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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Kansai Electric begins fuel loading for nuclear restart — Kyodo News

” Kansai Electric Power Co. said Friday that it has started loading nuclear fuel into a reactor on the Sea of Japan following a court decision to lift an injunction against the move, paving the way for its restart in late January as the country’s third reactor to operate.

After the restart earlier this year of two reactors in southwestern Japan, while others remain offline in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the No. 3 reactor at the utility’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture would be the first to run on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX fuel, if it begins operations as scheduled.

The utility is scheduled to insert a total of 157 fuel rod assemblies by next Tuesday, including 24 of MOX fuel, according to Kansai Electric.

The reactor along with the No. 4 at the same plant was allowed to resume operation by the Fukui District Court on Thursday.

The power company envisions reactivating the No. 3 unit sometime between January 28 and 30 and having it start power generation and transmission around Feb. 1, followed by the restart of the No. 4 unit in late February.

“We will put top priority on the safety of the work” for the restart, Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said at a press conference Friday.

Japan returned to nuclear power generation when Kyushu Electric Power Co. brought the two reactors at its Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture back online in August and October respectively.

The government is seeking to make up at least 20 percent of the country’s electricity using nuclear power plants by 2030.

The restart of Takahama’s two reactors will be “a step forward” toward the goal, Motoo Hayashi, the industry minister who is in charge of the energy policy, said at a separate press conference the same day.

Prior to the court decision, both reactors gained approval for resumption in February from the state’s Nuclear Regulation Authority under new safety regulations introduced after the nuclear meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The injunction issued by the court in April, however, banned the utility from restarting the units until it was lifted Thursday.

The Fukui governor on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for the company to restart the two units following approval by the local prefectural assembly and the mayor of Takahama.

The court’s Presiding Judge Jun Hayashi said in Thursday’s decision that he recognizes the rationality of the post-Fukushima safety regulations set by the nuclear regulator.

Hideaki Higuchi, presiding judge when the same court issued the injunction in April, said then the court could not see any credible evidence in the utility’s assumptions regarding earthquake risk and restarting the two reactors posed “imminent danger” to residents around the plant, about 380 kilometers west of Tokyo.

==Kyodo ”

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**Declassified U.S. government report prepared a week after Fukushima accident: “100 percent of the total spent fuel was released to the atmosphere from Unit 4” — GlobalResearch; RT

GlobalResearch:

” We reported in 2011 that the International Atomic Energy Agency knew within weeks that Fukushima had melted down … but failed and refused to tell the public.

The same year, we reported in 2011 that the U.S. knew within days of the Fukushima accident that Fukushima had melted down … but failed to tell the public.

We noted in 2012:

The fuel pools and rods at Fukushima appear to have “boiled”, caught fire and/or exploded soon after the earthquake knocked out power systems. See this, this, this, this and this.

Now, a declassified report written by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on March 18, 2011 – one week after the tidal wave hit Fukushima – states:

The source term provided to NARAC was: (1) 25% of the total fuel in unit 2 released to the atmosphere, (2) 50% of the total spent fuel from unit 3 was released to the atmosphere, and (3) 100% of the total spent fuel was released to the atmosphere from unit 4.

FukushimaNARAC is the the U.S. National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center, located at the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. NARAC “provides tools and services that map the probable spread of hazardous material accidentally or intentionally released into the atmosphere“.

The fuel pools at Units 3 and 4 contained enormous amounts of radiation.

For example, there was “more cesium in that [Unit 4] fuel pool than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground.”

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RT:

” Fukushima nuclear power plant is still experiencing major contamination issues nearly five years after the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent meltdown.

A new declassified report from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, written on March 18, 2011 just days after the disaster, sheds light on just how bad it was.

We now know that “100% of the total spent fuel was released to the atmosphere from unit 4.”

According to nuclear expert and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen in an interview with WBAI in New York, unit four contained more cesium “than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground”.

Cesium has been linked to thyroid cancer, which is on the increase in the Fukushima area since the tsunami, according to the US National Library of Medicine.

The chemical is highly soluble in water and can find its way into foodstuffs that have been prepared in contaminated areas.

Another report this week revealed there are more than nine million bags of nuclear material piling up in Japan, according to the Fukushima Prefecture and the Environment Ministry.

Anti-nuclear activist Dr Helen Caldicott said during the crisis that if unit four collapsed, she was going to move her family from Boston to the southern hemisphere.

The declassified report from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the 2011 thyroid dose estimates ‘downstream’ from Japan in the US were within guidelines “except for Alaska”.

Engineers at Fukushima are still dealing with fallout from four years ago. Last week, the radioactivity at Reactor 1 was measured at 482,000 becquerels per liter of radioactive cesium, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said.

This is 4,000 times higher than last year and the company believes the contaminated water stored at a nearby building may have leaked into the duct, according to The Asahi Shimbun.

Increases in other areas have not been registered, the company said.

