Saturday, June 4, 2011

#Fukushima Nuke Accident: WSPEEDI Shows Tokyo Was Under Radioactive Plume on March 15

Japan's ever-sneaky Ministry of Education and Science again quietly released 3 sets of simulation maps of WSPEEDI without any press release nor any explanation; this time it was the simulations that they did on March 15. The Reactor 3 that used MOX fuel blew up on March 14 at 11:01AM JST.

Last time, the Ministry put out on May 10 the WSPEEDI simulation done on March 25. That simulation, if disclosed in a timely manner, may have prevented many, many children from developing thyroid cancer in the future.

One set of the maps is about krypton-85 surface concentration. The maps show the band extending well beyond Tokyo and Kanagawa.

That at least proves one thing, that Tokyo and Kanagawa were probably bombarded with radioactive materials on March 15. I remember seeing posts in Japanese message boards that day and afterwards saying people had a metallic taste in their mouth that day, that people started to have nosebleed and fell ill. Both were attacked and dismissed as "malicious rumors".

All the government needed to do was to warm people in Tokyo and Kanto area that day to skip work and school. Shut the doors and windows and stay indoors.

When Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University testified on May 23 in a government committee (Upper House, government oversight committee), the data he said he had been told by his superior not to publish was the data of radiation in Tokyo on March 15.

But why were the government experts interested in krypton-85? What does krypton-85 represent? And iodine-129? (The simulation maps are only about krypton-85; they are still sitting on iodine-129 maps or any other maps of other nuclides.)

From the WSPEEDI March 15 simulations on krypton-85 (original in Japanese):

Simulation basis:
Types of radioactive materials released: Kr-85, I-129, Cs-137
Amount of radioactive materials released: 1Bq/h
Location of release: Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, east longitude 141.0356 north latitude 37.4217
Height released: 120 meters (at the height of the stack)
Duration: continuous since March 15 1:00AM

(There are 6 more maps at the link.)

Contaminated Water at #Fukushima Nuke Plant: Areva Hopes Their System Will Work

TEPCO is frantically bringing in temporary storage tanks for the contaminated water to the plant so that they can wait for the Areva's treatment system to go online in mid June without the water spilling over.

The problems with the Areva's system (besides the secret nature of the contract with TEPCO) is that the system is for treating the normal "contamination" in a normal nuclear power plant. At Fukushima, you have the reactors whose RPVs and Containment Vessels have been cracked or damaged, the fuel cores in 3 reactors melted with all kinds of junk inside and outside the RPVs and Containment Vessels, and seawater and fresh water poured over the molten mess which is now over 100,000 tonnes.

Will the Areva's system deliver? Areva's spokesperson says "Honestly it’s hard to say how it will work. We hope everything will be fine."

Now we know why TEPCO chose (if it had a choice) Areva: the same mode of operation. Try something anyway, see if it works, it it doesn't, well that's too bad, we'll try something else.

Actually, what else can they do at this point?

It is a costly way for trial and error, though.

From Washington Post (6/3/2011):

...... A potential turning point comes roughly two weeks from now, when Tepco plans to begin a treatment process in which water is sucked from the basement rooms and fed into a special tank, then treated with chemicals that eliminate its radioactivity. The process creates a byproduct of radioactive sludge, which is generally mixed with bitumen, poured into drums, then sealed and buried. The water itself can either be cycled back into reactors or discarded into the ocean.

The treatment system is being set up by Areva, a French company that uses the technology at its La Hague nuclear reprocessing plant, off the Normandy coast. Since 1997, Greenpeace — after taking water samples from La Hague’s discharge pipe — has made repeated claims that the supposedly decontaminated water in fact contains radioactivity levels above the regulatory limit.

The process “is not 100 percent, but it’s better than nothing,” Lochbaum said. “The alternative: you let the water simply evaporate and radioactivity carries to all parts far and wide.”


Under normal circumstances, Areva’s system can decontaminate 50 tons of water per hour. But experts admit that it is hard to predict just how efficiently the system will handle water that contains not only radioactivity, but also debris, oil and salt. Water might need to be treated numerous times, not just once, before it can be dumped into the ocean.

“Normally the processing is done at small volumes, and you have carefully controlled chemistry,” Barrett said. “Here you have massive volumes and a very heterogeneous chemistry.”

“Honestly it’s hard to say how it will work,” said Patricia Marie, an Areva spokeswoman. “We hope everything will be fine.”

#Fukushima I Nuke Accident: Arnie Gundersen's Interview with Chris Martenson

(h/t Helios)

"Exclusive Arnie Gundersen Interview: The Dangers of Fukushima Are Worse and Longer-lived Than We Think"

Part 1

Part 2

Gundersen thinks the melted fuel is at the bottom of Containment Vessels in Reactor 1 and 2; for Reactor 3, he thinks there may be some left in the Reactor Pressure Vessel, causing a local, on-and-off criticality:

Arnie Gundersen: Yes, once the uranium melts into a blob at these low enrichments, four and five percent, it can’t make a new criticality. If criticality is occurring on the site - and there might be, because there is still iodine 131, which is a good indication - it is not coming from the Unit 1 core and it's not coming from the Unit 2 core, because those are both blobs at the bottom of the containment.

Chris Martenson: All right, so we have these blobs, they’ve somehow escaped the primary reactor pressure vessel, which is that big steel thing and now they are on the relatively flat floor of the containment – they concrete piece – and you say Unit 2 is roughly the same story as Unit 1 – where’s Unit 3 in this story?

Arnie Gundersen: Unit 3 may not have melted through and that means that some of the fuel certainly is lying on the bottom, but it may not have melted through and some of the fuel may still look like fuel, although it is certainly brittle. And it's possible that when the fuel is in that configuration that you can get a re-criticality. It's also possible in any of the fuel pools, one, two, three, and four pools, that you could get a criticality, as well. So there’s been frequent enough high iodine indications to lead me to believe that either one of the four fuel pools or the Unit 3 reactor is in fact, every once in a while starting itself up and then it gets to a point where it gets so hot that it shuts itself down and it kind of cycles. It kind of breathes, if you will.

The Fukushima accident is worse than Chernobil, Gundersen says:

Arnie Gundersen: Well, this event is – I have said it's worse than Chernobyl and I’ll stand by that. There was an enormous amount of radiation given out in the first two to three weeks of the event. And add the wind and blowing in-land. This could be – it could very well have brought the nation of Japan to its knees, I mean there is so much contamination that luckily wound up in the Pacific Ocean as compared to across the nation of Japan. It could have cut Japan in half. But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit 4 building collapses, leave. We are well beyond where any science has ever gone at that point and nuclear fuel lying on the ground and getting hot is not a condition that anyone has ever analyzed.

So the plants, you will see them steaming and as summer goes on, you will see them steaming less, because the air is warmer, but it's not because they are not steaming, you just don’t see it. Because this event occurred in March and it was cool there, so you will see the steam a lot easier. Those plants are still omitting a lot of radiation. Nowhere near as much as on the first two weeks, but a lot of radiation: cesium, strontium, and mainly cesium and strontium – those are going to head south, whether or not there is a tropical hurricane. The wind is going to push it south this time and so the issue is not the total radiation you might measure with a Geiger counter in your hand, but hot particles.

And TEPCO and the Japanese government can't just give up and pour concrete over the mess, because the cores are just too hot:

Chris Martenson: So talk about -- realistically – I mean this is going to be months, years, whatever, it's going to take a long time. What do they do at this point, are they going to entomb these things, are they required to just keep dumping water on these things until they finally cool down, capturing water all the way through? Or is there some way that they can maybe just throw up their hands and just pour a bunch of concrete on it and call it a day?

