Saturday, February 16, 2013

At Hanford, Rad Waste Tank Is Leaking Liquids as Bechtel's Waste Treatment Plant Lags

From Christian Science Monitor citing AP (2/16/2013; emphasis is mine):

Hanford nuclear tank in Washington State is leaking liquids

The long-delayed cleanup of the nation's most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when it was announced that a radioactive waste tank is leaking.

The long-delayed cleanup of the nation's most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that a radioactive waste tank there is leaking.

The news raises concerns about the integrity of similar tanks at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation and puts added pressure on the federal government to resolve construction problems with the plant being built to alleviate environmental and safety risks from the waste.

The tanks, which are already long past their intended 20-year life span, hold millions of gallons of a highly radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy said liquid levels are decreasing in one of 177 underground tanks at the site. Monitoring wells near the tank have not detected higher radiation levels, but Gov. Inslee said the leak could be in the range of 150 gallons to 300 gallons over the course of a year and poses a potential long-term threat to groundwater and rivers.

"I am alarmed about this on many levels," Inslee said at a news conference. "This raises concerns, not only about the existing leak ... but also concerning the integrity of the other single shell tanks of this age."

Inslee said the state was assured years ago that such problems had been dealt with and he warned that spending cuts — particularly due to a budget fight in Congress — would create further risks at Hanford. Inslee said the cleanup must be a priority for the federal government.

"We are willing to exercise our rights using the legal system at the appropriate time. That should be clear," Inslee said.

Inslee said the state has a good partner in Energy Secretary Steven Chu but that he's concerned about whether Congress is committed to clean up the highly contaminated site.

The tank in question contains about 447,000 gallons of sludge, a mixture of solids and liquids with a mud-like consistency. The tank, built in the 1940s, is known to have leaked in the past, but was stabilized in 1995 when all liquids that could be pumped out of it were removed.

Inslee said the tank is the first to have been documented to be losing liquids since all Hanford tanks were stabilized in 2005. His staff said the federal government is working to assess other tanks.

At the height of World War II, the federal government created Hanford in the remote sagebrush of eastern Washington as part of a hush-hush project to build the atomic bomb. The site ultimately produced plutonium for the world's first atomic blast and for one of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, effectively ending the war.

Plutonium production continued there through the Cold War. Today, Hanford is the nation's most contaminated nuclear site. Cleanup will cost billions of dollars and last decades.

Central to that cleanup is the removal of millions of gallons of a highly toxic, radioactive stew — enough to fill dozens of Olympic-size swimming pools — from 177 aging, underground tanks. Many of those tanks have leaked over time — an estimated 1 million gallons of waste — threatening the groundwater and the neighboring Columbia River, the largest waterway in the Pacific Northwest.

Twenty- eight of those tanks have double walls, allowing the Energy Department to pump waste from leaking single-shell tanks into them. However, there is very little space left in those double-shell tanks today.

In addition, construction of a $12.3 billion plant to convert the waste to a safe, stable form is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Technical problems have slowed the project, and several workers have filed lawsuits in recent months, claiming they were retaliated against for raising concerns about the plant's design and safety.

"We're out of time, obviously. These tanks are starting to fail now," said Tom Carpenter of the Hanford watchdog group Hanford Challenge. "We've got a problem. This is big."

Inslee said he would be traveling to Washington D.C. next week to discuss the problem further.

Uh... billions of dollars? That's it?

The Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) is being built by none other than Bechtel.

From the special site for WTP, recent press releases shows Bechtel's gift to the welfare of the local community:

Bechtel National gives $250,000 to build Delta High School
Wed, January 30, 2013

RICHLAND, Wash.–Bechtel National Inc. provided a $250,000 gift today to the Washington State STEM Education Foundation for the Delta High School capital campaign.

