Nuclear crisis far from resolved
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Dec. 16 declared that the stricken reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have entered the state of “cold shutdown” and that it has been confirmed that the nuclear crisis has “been resolved”(Shusoku ni itatta.) As far as Tepco and the goverment are concerned, “Step 2” of their “road map” to bring the nuclear crisis under control has been accomplished one month earlier than originally scheduled. After the completion of Step 2, work that will eventually lead to removal of molten nuclear fuel and decommissioning of the stricken reactors is supposed to start. But the prime minister’s declaration that the crisis has been resolved will not be accepted by many people, especially those in Fukushima Prefecture.
Workers who have struggled continuously since March 11 to stabilize the stricken reactors deserve the nation’s praise. But Mr. Noda’s announcement is political grandstanding designed to give an impression that the plant’s four crippled reactors — three of which suffered meltdowns — have been completely brought under control. Apparently he wanted to make the announcement before year’s end.
Mr. Noda’s announcement could have the negative effect of turning the public’s attention away from the reactors, which would be most unwelcome as their condition should be under continuous scrutiny. Tepco and the government must continue to give priority to accurately measuring the ongoing risks and keep the public fully informed of them. The prime minister’s declaration that the nuclear crisis has “been resolved” should not be used as an excuse by the government and Tepco to shy away from that duty.
The severity level of the Fukushima nuclear crisis is the maximum 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale — the same level designated for the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — the world’s worst nuclear accident. In the Fukushima fiasco, four reactors were damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, three suffered full meltdowns, several hydrogen explosions occurred and a tremendous amount of radioactive material has been released. In view of this, the Fukushima nuclear crisis is not only an extremely grave disaster but the first of its kind in the history of nuclear power because it involves multiple reactors. It must be remembered that it will take decades before the crisis is truly resolved.
Although Prime Minister Noda announced that the stricken reactors have entered a state of cold shutdown, it must be emphasized that Tepco and the government’s definition of “cold shutdown” is very different from the nuclear power industry’s traditional definition. The prime minister announced that “cold shutdown” had been achieved because the temperature at the bottom of the pressure vessels and inside the containment vessels have fallen below 100 C, the radiation level of radioactive substances currently released from the reactors has come down to 0.1 millisieverts per year inside the plant compound, which exceeds the goal of one millisievert per year, and the “safety” of the external system that has been set up to cool the reactors has been confirmed.
The term “cold shutdown” is traditionally used to describe a reactor in normal working order that has reached a state of sub-criticality. If the nuclear fission process is stopped in such a reactor, the temperature inside the reactor falls below 100 C and the nuclear fuel is cooled by the reactor’s own internal cooling system in a stable manner, then a reactor can be said to be in the state of cold shutdown. In this state, no amount of radioactive substances is released from a reactor. In addition, a reactor in a true state of cold shutdown can be easily restarted.
The conditions of the stricken reactors at Fukushima No. 1 are completely different from a reactor that is in a true state of cold shutdown. An external cooling system that has been cobbled together uses about 4 km of rubber hosing and was not built to earthquake safety standards so it cannot be considered to be a stable system. Furthermore, while the containment vessels of reactors in true states of cold shutdown can be opened and their fuel rods removed, the melted nuclear fuel in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors cannot be removed and must be continually kept cool by the external makeshift cooling system. Finally, the reactors could easily suffer additional damage if another strong earthquake strikes, and the pools containing spent nuclear fuel remain in a vulnerable state.
Another major problem is that Mr. Noda made his announcement despite Tepco and the government not knowing the real conditions of the reactors. It is believed that most of the No. 1 reactor’s nuclear fuel and about 60 percent of the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors’ nuclear fuel melted through the bottoms of the pressure vessels and fell to the bottom of the containment vessels, even boring into their concrete floors. In this situation, it is impossible to accurately know the temperature of fuel by the method used by Tepco and the government. More importantly, neither Tepco nor the government knows what the conditions of the damaged pressure and containment vessels are truly like.
