Conditions continue to improve at Fukushima Daiichi.

  • Our first update is clearly the best news to come out of Fukushima Daiichi since the explosion of Unit #1 refueling deck on March 12.Seawater samples taken at nine of the 10 MEXT locations, 30 km off-shore, show no detectable I-131. One location, southeast of Daiichi, shows detectable I-131, but at a level below the 0.04 bq/cc health standard. All of the TEPCO sampling locations at 15 km off-shore show either no detectable I-131 (4 locations), or a level below the I-131 health standard (4 other locations). All of TEPCO’s near-shore sampling locations continued to show a significant decrease over the weekend, with the two southern-most sampling points now below I-131 health standards, and one northwest point showing no detectable I-131. Four other near-shore locations have dropped by a factor of 10 since Friday, to below 0.1 bq/cc I-131. The last location, 30 meters from the station’s port/docking break-wall is at 0.26 bq/cc, a factor of three decrease since Friday. Unquestionably, TEPCO’s efforts to restrict the outflow of contaminated waters into the open sea has been a phenomenal success. I cannot find any mention of this in any western or Japanese news media source, at least not the numerous ones I check daily. The Japanese government should admonish both the foreign Press and their own news media for not reporting this! It’s in the JAIF report this morning, so there is no excuse…
  • Reactor #1 temperatures have dropped to 138 oC at the feedwater nozzle and 111 oC at the bottom of the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV). Pressure in the RPV is holding at ~75 psi. The Primary Containment pressure, outside the RPV, holds at ~22 psi.
  • Reactor #2 RPV temperature at the feedwater nozzle is down to 123 oC, and RPV pressure remains slightly below atmospheric. The Primary Containment pressure holds at atmospheric pressure.
  • Reactor #3 RPV temperature at the feedwater nozzle is way down at 75 oC (below cold shutdown level of 95 oC), and the RPV bottom is at 111 oC. RPV and containment pressures remain at atmospheric.
  • TEPCO reports that units #5 & 6 have had their high voltage (HV) circuits interconnected. They will next interconnect 5&6 HV circuits with Units 1&2 HV circuits. In order to do this safely, the power to the pumps currently sending water to RPVs 1&2 must be disconnected, and reconnected to their temporary diesel generators. Once the interconnection is complete, power to the pumps will be returned to the normal electrical supply. This interconnection will improve the reliability of emergency power in the vanishingly slim possibility that another major earthquake and tsunami hit before all three RPVs are in cold shutdown.
  • Asahi Shimbun reports that foreign news media have fired a return salvo at the Japanese government for accusing them of overly sensationalizing Fukushima reports. The foreign press does not deny they have exaggerated and sensationalized. However, they accuse the Japanese government of “mishandling” the nuclear emergency. CNN reporter Kyung Lah bashes the effort of the government saying, “It’s a slower reaction than the international community expected.” (The international news media community, right?) Christoph Neidhart, correspondent of the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, said: “I think they (the government) were overwhelmed by data. They have tried to be honest. But I am not sure if they have done enough thinking.” (Now, the government is too dumb?) Neidhart goes on to slam Japan in general because there has been little public outcry against nuclear energy. He says, “the apparent lack of a public debate on the issues facing the country was making it difficult for some foreign observers to understand. Contrary voices had been drowned out.” In other words, the foreign news media can’t find enough voices of nuclear energy doom to “balance” their Fukushima reports with. Without a doubt, the foreign press is experiencing Hiroshima Syndrome withdrawal! Without someone to quote, who reinforces the misconceptions that fuel public fear, they have no story!! And they blame it on the government?

Now, on the home-front…

  • The Washington Post and ABC have together polled their readers/viewers about feelings towards nuclear energy. It’s an article that seems intentionally confused, but after analyzing it several times, it seems that a slight majority of Americans still favor nuclear energy (about 51%), even after six weeks of western scare-mongering by the Press. More republicans are in favor than democrats, and more men than women, which has been the case for 3 decades. However, the results look less negative than similar polls taken soon after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, where more than half of those polled were against nuclear energy (53%). I other words, the percentage of Americans favoring nuclear energy today is about the same as the percentage that disfavored it 25 years ago. Of the 44% (?) currently against nuclear energy, nearly all said they now feel less confident in US plants than before Fukushima. (which is a surprise to whom?) But, on the other hand…
  • The Wisconsin State Journal says that no-one should “count out” nuclear energy in the effort to stop the burning of fossil fuels, just because of Fukushima. “Wisconsin should consider it an Earth Day imperative to do two things: Stop…Think… A pause to thoughtfully review the evidence will show the retreat from nuclear power to be unwise.” Check it out for yourself…
  • And now, an answer to the question underlying all Fukushima nay-saying in America…Could it happen here?First, keep in mind that all of the buildings and structures at Fukushima Unit’s # 1 through 4 looked undamaged due to the earthquake and tsunami (from aerial photos). Further, Fukushima Daini’s 4-unit nuclear power station, just 7 miles south (and well within the tsunami disaster zone), has not had the reactor fuel and spent fuel problems of Daiichi. Why? Because they did not have a prolonged complete loss of electric power situation. The Daiichi emergency is because of the loss of power…not the quake/tsunami!

    Let’s not quibble the fact that only a few American nuclear plants are anywhere near a subduction-type fault that caused Fukushima’s quake/tsunami, or that those few are built to structurally withstand 9.0 Richter scale quakes and massive tsunamis. Let’s just look at what has quietly happened over the past 35 years in America to make a loss of power accident, to the extreme degree of Fukushima, highly unlikely… if not improbable.

    1. In 1976, the twin emergency diesels for all nuclear plants were required to be made independent of each other, so an accident to one would not compromise the other.
    2. In 1988, the number of batteries backing up the diesels was increased in order to have at least 50% more time to recover from diesel failure.
    3. In 2002, portable/mobile power supplies and water pumps were mandated for all nuclear plants in case the diesels failed and the batteries ran out.

    While #2 (above) might not have avoided the Fukushima emergency, #1 could have and #3 definitely would have averted the accident. In addition, for Mark I containments like Fukushima, the pressure-suppressing torus was considerably strengthened in 1980, and additional containment vents were installed in 1992. If these had been the case with Fukushima (even without the emergency electric power upgrades), the strengthened torus could have averted Fukushima #2’s torus damage, and the additional vent on Units 1, 2 & 3 may well have avoided the hydrogen explosions!

    Regardless, if the Japanese had adopted only the portable/mobile generators and pumps upgrade, the whole thing could have been avoided!