Vit Plant employees donate $20,000 to Toys for Tots
Thu, December 13, 2012

RICHLAND, Wash. — Employees at the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, also known as the Vit Plant, donated toys, 1,000 bicycles and nearly $20,000 in cash to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves' Toys for Tots campaign at the construction site this morning. Marines were present to accept the donation.

Bechtel donates $100,000 to build Columbia Basin College Planetarium Facility (
Fri, June 29, 2012

Richland, Wash. — The proposed planetarium at Columbia Basin College should be open for students in October thanks to a $100,000 donation by Bechtel National Inc.

And about the safety of the waste treatment plant:

Bechtel responds to DOE internal memo regarding safety of waste treatment plant design
Thu, August 30, 2012

RESTON, VA, August 29, 2012— Bechtel today responded to a memo that questions the company’s ability to safely design the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), also known as the Vit Plant. The facility will treat 56 million gallons of radioactive waste currently stored in underground tanks in Washington state.

Bechtel’s Waste Treatment Plant Project receives VPP Superior Star Award
Wed, September 19, 2012

Hanford, Washington — Earlier this month, the Department of Energy awarded the Voluntary Protection Program's (VPP) "Superior" Star to Bechtel National, Inc.'s Waste Treatment Plant Project. This is the second year BNI has received this recognition.

#Radioactive Asia: There Will Be 100 Additional Nuclear Reactors in Asia in 20 Years

As far as Asians are concerned, the Fukushima nuclear accident seems to have encouraged them to embark on new nuclear projects.

They probably look at Japan, and say, "Well their government has said all along there is no bad effect from triple meltdowns and melt-throughs, and people don't seem to care anyway, so what's there to lose? Not much."

Japan (and probably South Korea and Russia, too) would be very willing to foot the bills anyway via the loans at preferential rates and give away other goodies (some may call "bribes") to the government officials.

Japan is downwind, but that's not even a slight concern to the nuclear makers and the Japanese government, particularly the one under the prime minister who has already started going to bathrooms too frequently during the Diet sessions. (PM Abe suffers from ulcerative colitis.)

From Nikkei Shinbun (2/15/2013), nuclear reactors currently under construction, and currently planned:

Japan: 2
Taiwan: 2
South Korea: 19
China: 56
Vietnam: 14
Indonesia: 4
India 18

Nikkei says it means more opportunities for the Japanese nuclear manufacturers, but the competition will be intense among Japan, South Korea, and Russia. Nikkei's estimate is the 50 trillion yen (US$535 billion) market in Asia alone, at 500 billion yen per reactor.

Friday, February 15, 2013

#Radioactive #Fukushima: Fukushima City Residents Want to Eat the Produce They Bring In to Measure Radioactivity, Researchers Oblige

I couldn't tell that was what it was, when I saw the title of an article at one of the local newspapers in Fukushima, but it turned out that was what it was.

Go figure. Let them, at this point. After nearly 2 years, they choose to be there and choose to grow their food and eat it. "Oh we weren't told" doesn't fly any more.

I hope they don't feed it to their children or grandchildren, but hope has been just that, hope.

Fukushima farmers certainly do feed it to the rest of Japan, because they are victims of TEPCO and residents in big cities outside Fukushima owe it to them, in their minds.

From Fukushima Minpo (2/16/2013):

破砕せずに放射性物質測定 福島、機器新たに運用開始へ

Radioactivity measurement without chopping up samples - new equipment will be used in Fukushima


On February 19, Tohoku University will start using the new equipment to measure radioactivity in farm produce and food items without chopping them up at a monitoring center in Fukushima City. It is to respond to the residents' complaints and requests, such as "it's too tedious to chop up 1 kilogram of sample" and "I want to eat it after it's tested".


The new equipment was developed by Professor Keizo Ishii of Tohoku University Graduate School of Engineering Department of Quantum Science who is also an advisor to Fukushima City on radiation countermeasures.


