|On guard: Members of the media, wearing protective suits and masks, visit unit 3 and 4 reactor buildings at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant during a press tour Tuesday. AP|
Fukushima No. 1 still ‘fragile’: chief
OKUMA, Fukushima Pref. — The Fukushima No. 1 power plant remains fragile nearly a year after it suffered multiple meltdowns, its chief said, with makeshift equipment — some mended with tape — keeping crucial systems running.
|Putting on a brave face: Takeshi Takahashi, head of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, speaks to journalists at the facility’s emergency operation center in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Tuesday. AP|
Journalists given a tour of the plant Tuesday saw crumpled trucks and equipment still lying on the ground. A power pylon that collapsed in the tsunami, cutting electricity to the plant’s vital cooling system and setting off the crisis, remains a mangled mess.
Officials said the worst is over, but the plant remains vulnerable.
“I have to admit that it’s still rather fragile,” said plant chief Takeshi Takahashi, who took the job in December after his predecessor resigned due to health reasons. “Even though the plant has achieved what we call ‘cold shutdown conditions,’ it still causes problems that must be improved.”
The government announced in December that the three crippled reactors had basically stabilized and that radiation releases had dropped. It still will take decades to fully decommission the plant, and it must be kept stable until then.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has installed multiple backup power supplies, a cooling system and equipment to process massive amounts of contaminated water that leaked from the damaged reactors.
But the equipment that serves as the lifeline of the cooling system is shockingly feeble-looking. Plastic hoses cracked by freezing temperatures have been mended with tape. A set of three pumps sits on the back of a pickup truck.
Along with the pumps, the plant now has 1,000 tanks to store more than 160,000 tons of contaminated water.
Radiation levels in reactor 1 have fallen, allowing workers to repair some damage to the building. But unit 3, whose roof was blown off by a hydrogen explosion, resembles an ashtray filled with a heap of cigarette butts.
A dosimeter recorded the highest radiation reading outside reactor during Tuesday’s tour — 1.5 millisieverts per hour. That is a major improvement from last year, when up to 10 sieverts per hour were registered near units 1 and 2.
Exposure to more than 1,000 millisieverts, or 1 sievert, can cause radiation sickness, including nausea and an elevated risk of cancer.
Officials say radiation hot spots remain inside the plant and minimizing exposure to them is a challenge. Employees usually work for about two to three hours at a time, but in some areas, including highly contaminated reactor 3, they can stay only a few minutes.
Since March 11, no one has died from radiation exposure, according to official accounts.
Cracked reactor unit
WASHINGTON — Cracks associated with welding defects were found in a Japan-made steam generator for a nuclear reactor in California in 2009 before its delivery to the plant, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents released Tuesday.
The steam generator, produced and later repaired by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., was installed at the No. 3 reactor at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which suffered a minor radiation leak in late January.
It remains unclear whether the cracks and the radiation leak were related.
Abnormal attrition was also found earlier this month in the tubes of another Mitsubishi-made steam generator installed at the facility’s No. 2 reactor.
Der Spiegel: Fukushima Psychiatrist Says Fukushima I Nuke Plant Workers Are Traumatized But Determined to Stay On
Der Spiegel’s Heike Sonnberger interviewed Jun Shigemura, a psychiatrist providing mental health care to TEPCO workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.
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57 percent of local gov’ts near nuke plants favor conditional reactor restarts: survey
The majority of leaders of local governments located within a 30-kilometer radius from a nuclear power plant approve of the restart of reactors idled for regular maintenance, though only if certain conditions are fulfilled, a Mainichi survey shows.
The survey, conducted from Feb. 1, asked the governors of 20 prefectures and the mayors of 122 municipalities located within a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant whether they approve or disapprove of the restart of the suspended reactors. The survey — conducted in a multiple choice style — obtained answers from a total of 137 local governments. Municipalities near the damaged Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, however, were not surveyed.
According to the survey results, 57 percent of the mayors and governors surveyed conditionally approve of the restart of nuclear reactors, while those who were against it stood at only 17 percent. There were no responses that approved of the restart unconditionally.
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Top US Nuclear Official: Melted core penetrates concrete at 2 inches per hour — No doubt containment is lost during blackout — Mark I worst of all — Manual tells you everything except how to stop it (AUDIO)
Source: NRC’s Operation Center Fukushima Transcript
Date: March 16 2011
CHUCK CASTO [Deputy Regional Administrator]: […] if we end up with a molten core and then you talk about the time for the concrete to disassociate, you know, that NUREG says it’s a couple of inches an hour, you know. And, of course, that Mark 1 containment is the worst one of all the containments we have, and it’s literally, you know, this NUREG tells you that in a station blackout you’re going to lose containment. There’s no doubt about it.But, anyhow, I just would highlight that that is a valuable resource, that NUREG. I think it’s — is it 6150, CR-6150, Perspectives on Nuclear Safety? It completely walks all of this down. It’s already been thought out. It’s already been reviewed, looked at, modeled, everything. So, the one thing the NUREG doesn’t really do is tell you how to stop it, how to mitigate it, other than keeping water on it. But the Lab may have some recommendations.
