A recent post gives an excellent discussion of what is planned at Fukushima. It is worth reading in full. There are many fuel rods in reactor 4 that must be moved out of their current storage, 7 stories off of the ground. The government has authorized TEPCO to go ahead with the plans. The problem is that the fuel rods have been damaged and are less likely to be moved without complication. If one of the fuel rods breaks or is dropped, it could trigger a thermal event that releases radiation from the plant. The cesium 137 storied is about 85 times the amount released in Chernobyl. The author asks whether the world should allow TEPCO to be in charge of the procedure, given their previous poor performance.
And according to former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura (quoted here):
The meltdown and unprecedented release of radiation that would ensue is the worst case scenario that then-Prime Minister Kan and other former officials have discussed in the past months. He [Kan] warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that such an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty.
Many people believe that the problem of Fukushima is in the past. Others say that the problem is ongoing and that the future problems may be greater than the past problems.
A recent post in the Wall Street Journal reports that Prime Minister Abe:
said he told Tepco president Naomi Hirose to decommission the remaining two reactors as well. “I have asked (Tepco) to decommission the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors so that they can focus on work to contain the situation,” Mr. Abe told reporters who were also in the tour.
The report went on to say that:
Mr. Hirose also told Mr. Abe that Tepco would set aside an additional Y1 trillion ($10.12 billion) for Daiichi cleanup over the next 10 years, without specifying the source of the funds, the Tepco spokesman said. The money-strapped Tepco has already set aside Y960 billion for Fukushima Daiichi-related cleanup as of the end of June. Where the additional money will come from isn’t clear: Tepco has been on the brink of bankruptcy since the Fukushima accident due to huge bills for compensation paid to victims, as well as extra fossil fuel needed to make up for the loss of its nuclear-power generation. The government “is not going to give out any more money,” trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi, told reporters later on Thursday. The Tepco spokesman said the company may have to cut maintenance work on its thermal power plants and grid network to gin up the Y1 trillion. Mr. Abe also asked Mr. Hirose on Thursday to set a deadline for decontaminating the 350,000 metric tons of radioactive water stored in tanks at the site; Mr. Hirose answered that he will try to remove all the radioactive materials except tritium from the water by March 2015. There was no talk of the cost for that either, according to the spokesman.
The politicians and the corporate heads are saying that this problem can be solved with money, but they have not yet established a source for the money. Tepco is hear bankruptcy. The government does not want to ask the taxpayers for help, at the same time they, the government, are promoting nuclear power. It will be interesting to follow the story for the next several years to see whether their attempts are successful.
In a recent post the Wall Street Journal reported:
When Tokyo finally said last month it would deal with the festering Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the world might have cheered. It didn’t. Instead, the government’s belated call to arms showed how dangerously haphazard the response to history’s second-biggest nuclear-plant disaster has been. We now watch as tons of contaminated water spill daily into the sea off Fukushima. It’s a new phase of the crisis. It’s a danger to Japan. And, fairly or not, it’s a challenge to the nuclear industry‘s credibility.
I think that it is remarkable that the Wall Street Journal, so often the champion of capitalism, is questioning the integrity of an industry. Nuclear reactors are an industry that even the capitalists are having trouble supporting.
Harvey shared a link with me: http://www.radtest4u.com/.
The company offers free testing of home and car air filters to see how much radiation is present in the air during the time that the filter is used.. There will be testing for different nucleotides. There is a 7 day response time offered. The results will not be in real time, but close.
I would encourage people to check the site, mail in the filters, and see what the results are. They offer to post results, but I would like to publish results from people in the vicinity of Vernon. Share this with your friends.
CNN reported that (h/t brother Tim)
Tokyo (CNN) — Radiation readings near tanks holding toxic water at Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant have jumped to a new high, the plant operator said Wednesday.
Tokyo Electric Power Company, which has been struggling to deal with a series of leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said it detected a radiation level of 2,200 millisieverts near the tanks on Tuesday. That’s up from a previous high of 1,800 millisieverts on Saturday.
Those levels, detected around the same tank, are strong enough to kill an unprotected person within hours. But TEPCO said the type of radiation is easy to shield against.
The water leaking from the tank has lethal levels of radioactivity. This is one tank out of about a thousand that are storing the radioactive waste water. These tanks are bolted together with the life expectancy of about 5 years. With time one would expect more leaks as the tanks integrity deteriorates.
In a report by Reuters:
The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said on Friday it found elevated readings of tritium in groundwater near tanks that are holding hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water at the site. Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said tritium levels in water taken from a well close to a number of storage tanks holding irradiated water rose to 97,000 becquerels per litre on Wednesday from 64,000 becquerels/litre measured at the same location a day earlier.
As a reminder, the first report above reports total irradiation; the second report identifies how much can be attributed to water and does not identify any of the many other nucleotides such as carbon, cesium, strontium, etc.
Unit 4 at Fukushima still has nuclear fuel stored high above the ground in wet storage. TEPCO plans to remove this fuel to a safer location. A recent report outlines some of the problems and specifically talks about the workers:
Human error poses a considerable risk factor for accidents involving fuel transfers. Procedural problems such as inadequate procedures to cover the tasks, inapplicable procedures or ignoring procedures can all create a situation for something to go wrong. Inadequate training or experience is considered a risk factor in the studies we reviewed. TEPCO’s reliance on an expendable and frequently untrained workforce could create a problem in this situation. Workers with extensive experience at the plant and with fuel handling would be best suited to do this work. Unfortunately, many of those workers are reaching their exposure maximums and can no longer work at the plant. Communication issues can cause increased safety risks. Remotely done work, working in full radiation suits and relying on headsets for communication have all been cited as potential problems. Remote work is never 100% clear.
The article identifies other problems. The fuel rods have had mechanical injury from flying debris and chemical injury from the corrosive effects of the salt water that has been used to keep the reactor cool. Fuel removal under these circumstances has never been tried before. If any mistakes are made, there is the potential that the fuel rods can become “critical” and release radiation.
In the New York TImes there is a report that:
The biggest public criticism has involved the government’s decision to leave the cleanup in the hands of Tepco, which has seemed incapable of getting the plant fully under control. Each step Tepco has taken seems only to produce new problems. The recent leaking tank was one of hundreds that have been hastily built to hold the 430,000 tons of contaminated water at the plant, and the amount of that water increases at a rate of 400 tons per day. On Wednesday, nuclear regulators said radiation levels at other spots near the tanks had risen, suggesting the possibility of other, still undetected, leaks. Critics complain that the government-run committee that has overseen Tepco’s cleanup is loaded with nuclear industry insiders and overseen by the trade minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, whose ministry is in charge of promoting nuclear power. They say Japan may be able to come up with better, more sustainable plans if it opens the process to outsiders like Japanese nonnuclear companies and foreigners.
There has been some discussion of who might help. Some people think that the Russians should be consulted, because of their work at Chernobyl. Others think that the US has the expertise and remarkably cite Hanford, one of the big disasters that is currently threatening the water along the Snake River.
Japan is now making a bid for the 2020 Olympics, and wants to impress the International Olympic Committee that the problems are under control.
Meanwhile, a report in Reuters (h/t my brother Tim) that the radiation levels near one of the hundreds of tanks
showed radiation as high as 2,200 millisieverts (mSv), the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Wednesday. The previous high in areas holding the tanks was the 1,800 mSv recorded on Saturday. Both levels would be enough to kill an unprotected person within hours. The NRA has said the recently discovered hotspots are highly concentrated and easily shielded.
These are the tanks that were bolted together and expected to last five years.