The regular equipment has one sensor that detects radioactivity. Professor Ishii's equipment will use 7 sensors, and will be able to measure radioactivity without chopping up the samples and in small sample amounts. Farm produce and food items can be left in a basket which is then placed in the equipment, and it takes only 5 minutes to measure. The detection limit is 25 becquerels/kg, and the sample sizes can be from 0.7 kilogram to 3 kilograms.


Tohoku University and Fukushima City have been collaborating on introducing this equipment. The city official in charge says, "Farm produce in small quantities, as from home gardens, can be measured, and people can take them back home. We want to use this equipment for the peace of mind of the city residents."

 18日から申し込みを受け付け、19日から測定を開始する。測定は火曜から金曜日。問い合わせは 電話080(5737)1507へ。

Residents can sign up on February 18, and the measurement will start on February 19. The measurement is done from Tuesday to Friday every week. For more details, call 080(5737)1507.

Peace of mind for 25 becquerels/kg detection limit. Some peace.

In case you haven't figured it out, they measure radioactivity in Japan not to understand what's been going on but to feel safe. If measuring radioactivity doesn't result in people feeling safe, they don't bother measuring, which is exactly what happened in the very early days of the nuclear accident.

WSJ: Germany and Spain Move to Curb Green-Energy Supports

This kind of news is definitely NOT what the anti-nuclear people (who are almost all pro-renewable energy) in Japan want to hear. My followers will most likely completely ignore my tweets on this, because to them, Spain and Germany are the role models on how renewable energy should be pushed by the national government - on the small rate payers, to save the earth.

From Wall Street Journal (2/14/2013; emphasis is mine):

Germany and Spain Move to Curb Green-Energy Supports

More than a decade ago, Germany and Spain created similar laws to aggressively promote the adoption of renewable energy. The two countries were again marching in step on Thursday—this time to fix a web of subsidies and compensations they created for green energy that had the unintended effect of driving up household electricity bills.

With Spain in the grips of recession, the government wants to lower consumers' light bills. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel faces an election in September and hopes to win points with voters by putting a stop to rising electricity bills. The independent steps have been welcomed by German consumer groups, but have been slammed by businesses as German and Spanish politicians move to finance cuts for consumers by passing on the costs to companies.

Germany subsidizes producers of renewable energy such as solar and wind power in part by imposing a surcharge on household electricity bills. As the industry has grown, demand for the subsidy increased, driving the surcharge higher. In January, the surcharge, which amounts to about 14% of electricity prices, nearly doubled to 5.28 euro cents per kilowatt hour. Large energy-intensive industries are exempted.

That means ordinary consumers shoulder the lion's share of the costs for what the German government calls its "energy revolution."

Fearing a voter backlash from anger over the lopsided financing of green energy, Ms. Merkel's government on Thursday proposed putting a cap on the green-energy surcharge until the end of 2014 and then restricting any rise in the surcharge after that to no more than 2.5% a year. The government also plans to tighten exemptions, which would force more companies to pay, and achieve a cut in green subsidies of €1.8 billion ($2.42 billion). The plan is a quick fix pending comprehensive reform after the election, government officials said.

The proposal represents a compromise by the parties in Ms. Merkel's center-right coalition between taking small steps before the election and a more time-consuming comprehensive reform of the renewable energy law. The government now hopes to thrash out a bill with Germany's 16 states by the end of March, eliminating a potentially negative issue ahead of the election on September 22.

"We need a fundamental reform of the renewable energy law, but until we get there we don't want to make people wait and that is why there is this price cap on electricity," Economy Minister Philipp Rösler said Thursday after a meeting with representatives of the states.

The Spanish parliament took a similar step on Thursday, passing a law that aims to curb rising household electricity costs by cutting aid to the renewable-energy industry.

Renewable-energy producers "are going to receive less revenue, but these measures are better for consumers" said Energy Minister José Manuel Soria.

Among the changes in the Spanish system, the new law indexes certain subsidies and compensation to an inflation estimate that strips out the effects of energy, food commodities, and tax changes.

