Saturday, December 21, 2013

#Fukushima I NPP: Radioactive Cesium, All-Beta Detected from Groundwater Sample 25 Meters from the Ground Surface

The groundwater sample from the observation hole dug 25 meters from the ground surface in between the turbine buildings for Reactor 3 and Reactor 4 (No. H25J7) was found with:

  • Cesium-134: 1.6 Bq/Liter

  • Cesium-137: 2.8 Bq/L

  • All-beta: 67 Bq/L

after dirt particles were filtered out.

So far, radioactive materials (cesium, all-beta, tritium) have been detected from groundwater samples from the shallower, upper permeable layer. This is the first detection of radioactive materials from the groundwater below the level of the in-the-ground impermeable wall made of waterglass that is still being built closer to the plant harbor.

TEPCO says (handout for the press, 12/20/2013) they don't know whether that means:

  1. The lower permeable layer (25 meters from the ground surface) is contaminated; or

  2. Radioactive materials entered the groundwater when the observation hole was dug; or

  3. The water from the upper permeable layer somehow entered the lower permeable layer; or

  4. The water got contaminated when it was being sampled.

The handout shows the particular location (observation hole No. H25J7) to be close to the turbine buildings of Reactor 3 and Reactor 4:

As far as I'm aware, it is only TV Asahi who covered this news on December 20:

Japanese net citizens on Twitter and message boards who heard about the news (it doesn't look to be many) are all doom and gloom, having already come to the conclusion that the lower permeable layer is contaminated (TEPCO's hypothesis No.1).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Japan's PM Abe: "I Want Next Governor of Tokyo to Be A Young Woman"

Well, as if it would be his to decide. The gubernatorial election to be called early next year in Tokyo is a local election, albeit an important one if only because Tokyo is the most populous prefecture in Japan.

In case you haven't heard about it, Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose, who won the election in December last year with a landslide (he amassed the largest ever number of votes in the Tokyo gubernatorial election) and won the 2020 Olympic for Tokyo, suddenly found himself a target of the suddenly righteous press in Japan (who have all but stopped coverage of the State Secrecy Protection Law as soon as it passed the Upper House), and has been forced out of office.

Mr. Inose's sin? Having received a "huge", no-interest campaign loan (50 million yen, or 500,000 US dollars) from a hospital chain that provided campaign funds to a host of other national politicians, many of them in Liberal Democratic Party in the December 2012 Lower House election/local elections.

Mr. Inose did an extremely poor job of explaining away (he miserably failed), and for that small amount, as far as the politics go in Japan and which he claims he has returned, he resigned on December 19, 2013.

Is the righteous mainstream (national) media in Japan going after the national politicians in the ruling party?


It's not that I think highly of Mr. Inose (I don't), but the way the mainstream media (particularly Asahi, who had a "scoop" - sure, sure) and LDP blew it out of proportion from a potential bribery case into a circus is highly suspicious. Now that Mr. Inose has resigned, all is well, the case closed, not just for Inose but most likely for any politician who received money from the hospital chain.

Mr. Inose's word says it all: "I was a politically naive amateur."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on December 18 even before Governor Inose announced he would resign, was quoted as saying this on TV Tokyo:


According to the source connected to LDP, Prime Minister Abe was telling his staff that the candidate for the Governor of Tokyo should be a young woman.

Young woman. Meaning someone (or a whole lot of them) like these, Abe's favorite, dressed in a school-uniform-like outfit (you are supposed to see them as high school girls)?

(My sincere condolence to the ASEAN ministers and their spouses who were subjected to this "entertainment" by PM Abe. If you were thinking about teaming up with Abe's Japan to counter the pressure from China, good luck.)

Oh by the way, the "candidates" (unofficial, undeclared for now) picked by a TV program (Asahi, I think) are beyond the pale for most Japanese net citizens:

Candidates with yellow background color are from the opposition, blue from LDP. They don't even look human, but four out of seven are girls. Not sure about "young".

Thursday, December 19, 2013

TEPCO to Set Up "Decommission Company" as a Separate Division Within TEPCO, National Government to Support TEPCO with 10 Trillion Yen

Details are to be announced By TEPCO's president Naomi Hirose at a press conference starting at 5PM, December 20, 2013, according to TEPCO's tweet.

"Decommission Company" is not going to be a separate company with separate capital but a company within TEPCO, more like a division. The idea was first floated in October this year at an LDP work group on recovery and reconstruction.

Now, why would they do that, instead of setting up a separate company? I have some ideas but they are not firm yet. I'll wait till I hear Mr. Hirose.

