Day 307 The Economist: Every reason to remain as scared as hell

Now that I have picked my jaw up from the floor, the lead, unfathomable, story:

10 Elementary Schools in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo Are Sending Kids to “Winter School” to Ski in Fukushima Prefecture

“If we cancel, that will fan the baseless rumors”


In a word, BAKA.



EX-SKF reports on an article from The Economist which rakes TEPCO and the Japanese gov’t over the coals for its negligence and incompetence. (Worth reposting here from )

The Economist: “A dangerous lack of urgency in drawing lessons from Japan’s nuclear disaster”

Here’s The Economist’s take on the Japanese declaration of “the cold shutdown state” and the end of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The title of the article pretty much says it all.

The paper well summarizes the elementary incompetency of both TEPCO and the Japanese government, and says the government’s interim report hasn’t got much attention that it deserves, except among techies at Physics Forum. It also correctly points out these reports are nothing but confidence-building exercises in Japan.

The paper’s conclusion:

“Until somebody in power seizes on the report as a call to action, its findings, especially those that reveal sheer ineptitude, suggest that the public has every reason to remain as scared as hell.”


The Economist (1/7/2012):

THERE is a breathtaking serenity to the valley that winds from the town of Namie, on the coast of Fukushima prefecture, into the hills above. A narrow road runs by a river that passes through steep ravines, studded with maples. Lovely it may be, but it is the last place where you would want to see an exodus of 8,000 people fleeing meltdowns at a nearby nuclear-power plant.

Along that switchback road the day after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th 2011, it took Namie’s residents more than three hours to drive 30km (19 miles) to what they thought was the relative safety of Tsushima, a secluded hamlet. What they did not know was that they were heading into an invisible fog of radioactive matter that has made this one of the worst radiation hotspots in Japan—far worse than the town they abandoned, just ten minutes’ drive from the gates of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. It was not until a New York Times report in August that many of the evacuees realised they had been exposed to such a danger, thanks to government neglect.

Negligence forms the backdrop for the first government-commissioned report into the Fukushima nuclear disaster, released in late December. Although only an interim assessment (the complete report is due in the summer), it is already 500 pages long and the product of hundreds of interviews. A casual reader might be put off by the technical detail and the dearth of personal narrative. Yet by Japanese standards it is gripping. It spares neither the government nor Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear plant. It reveals at times an almost cartoon-like level of incompetence. Whether it is enough to reassure an insecure public that lessons will be learnt is another matter.

Since the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979, it has become axiomatic to assume that complex systems fail in complex ways. That was broadly true of Fukushima, though often the failures appear absurdly elementary. In the most quake-prone archipelago on earth, TEPCO and its regulators had no accident-management plan in the event of earthquakes and tsunamis—assuming, apparently, that the plant was proofed against them and that any hypothetical accidents would be generated only from within. TEPCO had, in the event of nuclear disaster, an off-site emergency headquarters just 5km from the plant that was not radiation-proof, and so was effectively useless. On site, the workers in its number one reactor appear not to have been familiar with an emergency-cooling system called an isolation condenser, which they wrongly thought was still working after the tsunami. Their supervisors made the same mistake, so a vital six hours were lost before other methods for cooling the overheating atomic fuel rods were deployed. Partly as a result, this was the first reactor to explode on March 12th.

The government was almost as clueless. Naoto Kan, then prime minister, had a crisis headquarters on the fifth floor of the Kantei, his office building. But emergency staff from various ministries were relegated to the basement, and there was often miscommunication, not least because mobile phones did not work underground. Crucial data estimating the dispersion of radioactive matter were not given to the prime minister’s office, so that evacuees like those from Namie were not given any advice on where to go. That is why they drove straight into the radioactive cloud. The report faults the government for providing information that was often bogus, ambiguous or slow. Perhaps the biggest failure was that nobody in a position of responsibility—neither TEPCO nor its regulators—had sought to look beyond the end of their noses in disaster planning. No one seems ever to have tried to “think the unthinkable”.

In America official reports such as those on the September 11th attacks or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have become acclaimed books. This one is hardly a page-turner. A privately funded foundation, headed by Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, is doing a separate investigation, based partly on the testimony of TEPCO whistle-blowers. (One, according to Mr Funabashi, says the earthquake damaged the reactors before the tsunami, a claim that officials have always rejected.) It at least promises to have literary merit. Mr Funabashi, a prominent author, draws parallels between the roots of the disaster and Japan’s failures in the second world war. They include the use of heroic front-line troops with out-of-touch superiors; rotating decision-makers too often; narrow “stovepipe” thinking; and the failure to imagine that everything could go wrong at once.