Until now, producers have been compensated using a full inflation estimate. The government said the law will cut the costs of the country's electrical system by €600 million to €800 million a year.

Renewable-energy companies said that the government was backing away from previous promises that it would ensure them a reasonable return on their investments.

"Spain's government is trying to smash the renewable-energy sector through legislative modifications," said José Miguel Villarig, chairman of the country´s Association of Renewable-Energy Producers.

Uh... The renewable-energy sector has been created and heavily subsidized by legislative modifications. But never mind that. Investors from the United States, Japan and the United Arab Emirates who have invested in renewable energy in Spain are already preparing to sue the Spanish government.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meteor Shower Hits Chelyabinsk Region of Russia, with a Bang

From Sydney Morning Herald (2/15/2013), raw footage:

News Collage from Idiosyncratic Japan

Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant seems to me like the only sane place remaining in Japan these days.

A town devastated by the tsunami two years ago embalms a pine tree.

An official in a city in Niigata Prefecture laughs at his colleague who gets caught in the heavy snow by saying "He can't walk properly, because of radiation." (His city is one of the few municipalities that are burning disaster debris.)

A 5th grader in Osaka jumps in front of an incoming train and kills himself because he doesn't want his elementary school to merge with another school. "Please stop the merger, in exchange for this little life", he writes in his last note.

The anti-nuclear group that organized the protests in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence every Friday last year (well, they are still doing it, though the attendance has dwindled) attends at a symposium on defending Japan against China and Korea.

Same people who freaked out about thyroid cancer before are freaking out again about thyroid cancer, while hardly any of them protest against the circulation of contaminated food.

A 55-year-old elementary school teacher kicks an 11-year-old 5th grade boy in the lower abdomen, and the boy suffers injuries that take two weeks to heal. The police decides not to press charges, because the teacher says he is sorry.

Ms. Yoshiko Sakurai, who said "It's the national government's responsibility to say that up to 20 millisieverts/year is safe for adults, and 10 millisieverts/year is safe for children", is one of people selected to the Central Council for Education under the Ministry of Education and Science.

All in about half a day of news collection that I did today.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Successfully Drilled a Hole Into Reactor 1 Torus Room

Workers drilled a hole through the 1st floor concrete on February 13 and 14. And unlike in the Reactor 2 torus room the other day (1/28/2013), there was no unexpected pipe blocking the way.

The atmospheric dose level on the 1st floor before the drilling was 1 millisievert/hour. After the drilling, the radiation went up to 2 millisieverts/hour right above the hole, at 1.2 meters off the floor. At the hole, the radiation was 10 millisieverts/hour, and at the end of the hole through to the torus room, it was 210 millisieverts/hour. TEPCO says the investigation will proceed, now that they've found out that the radiation level didn't change much before and after.

The radiation levels inside the Reactor 1 Containment Vessel, measured in October last year, were 4.7 to 11.1 sieverts/hour (or 4,700 to 11,100 millisieverts/hour).

From TEPCO's Photos and Videos, 2/14/2013:

The white dot in the dark in the photo must be the reflection of the camera light on the water.

The atmospheric dose level in the Reactor 2 (about the same location) was much higher, at 4 to 8 millisieverts/hour.

"Miracle Lone Pine" in Iwate Prefecture Getting "Resurrected" After Embalming

Embalming the dead is so unlike Japanese, and maybe that's why I find this endeavor by Rikuzen Takata City officials strange.

The tree, before it was cut down, looked like this.

I wrote about this pine tree in Iwate Prefecture that survived the tsunami of March 11, 2011 but died later as the result, and the 150 million yen restoration project by hollowing out the tree and embalming it with resins so that they could put the tree back where it had been standing, as the beacon of hope for the city residents. (They don't have the money, by the way. They are still waiting for your donation.)