This "Decommission Company" will be in charge of decommissioning Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and dealing with contaminated water at the plant. Two disparate objectives it seems to me, but clearly not to LDP or TEPCO.

Reuters Japan reports (12/20/2013) that the national government will increase the amount of loan to TEPCO for decontamination and compensation from 5 trillion yen to 9 trillion yen. In addition, the government will pay 1.1 trillion yen to cover the cost to build the intermediate storage facilities for the contaminated soil removed as the result of decontamination. The cost of building the intermediate storage facilities was to be paid by TEPCO.

Total support of over 10 trillion yen, with the national government paying, not just TEPCO. Now it's getting halfway to the amount that some people say will cost to decommission and decontaminate.

If Japan had been to print money in great quantity and spend it, it would have been after March 2011. It didn't. The government of Democratic Party of Japan, whether under Naoto Kan or Yoshihiko Noda, was too busy putting the blame of the accident on TEPCO and looking for cheap solutions. They sure found the cheapest solution: talk.

Current Air Dose Levels in Different Areas Within #Fukushima I NPP Show Radiation Hazard for Workers

The PDF document that TEPCO released on December 11, 2013 (in Japanese only, so far) also contained information on air dose rates in different areas inside the plant compound, and how TEPCO hopes to reduce the rates for workers who have to work in the cluttered, high-radiation environment.


Air dose levels in the above areas (in microsievert/hour), and the radiation mitigation plan:

Area I is the ocean-side (east) of the reactor buildings and turbine buildings (1 - 4). Between the turbine buildings and the open channel of the plant harbor, workers are still injecting waterglass to create in-the-ground impermeable wall to stop the groundwater from leaking into the harbor. Debris in this area is highly contaminated with fallout, and the effect of direct radiation is also significant. It is a high-radiation area (over 100 microsieverts/hour), and unless the debris are removed, the air dose levels there are not going to come down.

Area II-1 is the mountain-side (west) of the reactor buildings (1 - 4), and radiation levels are high. In the far right column "Further mitigation plan", TEPCO writes, "block direct radiation that comes from reactor buildings".

Area III may not be that high in gamma radiation but it is the area where the waste water after reverse osmosis (desalination) leaked, and it has high beta radiation contamination.

Area IV-1 and Area IV-2 are the only two areas with relatively low air dose rates. The anti-seismic building is located in Area IV-2. Area V is where the removed debris is stored.

Clear the debris first, bury them somewhere so that we can work, Mr. Michio Ishikawa of Japan Nuclear Technology Institute said in April 2011. Two years and eight months later, TEPCO's radiation mitigation plan in December 2013 is to clear the debris and sweep the roads.

(OT) Comment Section Is Open Again

At least spam attacks stopped. I'll have to keep an eye on the comment section for a while, as certain references and links seem to have triggered the event that forced me to shut down the comment section.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Photos of #Fukushima I NPP in Late 2013: Still Very Much Cluttered and Contaminated

While I'm at it, I might as well show the most recent photos that TEPCO released which, I think, show what lack of money and planning (and lack of decision-making itself) has done (or hasn't done, in this case) at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in the past two years and nine months.

Some areas inside the plant compound today look exactly the same as in March 2011.

From TEPCO's photos and videos library, 12/11/2013 (text is my translation of the explanation in the accompanying PDF document):

4 meters above the sea level (Onahama Peil - average sea level used for the plant), ocean-side (east) of Reactors 1 - 4:

While a temporary storage area for equipment and materials has been secured,

other areas are still littered with debris; it is difficult to decontaminate:

10 meters above the sea level, around Reactor buildings:

While a temporary storage area for equipment and materials, pathway for vehicles and heavy equipment have been secured,

other areas have pipes for transferring (contaminated) water and electric cables running and are still littered with debris; it is difficult to decontaminate:

Some vehicles turned upside down by the tsunami,

have been removed.

Debris removal will continue systematically, says TEPCO [meaning "extremely slowly, piece by piece").

I still vividly remember Mr. Michio Ishikawa of Japan Nuclear Technology Institute on April 29, 2011 on an all-night TV program. To the astonished fellow guests (or guests who were feigning astonishment), Mr. Ishikawa, a strong proponent of nuclear energy, said as a matter of fact that all nuclear fuel inside the reactors had been melted down, the government was lying about it, and some of it would be already outside the Pressure Vessels.

He also said, "This is a war."

