The Fukushima nuclear meltdown continues unabated — Helen Caldicott, Independent Australia

Helen Caldicott sums up the situation here:

” Recent reporting of a huge radiation measurement at Unit 2 in the Fukushima Daichi reactor complex does not signify that there is a peak in radiation in the reactor building.

All that it indicates is that, for the first time, the Japanese have been able to measure the intense radiation given off by the molten fuel, as each previous attempt has led to failure because the radiation is so intense the robotic parts were functionally destroyed.

The radiation measurement was 530 sieverts, or 53,000 rems (Roentgen Equivalent for Man). The dose at which half an exposed population would die is 250 to 500 rems, so this is a massive measurement. It is quite likely had the robot been able to penetrate deeper into the inner cavern containing the molten corium, the measurement would have been much greater.

These facts illustrate why it will be almost impossible to “decommission” units 1, 2 and 3 as no human could ever be exposed to such extreme radiation. This fact means that Fukushima Daichi will remain a diabolical blot upon Japan and the world for the rest of time, sitting as it does on active earthquake zones.

What the photos taken by the robot did reveal was that some of the structural supports of Unit 2 have been damaged. It is also true that all four buildings were structurally damaged by the original earthquake some five years ago and by the subsequent hydrogen explosions so, should there be an earthquake greater than seven on the Richter scale, it is very possible that one or more of these structures could collapse, leading to a massive release of radiation as the building fell on the molten core beneath. But units 1, 2 and 3 also contain cooling pools with very radioactive fuel rods — numbering 392 in Unit 1, 615 in Unit 2, and 566 in Unit 3; if an earthquake were to breach a pool, the gamma rays would be so intense that the site would have to be permanently evacuated. The fuel from Unit 4 and its cooling pool has been removed.

But there is more to fear.

The reactor complex was built adjacent to a mountain range and millions of gallons of water emanate from the mountains daily beneath the reactor complex, causing some of the earth below the reactor buildings to partially liquefy. As the water flows beneath the damaged reactors, it immerses the three molten cores and becomes extremely radioactive as it continues its journey into the adjacent Pacific Ocean.

Every day since the accident began, 300 to 400 tons of water has poured into the Pacific where numerous isotopes – including cesium 137, 134, strontium 90, tritium, plutonium, americium and up to 100 more – enter the ocean and bio-concentrate by orders of magnitude at each step of the food chain — algae, crustaceans, little fish, big fish then us.

Fish swim thousands of miles and tuna, salmon and other species found on the American west coast now contain some of these radioactive elements, which are tasteless, odourless and invisible. Entering the human body by ingestion they concentrate in various organs, irradiating adjacent cells for many years. The cancer cycle is initiated by a single mutation in a single regulatory gene in a single cell and the incubation time for cancer is any time from 2 to 90 years. And no cancer defines its origin.

We could be catching radioactive fish in Australia or the fish that are imported could contain radioactive isotopes, but unless they are consistently tested we will never know.

As well as the mountain water reaching the Pacific Ocean, since the accident, TEPCO has daily pumped over 300 tons of sea water into the damaged reactors to keep them cool. It becomes intensely radioactive and is pumped out again and stored in over 1,200 huge storage tanks scattered over the Daichi site. These tanks could not withstand a large earthquake and could rupture releasing their contents into the ocean.

But even if that does not happen, TEPCO is rapidly running out of storage space and is trying to convince the local fishermen that it would be okay to empty the tanks into the sea. The Bremsstrahlung radiation like x-rays given off by these tanks is quite high – measuring 10 milirems – presenting a danger to the workers. There are over 4,000 workers on site each day, many recruited by the Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia) and include men who are homeless, drug addicts and those who are mentally unstable.

There’s another problem. Because the molten cores are continuously generating hydrogen, which is explosive, TEPCO has been pumping nitrogen into the reactors to dilute the hydrogen dangers.

Vast areas of Japan are now contaminated, including some areas of Tokyo, which are so radioactive that roadside soil measuring 7,000 becquerels (bc) per kilo would qualify to be buried in a radioactive waste facility in the U.S..

As previously explained, these radioactive elements concentrate in the food chain. The Fukushima Prefecture has always been a food bowl for Japan and, although much of the rice, vegetables and fruit now grown here is radioactive, there is a big push to sell this food both in the Japanese market and overseas. Taiwan has banned the sale of Japanese food, but Australia and the U.S. have not.

Prime Minister Abe recently passed a law that any reporter who told the truth about the situation could be [jail]ed for ten years. In addition, doctors who tell their patients their disease could be radiation related will not be paid, so there is an immense cover-up in Japan as well as the global media.

