Saturday, May 11, 2013

Atomic Energy Society of Japan Survey: 70% of Nuclear Experts Say They Are Comfortable with Nuclear Power, 92% Say We Should Continue to Use Nuclear Power

Just as the stock market performance has increasingly little or nothing to do with the real economy, the nuclear experts who are the members of Atomic Energy Society of Japan feel more confident about nuclear power while ordinary people continue to feel uneasy and threatened, 2 years after the worst nuclear accident in Japan which is still on-going.

The Mainichi article below speculates that the experts may have regained confidence after the LDP win in the Lower House election in December last year. If that's the case, well they are not scientists, but politicians.

As far as I am aware, there has been very little soul-searching, so to speak, after the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident by the members of Atomic Energy Society of Japan (and who make up the so-called "nuclear village"), nor active participation by the members in solving the many problems that TEPCO has been dealing with (albeit ineffectively) since the day 1 of the accident.

They have been lying low, but now that LDP has put the restart of nuclear power plants in the election promise for the Upper House election in July, they should be more confident.

Mainichi English (5/8/2013):

70% of nuclear experts still 'comfortable' with atomic power: survey

Some 70 percent of nuclear energy experts with the Atomic Energy Society of Japan (AESJ) remain "comfortable" with atomic power, while at the same time public confidence in the technology remains low, a society survey has revealed.

The AESJ began the annual survey of its members in fiscal 2006, and of the general public in fiscal 2007. The fiscal 2012 survey, conducted in January and February this year, queried 500 randomly selected residents of the Tokyo region and 559 AESJ members at universities and in the private sector.

In the fiscal 2010 survey, 86.5 percent of AESJ members queried said they were either "comfortable" or "somewhat comfortable" with atomic power generation. In the fiscal 2011 survey -- conducted after the March 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns -- that figure dropped to 62 percent, but bounced back to 69.2 percent for fiscal 2012.

Meanwhile, only about 25 percent of the 500 members of the public agreed or somewhat agreed that Japan should keep using atomic power -- around the same rate as in the 2011 survey and half that of before the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Asked if Japan should keep using atomic power, some 92 percent of AESJ members said yes -- 6.6 points higher than in the fiscal 2011 survey and close to the pre-disaster level of around 95 percent.

"The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) included continuing atomic power in their election promises last year and won a huge victory, so I think nuclear experts might have regained some of their confidence in the technology," Kansai University professor of social psychology Shoji Tsuchida said of the survey results. "But it would be a mistake for them to think that the election results mean the public has signed off on nuclear energy."

For some unknown reason, Mainichi English drops the reference to the percentage of ordinary citizens who are comfortable with nuclear power. According to Mainichi Shinbun's Japanese article,


On the other hand, 18.6% of citizens answered they were comfortable with nuclear power generation in the fiscal 2010. The number dropped to 5.2% in the fiscal 2011, and it remains low at 6% in the fiscal 2012.

Even before the Fukushima accident, most citizens were not comfortable with nuclear power. But they were told it was good for them and good for the planet Earth, and were told it was unscientific and unreasonable to fear the nuclear power.

About the experts confidence, Mainichi English says it is the "confidence in the technology". But that cannot be inferred from the original Japanese, which simply says:


Because of the huge victory by LDP who promised continued use of nuclear power plants, the experts may have regained their confidence.

I think it is the confidence in themselves.

OT: Obama's Press Secretary's Fine Performance of Non-Answer on Benghazi

Obama White House spokesman Jay Carney answers questions from reporters with facts and details totally unrelated to the questions, and the reporters are left wondering what in the world they just heard and why, forgetting to press for real answers. Classic.

"Terms of reference". Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud.

From White House Dossier by Keith Koffler (5/9/2013):

Internal Benghazi Review Ignored Clinton, Obama

The internal State Department Accountability Review Board report being touted by the White House as an “unsparing” investigation into the Benghazi response actually completely spared the two individuals whose actions Republicans want to know about most: President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There is no mention in the report of the what Clinton or Obama did related to Benghazi. In fact, Obama isn’t mentioned at all in the document, and Clinton only once – in the context of her appointing the Review Board. There is no suggestion that Clinton or Obama were interviewed or even examined by the investigation.

What’s more, Accountability Review Boards are part of statutory State Department process that is not legally permitted to investigate the president.

It’s not even clear that an Accountability Review Board is permitted to probe the Secretary of State. The purview of a Review Board covers “employees” of the State Department who could be subject to discipline by the Secretary of State, who presumably would not be tasked to discipline herself.

Despite all this, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Wednesday suggested the Review Board report exculpates Clinton.