"Take the debris clean-up job for example. They are picking up the debris and putting them in containers, as if this is the peacetime normal operation. This is a war. They should dig a hole somewhere and bury the radioactive debris and clean up later. What's important is to clear the site, using the emergency measures. Build a bridgehead to the reactor.

"The line of command is not clear, whether it is the government, TEPCO, or Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

"Look squarely at the reactors and find out the true situation. [Trying to do something with] the turbine buildings is nothing but a caricature [a joke, a manga, a diversion]."

No one took his word seriously, and we are where we are today as the result. Mr. Ishikawa's remark on core melt was not even in the news the next day. Hardly anyone talked about it even on Twitter. "Why should we listen to a pro-nuke shill?" was part of the attitude of net citizens in Japan who turned against nuclear energy after the Fukushima accident.

So today, radioactive debris continues to litter the site, hindering workers' efforts. We have been doing something with the turbine buildings (all the contaminated water from the reactor buildings goes to the turbine building basements, from which the water goes either to another building for storage or to the cesium absorption system (SARRY, or on rare occasions, Kurion).

(OT) US Fed to "Taper" QE by $10 Billion, Stock Market Soars

The quantitative easing (QE) that was started in September 2012 will continue at $75 billion a month, instead of $85 billion.

Much like the federal budget forged by GOP's Paul Ryan and Dem Senator Patty Murray, which does nothing of actually reducing deficit but only reducing the rate of deficit increase.

After the initial plunge on the FOMC announcement, the US stock market swung the other direction and ended the day at all-time high (Dow, S&P500):

As yet another sign of great "recovery", the mortgage application plunged to the 13-year low (from Zero Hedge):

Bullish for the stock market!

The Bernanke Fed said:

Reflecting cumulative progress and an improved outlook for the job market...

Cumulative progress of 0.1% taking from 99.9%, and an improved outlook for the job market expressed by the lower unemployment rate, because they stop counting people whose unemployment benefit has run out even though they are still looking for jobs.

The unemployment rate is set to dramatically fall next year, as the Ryan-Murray budget deal is making sure of it by cutting the extended unemployment benefit beyond 26 weeks.

Bullish for the stock market! Just keep buying the risk assets, as almost all bearish investors have thrown in the towel. Even people like Hugh Hendry, who is effectively saying, "Nothing matters but trends."

Japanese yen has turned even lower against US dollar, at 104 yen per dollar. Hello more carry trade.

Nikkei futures (in yen) to 15,895, more than 300 points higher than Wednesday's (Japan time) cash close (15,587):

Economically ignorant Prime Minister Abe (just like his US counterpart) will exclaim, "See, my Abenomics is working!"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#Fukushima I NPP: 63,000 Bq/L of All-Beta One Day, ND the Next Day, All Thanks to TEPCO's Mix-Up (Literally)

The news yesterday (12/16/2013) was that 63,000 Bq/Liter of all-beta that includes strontium-90 was detected in the groundwater sample from an observation hole right on the embankment near the open channel in the plant harbor. The fear was that the groundwater high in all-beta, well exceeding the TEPCO's in-house limit of 10 Bq/L for strontium, was leaking unchecked into the harbor, because the in-the-ground impermeable waterglass wall is not in place at this particular observation hole.

This sudden spike made no sense, as this observation hole, No. 0-3-2, had never had such a high number for all-beta - for that matter, not even for gamma nuclides (cesium).

Then the next day it all made sense. At some point between the collection of the samples and the measurement, TEPCO managed to mix up the sample from the hole No. 0-3-2 with the sample from the hole No. 1-16, which was found with 1,700,000 Bq/L of all-beta on the same December 16, 2013.

Another example of the deteriorating quality of the workers at the plant, AND of the managers who are supposed to train and oversee the workers.

From TEPCO's handout for the press, 12/17/2013 (English labels are by me):

Now, an interesting question is: Where is the groundwater that is sampled at the hole No. 1-16 coming from?

Note that the amount of radioactive cesium is below detection levels (2.8 Bq/L for cesium-134, 1.5 Bq/L for cesium-137), but all-beta (at least half of it is strontium-90) is 1.7 million Bq/L.

At first, I thought this water may be coming either from the leaky tanks that store waste water after cesium absorption and desalination (reverse osmosis), or the tanks that store treated waters, as that would explain the lack of cesium and abundance of all-beta.

