreds more had 10% of the lining deteriorated, Dricks said. More than 9,000 tubes are in the generator.

Dricks said that some of the tubes will require repair, while others will probably have to be replaced.

But Edison officials say it's too early to make any determination on a course of action, and that additional tests will be conducted. The unit was off-line for a scheduled maintenance period of several months to deal with technology upgrades and fuel replacement, said Gil Alexander, an Edison spokesman.

It is unclear why the tubes are showing so much wear.

The NRC's findings come on the heels of a leak in a tube Tuesday, prompting operators to shut down a reactor. However, officials said, the amount of radiation released was minuscule and did not endanger the public.

"San Onofre has had such a troubled history in terms of the safety culture that each of these incidents shakes me further,” Daniel Hirsch with the group Committee to Bridge the Gap told the Orange County Register.

As for the Unit 3 that was tripped (scrammed) after a minute radiation leak was detected in the turbine building, the inspection won't be done until middle of next week due to the still high temperature (105 degrees Fahrenheit) in the building, according to San Francisco Chronicle.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' SG, as it was getting ready to be moved into the reactor building of Unit 2 in 2009 (from The Orange County Register):

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fukushima Farmers to Flip the Soil, Sprinkle Zeolites and Potassium to Lower Radioactivity

And call it "decontamination".

Why do they keep disturbing the contaminated soil? Why do they insist on growing anything?

First from Mainichi Shinbun Fukushima local version on flipping the soil (2/3/2012):


On February 2, there was a demonstration of "flipping the soil" on the rice paddy in Oohisa-machi in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. Flipping the soil is one of the measures considered for decontaminating the farmland.


By flipping the soil so that the top soil and the subsoil get exchanged, the absorption of radioactive materials by the crops will be prohibited. In the demonstration, 30 centimeters of the top soil was dug up, and replaced with the subsoil using 4 large farm machines.


According to the official of the prefectural government, the air radiation level at this rice paddy on February 1 was between 0.3 to 0.42 microsievert/hour. After flipping the soil, it dropped to 0.23 to 0.3 microsievert/hour, which the official called it "a success".


150 farmers living nearby participated, watching the demonstration. They voiced concerns, saying "It will require expensive farm machines", "How are we supposed to do it when the city's plan for farmland decontamination is not there?"

Air radiation dropping from 0.3 to 0.42 microsievert/hour to 0.23 to 0.3 microsievert/hour is a success? 28% reduction for all the trouble, and radioactive materials will simply flow in from the surrounding mountains.

How are they supposed to do this "decontamination"? Well, farmers will do it with what small machines they have, and will not turn soil that deep if a council set up by Fukushima City has its way. Farmers will till the land like they always do every year, radioactivity or no, about 15 centimeter deep, as they sprinkle potassium and zeolites. And call it "decontamination".

Also from Mainichi Shinbun Fukushima local version (2/2/2012):


A council met on February 1 in Fukushima City to discuss how to decontaminate farmland in Fukushima City and Kawamata-machi, and confirmed that they would decontaminate all the farmland in both municipalities starting February 2012 and ending by the end of March next year. The national government's policy is to subsidize the decontamination methods of "flipping the soil" or "deep tilling" that use large equipment to replace 30 centimeter of top soil with the subsoil. However, the council dismissed these methods as "impractical", and instead would use the farm machines that the farmers already have and plow.


The two municipalities decided to cooperate in decontaminating the farmland last fall, and set up a council made up of officials from both municipalities, Fukushima Prefecture, and JA Shin Fukushima.


Decontamination will be done on all 2727 hectares of rice paddies and 1533 hectares of fields excluding the planned evacuation zone in Kawamata-machi (whose decontamination will be done by the national government). Farmers are to sprinkle zeolites and potassium, and plow the land with their farm equipment. Priority will be given to the areas with high air radiation levels and whose crops have been found with high level of radioactivity.


On February 1, there were opinions voicing doubts over the decontamination methods shown by the national government. Not enough large equipment was one concern. Others said if the soil was flipped, then the poor soil would be on top, which would not be productive for years. As to the cost, the council would ask the prefectural government and the national government for the subsidy.

So, in Fukushima, almost everyone will effectively become radiation workers, like it or not, either by becoming decon workers to be preferentially hired by large general construction companies who will exclusively do the decon jobs in Fukushima, or by being farmers growing crops in Fukushima. As for the children of these parents who will "decontaminate" the land, Dr. Yamashita will be there to collect their data.

TEPCO "Decontaminates" Parking Lot of Fukushima I Nuke Plant

using brooms, dustpans, spatula, and a patent-pending dust collector. (Isn't that something? Patent-pending.)

The work was done from January 7 to 30, 2012. Total 60 workers, 150 bags of contaminated soil and small debris removed by the workers.

Workers used brooms, dustpans, shovels to remove dust and dirt, and washed the surface of the parking lot. Apparently, they didn't bother removing the cars as the photos below show.

Then, the heavy machinery's turn to scrape the surface by wire brush and vacuum the rubble and dust.

The results as announced by TEPCO (2/3/2012):

Air radiation levels at 1 meter off the ground:

  • Before: Average 82μSv/h,Maximum 355μSv/h

  • After: Average 54μSv/h, Maximum 115μSv/h

Air radiation levels at 1 centimeter off the ground:

  • Before: Average 254μSv/h, Maximum ,240μSv/h* (*TEPCO's Japanese version of the document says "1,240".)

  • After: Average 68μSv/h, Maximum 181μSv/h

For TEPCO's credit, the company didn't call the work "decontamination"; it was "Radiation dose reduction by collecting dust and small rubbles at the parking lot in front of Main anti-Earthquake Building of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station".

The same operation anywhere else in Fukushima is called "decontamination", and it is to be done by the residents of Fukushima hired as "decon workers" and by decon volunteers from all over Japan.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 2 Sieverts/Hr Beta Radiation from Leaked Concentrated Water After Desalination

Gamma radiation was 20 millisieverts/hour. The leak stopped when they tighten the bolt of the tank.

(Ummm... So they are not welded?)

From Nikkei Shinbun (2/3/2012):


TEPCO announced on February 3 that the water leaked from one of the contaminated water storage tanks at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. 2,000 millisieverts/hour beta radiation was detected. The amount of the leak was small, and there was no leak into the ocean. The leak stopped when the bolt was further tightened. The radiation was then shielded with acrylic plates, and the beta radiation dropped to 15 millisieverts/hour.


The bolt may have gotten loose at the joint of a storage tank that stores the contaminated water that was condensed by the desalination apparatus (Reverse Osmosis), letting the water leak. TEPCO said a large amount of radioactive strontium might be in the water. On the concrete where the leaked water was, 22 millisieverts/hour gamma ray was also detected in addition to the beta radiation. It dropped to 1 millisievert/hour after shielding.


The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency instructed TEPCO on February 3 to submit a report on the causes of the leaks at the plant and on the measures to be taken to prevent the leaks from occurring again.