The Prefectural Oversite Committee for Fukushima Health is only looking at thyroid cancer among the population and by June 2016, 172 people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the accident have developed, or have suspected, thyroid cancer; the normal incidence in this population is 1 to 2 per million.

However, other cancers and leukemia that are caused by radiation are not being routinely documented, nor are congenital malformations, which were, and are, still rife among the exposed Chernobyl population.

Bottom line, these reactors will never be cleaned up nor decommissioned because such a task is not humanly possible. Hence, they will continue to pour water into the Pacific for the rest of time and threaten Japan and the northern hemisphere with massive releases of radiation should there be another large earthquake. ”

by Helen Caldicott

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Fukushima radiation in the Pacific (revisited) — Triple Pundit

by RP Siegel

” My recent post on the spread of radiation stemming from the Fukushima nuclear accident drew quite a few questioning comments. Specifically the article suggested that radiation from the accident was drifting across the Pacific at levels high enough to cause alarm. It turns out such cause for alarm was exaggerated, though there is still reason to be concerned. I appreciate the feedback. I acknowledge that I relied on sources with which I was unfamiliar and posted some information that has been shown to be incorrect. I apologize.

To all who publish online, beware. Bad news travels fast. It gives credence to the old saying, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its pants on.” This is especially true on the Internet. I truly hope no one was harmed by this information. Now begins the task of earning back your trust which, though hard-earned, can be quickly lost.

I think the best way to start is to post a revised story on what is actually happening in the waters around Fukushima, Japan, as well as those farther afield.

Let’s start by addressing the points made in the original story.

For starters the initial source, PeakOil, used a bogus NOAA graphic to sensationalize the story, having carefully scrubbed out the legend showing that the colors actually represented wave heights at the peak of the tsunami, not radiation levels as the site would have you believe. I checked this image out, noticed this and chose not to use it in my post. Still, I continued to take the central thrust of the story as true.

Several people went to the generally reliable Snopes site to question the story and found confirmation of their suspicions. The blatant misuse of the NOAA chart is clearly called and tossed into the trash where it belongs. An interesting thing about the Snopes post, however, is that while the site prominently displays a text clipping stating that, “each day 300 tons of radioactive waste seeps into the ocean,” it never specifically addresses that claim.

I dug further and found that number actually comes from a quote by Yushi Yoneyama, an official with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees energy policy as quoted in Reuters (generally considered unassailable) and elsewhere. In 2013, Yoneyama said, “We think that the volume of water [leaking into the Pacific] is about 300 tonnes a day.” Of course, anyone could be wrong, but who am I to question Reuters or a Japanese government official? I don’t.

That’s not to say Japanese government officials, or officers of TEPCO, can always be counted on to tell the truth, but their interest has generally been to minimize the extent of the damage, not to embellish it.

As for that amount of leakage, that’s equivalent to about 90,000 gallons of radioactive water. That sounds like quite a bit. But compared to the volume of the Pacific Ocean, it’s not a lot at all. Still, when that much leaks out each day, over the course of a year, it adds up to 33 million gallons. And it’s been five years now.

Even today, TEPCO only acknowledges that radioactive water threatens to flood out of the plant and into the ocean. The company denied, until recently, that any water leaked from the plant at all, even when fish contaminated with high levels of radiation were found near the plant by independent researchers from the University of Tokyo, raising major concerns for local fishermen.

The story regarding radiation reaching the Canadian West Coast, which claimed levels of iodine-131 were 300 times background levels, was recently updated with an editor’s statement that the original figures were incorrect.

Reports of a wildlife biologist (Alexandra Morton) pulling hundreds of herring out of the waters off British Columbia with blood coming out of their eyes and gills have not been discredited. However, there is no evidence linking this observation directly to radiation from Fukushima or anywhere else.

The claim that radiation levels found in tuna off the Oregon coast had tripled also appears to be legitimate. However, those levels are still substantially below what would be considered a health threat.

Having sorted through that, I would summarize as follows: Contaminated water continues to enter to ocean from the Fukushima site in significant volume. Traces of radiation have been found in various locations around the Pacific. It also appears that the levels detected at this time do not indicate any immediate threat to humans outside of Japan. That being said, our knowledge of the long-term impacts of these types of radiation on the oceans, and on ourselves, is far from complete.

Upon review, most of the statements in the original piece were in fact true, but I acknowledge the overall sense was that of an exaggerated cause for concern. What this shows is how easily a group of facts taken out of context can become a convincing story — a lesson for all of us. Putting it on the Internet is like putting a match to a dry grassland.