Arnie Gundersen: I think eventually they may get to the point of throwing up their hands and pouring the concrete on. They can’t do that yet, because the cores are still too hot. So we are going to see the dance we’re in for another year or so, until the cores cool down. At that point, there’s not anywhere near as much decay heat and you probably could consider filling them with concrete and just letting sit there, like we have it at Chernobyl, as a giant mausoleum. That would work for units 1, 2, and 3. Unit 4 is still a problem, because again all the fuel is at the top and you can’t put the concrete at the top because you will collapse the building and it's so radioactive, you can’t lift the nuclear fuel out. I used to do this as a living and Unit 4 has me stumped.

Video of 4-Sievert/Hour Steam Gushing Out in Reactor 1 at #Fukushima

TEPCO says this won't derail the work to "cool the reactor".

Friday, June 3, 2011

720,000 Terabecquerels of Radioactive Materials in 100,000 Tonnes of Contaminated Water

When I posted the news about 100,000 tonnes of highly contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, I forgot to mention this. (You can read about it in the Businessweek article here.)

That water is estimated to contain 720,000 terabecquerels of radioactive iodine and cesium.

That's another "Level 7" right there.

That's more than what has been released into the atmosphere, which the Nuclear Safety Commission estimates to be about 630,000 terabecquerels and Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimates to be about 370,000 terabecquerels.

I personally think this air radiation numbers underestimate the true numbers, particularly the number from NISA. At that time (mid April), NISA said they calculated the number based on the amount of radioactive materials they estimated to be still inside the RPV. At that time, NISA assured everyone that the fuel rods were only partially damaged and they were all inside the Reactor Pressure Vessels. Now we know (and they should have known) that the RPVs were breached very early in the accident, and the melted core had at least partially escaped out of the RPV by the time they made the estimate.

Now, Fukushima is slowly approaching Chernobyl.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 1: Packbot Detects 4 Sieverts/Hour Radiation

There is no way a carbon-based worker can enter the place.

Packbot video was taken on 3:30PM on June 3. It looks as if the water was boiling. (Screenshot from the video. To download the video, go to TEPCO here.)

From Yomiuri Shinbun (1:14PM JST 6/4/2011):


On June 4, TEPCO announced that the US-made robot "Packbot" confirmed and photographed the hot steam gushing through the space around the air duct that goes through the floor in the southeast corner of the 1st floor of the reactor building of the Reactor 1 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.


The radiation level near the steam was 4,000 millisieverts per hour at the maximum, the highest level ever measured since the start of the accident on March 11. The 250 millisieverts radiation exposure limit for the workers would be exceeded in 3 minutes, and acute radiation poisoning would occur after 15 minutes of work.


The contaminated water continues to leak from the Containment Vessel of the Reactor 1.


TEPCO thinks the steam comes from the warm (50 degrees Celsius) contaminated water leaking near the Suppression Chamber, and says the company will continue to monitor the situation.

#Fukushima I Nuke Accident: NISA Now Says 1.31 Million Becquerel Iodine-131 Was Detected on March 15, 38 Kilometers from the Plant

It was not just the tellurium-132 data that the Japanese government hid.

The national government and the Fukushima prefectural government had the data that showed 1,230,000 becquerels/kilogram iodine-131 was detected from the grass on March 15 in Kawamata-machi, 38 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

They sat on it. It didn't occur to them to disclose, said NISA's Nishiyama. His subordinate at NISA further commented, as seen in the news clip on NHK Japanese, "It is not clear that the data would have helped at all, even if it had been disclosed."

Tell that to parents in Fukushima and elsewhere.

By the way, Kawamata-machi is where the residents in the areas closer to the plant intially evacuated, including the residents in Iitate-mura and Namie-machi.

From NHK Japanese (4:32AM JST 6/4/2011):

... 公表されていなかったのは、避難や飲食物の摂取制限など、住民の防護対策を決める際の参考にするため、発電所周辺で国や福島県によって行われた「緊急時モ ニタリング」のデータの一部です。

Part of the "emergency monitoring data" collected by the national government and the Fukushima prefectural government around the nuclear plant wasn't disclosed [until June 3]. The data was to be used for protection of the residents, such as evacuation and restriction on food and water consumption.

このうち、大気中のちりなどに含まれる放射性物質の調査では、事故の翌日の3月12日午前8時半すぎに発電所からおよそ 7キロの浪江町の地点で、核燃料が溶けた際に出るテルルと呼ばれる放射性物質が1立方メートル当たり73ベクレル検出されていました。

In the survey of radioactive materials in the dust particles in the air, 73 becquerels/kilogram of tellurium was detected at 8:30AM on March 12 at a location 7 kilometers from the power plant in Namie-machi. Tellurium is one of the radioactive materials released when the nuclear fuel melts.

このデータが検出さ れる3時間ほど前、政府は避難区域を発電所の3キロから10キロ以内に拡大し、住民に避難を呼びかけていましたが、燃料の損傷の説明はなく、その後、昼す ぎに行われた原子力安全・保安院の会見でも、核燃料は壊れていないと説明していました。深刻な事態が進みつつあることを示すデータが早い段階で公表されて いれば、住民の避難のしかたや避難への心構えなどに役立てられた可能性がありますが、原子力安全・保安院は「データがどれだけ住民のために役立てられたか は現時点では分からない」としています。

3 hours before tellurium was detected, the national government expanded the evacuation zone from 3-kilometer radius from the plant to 10-kilometer radius, and was asking the residents to leave. But there was no mention of the damage to the fuel. In the press conference that afternoon, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the nuclear fuel was not damaged. If the data had been disclosed at an early stage when a serious situation was developing, the data might have been useful in evacuating the residents or better informing the residents. However, NISA claims "It is not known at this point how useful the information would have been to help the residents."

一方、事故発生の4日後に周辺の市町村で行った放射性物質の調査のうち、原発から30キロから50キロの4か所で 採取した雑草などのデータも公表されていませんでした。このうち、原発の北西およそ38キロの川俣町で採取した雑草からはヨウ素131が1キログラム当た り123万ベクレルという高い濃度で検出されていました。

Meanwhile, of the survey done in cities, towns, and villages around the nuclear plant 4 days after the start of the accident, the data on the grass taken at 4 locations 30 to 50 kilometers from the plant wasn't disclosed. The withheld data shows a high concentration (1,230,000 becquerels/kilogram) of iodine-131 was detected from the grass in Kawamata-machi, 37 kilometers northwest of the plant.

原発周辺の雑草については、この調査から9日後になって初めて飯舘村で1キログラム当たり252 万ベクレルの放射性ヨウ素が検出されたと発表されていました。

About the grass in the area around the plant, it was announced [on March 24] that 2,520,000 becquerels/kilogram of radioactive iodine was detected in Iitate-mura, 9 days after [the data in Kawamata-machi was taken].

これについて、環境中の放射性物質に詳しい学習院大学の村松康行教授は「放射性ヨウ素は子ど もへの影響が大きく最も注意が必要な物質だ。早い段階で遠くまで放射性ヨウ素の汚染が広がっていることが公表されていればより早く何らかの対応ができた可 能性がある。当時の対応を検証する必要がある」と指摘しています。

Professor Yasuyuki Muramatsu of Gakushuin University, an expert in environmental radiation, points out, "Radioactive iodine affects children the most and we should monitor it very carefully. If the extent of contamination of radioactive iodine in places far away from the plant was disclosed early on, we could have done something about it. We need to examine the government response at that time."