From the briefing:

Q    So the White House is confident that Hillary Clinton acted appropriately throughout this process?
MR. CARNEY:  We are.  And I think I would point you to the Accountability Review Board and what –
Q    Which didn’t –
MR. CARNEY:  I think I would point you to the report the put out.  I would point you to what the two heads of that board, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen — each highly praised by both sides of the aisle for their long, distinguished careers — put out in a statement this week:  “From the beginning of the ARB process, we had unfettered access to everyone and everything, including all of the documentation we needed.  Our marching orders were to get to the bottom of what happened, and that is what we did.”
Again, this is an unsparing report done by two career professionals, nonpartisan career professionals, that contain within it very serious recommendations, found shortcomings that needed to be corrected, and the State Department acted immediately on that.

But there is no evidence Pickering and Mullin ever talked to Clinton, or that they even sought to.

Carney dodged a question about whether Obama was interviewed by the Review Board.

Q    On the question of the Accountability Review Board, you keep saying it was unsparing and you said they had unfettered access.  Did Admiral Mullen and Mr. Pickering interview the President about what he did on the night of September 11th?
MR. CARNEY:  Again, I will point you to what Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering said and what the report said, beginning with the fact that — this is useful here.  The Accountability Review Board investigation, headed by, as I said, two of the most respected, non-partisan leaders in Washington, found that the interagency response was timely and appropriate and “helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans.”

Here’s a video of the exchange, in which Carney appears a little flustered. [video at the link]

Note that this is a classic case of press secretary spin, in which the answer contains a litany of facts wholly unrelated to the question and designed to draw attention away from the fact that the press secretary is not addressing the issue that was raised.

In this case, Carney was successful. There was no follow up.

"Terms of reference" dialog between Minister Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby, from "Yes, Minister: Doing the Honours" (1981), from IMDb:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Minister, if you block honours pending economies, you might create a dangerous precedent.

James Hacker: You mean that if we do the right thing this time, we might have to do the right thing again next time. It seems on that philosophy, nothing would ever get done at all.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: On the contrary, many, many things must be done...

Sir Humphrey Appleby, James Hacker: [together] but nothing must be done for the first time.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, no, Minister. What I mean is that I am fully seized of your aims and of course I will do my utmost to see that they are put into practice.

James Hacker: If you would.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: And to that end, I recommend that we set up an interdepartmental committee with fairly broad terms of reference so that at the end of the day we'll be in the position to think through the various implications and arrive at a decision based on long-term considerations rather than rush prematurely into precipitate and possibly ill-conceived action which might well have unforeseen repercussions.

James Hacker: You mean no.

Well, fictional Minister Hacker saw it through.

Friday, May 10, 2013

WSJ's Hilsenrath: Federal Reserve Maps Exit from Stimulus

This is really funny. What started as a joke on Twitter yesterday became real, sort of, today, as Jon Hilsenrath channels Federal Reserve (Dallas Fed Richard Fisher, in particular) and says the Fed has mapped out an exit strategy from its unprecedented easing of the past 4 years.

Mr. Kuroda of Bank of Japan, uh oh. My condolences, and best of luck holding the bag.

The news, for what it is worth still from the once-omniscient Hilsenrath, of course broke after the financial market is solidly closed for the weekend.

From Wall Street Journal (5/10/2013):

Fed Maps Exit From Stimulus
Timing of Wind-Down Is Uncertain, but Focus Is on Managing Unpredictable Market Expectations

Federal Reserve officials have mapped out a strategy for winding down an unprecedented $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program meant to spur the economy—an effort to preserve flexibility and manage highly unpredictable market expectations.

Officials say they plan to reduce the amount of bonds they buy in careful and potentially halting steps, varying their purchases as their confidence about the job market and inflation evolves. The timing on when to start is still being debated.

The Fed's strategy for how and when to wind down the program is of intense interest in financial markets. While the strategy being debated leaves the Fed plenty of flexibility, it might not be the clear and steady path markets expect based on past experience.

Officials are focusing on clarifying the strategy so markets don't overreact about their next moves. For example, officials want to avoid creating expectations that their retreat will be a steady, uniform process like their approach from 2003 to 2006, when they raised short-term interest rates in a series of quarter-percentage-point increments over 17 straight policy meetings.

"I don't want to go from wild turkey to cold turkey," Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said in an interview Friday. "I think we ought to dial it back." Mr. Fisher is part of a contingent of Fed hawks who are wary of the central bank's easy-money policies.