Here's the tank that leaked, and there are 100 more such tanks, from TEPCO (2/3/2012):

Thursday, February 2, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 4: Leak Continues from Reactor Well/SFP/DS

TEPCO hasn't identified the leak, but the leak is evidenced by the rapidly dropping water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank.

From Jiji Tsushin (2/3/2012):

東京電力は3日、福島第1原発の4号機原子炉建屋の原子炉と使用済み燃料プール、機器用プールに共通して張っている水が建屋内に依然として漏れ続けている とみられると発表した。水位はほぼ満水状態に維持しているが、あふれた水を受けるタンクの水位が通常の2倍のペースで低下しているため、漏出の可能性が高 いと分かった。

TEPCO announced on February 3 that the water in the Reactor Pressure Vessel, Spent Fuel Pool and DS Pool in Reactor 4 continues to leak into the reactor building. The RPV, SFP, and DS Pool are filled with water to the near-full level, but the water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank is dropping twice as fast as normal, which likely indicates a leak.


The water is contaminated with radioactive materials, and is considered to be flowing to the basement of the reactor building where the contaminated water has already been sitting. The possible causes include the frozen or damaged pipe joints, and the workers are trying to identify the location(s).

From TEPCO's Plant Parameter data, the water levels of Reactor 4 Skimmer Surge Tank:

2/3 11AM: 3179 millimeters
2/3: 5AM: 2085 mm
2/2 11AM: 2498 mm
2/2 5AM: 2784 mm
2/1 11AM: 3223 mm
2/1 5AM: 3225 mm
1/31 11AM: 3977 mm
1/31 5AM: 4357 mm
1/30 11AM: 5416 mm
1/30 5AM: 5208 mm

The relationship of the Reactor Well (RPV), SFP, and DS Pool:

SFP and Skimmer Surge Tank:

(Graphics created by @pluredro based on TEPCO's information)

Minister of the Environment Goshi Hosono to Shimada City in Shizuoka: "Thank you for burning the debris, we're cheering for you by drinking your tea"

This is just absolutely sickening.

Shimada City in Shizuoka Prefecture, whose mayor is deeply involved in the corruption over waste management in the city, has decided to go ahead with test burning of the disaster debris from Iwate Prefecture against fierce opposition from the city residents and citizens in neighboring cities and prefectures. The ashes after incineration will be buried in the final disposal site for regular garbage and industrial waste in the city.

To reward such an exemplary behavior, joyous Goshi Hosono, Minister of the Environment, tells the city that he has made green tea from Shimada City as the drink at the ministry.

From Jiji Tsushin (2/3/2012):


"We're cheering for you by drinking your tea", says Minister Hosono to Shimada City for its decision to test burn the debris


Minister of the Environment Goshi Hosono revealed during the press conference on February 3 after the cabinet meeting that he switched the tea drunk by the ministry officials to the tea made in Shimada City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Shimada City has just announced it will test burn the disaster debris from Yamada-cho in Iwate Prefecture. As the wide-area processing of the disaster debris is not going well due to the concern for the radiation contamination from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, Minister Hosono, by switching the tea to the Shimada City's tea, is cheering for the city eager to accept the debris.


In the press conference, Minister Hosono said, "I've been a coffee drinker, but right now all I drink is Shimada's tea." The Ministry of the Environment is encouraging the workers at the ministry to purchase Shimada tea for their consumption at work.

Shimada City is located in central Shizuoka, population slightly less than 100,000. Its main industry is tea growing on Makinohara Plateau, the largest tea growing region in Shizuoka and thus the largest in Japan.

Mayor Sakurai has said that he will go ahead with the test burning even though the residents of the district where the incinerator is located haven't agreed to the burning. He says, "I explained everything, nothing more to say to them. It's the time for decision."

Several meetings were held between the city officials and the residents, and the city stuffed the meetings with hired shills to boost their side. The officials even said the residents didn't matter anyway as the neighborhood community leaders were all for it.

Mayor Sakurai was the president of the city's only industrial waste processing company before he became the major. Currently, his relative (son or brother) is the president, running the company, and the mayor remains one of the largest shareholders.

Shimada City has declining population and declining amount of garbage. The incineration plant apparently cannot be used unless the furnace is at least 60% full. If that's true, it may be a relic from the bubble days in 1980s - a big incinerator, bigger than the city ever would have needed.

Disaster debris from Tohoku must be heaven-sent for the mayor.

The incineration plant is right near the water source for the city.

(If you read Japanese, this is a Togetter on "low down on Shimada City's decision to accept disaster debris".)

San Onofre Nuke Plant: Faulty Steam Generator Was Made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

The plant operator replaced all the steam generators at the plant in December 2010 with the steam generators (SG) made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Unit 3 re-started in February 2011. Unit 2 is under regular maintenance.

From The Orange County Register (2/2/2012):

As workers began inspecting a leaky tube in one of the San Onofre nuclear plant's reactors Thursday, federal regulators said more than 800 tubes in a second, offline reactor showed wear and thinning, although they are less than two years old.

And plant officials confirmed that sensors showed a tiny amount of radioactive gas may have leaked out of a building next to the first reactor before the reactor was shut down late Tuesday.

All four of the plant's steam generators and their tubes are less than two years old, installed after being delivered to the West Coast by the Japanese manufacturer of the generators, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Some 9,700 tubes carry water from the reactor and through each generator.

"They have inspected 80 percent of the tubes in one of the steam generators at unit 2," said Victor Dricks, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "Two of the tubes have thinning so extensive that they need to be plugged and taken out of service. Sixty nine other tubes have thinning greater than 20 percent of the wall thickness, and a larger number have thinning greater than 10 percent of wall thickness."

The tubes with 10 percent thinning number more than 800, he said.

Gil Alexander, a spokesman for plant operator Southern California Edison, said he could not confirm Dricks's numbers Thursday because an assessment of the unit 2 tubes is continuing.

Dricks and Alexander, however, said that highly sensitive alarms were tripped in an building next to San Onofre's unit 3 reactor after the leak was detected about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, indicating that at least some radioactive gas was present.

The building houses the turbine that generates electricity.


And while workers were able to begin inspecting the unit 3 reactor, which had cooled enough to allow them to enter, they had not yet been able to characterize the size or nature of the leak, he said.

Mitsubishi officials were on scene, he said, and he had no estimate of when the reactor might be started up again, though it will likely be several days.

“Mitsubishi is aware of the issue reported at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and has been in contact with the customer, Southern California Edison," the company said in a statement released to the press. "The investigation of the incident is being conducted by our customer. However, as the manufacturer of the steam generators, we will do whatever we can to support our customer in resolving the issue.”

New details also emerged about an unrelated accident on Friday, when a contract worker slipped into a pool above the unit 2 reactor, now offline for maintenance, while trying to retrieve a flashlight.