データの公表が遅れたことについて、原子力安全・保安院は「対策本部を現地から福島県庁 に移す際に混乱したため、データがあることは把握していたが、公表しようという考えに至らなかった。深く反省している」と話しています。

About the delay in disclosing the data, NISA says, "There was a confusion when we moved the headquarters [to deal with the accident] from the plant to the Fukushima prefectural government hall. We knew there was such data, but it never occurred to us to disclose it. We deeply regret."

"Delay" is an understatement. And it is clear that it was a selective amnesia; they picked the worst data and hid it.

The government also "forgot" to disclose the simulation data that were created in case of an accident at Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant, according to NHK.

#Radioactive Tea: Shizuoka Governor Now Says He'll Order Test for Bulk Tea (What About the Ones Already Sold?)

The Oxford PhD (in history) governor of Shizuoka, Heita Kawakatsu (pictured), changed his tunes and now says his prefecture will follow the order by the national government and test the bulk tea ("aracha") for radioactive materials.

Why? Nobody knows. Shizuoka's "shincha" (new tea) has already been sold and shipped, both in bulk form and in the final, blended form. "Shincha" commands a huge premium over "nibancha" (second tea).

But the tea growers in Shizuoka are furious at the governor's flip-flop, as Shizuoka Shinbun reports (6/3/2011; original in Japanese, rough English summary):

Tea growers and wholesalers in Shizuoka expressed anger and confusion over the government's decision to apply the provisional limit for raw tea leaves [500 becquerels/kg] to "aracha" (bulk tea).
Shizuoka Prefecture had insisted the tea was "safe". Governor Heita Kawakatsu said on June 2, prior to the national government announcement, that half-hearted measures [like testing the bulk tea for radiation] would only amplify the fear.

Shizuoka JA [agricultural co-op] accepted the decision, but the growers are not convinced. They wonder whether applying the same standard for raw leaves to the bulk tea is appropriate. They also wonder if they can continue to produce tea next year. A tea wholesaler in Shizuoka City is furious, saying "We have already shipped "shincha" (new tea) all over Japan. If they were going to do it, they should have done it much sooner." He continued, "There will be returns. Will the wholesalers like us be compensated?" The president of Shizuoka Tea Market that trades "aracha" (bulk tea) asks, "What about "aracha" that the wholesalers have as inventory or which is currently in the market?"

Sorry, growers. When the radioactive materials were detected in nearby Kanagawa, you should have erred on the side of caution and stopped processing raw tea leaves, which then turned out to be radioactive. Sorry wholesalers. You should have stopped shipment, no matter how much you wanted to believe the governor and his tea-gulping performance.

Instead, Shizuoka growers, wholesalers, JA, and the prefectural government did a "new tea" festival and shipped its new tea (in bulk tea form and final blend) all over Japan. As I posted, they shipped to the US, too.

Now the growers may have to decon their equipment and the wholesalers their warehouse...

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 100,000 Tonnes of Highly Contaminated Water, May Leak by June 15

Often, you could tell what's going on by looking at the information that is withheld. One such piece of information was the water level at the trenches from the Fukushima I's Reactors 2 and 3.

On May 28 and 29, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) uploaded the information on the trench water levels at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, as the typhoon No.2 was heading north. Then, that information stopped on May 30. I found it very peculiar, and was about to write a post.

Now the news comes that the amount of highly contaminated water is over 100,000 tonnes, and it would start to leak by June 15 on a heavy rainfall.

Southern Tohoku that includes Fukushima Prefecture enters the rainy season ("tsuyu 入梅") around June 12 in a normal year, and the rainy season lasts for about a month and a half till late July. Kanto has already entered the rainy season since May 27, 17 days earlier than last year.

From Kyodo News Japanese (6/3/2011):

東京電力は3日、福島第1原発の原子炉建屋などにたまっている 高濃度の放射性物質を含む汚染水の総量は5月末現在、推定10万5100トンと発表した。1~3号機の原子炉へ注入している水が建屋に漏れていると想定 し、大雨が降った場合は高濃度の汚染水が6月15日までに外部に漏れ出る恐れがあるとしている。

TEPCO announced on June 3 that the total amount of highly contaminated water in the buildings at Fukushima I Nuke Plant is estimated to be 105,100 tonnes at the end of May. Assuming that the water being injected into the Reactor Pressure Vessels for the Reactors 1, 2 and 3 is leaking into the reactor buildings, TEPCO said the highly contaminated water may leak outside by June 15 if there is a heavy rainfall.


TEPCO plans to start operating the water treatment system to remove radioactive materials in the contaminated water after June 15, but the system may not come in time. According to TEPCO, the rainfall at the end of May exceeded 100 millimeters, causing the water level [the article doesn't say where] to rise by more than 50 millimeters.

#Radiation in Fukushima: Government Doubles the Cumulative Radiation Level in Namie-Machi to 61 Millisieverts, Citing Calculation Error

The "impressive, well-organized" (according to IAEA) Japanese government disclosed that the Ministry of Education and Science made a calculation error, and the cumulative radiation level from March 12 to May 11 at a location in Namie-machi in Fukushima Prefecture was 61 millisieverts, not 31 as had been previously announced.

The cumulative radiation level at the location in Namie-machi up to May 25 was 73.9 millisieverts.

Oh wait.. The cumulative radiation increased 13 millisieverts in 2 weeks? That's over 20% increase.

Is it only for the Namie-machi numbers that the Ministry made a calculation error?

From Tokyo Shinbun, citing Kyodo News (9:42PM JST 6/3/2011):


The Ministry of Education and Science announced on June 3 that the estimated cumulative radiation level from March 12 to May 25 at one location in Namie-machiFukushima Prefecture, 22 kilometers northwest of Fukushima I Nuke Plant, was 73.9 millisieverts. The Ministry also disclosed the cumulative radiation estimate map of the same period in the area around Fukushima I Nuke Plant.

  文科省は5月16日、この地点の5月11日までの積算線量は31・7ミリシーベルトと発表していたが、この日、61・1ミリシーベルトだったと訂正した。 担当者は「一部で間違った計算式を使っていた」としている。浪江町内のほかの10地点でも計算ミスがあり、大幅な過小評価になっていた。

Previously, the Ministry of Education and Science announced the cumulative radiation at this particular location up to May 11 was 31.7 millisieverts, but it corrected the number to 61.1 millisieverts. According to the person [unnamed] in charge at the Ministry, "A wrong formula was used in calculation in some parts." Calculation errors were found for 10 additional locations within Namie-machi, resulting in a vast underestimation of the radiation levels.

By the way, the video of a cute, ear-less rabbit was taken at a Namie-machi location. It was not a hoax, and it was later reported by a major newspaper (Sankei Shinbun). The person who uploaded that video said in the Youtube description that the cumulative radiation level in Namie-machi had been much higher (as measured by the residents) than the Ministry's number, up to 3 times as much. Well, Namie residents were right.

#Fukushima I Accident: Tellurium-132 Was Detected on March 12 Morning, 6 Kilometers from the Plant, NISA Now Admits

Telluriuim-132 was detected 6 kilometers northwest of Fukushima I Nuke Plant in Namie-machi in the morning of March 12.

That's before the Reactor 1's reactor building blew up (March 12 late afternoon), and even before TEPCO managed to do the venting (March 12 early afternoon) for the Reactor 1.

Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, regulator for the nuclear industry, decided to sit on the data for 2 months and 3 weeks. Agency spokesman Nishiyama's excuse? "It never occurred to us to disclose the data."

The Japanese government is doing "one heck of a job" indeed, as IAEA's over-the-top praise indicates (from IAEA's preliminary report):

"The Japanese government's longer term response to protect the public, including evacuation, has been impressive and extremely well organized."

