- So far so good on opening reactor building #2 for ventilation. TEPCO reports the first doors were opened Monday and the humidity just inside the doors dropped from 100% to ~60%. Another set of doors will be opened today, followed by opening a “cargo entrance”, which will allow ventilation of nearly the whole building. Hopefully, ventilation will allow access to the building so that RPV monitoring instruments can be repaired and/or replaced in order to have reliable water level and pressure indications.
- TEPCO also reports they are sending water to the equipment storage pool of unit #4. The pool was discovered to have a very low water level on June 11, exposing some of the highly radioactive components to air. It is possible that the high radiation levels on the refueling deck are due to the exposed equipment. Once covered by several feet of water, the aqueous shielding will reduce the refueling deck’s radiation levels considerably and allow recovery work to resume.
The pool was discovered to have a severely low water level on June 11? It took TEPCO 10 days to report it and begin refilling the pool? What was the reason for the hold-up? Is this yet another example of a confused command-chain and an information system so paranoid that they fear revealing new discoveries? Haven’t they learned that this is no longer “business as usual”?
- On the opening day of the IAEA conference on nuclear safety (after Fukushima), Director Yukiya Amano said the Agency’s recommendations for safety improvements are worthless if they are not applied. This rings true for Japan’s nuclear program, which could have avoided the emergency at Fukushima if they had followed all IAEA earthquake/tsunami recommendations dating back to the early 1990s. Specifically, enclosing the emergency diesels and their fuel tanks in sturdy, water-tight structures. French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet added that commitment to nuclear safety is a national responsibility, not an international responsibility, which might need to change. IAEA has admonished Japan for failing to implement a number of safety measures and recommendations during the years leading up to the Fukushima nuclear emergency. IAEA has no legal authority to require regulatory compliance. Enacting a United Nations mandate allowing for legal authority could take years, but Director Amano said the urgency of the current situation world-wide will not allow that much time, “We have to move by days, weeks, months, and I cannot wait years”.
- NHK World reports Germany and Switzerland have politicked for tougher nuclear regulations at the IAEA conference. Although both countries have announced they are abandoning the nuclear energy option, they say that the contamination from nuclear accidents know no borders. They cannot realistically expect their neighbors to abandon nuclear energy since most of their populations do not want to lose the nuclear option.
- Yomiuri Shimbun reports that work is moving at a “fever pitch” to build the plastic enclosure which will surround demolished reactor building #1. The giant cover will prohibit further radioactive material releases from the building. The structure is being fabricated at Port Onahama, in Iwake, Fukushima Prefecture, using more than 60 sturdy poles for ribs, and about 11,600 square meters (more than 100,000 ft2) of thick plastic sheeting. Once fully completed, it will be disassembled and shipped to Fukushima Daiichi for reassembly surrounding the reactor building. If successful, similar plastic enclosures for units #3 and 4 will soon follow.
- Japan’s Ministry of Health says TEPCO has fallen short of the June 20 mandate for finishing the whole body exposure scans for the 3,700 workers at Fukushima Daiichi from March to mid-April. The ~125 workers who still need the scans are contractor employees. The contractors have agreed to scan 69 of the employees themselves. The rest are either currently being scanned or not available due to illness. 30 of the first 69 contractor employees, however, cannot be located. In addition, the dosimeters they were “loaned” while at Fukushima were taken with them. Further, their dosimeter readings were not recorded until the dosimeters were returned to TEPCO later in April. The contractor companies say they have no records of the employees. Regardless, all dosimeters issued by TEPCO should have remained at Fukushima and the addresses of the contractor employees should have been recorded. The Ministry calls TEPCO’s contractor exposure administration “sloppy”.
- Mainichi Shimbun reports not all residents of Iitate, a voluntary evacuation village outside the Fukushima “no-go” zone, are leaving. Plus, not all businesses are closing. Several hundred residents of the village’s total population are staying in their homes, and nine businesses with 550 employees are remaining open because they are “indoors” and have no outdoor activity. Many of those residents staying are elderly and fear the evacuation itself might cause them more harm than the low levels of radiation currently found in the village (between 0.3 and 0.7 millisieverts per hour). Five municipal volunteers will take turns keeping public services operating, and 370 residents will take turns patrolling the streets to deter possible burglaries.
Iitate is literally a village-wide “hot spot” where radioactive airborne isotopes concentrated due to weather and topography, then precipitated out of the atmosphere. There is virtually no airborne activity remaining, but the deposited Fukushima isotopes are producing a higher radiation field than would normally be the case with Iitate’s natural background. What the radiation level in Iitate was before the Fukushima emergency started has not been reported.
- At a meeting with Fukushima Prefecture Governor Sato, TEPCO President Shimizu said, “We have brought distrust to nuclear power as a whole and terrible trouble to everyone in society.” He added he takes full personal responsibility for the decisions that allowed the nuclear accident to happen.
- NHK World reports the waste water decontamination system which has worked sporadically for a week, has a 99% removal rate for Cesium isotopes. Not the 99.9% performance level they had hoped for. Regardless, the system will soon be in full operation with this reduced decontamination factor in order to stop adding more water to the basements and trenches of units #1-4.
TEPCO has reduced the water injection flows about 10% to all three reactors to slow the waste water build-up. The lower injection rates have not affected the temperatures inside RPVs #1 & #2, but temperatures inside RPV #3 are slowly rising once again.
- All currently operating Japanese nuclear plants will be shut down by early next year for scheduled refueling and planned maintenance. Unless local government attitudes toward restarting the nukes radically changes, all nuclear plants will be idled. Power shortages across Japan will be severe and rolling blackouts a routine occurrence.