The man, whose name Edison declined to release, was not injured, and did not suffer harmful radiation exposure, but might have ingested the mildly radioactive water, Alexander said. No internal contamination was found.

Normally, water that is heated by the reactor and flows through the tubes is kept separate from another loop of water, from another source, inside the steam generators.

Instead, the tubes are immersed in the water inside the steam generators, heating the water, which turns to steam that powers the plant's turbines to produce electricity.

But a small leak in one of the tubes could have allowed radioactive water circulating from the reactor to mix with the water in the steam generator.

If so, it could have resulted in the escape of a small amount of radioactive gas.

(Full article at the link)

From Enformable (2/2/2012):

It’s not clear what caused the pipe to fail, or whether the company was facing an isolated break in a single alloy tube or a manufacturing defect that might be at issue elsewhere in the massive plant tube system.

This might mean there is a now a worry about the possibility that San Onofre has purchased 4 faulty steam generators from Mitsubishi, and the financial costs to replace them might prevent the plant from restarting.

Southern California Edison said a manufacturing defect was reported by Mitsubishi before delivery of two generators from Japan — but that the equipment was retested by the manufacturer and plant operator and determined to be fine before installation at the southern reactor.

Japan's Ministry of Education Radiation Council: No Need to Have Stricter Standard for Radiation for Food for Infants

Because "we have to make sure producers are not inconvenienced".

The Radiation Council of the Ministry of Education and Science issued its response after deliberating on the new safety standard for radioactive cesium in food submitted by the Ministry of Health and Labor.

First, from Mainichi Shinbun (2/2/2012):


Report on new standard for radioactive cesium: 100 becquerels/kg for infant food


The Radiation Council of the Ministry of Education and Science has been deliberating on the new safety standards for radioactive cesium in food set by the Ministry of Health and Labor. On February 2, the council compiled its report that said it would be OK to loosen the standards for food and milk for infants from 50 becquerels/kg to 100 becquerels/kg. In the next meeting, the council will submit its final report to the Ministry of Health and Labor.


The majority of the council expressed the view that "for all age groups including infants, the annual [internal] radiation exposure would be within 1 millisievert even if they continue to consume food with 100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium", and all agreed that the health of children would be well protected. Some said the new standards would be too harsh for fishermen and farmers, and the standards might negatively affect the recovery of the disaster-affected areas. The council's report also says "all stakeholders should participate in deciding the new standards".


In December, the Ministry of Health and Labor revised the existing provisional safety standard of 500 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium and prepared the new standards of 50 becquerels/kg for infant food, 50 becquerels/kg for milk, and 100 becquerels/kg for other food items. The new standards will be officially decided after the Radiation Council's deliberation and comments from the public and enforced starting April.

Asahi Shinbun on the same subject has this additional information about who else the Radiation Council cares about - entities that do the radiation testing.


[The council] will ask for considerations in using the new standard in April so that there are no confusions in testing and no negative effect on the producers.


To limit the annual radiation exposure to 1 millisievert and below, [the council] points out that the general food standard [of 100 becquerels/kg] is amply safe for the children's health without setting a special standard for food for infants. The council questions the basis for the stricter standard, and worries about the negative effect on what people eat in the disaster-affected areas and on the industries there.

No need to treat infants and toddlers differently when it comes to radioactive materials in food. 100 becquerels/kg radioactive cesium is safe enough for everyone. March on, brave little soldiers.

By the way, the annual radiation exposure they are talking about here is "internal" exposure in addition to the natural background internal exposure from ingesting food. It doesn't even include extra internal radiation from inhaling radioactive materials, and does not include external radiation exposure.

Public comments count nothing, as people in Japan are still finding out. It is to give them an illusion that what they have is democracy. Public meetings, public comments are the formalities only for the power that be to say "See, we listen to the citizens because we hold these meetings and solicit comments from the citizens."

#Fukushima Residents to Be Preferentially Hired for Decon Projects in Fukushima

It's clearly not enough for the Japanese government to keep the Fukushima residents inside Fukushima by offering "incentives" and propaganda.

The government is set to "indicate" that the Fukushima residents should be hired for decontamination projects to be carried out throughout Fukushima in a new bill to be presented in the current session of the Diet.

Nuclear power plants throughout Japan have been "sold" to the municipalities as "job creators" for the local economy. Even after a nuclear plant blew up and broken, it will continue to provide jobs for the residents. How wonderful. (Never mind the radiation.)

From Yomiuri Shinbun (2/2/2012):


It was revealed on February 1 that the bill "Fukushima recovery and renewal special measures bill" (temporary name) that the administration will submit in the current session of the Diet will include the clause that indicates Fukushima residents should be given special consideration when hiring workers for the decontamination projects to be carried out in the areas affected by the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.


The decontamination projects, set to start [in earnest] in March, are expected to require more than 30,000 workers. The administration will support in job creation in Fukushima Prefecture which continues to suffer from a severe employment condition.


In the summary of the bill disclosed on February 1, it is written that "a consideration is to be given so that the residents of Fukushima will be hired" for decontamination projects. As it is the businesses who will be contracted to do the decontamination projects, the government is likely to ask them to preferentially hire the Fukushima residents.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

#Radiation in Japan: This Is How Japan's Ministry of the Environment Presents "Radiation-Free" Looking Tohoku and Kanto

in order to push for the wide-area processing of tsunami debris contaminated with radioactive fallout from the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures which involves shipping the debris as far away as the island of Kyushu, burn it, and bury or recycle the ashes and slags.

Take a look at this clean-looking map created by the Ministry of the Environment in its effort to persuade the municipalities to accept the debris, burn it and bury it, vis a vis the map created by the Ministry of Education and Science from the aerial survey of the air radiation levels. The Ministry of the Environment says it created the map based on the data from the Ministry of Education and Science:

Notice the difference, other than the slightly different color scheme?

The difference is the legends. In the map created by the Ministry of the Environment, everywhere with less than 0.23 microsievert/hour air radiation is painted white. In the Ministry of Education's map, the lowest is less than 0.1 microsievert/hour air radiation, which is painted deep blue.

Whereas the Ministry of Education map further differentiates the areas with between 0.1 and 0.2 microsievert/hour air radiation, in the Ministry of Environment map these areas are still "white".

The Ministry of the Environment puts up this map in its newly created website to aid in persuading the populace into accepting the disaster debris. The map is also in the brochure for the masses, as if the air radiation levels are the same as the density of radioactive materials in soil, water, or the disaster debris.

In the Ministry of the Environment map, there are hardly any areas of contamination in Miyagi, Chiba, Ibaraki. Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa are "white". "Oh, the contamination is only in Fukushima Prefecture. Why are we making fuss about the debris being radioactive elsewhere?"

The slightly elevated air radiation level near Onagawa-machi, Miyagi Prefecture whose debris Tokyo has been burning is shown in the Ministry of Education's map but not at all in the Ministry of the Environment map. For the air radiation levels along the coast of northern Miyagi and southern Iwate (near Rikuzen Takata City for example), all you get to see in the Ministry of the Environment map is that they are less than 0.23 microsievert/hour.

