Day 267 Is what you don’t write where the news is?

I have a great of respect for the Guardian because they tend to print more accurate stories on a wide range of issues than do most “media”. However, they have fallen short with this piece. Buying the TEPCO line, they’re advancing the theory that the crisis is nearly over with terms like “was close to being breached” and “announce cold shutdown on Dec 16”.  If you have no way of judging the condition of the fuel or its actual location, how it is possible to assert the past tense of the first phrase and the veracity of the second solely on the temperature inside the containment? (Wouldn’t you have to measure the temperature of the concrete floor on which sits the blob of melted fuel? What am I missing here?)

– – – – – –

Published on Friday, December 2, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Fukushima Fuel Rods May Have Completely Melted

One of the plant’s nuclear reactors was close to being breached as fuel rods bore through its concrete floor, says Tepco

by Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Fuel rods inside one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may have completely melted and bored most of the way through a concrete floor, the reactor’s last line of defence before its steel outer casing, the plant’s operator said.

Police man a road block at the edge of the 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. (Photograph: Greg Baker/AP)Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said in a report that fuel inside reactor No 1 appeared to have dropped through its inner pressure vessel and into the outer containment vessel, indicating that the accident was more severe than first thought.

The revelation that the plant may have narrowly averted a disastrous “China syndrome” scenario comes days after reports that the company had dismissed a 2008 warning that the plant was inadequately prepared to resist a tsunami.

Tepco revised its view of the damage inside the No 1 reactor – one of three that suffered meltdown soon after the 11 March disaster – after running a new simulation of the accident.

It would not comment on the exact position of the molten fuel, or on how much of it is exposed to water being pumped in to cool the reactor. More than nine months into the crisis, workers are still unable to gauge the damage directly because of dangerously high levels of radiation inside the reactor building.

“Uncertainty involved in the analysis is significant, due to the uncertain nature of the original conditions and data used,” Tepco said in a report. It said the concrete “could have been penetrated”, but added that the fuel remained inside the reactor’s outer casing.

Previously, the firm had said that only some of the fuel had burned through its inner pressure vessel and dropped into the containment vessel.

“Almost no fuel remains at its original position,” Tepco said. The simulation shows that the fuel may have penetrated the concrete floor by up to 65cm, just 37cm from the reactor’s outer steel wall.

Tepco said that about 60% of the fuel in the two other reactors that experienced meltdown had dropped onto the concrete base, but had caused less damage.

After the tsunami, workers at the site stopped injecting reactor No 1 with water for about 14 hours, resulting in more serious damage than sustained by the two other reactors.

The company added, however, that fuel in all three reactors was being kept stable by cooling water, adding that the erosion had stopped.

It said the findings would not affect plans to bring the reactors to a safe state, known as cold shutdown, possibly by the middle of the month.

Japanese authorities may announce cold shutdown on 16 December, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Friday. That stage is reached when water used to cool the fuel rods remains below boiling point, thereby preventing the fuel from heating up again.

Stabilising the reactors is just the first stage of the operation to resolve the crisis. Tepco has said it won’t be able to begin removing the fuel for another 10 years.Decommissioning the plant could take at least 30 years.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011
Just a question: Why does this article not question what happens to the water that is washing off the contamination?

Decontamination work opened to media near Fukushima plant

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) — Work under a government model project to remove radioactive materials from areas around the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was opened to the media Sunday in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

Using high-pressure water sprayers, a joint venture led by major construction contractor Obayashi Corp. has been engaged in the work for a week based on a detailed plan worked out by the government-commissioned Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

The project, aimed at confirming the decontamination method’s effectiveness, safety and economic efficiency, is under way in areas within 20 kilometers from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant and other high concentration areas from where residents have been evacuated.

The administrative agency began monitoring radiation on Nov. 18 in Okuma, the town hosting those reactors at the plant that suffered core meltdowns in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami. They have since released massive amounts of radioactive matter into the environment.

The day’s work began at the Okuma town office building about 4 km southwest of the plant.

(Mainichi Japan) December 4, 2011

I wonder if they will supply each SDF member with protective gear as they work on “decontaminating” high radiation areas…

SDF units to begin decontamination in Fukushima

Japan’s Self-Defense Force units will begin work this week to decontaminate municipal offices around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Teams from the Ground SDF in Fukushima Prefecture will use water jets to clean walls and floors of government buildings, and remove radioactive sludge from ditches.

The teams are also expected to scrape surface soil and prune trees at any spots around the buildings where they find high radiation levels.

The operation will cover the offices of Naraha, Tomioka, Namie and Iitate all of which are designated evacuation areas with high radiation levels.

The GSDF plans to complete the decontamination work by around December 20th.

The 4 offices are expected to then serve as headquarters for full-fledged decontamination that the central government plans to launch next year.

Sunday, December 04, 2011 05:57 +0900 (JST)

Hmm… the last paragraph reads:
When tsunami triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Tohoku’s coast hit the nuclear plant, they knocked out almost all its power sources, making it impossible to keep the reactors and spent fuel pools in a cool, stable state.
Yet, hasn’t it been shown that it was the earthquake that damaged the reactors, not just the lack of power to the backup generators?
Just asking…
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Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011

Tepco: Staff at nuclear plant felt helpless

Workers tell of fears, difficulties in early days of Fukushima crisis

Kyodo

The desperation and helplessness workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant felt in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 disasters are described in a report detailing Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s in-house investigation.

“I felt I could do nothing. Other operators appeared anxious, and said, ‘When we cannot control (the reactors) and are helpless, is there any point in us staying here?’ ” the chief of the reactors’ central control room is quoted as saying in an interim report Tepco released Friday. “So, I bowed my head and asked them to stay.”

The account is part of a separate volume that was attached to the report, which also describes the difficulties workers experienced trying to release pressure in the containment vessels in the first few days of the crisis to avoid damaging them.

In an apparent attempt to underline the severity of the situation, Tepco printed many of the workers’ accounts in bold face.

While the report carried statements attributed to then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who led the government’s initial efforts to contain the crisis, the statements attributed to Tepco officials lack specific names.

One worker who was part of the efforts to vent the containment vessels said, “I heard some big weird popping sounds . . . and when I tried to start working . . . my black rubber boots melted (because of the heat).”

Others were unwilling to let workers near the containment vessels, fearing they would receive massive doses of radiation.

“I did not allow young workers to go (and open the valves for venting) because they would have to go into an area with high radiation levels,” one of the employees says in the report.

The government has confirmed that reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered meltdowns, but the report shows that large aftershocks hampered efforts to bring them under control.

“There were quite a lot of times when we had to run to higher ground like crazy with a full face mask on,” one worker is quoted as saying.

Tepco said it interviewed many of the workers at the Fukushima plant who were involved in the effort to contain the crisis in the immediate aftermath of March 11.

When tsunami triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Tohoku’s coast hit the nuclear plant, they knocked out almost all its power sources, making it impossible to keep the reactors and spent fuel pools in a cool, stable state.

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