The Japanese Foreign Ministry has added to the previous official reprimands directed toward western news media sources. Asahi Shimbun reports “The Foreign Ministry on Thursday blasted the foreign media for ‘excessive’ reportage on the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, asking them to be more objective in their coverage.” The Ministry requested that all incorrect and/or exaggerated information be corrected by the media. Asahi correctly points out that much of the more irresponsible reporting is spread quickly between media outlets, and the spread is accelerated by the internet. One specifically ridiculous example was the editorial cartoon in Ohio’s Toledo Blade depicting three mushroom clouds rising above Fukushima 1, 3 & 4. It took a formal complaint from the Japanese Consulate general in Detroit to get The Blade to delete the cartoon from its website, but the damage had been done. Copies of the cartoon have proliferated around the world through the internet. (Yet another use of the Hiroshima Syndrome) One other extreme example noted by the Ministry comes from the Daily Mail in England, which reported the “disaster” at Fukushima has killed 5 people. The Daily Mail called it a misunderstanding, but world-wide dissemination of the Mail’s story occurred minus the mail’s disclaimer. Neither newspaper published any kind of retraction for their readers.

In addition, several cities surrounding Fukushima Prefecture have issued formal warnings to their citizens and foreign visitors. One city, Tsukuba (Ibaraki Prefecture) published on March 28, “There are MANY disconcerting information in regards to Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. City of Tsukuba would like to ask you to stay calm and please do not get swayed by false information.” (grammar, capitals and boldface from actual warning)

I don’t recall any American government taking any kind of strong stand against irresponsible news media reporting during or after Three Mile Island. Fortunately with the Fukushima emergency, the Japanese governments are doing the right thing in trying to bring sanity to news media coverage around the world. All other governments outside of japan that have nuclear facilities should pay close attention.

Now for today’s Fukushima updates –

  • Bad weather made it impossible for TEPCO or MEXT (Ministry of Health) to take samples of the seawater off Fukushima. As soon as the weather clears, the sampling and analyses will resume.
  • IAEA reports MEXT has taken surveys of radiation dose rates in 26 cities covering 9 Prefectures (States), including Fukushima. MEXT reports that typical background dose rates range from 0.05-0.1 microsieverts per hour (0.005 to 0.01 millirem/hr) across Japan. In 19 of the locations, radiation fields were at or below these typical levels. In five cities outside of Fukushima Prefecture, doses range from slightly above 0.1 to 0.21 microsievert/hr (0.01-0.021 mrem/hr). In Fukushima City, the doses vary between 0.42 and 0.5 microsieverts/hr. (0.042 – 0.05 mrem/hr) A problem immediately arises. These numbers make the tacit, albeit strong implication that the dose rates above 0.1 microsieverts/hr are the result of Fukushima’s accidental releases of radioactive material, or (worse yet) the radiation field generated by the damaged reactors. First, Fukushima City is ~60 kilometers from the power plant complex. Radiation fields reduce in intensity rapidly by the naturally-occurring inverse square of the relative distance. It is unthinkable that the dose rates in Fukushima City results from the radiation field nearest the power plant complex, which is ~2.25 microsieverts/hr. In addition, the dose rates in Tsukuba, essentially the same distance from the emergency as Fukushima City, has a dose rate of 0.17 microsieverts/hr, which is a third of the dose rate at Fukushima City, and has been downwind of the emergency location much more than Fukushima City. Second, if these higher doses are the result of the deposition of airborne contamination, then both cities would already have been evacuated! It takes relatively large contamination levels to produce whole body dose rates like these…contaminations many, many times more than the mandatory evacuation limit.So, if it’s not the “radiation glow” or contamination from the Fukushima emergency, what might cause these two relatively high readings? I would suggest MEXT look at the geology in and around both cities, as well as the amount of naturally radioactive building materials existing in both. Background radiation levels can vary greatly between locations due to elevation above sea level, types of bedrock, radon levels, building materials, and etc. I would also ask if natural background dose rates had ever been measured in these cities surrounding the Fukushima emergency before March 11, 2011? If not, then the above dose rate numbers are essentially meaningless with respect to the Fukushima emergency.
  • Workers at the power complex continue to erect barriers between the port/dock area inside the break wall and the sea itself. The seawater intake for Unit #2, the outlet point for the waters leaking through the cracked power cabling pit (which has been stopped), will be barricaded with steel sheeting. While the flow of contaminated leakage has been reduced by about 50%, it has not stopped flowing into #2 inlet. The steel sheeting ought to restrict the leakage even more.
  • Nitrogen gas injection into Unit #1 primary containment continues, along with the search for other possible leakage paths to the sea, and the removal of waters from the turbine basements of Units 1 & 2. There is no information as to when the removal of the waters from Unit 3 & 4 basements will resume.
  • Reactors 1, 2 & 3 temperatures continue to drop. Unit #1 upper vessel (feedwater inlet pipe) temperature rose about 40 degrees C during yesterday’s 7.1 level aftershock, but dropped back to it’s previous level soon after. Reactor pressures have also dropped since yesterday, in expected relation to the temperature drops. IAEA reports that all three reactors must have all temperature read-outs below 95 degree C before they can be declared to be in the optimum safety condition of “cold shutdown”.
  • Although several western news services have reported that the discharge of low contamination waste waters have ended, there is nothing in any of the reports coming out of Japan to support this. In fact, Kyodo News reports the discharge continues. The discharge has been intentionally kept as slow as possible to allow for as much dilution and dispersion in the sea as possible. Regardless, the activity levels of the intentional discharge pale in comparison to the activity levels already the case form the plant’s leaks. This being the case, why not empty the tanks as soon as possible and start transferring the turbine basement waters ASAP? The sooner the basements are drained, the sooner equipment can be restarted to bring the three reactors to cold shutdown and resume normal fuel pool cooling operation for all four fuel pools.
  • Finally, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has upgraded their emergency improvement mandate of March 30. Now, NISA wants at least 2 back-up, mobile diesel generators for each power plant complex. NISA originally mandated one per location. This has been done because the yesterday’s 7.1 aftershock caused the Higashidori nuclear power station to have but one emergency diesel operating until external power was restored. Higashidori does not yet have the first mandated mobile diesel generator, but NISA feels adding one more improves the overall reliability of emergency power supplies.