Yomiuri Shinbun (11:09PM JST 6/3/2011; emphasis is mine):


It was disclosed that the radionuclide that would indicate the nuclear fuel temperature exceeded 1,000 degrees Celsius was detected in the morning of March 12 in Namie-machi in Fukushima Prefecture, about 6 kilometers [north] from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.


The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced on June 3. Asked about the disclosure after more than 2 months after the accident started, Agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama defended his agency by saying "We didn't intend to hide the information, but it never occurred to us to disclose it to the public. We are sorry." The government's commission on the Fukushima I accident may investigate the incident further.


The radionuclide detected was "tellurium-132", and it was found in the dust particles in the air. It was detected before the venting of the Reactor 1, which released radioactive steam.

By the way, University of California Berkeley was detecting tellurium-132 in the air from March 18 to March 29. Is it any wonder that it was detected at a location 6 kilometers from the plant, when it was detected across the Pacific Ocean?

Tellurium-132's half-life is 3.2 days.

That seems to me to indicate that fission was ongoing long after the SCRAM (March 11). I'm still patiently waiting for NISA and the government to admit recriticality had occurred.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Over 650 Millisieverts Total Radiation for 2 TEPCO Workers?

TEPCO announced the numbers for the radiation exposure for 2 TEPCO workers at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. They are still provisional, according to TEPCO.

The two workers were working in the central control rooms for the Reactors 3 and 4 between March 12 and March 15, when the reactor buildings for Reactor 1 and 3 blew up. Most of their radiation exposure is from inhaling radioactive iodine.

No news yet on why these workers did not take potassium iodide after March 13, and why they didn't wear masks.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (9:22PM JST 6/3/2011):

The worker in his 30s:
External radiation exposure: 74 millisieverts
Internal radiation exposure: 210 to 580 millisieverts

The worker in his 40s:
External radiation exposure: 89 millisieverts
Internal radiation exposure : 200 to 570 millisieverts

Thursday, June 2, 2011

#Radiation in Tokyo as Measured by Japan's Communist Party

For the readers of this blog who live in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Ironically, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) is about the only credible "opposition" party left in Japan in the middle of the kindergarten-level squabble within the DPJ (many of whom are ex-LDP politicians anyway) and the LDP. Its representatives in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, with the help from experts, did the survey of the air radiation levels in various parts of Tokyo. I believe it is by far the most detailed survey done by any entity.

(The following information from the JCP's press release, in Japanese, in May 25, 2011)

They divided Tokyo into 10 kilometers-by-10 kilometers grids and measured the air radiation level at total 128 locations. In the eastern Tokyo where the high radiation levels have been detected, they used 5 km by 5 km grids to measure 55 locations. 8 locations in Shinjuku-ku were measured, and 23 locations around Toyosu (landfill where the Tokyo metropolitan government is moving the wholesale fish market, by the way), as both Shinjuku and Toyosu have been reported to have higher radiation.


  1. According to the official number from the Tokyo Metropolitan government measured at 18 meters off the ground at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health [in Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku], the average radiation level for the month of May was 0.068 to 0.062 microsievert/hour. The ground level (1 meter from the ground) showed the similar number, according to the government. However, when we measured the radiation at 1 meter from the ground, the radiation level similar to the official level was only observed in very narrow, limited areas in Ota-ku, Suginami-ku, and Machida City. The areas with relatively high level of radiation were Ome City, Akiruno City, Nerima-ku, at 0.09 microsievert/hr, the Tokyo Bay area of Edogawa-ku and Koto-ku at 0.1 microsievert/hr, and the highest level of radiation was observed in Adachi-ku and Katsushika-ku, at 0.2 to 0.3 microsievert/hr. (Map 1)

  2. The eastern Tokyo - Adachi-ku, Katsushika-ku, and Edogawa-ku - has areas of high air radiation between 0.18 to 0.39 microsievert/hr. The high level of radiation in Toyosu landfill is thought to be the continuation of the high level in the eastern Tokyo. The ground-level measurement (0 meter) done in one location in this area registered 0.618 microsievert/hr. (Map 2)

  3. There is a possibility that the radiation level in areas east of the line that connects Koto-ku and Nerima-ku is at the level that will result in 1 millisievert/year. (Map 3)

  4. There are huge variations in radiation within a very narrow (3.5 kilometer radius) area within Shinjuku-ku, from 0.066 to 0.116 microsievert/hr. (Map 4)

  5. The radiation on the surface of the grass and around trees was higher than other surroundings.

The survey was done between May 6 and 25, using ALOKA PDR-101 pocket survey meter. The air radiation at 1 meter from the ground was measured, and in some locations the radiation on the ground surface was also measured. The measurement was repeated 10 times at 10-second intervals, and the numbers were averaged.

These are the maps that summarize the JCP's findings:
Map 1:

Map 2:


Map 4:

#Fukushima I Nuke Accident: Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission Ready to Loosen Already-Loose Radiation Safety Limit for Foods

The Nuclear Safety Commission headed by Haruki "Detarame ('Falsehood'; his cute nickname by the irate Japanese citizens)" Madarame has proposed that the Japanese government loosen the provisional safety limits for foods, as the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues.

(Oh by the way, did you know the provisional safety numbers for radioactive materials in foods, milk and drinking water were decided on the basis of 5 millisieverts per year radiation exposure?)

From Mainichi Shinbun Japanese (6/2/2011; emphasis is mine):

内閣府原子力安全委員会は2日、食品や飲料水に含まれる放射性物質の暫定規制値を見直す必要があるとの見解を示した。  食品衛生法は放射性物質に関する基準がない。日本は東京電力福島第1原発の事故を受け、年5ミリシーベルト以下になるよう食品ごとの暫定規制値を 設定した。これは、国際放射線防護委員会(ICRP)が行政による出荷制限の目安として勧告している数値の中で、最も厳しい数値。しかし、事故が長期化し 実態に合わないとの声があり、安全委の代谷誠治委員も同日の臨時会で「暫定値を金科玉条のように使うのは望ましくない」と述べた。

On June 2, the Nuclear Safety Commission under the Cabinet Office indicated the need for revising the provisional safety limits for the radioactive materials in foods and drinking water. Japan's Food Safety Law does not have the formal safety standards for radioactive materials. After the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident, the Japanese government has set provisional safety limits for radioactive materials for each food item so that the total radiation [from food and water?] would be below 5 millisieverts per year. This number is the most strict one among the numbers recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) as the government guidelines to restrict the shipment [of the food items]. However, as the Fukushima accident continues, some experts have voiced concern that [these provisional numbers] do not fit the actual situation [i.e. they are too low]. Commissioner Seiji Shiroya spoke in the ad-hoc meeting of the Commission on June 2 that "It is not desirable to use the provisional numbers as if they were set in stone."

Japan Embarks on Electromagnetic Linear Shinkansen (Bullet Train) That Blasts Through Pristine "Japan Alps"

After spewing radioactive materials all over the world, the Japanese government is set to zap the pristine central Japan with electromagnetic wave.

Japan's addiction to a huge, infrastructure business continues, despite the disaster at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. Now, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has given the approval to start building the line for the "Linear Shinkansen (bullet train)" in the middle of Japan, through the pristine mountainous region dubbed in Japan as "Japan Alps", so that people in a nation with dwindling population can go from Tokyo to Osaka in 1 hour, instead of 2.5 hours.

The project has been on the table for more than 30 years, but it was the Kan administration who has finally given a go-sign on May 27, formally "instructing" JR Tokai (the railroad operator in charge of the area that the Linear Shinkansen will run) to build the rail line.