Mr. Fisher said he advocated starting right away at the last Fed meeting. Some officials can envision taking a first step this summer, if strong data show the economy is weathering the tax increases and federal spending cuts that appear to be weighing on growth. But they might wait longer, especially if the economy disappoints, as it has for several years during the spring and summer months.

A Wall Street Journal survey of private economists this week showed that 55% expect the Fed to start shrinking its bond purchases in the third or fourth quarter this year, while 45% expect the Fed to wait until next year or later. None expected the Fed to increase its purchases as its next step.

(Full article at the link)

Dial it back. Just like that. The rich got way richer, the not-so-rich got poorer, says Pew Research; many lost all their assets in the form of home equities and even went into negative assets because of the foreclosure fraud by the major Wall Street banks. But what's that to the Fed? Nothing, as it is not their so-called mandate. Now these banks and hedge funds are landlords, having bought those houses on the cheap.

Dial it back. Really, Mr. Fisher.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO to Release 'Uncontaminated' Groundwater to Pacific Ocean, Starting Later This Month

Here we go. TEPCO plans to discharge water from the wells that they have dug to intercept part of the groundwater before it leaks into the reactor buildings, into the Pacific Ocean.

400 tonnes of groundwater go into the basements of the reactor buildings every day. The 14 wells to intercept that water can only divert about one-quarter of it. It is better than no diversion, but not by much.

TEPCO has been laying the pipes to transport the water from the wells to the ocean.

As a measure to decrease the amount of groundwater going into the reactor building, this is not much of a help, but it is precedent-making. Discharge of groundwater into the Pacific Ocean, albeit supposedly uncontaminated water for now, may start as soon as this month, with the local fishing industry set to approve the plan.

The TEPCO's true desire is no secret: to discharge water treated by ALPS (multi-nuclide removal system), clean of almost all radionuclides except for tritium, which there is no effective way to remove.

From Kahoku Shinpo (5/8/2013):

福島原発地下水、月内にも海へ 東電「安全性問題ない」

Groundwater at Fukushima I Nuke Plant to be discharged to the ocean this month, TEPCO says "No safety problem"


TEPCO plans to release the groundwater drawn from the wells inside the plant compound into the ocean, as part of the measures to deal with water contaminated with radioactive materials at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. According to TEPCO, the groundwater is not contaminated as the water is drawn before it gets contaminated, and there is no problem of safety. After obtaining the approval from the local municipalities and fishing industry, the company will start [releasing the water] before May is over.


A large amount of groundwater leaks into the reactor buildings of Reactors 1-4, which then mixes with the reactor cooling water to generate about 400 tonnes of contaminated water per day. The water to be released into the ocean is the groundwater that is drawn by pumps [into the wells] before it reaches the reactor buildings, and according to TEPCO, "Density of cesium-137 is less than 1 Bq/liter, and it is no different from normal groundwater."


TEPCO will announce the plan on May 13 at a meeting of the heads of the Federations of Fishery Cooperatives in Fukushima Prefecture, and try to win their understanding. The Federations' president (Tetsu Nozaki) is set to approve the plan, as he says "We would like [TEPCO] to proceed by carefully testing the water [for radioactive materials]."


Takao Watanabe, Mayor of Iwaki City, says "Will consumers accept TEPCO's word that "it is not contaminated"? I cannot approve [the plan] at this point."

"At this point" is the key for Mayor Watanabe. He is free to change his opinion on May 13, or any other day. He can also join other mayors and farmers and fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture in crying "baseless rumors" by ignorant consumers.

Triump Japan Introduces "Branomics" Bra, Guaranteed to Increase the Seeming Volume by 2%

No, April Fool's Day was on April 1.

I thought it was a joke or fake news until I saw the bra maker's spokeswoman who looks bored to death explaining how wonderful the new bra is, how it matches the new era of (seeming) prosperity under Prime Minister Abe.

At the height of the real estate bubble in Japan in the 1980s, I don't think I saw anything like this.

News clip from NTD TV:

I thought ANA's maid cafe video was bad enough.

Three miniature arrows under the girls' golden bras have tiny tags that say "intelligence", "prosperity", and the third one which is covered by "triump" tag and I can't read; they are to signify the three core policies of so-called "Abenomics".

"2%" of course refers to the avowed target of inflation that Abe and Kuroda want to unleash on the Japanese public and which is sold as "price stabilization". Just as these girls look to be in need of more than 2% boost, Japanese consumers have already been hit with price increases far greater than 2% on certain items (McDonald hamburger, for one, toilet paper for another).

But as Tyler at Zero Hedge (who has this video) says,

The analogy of an exogenous force maintaining a natural force at an unsustainable size is just too easy - as, just as in the real-life, at some point that 'supportive bra' of monetary policy has be removed.

