The level of conflicting information coming from numerous Japanese government bodies continues. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) preliminary report on Fukushima underscores the problem of uncoordinated reporting to the public, which greatly reduces public trust in the government and TEPCO. It seems Japanese “officialdom” has not taken the IAEA finding to heart. On May 25, we reported TEPCO analysis of the situation inside and outside RPVs #1, 2 & 3, between March 11 and March 16, revealed #3’s fuel cell began melting at ~60 hours after the tsunami, and #2 fuel cell melting started ~101 hours post-tsunami. Now, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) says the TEPCO numbers are incorrect. The differences between NISA and TEPCO estimates are considerable. NISA says melting in RPV #2 & 3 fuel cells both began at ~80 hours after the tsunami. Which is correct? TEPCO or NISA?

One of the most important lessons learned from Three Mile Island, more than three decades ago is… there needs to be one source of public information, coordinated between all governmental, utility, and nuclear community groups. As time passes, it seems Japan’s nuclear program has not grasped this critical point. This is but one of several examples where Japan seems to have ignored TMI’s lessons learned, and now they are dearly paying for their negligence. Continued contradictory reporting out of the disparate Japanese informational sources provides nothing but anxiety for the people of Japan and the world. Japan has nothing to gain and everything to lose by proceeding with informational negligence.

Perhaps the following will clear up some of the confusion?

  • All Japanese news services and the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) report the government panel to investigate the Fukushima emergency, announced May 30, has met for the first time. Chairman Yotaro Hatamura, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said his panel needs to convincingly answer the public’s questions. But he emphasized they will not judge who is responsible for the accident. The panel includes members of the Japanese academic community, at least two nuclear technical “advisers”, a Japanese author of crisis management books, and the mayor of Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture. The mayor has been a strong critic of nuclear energy, saying “I think it was a mistake that this dangerous thing was considered safe.” The team will address four major areas of concern; the technical side of the accident, social issues, the regulatory system in Japan, and “other” related topics. Four teams of investigators will be formed, each assigned one of the above areas.

Other updates for today…

  • JAIF (and all news media) report radioactive “hot spots” existing in locations outside the “no-entry” zone. A hot spot is a localized point of radiation levels higher than the surrounding area. These “spots” are collection and concentration locations caused by rain run-off, wind patterns, and topography. For example, low level contamination over a wide area can become concentrated in drainage low points due to run-off by rain. When the water evaporates, the contamination stays in the low point and naturally increases the potential exposure for those in the immediate vicinity of the hot spot. Three small locations outside the “no-go” zone are being analyzed; two in Date City and one in Minami-Soma. If a person stayed in the near vicinity of any of the three all day, every day for a year, they would possibly exceed the 20 millisievert per year emergency exposure standard by a tiny bit. The reports fail to mention that even the most extreme exposure possibility for these hot spots pales in comparison to many natural background levels found in populated areas around the world which have never harmed anyone. In fact, those populations are generally healthier and have lower cancer rates than their national peers. The reports also fail to tell the Japanese public one critically important radiation fact; radiation level drops by the inverse square of the distance. If you double the distance between you and the hot spot, the exposure level decrease as much as a factor of four. Triple the distance, and it drops by a factor of nine. Also, the less time spent very near a hot spot reduces exposure even faster. In other words, don’t just stand there and gawk at the “hot spot”…walk calmly away. While the radiation level is not dangerous to begin with, by minimizing time and maximizing distance the exposure can be effectively avoided.
  • Kyodo News reports the government has told the IAEA that Japan’s main regulatory agency (NISA) failed to act swiftly on the nuclear emergency because it is a wing of the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade. The ministry promotes all Japanese Industry, including nuclear. NISA’s working within the Ministry set up a conflict of interest which compromised their actions at Fukushima. NHK World alleges they have a document saying NISA will be split from the Ministry in the near future, and become an independent agency.
  • JAIF reports that NHK World has yet another “document” which says the nuclear emergency center, 5 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi, was “dysfunctional” during the first few day of the emergency. One stunning point in the report; more than 20 emergency-related agencies were supposed to assemble at the emergency center as soon as possible once the emergency was declared. The desired agencies included national and local governments, police and Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Only three responded. If all agencies had responded per the emergency plan, public protection measures would have happened sooner through a coordinated, rather than seemingly-haphazard effort. While the horrific impact of the tsunami along the ~100 kilometer coastline surely occupied many of the identified agencies, there seems to have been little or no effort extended to supply even one staff member to the nuclear emergency center.In addition, the power outage all along the sea coast caused a blackout of the emergency center, and it’s back-up diesel generator failed to operate. This failure was not caused by the tsunami because the center was much further inland than the wave ever reached. Without power, the very few agency representatives at the emergency center were moved to the Fukushima Prefectural Office in Fukushima City within 24 hours. They did what they could from there.

    Despite all the indignation thrown at TEPCO, NISA, and Prime Minister Kan by the local politicians in Fukushima Prefecture, it now seems that they themselves are also at fault. Political hypocrisy in Japan seems to know no bounds!

  • NISA’s daily listing of technical and environmental conditions (parameters) within the damaged RPVs shows units 1 & 2 continue to be in a stable condition, with essentially no thermal changes since Monday. Unit #3 temperatures, however, continue to increase. It’s a mystery that none of the Japanese press are asking about this, or why TEPCO doesn’t seem concerned.
  • Many western news sources have reported Japan “admitting” there have been reactor vessel “melt-throughs”, which allowed the melted fuel inside the RPVs to drop to the primary containment floors. We cannot find anything remotely resembling these reports in the Japanese Press or any of the “official” Japanese information sources. Besides, the temperatures inside the RPVs would not be above 100oC if the fuel wasn’t in there.

Hiroshima Syndrome updates…

  • The Japanese Fisheries Agency has refused to let the Fukushima Daini operators release sea water from the tsunami, which collected in some of the building basements, back into the sea. The sea water can corrode equipment if it is allowed to remain. However, there are very low levels of radioactive cobalt-60 in the waters, which is 1.5 times the limit for release. TEPCO says they will filter the waters before releasing them, bringing the concentrations below the limit. Further, no other reactor fission products have been detected above limits. Regardless, the Fisheries Agency says “No!” because “below limits” does not mean “no radiation”.
  • Asahi Shimbun reports sewage treatment facilities in the Prefectures around Fukushima, and as far away as Tokyo, have not incinerated the sewage for months because of detectable levels of Fukushima isotopes. Incineration is the routine method of sewage disposal in Japan, but many tons of the material have accumulated since March, stored in large bags. The storage locations are almost full. The problem is the concentration-effect of burning the contaminated sewage, making very low levels in the sewage much higher in the ash. Sewage ash is typically shipped to cement factories, where it becomes ~80% of the dry material in the cement. The other 20% is mostly fly-ash from Japan’s coal-burning plants, which has higher natural radioactive material concentrations than the sewage ash containing Fukushima isotopes. (See “Nuclear waste : Is It?” page) In addition, the burning itself raises fears of releasing radiation into the atmosphere. The high-efficiency filters on the exhaust stacks of incinerators would remove nearly all possible airborne activity, but this doesn’t seem to matter. Phobic fear of radiation in any form and at any level is literally constipating north and central Japan.
  • Lastly, in the body of the above “hot spot” reports, we find many Japanese news media saying radiation releases typically spread “concentrically”, implying the hot spot causes are unusual. Hiroshima Syndrome readers know that concentric radiation spreading is only germane to nuclear weapon blasts. Reactor releases spread according to the meteorology at the time of release, and the surrounding topography.