Monthly Archives: October 2013

Radioactive fish and the NRDC

The NRDC posted a blog outlying the risk of eating fish caught off the coast of Japan and stated that;

To keep the risk below 1×10-5 the consumer must limit his/her dietary intake to less than 10,000 Bq of cesium-137.  Therefore this risk limit would be reached after eating about 0.7 kg of fish meat. While this is a conservative estimate of what is required to achieve a low risk, one could make a good case for quarantining fishing off the Japanese coast near Fukushima, which of course is what the Japanese government has done.

The risk would increase as more fish is eaten.  The article goes on to say that the risk is much lower than fish caught off the coast of the US, but there are also reports of tuna found off the coast of California having low but detectable levels of  cesium 134.   The article goes on to say that the plume of radioactive material has not yet gotten to the West Coast.  So, there is not a problem now, but it may well be coming.

Finally, the article says that the calculations are confounded by all the other radioactivity from the atomic bomb tests.   The point is often made that the levels are not significant compared to back ground levels.  Since many radioactive nucleotides have long half lives, then the back ground level of radiation may well be rising.  I  have not seen any information about “normal” back ground levels of radiation taken back in 1944, before the “dawning” of the nuclear age.

Marketing the Fukushima brand

There is a recent report that the UN is helping to improve the Fukushima brand.

TOKYO, Oct. 23 (Kyodo) — The Japanese government is hoping that UNESCO’s likely registration of Japanese food as cultural heritage will help ease safety concerns over the country’s foodstuffs resulting from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, its top spokesman said Wednesday.  “We will make efforts to win understanding for various foods, including fish caught by people in Fukushima Prefecture, who have been suffering from baseless rumors” as a result of the nuclear crisis, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

As everyone knows, creating the proper image for your product is so important.    If the brand is suffering, turn the problem over to marketing.   UNESCO is such a well known, trusted brand.  There is no need to be scientific or accurate.

Clean-up at Fukushima more difficult than anticipated

In a recent report in BBC the officials announced that:

On Monday Japan’s environment ministry acknowledged the decontamination of towns around the plant is proving much more complicated than originally thought.  Tens of thousands of workers are engaged in the massive clean-up effort, removing millions of tonnes of topsoil and vegetation. But in the most highly contaminated areas work is yet to begin.  The government’s latest prediction is that residents will be able to return home by 2017.

But the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo says many have already decided they will never go back.

With the passage of time the projects that were initially undertaken are more complex than thought.   There is a lot of talk as to where to put the water, but where are they going to put all of this earth?

Where is the money to clean up Fukushima?

The Washington Post recently reported on the excess of water at Fukushima.   There had been a plan to keep the ground water out of the plant, but:

Tepco also declined a June 2011 request from Mabuchi, the lawmaker and adviser to the prime minister, to build a special wall extending 100 feet underground around the reactor and turbine buildings, sealing them off from the groundwater flow. Tepco initially agreed to the project, Mabuchi said, but backed out because of concerns about the estimated cost of 100 ­billion yen, or $1 billion.    “We are already in a very severe financial situation,” Tepco wrote to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in a letter shared with The Washington Post. “And by taking on an additional 100 billion yen, the market could evaluate that we are one step closer to insolvency. That is something we’d like to avoid.”

The report says that containing the contaminated water is the biggest problem and goes on to say that:

Some activists say Tepco should be allowed to go bankrupt, with the government taking full control of the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning. But bankruptcy would cause “just one more disaster,” this one economic, said Mana Nakazora, a Tokyo-based chief credit analyst at BNP Paribas. Bankruptcy might have been conceivable in the months immediately after the disaster, but Tepco has since been kept afloat with emergency loans from banks and cash injections from the government — debts that, if not paid, would rock Japan’s financial system.

The article puts the cost of clean up to be $100 billion over 40 years.   No one wants to pay for this.   TEPCO cannot, because they do not have the money.   The government does not want to pick up the tab, because the  public will be upset.   It seems that it is now very difficult to say that nuclear energy is affordable.

Strontium readings spike 6,500-fold after typhoon at Fukushima

Strontium readings spike 6,500-fold in one day: Water radiation soars at Fukushima No. 1 — The Japan Times.

Immediately after the typhoon the reports said that there was no damage.   Now,, radioactive strontium is being found in the ditches near leaky tanks.  The article says heavy rains from the typhoon washed water into the ditch.   This was  not the classic wind related damage, but rather the storm water raising the  water levels in an area already saturated, from the ground flow and the  water being  added to keep the reactor cool, with its core sinking into the earth.

VSNAP takes a nap

Earlier this week the VSNAP (Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Board) met to discuss the future of Vermont Yankee.     Dr. Bill Irwin displayed a stunning attention to detail, and spent the begging of the meeting correcting the previous minutes, offering grammatical and punctuation corrections to the minutes, while never discussing the substance of the minutes.    Then one panel member gave a long talk about the treachery of Entergy; they would make good eye contact and shake hands, but never put anything into writing.  Finally, they debated whether to send a message to the Public Safety Committee, supporting SAFSTOR as part of the decommissioning rather than DECON.   According to the NRC, it is up to to owner to decide which method to use.  In SAFSTOR there is timely progression to storage of the nuclear rods in concrete caskets; in DECON the nuclear rods may be left in wet storage for 50 years before they progress further.  After a lengthy discussion, the motion did not carry.   There was a concern that any resolution with teeth would be offensive to Entergy.

I had an opportunity to ask questions.   Vermont Yankee is a LLC, limited liability corporation.   VY has about $500 million for decommissioning.  If the decommissioning comes in under budget, there is no problem.  However, if there are cost overruns  , can VY declare bankruptcy and leave the state.   The answer is yes, they can leave, and there is no law to stop them.

A bad day at the office, Fukushima

The Guardian reported on morale of the workers  at Fukushima.   The article is worth reading in full, but I will offer a brief quote:

Shigemura is most concerned about the 70% of Tepco workers at Fukushima Daiichi who were also forced to evacuate their homes by the meltdown. They have yet to come to terms with that loss and many live away from their families in makeshift accommodation near the plant.

“They were traumatised by the tsunami and the reactor explosions and had no idea how much they had been irradiated,” Shigemura said. “That was the acute effect but now they are suffering from the chronic effects, such as depression, loss of motivation and issues with alcohol.”

The more experienced workers have reached their limit of radiation exposure, and may not work.  New workers come.   Everyone is in protective gear, which minimizes human contact.  No family contact at the end of the day.  The crisis has been going on for years.     Mistakes are being made and make the news.   What a terrible place to work.    The workers must be torn between the responsibility of trying to save the world and the realization of how overwhelming the task is.