So what's next? Is there any plan for men's underwear?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bloomberg News: Kuroda's Antics Backfire, as Mortgage Rates and Corporate Lending Rates Go Up in Japan

You will never see an article like that in today's Japan on any paper. How dare you call Governor Haruhiko Kuroda's action a failure? It's all for us, our well-being, our future!

Volatility in Japanese Government Bonds (JGB) that Kuroda has unwittingly introduced in April is causing the investors to demand premium to compensate for the volatility, thus the rates rise. That's not what Kuroda or his boss Prime Minister Abe intended.

Federal Reserve's Ben must be chuckling, and saying under his breath, "Amateurs..."

Bloomberg News (5/7/2013; emphasis is mine):

Kuroda Stimulus Backfires as Mortgage Costs Rise: Japan Credit

By Masaki Kondo, Mariko Ishikawa & Yumi Ikeda

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s stimulus policies are backfiring in the housing market, where mortgage rates are rising even as the central bank floods the financial system with cash.

While 35-year home-loan costs rose one basis point to 1.81 percent this month from an all-time low of 1.8 percent in April, any increase will be undesirable for the BOJ, according to Mizuho Securities Co. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s monetary easing almost halved 30-year U.S. mortgage rates since 2008 to 3.35 percent on May 2.

The BOJ’s April 4 announcement that it would double bond buying to generate 2 percent inflation unleashed the highest government-debt volatility in a decade and pushed 10-year yields up by 4 1/2 basis points. The benchmark lending rate for large corporations, known as the prime rate, increased five basis points from its record low to 1.2 percent on April 10, despite the BOJ’s aim of stoking the economy through cheaper funding.

“It makes little economic sense for rates to decline when the BOJ says it will raise consumer prices,” said Toru Suehiro, a market economist in Tokyo at Mizuho, one of the 24 primary dealers obliged to bid at government debt auctions. “Yields are higher than before the monetary easing to reflect the volatility risk, and lending rates have risen because they are set based on bond yields.”

Volatility, as measured by the gap between the 10-year yield’s daily high and low, jumped to 30 1/2 basis points on April 5, the most since July 2003, after Kuroda unveiled a plan to buy more than 7 trillion yen ($70.7 billion) of Japanese government bonds a month, accounting for more than half of the total amount that the government plans to sell in the market this fiscal year.

“The BOJ’s buying is reducing the liquidity of government bonds, preventing market participants from finding appropriate yield levels,” said Satoshi Okagawa, a senior global-markets analyst in Singapore at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., a unit of Japan’s second-largest financial group by market value. “That situation will make the market dependent on the BOJ’s purchases just like a morphine addict.”

(Full article at the link)

The US primary dealers wouldn't be able to do without that morphine from the Fed.

4 and a half basis points is 0.045%. What's the big deal, you may ask? Well, if Japan's 10-year bond yield was 0.5% before Kuroda's intervention, it was 9% jump in the yield. That's huge for bonds.

By the way, after breaking just about every financial market with his enormous liquidity, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke won't be attending the annual Jackson Hole confab of world's central bankers this year. Rumors is that he won't be seeking the next term.

(If and when SHTF, Kuroda will get the blame, I suppose.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Depleted Uranium Used by Israel" in Bombing Outside Damascus, Syrian Military Official Alleges

From Jerusalem Post quoting Russia Today (5/6/2013):

'Israel used depleted uranium shells in Syria'

Israel used depleted uranium shells in the alleged strike in Syria on Sunday, a senior Syrian military source told Russia Today on Monday.

"When the explosion happened it felt like an earthquake, then a giant golden mushroom of fire appeared. This tells us that Israel used depleted uranium shells," the source said.

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the production of enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors. It is 2.5 times as dense as steel, which allows it to penetrate heavy protection. The material is known to be toxic, but not dangerously radioactive.

Syrian state television claimed the bombing occurred around a military research facility at Jamraya. The New York Times reported that the strike also targeted the bases of the elite Republican Guard and storehouses of long-range missiles.
The senior official speaking to RT downplayed the strategic importance of the weapons targeted in the attack, saying the military losses were "negligible" and that valuable equipment was removed from the site of attack after a previous strike.

"The target was just an ordinary weapons warehouse. The bombing is an ultimatum to us – it had no strategic motivation," he was quoted by RT as saying.

A Western intelligence source told Reuters the attack targeted "stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah," while a senior Hezbollah source denied to Kuwaiti daily Alrai on Monday that the weapons targeted belonged to his organization.

