Monthly Archives: November 2013

Typhoons wash the mountains of Fukushima

A recent report states that:

Last year, the radioactive content of Japan’s rivers dropped because of fairly moderate typhoons. But more frequent and fierce storms this year have brought a new flood of cesium particles.   This is, said Evrard, “proof that the source of the radioactivity has not diminished upstream”…There is a definite dispersal towards the ocean,” LSCE researcher Olivier Evrard said. The typhoons “strongly contribute” to soil dispersal, though it can be months later, after the winter snow melts, that contamination passes into rivers.  Local populations who escaped the initial fallout in November 2011 could now find their food or water contaminated by the cesium particles as they penetrate agricultural land and coastal plains, said researchers.

The land has been contaminated, and heavy rains wash the particles into the sea.  Along the way, there is contamination of the rivers.   Floods will leave nucleotides on flood planes and farm land.  The dispersion continues.

TEPCO President: think better

A report in the Guardian quoted the current president,  Naomi Hirose, of TEPCO as saying:

After I became president [in 2012], we formed a nuclear safety review committee. We concluded that we should have avoided that catastrophic accident, and we could have. We could see what we should have done.” Preventative measures included fitting waterproof seals on all the doors in the reactor building, or placing an electricity-generating turbine on the facility’s roof, where the water might not have reached it. In addition, wrong assumptions were made, he said.   “I don’t know if I could have seen or thought this before the accident … Probably I assumed that people had discussed counter-measures to avoid a huge tsunami by something very special like a complete shutdown.”  It transpired that the huge cost and technical complexity of a multiple shutdown, in what was considered the unlikely event of an abnormally large tsunami, had led managers to discount such a scenario as implausible and inefficient, he said.

“What happened at Fukushima was, yes, a warning to the world,” he said. The resulting lesson was clear: “Try to examine all the possibilities, no matter how small they are, and don’t think any single counter-measure is foolproof. Think about all different kinds of small counter-measures, not just one big solution. There’s not one single answer.

“We made a lot of excuses to ourselves … Looking back, seals on the doors, one little thing, could have saved everything.”

Tepco was willing to share its experience with British and other nuclear plant operators if they wished, Hirose said. “We can share all the information, all the data we obtained, that we learned from this accident, and then hope that people will use the data and information to prevent the same thing happening.”

This is a common position with complex technologies.  In aviation  problems are often attributable to “pilot error,”  and the planes keep flying.   When there are flaws in the airplanes, all the planes of that type are grounded until the problem is fixed.  Hirose says this in the context of what problems should be addressed in the construction of future nuclear reactors.  If the current reactors are flawed, they should be fixed or shut down.   It took two and one-half years after the event in Fukushima before some door seals at Vermont Yankee were finally corrected.

Former TEPCO head gets new job

A recent post in BBC states that:

The former president of Tokyo Electric Power, Masataka Shimizu, is due to start a new role with Fuji Oil Company ..Mr Shimizu’s new employer says the firm is keen “to use his profound experience in the energy sector”, but did not comment further on his role or his salary…  Last year, there were calls for Mr Shimizu and other Tepco executives to be charged with a criminal offence.

 The myth is that  corporations are thought to run as a meritocracy, where the successful were promoted, and the unsuccessful were left behind.  Now, being in charge of something spectacularly unsuccessful, the disaster at Fukushima, seems to be no impediment to landing good jobs.  Where is the merit in this?    No, this is crony capitalism, when friends are rewarded for being friends.

Prime Minister Abe wants to keep secrets

A recent report in Reuter’s states that:

(Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.  The new law would dramatically expand the definition of official secrets and journalists convicted under it could be jailed for up to five years.

Critics see parallels between the new law and Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted, post-war constitution to stress citizen’s duties over civil rights, part of a conservative agenda that includes a stronger military and recasting Japan’s wartime history with a less apologetic tone.  “There is a demand by the established political forces for greater control over the people,” said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University. “This fits with the notion that the state should have broad authority to act in secret.” Abe says the new law, a draft of which was approved by his cabinet on Friday and should be passed by parliament in the current session, is vital to his plan to set up a U.S.-style National Security Council to oversee security policies and coordinate among ministries.

If they are making plans to penalize truth telling, there must be secrets that need to be kept.   This is not consistent with democracy, in which transparency is fundamental to having an educated citizens.   Mussolini stated that fascism exists when the state and the corporations become inseparable.   Does this sound familiar?    How reliable will reports about Fukushima be, when whistle blowers can be threatened with jail?

Radiation on the west coast

I recently found a web site that is giving data about radionucleotides in the food (t/h to Hattie).   It shows that radionucleotides such as cesium are beginning to show up in eel weed  on the West Coast.

Washington State Pacific coast eel weed
Detector not specified – October 2013 – Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Cesium 134: 8.14 Bq/Kg
Cesium 137: 8.88 Bq/Kg
Cobalt 60: 3.7 Bq/Kg
Seaweed from Maine was tested at the same time and was below the level of certainty for detection with their equipment. They also tested seaweed purchased in Chiba Japan, results available in the link above.

     As would be predicted, radionucleotides that mimic potassium are being concentrated in plant material.    To find measurable levels in Washington State argues against the statements of  the experts that the ocean is so vast that all will be diluted to unmeasurable levels.

Health of former Fukushima residents

A  recent post in Russian Times reported that:

Many of the people who were forced to evacuate after the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant may never return, Japanese lawmakers admitted, overturning initial optimistic government pledges…Some 160,000 people escaped the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami transformed the plant into the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. About a third of them are still living in temporary housing. They were promised that this would not last for longer than 3 years…   In August the death toll among the evacuees surpassed the threshold of 1,599 lives, which is how many people in the prefecture were killed by the disaster itself. The displaced residents are suffering from health problems, alcoholism and high rates of suicide.    The Ministry of Environment wanted to decontaminate 11 townships in the affected area, bringing the average annual radiation dose to 20 millisieverts, a level deemed safe by the International Centre for Radiological Protection. It further pledged to pursue a long-term goal reducing it to 1 millisievert per year.

This post addresses the problems of the former citizens of Fukushima.   They have been displaced from their homes, their friends, and their community.   They have been promised that they may return, but the place remains toxic.   There are significant health costs attributable to this disaster, even if they are not directly related to radiation.  It is known that poverty is associated with increased health risks.  If daily life becomes burdensome, health consequences follow.   These deaths, related to despair and alienation,  are attributable to the disaster.

Lapses at Vermont Yankee 11/12/13

In a recent report in the Rutland Hearld Susan Smallher reports that Vermont Yankee had failed to correct a problem last spring.

For the third time in 18 months, inspectors have uncovered missing flood seals at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, a problem which could compromise the plant’s ability to operate electrical safety systems.  Inspecting for flood seals has been a Nuclear Regulatory Commission priority since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, when flood water from a tsunami inundated several nuclear plants similar in design to Vermont Yankee.  The most recent problem was discovered Wednesday during an annual inspection of the manholes at the Vernon plant, according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.   In last Wednesday’s instance, Entergy Nuclear failed to correct missing and faulty flood seals that were discovered last spring in underground pipes, Sheehan said.  He said Entergy Nuclear had hired a contractor to replace the missing seals, but the contractor had failed to do the job. He said Entergy was held accountable for the work of the contractor.

A significant problem was identified, and work was ordered, no one at the plant checked to see whether the work was done.  Thank goodness there was not a significant flood on the nuclear reactor, sitting on the flood plane.