• TEPCO has announced they suspect groundwater is leaking into the reactor and turbine basements, contrary to the fears voiced by many critics. The reason behind the notion is water levels in the buildings are not changing. With a water clean-up rate of more than 1,300 tons per day, and a total water injection into the three RPVs of ~400 tons per day, the water levels in the basements should be continuing to drop. However, quantities in the basements have been steady for more than a week. TEPCO says they are planning to seal up the walls and piping penetrations to stop the influx, but have not decided on how it will be done.

  • The Tokyo government reports they will soon be lifting the evacuation restrictions on 5 municipalities between 20 and 30km from Fukushima Daiichi. All five are outside the evacuation corridor stretching northwest of the plant.  5 towns outside no-go
    Mainichi Shimbun reports Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura saying, “We believe requirements have been met to lift the designation of the emergency evacuation preparation zones.” Each municipality has submitted a plan for decontamination, which is the main requirement for Tokyo to lift the bans. Some 58,000 residents remain in the municipalities and 25,000 have actually left the area. Those who remain will assist in the clean-up. After decontamination is completed, those who left will be asked to return home. The plans do not include decontamination of the forested areas, which comprise about 70% of the land area.
  • Chairman of Japan’s primary nuclear watchdog group, NISA’s Hiroyuki Fukano, says TEPCO’s submittal of mostly blacked-out (redacted) nuclear emergency plans is unacceptable. The documents include a procedural manual for responding to nuclear accidents. Mainichi Shimbun quotes Fukano, “NISA has still not received the manual (in full).” He added, “It is our job to investigate problems….and the operation manual serves as a base for such investigations.” He further stated, “Why don’t they release all the information? There are problems with TEPCO’s attitude toward providing information.”We have all the respect in the world for the plant operators and emergency staff laboring to mitigate the emergency at Fukushima Daiichi. However, the disgraceful informational situation with TEPCO’s home office besmirches the efforts of the workers at Fukushima. Not that NISA’s history of transparency is exemplary. It isn’t. But, it seems the new P.M.’s staff is trying to fix the mess left by former PM Kan. When will TEPCO get the message? Will they ever get the message??
  • TEPCO has said the time-table for achieving “cold shutdown” conditions inside RPVs 1, 2 &3 has been moved up. Because of numerous cooling system and water decontamination successes, they feel confident that cold shutdowns will be achieved by the end of this year. The previous estimate was for January, 2012.In response to this announcement, a few Japanese news sources have posted articles critical of TEPCO’s statement in order to keep stirring the public pot of anxiety. A Mainichi Shimbun editorial says the declaration is hollow because the government has not sufficiently defined what the term “cold shutdown” means. The Mainichi maintains the historical definition is for “unbroken” reactors, but the “broken” Fukushima reactors need their own, special definition. The Mainichi article is fraught with technical errors and negative spins. For example, concerning the water decontamination and cooling systems at Fukushima, “Currently, water contaminated with radioactive materials is purified and reused to cool down reactor cores as a last-ditch measure.” Last-ditch measure? Nothing could be further from the truth. During the routine operation of boiling water reactors, radioactive waters from the system are constantly being decontaminated and re-used. It’s the standard recycling operation for the waters used in the plant. The current set-up at Fukushima is based on usual and customary system processing. Calling this parallel process a “last-ditch measure” is misleading, at best.In another so-called “balancing” report, NHK World interviewed Masanori Naitoh, director in charge of nuclear safety analysis at the Institute of Applied Energy. He said the new time-table has problems because the temperatures being monitored are on the surface of RPV’s. Ha feels the determining location for temperatures should be from inside the vessels. Naitoh adds that the possibility of a recurrence of fissioning must be zero before cold shutdown can be attained. He asserts that while the chance of melted fuel re-fissioning is unlikely, it is not zero. Both of Naitoh’s points are surprisingly naive, especially for someone in his prominent position. First, temperature instruments are not on the surface of the reactor vessels. They are imbedded deeply into the thick steel walls. Second, the possibility of melted-core (corium) re-fissioning is already zero, not merely unlikely. In this case, Naitoh is basing a judgment on a rhetorical fallacy. Regardless, what he wants would stretch the cold-shutdown time-table by many years before anyone could measure internal temperatures, and delay re-populating the surrounding communities for an unreasonable, ludicrously long period.
  • A massive Typhoon is slowly making its way up the southeast coast of Japan, and will be impacting Tokyo today. More than a million citizens have been ordered to evacuate the coastal regions. It’s a bad one. While all news reports mention that the typhoon will probably strike Fukushima Daiichi, the remarks are at the end of nearly all posted articles because it’s a non-issue. Loose equipment has been strapped down and openings in the buildings are being covered with tarps to keep the rainwater out. Technically, a typhoon alert has been issued for Fukushima (by law), but it is not a lead story.except for Japan Times, which headlines, “Workers Race to Protect Nuclear Plant from Typhoon”. The Times says the plant operators are “racing against time to ready the crippled plant against a powerful typhoon heading straight for it.” We dislike the term “scare-mongering”, but in this case it seems appropriate.
  • Nearly all Japanese news media outlets have reported on the largest anti-nuclear demonstration in the history of Japan, which took place in Tokyo on Monday. After several months of planning, a consortium of Japanese anti-nuke groups staged a rally. Most organizers were surprised at the sheer numbers in attendance, as were some in the crowd. Japan Times interviewed Kayo Nimura, a Tokyo resident, who said she had attended an antinuclear demonstration before but was shocked by Monday’s massive turnout, admitting she had never really had an interest in nuclear issues until March 11.The numbers attending vary with the source. Japan Times says the rally organizers estimate the crowd at 60,000. Most other news sources post the same organizer’s estimate, but add police estimates of the crowd at more like 20,000. Regardless, it was a large turn-out.