(Full article at the link)

It is interesting, almost amusing, that the Israeli newspaper quotes all these news sources in describing the attacks allegedly by Israel. The Israeli government remains silent on the attacks.

Meanwhile, contradicting what the US administration has been saying (and still saying, as of Monday), the UN investigators say it may have been the rebel forces in Syria that used sarin gas, not the Assad regime.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Long Shadow of Chernobyl (3): Dried Mushrooms from Italy Still Found With 170 Bq/kg of Cesium-137

One of the scientific researchers that I follow who goes by the name of "Tomynyo" on Twitter has been measuring all sorts of things after the Fukushima nuclear accident - soil accumulated on top of his apartment complex in Yokohama City with high levels of radioactive cesium to bamboo shoots and mushrooms served in the kindergarten lunch.

His latest tweets is not about the domestic mushrooms but about mushrooms from Italy:

イタリア製のボルチーニ茸6検体を測定したところ全ての検体からセシウム137が検出されました。 最大は170.3±18.0Bq/kg、最低は31.6±6.2Bq/kgでした。スーパーの乾椎茸はほとんど九州産ですから、普通に買える乾椎茸より汚染されていると思います (link)

We measured 6 samples of [dried] Italian porcini mushrooms, and all samples were found with cesium-137. Maximum was 170.3±18.0Bq/kg, and minimum was 31.6±6.2Bq/kg. Dried mushroom you buy at a supermarket are almost all grown in Kyushu, so we think these Italian mushrooms are more contaminated than the dried Japanese mushrooms you can buy at a supermarket.

ボルチーニは水戻しした場合セシウム濃度は1/4になるそうです。... 3.11以前からそれなりの汚染された食品食べていた可能性があることは認識すべきです。(link)

If porcini mushrooms get rehydrated, the density of radioactive cesium would be one-fourths, we are told. We should recognize that we may have been eating food with certain levels of contamination even before March 11, 2011.

Just like the wood pellets from trees in Shikoku, Japan tested by one of my Twitter followers, cesium-137 is most likely from the atmospheric testing and the Chernobyl accident.

I happened on this video, supposed to be the raw footage of Chernobyl soon after the accident. I got scared watching workers with scant protection dumping loads of what looks like concrete debris:

Other "Long Shadow of Chernobyl" posts:

Long Shadow of Chernobyl: 224 Bq/kg of Cesium-137 in the Ashes from Burning Wood Pellets Made from Trees in Shikoku

Long Shadow of Chernobyl (2): German and Belarusian Researchers Say 64% of 229 Belarusian Children with High-Risk Thyroid Cancer in Complete Remission, 30% in Near-Complete Remission

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 3's Latest Parameters (5/7/2013) and More "Loose Ends" on Reactor 3

When it comes to the plant data, TEPCO remains to be the only game in town, whether you like it or not.

For those of you who are interested in the most recent plant parameters on Reactor 3, the latest data continues to show Reactor 3's Primary Containment Vessel's pressure is more than atmospheric pressure, that they are measuring temperature of the Reactor Pressure Vessel and there is temperature (about 34 degrees Celsius), about 10 degrees Celsius higher than the Reactor 1 RPV. They are spraying water using core spray system, indicating the RPV is there.

From TEPCO's Plant Parameters page (English), latest plant parameters as of May 7, 2013 (click to enlarge):

Reactor 3's Spent Fuel Pool, now covered with steel sheets, does have spent fuel assemblies in it, as evidenced by the temperature rise of the pool water when the cooling stops (like the recent stoppage because of a dead rat) as well as visual.

Plant status from May 2, 2012 shows Reactor 3's RPV temperature was much higher (nearly 60 degrees Celsius). The CV pressure is about the same, so is the hydrogen concentration inside the CV:

I've been waiting for a very long time (almost two years) for TEPCO to publish the result of measurement of radioactive materials (density and type) from the swipes that the workers took from the floor of the reactor building. From my post on June 10, 2011, the first floor of Reactor 3 had a spot with 100 millisieverts/hour radiation at one meter off the floor, and the area looked blackened with soot:

Blowup of the photo at the location (3), where 100 millisieverts/hour radiation was measured:

I've been also waiting for the test result from the cleanup job by Packbot in November 2011 along the very wet equipment hatch rail, where the robot encountered 1.6 Sievert/hour radiation about 30 centimeters off the rail. It took TEPCO another five months to admit that the equipment hatch had been open all along, leaking radioactive steams and water.

I don't think workers, carbon-based or non-carbon-based, have entered the Reactor 3 building since April 2012.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Just How High Is the Radiation Level of Reactor 3 Operating Floor?