NHK reports (2/12/2/13) the first segment of the embalmed, dead tree has been installed on a concrete base:


The miracle lone pine of Rikuzen Takata City was the only pine tree that survived the tsunami in Takata Matsubara that had had 70,000 pine trees, but it was later found to have been dead. In order to preserve it as a monument, it was cut down in September last year.


To restore the tree, the core was removed from the tree and replaced by carbon rod in a factory outside the prefecture. On February 12, the work to place the treated trunk back to where the tree had been standing started in earnest.


Installation of the bottom part of the trunk, about 4.5 meters in length, started at about 9:30AM on February 13. It was lifted by a crane, and the workers carefully placed it in the concrete foundation.


Yoshihisa Suzuki, chairman of the local "Takata Matsubara preservation association", said, "To see the lone pine return as an artificial monument, I have a mixed feeling. But I want it to give courage and hope to the disaster victims."


Next month, the work will be done to connect the remaining trunk and branches and leaves that are recreated using special resins. By the second anniversary of the disaster on March 11, the tree will be restored to its original form.

After nearly two years, Rikuzen Takata still look like this, and the residents want to embalm a pine tree to give them hope. Photos are from this blog, as of December 2, 2012, as the author of the blog visited Rikuzen Takata.

Disaster debris mountain:

Civic Hall, before the March 11, 2011 tsunami:

Civic Hall, today:

The blog author asks, "What has the government been doing? What have we been doing since March 11, 2011, to leave the city like this?"

The answer is that no one wants to see the reality. (So let's embalm the pine tree.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

#Radioactive Japan: National Government Extensively Monitors North Korean Nuclear Testing, Releases SPEEDI, WSPEEDI Data Right Away

This is hilarious and infuriating at the same time.

The Japanese government HID the simulation data of SPEEDI and WSPEEDI from the citizens right after the March 11, 2011 start of the nuclear accident, because, as they put it, "(It's so bad that) we can't release it to the general public." Hardly anyone in Japan knew about WSPEEDI until Professor Toshiso Kosako tearfully spoke about it during his resignation press conference at the end of April 2011 and urged the government to disclose it. It wasn't until May 2011 that Ministry of Education very quietly posted the SPEEDI data and WSPEEDI data on its website, without any fanfare.

But as soon as bad and evil North Korea detonated a nuke bomb underground, all government agencies are on top of each other trying to outdo others in disclosing their latest measurements and forecasts. They include Japan Meteorological Agency which banned the agency's researchers to make any radiation measurements or say anything about radiation publicly right after the start of the nuclear accident.

Here's Ministry of Education, extremely quickly releasing (2/12/2013) the WSPEEDI simulation result from the possible fallout (what a joke) from the nuclear testing, using iodine-131 and assuming there was a release (which is very unlikely). The top is for surface level, the bottom is for an altitude of 1,000 meters.

In the meantime, the pork-cutlet-over-curry-rice prime minister believes it is within the definition of "self defense" to attack military installations of a hostile foreign nation and that it is allowed by the current Constitution.

All major news outlets in Japan are busy making a big deal out of the North Korean bomb testing, without shame. They believe Obama's State of the Union address mentioned the incident in a big way.

(Dooon't stop, believin'...hooold on, to that feelin'...)

(Updated with USA Today's Readers' Word Cloud) State of the Union Address Word Cloud: Jobs, America, Years

And People, Like, Congress. (Or Congress, Like, Families.)

Smallest words: manufacturing, growth, rate, states, agree, world.

That's all I can tolerate. From Zero Hedge:

President of the United States who has added more than $1 trillion in new debt every single year says,

"Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime."


This is what "GS Elevator Gossip" tweeted:

William Banzai at Zero Hedge, "State of the Banana":

Tweet from Onion Politics (spoof network which becomes more real than reality by the day):

And from USA Today, social media users' response to SOTU: Screwed.

