- JAIF reports all but one of schools in Fukushima prefecture have soil contamination below the health standards. The one that is above the standard will have the topsoil skimmed off and buried elsewhere, at ~2 feet below ground. At that depth, there will be no addition to background levels and no chance of the contamination becoming airborne again. Further, once “fixed” in the soil, the radioactive isotopes will not migrate anywhere. (see the “Nuclear Waste : Is It?” page, and its section on Oklo) This indicates that Fukushima’s airborne levels deposited very little activity on surrounding surfaces. This may seem to contradict the recently published “map” of contamination compiled in April. The “map” was calculated from gamma readings takea from a helicopter and airplane, and mathematically deduced for specific isotopes. Specific isotpic analysis is only possible using field samples, and the new information comes out of analysed samples taken from the school’s soils. The “map” is literally old news, and can be now understood to be grossly in error.
- In addition, there have been no reports, as yet, of finding above-standard surface contamination levels on the debris from the tsunami in Fukushima Prefecture. If this trend continues, the Japanese government will have a difficult time trying to justify the evacuation and no-entry orders, in hindsight. Personally, I’m a bit surprised. I did not expect numerous high contamination locations to be commonplace in the 20 km zone, but this is an early indication that even my worst concerns were unfounded. Unfortunately, this is another “good news” story the news media inside and outside Japan have failed to broadcast.
- Reactor pressure vessel (RPV) temperatures on Units #1 & 2 slowly continue to decrease, with the bottom heads now reading below 100oC (the Japanese criteria for cold shutdown condition). The temperatures on RPV #3 continue to rise, which TEPCO believes is due to water flow somehow bypassing the RPV or not getting into it at all. They are making preparations for sending water to #3 RPV through an alternative flow path, beginning Thursday. The significant discrepancy between RPV #3 temperature and pressure continues. There also seems to be a possible pressure/temperature discrepancy with RPV #1, but not the same as #3. On #1, the pressures have shown 65 and 145 psi (2 instruments) for weeks, while temperature has fluctuated considerably. If all instruments are reading correctly, this indicates the reactor is full of water, but TEPCO seems to maintain that the fuel cell remains partially uncovered. Either the RPV instruments are faulty or the reactor is full…it cannot be both.
- It seems the attempt to fill the primary containment of unit #1, which surrounds the RPV, was stopped several days ago because the monitoring instruments were either malfunctioning or in need of re-calibration. Workers have been going inside reactor building #1 to fix the problem before re-starting water flow into the containment. At the time of this update, TEPCO announced all instruments, including reactor (containment?) water level, have been re-calibrated. The airborne activity levels for the workers is low enough that they can safely work with face masks. Whole body exposure varies between 0.7 and 1.2 mrem/hr. These whole body levels restrict how long a person can stay in the area and work. It seems the effort is literally a tag-team process.
- JAIF reports video footage taken inside spent fuel pool (SPF) #3 by a remote camera, attached to a robot arm, reveals significant debris on top of the fuel cells. The debris is definitely due to the hydrogen explosion inside the fifth floor fuel handing area, atop the containment. It appears that any fuel damage must have been caused by the debris. A water sample was taken and analyzed, as well. The isotopic matrix is too-rich in Iodine to have been released from the stored fuel bundles. It is now believed the water’s activity is due to unit #3 reactor-based fission products “carried into the water with the debris”. The concentrations match those found in SPF #2, more than a week ago. To date, the early-on speculations of one or more of the SPFs going dry, or partially uncovering fuel clusters, has been effectively disproved for units #2, 3 & 4.
- The spraying of dust inhibitor around the plant property seems to be having a considerable mitigating effect on airborne activity levels on-site. All property perimeter monitors show airborne concentrations to be 100 and 1000 times below atmospheric standards. Yet another example of good news not being “newsworthy” enough for the press to broadcast. <sigh>
- It seems the Japanese government is in the process of a “takeover” of TEPCO. This is not like your traditional corporate takeover, common to the rest of the business world. Rather, in order for the government to insure the evacuees from Fukushima are fully compensated by Japanese law, the government will have to supply some of the money. TEPCO is in the process of selling off their stock. It appears that the stock sell-off will not cover the legally-mandated compensations. Before any of this happens, the government demands TEPCO streamline its operations and cut costs, except for insuring a stable supply of electricity. It also told the utility to allow an independent panel to study its economic structure for better asset and expense management. (JAIF and Kyodo News)We can now understand why Prime Minister Kan’s regime refused to help TEPCO cover the compensatory costs…control! We have the potential for irreversible harm to everyone in Japan. I fear this may be the first step in a nationalization of all Japanese utilities, where the only winners will be the politicians.
- On a more promising note, Asahi Shimbun reports of a major effort to unify the disparate Japanese regulatory agencies charged with nuclear oversight, into one unified body. NISA, NSC, and the nuclear wing of the Health Ministry will be blended into a new, government-sponsored agency. They will use the organizational structure of the American NRC as a model, but unlike the NRC the new agency will work independent of the government itself. This writer agrees with this move, for several reasons. Perhaps the most important is nuclear information flow ought to be through one expert source, vice the events at Fukushima Daiichi where contradictory information was being broadcast by at least four sources at the same time (including the nuclear-inept government). Too many cooks spoiled the stew! Also important is this writer’s view that a self-regulating body is far superior to political control.
Hiroshima Syndrome update…
Yesterday’s Kyodo News had a one-sentence blurb about “American anti-nuclear activists” claiming nuclear energy cannot ever be safely controlled by humans; one of the paradigms of the prophets of nuclear energy doom. I checked for recent articles, and did considerable Google cross-referencing, before I found two possibilities…Jonathan Schell of the Nation Institute (New York City), and/or Truthdig.com’s editor-in-chief Robert Scheer. Both argue that we cannot ever hope to safely control nuclear weapons, therefore we cannot hope to safely control nuclear power plants. The bomb/reactor misconception is clearly at work here. But digging deeper, we find neither did their homework on the development of the bomb. They state nuclear power is a process which was created out of of nuclear weapons, and imply it is also an explosive technology. (which it isn’t, of course) They got it backwards. The first reactor, Fermi’s Chicago Pile, was started in Dec., 1942. The Manhattan Project came after and, if anything, was the spawn of the reactor…naaah…even that is a stretch. They were developed independent of each other, with the only possible connection being the use of primitive breeders to make Plutonium for the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki.