Fukushima cleanup described by Tepco chief as ‘like working in a field hospital in a warzone’ — ABC News

” Fukushima power plant operators’ recent update on the nuclear accident clean-up makes it clear there is still a long way to go to remediate the area.

It has been almost five years since the nuclear accident at Fukushima, where three reactors experienced core meltdowns and the plant spewed radioactivity across a huge area, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes and livelihoods.

The operators said they have picked up the debris from the accident and built some new protective structures on the site but the trickiest job of finding and removing the nuclear fuel in the reactors have not yet started.

Naohiro Masuda, the man tasked with the job of decommissioning the plant, said “in the first couple of years it was like working in a field hospital in a warzone”.

“It was like running through flames,” he said.

Tokyo will host the Olympics in four years and many in the Government would prefer the message from Fukushima to be a lot more positive.

Mr Masuda said there was still melted fuel in reactors one, two and three.

“But honestly we don’t know about the situation, we don’t know where it’s fallen,” he said.

In the five years since the nuclear accident, work at the plant has focused on a physical clean-up of the site, debris from earthquake and tsunami damage to the buildings has been removed.

But the most difficult and complex work has yet to begin and was not known where the melted nuclear debris is inside the reactors.

In the wake of the nuclear disaster, Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors were switched off and a safety review carried out.

The three reactors are operating again — with plans to switch on many more as soon as they meet the requirements of a new, stricter safety code.

Buddhist monk says Government has not ‘learnt its lesson’

The Buddhist monk Tokuo Hayakawa, who resides in the 600-year-old Hokyoji temple in the hills behind the Fukushima power plant, said that Japan has not learnt its lesson from the nuclear accident.

“It’s clear that it’ll happen again,” he said.

He and his community were forced to flee in the aftermath of the nuclear accident.

Dressed in his black prayer robes, adorned with anti-nuclear badges, monk Hayakawa said the Government had let the people down and he believed the situation at the plant was far from under control.

The evacuation order has been lifted in a nearby town, but young people were not returning.

Mr Hayakawa said he believed as the decommission progresses in the area will disappear.

He said the Government should abandon its nuclear energy policy.

“They must stop using nuclear power because safety can’t be guaranteed,” Mr Hayakawa said.

“I feel sad and angry, even more than I did at the time of the accident.”


Steel barrier creating more contaminated water — NHK World

” The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says a steel barrier that it built along the plant’s embankment is causing an unexpected problem.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, installed the steel piling wall in October to prevent contaminated groundwater from flowing into the sea.

The utility had planned to pump up the blocked water, remove radioactive materials from most of it, and release it into the sea.

But on Friday, TEPCO officials told nuclear regulators that the water has too high a salt content to be processed by decontamination equipment.

They also said the amount of pumped-up water was larger than expected.

The officials say workers are therefore releasing the water not into the sea, but into reactor buildings. They say the amount is about 400 tons per day.

The utility had previously been reducing the flow of water into the plant’s buildings.

Workers have been pumping up groundwater from wells inside the compound, and had managed to reduce its inflow into buildings from 400 tons to 200 tons per day.

TEPCO says it plans to pump up more groundwater upstream so that less reaches the embankment.

It says it will also try to process the salty water by monitoring changes in its quality. ”


Nuclear scientist Hiroaki Koide explains Fukushima Daiichi to The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan

Hiroaki Koide, nuclear scientist and former assistant professor of Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute for 41 years, explains the problems with managing Fukushima Daiichi and the release of radioactive materials like cesium-137 into the environment.

I paraphrased Koide’s speech below:

Fukushima Daiichi’s Units 1, 2 and 3 were in operation during March 2011. Unit 4 was not operating on March 11, 2011, and therefore, did not have fuel in it. However, Unit 4 also experienced a hydrogen explosion and its core was severely damaged. All of its fuel was in the spent fuel pool on the fourth floor. The spent fuel pool, which was exposed to air, contained enough cesium-137 that is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. At the time of the accident, there were serious concerns that if the cooling water in the spent fuel pool dried up, the fuel rods would melt, releasing an extreme amount of radiation release to warrant the evacuation of Tokyo.

