Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum weekend reports…

  • The seawater pump supplying the heat exchangers for cooling Fukushima unit #5 spent fuel pool (SPF) and reactor stopped working. They could not restart it, so workers set to task for installation of a replacement pump. It took about 15 hours, but the new pump was installed and the heat exchangers were again being supplied. Reactor internal temperature rose to ~92oC and the SPF rose from 41 to 46oC before the cooling water was restored. Unit #5 remains in cold shutdown and no radioactive material was released. This morning, Japan Times (Japan’s biggest “spinners” of info) headlines “Pump failure nearly brings No. 5 to a boil”, alleging in the article that at 100oC the water would boil and expose the fuel cell.
  • TEPCO has successfully “restored” the SPF cooling systems for units 1-4. New SPF cooling systems are being built for all four pools and expected to be operational some time in July.
  • The Japanese Ministry of Science has sampled twelve locations of the seafloor off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture and has detected measurable amounts of deposited Cesium contamination in each. Residual Cesium from Cold War Pacific bomb tests have been detected all along Japan’s coast for decades, so the new levels above the norm are assumed to be from Fukushima. Two locations were considered significant, off the coasts of Mito (50 Bq/Kg) and Sendai (100 Bq/kg). Both are below sea-soil contamination limits, but are considered noteworthy because they are 50-100 times greater than the “normal”.
  • The Japanese government has found that 26 Fukushima schoolyards have soil contamination causing a potential whole body exposure of 3 millisieverts per year (for 24 hour/day and 365 day/year exposure). In order to bring the radiation areas below the 1 msv/year benchmark, top soils as deep as 5 centimeters (2 inches) will be scraped off and disposed elsewhere. It is believed this will bring all 26 locations down to 0.6 msv/yr or lower.
  • Detailed radioactive contamination examinations have begun for 190,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture, both evacuees and many of those outside the evac. zone. The examinations will be external (clothing and skin) and internal using sensitive whole body counters. The relatively few examinations so far show no contamination, either internal or external.
  • More than 150 of the milk-producing cows from inside the 20km no-entry-zone have been found completely devoid of any Fukushima contamination. They have been released to their owners, and their milk will not have restrictions imposed because there are no Fukushima isotopes in it. One farmer, Masatsugu Shiga was reconnected with his seven milk cows this morning, saying he was pleased to get them back, but angry that the accident happened. The remaining “clean” cows will be returned to their owners today.One catch…the cows cannot be returned to the no-entry-zone. If they are clean, then the farms where they grazed are clean. Why not just send them and their owners home?
  • Professor Shunichi Yamashita of Nagasaki University reports there should be no fear of radioactive rain from Fukushima. He stresses that the “hard rain” phenomena associated with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from bomb fallout, which is very different from the airborne releases at Fukushima.

Meanwhile, from the Japanese News Media…

  • In what may well be a landmark decision, Asahi Shimbun reports the government will compensate farmers and other food-related businesses that have lost money because of “harmful rumors” concerning Fukushima “radioactive fallout”. Compensation will be extended to Fukushima Prefecture and the four surrounding prefectures. “The amount of compensation will be determined by taking into account decreases in sales due to consumers’ reluctance to buy the products, suspended business transactions and decreases in workers’ incomes,” Asahi Shimbun reports. The government considers the public aversion toward food produced from prefectures near Fukushima “rational” because the public believed the rumors were “serious and real.” However, the rumors themselves are defined as “groundless hearsay.”This writer has not confronted anything like this before. The Japanese may well be the first government in the world to address the “groundless rumor” issue, rather than “just let it go.” This should be a nuclear community “lesson learned”.
  • Asahi Shimbun also reports the person who correctly disregarded TEPCO (Prime Minister?) orders to stop sea water flow to #1 reactor was/is the Plant Manager, Masao Yoshida. He decided to come forward with the truth May 25, when he discovered he was to be interviewed by a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials investigating the Fukushima emergency. He did not wish to continue keeping what he did a secret in front of the most prestigious nuclear organization in the world. Yoshido said he, “…wanted to file a report based on the facts so that this can be used as an international lesson.” Here is Yoshido’s scenario as to what happened…
    1. On March 11, 7:04pm, he ordered the seawater flow to begin.
    2. At 7:25pm, a Tokyo TEPCO official from Tokyo told him to stop and said, “We do not have the approval of the prime minister. They are discussing what to do.” Yoshida told the operators to disregard the TEPCO order.
    3. At 8:20pm, Yoshida was told by TEPCO to resume sea water pumping because Kan has given them permission. Yoshida told them he would do so, but declined to tell them what he had already done.

    TEPCO did not begin looking at actual control room records until ordered by NISA last week. On May 25, TEPCO discovered Yoshida’s decision. However, it was Yoshida who decided to go public, saying, “I continued with the pumping of seawater based on the judgment that the most important thing was to continue with pumping water into the reactor core in order to prevent the spread of the accident.” In response to Yoshida’s disclosure, TEPCO says that the Plant Manager has total control of routine operations and “normal accidents”, but decision-making during extreme accidents resides with the home office. TEPCO president Masataka Shimizu had approved the 7:04pm seawater flow start-up, but other TEPCO executives wanted it stopped because of their feelings concerning Prime Minister Kan’s anxieties. TEPCO vice president Sakae Muto said, in hindsight Yoshida’s decision to protect the reactor and disregard TEPCO orders, was correct. TEPCO is considering disciplinary action against Yoshida.

    I’d give him a medal!

    In a related editorial this morning, Asahi Shimbun addresses a disturbing possibility, “It is outrageous if officials at the government and TEPCO are putting greater importance on protecting their political interests, saving their faces and avoiding displeasing their bosses than on the safety of the public and workers directly dealing with the situation.” Amen…

  • Japan Times reports some of Japan’s independent radiation experts warn against members of the public using “cheap and easy to handle” radiation monitoring devices for self-monitoring of radiation levels. These devices, apparently common in Japanese stores, often read more than 25% too high. Also, the public is untrained in how to correctly use monitoring devices in order to get representative measurements. Genichiro Wakabayashi professor of radiology at Kinki University says he speaks for a group of radiation experts who have monitored the country’s radiation levels since late March. The group has a website in Japan and wants to, “prevent false rumors from being spread by non-experts who have monitored radiation levels on their own. Alarming the public (by challenging the credibility of) the government’s announcements is not our purpose, as some media apparently are attempting.” They add that magazines, bloggers, sensationalist news articles, and random internet postings by non-experts are routinely used to “slam” the Science Ministry for “publishing results deemed meaningless.” Wakabayashi and his group add that the 20 millisievert per year emergency public exposure standard invoked by the government is completely safe.I don’t recall any such reputable public denouncements of irresponsible and exaggerated claims of radiation exposures, during or after TMI and Chernobyl. Is this the beginning of a drive for radiation responsibility?
  • On a more negative note, an Asahi Shimbun Saturday editorial says a government panel is being created to investigate Fukushima, which ought to include competent and influential people recruited from “outside the nuclear power village.” The op-ed piece says Japan should seek opinions from overseas experts and get critics of nuclear power involved in the probe.First, what is the “nuclear power village”? This sounds like nuclear conspiracy paranoia routinely proffered by nuclear nay-sayers. Second, the critics of nuclear power never say anything positive about nuclear energy. Does this make them any better than the so-called “nuclear power village”? Asahi Shimbun alleges many nuclear companies conceal negative information, but they fail to consider that nuclear critics have a proven track record of obsessive confabulation and exaggeration.