Then, on close examination of the numbers for all-beta (see the table; click to enlarge),

  • Water sample from the hole No. 1-16: 1,700,000 Bq/L

  • Treated water (after cesium absorption and desalination): 19,000 Bq/L (8/9/2013)

  • Waste water (after cesium absorption and desalination): 75,000,000 Bq/L (8/9/2013)

The water from the hole No.1-16 contains too much all-beta if it comes from treated water tanks, and contains too little all-beta if it comes from waste water tanks that are leaky. Besides, both treated water and waste water do contain radioactive cesium above the detection limit.

So my brilliant idea is not so brilliant after all, but there is one another, more likely possibility (h/t Kontan_Bigcat).

The water that is finding its way to the hole No. 1-16 may have come from the trenches, either from Reactor 2 or Reactor 3, and filled with the highly contaminated water from April/May of 2011 when the water leaked from the reactor buildings into the turbine buildings after it cooled the broken reactors then into the ocean via the trenches that connect the turbine buildings and water intakes at the embankment.

The reason for the non-detectable levels of radioactive cesium may be that radioactive cesium has been absorbed by the dirt/soil after two years and 9 months.

Whether or not this trench water has been leaking has been discussed at the meetings of Nuclear Regulation Authority, which usually end with one or more commissioners and/or experts scratching their heads at TEPCO's non-explanation. But as this blog wrote in July this year, detection of significant amounts of radioactive materials along the embankment started right after TEPCO started driving the sheet piles into the embankment and into the sea floor of the open culvert in the plant harbor in April in its effort to "stop" the groundwater from flowing into the harbor.

Looking at the cesium content of the trench water (7/31/2013 post) as of 7/31/2013, it is not likely that this water is currently leaking from the trench into the surrounding soil (cesium content is too low in the sample water from the observation holes).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Evans-Pritchard: China-Japan Rearmament is Keynesian Stimulus, If It Doesn't Go Horribly Wrong

An "IF" in capital letters, but even if it does go wrong and things come to a head between China and Japan, it will still be a great Keynesian stimulus for the US and Europe, whose economies have been suffering "long malaise".

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, on-again-off-again Keynesian (I think it's "on" now, since the Great Recession induced by the Lehman collapse), says Japan is ready for a fight if necessary; at the same time he seems to think that mishap is not necessarily by China or Japan but by the United States, and fear the cascading effect outside the parties directly involved, as he cites the Agadir crisis in 1911.

With the flip-flopping president who are surrounded by advisors whose expertise (if that) is only in the US domestic politics, the probability of the mishap is rather significant, I'm afraid, no matter how much Japan's PM Shinzo Abe tries to flatter the US president.

(The latest example of flattery is Abe's mimicking President Obama in using teleprompters for the first time to deliver his speech at a hastily scheduled press conference on December 14, 2013, probably just to show off his brand-new toy...image from Yasumi Iwakami)

From The Telegraph (11/26/2013; emphasis is mine), by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

China-Japan rearmament is Keynesian stimulus, if it doesn't go horribly wrong

Asia is on the cusp of a full-blown arms race. The escalating clash between China and almost all its neighbours in the Pacific has reached a threshold. All other economic issues at this point are becoming secondary.

Beijing's implicit threat to shoot down any aircraft that fails to adhere to its new air control zone in the East China Sea is a watershed moment for the world. The issue cannot easily be finessed. Other countries either comply, or they don't comply. Somebody has to back down.

The gravity of the latest dispute should by now be obvious even to those who don't pay attention the Pacific Rim, the most dangerous geostrategic fault line in the world.

Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, accused China of “profoundly dangerous acts that unilaterally change the status quo”.

The US defence secretary Chuck Hagel called it “a destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region” and warned that the US would defy the order. The Pentagon has since stated that US pilots will not switch on their transponders to comply, and will defend themselves if attacked. Think about this for a moment.

Mr Hagel asserted categorically that Washington will stand behind its alliance with Japan, the anchor of American security in Asia. “The United States reaffirms its long-standing policy that Article V of the US Japan Mutual Defense Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands,” he said.

Whether China fully believes this another matter, of course. The Senkaku islands offer a perfect opportunity for Beijing to test the resolve of the Obama Administration since it is far from clear to the war-weary American people why they should risk conflict in Asia over these uninhabited rocks near Taiwan, and since it also far from clear whether President Obama's Asian Pivot is much more than a rhetorical flourish.

Besides, Beijing has just watched the US throw its long-time ally Saudi Arabia under a bus over Iran. It has watched Moscow score an alleged victory over Washington in Syria. You and I may think it is an error to infer too much US weakness from these incidents, but that is irrelevant. Beijing seems to be drawing its own conclusions.

