Nuclear Watch: Seeking source of tainted water — NHK World

As 400 tons of contaminated water flows from the Fukushima No.1 reactors into the Pacific Ocean daily, several engineers and researchers from Hitachi GE, Kyushu Institute of Technology and Tokyo University are teaming up to find the source of contaminated water leaks in the containment vessel. With a budget of $3 million, they are sending in a remote-controlled robotic boat equipped with a camera to survey the interiors. The area is so contaminated that engineers are permitted to remain there for only 15 minutes. The robot shows radiation readings of 2000 mSv/hr, or enough radiation to kill a person in 2 hours.

Watch NHK World’s coverage in this video.

Filling in the gaps on Fukushima radiation and its effects on fish — Dr. David Suzuki via EcoWatch

” An Internet search turns up an astounding number of pages about radiation from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown that followed an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. But it’s difficult to find credible information.

One reason is that government monitoring of radiation and its effects on fish stocks appears to be limited. According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “No U.S. government or international agency is monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast of North America and around the Hawaiian Islands.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s most recent food testing, which includes seafood, appears to be from June 2012. Its website states, “FDA has no evidence that radionuclides from the Fukushima incident are present in the U.S. food supply at levels that would pose a public health concern. This is true for both FDA-regulated food products imported from Japan and U.S. domestic food products, including seafood caught off the coast of the United States.”

The non-profit Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation has been monitoring Pacific troll-caught albacore tuna off the B.C. coast. Its 2013 sampling found “no residues detected at the lowest detection limits achievable.” The B.C. Centre for Disease Control website assures us we have little cause for concern about radiation from Japan in our food and environment. Websites for Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency yield scant information.

But the disaster isn’t over. Despite the Japanese government’s claim that everything is under control, concerns have been raised about the delicate process of removing more than 1,500 nuclear fuel rod sets, each containing 60 to 80 fuel rods with a total of about 400 tonnes of uranium, from Reactor 4 to a safer location, which is expected to take a year. Some, including me, have speculated another major earthquake could spark a new disaster. And Reactors 1, 2 and 3 still have tonnes of molten radioactive fuel that must be cooled with a constant flow of water.

A radioactive plume is expected to reach the West Coast sometime this year, but experts say it will be diluted by currents off Japan’s east coast and, according to the Live Science website, “the majority of the cesium-137 will remain in the North Pacific gyre—a region of ocean that circulates slowly clockwise and has trapped debris in its center to form the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’—and continue to be diluted for approximately a decade following the initial Fukushima release in 2011.”

With the lack of data from government, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is asking the public for help. In January, Ken Buesseler, senior scientist and director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity at the U.S.-based non-profit, launched a fundraising campaign and citizen science website to collect and analyze seawater along North America’s West Coast.

“Whether you agree with predictions that levels of radiation along the Pacific Coast of North America will be too low to be of human health concern or to impact fisheries and marine life, we can all agree that radiation should be monitored, and we are asking for your help to make that happen,” Buesseler said in a news release.

Participants can help fund and propose new sites for seawater sampling, and collect seawater to ship to the lab for analysis. The David Suzuki Foundation is the point group for two sampling sites, on Haida Gwaii and at Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Data will be published at How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?, and will include an evolving map showing cesium concentrations with links to information about radioactivity in the ocean and what the levels mean.

The oceans contain naturally occurring radioactive isotopes and radiation from 1960s nuclear testing. Buesseler doesn’t think levels in the ocean or seafood will become dangerously high because of the Fukushima disaster, but he stresses the importance of monitoring.                                                 

The Fukushima disaster was a wake-up call for the potential dangers of nuclear power plants, especially in unstable areas. North Americans may have little cause for concern for now, but without good scientific information to determine whether or not it is affecting our food and environment we can’t know for sure. The Woods Hole initiative is a good start. ”


Tepco to create frozen walls to stop water leaks — NHK World

” Tokyo Electric Power Company is to begin work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to stop radioactive wastewater from flowing into the sea.