400 to 500 tons of radioactive seawater that washed ashore in the 2011 tsunami is pooled in the tunnels, which lie next to a temporary storage facility for radioactive water being used to cool nuclear fuel inside the damaged reactors.

TEPCO said they plan to investigate the spike in radiation. ”

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The nuclear disaster at Fukushima didn’t have to happen — The Washington Post

” After a devastating tsunami left 18,000 people dead in 2011, Japan was about to face a potentially more significant disaster as several reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant started to melt down. More than 300,000 people were evacuated.

Since then, the Japanese government has tried to defend the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operated the plant, and offer reassurances that the country’s nuclear reactors are secure. A study released Monday in the science journal Philosophical Transactions reaches a different conclusion, however: “The Fukushima accident was preventable, if international best practices and standards had been followed, if there had been international reviews, and had common sense prevailed in the interpretation of preexisting geological and hydrodynamic findings.”

The study’s authors paint a bleak picture of TEPCO’s failures before the disaster, as well as the company’s handling of the crisis. Using documents provided by the U.S. National Research Council, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Japan’s bicameral legislature and TEPCO itself, they conclude: “Had the TEPCO modellers had any experience with tsunamis, they would have had immediately recognized that their ‘high’ resolution predictions were underestimating the hazard.”

Researchers Costas Synolakis and Utku Kanoglu allege that the accident revealed striking inaccuracies in TEPCO’s internal risk analysis, as well as a “cascade of engineering and regulatory failures.”

“The entire experience with TEPCO’s pre-event internal studies not to mention the entire methodology that has been used in Japan to assess tsunami hazards points to the perils of insularity,” the study’s authors wrote.

According to Synolakis and Kanoglu, TEPCO researchers had long known that earthquakes could threaten power plants in the region. Despite that, necessary safety measures were not implemented.

The researchers also question the designs of some Japanese nuclear power plants, which could leave certain structures more vulnerable than others. “Interestingly, while the Onagawa [nuclear power plant] was also hit by a tsunami of approximately the same height as Dai-ichi, it survived the event ‘remarkably undamaged.’” The differences in vulnerability could partially be due to methodological mistakes “which almost nobody experienced in tsunami engineering would have made,” according to Synolakis and Kanoglu, who warn that similar flaws could lead to more accidents in the future.

“When it comes to studying hazards or designing structures whose catastrophic failure will transcend national boundaries, even countries with sophisticated technologies need to take note of Godel’s incompleteness theorem,” they wrote, referring to a mathematical concept most commonly interpreted as signifying the limits of provability.

Regulatory measures could have prevented the 2011 accident, but the researchers found “substantial inadequacies” there, as well.

The allegations are among the most extensive — but they are far from being the first. The Japanese government under the leadership of Shinzo Abe has refuted allegations of structural failures in the past and said that its response to the disaster had been adequate. Shortly afterward, the government decided to restart many of the country’s nuclear power plants, despite protests and safety concerns.

Meanwhile in Fukushima, the nuclear power plant is far from being secured: Hundreds of fuel rods stored nearby have not been removed. ”

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*Lowball nuclear pitch is fooling no one — The Japan Times

” Earlier this month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced the results of a review of energy production costs, which concluded that nuclear will remain the cheapest alternative for Japan over the next 15 years while pointing out that the calculations took into consideration the government’s new safety measures. By 2030, the cost of producing a kilowatt hour of electricity in a nuclear plant is expected to increase from ¥8.9 to ¥10.1. This estimate also incorporates the presumed savings resulting from those new safety measures, which, METI assumes, will reduce the “frequency” of reactor accidents.

In comparison, energy derived from coal will cost ¥12.9 per kilowatt hour and from LNG ¥13.4, though these figures are based on price increases predicted in 2011. More significantly, the cost of solar will rise from ¥12.4 to ¥16, and wind from ¥13.9 to ¥33.1. Geothermal comes in at ¥19.2. METI said these high costs will “affect development” of renewables, implying that there isn’t much of a future for them.

A few days later, Shukan Asahi ran an article assessing these calculations, pointing out that the figure of ¥10.1 per kW/hour for nuclear is, in the ministry’s statement, followed by the word ijō, meaning “at least,” while figures for other energy sources are not. The Asahi suggests that METI is trying to assure deniability because it’s almost certain that nuclear-related costs will increase in the future. According to Kenichi Oshima, professor of environmental economics at Ritsumeikan University, the ¥9.1 trillion needed to clean up the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and pay compensation to locals affected by the accident was not factored into the estimate; nor was the cost of decommissioning not only Fukushima No. 1 but other reactors scheduled to go out of service in the next 15 years, and Tokyo Electric Power Co. hasn’t even set a budget for decommissioning Fukushima, a separate procedure from the cleanup. To put matters into perspective, the estimated amount of radioactive material at Fukushima that needs to be processed is equivalent to the amount of radioactive material that would need to be processed from the normal decommissioning of 54 nuclear reactors.

