• The news media was allowed to tour the Fukushima Daiichi power station on Saturday, November 12. Three dozen reporters were driven around the accident site in busses, then given a presentation inside the nearby Emergency Response Center (TSC) on the current conditions at the power complex with respect to the three damaged buildings and three crippled RPVs. The tour was guided by Plant Manager Masao Yoshida and Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosano. News reports focus mostly on the mangled construction material and debris associated with units 3&4 reactor buildings, implying little has been done to clean up the mess. But, both Yoshida and Hosano pointed out that reporters have no conception of how cluttered and chaotic the scene was eight months ago, so they cannot appreciate how much has changed. In his TSC presentation, Hosano said “I think it’s remarkable that we’ve come this far. The situation at the beginning was extremely severe. At least we can say we have overcome the worst.” He added, “What we actually feel here is that the Fukushima No. 1 plant has been stabilized. If this were not the case, I would refuse to allow thousands of workers to come to the plant and work here.”Mr. Yoshida echoed Hosano by saying, “We had a considerably hard time until the end of June. It was in July and August when the situations stabilized. But the reactors have attained stabilization levels that can make people living in surrounding areas feel relieved.” He continued, “Even if fuel has leaked out of the pressure vessels, the entire reactors, including not only the inside of the pressure vessels but also that of the containment vessels, have been cooled and stabilized.” (Japan Today; Japan Times; NHK World)
  • While most Japanese news sources report the access roads inside the power complex are strewn with over-turned vehicles (from the tsunami) and other debris which made the tour difficult, one (JAIF) said the roads were quite clear with the remains moved off to the roadsides. It’s noteworthy that the sturdy, impressive enclosure around reactor building #1 received little mention, and then only to be called a tent. There was no mention in any report of the condition of reactor building #2, which experienced no hydrogen explosion.
  • Plant Manager Yoshida’s presentation eventually shifted into a Q&A session with reporters, where he shared some of his personal experiences during the first week of the accident. He pointed out that
    he could not relate technical details about what happened during those first crucial days because he is providing testimony to the government’s investigative panel on Fukushima, which he did not wish to compromise. However, he shared personal fears and feelings he encountered. Yoshida explained the hydrogen explosion with unit #1 caught him completely by surprise. He believed that such a thing was impossible. Yoshida was in the Emergency Response Center (TSC) on-site, at the time of the explosion. He did not know what caused the impact sound or where it took place until a few injured emergency workers arrived at the TSC for medical attention and told the staff what had happened. The same occurred when unit #3’s refueling deck exploded, which was again relayed to him by injured emergency team members coming to the TSC for medical attention after the blast. During the series of explosions, “I thought several times I would die.” After enough emergency power was restored to the TSC to run TVs, he saw the two explosions on video for the first time. Perhaps his greatest moment of surprise was the unit #4 hydrogen explosion, because the unit had been shut down for several months and there was no fuel in the core. Again, he thought he might die. He also said that after unit #4’s explosion, “It was also difficult to inject water into the reactor of the No. 2 building. So we were not able to predict future developments. I felt that, in the worst case, if the meltdown advances and it became impossible to control the reactors, that would be the end.” (Asahi Shimbun)

In other news…

  • This morning, buried at the end of TEPCO’s daily press release on Fukushima Daiichi, we find a most revealing report. The main gate airborne radiation monitor (“Continuous Dust Monitor” – TEPCO) alarmed for the first time in months. Upon inspection, the air filter which collects particulates for radiological measurement was clogged. The filter was replaced and the monitor re-calibrated before being returned to service. To everyone’s surprise, the airborne activity reading is now 6 one-millionths (6 x 10-6)
    of a bq/cc of air. This is 15 times less than the threshold for people wearing full face masks! (1 x 10-4 bq/cc) Because of this, TEPCO has relaxed the requirement for workers having to wear full face masks when passing through the gate. This is extremely good news, but there seems to be no mention of it in any Japanese news source. Regardless, the ramifications could be considerable relative to the on-going estimates of airborne activity still emanating from reactor buildings 1 and 3. These estimates, in the 100 million bq/hr range, are largely based on the readings of airborne monitors around the power complex. It is possible that these numbers are grossly in error and the actual release rate has been much, much less. TEPCO ought to re-calibrate all continuous atmospheric airborne monitors and revise release estimates accordingly.
  • TEPCO has allegedly said the probability of another massive earthquake and tsunami hitting Fukushima Daiichi which would cause another blackout and stop all emergency system operation is one in 5,000
    years. TEPCO also estimates it would take more than 24 hours for melted fuel to re-melt at the current decay heat levels, but they have set up emergency electrical generators at 35 meters above sea level, and they would re-energize the six units at Fukushima within 3 hours. (Mainichi Shimbun; Asahi Shimbun)
  • Asahi Shimbun has posted an article about the stark differences between life inside and outside the “artificially drawn” perimeter of the 20km no-go zone. In some cases, the line runs through communities with one side being a stark no-man’s land, and the other a populated, active community. Rather than go into details, here’s the link… http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111415960 Please keep in mind the reporter suffers the Hiroshima Syndrome and has an unbridled fear of radiation, which will become obvious as you read.
  • Hiroaki Koide, a physicist at Kyoto University, says the plan to remove all spent fuel bundles from units 1 through 4, and remove the melted fuel from units 1 through 3, are literally pipe-dreams. “Nobody knows where exactly the fuel is, or in what condition,” he speculated. “The reactors will have to be entombed in a sarcophagus, with metal plates inserted underneath to keep it watertight. But within 25 to 30 years, when the cement starts decaying, that will have to be entombed in another layer of cement.” (Japan Times) Koide’s statement is certainly something the nuclear-accident-loving Press is always looking for, but his speculation seems based on incorrect information and fraught with naive Chernobyl visions. (Japan Times)
  • Another Radium bottle has been found in a private residence of Tokyo. The homeowner had bought her own monitoring device last month, and reported an unusually high reading to the government on October
    31. A long-time resident, she found the Radium inside a wooden box in a storeroom. She has no idea how it got there or how long it had been in the storeroom. Contact readings on the container were ~250 microsieverts/hr (equivalent to 2.2 sieverts/yr). Exposure level dropped to 6 microsieverts/hr at a distance of 1 meter, which is the more reasonable level of the radiation the woman may have been exposed to when inside the storeroom. The Science Ministry says there have been no health effects to the woman or nearby neighbors as a result of their long-term exposure. (Japan Today)