(Good job, Goshi Hosono. I'm sure you will be the next prime minister of Japan...)

City-Wide Decontamination in Minami Soma, Fukushima, Price Tag 40 Billion Yen (US$525 Million)

And the contract to "decontaminate" the entire city is soon to be awarded to one joint venture headed by one of the largest construction companies in Japan by the city's decon committee headed by Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama of Tokyo University.

Something doesn't sit very well with me.

The annual budget of Minami Soma City for the fiscal 2011 year (that ends on March 31) is total 50 billion yen, with the main budget of 28 billion yen, the supplementary budgets of 13 billion yen, and budget for government corporations 9 billion. Of the main budget, only 9 billion yen is from the city tax, and the national and prefectural subsidies (allocated according to the population) and the proceeds from municipal bond sales.

40 billion yen decontamination project is expected to last for 2 years, to be paid for over three years starting 2011 fiscal year. The amount of money for the next two years would eat up more than half of the main budget, but the city is not paying any of that any way. The cost will be borne by the national government, who will bill TEPCO, who then will bill the national government, who will then tax the citizens.

Endless money for big businesses and the well-connected small businesses and politicians who can facilitate the joint ventures.

From Asahi Shinbun (2/2/2012):


Minami Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture has decided to award a contract worth 40 billion yen to decontaminate the entire city's living space to one general contractor. The city has started the process to select the contractor, and will soon decide on one joint venture (JV) to award the 2-year contract to decontaminate the city. Of all the municipalities in Fukushima, this is the first case of a city-wide decontamination project instead of decontamination by districts within a city.


The "no-entry zone" and "planned evacuation zone" decontamination will be done by the national government. Outside these zones, municipalities will carry out decontamination of the locations that will exceed annual radiation exposure of 1 millisievert, and the cost will be borne by the national government. The contract will cover the area outside those zones in Minami Soma. 46,000 buildings including single-family residences, apartments, hospitals, factories and shops will be decontaminated in the areas of 1,433 hectares. Also included in the project will be 1,000 kilometers of roads, and forests within 20 meters from residences and buildings.


The unit cost as specified by the national government for decontaminating a single-family residence with the lot size of 400 square meters without washing the walls is 600,000 yen [US$7882]. For larger houses, the cost is calculated at 1,500 yen [US$20] per square meter. For roads, 2.4 million [US$31,500] yen per 1 kilometer if there are drains on both sides of the roads.


Minami Soma City has calculated the total cost to be 40 billion yen, including the radiation monitoring cost. It will allocate 2.2 billion yen from the fiscal 2011 budget, 19.6 billion yen for the fiscal 2012, and 18.2 billion from the fiscal 2013. The fiscal 2011 regular initial budget was 27.7 billion yen. The amounts in the next two fiscal years would be almost equivalent to the city's budget.


The city adopted the system to ask specific companies to submit proposals, and already asked 26 general contractors to submit proposals in December last year. One of the condition of the proposals is to include the local cooperative made up of construction firms and painting firms in the decontamination projects.


By the January 27 deadline, 6 joint ventures with top-tier and 2nd-tier general contractors as the heads of the ventures submitted their proposals to the city. The city's decontamination promotion committee headed by Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama of Tokyo University will evaluate the proposals and select one joint venture. The city wants decontamination to start in February.


As to selecting only one joint venture, the official in charge of decontamination in Minami Soma City explains, "In order to quickly proceed on decontamination, we think it is appropriate to select a large contractor for their technology and safety control. By having the same contractor for two years, the decontamination can be carried out in a flexible way and it will be easier to secure workers."

Big, national general contractors are indeed preferred over the local contractors when it comes to "recover and rebuild" Fukushima and other disaster-affected Tohoku because of supposed expertise and lower cost over the long run. I doubt that even they have accumulated enough "expertise" in "decontamination" since March 11, 2011, but it doesn't quite matter anyway.

What counts is having a big, national construction company well-connected with the national government come into town and hire subcontractors from the local, small contractors well-connected with the city politicians. Just like good old times in the bubbly days in the 1980s. From building nuclear power plants to city-wide decontamination, there is nothing that big, Japanese general contractors cannot do, given enough money.

And for selling nuclear reactors or melting furnaces and incinerators to process radioactive disaster debris, count on Hitachi. Or selling nuclear reactors or or leasing gamma cameras or selling household appliances for the temporary housing for the evacuees, count on Toshiba.

Teaming up with big businesses is a very familiar territory for any municipal government. The only odd thing about Minami Soma's decon business is that the committee to select the JV is headed by Professor Kodama, whose angry speech in the Diet criticizing the lack of response by the national government to the radiation contamination did trigger a response from the government.

Probably it wasn't quite a response that the professor was anticipating.

Just a friendly reminder of what the "decontamination" as defined by the Ministry of the Environment is: "It is like a cleaning job of stubborn dirt or stains", using scrubbing brushes, deck brushes, pressure washers, screw drivers, gloves, rubber boots, bags, rakes .... Oh and masks are optional.

California's San Onofre's Leak Was 30 Gallons/Hr

Oh and the low level of radioactive gas may also have leaked.

30 gallons of water per hour = 113 liters of water per hour.

From Emformable (2/1/2012), citing the NRC event notification:


“At 1505 PST, Unit 3 entered Abnormal Operation Instruction S023-13-14 ‘Reactor Coolant Leak’ for a steam generator leak exceeding 5 gallons per day.

“At 1549 PST, the leak rate was determined to be 82 gallons per day. At 1610 PST, a leak rate greater than 75 gallons per day with an increasing rate of leakage exceeding 30 gallons per hour was established and entry into S023-13-28 ‘Rapid Power Reduction’ was performed.

“At 1630 PST, commenced rapid power reduction per S023-13-28 ‘Rapid Power Reduction’. At 1731 PST, with reactor power at 35% the Unit was manually tripped. At 1738 PST, Unit 3 entered Emergency Operation Instruction S023-12-4 ‘Steam Generator Tube Rupture’.

“At 1800 PST the affected steam generator was isolated.”

All control rods fully inserted on the trip. Decay heat is being removed thru the main steam bypass valves into the main condenser. Main feedwater is maintaining steam generator level. No relief valves lifted during the manual trip. The plant is in normal shutdown electrical lineup.

Unit 2 is presently in a refueling outage and was not affected by this event.

The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector. The licensee has issued a press release.

(Updated) Food in Japan: Radioactive Cesium from Mandarin Oranges, Milk Industry to Test Milk, and Octopus Found with Body Parts

As days go by, food in Japan doesn't look very appetizing, to say the least.

