- Kyodo News reports thirteen currently-idled nuke plants are undergoing the stress tests required for restart. Six of the plant-specific data submittals to the government are planned by the end of the month. The other seven early next month. This is a significant acceleration of the data submittal time-table, probably because the new Prime Minister has voiced support for restarts if the power plants pass their individual safety checks. Operational staffs at all 13 units have been gathering data and making on-site inspections relative to withstanding earthquakes and tsunamis since July. The utilities that own the 13 plants now feel they can anticipate restarts as early as the end of the year, rather than the next-spring time-table voiced continually by former P.M. Kan and his Cabinet. Passing the stress tests is but one of the barriers to be surmounted before restarts can occur. After passing the tests, each power plant must also get the OK from their local governments.In a related Japan Times article, Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe has told the paper he completely opposes restarting any of the idled nukes, no matter what. He received his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 for his books on Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. He says he wants a petition to never restart the nukes signed by 10 million Japanese, to be submitted in March. He calls Fukushima “a third atomic bombing”, which is an attempt to connect bombs with reactors.
- The Atomic Energy Agency of Japan (JAEA), yet another of the multiple government nuclear authorities, has announced that the area of land contaminated by Fukushima Daiichi is less than a tenth of the area contaminated by Chernobyl. They have used the same grid used last month by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and etc. (MEXT), inside the evacuation zones. They found that approx. 800km2 has contamination levels above the Chernobyl evacuation standards used by the Soviet Union in 1986, rather than the 10,000km2 area that was vacated in the Ukraine and Belarus. While the recent MEXT press release focused almost exclusively on the few small-but-extremely high hot spots discovered, JAEA has used all of its data in compiling its statement.A second JAEA press release says much, if not most of the contamination found in the northwest evacuation corridor was deposited due to heavy rainfall. Asahi Shimbun seems skeptical, but its skepticism is based on ignorance. Cesium is moderately water soluble, and it was the steam/moisture leaking from Fukushima that provided the mechanism for the Cesium to get out. The heavy rainfall on March 15 during two airborne activity peaks, resulted in a large volume of Cesium being literally washed out of the atmosphere and onto the ground to the northwest. In addition, the topography northwest of Fukushima Daiichi is at-first hilly, then becomes mountainous, accelerating the rainfall. The rather rapid increase in elevation further amplified the rain-out. Unfortunately adding to the confusion, JAEA blames the March 15 releases on unit #2, which was venting radioactive material on the 15th. But, the secondary containment building around the reactor was never compromised, making the JAEA speculation questionable. They fail to consider that unit #4 experienced its hydrogen explosion on the 15th, which when combined with the on-going releases from severely damaged units 1&3, is a far more likely release scenario.
- A Mainichi Shimbun editorial calling for the new government to use the lessons learned from Fukushima wisely, focuses on former P.M. Kan’s staff refusing to use detailed computer projections available to them during the first few days of the emergency. It seems the Japanese scientific community is outraged over this recent disclosure. For example, University of Tokyo professor Tatsuhiko Kodama is “infuriated” that the government has withheld this vital information for more than six months. The Mainichi adds, “It is surprising that the government has disclosed this fact at this stage, but its claim that it ‘never thought of utilizing the data because it is not based on confirmed facts’ is astounding.”But, why should anyone be surprised that this information is only now being released? Naoto Kan is no longer Prime Minister, and this information tacitly condemns him and his staff for their errors. They didn’t want anyone to know, so they covered it up. New P.M. Noda and his Cabinet have everything to gain and nothing to lose by making this scandal public.
Hiroshima Syndrome update…
- As the situation at Fukushima Daiichi continues to improve, the Japanese news media is increasing its focus on radiation exposure stories in order to continue public anxieties. For example, Asahi Shimbun has a lead story under the headline, “Some Fukushima Residents Exposed to Alarming Radiation Levels”. Researchers at Hirosaki University have speculated that thousands of people had exposures of “up to 50 millisieverts”, and a few as high as 68 msv, before Tokyo called for evacuation of the northwest contamination corridor. These values are 2-3 times higher than the 25 msv government emergency exposure standard. Whether or not their speculations have merit, it’s literally making a hypothetical mountain out of a realistic mole-hill.While The Asahi calls these numbers “alarming”, the paper fails to consider that there are millions of very healthy people world-wide who experience the same exposures from mother nature every year. In addition, the reported worst-case exposure levels inside the evacuation zones around Fukushima (Okuma Town and the Akougi district of Namie) of 190 msv/yr are below the background levels experienced by the population of Ramsar, Iran, which has been found to be one of the healthiest demographics in that nation. As one friend and colleague recently wrote, “Fear [of radiation] is a powerful tool”.
- Mainichi Shimbun has posted another lenghty article about the low level radioactive waste issues surrounding Fukushima. This time the paper cites local residents who are afraid that storing the contaminated soils, drainage mud, and grass clippings will contaminate their well waters. It seems they believe that the radiation will pass through the plastic trash bags being used, and make their drinking water supply radioactive. This is a clear case of fear of the unknown. It’s the radiation-emitting cesium that’s the issue, not the radiation itself. In the first place, Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation cannot make other things radioactive. Only Neutron radiation can do that. Secondly, the Cesium that’s the real issue is chemically quite reactive, so even when it’s uncontained in the soil, it doesn’t move much, if at all. That’s why stripping the top few centimeters of topsoil removes nearly all the Cesium contamination from the dirt. Placing the material in plastic bags is far better than doing nothing at all, at this point. Instead of trying to scare people, the Japanese Press ought to be doing their utmost to educate a frightened population. But wait…that’s right…fear is good for for the news business.
- One of the subtle but significant contributors to the Hiroshima Syndrome is exaggeration. Nuclear exaggerations began when observers at Trinity in July, 1945, described the explosion in apocalyptic terms, and the practice has infected the benign uses of Einstein’s idea ever since. However, combining exaggeration with gross confabulation takes us from the merely incorrect to the ethically corrupt. Today’s Mainichi Shimbun lead editorial is written by Hiroaki Koide, who is purported by the paper as a radiation metrology and nuclear safety expert at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute. While the credentials sound impressive, Kiode has been an admitted nuclear critic for 40 years, and the Research Institute itself has been publishing anti-nuclear reports since 1979. It has never said anything positive about anything nuclear and is openly affiliated with Japan’s leading anti-nuke group (Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center) and the internationally-infamous Physicians for Social Responsibility.Addressing and correcting the myriad of false statements, proclaimed as fact, would require a dissertation-length effort. Perhaps the most incredible exaggeration has to do with Kiode’s fear that all of the fuel in unit #1 has entered the outside world, “At the No. 1 reactor, there’s a chance that melted fuel has burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel, the containment vessel and the floor of the reactor building, and has sunk into the ground. From there, radioactive materials may be seeping into the ocean and groundwater.” (Through 10 feet of high-density, steel-reinforced concrete?) In another wild flight of fancy, he states, “Meanwhile, it is necessary to keep cooling the No. 2 and 3 reactors, which are believed to still contain some fuel, but the cooling system itself is unstable. If the fuel were to become overheated again and melt, coming into contact with water and trigger a steam explosion, more radioactive materials will be released.” (Shades of Chernobyl? Without a doubt.)
Rather than continuing to rail at Kiode’s exaggeration-predicated, Hiroshima Syndrome-amplifying diatribe, read it for yourself…