Even if the immediate crisis can be defused, we are clearly sliding into a new Cold War. While it is dangerous, it could have paradoxical and powerful side effects. Rearmament lifted the world economy out of slump in the late 1930s, working as a form of concerted Keynesian fiscal stimulus. It could do so again.

The parallels are not exact. They never are. But an Asian arms race would almost certainly tackle some of the underlying causes of the long malaise in the Western economies. It would soak up much of the Asian "savings glut" and the excess industrial capacity in China, and would help to narrow the perennial East-West trade gap.

This would be an answer of sorts to the West's "secular stagnation" – to use the term of former US treasury secretary Larry Summers – or the liquidity trap as others call it. But be careful what you wish for.

I don't wish to become entangled in debate over whether other states impose such ADIZ identification zones beyond their territorial waters, as asserted by Beijing. It is political infantilism to see and judge such disputes through a moral prism, as if our Hobbesian world conforms to codes of right and wrong. What we are dealing with is a great power collision of epochal proportions.

The Asian arms race is young, but clearly under way already. China has launched its first stealth drone, known as Sharp Sword. It developing indigenous aircraft carriers. Its “Two-Ocean-Strategy” implies a fleet of five or six carrier battle groups.

Japan is already rearming. It is building a de facto marine force. It has launched its largest warship since WW2, an 800-foot long DDH-class helicopter carrier, an aircraft carrier in all but name. Tokyo is developing its own version of the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency. Spending on warships and aircraft will jump by 23pc this year.

When I visited the spanking new buildings of the Japanese defence ministry in Tokyo in March, it already seemed like another world from the run-down digs of the old Self-Defence Force that I had visited six years earlier.

You could feel the emergence of a new military power, pacifist still in name only. The message that came through loud and clear from talking to officials is that Japan is ready for a fight if necessary, and is convinced that it can sink or shoot down any force sent by China into Japan's waters and airspace – whether to close in on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, or to ratchet up pressure against Okinawa.

I was shown detailed maps tracing movements of Chinese DDG warships and Yuan-class submarines that left me deeply alarmed over where this is going. Japanese officials said Chinese naval officers on patrol were not responding to normal signals.

"What we don't know is whether Chinese officers follow any international code of conduct? Do they understand what is banned and not banned? Does the Communist Party control their own military?" said one defence planner.

"Two thousand years ago under the Han Dynasty, the emperor put his right hand on the wheel of his chariot and told his general that everything inside the borders was the domain of the emperor, and everything outside was left to the commander. That has plagued China throughout its history, and it is the delicate issue we now face," he said.

There is no red telephone between Tokyo and Beijing to defuse a crisis if it erupts, nothing comparable to the Washington-Moscow "hotline" during the Cold War.

While the US and China were able to calm the waters after an American military jet collided with a Chinese fighter in 2002 – killing the Chinese pilot – it is unlikely that any such mishap between China and Japan could be contained at this stage.

Today's escalating spat has echoes of the Agadir crisis in 1911, the stand-off between Wilhelmine Germany and the Franco-British Entente in the final years before the First World War.

In case you have forgotten, Kaiser Wilhelm sent the warship Panther to Morocco in 1911 to prevent French annexation. The Kaiser picked his moment well. The French were violating earlier accords.

Yet his real purpose was to probe and weaken Britain's entente with France (not a formal alliance) by picking on an issue where London had little natural sympathy for French actions.

The Agadir Crisis backfired against the Kaiser. The Entente did not break. But that is hardly a reassuring episode. The chain of events that followed were catastrophic.

France felt emboldened by British backing, with ripple effects through the Franco-Russian alliance. Russia then felt more able to push its luck when the Serbian crisis hit in 1914. Agadir fed an overwhelming sense of fury in Germany, a feeling that Britain had become an enemy.

America is now having to walk the same sort of tightrope that Britain had to walk – and walked badly – from Agadir to Sarajevo. One misjudgement by either side in the East China Sea could change our world entirely. If you are not concerned, perhaps you should be.

"Mr Hagel asserted categorically that Washington will stand behind its alliance with Japan, the anchor of American security in Asia."

Well, ever since Evans-Pritchard wrote this article (11/26/2013), the US has been busy pleasing Beijing while throwing Japan under the bus (here and here). The US State Department's deputy spokesperson even said the US was happy to see changes in South Korea, which announced it would now allow airlines to file flight plans with Chinese authorities over the disputed territories.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Abe is busy meeting and speaking with the heads of the ASEAN nations in an effort to form a united front against China, whom they perceive as encroaching on the neutral or international (and disputed) space.