• Asahi Shimbun reports yet another example of TEPCO withholding critical information very early in the Fukushima emergency scenario. A report from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) says that by 10pm on March 11, some six hours after the tsunami wiped out all electrical power, operators at unit #1 had readings of an unusually high radiation level inside their reactor building. The rad level indicated fuel damage and hydrogen production was happening inside the RPV. At 11 pm, high radiation levels were also detected inside unit #1 turbine building, indicating the earlier reactor building high rad level was correct. At midnight, TEPCO informed NISA they had “possible” high radiation levels throughout unit #1, but it seems there was no mention of hydrogen production. The first mention of an actual high radiation condition and hydrogen production came at 5:14am on March 12. The more than 7 hour delay in transmitting this essential information seems inexcusable, but a statement by a TEPCO official sheds a different light on the issue. Junichi Matsumoto of TEPCO says the existing regulations allowed for the delay, thus TEPCO wasn’t trying to cover anything up. The regulations allegedly do not require immediate reporting of all occurrances of high radiation at the power plant.If TEPCO’s assessment of the existing regulations is correct, we literally have a case of double indemnity. If the regulations do not require immediate reporting of unusually high radiation levels during an emergency (in this case a complete loss of power), then the regulations are seriously flawed. Second, TEPCO not informing NISA of the severe internal radiological condition simply because they weren’t required to do it, is a prime example of poor decision making. In both cases, it seems the TEPCO home office is the culprit.
  • The newly appointed government Minister in charge of nuclear emergencies, Goshi Hosono, reports he wants to have some evacuees return home once he feels the situation at the power complex is sufficiently under control. He believes that the current trends at Fukushima Daiichi indicated that some residents will be able to return to their homes by mid-July. It is assumed those returning home will be from areas which were not downwind of the power plants when airborne radioactivity was being released, south and southwest of the release points.
  • The on-again, off-again waste water decontamination system was stopped Monday after running for about 90 minutes. A rather serious leak appeared at a weak piping connection which was not checked before starting full system operation. In fact, TEPCO now says none to the new system’s 4 kilometers of piping has been checked for nearly two weeks!This is a unique system, created specifically for Fukushima recovery. Everything needs to be checked, re-checked, and then checked again before going into full operation. Two-week-old leak checks are not good enough in a first-time system that has been running in “test” mode for the intervening period. It seems TEPCO is cutting corners to speed up the process, and is actually making achievement of full operation take much too long.

    It should be noted the leaking pipe connection was repaired and the system returned to operation on Tuesday afternoon.

  • Now, another Mayor of the town next to the Genkai Nuclear Power Station says the recently refueled reactors should be restarted. Genkai Town’s Mayor Hidio Kishimoto said last weekend’s nationally televised meeting with NISA officials helped convince him, along with a face-to-face meeting with Industry Minister Banri Kaieda. The mayor has one caveat… he wants a “state guarantee” from the government in Tokyo that the reactors are safe. Whether or not such a guarantee from Prime Minister Kan’s crumbling regime will happen is speculative. Regardless, in Saga Prefecture local official approval is desired before a nuclear plant can be restarted, so Kishimoto’s statement is important in getting the two ready-to-go Genkai units on line and lessen the nation-wide power shortage.
  • This week’s share-owner meeting for TEPCO was interesting, to say the least. Somewhere between 8,500 and 9,500 attended (depending on which news source you want to believe). Most of each news report focuses on the media circus created by people protesting TEPCO’s investment in nuclear energy and/or demanding abandoning nuclear energy altogether. One share-owner said the executives at TEPCO should perform ritual disemboweling (not a typo). Yet another said TEPCO administrators should all jump into their melted reactors and die. Greenpeace was also present in full force, clothed in full anti-contamination suits with masks. Near the end of each article, we find the results of a vote on a proposition for TEPCO to shut down all nuclear plants and abandon the idea altogether. Although the exact vote count was not mentioned in any article, the anti-nuclear proposition was soundly defeated. Most TEPCO share-owners are clearly in favor of not shutting down TEPCO’s nukes. Thus, we see the minority group making “newsworthy” noise gets the headlines, and the mandate of the relatively silent majority occupies the end of each report.Today, we find that three other power company share-owner’s groups used the same tactics as the TEPCO stockholders at their meetings on Tuesday. In each case, a severe minority of share-owners submitted a formal proposal to phase out all nuclear plants within the next decade. At their individual stockholder meetings, similar media-attractive protest strategies to TEPCO’s were used, and similar verbal demands were made. In each case, the proposals were either formally voted down or rejected by verbal vote. Three more utility share-owner meetings will occur by the end of the week, and all three have recently-submitted minority “no-nukes” proposals on the table.

    If this all sounds like a well-orchestrated scheme to make Japanese anti-nuclearism seem to be as popular as that in Germany and Italy, you’re probably right. It is not a new tactic, though. Similar attempts to get share-owner approval for no-nuke-proposals occurred in America after Three Mile Island, and all met the same fate. New decade…same old stuff.

  • Fukushima Prefecture has begun monitoring their citizens for internal and external radioactive material. They are using three detectors including (1) Whole Body Counters (WBC) for internal radioactivity, (2) “body surface monitors” for external contamination, and (3) “thyroid radiation detectors”. The WBC scans make sense, without question. However, it it safe to assume all residents have showered or bathed many times over the past 90 days since April 1, effectively removing all external contamination. Plus, there is no detectable Iodine-131 at this point since it has died off radioactively, so the thyroid radiation check is of little value.So, are these two scans worthless? No! If nothing else, they will verify what scientists have been telling the public for weeks. The contamination washes off, and the Iodine has decayed below detectable levels. The public may question TEPCO and the national government concerning the radiation releases from Fukushima, but will they question those closest to home?
  • One of the largest cranes in Japan has arrived at Fukushima Daiichi to begin preparations for erecting the huge plastic cover for unit #1 reactor building. The cover is being fabricated elsewhere to be disassembled and re-fabricated at the power plant. The crane will eventually be used for the re-fabrication, but will first be used to remove all debris from the top of the building, and the heavy material surrounding the structure.