Despite that the Japanese government and Tepco clearly knew of this danger, Tepco did not remove the spent fuel rods from Unit 4 until November 2013, a year-long task that was completed in December 2014.

No one knows where the melted fuel and cores of Unit 1 and 3 are. Radiation levels in those units are so high that a person would die in seconds if exposed. Tepco tried viewing the areas with robots, but all of them broke from the radiation.

The only way to control the situation as it is is to pump water into the plant, unavoidably creating massive amounts of radioactive water that is being produced at a rate of 300-400 tons daily. Workers are doing this extremely dangerous work day and night. Not Tepco workers, and not even subcontracted workers, but sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub contracted workers, eight or nine levels deep at the very bottom of the wrung. “So many commissions are taken from their salaries at they are not even receiving minimum wage.”

An even more grave issue is that the cores of Units 1, 2 and 3 are melted. “How do we deal with that?” Tepco plans on “plucking out” the “lumps” of melted fuel by reaching into the pressure vessel down into the containment vessel and extracting the fuel from the top. However, if they were to open up the pressure vessel to get in, a huge amount of radiation would be released into the air. To deal with this, Tepco plans on repairing the sides of the pressure vessel  and flooding it with water and then plucking out the fuel, which they believe sits together in the lump, like a “dumpling.”

Professor Koide’s response to this plan is:

1) We don’t have the technology to determine where the holes in the containment vessel are, let alone the means to repair it.

2) It is impossible that the melted fuel exists in a dumpling-shaped lump. It could have spread horizontally and even gone through the floor of the containment vessel.

3) If Tepco and the Japanese government try to extract the fuel from above, it will only be possible to remove some of the fuel, not all of it. Koide recommends dealing with this situation in the same manner as the Chernobyl plant by burying the plant in a concrete sarcophagus. However, we cannot start thinking about building a sarcophagus until the spent fuel rods are removed from the spent fuel pools at Units 1, 2 and 3.

How long will it take to remove the spent fuel rods at Units 1, 2, and 3? “I cannot even make a prediction. I probably won’t be alive when it occurs.” Even at Chernobyl, the concrete sarcophagus is aging and is being replaced. That was only one reactor. Fukushima Daiichi has three melted reactors. We must plan on burying the reactors in concrete and maintaining the sarcophagus with a centuries-long timeline.

The Japanese government gave a report to the IAEA with information of the cesium-137 released into the atmosphere. [Koide shows a diagram of Japan with color-coded grades of contaminated areas.] Unit 1 alone released six to seven times the cesium-137 that was released from the Hiroshima bomb. Unit 2 released the greatest amount. All together, Units 1, 2 and 3 released 168 times the amount of cesium-137 from the Hiroshima bomb. This is only the cesium-137 released into the air. Every day, more contaminated water is being produced and released into the sea. The total amount of cesium-137 released into the environment from Fukushima Daiichi is equal to several hundred times that of the Hiroshima bomb. The radioactive materials that were released into the atmosphere were carried by the “previaling westerly” winds not only all over the Kanto great plain of Japan, but also across the Pacific Ocean and contaminated the western coast of North America.

As a result of the contaminated areas in Japan, over 100,000 people are not able to return to their homes. The most highly contaminated areas (shown in red on the diagram) are designated as “radiation controlled areas.” Until now, there were very strict regulations for these areas. For example, a person could not legally remove anything from a radiation controlled area that emits more than 40,000 becquerels of radiation per square meter. However, the areas in blue have areas over 60,00 becquerals per square meter. Dark green areas have 30,000-60,000 becquerels per square meter. If one abides strictly by the law that says that nothing over 40,000 becquerels per square matter can be removed from a radiation controlled area, then Japan must designate 14,000 square kilometers of Japan to be radiation controlled areas. However, because this is an emergency situation, the Japanese government says that normal laws do not need to be followed. Instead, they have abandoned people to live in these highly contaminated areas.