The Fukushima No. 1 power plant is facing other problems as well. Several hundred tons of ground water are seeping into the basements of the reactor buildings on a daily basis and becoming contaminated. Tepco must prevent leakage of this contaminated water into the sea, but available tanks to store such water will be filled to capacity in a short time. Tepco and the government must do their utmost to prevent additional leakage of radioactive substances.
Tepco’s middle- and long-range scenario includes such risks as spontaneous restart of a fission process, new hydrogen explosions, corrosion of the pools containing spent nuclear fuel, leakage of contaminated water or mud, and another strong earthquake and tsunami. Clearly, the nuclear crisis remains far from resolved and Tepco and the government must continue to make their utmost efforts to bring the situation at the Fukushima plant truly under control as quickly as possible and ensure that enough workers remain at the site to cope with any dangerous developments.
Chris Williams: Radiation and Life Cannot Go Together
- Written By: Website Administrator
Chris Williams, author of Ecology & Socialism, writing from Japan: “Radiation and life cannot go together…”
So said 64 year old Chieko Shiina, a member of the group Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiationand a traditional farmer from Miyagi Prefecture, as I sat inside the tent on the floor across from her on Day 102 of the sit-in. In years gone by she would have been 100 miles north on her farm tending her crops and doing such things as fermenting rice to make sake, harvesting leaves to make tea or manufacturing tatami mats. However, her farm, in southern Miyagi Prefecture is just north of Fukushima and so, while Chieko’s farm is not in an evacuation area, it is too heavily contaminated with radiation for her to farm or sell her products; “I cannot let people eat these things”.
The tent encampment where we met is directly outside the Tokyo headquarters of METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) and NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency) and began on September 11, the six month anniversary of the combined disasters of the March 11 genpatsu shinsai, a new term that combines a catastrophic quake with a nuclear disaster. Mothers from Fukushima traveled to Tokyo and launched the sit-in with the slogan “We Stood Up to Sit Down” as they demanded that the Japanese government provide accurate information on the levels of radiation, better protection and expansion of the evacuation zone for their children.
Over the last three months, the sit-in has become an organizing hub for the anti-nuclear people’s resistance in Japan as well as other protest movements against free trade agreements, the American military base in Okinawa and the movement to stop any alteration of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution that prevents Japanese troops from being deployed offensively beyond the shores of Japan. For these reasons, the camp has been regularly targeted for harassment by groups from the Japanese Right.
While large protests of delegations from Fukushima and around the country occur regularly, Chieko is there full-time, braving the elements and frigid temperatures of wintertime Tokyo. She intends to continue the encampment for 10 months and 10 days, the length of time that Japanese traditionally consider mother’s to be carrying a child as she believes that “the style of fighting should be derived from life” and “that is why it is 10 months and 10 days”. Emblazoned across the top of one of the many hand-outs at the camp is her slogan: “Women are Pregnant with the Future”.
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Apparently, there is more to this story than the web site (in English) writes. The power company has decided where they are going to build the new nuclear power plant. But in that area, there are people who are against nuclear power. One, was this woman, Asako Kumagaya, who would not sell her land. You can read more about her below. –> The company has decided to withdraw funding to maintain the road to her house, declaring that it is not worth it because there is so little traffic on the road. If the post office delivers to the house on a regular basis, the company will be able to close off the road to her house, leaving her with no access to the main road. [Video with details follows the entry below- sorry, Japanese only at this point.]
Once a week or once a month, please keep sending postcards through 2012.
Please send a Christmas card to Asako House
In the Japanese northern prefecture of Aomori, there is a nuclear power station being built in the small town of Oma.
The nuclear power station which named after it’s town – Oma was giving permission to build by the favorable votes of the town councilors.
Oma Nuclear Power Station is MOX fuel reactor which runs from the mixture of Plutonium and Uranium.
There was a lady in Oma named Asako Kumagaya who never agreed to sell her land for the propsed power station.