The task of creating underground frozen walls is due to start at the Number 2 and Number 3 reactors on Wednesday.

Massive amounts of water are being poured into the reactors to prevent melted nuclear fuel from overheating.

Some of the water is contaminated with radioactive substances, and is leaking from the damaged reactor containment vessels.

The water has accumulated in the reactor buildings, adjacent turbine buildings and underground tunnels. TEPCO believes the water is leaking from the tunnels, seeping into the ground and reaching the sea.

Engineers will begin their work by digging vertical holes where the tunnels meet the turbine buildings. Pipes will be installed in the holes to inject liquid coolant to create frozen walls to block the water.

But cables and other objects in the tunnels could hamper the work. Engineers cannot go there because of the radioactive water, so they have to rely on images sent from remote-controlled cameras.

TEPCO hopes to finish installing the pipes by late March and to start removing 11,000 tons of wastewater from the tunnels in May, after the frozen walls are completed.

TEPCO is also digging wells in the compound to see whether water is leaking directly from the buildings. ”


Sailors report illness after Fukushima mission — is it radiation-related? — Al Jazeera America

” The tsunami that hit the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011 caused the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. In the days following the tsunami, reactors within the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant exploded and leaked radiation into the environment. The United States announced a relief effort led by the Navy – Operation Tomodachi – in which 70,000 Department of Defense-affiliated personnel contributed to providing humanitarian aid to those affected.

Now, three years later, some Navy personnel say they’re experiencing mysterious symptoms, including hemorrhaging and cancer. In some cases, their doctors can’t provide diagnoses and therefore cannot determine if the illnesses are radiation-related. Convinced their illnesses were caused by radiation exposure, 71 of these sailors are banding together in a lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company – or TEPCO – which operates the Fukushima power plant.

The U.S. government released a statement denying that radiation has caused these illnesses:

“After extensive environmental monitoring and analysis, it has been determined that none of the nearly 70,000 members of the [Department of Defense]-affiliated population … are known to have been exposed to radiation at levels associated with adverse medical conditions.”

Two sailors who are a part of the lawsuit shared their stories with Al Jazeera. ”

Read the stories of Former U.S. Navy Officer Michael Sebourn and Former U.S. Navy Officer Steven Simmons

Japan to freeze the ground at Fukushima to prevent contaminated water leakage — Voice of Russia

” In order to stop contaminated groundwater from leaking at the Fukushima nuclear power station, the Japanese are planning to use artificial permafrost there. They’re going to drill 30-metre-deep pipes with liquid nitrogen. The construction of the huge underground fridge will start soon and is scheduled to end next year.

The situation with the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors still remains very serious. Three years have passed since the time when an earthquake and tsunami caused a disaster at the power plant, but a great deal of experts still describes the situation as a crisis which might transform into a catastrophe if continuous leaks of radioactive water are not stopped.

At the moment, the radiation level at the power station and in its neighborhood breaks all the records. In fact it’s so high that can kill a person over a period of a few hours.

The amount of radioactive substances in water samples collected on January 17 from a well, situated on the territory of the second unit of the Fukushima power plant, exceeded 24 million Bq per liter with the standard of 150 million Bq per liter. In order to put an end to the leaks at the wrecked power station, Japanese want to freeze earth around all four damaged reactor buildings.

The ice wall will run circa 1.5 kilometers. Vertical pipes with coolant will be drilled into the radioactive ground. This technology is rather costly and hasn’t been used on such a large scale ever, Oleg Dvoynikov, the editor-in-chief of Pro atom magazine, told the Voice of Russia.

“As far as the cooling of earth is concerned, surely, it’s possible to do it from a technical point of view. But they will need a nitrogen unit, practically, a plant working non-stop. It’s bad the Japanese won’t let any foreign experts visit the station. And there were offers of help, not only from Russia but from many other countries too,” he says.

Technically, freezing the soil is quite possible. However, for this, a nitrogen device is needed – and this device, in fact, is a large plant that should work non-stop.

For some reason, the Japanese do not let any foreign specialists help them in liquidating the consequences of the Fukushima accident, although many countries, including Russia, have already offered their help.