1. Radioactive mandarin orange from Kanagawa Prefecture

Radioactive cesium was found from the edible part of mandarin oranges (which in the US are called "satsuma" for some reason) and the skin. Security Tokyo is a private testing laboratory that uses the high-precision germanium semiconductor detector, not one of those fly-by-night testing "laboratories" cropping up in Japan (like the one who claimed to have "measured" high radioactive "iodine" in the snow in Hachioji. Totally false. Did I write about it? I don't remember...)

But here's the data from Security Tokyo:

Item: mandarin orange from Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, purchased in a supermarket in Yokohama City
Date tested: January 31, 2012
Edible part:

  • Iodine-131: ND
  • Cesium-134: 2.7 becquerels/kg
  • Cesium-137: 3.3 becquerels/kg
  • Total cesium: 6 becquerels/kg
Outer skin:
  • Iodine-131: ND
  • Cesium-134: 8.2 becquerels/kg
  • Cesium-137: 9.8 becauerels/kg
  • Total cesium: 18 becquerels/kg

The spectrum graph from Security Tokyo, with their permission:

Some Japanese people do use skin of the orange for other purposes than eating. Let's see, if each mandarin orange weighs 50 gram, it would take 20 oranges to reach 6 becquerels of radioactive cesium. If you eat 4 oranges at a time, it takes 5 servings to get 6 becquerels. In the big scheme of things in Japan these days, that may not much for many people, but there may be people who do not want to eat and do not want to have their toddlers eat this mandarin orange particularly when they still have a choice of buying from western Japan.

(Oh wait... If the skin is also radioactive, does that mean you would get radioactive cesium by peeling it by hand?)

Before the Fukushima accident, the amount of radioactive cesium in mandarin orange was ND (measuring Hokkaido's orange, information from Japan Chemical Analysis Center).

2. Milk Industry agrees to test milk to win trust from the customers. (Too late.)

The milk industry, which has adamantly refused to test milk that is sold in the marketplace and insisted that the raw milk tests done by the prefectures in Tohoku and Kanto are more than sufficient, now says it will test the milk it sells in the market to assure safety and trust. After more than 10 months, with actual detections of radioactive cesium in milk sold in the market.

From the announcement by the Japan Dairy Industry Association (emphasis is mine):

After the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident and the resultant contamination of the environment with radioactive materials, there has been a heightened interest among consumers in the food safety.

There will be a new set of safety standards for radioactive materials to be enacted in April to provide tighter control over the food safety.

Our stance has always been that our milk and milk products are made from the safe raw milk that undergoes monitoring tests [i.e. sample test] by the municipalities and therefore there is no need to test the final products. Judging from the levels of radioactive materials detected in the final products, we believe our products will conform to the new standard with no problem.

However, there has been a strong demand to test milk for school lunch and release the test results from the citizens, and the Ministry of Health and Labor has subsequently requested us to make the test results public.

Even though our thinking about testing hasn't changed, we've decided that it is appropriate to test milk at this juncture to make sure it tests below the new standard and to win the trust from our customers and make them feel at ease.

Therefore, on the following schedule, we will conduct the test and publish the results.

Oh how nice of them.

They will let you know at the end of February. People who have been pushing for testing the milk has nothing to say other than "Why bother at this point?"

3. Octopus with hair, nail, wristwatch

Lastly, a little macabre "hearsay" if you will, from someone who lives in Fukushima tweeting. From scanning her tweets I don't see any good reason for her to fabricate stories:

タコの加工業者さん タコを解体していると タコの中から髪の毛や爪がでてくるそうです...(消化されないから)板前さんも タコの中から腕時計が出てきたそうです。 雑食のタコは何でも食べるから...ウニも雑食らしいが 今年のウニは大きいって

I was told by someone in the business of processing octopuses. As he dismembers the octopuses he finds human hair and nails (because they don't get digested). A restaurant chef told me he found a wristwatch in an octopus. Octopuses are omnivores. I hear that "uni" (sea urchin) is also omnivores, and that they are big this year.

Other people have quickly chimed in, telling her that's quite normal; every fisherman knows that's how it goes after a big tsunami, they say.

LA Times: Small leak at San Onofre nuclear power plant investigated

So there was a leak at San Onofre, not just a possibility of a leak.

LA Times (2/1/2012):

Southern California -- this just in

Small leak at San Onofre nuclear power plant investigated
February 1, 2012 | 7:15 am

Southern California Edison officials continued their investigation Wednesday of a small water leak in one of two units at the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The unit was shut down at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday after a sensor detected a leak in a steam generator tube; an assessment of the leak will determine its cause.

The shutdown was ordered out of precaution, Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said.

He said the incident was so minor "it wouldn't even qualify as the least severe" infraction under Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines.

The leak posed no risk to workers and did not require an evacuation, Alexander said.

The unit has a generating capacity of 1,100 megawatts power and is able to meet the needs of 700,000 Southern California homes.

The shutdown is not expected to affect customer's power supply.

8.5 Tonnes of Water Leaked from Reactor Well/Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 According to TEPCO

In the evening press conference on February 1, 2012 (with Matsumoto), TEPCO announced the result of their calculation: 8.5 tonnes of water from the Reactor Well/Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 may have leaked (Jiji News, Japanese, 2/1/2012). Other than the information of the TEPCO's calculated number and the diameter of the pipe (9 millimeters), the details seem the same as I reported in my previous post.

Just keep in mind that that's their calculation for about 29 hours from 3:50PM January 30 to 10:43PM January 31.

TEPCO also released the photographs of the jet pump test line that leaked; one pipe is totally dislocated from the joint.

External Power Restored at Byron Nuclear Plant

From Rockford Register Star (1/31/2012 10:03PM):

BYRON — Operators at Byron Generating Station terminated the Unusual Event at 8 p.m. today, after the return of power to Unit 2.

“Our diesel generators performed as expected in providing continuous electricity to the unit during the Unusual Event. Plant teams will now focus on a safe and measured approach to returning Unit 2 to the electrical grid,” said Byron Station Site Vice President Tim Tulon.

Station personnel are in communication with local, state and federal officials, including the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the facility’s status.

The Unusual Event, which was declared Monday, is the lowest of the four emergency classifications as established by the NRC.

Byron’s Unit 1 continues to safely supply electricity to customers.

Exelon Nuclear officials say an equipment failure in a switchyard near the plant triggered the automatic shutdown of Unit 2.

(Full article at the link)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 4 Was Leaking Water from Reactor Well/Spent Fuel Pool, and That Was Indicated by Water Level of Skimmer Surge Tank

TEPCO announced during the February 1 morning press conference that the valve of a pipe line connected to the reactor was found broken and at least 6 liters of water from the reactor had spilled.

The Reactor Well/Reactor Pressure Vessel of Reactor 4 is filled with water even if it does not have any fuel (since it was in maintenance when the accident happened), and the water goes back and forth freely between the Reactor Well and the Spent Fuel Pool as the gate separating them has been loose since the January 1 earthquake.

It is the water co-mingled with water from the Spent Fuel Pool that was leaking, as evidenced by the relatively high radioactivity of the water.