Just how high is the radiation level on the (what used to be) operating floor of Reactor 3? TEPCO has released only one measurement of the Reactor 3 operating floor, and it was on one location only (above the reactor well). While I am still looking for that TEPCO's PDF document, there is an indirect indication of how high it could be.

Kyodo News reporters visited Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on April 4, and wrote up a detailed article for the 2nd anniversary of the nuclear accident. The article, judging by the number of retweets, doesn't seem like it's been read widely. But in it, there is a reference to radiation levels of Reactor 4 and Reactor 3, located 100 meters apart.

From Kyodo News "Current situation at Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 2 years after the accident, uncertainty still reigns, guarding against trouble 24/7" (4/8/2013; part):

(On the operating floor of Reactor 4)


"We can't stay here long. Let's go back down." The TEPCO employee who accompanied us called to us. The air dose level on the [Reactor 4] operating floor is 262 microsieverts/hour. The wrecked Reactor 3 building, located north of the Reactor 4 building, has extremely high radiation, and the Reactor 4 building [operating floor] is affected even though it is 100 meters away. On the Reactor 4 operating floor, several workers with full-face masks and protection gear were working quietly.

The article is accompanied by a picture indicating the locations of their reporting and radiation levels in microsievert/hour.

From the top left of the picture, clockwise:

  • ALPS: 4.5 microsieverts/hour

  • Dry cask temporary storage area: 5

  • Outside the Anti-Seismic Building: 20

  • Ocean-side of Reactor 3 (beyond the Reactor 3 turbine building): 1300

  • Plugged hole where the highly contaminated water leaked into the ocean: 250

  • At the wall to shield ground water: 130

  • Reactor 4 Operating Floor: 262

  • Control room for Reactor Cooling System (indoors): 7.4

Kyodo News also has the video news, showing the locations that they visited:

0:20 Anti-Seismic Building, the plant's headquarter for day-to-day operation of the plant "restoration" work

0:55 Construction of walls to block the flow of groundwater, at the water intake for Reactors 1-4, due for completion in April next year

1:10 ALPS (Multi-nuclide removal system) building

1:34 Control room for the reactor cooling system

2:20 Reactor 4 building

2:40 Reactor 4 Operating floor (they went up in an elevator)

3:09 Reactor 4 narrow stairway to descend from the operating floor

Sunday, May 5, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident Reactor 3 Explosion: Where Did the Black Smoke Come From? And White Smoke?

I know it's an old story at this point, but the comment section of my post on highly radioactive debris from the Reactor 3 operating floor piqued my interest again.

The worker who tweeted from Fukushima I Nuke Plant, "Happy", said in his interview with Tokyo Shinbun that right after the explosion of Reactor 3 building on March 14, 2011, there were people who were coated with black soot that came from the explosion. Unlike the explosion of the Reactor 1 building, the Reactor 3 explosion emitted a decidedly dark, black smoke skyward, with what looks like several huge chunks of structure (concrete?) blown up and then falling down.

Video of Reactor 3 explosion; after more than 2 years since it took place, there are still many Japanese who have never seen the footage:

The camera is looking at the Reactor 3 building from west. The flicker does seem like it's from the Spent Fuel Pool or close to it. Here's Reactor 3's SFP (covered, as of 4/22/2013) and the operating floor plan (from Ian Goddard's article that appeared on on 9/3/2011; H/T reader Atomfritz) oriented the same way as the explosion video:

Was the explosion ex-vessel? In one of the very early meetings after the explosion, one of the US NRC people casually mentioned that it was ex-vessel. Others, in an unofficial capacity, have insisted that the explosion was nuclear, from the Spent Fuel Pool that they say went critical.

I'm personally more inclined to Mr. Goddard's theory that it was an ex-vessel steam explosion when the molten fuel escaped the Reactor Pressure Vessel and dropped in the water that had accumulated in the Containment Vessel, and the pressure from explosion lifted the reactor cap flange, gas escaped through the gap and ignited the hydrogen gas generated and accumulated in the Spent Fuel Pool.

If those black smokes were black because they were from the Containment Vessel after the molten fuel dropped, the smokes and the soot from the smoke must have been very radioactive. I wonder if any measurement of radioactivity exists of the smokes or the soot.

(I do believe more contaminated debris will be found when TEPCO attempts to remove them from the area above the reactor well cap. I'm trying to locate the document again, but TEPCO released a while ago the measurement of radiation in all the reactor buildings and turbine buildings at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. In that, at 2 to 3 meters above the area where the reactor well is located, the radiation was over 500 millisieverts/hour. The measurement must have been taken using the crane boom during the air sample collection.)