Big infra disaster at Fukushima? Not a problem, they'll move on to a new big infra, and governors in the prefectures where the Linear Shinkansen line will go through are already pushing hard for the earliest possible start of the construction and jockeying for the stations in their own prefectures.

From Asahi Shinbun's "My Town" Yamanashi section (6/1/2011):


Now that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) instructed JR Tokai to construct the Linear Chuo [central] Shinkansen, the governors including Shomei Yokouchi [governor of Yamanashi Prefecture] in the prefectures along the Linear Chuo Shinkansen line met with the Democratic Party of Japan's officials in the national Diet on May 31, and handed their request for the earliest start of the construction of the rail line and for the local involvement in deciding where to place the stations.

 JR東海が東京―名古屋間で2027年の開業を目指すリニア新幹線をめぐり、大畠章宏国交相が5月27日、計画の妥当性を認め、建設に ゴーサインを出したことから、沿線知事の次の関心は、経済波及効果が期待できる早期着工や、JR側が近く候補地を示すとされている中間駅の建設に移ってい る。

JR Tokai aims to have the Tokyo-Nagoya segment operational in 2027. The MLIT officially approved the plan as appropriate on May 27 and signaled the start of the construction of the line. Now, the interest of the governors has shifted to the early start of the construction of the rail line that they consider a boon to their local economies and to the construction of the stations along the line. JR Tokai is about to indicate the candidate locations for the stations.


It will cost 35 billion yen [US$432 million] per above-ground station [underground station will cost much more], and JR Tokai is demanding it be paid by the local municipalities. The governors are against it, saying the cost should be borne by JR Tokai. The governors have power to approve or disapprove the local construction.

 横内知事は東京・霞が関の国交省で津川祥吾政務官と面会後、報道陣に「駅の費用負担をめぐり、地元とJRの間で意見の不一致がある」と改 めて強調。両者の調整が難航する場合に国にまとめてもらうよう、津川政務官に要請したことを明らかにした。要請に対し、津川政務官は「当然のことで決して 逃げるものではない」と応じたという。

Governor Yokouchi [of Yamanashi prefecture] met with a MLIT official [a DPJ politician], Shogo Tsugawa, and emphasized to the press afterwards that "there is a difference of opinions between us and JR regarding who will bear the cost for station construction." He said he had asked Tsugawa that the national government should step in if the negotiation with JR goes nowhere. According to the governor, Tsugawa responded that the national government would of course step in as necessary.

The nuke infra business at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant has so destroyed the environment and people's livelihood and will affect people's health, but it at least had an excuse of providing electricity that people "need".

This Linear Shinkansen business has the need of the industry and the national government, and the local government officials jockeying for the locations for the Linear Shinkansen stations. For the former two, it is going to be a showcase project to sell to the world. For the latter, just like nuke plants were (and continue to be), the Linear Shinkansen stations are a huge money maker.

What is at stake, other than a huge amount of money for the pols and bureaucrats and businesses closely connected to them? Just like the nuke plant up in Fukushima: potential environmental damage, and health of people.

The line will go through the Japan Alps by building the longest underground tunnel that Japan will have ever built. Not only it will be so counter to environmental protection, but the tunnel will have to go through one of the major tectonic lines in Japan, "Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic Line".

Some Japanese fear that the strong electromagnetic field (super-conductive magnetic levitation, or Maglev) that will be used to run the bullet train may cause health hazards not just to the passengers of the train but to residents living nearby, or even those who live far away. The passengers will be exposed to 200,000 milligauss on the floor of the train, 20,000 to 50,000 milligauss on their seats.

While there is no safety standard for the electromagnetic field, and experts' opinions vary. However, the level considered "safe"seems to be 1 to 3 milligauss. Some say 0.5 milligauss or lower.

And this super-conductive magnetic levitation force will run through major tectonic lines, deep underground (40 meters below ground).

Oh, did I mention also that the Linear Shinkansen needs 3 to 5 times more electricity than the regular Shinkansen? Actually, the Linear Shinkansen has been used as a good excuse to build more nuclear power plants in the past 30 years.

Privatize the gain, socialize the cost, whatever the cost. Nothing has changed. This Kan administration is insane for starting the Linear Shinkansen project at this juncture.

You can now safely ditch your image of Japan as living in harmony with nature.

IAEA's Preliminary Report on #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident

It is posted at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

I haven't read it yet. I figure it is like reading TEPCO's press release...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Japan's PM Kan Survives Vote of No Confidence and Stays On

Thanks to the last-minute maneuver by the ex-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (aka "space alien") who says he has persuaded Kan to step down once the recovery and reconstruction from the March 11 earthquake is well on its way.

Bummer. The vote of no confidence was set to pass, until Hatoyama decided he wanted to be a king-maker. Ichiro Ozawa, who an increasing number of Japanese feel should be the PM to deal with the current crisis, was betrayed by Hatoyama, who had promised Ozawa that his faction would vote for no confidence.

I don't know why anyone still listens to Hatoyama, who was one of the most ineffectual PMs that Japan had, in my opinion, until Kan came along. Good pedigree and tons of money count, I suppose.

Many people in Japan have said it is no time to fool around with politics when the country is in crisis. So? This particular government hasn't done much anyway, other than giving press conferences. People are still living in shelters, without enough running water or food. The government doesn't do anything about Fukushima I Nuke Plant; TEPCO does. Besides, this was the country that went on to hold nationwide local elections soon after the quake/tsunami and Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident when people were still very much shaken and not in the right frame of mind.

Getting rid of this Prime Minister and his cronies in his office and in the administration would have been a fresh start.

An Angry Japanese Housewife in Fukushima City: "We've Had It, and We're Leaving"

Mrs Watanabe is taking her two daughters and heading out of Fukushima City after precious little has been done by the city to protect children from radiation that is much, much higher than officially reported.

In Japan, for the past two and a half months, parents like her were ridiculed, and often scolded, for "overreacting" over "nothing". Or worse, they were called "traitors" for leaving the contaminated areas not just by their fellow Japanese but even by some foreigners living in Japan.

Not any more, it seems (or so I hope), as the extent of radiation contamination is slowly being revealed, and more people now know that the Japanese government hid the data about radiation and chose to expose people to radiation without telling them for the fear of "causing panic".

Watanabe says to the NPR reporter Louise Lam that "Its our fault, we put the current DPJ government in power. We thought they'd be different from the last lot. But now it turns out we no longer know whether any political party out there will protect us. "

Audio link to the news is here:

Transcript from NPR Morning Edition this morning (6/1/2011; emphasis added):

And in Japan these days, people don't really trust the government over how it's handled the nuclear crisis created by the tsunami. Distrust is especially high, the closer you get to the stricken nuclear plant.

As NPR's Louisa Lim reports from the city of Fukushima, anger has focused on the emotional issue of children's safety.

Ms. KAYO WATANABE: (Japanese language spoken)

LOUISA LIM: As she drives round Fukushima, Kayo Watanabe points out the radiation hotspots. She knows which street used by kids going to school has above-normal radiation levels, which school gutter has radiation levels 60 times that considered safe. Shes been measuring radiation levels herself for a while.

She says she doubted the official line from the beginning - back in March when the very first blast happened at the Fukushima nuclear plant, almost 40 miles away.

Ms. WATANABE: (Through Translator) We havent believed the government from the start. When the explosion happened, they didnt say anything about it being dangerous. We dont trust the media, either, since the nuclear plant operator sponsors many newspapers and television stations.