Information gleaned out of the three bumbling TEPCO people (without Matsumoto) who didn't seem to know much at all (except one), to the irritation of the reporters who attended:

  • At 10:30PM on January 31, a worker found the water leaking from the jet pump test line valve in the southwest corner on the 1st floor of Reactor 4 during the "patrol" (which is probably a lie, as you'll see later).

  • There are 20 jet pumps inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel.

  • The nature of damage of the valve is not known. It is probably not from freezing. It may have been broken when the explosion happened (last March).

  • The jet pump test line connects to the jet pumps inside the RPV.

  • The water stopped when they shut off the main line coming from the RPV, at 10:43PM.

  • It is hard to tell whether the test line valve broke recently or not, as the floor is littered with debris.

  • The leaked water is estimated to be about 6 liters as far as they could find on the floor full of debris.

  • The water is from the Reactor Well. The reactor has no fuel inside as it was on maintenance when the accident happened, but it is filled with water.

  • Radioactivity of the leaking water is 35.5 becquerels/cubic centimeter (but TEPCO couldn't say whether it was all-gamma radiation or something else). Therefore, it is the water from the Reactor Well which is connected to the Spent Fuel Pool.

  • The Reactor Well and the Spent Fuel Pool are separated by the gate, but the gate got loose after the earthquake on January 1 and the water from the Spent Fuel Pool comes in to the Reactor Well.

  • Actually, TEPCO knew something was amiss on January 30 when they noticed the water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank dropping rapidly at 3:50PM. The cooling system for the Spent Fuel Pool was re-started at 3:13PM that day, and they thought the Skimmer Surge Tank's level had something to do with the cooling system and decided to observe for one day and look for possible causes.

  • The water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank was dropping at 60 to 90 millimeters per hour.

  • Then on January 31, a worker found the broken valve at the jet pump test line. (See, it was not a routine "patrol"; they were looking for possible causes of the drop in the Skimmer Surge Tank level and found the leak.)

  • When the leak was stopped, the drop in the water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank stopped.

  • As the only person who was able to talk about anything technical explained, water goes back and forth freely between the Reactor Well and the Spent Fuel Pool, and if the water level of the Reactor Well goes down that means the water level of the Spent Fuel Pool goes down, and that is reflected in the water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank.

  • The Skimmer Surge Tank water level hardly changes in the cold weather like this.

  • The leak is probably confined within the reactor building, and the leaked water was probably led to the basement water.

Well well. When the water level drop in the Skimmer Surge Tank in Reactor 4 was first reported after the January 1, 2012 earthquake, the explanation was, as I clearly recall, that the water in the Spent Fuel Pool went into the Reactor Well when the gate got loose, and therefore not enough water went to the Skimmer Surge Tank. They also said the water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank would go down naturally due to evaporation.

Now they finally admit that the water level of the Skimmer Surge Tank is the direct indication of the water level of the Spent Fuel Pool.

6 liters of the contaminated water from the Spent Fuel Pool/Reactor Well doesn't make sense if the Skimmer Surge Tank water level was dropping 60-90 millimeters per hour for 29 hours. Several reporters pressed for a clear answer, but TEPCO said they would get back to them after calculation.


P.S. I just read a post by Ms. Emiko Numauchi as "Numayu" writing that there was nuclear fuel inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel of Reactor 4 and it had a meltdown, as she heard from a worker she trusts, and the English translation of the post by someone else.

If the fuel melted through the RPV and now on the floor of the Containment Vessel as she claims, I have no idea how the RPV/Reactor Well is able to retain water, as it clearly does, looking at the photographs. Of course she or anyone can claim they are fake photographs.

As for me, I want to find the facts as much as possible without resorting to calling everything fake. Even from TEPCO, the reporters on February 1 press conference were able to draw out more information than what TEPCO initially presented in the beginning of the press conference.

Well of course TEPCO can be lying 100%, but it simply would not make sense for TEPCO to hide a meltdown on Reactor 4 if it happened. There are already 3 meltdowns, and part of the melted fuel has eaten into the concrete floors of the Containment Vessels. What's the point of hiding another meltdown, after 10 months?

California's San Onofre Nuke Plant Shut Down Unit 3, Due to Potential Leak in Steam Generator Tube

San Onofre's reactors are pressurized water reactors. Unit 3's reactor was made by Combustion Engineering, which was purchased in 2000 by Westinghouse (now Toshiba).

From Market Watch (1/31/2012):

Southern California Edison, operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, said in a press release Tuesday it has begun a precautionary shutdown of Unit 3 because sensors detected a possible leak in one of the unit's steam generator tubes.

The company said "the potential leak poses no imminent danger to the public or plant workers. There has been no release to the atmosphere." SCE said personnel will evaluate the cause of the leak and the steps needed to repair it and resume operations.

SCE also said it has ample reserve power to meet customer needs. The station's Unit 2 is currently offline for a planned maintenance outage, the company added in the statement.

SCE is a division of Edison International.

Cesium-137 Dispersion Simulation in the Pacific Ocean, 3/21/2011 - 1/27/2012

The radioactivity dispersion simulation JCOPE (Japan Coastal Ocean Predictability Experiment) by JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology), showing cesium-137 dispersion in the Pacific Ocean from March 21, 2011 to January 27, 2012.

March 21, 2011 was when the high levels of radioactive materials from the seawater near the plant were first detected.

Screenshots from their JCOPE page with the simulation animation (1/30/2012). Click for bigger view:

NISA's Young Career Bureaucrat Admits Fukushima I Nuke Accident Is NOT Over


Independent journalist Ryusaku Tanaka reports on the meeting between a citizens' group and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The citizens' group made a formal appointment with the agency for the meeting, but on the day of the meeting they were shoved into a dark corridor to wait for someone to show up, and the "meeting" was done in the lobby, standing, between the group and a lone 30-year-old NISA bureaucrat.

From Tanaka's blog (1/31/2012):

保安院・若手官僚うっかり 「現場は収束に向けて動いている」

A young bureaucrat at NISA inadvertently says, "Workers at the [Fukushima I Nuke] plant are working toward winding down the accident"


When a citizens' group went to petition the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry demanding "halting and decommissioning all nuclear power plants", a young bureaucrat had an amazing slip of the tongue. He said the nuclear accident was not over.


On January 31, a group of 12 people from "Let's stop all nuclear power plant! national conference" visited the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in the annex building of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Yosuke Oda, secretary of the conference, had managed to make an appointment with the PR department of the NISA.


They arrived at 2PM, as per the appointment, and went to the reception at NISA for necessary procedure before the meeting. After calling the PR department, the receptionist told them, "There has been a change of person in charge". Oh boy, they had set up the meeting 5 days prior... I almost burst into laughter at the lack of common sense at NISA as I was observing the exchange.


"We're not going to be turned away like this." The group protested vehemently to the PR department through the receptionist. After 10 minutes of exchange, a security guard came.