“Even if the soil around the nuclear power plant is totally frozen, this won’t fully eliminate the danger,” Oleg Dvoynikov says. “I believe that the liquidation of the Fukushima accident’s consequences might have been much better organized if the works were managed not by the company that operates the Fukushima plant but by the Japanese government. This would have made the works much more effective – and much cheaper.”

“The Japanese are behaving rather strangely,” Mr. Dvoynikov continues. “First, for some reason, they do not hurry to clean up the consequences of the catastrophe until the situation becomes very critical for the entire humankind. Then, they start to do something, but, again for some unknown reason, they invent very complicated decisions, although they might have invented foreign specialists who would have helped them to build waste treatment facilities a long time ago. This would have been much cheaper and much more effective.”

Meanwhile, experts all over the world are very much concerned about the fact that the well from where the water samples were taken is situated only in 40 miles from the seashore, which makes it very likely that the radioactive water may get into the ocean. It has been already found out that more than one half of all the fishes that have been caught in the sea near Fukushima contained radioactive metals in their bodies. Moreover, radioactive substances have been discovered in the organisms of fishes and whales 1,000 kms away from Fukushima.

Scientist Igor Ostretsov, who managed the liquidation of the consequences of the explosion at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986, says:

“It shouldn’t be forgotten that radioactive emissions at the Fukushima power plant are still taking place all the time since the beginning of the catastrophe. The reactors are cooling, the plant’s workers don’t know what they should do with the water that cools the reactors, and simply pour it into the sea. This may lead to nothing than elimination of fish resources, however toughly controlled the process may be.”

The Japanese authorities are pretending that they are keeping everything under control. Moreover, they are saying that the Fukushima problems will create no obstacles for holding the Olympic Games which are planned to take place in Tokyo in 2020. However, experts are saying that it will take not lesser than 40 years to fully eliminate the consequences of the Fukushima accident and to dismantle the power plant’s reactors. Only God knows what else may happen within these 40 years. It looks like anyway, Japan won’t be able to do without the help of foreign specialists in solving the Fukushima problem. “


Barakan says broadcasters told him to avoid nuclear issues till after poll — The Japan Times

” Freelance TV and radio commentator Peter Barakan said he was pressured by two broadcast stations to steer clear of nuclear power issues on his programs until after the Tokyo gubernatorial election on Feb. 9, causing concern among some about possible media censorship.

Barakan, who hosts the three-hour radio show “Barakan Morning” every Monday through Thursday on InterFM, a private radio station, mentioned the “requests” on his live show Monday but didn’t identify the stations. Nor did he say when or why the requests were made.

“I have been told by two stations (other than InterFM) not to touch on the nuclear issue until the gubernatorial election is over, even though the campaign has not officially kicked off,” he said during the show.

In no time, listeners were posting comments, particularly on Twitter, expressing their shock and outrage at the possible restraint on freedom of speech. Contacted by The Japan Times on Wednesday, Barakan said he was taken aback by the uproar but preferred not to go into detail about the matter. In addition to “Barakan Morning,” he hosts several other news and music shows on radio and TV, including for NHK.

“What happened was, I made a very casual comment on my program, and I didn’t anticipate how overheated Twitter was going to get,” he said. “It took me a little by surprise. It’s gone a little bit too far.

“I probably made the wrong comment,” he added. “But somebody needs to bring these issues into the media. I probably should’ve done it in a different way.”

The direction of the nation’s nuclear policy came to the forefront of public debate again earlier this month when former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, an opponent of nuclear power, announced his intention to seek the governorship. Backed by popular ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, another outspoken critic of nuclear power, a Hosokawa victory could deal a severe blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to promote nuclear power overseas and restart the nation’s reactors, some of which are now undergoing safety checks made mandatory after the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Hosokawa has expressed his resolve to phase out atomic power if elected. While Tokyo hosts no nuclear plants, its governor has great influence over governors of other prefectures hosting them.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is also one of the largest shareholders of the struggling Tepco. ”