(Soundbite of chatter in foreign language)

LIM: Were speaking at a kind of homework center, where kids gather after school. She has two children of her own girls aged two and nine. She was alarmed to discover local milk from near the nuclear plant being served at her daughters school. For more than two months, shes kept the kids cooped up inside, for fear of exposing them to radiation.

Now shes decided shes had enough. In two weeks, shell move with her kids to another town eighteen miles further from the nuclear plant, while her husband will stay behind for his job.

Ms. WATANABE: (Through Translator) We did discuss what would be better - to stay together or whether we should live apart from each other. But we decided we couldnt live our lives not knowing what the medical dangers were. So we decided to leave.

LIM: At Hirano Middle School, class is beginning. One major issue here has been how to decontaminate school playgrounds to get rid of any topsoil that could harbor radiation. At a school meeting with parents, the mood is testy.

(Soundbite of Japanese language spoken)

LIM: Why has Fukushima been the slowest, one parent asks. Other towns have already acted why are we the last? In fact, national policy on this was only announced on Friday. But many other cities had acted preemptively.

Unidentified Man (Education Official): (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: The education official replies that work will begin straight away. The plan is to dig up two inches of irradiated topsoil, which will then be buried 20 inches below the surface. Why just two inches? The parents ask. Because thats what were doing seems to be the answer.

(Soundbite of beeping monitor, shouting in Japanese)

LIM: After the meeting, a few angry locals brandishing their own radiation monitor surround the officials. They fear the radiation levels are higher than is being reported. Their anger is barely suppressed, which is unusual in Japan, where politeness is almost an art form. Afterwards, education official Yoshimasa Kanno admits he understands their frustration.

Mr. YOSHIMASA KANNO (Education Official): (Through Translator) It seems to be the case that parents are angry that two months have passed since the disaster. Its been pointed out that the response by the city government and the national government, for protecting children, has been slow.

LIM: The next morning, and construction equipment finally arrives at the school. Such action has come too late for Kayo Watanabes family.

Ms. WANTANABE: (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: Shell also be leaving behind her parents. Like the silent majority here, they are getting on with their lives as normal, growing vegetables and planting flowers in the garden. Her mother Takako Watanabe suffers from kidney disease, she says she wont leave.

Ms. TAKAKO WATANABE: (Through Translator) My hospital, my medical treatment, theyre all here, so I cant leave. But Ill miss the grandchildren.

LIM: As for Kayo, she seems to have lost faith in Japans ruling class. Its our fault, she says, we put the current DPJ government in power. We thought theyd be different from the last lot. But now it turns out we no longer know whether any political party out there will protect us.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Fukushima, Japan.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

#Radiation in Japan: 2 Drugs to Help Expel Plutonium from Body to Be Approved in July

It seems like an oblique way for the Japanese government to admit plutonium (and other transuranium elements such as americium and curium) has been released from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and dispersed in wide enough areas to warrant a very quick approval of drugs that expel them from the body.

Transuranium elements are the chemical elements with atomic numbers greater than 92, the atomic number of uranium. They are all highly radioactive.

From Asahi Shinbun (12:09AM JST 6/2/2011):


Two drugs that expel radioactive materials from the body are set to be approved in July, as the experts agreed at a meeting on June 1 of the Committee on Medicine and Food Safety of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.


The drugs are " ジトリペンタートカル" and "アエントリペンタート"*. They are used as intravenous drugs. Nihon Mediphysics (in Tokyo) will be the sole importer and distributor of the drugs.

[* I have no idea how they are spelled, or who makes these drugs. These are the brand names to be used in Japan, not the chemical names. The latter has "アエン" in the name, that's "zinc" in Japanese. Does anyone know more about these drugs? What I've found by a quick Google search is at the bottom of the post.]


According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the drugs are used for people who have inhaled a large amount of radioactive materials or who have open wounds from which the radioactive materials have entered the body in a nuclear power plant accident. They have been found effective in expelling plutonium in urine. They are approved in the US, Germany and France as of October 2010.

No information is posted on the Ministry's site, and there's nothing in Nihon Mediphysics' site.

CBNews has a bit more information about these two drugs (original in Japanese):

The drugs will help lessen the internal radiation from the transuranium elements - plutonium, americium, and curium - by "replacing calcium and zinc with the transuranium elements" (カルシウムや亜鉛を超ウラン元素で置き換えて) and "expel them in urine".

It seems what these drugs do is to chilate the transuranium elements.

So I googled "plutonium chilation" and the search came up with this paper "Three Plutonium Chelation Cases At Los Alamos National Laboratory" (Oct 2010) (emphasis is mine):


Chelation treatments with dosages of 1 g of either Ca-DTPA (Trisodium calcium diethylenetriaminepentaacetate) or Zn-DTPA (Trisodium zinc diethylenetriaminepentaacetate) Occupational Medicine in three recent cases of wounds contaminated with metallic forms of 239Pu. All cases were finger punctures, and each were undertaken at Los Alamoschelation injection contained the same dosage of DTPA. One subject was treated only once, while the other two received multiple injections. Additional measurements of wound, urine, and excised tissues were taken for one of the cases. These additional measurements served to improve the estimate of the efficacy of the chelation treatment. The efficacy of the chelation treatments was compared for the three cases. Results were interpreted using models, and useful heuristics for estimating the intake amount and final committed doses were presented. In spite of significant differences in the treatments and in the estimated intake amounts and doses amongst the three cases, a difference of four orders of magnitude was observed between the highest excretion data point and the values observed at about 100 d for all cases. Differences between efficacies of Zn-DTPA and Ca-DTPA could not be observed in this study. An efficacy factor of about 50 was observed for a chelation treatment, which was administered at about 1.5 y after the incident, though the corresponding averted dose was very small (LA-UR 09-02934).

I don't know if these two drugs mentioned in the abstract of the paper above are the ones to be sold in Japan, but the chemical names suggest they are.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#Radioactive Strontium from Soil Within 10 Kilometers of #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

A slow dribbling of information on the extent of radiation contamination, so that people in Japan don't connect the dots and figure out that their soil, water, ocean have probably been contaminated beyond repair.

It took the Ministry of Education and Science one month to announce the test result, just like when it announced the result for the locations 30 kilometers away from the plant back in mid April.

Asahi Shinbun (6/1/2011):


The Ministry of Education and Science announced on May 31 that the radioactive strontium-90 was detected from the soil samples at 4 locations in Okuma-machi and Futaba-machi, the towns located inside the 10-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuke Plant.

 土壌は4月29日~5月1日に採取した。原発から西南西約2キロの大熊町夫沢では、1キロあたり最大で68ベクレルが検出された。他の3カ所では 2.5~12ベクレルだった。半減期が約50日と短いストロンチウム89も4カ所で出ており、過去の核実験によるものではなく、第一原発から放出されたも のとみられる。ストロンチウムの土壌での基準はないが、体内に入ると骨にたまる傾向がある。

The samples were taken from April 29 to May 1. At Ottozawa district of Okuma-machi, located 2 kilometers west by southwest of the plant, 68 becquerels/kilogram strontium-90 was detected. At the other 3 locations, it was 2.5 to 12 becquerels/kilogram. Strontium-89, whose half life is 50 days, was also detected at all 4 locations. They are thought to have come from Fukushima I Nuke Plant, not from the past nuclear tests. There is no standard on the amount of strontium in the soil. Strontium tends to accumulate in the bones once ingested.


When the Ministry tested the samples taken at Namie-machi and Iitate-mura in mid March, the maximum amount of strontium detected was 32 becquerels/kilogram. From the sample that TEPCO took in mid April at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, 570 becquerels/kilogram strontium was detected.