What is far less clear is what the actual levels are and where they can be found. What makes writing about this issue so difficult, and even dangerous, is the combination of two things: It’s a frightening subject, and there is very little solid information being made available.

In my efforts to bring in some more solid facts, I reached out to Greenpeace, which is monitoring the situation carefully. The group sent me some additional information in a press release with links to reports published outside the U.S.

Greenpeace’s famed ship, the Rainbow Warrior, went out to sample the waters around Fukushima in February of this year with former Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Naoto Kan onboard. What they found was that radiation in the seabed off Fukushima “is hundreds of times above pre-2011 levels.” They also found levels in nearby rivers that were “up to 200 times higher than ocean sediment.”

Expressing concern, Ai Kashiwagi, energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan, said: “These river samples were taken in areas where the Abe government is stating it is safe for people to live. But the results show there is no return to normal after this nuclear catastrophe.”

The areas sampled include the Niida River in Minami Soma, where readings measured as high as 29,800 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) for radio-cesium. (For those new to the subject, a becquerel is a derived unit that measures radioactivity.) More samples taken at the estuary of the Abukuma River in Miyagi prefecture, more than 90 kilometers north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, found levels in sediment as high as 6,500 Bq/kg. To put that in perspective, recorded levels in the seabed near the plant before the disaster were 0.65 Bq/kg.

Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan, explained: “The sheer size of the Pacific Ocean combined with powerful complex currents means the largest single release of radioactivity into the marine environment has led to the widespread dispersal of contamination.”

Greenpeace expressed concern that the order scheduled to allow people to return to these areas next March “cannot be permitted to stand.” The group claims that “these ecosystems cannot simply be decontaminated.”

Greenpeace’s report, which came out in July of this year, concludes by saying the impact of the accident will persist for “decades to centuries.”

So, while we have not yet seen the global-scale consequences some predicted, the situation is indeed bad and getting worse. TEPCO continues to build steel tanks at the rate of three per week, to house a great deal of contaminated groundwater while awaiting decontamination. But according to this PBS documentary, the company will run out of room for more tanks sometime next year. The gravity-fed water filtration system has been effective in removing most contaminants, except for tritium. Tritium is a relatively weak radionuclide with a half-life of 12.5 years, which means it will take about 100 years to fully break down.

The molten nuclear cores in reactors still remain in three reactors. And the site will not be fully stabilized until those are removed. But the radioactivity level in those reactors is far too high for people to enter. TEPCO plans to develop robots to go in and retrieve the molten fuel. The company says that retrieval is estimated to begin in 2020.

In closing, while the level of concern suggested in the prior piece was overstated, I maintain that the situation at Fukushima is far from resolved and that it remains a serious concern, particularly in Japan. I further maintain that any plans to continue expanding nuclear power must include an in-depth review of what has happened in Fukushima, with the understanding that this story is far from over. ”

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Typhoon rain raises tainted Fukushima plant groundwater to surface — The Japan Times

” Heavy rain brought by Typhoon Malakas caused contaminated groundwater to rise to ground level at the radiation-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Tuesday night, raising fears of tainted water flooding out to the plant’s port area, its operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said in a press release that plant workers are doing their utmost to pump up tainted groundwater at the Fukushima compound, while trying to measure the level of radioactive substances contained in the water.

Under normal circumstances, groundwater taken from wells around the damaged reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant is filtered and stored in numerous tanks built on the compound.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, groundwater reached the surface level at an observation well near the seawall at the power plant’s port, and at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, groundwater stood at 3 cm above the surface level, Tepco said.

The well has a far higher wall and the ground around it is paved, the company said, playing down the possibility that any water flowed out of the well.

By 9 a.m. Wednesday, the water level had dropped to 3 cm below the surface.

Meanwhile, some rainwater may have flowed directly into the port before seeping underground, according to the company.

Tepco will continue pumping groundwater around the seawall, located near the damaged No. 1 to No. 4 reactors, and carry out close examinations of water inside the port, the company said.

In order to curb the flow of groundwater into the sea, the company has covered the seawall with water shields and carries out groundwater pumping operations.

Typhoon Malakas itself was downgraded to an extratropical depression at around 9 p.m. Tuesday as it moved along the coast of the Tokai region and swayed toward the Pacific. It was initially forecast to hit the Kanto region in the early hours of Wednesday.

The previous typhoon, Lionrock, earlier this month killed at least 17 people. Before Lionrock, two typhoons had claimed at least two lives in the northeast. ”

by Jiji staff report

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Tepco confronts new problem of radioactive water at Fukushima plant — The Asahi Shimbun

” Tokyo Electric Power Co. has unexpectedly been forced to deal with an increasingly large amount radioactive water accumulating at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant after seaside walls to block the flow of groundwater were constructed in October.