Decommissioning involves removing the spent fuel from the reactor and then disassembling the containment vessel and tearing down the facility. Tepco maintains it has expertise in this area, based on its decommissioning of a test reactor in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture. The group that carried out that work says 99 percent of the radiation in the plant was in the fuel rods, so that was the only waste that required special handling.

But Japan still lacks facilities for storing high-level radioactive waste. At present, spent fuel rods are kept on-site at the nuclear plants from which they’re removed, whether these plants are in operation or not, and high-level waste stays radioactive for hundreds of years. Even low-level irradiated waste, such as the discarded containment vessel, has to be isolated for 30 to 50 years. Tokaimura’s decommissioning was supposed to be completed by 2017, but there is still no solution to the waste problem, so the timetable has been extended to 2025.

But this “easy” scenario for decommissioning doesn’t apply to Fukushima, because Tepco doesn’t know exactly how much high-level radioactive material has to be removed — or even where it is. NHK World elicited a frank evaluation of the situation from Naohiro Masuda, the man in charge of decommissioning Fukushima No. 1, on “Newsline,” its English-language news program. Masuda doesn’t believe decommissioning can start before 2020, and betrays doubt as to whether a proper cleanup of the plant “is even possible.”

The public broadcaster went further last week with a documentary in its series “Decommissioning Fukushima,” a process that, under the most favorable circumstances, won’t be completed until 2051.

There are few examples to follow for the people trying to clean up the crippled reactors. It took workers at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear plant three years to find the radioactive debris after the 1979 meltdown, and another 11 years to remove it, and that was only one reactor. Fukushima has three damaged reactors, within which the radiation is lethal, so Tepco and its affiliates designed a ¥1.5 billion robot to enter the reactor and look around. It got stuck mid-inspection.

NHK shows how Tepco has sought advice from experts in France and South Korea to facilitate the cleanup, and while these consultations yield useful ideas, as the program points out, all accidents are unique, which means cleaning up after them is invariably complicated.

Meanwhile, expenses are accumulating at a rate that makes them difficult to project, but according to a different Shukan Asahi article, Japan’s nuclear industry has set the cost of decommissioning at between ¥55 billion and ¥70 billion per reactor. Germany and the U.K., which have each decommissioned a number of reactors, spent the equivalent of between ¥250 billion and ¥300 billion.

The online magazine Business Journal recently explained the matter in bookkeeping terms. Kansai Electric and other power companies plan to decommission at least five superannuated reactors rather than apply for extensions because their respective output isn’t enough to pay for the government’s new safety measures, which cost about ¥10 billion per reactor. The problem is that once a reactor is shut down permanently, in addition to the cost of decommissioning, the company’s revenue for that plant drops to zero, thus hurting its bottom line even more and making it difficult to borrow money or issue bonds. Consequently, METI is thinking of changing the accounting system so that companies can spread this loss over 10 years, during which they can add a surcharge to every customer’s bill for decommissioning.

Obviously, when METI says nuclear is the cheapest form of energy, they’re not thinking about the user. ”

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Mission impossible: An industrial cleanup without precedent — The Economist

In the article below, The Economist tries to put a price tag on the long-term decommissioning efforts at Fukushima Daiichi. Tokyo Electric faces a number of daunting problems, including the removal of molten fuel from the reactor containment vessels and cores, the storage of 370,000+ tons of contaminated water in storage tanks – TEPCO’s long-term disposal solution is to dump it into the Pacific, – and the prevention (through various measures, all of which have thus failed) of 300 tons of groundwater from becoming contaminated and flowing into the Pacific, a daily occurrence since March 2011. TEPCO is also trying to “clean up” a portion of Fukushima’s countryside in the Japanese government’s effort to move nuclear refugees back to their hometowns. With a decontamination goal of lowering annual radiation exposure to 1 millisievert, Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former vice-chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, admits that this is unrealistic, and I may add from my knowledge of the radiation cleanup, impossible. Parts of Fukushima are going to remain uninhabitable for decades if not centuries. Scraping off a few inches of topsoil from contaminated areas may reduce radiation levels on that day or that week, but experience has shown that those levels rise again. It’s about time the Japanese government starts looking for a new permanent residence for the nuclear refugees rather than threatening to take away their compensation in exchange for the ability to move back to their “decontaminated” hometowns.

The Economist: ” TEPCO says decommissioning Dai-ichi’s four damaged reactors will cost ¥980 billion, but that does not include the clean-up, fuel storage or compensation. On a broader reckoning, the Japan Centre for Economic Research, a private research institute, puts the bill over the next decade at ¥5.7 trillion-¥20 trillion, but that still excludes compensation to the fisheries and farming industries. A still broader calculation by the same institute puts the entire cost of the disaster at ¥40 trillion-¥50 trillion. Thanks to government bail-outs, the company that so mismanaged Fukushima Dai-ichi carries on. It even says it will make a profit this year. ”

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