"Could you wait over there?" The security guard put them in the space at the back of the reception area. There was no light, and it was dark (see photo). When we asked another security guard, it was part of energy saving effort.


We waited in the dark for about 20 minutes. A bureaucrat from the PR department showed up with the security guard. It was Shunsuke Shimozuru (or Shimotsuru), section manager at NISA PR department. He was a youthful-looking young man, hardly 30 years of age. A career bureaucrat, in all likelihood.


Young Shimozuru, correction, Manager Shimozuru took us to a lobby on the same floor. He was going to receive the petition standing.


"Why not in a conference room?"
"It is our policy to receive a petition in the lobby."


"When "Group of Fukushima women" went to petition on October 27 last year, they were shown to a conference room." "Are you limiting our right to petition?" People pressed him for an answer.


Manager Shimozuru was cornered. "Well, it is also a matter of security..."


"We are not doing anything dangerous. What's the security problem of letting us in a conference room?"


Not knowing what else to say, Manager Shimozuru blurted out the truth despite himself. "The declaration was made that the nuclear plant accident was over, but the workers at the plant are working toward ending the accident..."


"How can you say that the accident is over when you see a white smoke coming out of the broken plant?" That's what people in Fukushima often say.


A young bureaucrat of NISA inadvertently admitted that the nuclear plant accident, for all intent and purposes, was not over. "Just as I expected", as I thought to myself. I wish I could tell Prime Minster Noda, "NISA itself is saying the accident is not over. Do you know that?"

Mr. Shimozuru is a man in the center, with his back on the camera.

It must be a rude learning experience for ordinary citizens of Japan. All their lives, they thought the bureaucrats and politicians who graduated from top schools in the nation were working for them. When they made an appointment to see them, they were shoved into a dark corner, and met with a young man no more than 30 years of age, in the lobby, standing.

Just for your information in case you are not familiar, not all bureaucrats are "career" bureaucrats in Japan. Career bureaucrats are those elites in the national government who have passed the rigorous examination and in exchange are guaranteed fast-track promotions within the ministries. They dominate the top hierarchy of the ministries. They are usually the graduates from elite universities in Japan. As part of on-the-job training of some sort, many are dispatched to municipalities throughout Japan during their career to become vice mayors of the cities before they come back to the ministries. Some go to international agencies and come back.

Some of them decide to run for office after vice mayoral experience, and become politicians but with ties to the ministries. The pro-nuke governor of Hokkaido is one example; she was a career bureaucrat at the Ministry of Economy before she became the governor. There are many others. Then, on retirement, they "descend from heaven" to the NGOs, NPOs, research institutes, big corporations, with fat checks with little work.

Byron Nuke Plant: Faulty Insulator Is to Blame

Excelon, the plant operator, hopes to replace the insulator by Tuesday evening.

From Chicago Tribune quoting AP (1/31/2012)

Exelon: Failed insulator caused outage at Byron nuclear plant

Exelon Energy officials say they've traced a power failure at a nuclear reactor in northern Illinois to an electrical insulator in a switchyard.

The insulator failed and fell off Monday morning, causing one of the reactors at the Byron Generating Station to shut down automatically, company spokesman Paul Dempsey says.

The bad insulator will be sent to a lab for analysis and officials hope to replace it by Tuesday evening. It's unclear how soon before the reactor could return to service.

Steam containing low levels of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, is being vented to reduce pressure within the reactor. But federal and plant officials say the levels are safe for workers and the public. The plant is 95 miles northwest of Chicago.

The switchyard is similar to a large substation that delivers power to the plant from the electrical grid and from the plant to the electrical grid.

Diesel generators were supplying the reactor with electricity, though it hasn't been generating power during the investigation into what happened. One question is why smoke was seen from an onsite station transformer, though no evidence of a fire was found when the plant's fire brigade responded, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said.

She said Exelon was testing equipment and inspecting various systems to determine exactly what went wrong, and no repairs would be made until the root cause was found.

"If you do a Band-Aid fix and have the same situation, it's not in anybody's interest to have a repeat," Mitlyng said, adding that the NRC is monitoring the activities.

Oh really? No kidding. I thought what nuclear power operators do is Band-Aid fixes. Just look at TEPCO.

The article continues with the mention of tritium. They don't know how much tritium has been released into the environment, but they know it's small because the radiation levels haven't changed around the plant. Uh huh.

The commission declared the incident an "unusual event," the lowest of four levels of emergency. Commission officials also said the release of tritium was expected.

Mitlyng said officials can't yet calculate how much tritium was released. They know the amounts were small because monitors around the plant didn't show increased levels of radiation, she said.

Tritium molecules are so microscopic that small amounts are able to pass from radioactive steam that originates in the reactor through tubing and into the water used to cool turbines and other equipment outside the reactor, Mitlyng said. The steam that was being released was coming from the turbine side.

Full article at the link.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Japanese Government Hasn't Kept Any Minutes of Disaster Response Meetings Since 1995 Kobe Earthquake

It was only 4 days ago that Japan's PM Noda said "it is regrettable" that there were no minutes kept for the government response team's meetings ever since March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuke accident.

Then it turned out that Miyagi Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture didn't quite keep record of their disaster response meetings either.

Now it turns out that the Japanese government hasn't kept any minutes of disaster response meetings since the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Yomiuri Shinbun (1/31/2012) reports:


It was discovered on January 31 that there was no meeting summary or minutes for any of the meetings of emergency response groups or emergency disaster response groups which were set up since the 1995 Kobe earthquake.


Multiple government sources told Yomiuri.


Since it was revealed that there was no minutes of the government meetings relating to the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster, the Cabinet Office expanded the investigation into the past disaster response headquarters to see if there were minutes created for the 8 separate disaster response headquarters set up after disasters including the Kobe earthquake (1995), Mt. Usu eruption in Hokkaido (2000), Miyakejima Island eruption in Tokyo (2000), Chuetsu Earthquake in Niigata (2004), and major typhoons.


It turned out that except for the earthquake emergency response headquarters set up at the time of the Kobe earthquake that had part of the summary of proceedings kept as part of the outline of the then-Chief Cabinet Secretary's press conference, there was no minutes nor summary of proceedings. The Cabinet Office found some meeting announcements and handouts.

Oh boy. Isn't it amazing how they pretend to be a democratic nation?

I'm sure there will be many apologists who will say "If we know it will be recorded in the minutes, we won't be able to speak freely".

Update on Byron Nuclear Plant: Diesel Generators Used for Vent, Excelon Says Tritium Is Natural

From Rockford Register Star (1/30/2012 8:43PM):

ROCKFORD — A loss of power coming into the Byron nuclear plant caused one of two reactors to automatically shut down about 10:15 a.m. today.

Backup diesel generators were activated after the power outage and were being used for safety equipment that vents heat from the reactor, according to a spokeswoman from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Lisle.

“Right now, we believe the plant is in a stable condition,” said the NRC’s Viktoria Mitlyng. “There is no danger to the workers or the public.”