Her land lies only 300 meters away from the main reactor building according to it’s plan.
It didn’t take long for Asako to realize that her land was walled by the power stations proposed site.
DENGEN KAIHATSU(means Electricity Source Development in English), the company which commissioned to build a nuclear power plant was ready for construction.
Asako built a log house in 2004 and been living and growing crops in her farm since.
But unfortunately, in 2006, Asako suddenly passed away.
Her children took over Asako’s will.
Log house she lived in is now named after her as Asako House.
And her daughter, Atsuko Ogasawara is now looking after the property and land.
Ms Ogasawara is calling out to the people all over the world to post her a card or a letter.
Every post divered to her confirms the life is still out there and that will make DENGEN KAIHTSU hard to ignore the presence of the Asako House.
It will be greatly appreciated if you could spare your moment and pennies to post a little thoughts for the house.
Please send to;
Ms Atsuko Ogasawara
396 Aza Kookoppe, Oaza Oma, Oma-cho,
Watch video at:
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Tsunami hit Iwate city faster than most people could run: research
The massive tsunami that ravaged northeastern Japan on March 11 surged into the Iwate Prefecture city of Miyako at a speed of 8 meters per second, faster than many people could run, a team of researchers has calculated.
The team — including 21-year-old University of Tsukuba student Masaki Yamada and Shigehiro Fujino, an assistant professor at the university — entered the Tarosettai district of Miyako in the months after the disaster. There they found 380 rocks and blocks of concrete measuring 1 meter or more in in length, which had been washed away by the massive tsunami, giving them a hint of the force of the waves.
The tsunami rose to a height of 28 meters in the area, and in fallow farmland near the Settai River the researchers found a huge rock measuring 2.4 meters in height, 6.5 meters in length and 2.5 meters in width. Its estimated weight was 140 metric tons. Based on global positioning system readings and the testimonies of local residents, researchers estimated that the rock had been moved about 500 meters from the mouth of the river.
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Town assembly votes to call for shutdown of all reactors in Fukushima Pref.
NIHONMATSU, Fukushima — The assembly of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture — a town where all residents have been evacuated along with the municipal government in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster — voted on Dec. 21 to demand the closure of all 10 reactors in the prefecture.
The motion, carried by a vote of 10 to nine, was the first by a municipal assembly in the Futaba district — host to the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant — calling for the central government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to put an end to nuclear power in Fukushima Prefecture. The vast majority of Namie Municipal Assembly members have indicated they understand the decommissioning of the 10 reactors at the No. 1 and 2 Fukushima nuclear plants, but concerns over the loss of nuclear-related jobs made the vote a close one.
“Some 170,000 Fukushima Prefecture residents, including all 21,000 from Namie, have been made refugees (by the nuclear disaster), and are beset by fears for their health,” the town assembly stated, taking aim at the central government’s response to the crisis.
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Academic critical of gov’t response to nuclear crisis lauded by journal Nature
University of Tokyo professor Tatsuhiko Kodama, who blasted the government over its response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, has been selected by British science journal Nature as one of 10 important people this year.
Kodama, 58, appeared in “365 days: Nature’s 10,” a list in the Dec. 22 edition of the journal featuring 10 “people who mattered this year.”
Kodama has visited Fukushima almost every weekend, and cooperated in radiation measurements and decontamination measures. In July, the professor appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare, and sharply criticized the government over its response to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, saying, “What on earth is the Diet doing when 70,000 people are wandering about, away from their homes?”
TEPCO to raise electricity bills for firms, eyes hikes for households
TOKYO, Dec. 22, Kyodo
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday it will raise electricity charges for corporate users from next April and will swiftly seek government approval for household electricity bill hikes to cope with growing fuel costs stemming from boosting thermal power generation in the wake of the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Facing the apparent need to strengthen its financial standing through injection of public funds, sources close to the matter said that Tokyo Electric and a state-backed entity providing financial assistance to the utility have started considering changing some board members, such as Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and President Toshio Nishizawa, as a precondition to receive the funds.
