Technical/Physical update –
- IAEA reports temperatures inside reactors 1, 2 & 3 (RPVs) continue to decrease. Still no word on how the decay heat is being removed from the water circulating through the reactors.
- JAIF data shows that pressures inside RPVs 2 & 3 remain at or below atmospheric. Unit # 1 RPV remains at about three atmospheres pressure, which correlates well with its higher temperature than the other two reactors. This remains as ongoing proof that all three RPVs have not been physically compromised.
- IAEA reports all waters from Unit #1 condenser have been transferred to the Suppression Pool Surge Tank. This is the final operation needed prior to transferring the basement floor waters into the #1 condenser.
- The transfer of water from Unit #2 condenser to it’s replenishment water storage tank is underway. If it all fits in the storage tank, workers can begin the transfer of Unit #2 basement waters into #2 condenser.
- The efforts to remove the waters from the Units 3 & 4 turbine basements have stalled, awaiting the discharge of 10,000 tonnes of the barely-detectable contaminated waters from the Waste Treatment Facility storage tanks to the sea. NHK reports the discharge began this morning, April 5. (more on this below).
- More and more of the electrical systems of the Fukushima Power Plant Complex are being recovered every day. The improvement is relatively slow, but steady. Once the turbine basement waters are removed to storage tanks (condensers), the work to re-energize the cold-shutdown systems for Units 1, 2 & 3, and the Spent Fuel cooling systems for all four units, ought to move faster.
- TEPCO has discovered that one of the drainage trenches for Unit #3 was filling up. At the same time, water was being pumped into Unit #4 turbine building from somewhere else (source not identified), raising the water level in the Turbine #4 basement. TEPCO says they realized there might be a connection between the pumping of water into #4 turbine building and the increasing Unit 3 trench water level. They stopped the pumping into Unit #4 basement and the level of water in the trench stopped rising.
Radiological update –
- IAEA has been performing off-site radiological assessments of foodstuffs, air, water, and soil samples taken across the 12 prefectures contingent to Fukushima for more than a week. Today, IAEA reports that they have done this to be an independent source of data other than TEPCO. This strongly implies that the world’s loss of confidence in TEPCO’s radiological information has compelled IAEA to take the upper hand.
- Of the 135 food and milk samples analyzed by IAEA since April 1, 134 were found to either be totally devoid of Fukushima contamination or had levels so low as not to be of health concern for consumption. The one that exceeded health standards was a shiitake mushroom sample from Fukushima Prefecture.
- IAEA also reports that the flow from the cracked power cable pit has not stopped, as of midnight, April 4. Early in the day on April 5, NHK News reported that the flow through the crack has slowed because of TEPCO’s use of a “hardening agent” behind the cracked concrete wall. Later in the article, NHK says the agent is a kind of liquid glass.
- NHK also reports that the use of dye has revealed that at least some of the water in the cracked power cable pit is coming from the gravel outside and below the concrete walls of the pit. TEPCO believes the water originates from a broken or cracked pipe. The suspected pipe has not been identified, as yet.
- TEPCO is making plans to barracade their off-shore dike’s opening to the sea. NHK says they will “board up” the opening. This ought to help contain the contaminated waters inside the dike and restrict them from reaching the open sea.
Hiroshima Syndrome update –
The Hiroshima Syndrome results from fears generated by public misunderstandings of nuclear realities. One of the subtle but significant contributors to the Hiroshima Syndrome is the common use of big numbers representing tiny things when nuclear phenomena are described. For example, one fission releases 200 million electron volts of energy. That’s a huge number. But the reality is that 200 million electron volts is a vanishingly tiny amount of energy relative to the world we experience. It takes millions of fissions every second to generated enough energy to illuminate one 5 watt night light. Big numbers for tiny things. But big numbers, all by themselves, can sound terrifying to most people. With respect to radioactivity, we again run into big numbers for tiny things.
The discharge of the ever-so-mildly contaminated waters TEPCO is dumping into the sea has the world on edge. In fact, South Korea has filed a formal complaint with the Japanese government demanding this not happen. News media around the world (Including the Japanese) have questioned TEPCO’s concern for human life. Why? First off, widespread phobic fear of radiation in general, based on the no-safe-level fallacy, is a major contributor. Second, the volume of water to be discharged sounds enormous (11,500 tonnes). Third, the contamination levels in the discharging waters are in the 200-300 becquerel per milliliter region, which sounds disturbingly big.
(1) The phobic impact of fear of radiation in general has been addressed many times in these updates, so I don’t feel we need to address it further here. The no-safe-level notion is a fiction that does nothing to quell fears, but greatly amplifies them needlessly.
(2) Next, the volume of water being released to the sea sounds enormous, until one compares it with the billions upon billions times greater volume of water already in the sea around Japan. The dilution factor is enormous. The many-times greater concentrations of contamination in the much, much larger volumes of waters that have leaked into the sea prior to this have not threatened anyone’s health, so why think this relatively small volume of mildly contaminated water is to be rationally feared?
(3) But most importantly, the reported concentrations of radioactivity in the waters being discharged sound enormous. A thousand becquerels per milliliter means a million becquerels per liter. This means there are billions upon billions upon billions of becquerels being discharged into the sea as this is being written. But, what is a becquerel? A becquerel is one radioactive decay per second. Every bite of that banana you ate yesterday (every day, for me) emits thousands of radioactive emissions per second from Potassium-40. Same with broccoli. We eat thousands upon thousands of becquerels of naturally occurring radioactivity with every mouthful. To continue, eating a banana every day puts billions of becquerels into your body every year. The radiation from a banana a day has never hurt anyone, but rather improves the consumer’s health. (improved nutrition plus radiation’s beneficial hormetic effects) Without placing the Fukushima water discharge into this kind of real world context, combined with fear-amplifying effect of the no-safe-level fiction, it really sounds scary. It sounds like TEPCO doesn’t give a hoot about anyone’s health. TEPCO may be informationally inept, and have an HP staff at Fukushima that make some unacceptable mistakes, but they are certainly not insensitive to human health.
However, the appearance of public protection means votes in the next election. Why has Korea (among others) protested this relatively harmless act? Votes! Votes garnered from a combination of nuclear misunderstanding and the phobia resulting from the Hiroshima Syndrome. Fear sells in the news media, and protection from fears means votes at the polls. Political opportunists never fail to take advantage of catastrophes.