Complex systems, jerry-rigged

For now, the risk is that the interim report does not get the attention it deserves. So far it seems to have aroused more interest on a techie website called Physics Forums, beloved of nuclear engineers, than in the Japanese press. The government, led by Yoshihiko Noda, has not yet used it as a rallying call for reform. One of its recommendations, an independent new regulatory body, will soon be set up. Others, such as new safety standards and broader evacuation plans, would take months to implement.

Such reports are, after all, confidence-building exercises. They are meant to reassure the public that, by exposing failures, they will help to prevent them from being repeated. In the case of Fukushima Dai-ichi there is still plenty to be nervous about. Although the government declared on December 16th that the plant had reached a state of “cold shutdown”, much of the cooling system is jerry-rigged and probably still not earthquake-proof. On January 1st a quake temporarily caused water levels to plunge in a pool containing highly radioactive spent-fuel rods.

Meanwhile, across Japan, 48 out of 54 nuclear reactors remain out of service, almost all because of safety fears. Until somebody in power seizes on the report as a call to action, its findings, especially those that reveal sheer ineptitude, suggest that the public has every reason to remain as scared as hell.



This from SimplyInfo at:

More Strange Happenings At Unit 4

January 8th, 2012

There have been ongoing concerns and speculation about unit 4′s spent fuel pool since the New Years Day earthquake. As mentioned previously there were radiation spikes on January 2nd and unit 3 leaked a considerable amount of radiation out the intake canal. TEPCO has since been inspecting radiation levels all over unit 3. They have also been continuing to look for the leak problem at unit 4′s spent fuel pool even after they told the public it was an isolated incident with the skimmer tank overflowing into the reactor well.

A known blogger in Fukushima is claiming workers told her  the fuel pool at unit 4 was at one point boiling and has a broken pipe. (HT to Fukushima Diary who found this)

Upon looking further METI has not released any plant data for Jan 1 – 3rd. The METI plant parameter documents are the one document that shows the temperature of each spent fuel pool. Here is an example of the one for January 4. Spent fuel pool temperatures is the 4 row up from the bottom of the big table in the document. January 4 temperature for the spent fuel pool at unit 4 is 21c.
So why no reports for January 1 to 3? No explanation.

TEPCO made the following announcement in their daily plant reports:
At around 1:00 pm on January 8, at circulating cooling system for spent fuel pool of unit 4, we found water leakage from 4 points of cooling pipe
of air fin cooler (System B) when we tried to conduct scheduled switching of air fin cooler (From System A to System B). Currently, we are
investigating the cause of the leakage. Leaked water is purified water (pure water)* and is not contained radioactive materials. Now we secluded
the air fin cooler from the system to prevent the spread of water leakage. In addition, the cooling of spent fuel pool has no problem because we are
currently using air fin cooler (System A) to cool spent fuel pool. * Purified water (pure water): The water from Sakashita dam

The leak told by TEPCO is on the “clean” side of the cooling loop. It is a problem and could explain some problems but it does not give a method for the fuel pool water to escape. TEPCO released this document with images of the cooling system leak.

What all of this means is again, not totally clear. It is fairly obvious that the New Years Day quake did more damage than clearly admitted by TEPCO. Even more concerning is the appearance of an almost news blackout on what is going on at the plant. With the declaration of cold shutdown public accountability seems to have waned.




In case you were wondering…

6,757 aftershocks felt in Japan from March 11 until Dec 31

NATIONAL JAN. 06, 2012 – 11:32AM JST ( 26 )


The Meteorological Agency said Thursday that 6,757 aftershocks were felt in Japan after the March 11 disaster through Dec 31.

Of those, there were 14 with a magnitude over 5, 30 with a magnitude of 5, 174 with a magnitude of 4, 707 (magnitude 3), 1,904 (magnitude 2) and 3,928 (magnitude 1), the agency said on its website.

For the whole year, the agency said there were 9,723 earthquakes and aftershocks, seven times the number in 2010.

An agency official said that although the number of aftershocks has been decreasing, it will be many years before seismic activity returns to pre-March 11 levels.