The result of this particular test has been uploaded at the Ministry's site (image is below), but it is not just strontium that they found. They also found:

  • Cesium-136 (half-life 13 days);
  • Tellurium-129m (half-life 33.6 days)
  • Uranium-234, -235, -238;
  • Plutonium-239 and 240 (at three locations)

The Ministry believes uranium there is naturally occurring, and plutonium is from the past nuclear tests.

IAEA Experts Investigated #Fukushima I Accident for 10 Days, Ready to Report and Praise the Japanese Government

So the IAEA's team of nuclear experts arrived on May 23 on a 10-day mission to figure out what happened at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, and they're now done and ready to report.

As reported in Mainichi Shinbun Japanese, the IAEA report will state the obvious, nothing new, nothing to contradict what TEPCO and the Japanese government have been insisting. And a generous praise for the Japanese government.

The IAEA findings to be included in their report, from Mainishi Shinbun Japanese (2:50AM JST 6/1/2011):

  • Danger of tsunami was underestimated. People who build nuclear power plants and people who operate the plants should factor in the impact of "natural disasters" more;

  • Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (regulatory agency for the nuclear industry) should be more independent;

  • Initial response should be better thought out;

  • Hydrogen is dangerous;

  • Dedicated and determined skilled workers at the plant;

  • TEPCO's "roadmap" needs to be revised as the situation develops, and some form of international cooperation may be possible;

  • The international community should learn from the Fukushima I accident as a lesson on nuclear safety.


  • The Japanese government's response to the accident has been "wonderful and well-organized".

No kidding. The IAEA had better inform the residents of Japan about that very quickly; they may already have gotten some funny ideas about the effectiveness of their government in dealing with the on-going nuclear crisis.

The IAEA team is scheduled to visit the Prime Minister's Residence on June 1, and hand the report to the Prime Minister.

TEPCO Now Has #Fukushima I Live Camera

It's "live" with 30 seconds delay.

The "live" camera replaced the good old "Fukuichi" camera that was a still shot every hour.

The camera is set at about 250 meters northwest of the Reactor 1. The image is black and white, and you see mostly the Reactors 1 and 2. You do see what's left of the Reactor 3 and the Reactor 4, but for those reactors TBS/JNN's live camera is much better.

Here's the link to TEPCO's live camera (or click on the image):

Here's the link to TBS/JNN live camera, again (I have a tiny embed of the video on this blog, to the right):

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: "Chinese Are Going for the Safe, Thorium Reactors, and They Are Doing Mankind a Favour"

The Telegraph's commentator also thinks, along with many nuke proponents that inhabit the world, that "there has never been a verifiable death" in the West from the nuclear power. (I suppose he doesn't include Russia as part of the West.)


In his own words, from The Telegraph 3/20/2011 right before he headed off to the Mayan Highlands:

Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium

A few weeks before the tsunami struck Fukushima’s uranium reactors and shattered public faith in nuclear power, China revealed that it was launching a rival technology to build a safer, cleaner, and ultimately cheaper network of reactors based on thorium.

This passed unnoticed –except by a small of band of thorium enthusiasts – but it may mark the passage of strategic leadership in energy policy from an inert and status-quo West to a rising technological power willing to break the mould.

If China’s dash for thorium power succeeds, it will vastly alter the global energy landscape and may avert a calamitous conflict over resources as Asia’s industrial revolutions clash head-on with the West’s entrenched consumption.

China’s Academy of Sciences said it had chosen a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”. The liquid fuel idea was pioneered by US physicists at Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, but the US has long since dropped the ball. Further evidence of Barack `Obama’s “Sputnik moment”, you could say.

Chinese scientists claim that hazardous waste will be a thousand times less than with uranium. The system is inherently less prone to disaster.

Ah. China is known for its safety records for sure.

“The reactor has an amazing safety feature,” said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA engineer at Teledyne Brown and a thorium expert.

“If it begins to overheat, a little plug melts and the salts drain into a pan. There is no need for computers, or the sort of electrical pumps that were crippled by the tsunami. The reactor saves itself,” he said.

“They operate at atmospheric pressure so you don’t have the sort of hydrogen explosions we’ve seen in Japan. One of these reactors would have come through the tsunami just fine. There would have been no radiation release.”

Then why aren't the nuke reactors in the world thorium-based, by now? Evans-Pritchard says it's because thorium cannot be made into weapons:

US physicists in the late 1940s explored thorium fuel for power. It has a higher neutron yield than uranium, a better fission rating, longer fuel cycles, and does not require the extra cost of isotope separation.

The plans were shelved because thorium does not produce plutonium for bombs.

Evans-Pritchard further says western-lifestyle needs nuclear power, and no one has died from nuclear power:

I write before knowing the outcome of the Fukushima drama, but as yet none of 15,000 deaths are linked to nuclear failure. Indeed, there has never been a verified death from nuclear power in the West in half a century. Perspective is in order.

We cannot avoid the fact that two to three billion extra people now expect – and will obtain – a western lifestyle. China alone plans to produce 100m cars and buses every year by 2020.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the world currently has 442 nuclear reactors. They generate 372 gigawatts of power, providing 14pc of global electricity. Nuclear output must double over twenty years just to keep pace with the rise of the China and India.

And his parting shot:

So the Chinese will soon lead on this thorium technology as well as molten-salts. Good luck to them. They are doing Mankind a favour. We may get through the century without tearing each other apart over scarce energy and wrecking the planet.

This is my last column for a while. I am withdrawing to the Mayan uplands.

As the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident has made abundantly clear to many people (clearly Evans-Pritchard is not one of them), it is the human errors that make up the accident - from the design of the reactor and the plant, fitting the pipes that don't fit, hiding the condition of the degrading parts and equipments and structures and the regulatory agency who helps the operator to hide them, to name only a few.

It doesn't quite matter how safe thorium is, when the most dangerous and unpredictable component of all is the humans.

Monday, May 30, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 2 TEPCO Workers Exceeded 250 Millisieverts Radiation Limit Mostly from INTERNAL Radiation Exposure

From Mainichi Shinbun English (5/30/2011; emphasis added):

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Two Tokyo Electric Power Co. employees working at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may have been exposed to radiation exceeding the ultimate limit of 250 millisieverts, but no health problems have so far been reported, the company and the government said Monday.

The two men, who are in their 30s and 40s and have been at the plant from the time the March 11 quake and tsunami triggered the crisis, may have been cumulatively exposed to several hundred millisieverts, a company official said, while adding that they are "not at a stage that would require emergency medical treatment."

The two workers have been involved in dealing with the plant's Nos. 3 and 4 reactors. At a measurement on May 23, their thyroid glands were found to have absorbed 7,690 and 9,760 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131, respectively, 10 times higher than data on other workers.

The external exposure levels of the two workers were between 74 and 89 millisieverts, the plant operator known as TEPCO said.

The two have worked at the plant's reactor control room, a building where the headquarters to deal with the crisis is located, and outside on the premises. They ingested stable iodine on March 13 to prevent radioactive iodine from accumulating in the thyroid and increasing the risk of thyroid cancer.

TEPCO said it plans to check some 150 other workers who have engaged in similar work.

(The article continues.)

Well, what the article doesn't say (but it is mentioned in the Mainichi's Japanese articles) is that the two workers stopped taking potassium iodide pills after March 13. No reason is given. The Japanese articles also say that the high level of iodine-131 was detected from the urine of the workers.

These workers were not even working among highly radioactive debris outside or inside the turbine buildings or reactor buildings with high air radiation. They were working in the central control rooms for the Reactors 3 and 4, although the English article above makes it sound as if they were also working outside.