NUREG/CR-6150, Vol. 2, Rev. 2 INEL-96/0422 Modeling of Reactor Core and Vessel Behavior During Severe Accidents:http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0103/ML010370328.pdf
Cesium released from Fukushima possibly equals 20-30% of Chernobyl
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Radioactive cesium released into the atmosphere in the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant amounted to between 30,000 and 40,000 terabecquerels, possibly equal to 20 to 30 percent of the isotope released in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, a study showed Wednesday.
The study was compiled by a team of researchers from the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry.
According to one estimate, a total of 137,000 terabecquerels of radioactive cesium were released into the atmosphere in the Chernobyl accident.
Researchers at the institutes analyzed the amount of cesium in seawater collected at 79 spots in the Northern Pacific between April and May last year. They then estimated how much cesium-134 and cesium-137 were released between mid-March and early April with the help of a computer model that analyzed how radioactive materials dispersed in the air and sea.
Most of the releases up until early April were into the atmosphere, the study said, consisting of between 15,000 and 20,000 terabecquerels of both cesium-134 and cesium-137.
(Mainichi Japan) March 1, 2012
Fukushima one year on: Tracing the causes of the nuclear disaster
It has been nearly a year since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. How did this man-made disaster happen?
The government Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations stated in a midterm report released in December last year that, first and foremost, the actions taken to protect the reactors from danger were not appropriate.
Fukushima students remember the past, hope for the future on graduation day
SOMA, Fukushima — March 1 was a day of both parting and reuniting for the graduating students of a high school here, who as a result of the nuclear crisis, have spent most of their last school days away from each other, divided and dispersed.
Following the outbreak of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, students from Minamisoma’s Odaka Commercial High School, which falls within the no-go zone around the crippled plant, were forced to disperse into various locations.
Thirty-two of the school’s third-year students were sent to Somahigashi High School in the prefectural city of Soma, while the remaining 19 continued taking classes at Fukushima Commercial High School in the capital city of the prefecture.
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Worries continue over cesium-tainted rice as gov’t softens contamination cap
Consumers are worried that rice badly tainted with radioactive cesium will find its way onto the open market after the government announced on Feb. 28 that farmers would be allowed to plant on land with cesium contamination over the new limit.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries dropped the maximum contamination limit to 100 becquerels per kilogram from the 500-becquerel maximum set last year in the wake of the meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. However, the ministry says it will now allow planting on land between the new and the old limit under certain conditions after farmers across Fukushima Prefecture raised an outcry. All rice grown in risky areas will be checked for contamination, but many consumers have voiced concern that badly contaminated rice will slip through the testing net as some did last year.
JA Michinoku Adachi, a Motomiya, Fukushima Prefecture-based chapter of the nationwide JA Group agricultural cooperative, estimates that the new 100-becquerel limit will cost the local farming sector 5.8 billion yen, and some 400 local farmers turned out for a lively rally against the new limit on Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, regular consumers are worried about contamination at any level. One woman in her 40s shopping at a Tokyo supermarket told the Mainichi, “I don’t know if cesium under 100 becquerels is really safe or not, so either way I will probably avoid Fukushima rice altogether.”
A 64-year-old shopper said, “I wish every household could have a basic food tester so consumers could decide for themselves what their upper limit should be.”
No cesium detected in milk at 116 Japanese firms
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japan Dairy Industry Association said Wednesday its 116 member companies have detected no radioactive cesium in their 131 milk products in their tests following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident.
“The safety has been confirmed,” it said. “We would like consumers to feel safe to drink milk.”
TEAM Nihonmatsu, a nonprofit organization that independently conducts safety tests on food products, said it detected a maximum cesium level of 14 becquerels per kilogram in a milk product. It plans to maintain surveillance on possible radioactive contamination of food products.
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Problem at nuclear fuel reprocessing plant throws construction schedule into doubt
Plans to complete construction at the Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture in October have been cast into doubt, after Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. announced Feb. 29 that brick fragments were likely blocking a reprocessing unit outlet.
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Report says Kan’s meddling disrupted Fukushima response
Naoto Kan (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
As the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident spiraled out of control last March, the Japanese government’s disaster response teetered between haphazard micromanagement by the prime minister and poorly thought out stop-gap measures by subordinates, according to a nongovernment panel.
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A bit of humor to end on an up note:
Nuclear Contamination As Seen By Japanese Humor
After an endless stream of horrid reports on the tragedy of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, and the hotspots that are cropping up in odd places, and food scares, and even contaminated grasshoppers, we’re ready for something … lighter. And very cynical. This has been circulating in the Japanese internet community for months, has garnered countless comments, and a lot of nodding, agreement, and knowing smiles. Though it’s not based on science or statistics, and certainly not on any polls, it represents, in the eyes of many Japanese, a larger tongue-in-cheek truth.
Note: the areas seen as contaminated are marked in red.