Seismologist testifies Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable — The Mainichi

” TOKYO — A seismologist has testified during the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant, that the nuclear crisis could have been prevented if proper countermeasures had been taken.

“If proper steps had been taken based on a long-term (tsunami) evaluation, the nuclear accident wouldn’t have occurred,” Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told the Tokyo District Court on May 9.

Shimazaki, who played a leading role in working out the national government’s long-term evaluation, appeared at the 11th hearing of the three former TEPCO executives as a witness.

Prosecutors had initially not indicted the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel consisting of members of the public deemed twice that the three deserve prosecution, court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors indicted the three under the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.

Court-appointed attorneys insist that former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto, 67, and others postponed implementing tsunami countermeasures based on the long-term evaluation, leading to the disaster.

The government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released its long-term evaluation in 2002 predicting that a massive tsunami could occur along the Japan Trench including the area off Fukushima.

In 2008, TEPCO estimated that a tsunami up to 15.7 meters high could hit the Fukushima No. 1 power station, but failed to reflect the prediction in its tsunami countermeasures at the power station.

The Cabinet Office’s Central Disaster Prevention Council also did not adopt the long-term evaluation in working out its disaster prevention plan.

Shimazaki, who was a member of the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion’s earthquake research panel in 2002, told the court that the Cabinet Office pressured the panel shortly before the announcement of the long-term evaluation to state that the assessment is unreliable. The headquarters ended up reporting in the long-term evaluation’s introduction that there were problems with the assessment’s reliability and accuracy.

In his testimony, Shimazaki pointed out that the Central Disaster Prevention Council decision not to adopt the long-term evaluation led to inappropriate tsunami countermeasures.

With regard to factors behind the council’s refusal to accept the evaluation, Shimazaki stated that he can only think of consideration shown to those involved in the nuclear power industry and politics.

“If countermeasures had been in place based on the long-term evaluation, many lives would’ve been saved,” Shimazaki told the court.

Shimazaki served as deputy chairman of the government’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

(Japanese original by Epo Ishiyama, City News Department, and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department) “

published in The Mainichi

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Move over Chernobyl, Fukushima is now officially the worst nuclear power disaster in history — CounterPunch

” The radiation dispersed into the environment by the three reactor meltdowns at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan has exceeded that of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, so we may stop calling it the “second worst” nuclear power disaster in history. Total atmospheric releases from Fukushima are estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl, according to the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Professor Komei Hosokawa, who wrote the report’s Fukushima section, told London’s Channel 4 News then, “Almost every day new things happen, and there is no sign that they will control the situation in the next few months or years.”

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated that about 900 peta-becquerels have spewed from Fukushima, and the updated 2016 TORCH Report estimates that Chernobyl dispersed 110 peta-becquerels. (A Becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second. The “peta-becquerel” is a quadrillion, or a thousand trillion Becquerels.)

Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 in Ukraine suffered several explosions, blew apart and burned for 40 days, sending clouds of radioactive materials high into the atmosphere, and spreading fallout across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere — depositing cesium-137 in Minnesota’s milk.

The likelihood of similar or worse reactor disasters was estimated by James Asselstine of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who testified to Congress in 1986: “We can expect to see a core meltdown accident within the next 20 years, and it … could result in off-site releases of radiation … as large as or larger than the releases … at Chernobyl. Fukushima-Daiichi came 25 years later.

Contamination of soil, vegetation and water is so widespread in Japan that evacuating all the at-risk populations could collapse the economy, much as Chernobyl did to the former Soviet Union. For this reason, the Japanese government standard for decontaminating soil there is far less stringent than the standard used in Ukraine after Chernobyl.

Fukushima’s Cesium-137 Release Tops Chernobyl’s

The Korea Atomic Energy Research (KAER) Institute outside of Seoul reported in July 2014 that Fukushima-Daiichi’s three reactor meltdowns may have emitted two to four times as much cesium-137 as the reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl.

To determine its estimate of the cesium-137 that was released into the environment from Fukushima, the Cesium-137 release fraction (4% to the atmosphere, 16% to the ocean) was multiplied by the cesium-137 inventory in the uranium fuel inside the three melted reactors (760 to 820 quadrillion Becquerel, or Bq), with these results:

Ocean release of cesium-137 from Fukushima (the worst ever recorded): 121.6 to 131.2 quadrillion Becquerel (16% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq). Atmospheric release of Cesium-137 from Fukushima: 30.4 to 32.8 quadrillion Becquerel (4% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq).

Total release of Cesium-137 to the environment from Fukushima: 152 to 164 quadrillion Becquerel. Total release of Cesium-137 into the environment from Chernobyl: between 70 and 110 quadrillion Bq.