Nishizawa assumed the current post in June, while Katsumata has served as chairman from before the nuclear crisis, which was triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Katsumata is likely to be succeeded by a person from the outside.
These, from EX-SKF:
Radioactive Nori in Tokyo Bay
Someone was tweeting that radioactive cesium has been found in dried sheets of “nori” (seaweed) made in Chiba Prefecture and Kanagawa Prefecture, on Tokyo Bay. So I looked for the original information, which I figured must have come from the Fisheries Agency.
And so I found it there.
The Fisheries Agency publishes the result of the survey of radioactive materials (iodine, cesium only) in marine products including seaweeds. In the latest result published on December 21 for the items reported since October, radioactive cesium has been found in dried “nori” in:
Kanagawa Prefecture – 1 sample, at 11 becquerels/kg
Chiba Prefecture – 6 samples, 11, 27, 25, 16.5, 5.6, 17.7 becquerels/kg respectively
Nori grown and harvested in Tokyo Bay, called “Edomae nori”, commands super premium. One sheet of Edomae nori usually fetches over 10 yen a sheet at wholesale (US 13 cents), and used mostly in gourmet sushi restaurants.
The levels are not supposed to be causing negative effect on health as per the Japanese government; the government’s provisional safety limit for radioactive cesium is 500 becquerels/kg.
By the way, this level is set to be lowered to 100 becquerels/kg on the April Fool’s Day next year which is the first day of fiscal 2012 in Japan. Serious.
I’ve never seen the news of radioactive cesium detection in nori in the mainstream media at all. Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have known about it. I’m curious to know how radioactive cesium traveled from Fukushima to Tokyo Bay. The government has claimed that the Kuroshio Current would prevent the spread of radioactive materials south of Ibaraki.
Judging by the reaction to my Japanese tweet, there are many others like me who didn’t know about the detection.
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Deutsche Welle: “Fukushima power plant is far from ‘cold’ “
Germany’s Deutsche Welle’s take on PM Noda’s declaration of the “cold shutdown state” at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is more severe thanNew York Times.
Alexander Freund at Deutsche Welle Asia Desk says it is not the power plant that has been stabilized and controlled:
“The nuclear power lobbyists are the ones who can claim credit for stabilizing their own situation and getting the government under control. “
From Deutsche Welle (12/16/2011):
The Japanese government has claimed to have reached a cold shutdown in Fukushima. But experts are skeptical and believe it could take another 40 years to get the situation under control.
Headlines from Japan surely sound good: Fukushima is under control, the dilapidated nuclear power plant is stable. But these headlines are nothing more than a euphemism. The situation at Fukushima is nowhere near under control.
The Daiichi power plant operator Tepco and the Japanese government had announced at the end of summer to have the situation under control – or a cold shutdown – by the end of this year. For a “cold shutdown,” temperatures inside the reactor buildings need to be below 100 degrees Celsius. But it is just the beginning – the start of a point from which the plant can be disassembled.
Or so it goes in theory. But experts are saying it could take another 30 years before the plant can be levelled. Experts believe parts of the fuel rods burned through the floor of the reactor pressure vessel and are now lying on the ground and that they are far from “cold,” but that they are still around at a temperature of 3,000 degrees Celcius.
Referring to the current situation at Fukushima as a cold shutdown is thus irresponsible. But what else are the government and Tepco to do?They are hoping to pacify the population by talking about a cold shutdown, but it won’t work. The Japanese people are infuriated – nine months after the earthquake and tsunami which led to the meltdown in the Daiichi plant – Tepco was speaking of nuclear fission in reactor 2 just a couple of weeks ago. Nuclear radiation is still extremely high in the Fukushima prefecture and contaminated water continues to flow into the sea. High levels of radiation continue to be found in rice, meat, vegetables, seafood, milk and tea in the region. And thousands of people have been displaced by the nuclear disaster and continue to live in evacuation shelters. They will receive a small amount in compensation – but it will be payed out of the pockets of Japanese tax payers and not out of Tepco’s.