Did TEPCO have enough potassium iodide pills for the workers to begin with? Or the Japanese government?

The CBS News article back in March 16 alleges that the Japanese government had only 230,000 doses of potassium iodide when the Fukushima crisis started, and as of March 16 it hadn't yet asked other countries who had abundant supplies "at least not publicly". (h/t anon reader of my Japanese blog)

As far as the Japanese government went, it chose to hide the simulation data from the public that predicted the very high organ dose of iodine-131 over a surprisingly wide area rather than admitting the radiation problem and the lack of potassium iodide.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kyodo News: "TEPCO believes stabilizing Fukushima reactors by year-end impossible"

Oh what a surprise.

From Kyodo News English (full article by subscription only; 5/30/2011):

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is coming to the view that it will be impossible to stabilize the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the end of this year, senior company officials said Sunday, possibly affecting the timing for the government to consider the return of evacuees to their homes near the plant.

The revelation that meltdowns had occurred at the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors at the plant, most likely with breaches to pressure vessels encasing nuclear fuel, has led the officials to believe that ''there will be a major delay to work'' to contain the situation, one of them said.

The plant operator, known as TEPCO, announced on April 17 its road map for bringing the troubled reactors at the plant into a stably cooled condition called ''cold shutdown'' in six to nine months.

Well, as late as May 17 when the revised "roadmap" was disclosed, TEPCO said there would be no change in the target time-frame for the "cold shutdown".

The Kyodo Japanese article has a bit more information "leaked" by the TEPCO execs:

  • One executive said "6-9 month time-frame is only a target to strive for, and not a binding one." [So the "roadmap" is a wish-list.]

  • About the Reactor 1 whose Containment Vessel is now found to be leaking water, "We have to find the leak and stop it. If we don't know the extend of the damage to the Containment Vessel, we don't know how long it takes to stop the leak."

  • Another exec says "it will take 1 or 2 additional months" to bring the reactors in "cold shutdown" because of the bigger cooling system now envisioned.

  • Yet another one says "the works at three reactors [1, 2, 3] are not progressing simultaneously, as planned. We'll have to ask workers to work during the New Year holidays."

These executives are no doubt from the TEPCO's Tokyo headquarters and probably the same ones who ordered a fancy "roadmap" at the government's request, not people at Fukushima I Nuke Plant trying to contain the on-going crisis for the past 2 and a half months.

"Cold shutdown", as Kyoto University's Koide has repeatedly said, assumes the Reactor Pressure Vessel intact, and the fuel rods intact. There is no word for bringing the broken reactor with totally melted fuel into a stable condition so that it won't emit any more radiation. There is no established process to do that, particularly when the melted jumble, corium, is possibly eating away the concrete beneath the Containment Vessels.

As long as TEPCO (headquarters) and the Japanese government are fooling around with the impossible idea of "cold shutdown" of the reactors that are broken, with the corium already outside the Reactor Pressure Vessels, or Containment Vessels, there will be no end in sight, I'm afraid.

High Level of Radioactive Cesium from Snow in #Fukushima

Radioactive pollution is now detected in snow and freshwater fish.

And Japan's Kan administration still pushes for nuclear power, not just for the Japanese but for the up-and-coming countries in Asia and the rest of the world.

From Mainichi Shinbun Japanese (5/30/2011; link, emphasis added):

山岳愛好家らで作る「高山(たかやま)の原生林を守る会」は29日、福島市周辺の山岳地帯から採取した雪の放射線量分析結果を公表した。標高1500メー トル以下を中心に高濃度の放射性セシウムが検出され、最高は箕輪山東斜面の1338メートル地点で1キロ当たり2968ベクレルだった。市内の阿武隈川の ヤマメなど川魚からは国の暫定規制値(1キロ当たり500ベクレル)を上回るセシウムが検出され、雪解け水の流入が原因とみられるという。

On May 29, a private association of mountain lovers [in Fukushima], "Association for preserving the primal forests in Takayama Mountain", announced the result of radiation analysis of snow samples taken from the mountains around Fukushima City in Fukushima Prefecture. High concentration of radioactive cesium was detected from snow samples taken below the altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), with the highest being 2,968 becquerels per kilogram from the sample taken on the east slope of Mount Minowa at 1,338 meters high. Radioactive cesium that exceeds the provisional national limit (500 becquerels per kilogram) has been detected from freshwater fish in the Abukuma river that runs through Fukushima City, and it is considered that radioactive cesium in fish comes from the water from melted snow.

US, Japan Jointly Push for Spent Fuel Storage Facility in Mongolia To Sell Their Nuke Plants

It's an old piece of news (May 9, 2011) which I think should have received a wider coverage in light of the on-going crisis at Fukushima I Nuke Plant (which receives little coverage on its own these days).

Japan and the US want to build a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Mongolia, and Mongolia is very eager to join the nuclear power generation club by building the first nuke plant in the country, undeterred by the Fukushima accident.

The reason for the push for the spent fuel storage facility in Mongolia? So that the US-Japan joint ventures that sell nuclear power plants can sell the plants as a package deal that comes with the spent fuel storage, competing with Russians who already offer such a package deal.

Mongolia has faults capable of producing earthquakes of Magnitude 8.

From Reuters (5/9/2011):

TOKYO, May 9 (Reuters) - Japan and the United States plan to jointly build a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Mongolia to serve customers of their nuclear plant exporters, pushing ahead despite Japan's prolonged nuclear crisis, the Mainichi daily said on Monday.

A Trade Ministry official said Japan, U.S. and Mongolia officials, at a meeting shortly before Japan's March 11 earthquake, informally discussed possible construction of a nuclear waste storage facility for countries with nuclear power plants but no spent fuel storage capability of their own.

He said there were no concrete plans at this time but the ministry would consider such a project if Mongolia were interested.

The Mainichi said the facility would allow Japanese and U.S. nuclear plant exporters, which include joint ventures and units of General Electric , Hitachi and Toshiba , to better compete with Russian rivals that offer potential nuclear plant customers spent fuel disposal in a package.

Mongolia plans to have its first nuclear power plant by 2020 and to build nuclear fuel production capacity to tap its rich uranium resources, undeterred by the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power complex, a senior official at the state-owned MonAtom LLC said in April.

MonAtom represents the Mongolian government in mining and developing the country's uranium resources.

The trade ministry official denied the Mainichi's report that the three countries had originally planned to sign a deal on the spent fuel disposal project in February but it was postponed as Japan's Foreign Ministry opposed the schedule, citing a lack of consensus among Japanese ministries.

The Mainichi said a new date had not been set in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan, which triggered cooling system malfunctions at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and led to radiation leaks into the atmosphere and the sea.

Engineers are still struggling to bring the plant under control. (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Radioactive Materials at Reactor 2 Silt Fence Rising, Again

Radioactive iodine-131 shot up inside the silt fence in front of the water intake for the Reactor 2. Radioactive cesium (134 and 137) continues to rise OUTSIDE the silt fence for the Reactor 4, and the water levels at the trenches from the Reactors 2 and 3 continue to rise.

All is not well at Fukushima I Nuke Plant; it never has been since the earthquake.

From TEPCO's press release (English) on May 29:

Unit 2 inside the silt fence, for the sample taken on May 28:

Iodine-131: 24,000 becquerels/liter
Cesium-134: 4,100 becquerels/liter
Cesium-137: 4,300 becquerels/liter

The same nuclides from the sample taken on May 27 (and announced on May 28):

Iodine-131: 5,200 becquerels/liter
Cesium-134: 1,600 becquerels/liter
Cesium-137: 1,700 becquerels/liter