TEPCO completed the walls on Oct. 26 to block contaminated groundwater from flowing into sea. The utility began pumping up groundwater from five wells dug between the walls and the plant’s reactor buildings. The plan called for releasing the less contaminated water into the sea after a purification process, but TEPCO discovered that the water had larger amounts of radiation than it had expected.

TEPCO officials said the situation has left the utility with no option but to transfer 200 to 300 tons of groundwater each day into highly contaminated reactor buildings since November, a move that could further contaminate the water.

Comprised of numerous cylindrical steel pipes measuring 30 meters tall, the seaside walls were installed on the coastal side of the No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings to block contaminated groundwater flowing out of the highly contaminated buildings from reaching the ocean.

To control groundwater levels, TEPCO planned to release the less contaminated groundwater from the five wells into sea after a purification process.

However, the water from four of the wells was discovered to have high levels of tritium–a radioactive substance that is hard to remove–at levels higher than 1,500 becquerels per liter, which means the water cannot be released into sea.

To compound the problem, the seaside walls have also significantly raised groundwater levels, forcing the utility to pump a lot more groundwater than it originally planned.

TEPCO has been forced to temporarily transfer large amounts of the groundwater into highly contaminated reactor buildings, where it could become contaminated to an even further degree by being exposed to melted nuclear fuel.

The utility said it suspects the high levels of radiation found in the groundwater from the wells is due to the water being exposed to highly contaminated soil near the plant’s coastal embankment.

To reduce the amount of contaminated water at the plant, TEPCO began operations in September to pump up the groundwater in wells constructed around the reactor buildings to release it into the sea after a purification process.

The company initially announced that the project had reduced the amount of groundwater flowing into the contaminated reactor buildings from 300 tons to 200 tons a day.

The increasing amount of contaminated water has been stored in tanks constructed in the plant’s compound after going through operations to reduce contamination.

TEPCO plans to increase the amount of water it pumps from wells located elsewhere on the plant site to help reduce the amount of contaminated groundwater accumulating in the seaside wells.

Company officials admitted they are not sure when it can turn things around and reduce the amount of contaminated water at the Fukushima plant. ”

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Fishermen OK Tepco plan to dump water from wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into sea — The Japan Times

” FUKUSHIMA – Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture on Tuesday approved a plan by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to take contaminated groundwater that’s continuously flowing into the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and dump it into the ocean after removing most of the radioactive materials from it.

Tepco hopes the measure will curb the amount of toxic water that’s building up at the complex. Local fishermen had long opposed the plan amid concern it would pollute the ocean and contaminate marine life.

“I don’t know if it’s acceptable for all fishery operators, but stable work of decommissioning (of the Fukushima plant) is necessary for the revival of Fukushima’s fishery industry,” Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, told reporters after a board meeting.

He also called on Tepco to ensure it will only discharge water that does not contain radioactive materials exceeding the legally allowed limit.

The amount of toxic water is piling up every day. Tainted groundwater is seeping into the reactor buildings and mixing with radioactive water generated through cooling the reactors, which suffered meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

By pumping up water through drainage wells and dumping it into the ocean after treating it, Tepco said it will be able to halve some 300 tons of contaminated water that’s being generated each day.

In exchange for approving the plan, the Fukushima fisherman’s association on Aug. 11 demanded among other things that the government and Tepco continue paying the fishermen compensation for as long as the nuclear plant damages their business.

On Tuesday, the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations also gave the green light to releasing the treated water into the sea.

Tepco has been struggling to deal with the toxic water that has been building up at the plant since 2011, with radiation leaks into the environment still occurring regularly at the Fukushima complex.

The company is also behind schedule on a project to build a huge underground ice wall, another measure Tepco hopes will prevent radioactive water from increasing further at the site. ”

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**Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning: Follow the money — Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education

Fairewinds Energy Education: ” Are the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi over? The answer is no. In Fairewinds’ latest video, Chief Engineer and nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen updates viewers on what’s going on at the Japanese nuclear meltdown site, Fukushima Daiichi. As the Japanese government and utility owner Tokyo Electric Power Company push for the quick decommissioning and dismantling of this man-made disaster, the press and scientists need to ask, “Why is the Ukrainian government waiting at least 100 years to attempt to decommission Chernobyl, while the Japanese Government and TEPCO claim that Fukushima Daiichi will be decommissioned and dismantled during the next 30 years?”

Like so many big government + big business controversies, the answer has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics and money. To understand Fukushima Daiichi, you need to follow the money. ”

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