Nothing is under control – an unavoidable fact known to many Japanese people. Their skepticism and distrust have got to a point reached that many take their own measurements using Geiger counters and dosimeters. A number of people have started posting their findings on the Internet. There, on a map of Japan, anyone can see the radiation measurements taken throughout the country. This is important because it is not only those from the Fukushima prefecture who are affected, as measurements have shown. This has shaken a population that traditionally places great importance on respecting authrtiy. And no positive headlines at the year’s end are going to make it better.
Beacause there is no real progress to report. The new Japanese government under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who has been in office since September, 2011, has not passed the “stress test,“ either. The last PM Naoto Kan had to resign, as his government, which failed in the hour of need, broke under the pressure of crossing swords with the country’s powerful lobbyists for nuclear power and instead made a move towards renewable energy. The nuclear power lobbyists are the ones who can claim credit for stabilizing their own situation and getting the government under control.
I’ve noticed that people in Germany seem to think better of ex-PM Kan than most Japanese, because Kan made overture to anti-nuke policy and alternative energy.
There are many in Japan who hold Kan personally responsible to have caused the explosion of Reactor 1 by insisting on going to Fukushima I Nuke Plant on the crucial day, March 12. He went in, shouting and scolding everyone, and left. The frantic work at the plant to contain the situation had to be stopped until after Kan left. Reactor 1 blew up that afternoon. (Mainichi Shinbun had an excellent series detailing the early days of the accident. I don’t know if they still have it online. If I find it I will post the link here.)
No amount of promise for alternative energy or anti-nuclear policy would ever reconcile him to the Japanese public.
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TEPCO/Japanese Government Released Mid to Long-Term “Roadmap” for Decommissioning Reactors 1 to 4 at Fukushima I Nuke Plant
where they hope they will have been long retired and gone before any of the serious stuff like removing the corium from somewhere deep in the reactor buildings (hopefully). Or taking out the spent fuel from Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool (if they can find any left).
The title of the Roadmap report does not say anything about Reactors 5 and 6. It says:
“Mid- to long-term roadmap toward decommissioning of Reactors 1 through 4 and other works at TEPCO Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant”
For now, it is only in Japanese, available at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) press release section, here.
Let’s take a look at the 5-page summary with pretty pictures that TEPCO drew. As you may have guessed, the whole thing is a joke, or based on hope and wishful thinking, because many of the technologies that will be needed to do any of the jobs that TEPCO lists as necessary for decommissioning the plant are not even developed.
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Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Field of Cesium Towers
Level the ground, pour in concrete slab, pile up a lot of sandbags. Decidedly conventional tech. And this has to last for no one knows how long. According to TEPCO, as of December 20, the total number of used cesium towers (Kurion and Toshiba) was 316, with the storage capacity of 393 , and the number of used cesium towers increased by 4 from the previous week. Even at this slow rate, the storage would have been full in 19 weeks or about 5 months. Therefore this “kick the can” construction of more storage space.
One area for Kurion (544 towers capacity), another for Toshiba’s SARRY (200 towers). From the looks of it, TEPCO will move the existing used towers from the existing temporary storage space to these new temporary storage facility. That means Kurion’s storage will be already more than half full (currently 288 towers), and Toshiba’s storage will be more than 10% full (currently 28 towers) already.
Why do they need two separate areas for Kurion and Toshiba in the same facility? Because the size of the cesium towers from these companies is too different, as you can see in the TEPCO’s diagram below. Kurion’s tower is about 2.4 meter tall (probably built to the spec in inches and feet), and Toshiba’s tower is about 3.8 meter tall (probably built in centimeters and meters). It seems Toshiba’s SARRY towers do not need concrete lids on top, so they are doubling the height of the rack for SARRY towers and using concrete panels to create secure containment for Kurion towers.
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