Before getting into updates for the weekend’s Fukushima (and related) events, something should be mentioned concerning JAIF’s posted pressure readings for units 1 & 2 RPVs. They don’t make any sense. The RPV pressures listed are below atmospheric…way below. The instruments show relative vacuums inside the vessels. At the same time, the Drywell (DW) and Suppression Chamber (SC) pressures are slightly above atmospheric. If the instruments are correct, the direction of water flow ought to be into the vessels from the DW and SC, since higher pressure fluids always flow into lower pressures. That’s a law of nature. However, the constancy of water injections and build-up of waste waters demonstrate flow is out of the vessels and into some location at or above atmospheric. Thus, RPV internal pressure must necessarily be higher than wherever the water is going after it leaves the RPV, which is most likely the DW and/or the SC. It seems the RPV pressure instruments are severely damaged, giving entirely incorrect readings, and should be posted accordingly.
Now, back to Fukushima information…
- Just before noon on Saturday, TEPCO announced they had finished installing the portable desalination unit for SPF #4 and placed it in operation. JAIF says it is a reverse osmosis (RO) unit, so the water run through it should come out ultra-pure. RO systems have notoriously slow flow rates, so using them for clean-up of the large volumes of contaminated waste water is impractical.
- Sunday, TEPCO reported the new waste water decontamination unit, SARRY, was placed in operation last Friday (Aug. 19). Operation is in parallel with the previous system, which has received considerable bad press for two months. The combined decontamination rate is now 70 tons per hour, which is an increase above the first unit which was de-conning 45 tons per hour during the week prior to Friday.
- TEPCO also announced that all temperature monitoring instruments on unit #1 RPV are indicating readings less than 100 oC, and the levels have remained below this critical point for more than a day. While this is one of the criteria for establishing the optimum safety condition called “cold shutdown”, the most important goal is stabilizing the RPV cooling system and insuring its ability to survive any possible future natural calamities.
- Japan’s self-inflicted nation-wide power shortage is getting worse. No, it’s not just another nuke being idled. To the contrary, Yomiuri Shimbun reports that numerous “thermal” (fossil fueled) power plants have been “extended” beyond their design operating limits and are failing. Three units suspended operations briefly (2-4 days each) in July for repairs. Five have been shut down in August. One August shutdown was brief (2 days). But the other four have had much longer periods of inactivity, with no end in sight. The 360 Mwe Akita plant has been shut down since Aug. 2. The other three, totaling 1,700 Mwe, have been shut down anywhere from four to 12 days. One of them (the 1,000 Mwe Misumi coal-fired unit) was shut down briefly in July, and is down again (since Aug. 10). Officials fear that continuing summer demand will stress more and more “thermal” units, forcing their suspensions.In addition, TEPCO announced it’s Kariwa unit #7 in Niigata Prefecture, will be shut down for routine inspection and refueling on Tuesday. They have already begun output reduction leading to the suspension of service. NHK World reports the Niigata governor will not allow any restarts until the complete results of the government fact-finding investigation are made public and the cause of the Fukushima emergency is established. JAIF says that by current plant scheduling, and if no idled nuclear plants are allowed to restart, all 54 Japanese nukes will be shut down by the spring.
When will Japan’s governments bite the bullet and restart the idled nukes?
- It seems the ban of beef shipments has been lifted for all Prefectures except Fukushima. Higher than health limit Cesium levels were found in five more cow’s meat on Saturday and another 3 on Monday (Japan time), in addition to the four discovered earlier this month. NHK World points out that cow’s meat for the first four was sampled back in March, and in April for the last 8. All 12 were sampled between March 15 and April 19. The farm where five of the cows were raised says they did not use rice straw for feed. Rather, they used hay. The government is investigating where the hay came from.
- Japan Times reports on an agricultural experiment to “coax” Cesium out of rice paddy soil in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. A water-based chemical is being sprayed on the surface of the soil which will harden and theoretically draw the cesium to the surface. Then, the hardened surface soil can be stripped off and disposed of, leaving the remaining dirt safe for rice production. Preliminary tests showed that that 98% of the Cesium is in the uppermost inch of soil. There is no detectable cesium below a two inch depth.
- Mainichi Shimbun reports that polls taken recently suggest the Japanese public currently reject’s Prime Minister Kan’s desire to de-nuclearize the country as soon as possible. 74% of the newspaper’s respondents say they favor a gradual reduction in nuclear energy, if at all. Politically, most of those who seek to become Prime Minister after Kan steps down say they favor a wait-and-see policy on the nuclear issue. The newspaper speculates that those who refuse to take a firm stand on de-nuclearization are tacitly admitting they will promote nukes if they get into office.
- The Yomiuri Shimbun says they have interviewed several experts, and the consensus feels the 3km evacuation radius around Fukushima Daiichi will remain “uninhabitable” for many years, if not decades. They feel many locations within the 20km no-go zone will be re-populated without danger, but none inside of 3km. These opinions are based on the measured radiation fields and fears that another severe nuclear accident might happen at the stricken power complex. Japan Times says the government is considering buying the most highly-contaminated properties withing the no-go zone. The Yomiuri suggests these land buy-ups will be used to store radioactive wastes created by contamination clean-ups and sewage sludge produced in Fukushima Prefecture. There has been no confirmation on this speculation.
- We have noticed something very curious about the reported number of people who have been evacuated from the 20km no-go zone and the northwest corridor 20-35km from Fukushima Daiichi. Back in April, some western reports were as high as 140,000. (Reuters, March 12) Now, Mainichi Shimbun says the total is actually 48,903. That’s still a lot of people. But, it does demonstrate how numbers associated with nuclear emergencies are often exaggerated, especially by the western news media.