Overall, 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium-137 were released into the atmosphere, 2400 terabecquerels of which fell on the Kanto region. In weight, the total radioactive cesium-137 would equal 4.7 kilograms, and 750 grams on the Kanto region. You cannot sense the radioactive materials. To reduce radiation exposure to Kanto citizens, people have tried removing contaminated topsoil, equal to tens of millions of bags of soil. This is only a temporary solution. The contaminated soil contained seeds that grew and broke through the bags.


36 years of three mile island’s lethal lies … and still counting — Harvey Wasserman via Ecowatch

Harvey Wasserman: ” The lies that killed people at Three Mile Island 36 years ago on March 28, 1979 are still being told at Chernobyl, Fukushima, Diablo Canyon, Davis-Besse … and at TMI itself.

As the first major reactor accident that was made known to the public is sadly commemorated, and as the global nuclear industry collapses, let’s count just 36 tip-of-the iceberg ways the nuclear industry’s radioactive legacy continues to fester:

1. When about half of TMI’s fuel melted on March 28, 1979, the owners, industry and regulators all denied it, and continued to deny it until robotic cameras showed otherwise.

2. Early signs that such an accident could happen had already surfaced at the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio, which was also manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox. TMI’s owners later sued Davis-Besse’s owners for not warning them about what had happened.

3. When TMI’s radiation poured into the atmosphere the industry had (and still has) no idea how much escaped, but denied it was of any significance even though stack monitors failed and dosimeters in the field indicated high releases (plant owners claimed they were “defective”). Only due to the work of the great Dr. Ernest Sternglass, recently departed, was public attention turned to the potential harm this radiation could do.

4. When animals nearby suffered mass mutations and death, the industry denied it. When the plague was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Baltimore News-American, the industry denied the damage could be related to radiation.

5. Industry “experts” assured the public radiation doses to downwinders were similar to a single x-ray, but ignored well-established findings from Dr. Alice Stewart and others that a single x-ray to a pregnant woman could double the chances of childhood leukemia among her offspring.

6. Industry “experts” ignored the reality that radioactive fallout can come down in clumps rather than spread evenly, and scoffed at findings from neighborhood surveys done by Jane Lee, Mary Osbourne and others showing major outbreaks of cancer in certain downwind neighborhoods.

7. When humans nearby were born with Down’s Syndrome and other mutations, and then adults began dying, the industry denied it, then denied any connection to TMI, but then did pay at least $15 million in out-of-court settlements to affected families on condition they not speak about it in public.

8. When Chernobyl exploded in 1986, Soviet officials said nothing as massive clouds of radiation poured across Europe and into the jet stream that would carry it to the U.S. within 10 days.

9. The U.S. government did nothing of sufficient scale to monitor Chernobyl’s radiation as it came here, and did nothing to warn the public to avoid milk and other foods that might concentrate that radiation, and has repeated that behavior in the wake of Fukushima.

10. A massive bird die-off at the Pt. Reyes National Seashore came with the arrival of the Chernobyl cloud and was documented by resident ornithologist Dr. Dave DeSante, whose findings were ignored by the government; soon thereafter, DeSante lost his job.

11. Chernobyl’s radiation was tracked all across Europe where it continues to irradiate plants, animals and humans. The most credible study of Chernobyl’s human death toll put it at 985,000 in 2010.

12. Chernobyl still seethes with radiation, but the massive, hugely expensive movable sarcophagus meant to cover it is not yet in place.

13. When fire runs through the wooded areas around Chernobyl, massive quantities of radiation are re-released into the atmosphere.