Japan Today

And this map shows all of the quakes since March 11:
This weekend, there is a conference envisioning a nuclear-free world, starting with Japan. Here is an introduction to the conference:

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Conference to present vision of a nuclear-free Japan

The Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World will be held at the Pacifico Yokohama on Jan. 14 and 15. See for more details.
Q: Should the Japanese taxpayer (and everyone else who lives in Japan and pays taxes, by the way) be required to foot the bill for reparations, dismantling of plants, litigation, and cleanup for the next several thousand years?
TEPCO’s answer:

TEPCO looks to become nationalized to gain taxpayer funds as expenses balloon

My suggestion:

Let the nuclear industry foot the bill. Should it go bankrupt, gee, guess we’d have to shut down all the plants, wouldn’t we. Would this force folks to a) cut back on unnecessary electrical usage and b) demand more development of alternative energy?

That reminds me of something else in the book, Exposing the Darkness of Nuclear Power (in Japanese), by Hirose Takashi. He writes that there is a very real alternative to nuclear power that many companies are currently using to create electricity. It is cheaper than solar (currently), and there are plenty of reserves:

Natural gas.

In Tokyo on March 11, the Roppongi Towers (六本木ヒルズ森タワー) had electricity during and after the quake. The elevators stopped for about an hour, but were soon back in operation.

How did they do it? With generators running on natural gas, then kerosene, and as a back-up, Tokyo Electric Company.




Anyone order from the Co-op? They started checkin the food they sell last December and will continue through the end of March.

Co-op checking meals for cesium

Meals are being tested from about 10 households in each of the 18 prefectures — disaster-hit Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate, as well as Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Niigata, Nagano, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Aichi, Gifu, Mie and Fukuoka.



Oh, wait a minute. Let’s rethink this “decontamination” idea…. it doesn’t seem to be working.

Radiation level increased double within 20 days after decontamination

<Fukushima Diary’s translation of Asahi News report at>

Experts and house makers are warning about high-pressure washing to decontaminate the roofs because it may hurt the roof but doesn’t decrease the radiation level. Some of the local governments are starting to remove it from the decontamination options.
Fukushima local government tried to decontaminate the roof of a house in Oonami Fukushima, 8/2011.
However, the radiation level of 1cm above the roof (Concrete) only decreased by less than half.(2.4 microSv/h→1.6 microSv/h).
When it comes to slate, it was only 2.4 microSv/h → 2.0 microSv/h, and in the case of tiled roof, it was only 1.2 microSv/h → 1.1 microSv/h.



Filed under, “ouch.”

( I love green tea, and Ito-en has been one of my favorites. Sigh.)


68.6 Bq/Kg of cesium from green tea

Posted by Mochizuki on January 12th, 2012

68.6 Bq/Kg of Cesium was measured from one of the major brands of  Japanese tea.

It’s “Itoen”, measured by a citizen’s group in Nagano.

The sample was the tea leaves which are actually sold in the market.

Measurement : 1/9/2012

Cs134 : 25.4 Bq/Kg

Cs137 : 43.2 Bq/Kg




Cows could be eating old straw.

Cows could be eating new straw.

Or, as one woman who farms up north put it, “We share one thing with the cows, we are all breathing the air and drinking the water.”

Cows that give milk require a lot of water every day.

Cows could be drinking water….


Cesium Level in Raw Milk in Southern Miyagi Is Rising



According to the Edogawa municipal government and the Board of Education, it’s fine to send elementary school children to Fukushima. Here, experts are warning against sending prized artwork there for fear that the contamination cannot be repaired. What has happened to Japan’s sense of values?


Published: January 12th, 2012 at 03:18 PM EDT

Humans Too? French nuclear expert warns against trip to Fukushima City… for Louvre artwork — Decontaminating radioactivity would be a complex operation

Louvre ‘courting disaster’ over plans to send works to Fukushima, Telegraph, Jan. 12, 2012:

The Louvre museum has been accused of “courting disaster” over plans to send works to Fukushima in a gesture of solidarity as experts claim they could return “radioactive”

Read more at:




More info on the rise in Cesium, with tables showing dates and timespan of data collection:

Fukushima New Year Cesium Spike




And a lovely little picture from France and

France ‘imagines the unimaginable’

Regulator demands safety upgrades for nuclear plants to guard against a Fukushima-like disaster.



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