The Fukushima-Daiichi reactors’ estimated inventory of 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq (petabecquerels) of Cesium-137 used by the KAER Institute is significantly lower than the US Department of Energy’s estimate of 1,300 quadrillion Bq. It is possible the Korean institute’s estimates of radioactive releases are low.

In Chernobyl, 30 years after its explosions and fire, what the Wall St. Journal last year called “the $2.45 billion shelter implementation plan” was finally completed in November 2016. A huge metal cover was moved into place over the wreckage of the reactor and its crumbling, hastily erected cement tomb. The giant new cover is 350 feet high, and engineers say it should last 100 years — far short of the 250,000-year radiation hazard underneath.

The first cover was going to work for a century too, but by 1996 was riddled with cracks and in danger of collapsing. Designers went to work then engineering a cover-for-the-cover, and after 20 years of work, the smoking radioactive waste monstrosity of Chernobyl has a new “tin chapeau.” But with extreme weather, tornadoes, earth tremors, corrosion and radiation-induced embrittlement it could need replacing about 2,500 times. ”

by John LaForge, CounterPunch

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Didn’t Tepco betray Fukushima residents by not saying ‘meltdown’? — The Yomiuri Shimbun

” Was Tokyo Electric Power Co. (now Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.) putting top priority on ensuring the safety of residents around its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant when the accident occurred? The findings of a recent probe have raised doubts even about this.

A third-party panel of lawyers set up by TEPCO released a report on why it took as long as two months after the crisis for the utility to acknowledge that the reactors had melted down.

On March 14, 2011, three days after the accident occurred following the massive earthquake and tsunami, then TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu instructed a then executive vice president during a press conference “not to use” the word “meltdown,” according to the report. The message was delivered via a public relations staffer, citing instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office, the report said.

Subsequently, TEPCO used the description “core damage” in connection with the accident. “The nuclear power plant and the head office shared a recognition that they should refrain from using ‘meltdown,’” the report pointed out.

Then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano have completely denied issuing such instructions on their own.

At the time of the accident, many politicians, bureaucrats and others concerned were working at the Prime Minister’s Office. The third-party probe failed to identify who gave the instructions to Shimizu.

This shows the limitations that the third-party panel faced as it probed the accident based only on interviews it conducted with TEPCO officials. Furthermore, Shimizu’s memories of those days were vague.

However, the probe revealed that TEPCO was paying too much attention to the Prime Minister’s Office’s intentions in responding to the accident.

Operator holds responsibility

When a nuclear power plant is hit by a serious accident, residents living around the facility face severe consequences. It is the primary responsibility of the plant operator to respond appropriately.

In such a situation, the highest priority should be placed on the safety of local residents. The operator must accurately provide local governments and residents with precise and necessary information regarding the situation the power plant is facing.

TEPCO chose to use “core damage,” an expression that made the status of the accident unclear, instead of “meltdown,” even though “meltdown” would have clearly shown the severity of the developments the Fukushima plant was dealing with. The operator cannot avoid criticism for having betrayed local residents with this decision. This kind of stance taken by the utility has caused increasing distrust of nuclear power plants.

At the time of the accident, TEPCO had internal manuals that described what constituted a meltdown. The operator must seriously reflect on why it failed to follow these guidelines.

When it came to public relations announcements at the time of the accident, the investigation committees set up by the government and the Diet both pointed out that the Prime Minister’s Office had some involvement.

An official at the then Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry was replaced after referring to a “meltdown” during a press conference. TEPCO was told by the Prime Minister’s Office to brief it in advance of any announcements made at press conferences, according to the latest report.

The Niigata prefectural government, whose administrative area is home to TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, has called for uncovering the whole process of how information was manipulated, saying this is a prerequisite for reactivating reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. The government cannot help but cooperate with the probe. ”

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Near miss at Fukushima is a warning for U.S., panel says — Richard Stone, Science

” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary called it “the devil’s scenario.” Two weeks after the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing three nuclear reactors to melt down and release radioactive plumes, officials were bracing for even worse. They feared that spent fuel stored in the reactor halls would catch fire and send radioactive smoke across a much wider swath of eastern Japan, including Tokyo.

Thanks to a lucky break detailed in a report released today by the U.S. National Academies, Japan dodged that bullet. The near calamity “should serve as a wake-up call for the industry,” says Joseph Shepherd, a mechanical engineer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena who chaired the academy committee that produced the report. Spent fuel accumulating at U.S. nuclear reactor plants is also vulnerable, the report warns. A major spent fuel fire at a U.S. nuclear plant “could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident,” says Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., who was not on the panel.