New York Times reported on April 5, 2011 that "fragments or particles of nuclear fuel from spent fuel pools above the reactors were blown "up to one mile from the units"", quoting the then-confidential NRC report that the paper obtained.

However, the NRC report dated March 26, 2011, later released, says on page 10:

Fuel pool is heating up but is adequately cooled, and fuel may have been ejected from the pool (based on information from TEPCO of neutron sources found up to 1 mile from the units, and very high dose rate material that had to be bulldozed over between Units 3 and 4. It is also possible the material could have come from Unit 4).

Comparing the New York Times description and the NRC report, it looks the New York Times writers took the "neutron sources found up to 1 mile" from the reactor buildings to be fuel fragments.

The way TEPCO reported at that time was that neutron beam was detected at the main entrance of the plant on March 14, 2011, which is located at about 1.5 kilometer, or about 1 mile, west of the Reactors 3 and 4.

Checking TEPCO's revised data from that day (from TEPCO's 2011 data archive), neutron beam was not detected at the main gate on March 14 until 9PM (0.01 microsievert/hr). The explosion was at 11AM. Neutron beam was detected again later that night, at 11:20PM, 11:50PM, 11:55PM, then intermittently during the early hours of March 15, 2011. It seems to me that they coincide more with the dry vent of Reactor 2 that the plant was attempting.

(I have seen this "up to 1 mile" of neutron beam detection morphing into "fuel fragments scattered several miles outside the plant".)


In the Reactor 3 explosion, there were also streaks of white smoke (or steam?) from the lower part of the building, much like the explosion in Reactor 1.

Professor Takashi Tsuruda of Akita Prefectural University thinks that's the steam from the Suppression Chamber, and the Suppression Chamber of Reactor 3 (and 1) is broken. Personally, people like Professor Tsuruda, expert in explosive reactions, should be sitting in a committee at the Nuclear Regulatory Authority trying to figure out what exactly happened at the plant on March 11, 2011 and after.

There are so many loose ends, after more than two years.

Tokyo Shinbun: Worker Who Tweeted from #Fukushima I Nuke Plant, and His Two Years of Being Jerked Around by TEPCO and Government

The worker who tweeted for two years from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is no longer there, but he was recently interviewed by Tokyo Shinbun. He shared his first-hand knowledge of how it was like to work at a nuclear plant that went spectacularly bust, under the conflicting and useless direction from both TEPCO Headquarters in Tokyo and the national government under then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

People on Japanese Twitter, blogs, and message boards have been accusing the worker whose Twitter name is "Happy" as TEPCO agent of disinformation. I've been following him and reading his tweets, but I don't get that feeling. As far as I know, he is a worker at either one of the first-tier subcontractors or one of the major local subcontractors of a first-tier subcontractor.

In the interview with Tokyo Shinbun, "Happy" describes what was effectively "TEPCO that couldn't say no".

"Prime Minister says 'Work 24 hours a day', so do something!"

Instead of shielding the workers at the plant from the ignorant politicians and bureaucrats so that they could do the job, TEPCO headquarters was nothing more than a messenger boy.

Then the national government under the Democratic Party of Japan interfered with the work for their convenience, and it was not just Naoto Kan. "Happy" says the probe of Reactor 2's Containment Vessel was originally scheduled in December 2011, but since then-Prime Minister Noda needed to declare "cold shutdown state" (to the snicker and ridicule around the world except at IAEA and NRC) and he didn't want to have a potentially dangerous work during that month, the DPJ government told TEPCO to delay the work until after the New Year.

From Tokyo Shinbun, as archived at Asyura (5/5/2013; as article links don't last long at Tokyo Shinbun):

つぶやく福島作業員 政府・東電に振り回された2年間 (東京新聞)

Worker Who Tweeted from Fukushima I Nuke Plant, and His Two Years of Being Jerked Around by TEPCO and Government

東京電力福島第一原発事故の発生当初から収束作業に従事し、現場の様子をツイッターでつぶやき続け、その内容を七万超の人が注目している「ハッピー」さん。福島第一の近くに家があり、作業員としてここで長年働いてきた。このほど本紙の取材に応じ、二年間を超える収束作業で感じた疑問などを語った。 (片山夏子)

He worked at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since the beginning of the nuclear accident and tweeted the situation. His tweets as "Happy" are followed by more than 70,000 people. His home is near the plant, and has worked at the plant for many years. We interviewed him recently, and he told us what he thought during the past two years of his effort to control the situation.


It's like a war zone.


