• Units 2 & 3 RPV temperatures and pressures continue to decrease. The feedwater nozzle temp. on unit 3 is now at 90 o C, which is below the cold shutdown temperature criteria. Bottom of reactor temperatures on all three RPVs is not currently available.
  • TEPCO has reduced it’s estimated fuel damage level for reactor #1 from 70% down to 55%. They say the reduction is due to recalculation.
  • JAIF reports that TEPCO plans on filling the primary containments of units 1, 2 & 3. It seems this is planned to cool the vessels to some degree, but also to provide additional shielding around the fuel cell of the reactor vessels and lower the radiation levels inside the rest of the building. Please be reminded that a foot of water reduces radiation fields by a factor of 10. TEPCO reports there are now 1000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi, and they plan on having about 3,000 at some point in the future. By having three times the current number of workers, the radiation exposures to each individual should be lowered because each person will spend less time in higher radiation areas. Collective doses will not drop, but individual doses will. But no women. Since March 23, when it was discovered a second woman had received exposure in excess of the emergency worker limit, TEPCO has not allowed any women to work at Fukushima Daiichi. No specific reason for banning women from the work effort was given, other than their gender. They really like shooting themselves in the foot, don’t they?
  • TEPCO has committed to building a 12 meter high stone levee around the Daiichi power station in order to protect it from an unlikely, but not impossible future tsunami. The main concern is a report out of Japan that an 8.0 Richter scale earthquake/aftershock is possible, and could spawn another huge tsunami. When construction will happen is not reported.
  • The tunnel accesses for Unit 2 & 3 turbine buildings will have concrete poured into them to prevent possible radioactive leaks to the sea. NHK News says the accesses will be filled, TEPCO says they will be blockaded similar to Unit #4, and JAIF says they will be reinforced to keep cracks from forming.>
  • As soon as debris removal and radiation levels permit, a steel pillar will be erected beneath spent fuel pool #4 in order to reinforce it. While TEPCO has recently reported there has been no compromise of the spent fuel pool’s integrity, the hydrogen explosion may have weakened the steel reinforced concrete supports beneath the pool. The concern seems to be the above-reported 8.0 earthquake possibility.
  • TEPCO reports it is installing an “exhauster” to the interior of the damaged Unit #1 reactor building in order to improve the working conditions. It seems the exhauster is some sort of portable air cleaning technology that will strip the air of radioactive contaminants. Kyodo News reports there will be four units installed to filter the internal air.

It seems that TEPCO raised the water flow into #1 reactor vessel on Wednesday, from 6 tons/hr to 10 tons/hr, in an effort to fill the vessel. They stopped the increased flow this morning (EDT), and resumed the 6 tons/hr flow. As a result, the feedwater inlet temperature dropped to 107 oC, and the bottom head decreased to 98 oC. However, there seems to have been no corresponding drop in pressure inside the vessel. In fact, it went up a few psi., indicating the vessel may be filled. On the other hand, reactor water level monitors have not shown a change. This poses numerous questions concerning the reliability of the instruments measuring the internal reactor vessel parameters, and many of the assumptions made by the Japanese based on the indicated values. What transpires will surely be interesting.

Reactor pressures and temperatures for Units 2 & 3 continue to slowly decrease. Both of their primary containment pressures remain at atmospheric. In addition, all the seawater contamination and on-site airborne activity levels remain essentially the same as two days ago. Some 20,000 tons of water have been pumped from the turbine basements into storage tanks (condensers, mostly), but there remains another ~60,000 tons to move. The remote-operated chore of removing debris from around the four reactor buildings continues, as well. Things have literally leveled off at Fukushima Daiichi, and all day-to-day changes are constructive. But, around the rest of the world…