Exelon, which operates the Byron plant, declared an “unusual event” — the lowest of four emergency classifications established by the NRC — after the outage.

Mitlyng said two NRC resident inspectors are monitoring the plant.


Byron station spokesman Paul Dempsey said crews are still trying to determine how power coming to the generator was interrupted. The steam release, which he said made a whooshing sound, was expected to continue into the evening.

The steam contains tritium, a hydrogen isotope with low levels of radioactivity. Exelon, in a news release, said tritium occurs naturally and is found in virtually all surface water, although it is found in greater concentrations near nuclear reactors.

It was the first automatic shutdown of the plant since 2007 when a dime-sized hole in a water cooling pipe led to the shutdown of both reactors.

(Full article at the link)

They all say the same thing. It is safe, radioactive materials are natural. Soon they'll be talking about bananas and transcontinental flights and X-rays.

From wiki on tritium from fission:

Tritium is an uncommon product of the nuclear fission of uranium-235, plutonium-239, and uranium-233, with a production of about one per each 10,000 fissions.[7][8] This means that the release or recovery of tritium needs to be considered in the operation of nuclear reactors, especially in the reprocessing of nuclear fuels and in the storage of spent nuclear fuel. The production of tritium was not a goal, but is rather just a side-effect.

NHK Mistranslates IAEA Remarks and Says "NISA's Stress Test Evaluation Conforms to International Standard"

NHK reports on the findings of the IAEA during the visit this time to evaluate whether the "stress test" carried out by electric power companies and overseen by Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency was appropriate, particularly in the case of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant.

This is what the IAEA mission chief said, as you can see and hear in the accompanying video to the news:

We found that the NISA's approach is generally consistent with the IAEA's safety standards, and the international practice.
NHK translated the remark as:
which would translate back into English as:
The way [NISA] evaluate the result of the stress test conforms to the IAEA and international standards.

As if there are international standards for stress test evaluation. (Or are there?)

Japanese Twitterers who understand English immediately tweeted the incorrect translation by NHK. NHK has quickly added a paragraph to supposedly "clarify" but it is still wrong. It now translates the remark by the IAEA mission chief Lyons as:

which is:
NISA's evaluation process conforms to the IAEA rules, and in line with the international activities in Europe and other places.

Ummm. Nowhere the IAEA chief said anything about Europe. What activities? And he said "standards" not rules.

(Now I'm suddenly flooded with the memory of just atrocious translation that NHK did in the early days of the nuclear crisis in March last year. All these simultaneous translators that NHK World paid a fortune who didn't have a clue what they were translating. Ugghhh.)

I copied and pasted the NHK News for the record. Nothing much in it other than NHK's mistranslation. It basically says the IAEA rubber-stamped what the Japanese government did, again, with a friendly advice to make it as if the IAEA actually did something. What's the advice you ask? "You'd better learn how to explain to the local residents better."

Now the illusion must be totally expelled from the minds of Japanese people who cling to the idea that an "international" organization is somehow "neutral" and therefore will scold their government into the right direction.

NHK News (1/31/2012 12:07PM):

IAEA 評価方法は国際基準適合



(The audiovisual news that accompanies the article ends there.)


And then, strangely, NHK has another paragraph of the pugnacious mayor of Osaka who looks like a kindergarten bully and acts like one commenting on the NISA's stress test and the IAEA mission.

What does he have to do with anything? The only thing I can think of is that somehow this Osaka mayor, who was the governor of Osaka, full of ambition for the national politics, managed to butt himself in on the news to give an impression that he was some politician for everyone in Japan to pay attention and listen to.


Byron Nuclear Plant Reactor Is Shut Down After Loss of Offsite Power

Byron Nuclear Generating Station uses Westinghouse (owned by Japan's Toshiba)'s pressurized water reactors.

From citing AP (1/30/2012):

Exelon shuts Byron nuclear plant unit after power loss

(AP) — A nuclear reactor at a northern Illinois plant shut down Monday after losing power, and steam was being vented to reduce pressure, according to officials from Exelon Nuclear and federal regulators.

Unit 2 at Byron Generating Station shut down around 10:18 a.m., after losing power from an off-site source, Exelon officials said. Diesel generators began supplying power to the plant equipment and operators began releasing steam from the non-nuclear side of the plant to help cool the reactor, officials said.

Even though the turbine is not turning to produce electricity, "you still need to cool the equipment." said U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng. Releasing steam helps "take away some of that energy still being produced by nuclear reaction but that doesn't have anywhere to go now."

The steam contains low levels of radioactive tritium, but the levels are safe for workers and the public, federal and plant officials said.

Unit 1 was operating normally while engineers investigate why Unit 2 lost power, which comes into the plant from the outside power grid, Mitlyng said. Smoke was seen from an onsite station transformer, she said, but no evidence of a fire was found when the plant's fire brigade responded.

Exelon spokesman Paul Dempsey said there is "no reason we can pinpoint right now" for the power loss.

Mitlyng said Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors were in the control room at Byron and in constant contact with the agency's incident response center in Lisle, Ill.

Byron Generating Station is in Ogle County, about 95 miles northwest of Chicago.

In March 2008, federal officials said they were investigating a problem with electrical transformers at the plant after outside power to a unit was interrupted.

In an unrelated issue last April, the commission said it was conducting special inspections of backup water pumps at the Byron and Braidwood generating stations after the agency's inspectors raised concerns about whether the pumps would be able to cool the reactors if the normal system wasn't working. The plants' operator, Exelon Corp., initially said the pumps would work but later concluded they wouldn't.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Quince No.2 and Quince No.3 Are Ready to Be Deployed

They look like the original Quince, who has been left abandoned somewhere in the upper high-radiation floors of Reactor 2 since October last year.

The Yomiuri article below acknowledges the work that the original Quince did in the title.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (1/30/2012):


Two successor robots to the one that was lost after taking the video of the reactor buildings


Two successor robots to the one that was used for taking the video of the interior of the reactor buildings at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, Quince, were revealed by the development team at Chiba Institute of Technology on January 30.


They will be used at the plant starting mid February.


One is fitted with the device to measure radioactive materials in the dust particles in the atmosphere, and the other is fitted with a laser scanner to create 3D maps. From the experience of the original Quince who was stranded in the reactor building when the communication cable was disconnected (or severed), each robot can be controlled by wireless communication in an emergency via the other robot.


The original Quince (Quince No.1) will be left inside the reactor building [Reactor 2] to study the effect of radiation on electronics.

Poor Quince. For the sake of electronics research...

Quince No.2, from Chiba Institute of Technology page:

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Video of Ocean Bottom Near Water Intakes for Reactors 5 and 6

Not much to see here, but for the record. A clean looking ocean bottom with algae and small fish.

The video was taken by TEPCO on January 27, and released on January 30, 2012. The survey was probably in preparation for the work to pour the cement-clay mix on the ocean floor (for more, see my previous post).