(H/T blog reader wren)

#Radioactive Japan: Decontamination Burned Down a House in #Fukushima City

Decon workers dispatched by Fukushima City used a blowtorch to melt snow in order to decontaminate a house. Instead of decontaminating, they managed to burn down the entire house.

Blowtorch?? Yes, decon contractors are free to use any method, including blowtorch, as there is no rule or regulation as to how they are supposed to remove snow in the decon manual.

Why they are doing this decon stuff in the snowy winter is a mystery to me.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (2/10/2013):


Workers used blowtorch to melt snow in order to decontaminate, uninhabited house burned down


At 10:40AM on February 9, there was a fire from an uninhabited house in Hamada-machi in Fukushima City. The fire burned down the single-story wooden house of about 176 square meters. The fire was extinguished about an hour later, and there was no injury.


According to the city, workers were using a blowtorch to melt the snow in the city-ordered decontamination work in the yard of the house. The Fukushima local police is carefully assessing the situation.


According to the police, the house belongs to Ms. Shizuko Onuma (age 62), a restaurant owner in the city. The house is in a residential area along the Route 4. There is a kindergarten 50 meters from the house, and at one point 8 kindergarteners were evacuated. There is no regulation as to how to remove snow as part of the decontamination work. The city is asking the contractor for details.

(Totally unrelated video, other than the title of the song)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Recent Aerial View of #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

The photos were taken on February 10, 2013, from a Kyodo News helicopter at an altitude of 1,500 meters. For the first time, the government allowed the aerial photographs within 3 kilometers of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant as long as the altitude is 1,500 meters.

Sankei Shinbun has an article (2/10/2013) with these photographs:

Reactor 4 building, with the steel frame being built (upper left) to suspend the crane for the removal of spent fuel in the future. The blue keyhole shape is the reactor well. The Spent Fuel Pool is covered with steel sheet:

Reactors 1, 2, 3, 4, from the right. Reactor 3 building is flanked by platforms for the debris removal equipment, where human workers observe the work in tungsten vests. When TEPCO holds the plant tours for the media, the highest radiation is usually registered on the road outside the Reactor 3 turbine building on the ocean side (lower left), at over 1,000 microsieverts/hour (or 1 millisievert/hour):

Storage tanks for treated water taking up the available space at the plant:

At the end of the article, Sankei says that at about 3 kilometer south of the plant at an altitude of 500 meters the radiation level inside the helicopter was 2.5 microsieverts/hour, but the radiation level inside the 3-kilometer radius at an altitude of 1,500 meters hardly registered at all.

Did North Korea Do Nuke Test? M.4.9 Earthquake Measured by USGS


SEOUL (Reuters) - Seismic activity has been detected in North Korea with an earthquake measuring 4.9 magnitude registered by the U.S. Geological Survey, in a move that South Korea said indicated that Pyongyang had carried out a third nuclear test.

The quake occurred at 10:57 a.m Korean time (01:57GMT) and South Korea's presidential office said that it was "likely" a nuclear test, according to the South's Yonhap news agency

North Korea is not prone to seismic activity.

The USGS said the epicentre of the quake, which was only one km deep, was close to the North's known nuclear test site.

The reclusive and isolated state, which is banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions from developing nuclear and missile technology, did not issue a statement and it was impossible to verify that it was a nuclear test.

US Treasury: "US supports Japan's efforts to reinvigorate growth and end deflation"

From RANsquawk (2/11/2013):

US Treasury's Brainard says US supports Japan's efforts to reinvigorate growth and end deflation

- G20 needs to deliver on commitment to move to market-based exchange rates and refrain from competitive devaluations.
- G7 "very committed" to market-determined and floating exchange rates except in rare circumstances.
- Downside economic risks have eased but global growth weak and still vulnerable.
Reaction details:

- In immediate reaction to the comment that US support Japan's efforts, the USD/JPY moved 22 pips higher from 93.46 to session highs at 93.68.