The Hiroshima Syndrome Effect Gets Ugly

Throughout the early years of anti-nuclear protests in the 1980s, public demonstrations were largely peaceful in the United States. Violence occurred on rare occasion, but only in hotbeds of nuclear anxiety like Germany. Until Fukushima, there had been no nuclear accidents worthy of news media exploitation for some 25 years. During that long period of relative lull, the Hiroshima Syndrome retreated back into the public’s subconscious. I had embraced the hope that two decades of nuclear education in the schools of the world would temper possible over-reaction if another nuclear emergency worthy of news media focus should happen. Unfortunately, nuclear education has had little mitigating impact on the aggressive, insidious conditioning of the Hiroshima Syndrome. Fukushima brought it back to the conscious fore-front of the world’s collective mind with a ferocity I could never have imagined.

The Hiroshima Syndrome claims two human lives, and threatens many more…

  • Asahi Shimbun has reports that a Fukushima cabbage farmer committed suicide on March 24, allegedly due to the government’s banning the consumption of all cabbages and vegetables from Fukushima farms. His wife claims, “I think (he committed suicide) to protest TEPCO. Stop the nuclear power plant as soon as possible.”
  • BBC reports that a proposed six-unit nuclear station at Jaitapur in India has become that country’s focus of fear, and spawned a violent protest which has claimed a life. On Monday, a dissenting activist was killed by police in their attempt to quell a riot that broke out over government plans to build the Jaitapur power complex. Actually, the violence broke out at the police station itself! A rumor spread that the police were part of a government plan to build the plant at all costs! The rioters feared that the fishing industry, their financial lifeblood, would collapse due to radiation from the power complex. The next day, Tuesday, protestors attacked the hospital where the dead activist’s body was being autopsied, out of fears that the results of the autopsy would not be impartial. The hospitals are part of the “secret plan” too?>
  • BBC also reports the Indian government scientifically assigned an earthquake criteria for the new power complex at Jaitapur, in the Maharashtra region, to be zone 3 (moderate risk) and gave the utility the go-ahead on construction. Although the locals say it’s really a zone 4 region (high risk), they argue that no nuclear plant can be built strongly enough for unexpected, worst case seismic activity like Fukushima (zone 5 – severe risk). The government responded that all of Japan is a Zone 5 region, while none of the western coast of India is Zone 5. Jitendra Raul, leader of Tarapur Progress Community said, “Should we wait till the time there is some big incident or some big blast inside the power plant?” The situation then reached the horrifyingly ridiculous level. Praveen Gavhankar, an Indian farmer and fruit shipper, said he and thousands of villagers in western Maharashtra (the Indian state) have pledged to kill themselves because they have become totally frustrated over the government’s determination to allow the building of the power complex at Jaitapur, which they believe to be a high-severity earthquake zone. Mr Gavhankar says, “the people have decided that, rather than letting a Fukushima happen in Jaitapur fifteen years later, it’s better to die today and stop the plant.” (A mass suicide threat? Due to phobic fear of radiation? OMG!)

Japanese Nukes Taken to Court

Over the years preceding Fukushima, residents of communities near several nuclear plants in Japan had filed numerous legal demands. Their primary complaints had been that the plants were neither built to withstand the frequency of earthquakes in Japan, nor an unexpected worst-case temblor. Their first complaint alleges that the number of earthquakes a power plant experiences over its operating lifetime have never been taken into consideration. They theorize that numerous earthquakes, as is typical of Japan, will weaken the plants and make them less safe. After enough quakes have occurred, the plants will inevitably fail and release radiation. Their second complaint was that building the plants to withstand what the scientists believe to be “worst case” quakes fails to consider that temblors of an even greater magnitude are not impossible. All pre-Fukushima lawsuits had been rejected by the Japanese courts. Now that Fukushima has happened, the lawsuits are re-emerging. (all below from Asahi Shimbun)