After spent fuel is removed from a reactor core, the fission products continue to decay radioactively, generating heat. Many nuclear plants, like Fukushima, store the fuel onsite at the bottom of deep pools for at least 5 years while it slowly cools. It is seriously vulnerable there, as the Fukushima accident demonstrated, and so the academy panel recommends that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and nuclear plant operators beef up systems for monitoring the pools and topping up water levels in case a facility is damaged. It also calls for more robust security measures after a disaster. “Disruptions create opportunities for malevolent acts,” Shepherd says.

At Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami cut power to pumps that circulated coolant through the reactor cores and cooled water in the spent fuel pools. The pump failure led to the core meltdowns. In the pools, found in all six of Fukushima’s reactor halls, radioactive decay gradually heated the water. Of preeminent concern were the pools in reactor Units 1 through 4: Those buildings had sustained heavy damage on 11 March and in subsequent days, when explosions occurred in Units 1, 3, and 4.

The “devil’s scenario” nearly played out in Unit 4, where the reactor was shut down for maintenance. The entire reactor core—all 548 assemblies—was in the spent fuel pool, and was hotter than fuel in the other pools. When an explosion blew off Unit 4’s roof on 15 March, plant operators assumed the cause was hydrogen—and they feared it had come from fuel in the pool that had been exposed to air. They could not confirm that, because the blast had destroyed instrumentation for monitoring the pool. (Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant operator, later suggested that the hydrogen that had exploded had come not from exposed spent fuel but from the melted reactor core in the adjacent Unit 3.) But the possibility that the fuel had been exposed was plausible and alarming enough for then-NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko on 16 March to urge more extensive evacuations than the Japanese government had advised—beyond a 20-kilometer radius from the plant.

Later that day, however, concerns abated after a helicopter overflight captured video of sunlight glinting off water in the spent fuel pool. In fact, the crisis was worsening: The pool’s water was boiling away because of the hot fuel. As the level fell perilously close to the top of the fuel assemblies, something “fortuitous” happened, Shepherd says. As part of routine maintenance, workers had flooded Unit 4’s reactor well, where the core normally sits. Separating the well and the spent fuel pool is a gate through which fuel assemblies are transferred. The gate allowed water from the reactor well to leak into the spent fuel pool, partially refilling it. Without that leakage, the academy panel’s own modeling predicted that the tops of the fuel assemblies would have been exposed by early April; as the water continued to evaporate, the odds of the assemblies’ zirconium cladding catching fire would have skyrocketed. Only good fortune and makeshift measures to pump or spray water into all the spent fuel pools averted that disaster, the academy panel notes.

At U.S. nuclear plants, spent fuel is equally vulnerable. It is for the most part densely packed in pools, heightening the fire risk if cooling systems were to fail. NRC has estimated that a major fire in a U.S. spent fuel pool would displace, on average, 3.4 million people from an area larger than New Jersey. “We’re talking about trillion-dollar consequences,” says panelist Frank von Hippel, a nuclear security expert at Princeton University.

Besides developing better systems for monitoring the pools, the panel recommends that NRC take another look at the benefits of moving spent fuel to other storage as quickly as possible. Spent fuel can be shifted to concrete containers called dry casks as soon as it cools sufficiently, and the academy panel recommends that NRC “assess the risks and potential benefits of expedited transfer.” A wholesale transfer to dry casks at U.S. plants would cost roughly $4 billion. ”

by Richard Stone, Science

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Tepco: Fukushima meltdown announcement made months late — CNN

” (CNN) The reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant hit by a devastating tsunami in 2011 should have been announced much sooner, the operator admitted this week.

In a statement, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said that a public declaration of the meltdown should have been done within days of the disaster.

It did not reveal that a meltdown was taking place for almost two months.

More than 160,000 people were evacuated from the area near the Fukushima meltdown, the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Regulations Ignored

The company said internal regulations that a meltdown should be declared if damage to the reactor core exceeded 5% were not followed.

Damage to one of the reactor cores exceeded 50% within three days of the tsunami, but TEPCO did not acknowledge that a meltdown was taking place until months later.

While it did not tell the public until May, TEPCO said that it had informed the government of the ongoing meltdown within days of the disaster, as required by law.

“We apologize for the great inconvenience and worry” the delay caused, TEPCO said.

Whether or not to declare a meltdown was a fraught and politically charged decision at the time, both at TEPCO and within the Japanese government.

TEPCO previously admitted in a 2012 report that it played down safety risks at the Fukushima plant out of fear that additional measures would lead to a plant shutdown and further fuel public anxiety and anti-nuclear movements.

After Koichiro Nakamura, a senior Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA) official told a news conference a day after the disaster that a “meltdown of the reactor’s core” may be taking place, he was removed from a PR position at the agency.

NISA was heavily criticized after the disaster for a perceived conflict of interest, given that its parent organization, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is responsible for promoting nuclear power in Japan. The agency was abolished in 2012 and a new body set up under the Ministry of Environment. “

by James Griffiths

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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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