14. Fifteen Soviet-era reactors remain operable in Ukraine, much of which is now a de facto war zone, raising serious doubts about what will happen to them and the rest of the downwind human race.

15. The Japanese government was repeatedly and passionately warned by thousands of citizens for more than 40 years that putting reactors in a tsunami zone surrounded by earthquake faults was not a good idea. They were dismissed as “alarmists” and repeatedly assured that the reactors at Fukushima and elsewhere around Japan could come to no harm.

16. Despite repeated public protests, when Fukushima Dai’ichi was built an 85-foot-high bluff was taken down so units 1 through 4 could operate more cheaply at sea level; as widely predicted, they were massively flooded on March 11, 2011.

17. Critical backup batteries meant to keep the reactor cores cool in case of melt-downs were placed in basements which were thoroughly flooded when the tsunami hit Fukushima. Workers later frantically took batteries from nearby parked cars to try to power up the stricken cooling systems and other critical components.

18. The exact whereabouts of the melted cores from Fukushima Units 1, 2 and 3 remain unknown.

19. After a half-century of industry assurances that American reactors could not explode, four General Electric reactors blew up at Fukushima.

20. By estimate of Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, some 30 times as much Cesium 137 has been released at Fukushima as was released during the bombing of Hiroshima.

21. Some 300 tons of radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every day.

22. Thousands of highly radioactive spent fuel rods remain scattered around the Fukushima site; thousands are also still suspended in damaged spent fuel pools 100 feet in the air atop weakened buildings above shattered, melted reactors.

23. A petition signed by more than 150,000 people demanding that Fukushima be taken over by the world community was submitted to the United Nations on November 7, 2013, but has yet to receive a response of any kind.

24. Fukushima is still owned and operated by Tokyo Electric Power, which built it despite massive public opposition and continues to mismanage it while turning the “clean up” into a profit center, with a labor force thoroughly infiltrated by organized crime.

25. Like Fukushima, California’s Diablo Canyon reactors were built despite huge public protests, and sit in a tsunami zone surrounded by earthquake faults whose potential seismic power exceeds Diablo’s structural capacities, according numerous experts, including NRC official Dr. Michael Peck, who worked at Diablo for the commission.

26. A continual stream of revelations indicate illegal collusion on safety and other issues at Diablo between its owners, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as the California Public Utilities Commission.

27. Diablo’s owners almost certainly violated regulatory requirements and the law in using components within the reactors that were not tested to meet seismic standards.

28. Earthquakes have already damaged at least two U.S. reactors, at Ohio’s Perry site and at North Anna, Virginia (that quake also damaged the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital).

29. Public money designated for use by PG&E to upgrade piping systems was diverted to executive bonuses, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2010 unrepaired gas lines, which were known to have been deteriorating for a decade, blew up in San Bruno, killing eight people and doing millions of dollars in damage. Such a disaster at Diablo Canyon could kill countless thousands and do untold damage to the national economy and global ecology.

30. Diablo Canyon’s once-through cooling system violates state and federal water quality regulations by dumping huge quantities of hot, radioactive liquid into the Pacific, killing billions of marine creatures while unbalancing the ocean ecology and contributing to climate chaos.

31. Like most other old U.S. reactors, Ohio’s Davis-Besse is literally crumbling, with the concrete in its safety shield being pulverized by continual freezing, yielding ever-growing holes in the structure.

32. Like most other old U.S. reactors, Diablo Canyon, Davis-Besse, five reactors in Illinois and many more cannot compete in electricity markets against wind power, solar panels, other renewable sources or increased efficiency, and would shut down were it not for massive public subsidies.

33. Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission is being asked by FirstEnergy, Davis-Besse’s owner, for subsidies amounting to more than $3 billion to keep open that decrepit reactor, which opened in 1978, and the Sammis coal burner, which is even older.

34. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee reactor has shut for purely economic reasons despite being fully amortized and having no apparent outstanding maintenance or engineering crises.