I suppose as long as it's not "devaluation" and as long as it makes China and Russia mad it's totally OK. As Bloomberg News reports (2/11/2013):

...Brainard said she supports the effort in Japan to end deflation and “reinvigorate growth. It will be important that structural reforms accompany macroeconomic policies to achieve these goals.”

The Group of Seven nations are considering saying they won’t target exchange rates when setting policy as they try to calm concern that the world is on the brink of a so-called currency war, two officials from G-7 countries said.

...Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for more aggressive monetary policy has raised concern abroad that his government is directly seeking to weaken the yen, something it denies.

Japan has been criticized for driving down the yen by officials from South Korea to Russia in the run-up to the G-20 meeting. Abe administration officials have said that they are focused on ending deflation, rather than seeking a specific level for the yen.

Brainard, who will attend the Moscow meetings, said China needs to “further boost household demand and reinvigorate the move to a market-determined exchange rate and interest rates.” She also said it’s important for Europe “to come together around a joint strategy that supports growth.”

(Full article at the link)

"Rather than seeking a specific level for the yen". It's because they are not seeking any level anywhere near where yen is at right now. My guess is that they want the level that existed before the Plaza Accord (250 yen per dollar or so).

Good luck achieving growth in real economy by monetary means, aka (digital) printing press. In case of Abe, so far it's nothing but words, not even the digital printing press, that has cheapened Japanese yen from 76 yen per dollar to 93 yen in a matter of 3 months.

Even that didn't help Japanese companies like Sony, who posted another loss quarter and plans to make money by selling real estate.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Worker's Perspective on the Debris Dropping Accident at Reactor 3 SFP: Normal Project Management System Doesn't Work on an Abnormal Situation

"Happy11311" has been tweeting from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since the March 11, 2011 triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. He tweeted his take on the fuel handling machine mast that dropped into the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool with a big splash a few days ago.

He says the work was carried out even when it shouldn't have been, because the contractor(s) was under pressure to catch up.

He also says that the work is done by remote control, but it needs workers in tungsten vests right on the platforms surrounding the Reactor 3 building, as they have to visually monitor the work to make sure everything is going safely.

From his tweets on February 10, 2013 (my translation):


As I tweeted before, removing the debris on the Reactor 3 operating floor is extremely difficult. Since the Reactor 3 operating floor has high radiation levels, unlike on the Reactor 4 building, workers cannot go up there to remove the debris. The actual debris removal [for Reactor 3] is carried out from a location far enough to avoid radiation exposure by remote control, but there are cases where the camera images from different angles are not enough.


In order to compliment the remote work, visual inspection is necessary. So, workers wearing heavy tungsten vests take turns to go up on the platform, and communicate with the remote control operators to carry out the work. Workers who go up on the platform are exposed to significant amount of radiation. So now, I want to look back on that incident the other day.


It was snowing, and the work must have been very awkward and hard to do. In fact, my group canceled almost all the work that day. In that condition, I'm thinking it must have been hard to see. Camera images may have been blurry, and the [face]masks and telescopes of the workers on the platforms may have fogged or covered with water drops.


So what I'm wondering is why they were doing the work in bad weather like that. Particularly when they have been doing the work extremely carefully on the Reactor 3 operating floor ever since they dropped a steel beam. So it's just my hypothesis. But that day, other construction groups were also doing the work using cranes.


I remember I was surprised to hear the work was being carried out that day, when I arrived at the plant. In retrospect, the work that was being done in the bad weather was either behind schedule or urgent.


Installing the cover over the ALPS [multi-nuclide removal system] was one. Construction of facilities in front of the plant's main gate to move the functions of J-Village [staging area for the plant work] was another. And debris removal on the operating floor of Reactor 3. They were all urgent jobs. When I think about them, I see that there are problems other than technical problems. There are two problems. One is the hiring period of the plant workers and radiation exposure.