When the hydrogen explosion happened in the Reactor 3 building on March 14, 2011, "Happy" was working nearby. The ground shook with deafening explosion, and debris rained on him.


"I may die here."


It was like a war zone. Smoke rose from the reactor building, and there were people who were coated with black soot, and whose protection gear was bloody. People were shouting. It didn't seem real.


"Happy" started to tweet on March 20, six days after that hydrogen explosion.


There were two reasons. First, communication was garbled and confused [in the early days of the accident] and there were media reports that fanned fear. Second, he wanted to tell his acquaintance who lived in Minamisoma City in Fukushima with small child[ren] that "there is no need to worry too much", by calmly describing what was happening at the plant.


His tweets are unique. He calls himself "oira", writes "deshi" instead of "desu" [in closing a sentence]. In the beginning, many of his readers were mothers with children, who replied to him saying "You helped me", "You saved me".


Life is on the back burner


Many of "Happy"'s tweets include frank doubts he felt as he worked at the plant, toward the government and TEPCO.


He was irritated each time the national government and TEPCO showed optimistic prospect without basis, or made presentations without full explanation. He says he felt not telling the facts was fanning the fear.


He was also annoyed at the instructions without coordinating the work processes, which caused confusion in the early days of the accident. [At one time] electrical work and pipe work were scheduled on the same location at the same time, and one of the work couldn't be done.


The result of the confusion is still visible in many places at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant even after two years. Hoses to transfer contaminated water, power cable and control cables for equipments are installed in a messy way in the same location, for example. Even if it was an emergency, there is a possibility of malfunctioning and short circuit.


"Prime Minister says 'Work 24 hours a day', so do something!" was one of the instructions to the plant. So they set up 24-hour shifts, but work efficiency suffered.


He was bothered by the time schedule of work published every month without considering the situation at the plant. At one time, he was told to hurry up the work because the national government had already publicly announced it, and he was called to the site in the middle of the night even though no preparation had been made.


He almost fainted a number of times during the summer with full protective gear. He was told to "rest", but the time schedule for work remained the same. He felt that life and safety of the workers were put on the back burner.


Cost comes first


In September 2011, a piece of information reached "Happy" that the national government and TEPCO [HQ] were going to create a new word by combining "cold shutdown" and "state" and declare within the year that Fukushima I Nuke Plant achieved "cold shutdown state".


But they didn't know the condition of the melted fuel. Reactor cooling could stop, not just because of the pump failures but also because of clogged or broken pipes. Thermometers attached to the reactors had started to behave erratically. How could anyone say the temperature inside the reactors is below 100 degrees Celsius? "Happy" thought, "Cold shutdown cannot be happening."


Then in November, he heard that they were going to declare, in addition, "end of the accident" [restoration of the plant to the normal state].


"That cannot be", he thought, but the work to drill a hole in the Reactor 2 Containment Vessel, which had been scheduled in December, was delayed until after the New Year. Other dangerous works that could mar the declaration started to get postponed.


The work at the plant had been at the mercy of the politicians before. "There is an election coming, so don't do dangerous work until after the election." "Minister in charge will go on an overseas trip the day after tomorrow, so finish the work within today."


After the declaration of end of the accident, there were more work contracts whose priority was to cut costs, and employment condition for the workers deteriorated with the cut in hazard bonus and pay. Many of the pieces of equipment that were installed at Fukushima I Nuke Plant after the accident were temporary, without ample consideration for maintenance. When he [his company] suggested to TEPCO that they should be replaced with durable [permanent] ones, the suggestion was often turned down by TEPCO, who said "There is no budget".


"Happy" doubts if TEPCO could rebuild itself and end the accident at the same time. With cost cutting as a priority, experienced workers won't come to work at the plant because their employment is not stable, and the decommissioning work won't make progress, he fears.


"No matter how much taxpayers' money the national government pours in, it simply becomes TEPCO's debt. Since TEPCO remains as a private company, it naturally puts cost-cutting as priority. As such, decommissioning won't make much progress. It is the nuclear accident that has shaken the entire world, and the government and TEPCO should create a new organization that focus only on ending the accident and move aggressively."

(First-pass quick translation, subject to change later.)

The nuclear accident that has shaken the world seems to have been forgotten by most people in the world, particularly those in emerging nations like Vietnam and Turkey, who want Japanese-made nuclear reactors and plants in their respective country, probably because of Fukushima. They think Japan has learned a lot from the accident (which in their mind is probably long over) and the knowledge and the expertise from the accident will be highly beneficial for their countries' push for nuclear energy.

And so it goes, until next time.