35. California’s San Onofre reactors were shut in part due to violations of licensing requirements that are mirrored at both Diablo Canyon and Davis-Besse, where shut-downs could be required by law. Let’s hope …

36. As we commemorate this tragic anniversary, we must note that this list of reactor nightmares could go very very far past 36. But let’s hope it doesn’t take that many more years to realize the folly of this failed technology.

In honor of the many many victims of Three Mile Island, and of the great Dr. Sternglass and so many dedicated experts and activists, we must turn this sad litany into the action needed to shut down ALL the world’s reactors so we don’t have to experience this nightmare yet again.

The lives we save will be our own … and those of our children … and theirs … ”


Four years after: 71% of residents dissatisfied with work at Fukushima nuclear plant — The Asahi Shimbun

” Around 71 percent of Fukushima Prefecture residents remain dissatisfied with the central government’s handling of the nuclear disaster four years after the triple meltdown forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, a survey showed.

Only 14 percent of respondents were satisfied with the central government’s efforts at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to the telephone survey conducted jointly by The Asahi Shimbun and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. on Feb. 28 and March 1.

In surveys conducted six months after the nuclear accident was triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, and before the first, second and third anniversaries of the disasters, the dissatisfaction rates were between 70 and 80 percent.

Although the latest rate of dissatisfaction was down slightly from the previous survey, it was still high ahead of the fourth anniversary of the disasters.

The latest survey received valid responses from 1,028 eligible voters in Fukushima Prefecture, or 57 percent of those contacted.

Evacuation orders for certain areas around the nuclear plant have been lifted, but thousands of people still live away from their homes, including many who now reside outside the prefecture.

Radioactive water leaks, malfunctioning equipment, human errors and botched plans have persistently hampered work to decommission the reactors at the plant.

Shortly before the latest survey was taken, reports surfaced that Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, did not reveal for about 10 months that water contaminated with radioactive materials had been flowing from the plant into the ocean.

Asked about TEPCO’s stance, 80 percent of respondents said “it was a major problem,” while 16 percent said “it was somewhat of a problem.”

Only 2 percent said “there was not much of a problem,” while 1 percent said “there was no problem at all.”

However, the Fukushima residents were more evenly split on work by the central and local governments to decontaminate areas affected by radiation.

A combined 49 percent of respondents either “highly [approved]” or “somewhat [approved]” the decontamination efforts.

In comparison, a combined 48 percent either “did not appraise” or “somewhat did not appraise” the work.

Those figures marked an improvement in public opinion of the cleanup work.

In the two previous surveys, the combined percentages of respondents not appraising the decontamination work exceeded 60 percent, while only about 40 percent appraised the efforts. ”


Tepco unable to halt tainted water flowing into tunnels at Fukushima — The Japan Times

” Tokyo Electric Power Co. appears unable to stem the flow of radioactive water from the No. 2 reactor building to underground tunnels at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, officials said.

Tepco has injected cement into the joints that connect the tunnels, which are used to run cables, and the building to halt the flow of contaminated water and remove accumulations from the tunnels.

But water levels suggest the effort has remained unsuccessful so far, the officials said. The company began the cement injections after failing to create an “ice wall” during the summer by freezing water inside the joints that would have blocked the flows.

After the cement injections, Tepco pumped 200 tons of tainted water out of the tunnels Monday, causing levels inside to fall around 20 cm, the officials said.

However, if the joints were completely sealed, water levels would have fallen roughly 80 cm, the officials said, indicating the possibility that contaminated water is still flowing into the tunnels.

The officials also noted the possibility that groundwater may be flowing into the tunnels. However, recent data has shown that the amount of radioactive materials in the tunnel water is very high, an official in the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.

“Concentrations should have been lower if large amounts of groundwater are really flowing in,” the official noted.

If the cement injections also end in failure, Tepco plans to remove radioactive water while injecting cement into the tunnel. ”