  • Yoshika Shiratori, who represents a group demanding the shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear power station, says what is happening at Fukushima is exactly what she and the others had feared. “What we dreaded has become reality,” she said, “I often hear the argument that the recent quake was beyond the scope of expectations. But when someone says that, I can feel my chest begin to constrict.” What has been added to their previous concerns is the backup generator issue, citing the diesels that were drowned at Fukushima. Chubu Electric, the owner of the Hamaoka plants, has begun procurement of the mobile diesel generators and pumps recently mandated by NISA. In addition, they have promised to build a 12 meter-high tsunami break-wall to lessen the impact of a tsunami similar to Fukushima Daiichi. Chubu Electric believes that such a break-wall would have prevented the flooding of diesels at Daiichi. Regardless, Shiratori and her group say that it is not possible to foresee what a future earthquake and tsunami might be, so they are asking for a court injunction to suspend operation of Hamaoka station. “If power companies, the state, the courts and the the public do not alter their opinions, it would amount to disrespect for life,” she said. It seems Shiratori and her group disrespect Japan’s critical need for electricity necessary for recovery from the quake/tsunami disaster that has actually happened.
  • The Shika nuclear power station faced a legal attack eerily resembling Fukushima in 2006. The Kanazawa District Court ordered Shika Unit #2 shut down because they concluded design criteria for earthquake resistance was inadequate. The court determined that the reactor would likely lose power, including emergency power, if it was struck by a quake more powerful than the utility was legally prepared to deal with. “There is a real probability that residents will be exposed to radiation in an accident triggered by a seismic movement the power company has not anticipated,” the court said. Hokuriku Electric reinforced the building structures to meet with the new regulations imposed in September, 2006. In 2009, all “fixes” were completed and the Court reversed the initial ruling, dismissing the plaintiff’s filing. Masaaki Iwabuchi, legal representative for the plaintiffs, wants to reopen proceedings, but there is no legal way to reopen, at this point. So he has publicly criticized the courts for aiding and abetting in a national laxity with nuclear safety, “The accident (at Fukushima Daiichi) was not something beyond all expectations,” he said. “The court is partially to blame for giving tacit approval to the operation of nuclear power plants.”
  • In Shimane Prefecture, a lawsuit demanded the suspension of the Shimane nuclear station. Matsue District Court turned down the plaintiffs’ demand in May, 2010. “The scrutiny of active faults and quake resistance of nuclear reactors are conducted based on national earthquake standards that incorporate the findings of the latest research,” the court said. In suits involving nuclear licensing, the Court looks to see if the state has made any unreasonable assumptions in its planning decisions. The opponents appealed the decision. The tsunami at Fukushima struck just a week after the Hiroshima High Court held its first hearing on the appeal. “With the tsunami triggered by the quake, results of studies on which the state based its arguments were shattered,” said Shunichiro Tsumanami, lawyer for the plaintiffs, “The court should make its own judgment on safety, rather than taking what the state and a power company says at face value.” In other words, not even the Japanese Courts can be trusted when it comes to nuclear power plants. Plaintiff Koji Asaishi said the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant ought to force judges to rethink the state court’s opinion on nuclear safety, “The court has not taken (the safety issue) seriously, saying experts appointed by the state approved of safety preparedness,” he said, “Judges must now have realized how slipshod the national safety screenings and scrutiny are.”

When it comes to nuclear power plants, all official organizations, including the courts, that reject the demands of Hiroshima Syndrome-infested opponents, are immediately accused of being inadequate, incompetent or otherwise part of a plot to support nuclear energy at the expense of public safety. It is impossible to alleviate all “concerns” for building and operating nukes, in a public arena where insatiable notions of perfection made by nuclear opponents are given free license. The question ought to be “How safe is safe enough? Do nukes really need to be safer, or are they safe enough already?” Clearly, nothing short of a total nuclear moratorium will be acceptable to the hardened nuclear naysayers. As long as the Hiroshima Syndrome keeps the nuclear safety debate focused on the unrealistic notion of there being no safe level of radiation exposure, the question will not obtain a rational answer.