The other is this determination to catch up on the work that is behind schedule. Or [I should say] to make [the workers or subcontractors] stick to the schedule when each work is unique in a sense that you don't know what happens until you actually do the work. I often say slow and steady wins the race, do the work diligently and safely. But no matter how the workers think, it won't happen unless TEPCO and primary contractors put that into practice.


TEPCO has the schedule that it has submitted to the national government. Contractors have submitted their schedules to TEPCO. If the work is behind these schedules, the media and people in Japan will attack them, and that's the pressure. The pressure will then be on the workers, creating the situation where a day's quota has to be met even if there is a risk potential.


As to the debris falling into the [spent fuel] pool, I don't think it was just a matter of technique. I suspect it was the result of the wrong assessment of the situation, including the weather, to determine whether the work could be done safely and securely. In my opinion, workers shouldn't be the ones to decide, but it should be TEPCO and the primary contractors to responsibly decide, taking all possible situations into consideration.


Even when workers think "It's difficult in this condition, we can't do it", it is difficult to articulate that to their supervisors, contractors, or TEPCO managers in charge. In such cases, workers are afraid, cannot perform to the best of their abilities and skills, and that often results in troubles. I have done that in the past, and I have many regrets.


The work should not be about taking the chances (gamble). I want TEPCO and primary contractors to make such decisions that would allow workers to safely and securely carry out the work to the best of their abilities and skills. I don't think TEPCO should shift the responsibility to the subcontractors, or the subcontractors shift the responsibility to the workers.


For sure, adherence to the schedule, cost-cutting, quality control, safety management, they are all important. But this work will last for decades, and the jobs are all special which you don't know how they turn out until you actually do them. A general, normal project management system shouldn't be applied to Fuku-I (1F). Even a small trouble will blow up the near-term schedule.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Motegi in the Abe administration will turn deaf ears to Happy11311's plea. He unilaterally declared that decommissioning of Fukushima I reactors should be done ahead of schedule. For reasons only known to himself. Probably to prove to the world that three melted-down reactors on the wrecked nuclear power plant mean nothing to the Japanese, and taking 3, 4 decades to decommission even the regular nuclear reactors is for wimps.

Motegi is most welcome to join in at Fukushima.

On second thoughts, workers like Happy11311 have no need for a McKinsey management consultant.

To go mind-numbingly normally through an unprecedented disaster is what Japan has proved itself to be very good at. Like the national government telling Toshiba and TEPCO they would need a permit to transport batteries on the highway (and they followed orders), or telling the US that a crane from Australia was not licensed to travel on a Japanese road.

Remember also that they completely forgot to turn on the teleconferencing system at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, set up specifically for a nuclear disaster like this. And what were they doing instead? Telephone and fax, and person to person communication which mostly did not happen.

US Using Drones in Hunting Down the Rogue Former LAPD Officer

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Mali come finally to the US mainland.

From Zero Hedge (2/10/2013; emphasis is original):

Update: this just in - Authorities offer $1 million reward for information leading to arrest of ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner

We were hoping to evade coverage of the latest mass distraction du jour, that of the former LAPD officer Chris Dorner who recently went rogue following a three man murder spree and who has vowed to kill again as per his 6,000 word manifesto, but the US government had made it impossible following confirmation
that the search for Dorner is now the first official drone-hunt in US history.

The Express reports:

 Yesterday, as a task force of 125 officers, some riding Snowcats in the rugged terrain, continued their search, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.

A senior police source said: “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”

The use of drones was later confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed agents have been prepared for Dorner to make a dash for the Mexican border since his rampage began.

He said: “This agency has been at the forefront of domestic use of drones by law enforcement. That’s all I can say at the moment.”

And once Dorner is found by remote-control, it will be again up to drones to secure his "elimination." If for no other reason than to perform a ground test of just how the recently enacted drone-facilitated extermination of US citizens sits with various instances of the US judicial system.