Tuesday 29 October 2013

Fukushima update 10/28/2013

With a Plant’s Tainted Water Still Flowing, No End to Environmental Fears
For months now, it has been hard to escape the continuing deluge of bad news from the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant.

24 October, 2013

Even after the company that operates the plant admitted this summer that tons of contaminated groundwater was leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day, new accidents have added to the uncontrolled releases of radioactive materials. This week, newly tainted rainwater overflowed dikes. Two weeks before that, workers mistakenly disconnected a pipe, dumping 10 more tons of contaminated water onto the ground and dousing themselves in the process.

Those accidents have raised questions about whether the continuing leaks are putting the environment, and by extension the Japanese people, in new danger more than two and a half years after the original disaster — and long after many had hoped natural radioactive decay would have allowed healing to begin.

Interviews with scientists in recent weeks suggest that they are struggling to determine which effects — including newly discovered hot spots on a wide swath of the ocean floor near Fukushima — are from recent leaks and which are leftovers from the original disaster. But evidence collected by them and the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, shows worrisome trends.

The latest releases appear to be carrying much more contaminated water than before into the Pacific. And that flow may not slow until at least 2015, when an ice wall around the damaged reactors is supposed to be completed. Beyond that, although many Japanese believed that the plant had stopped spewing radioactive materials long ago, they have continued to seep into the air.

This has become a slowly unfolding environmental misery,” said Atsunao Marui, a geochemist at the Geological Survey of Japan who has studied contaminated groundwater flowing from the plant. “If we don’t put a stop to the releases, we risk creating a new man-made disaster.”

Even the most alarmed of the scientists who were interviewed did not extend their worries about the new releases to human health. With more than 80,000 residents near the plant evacuated almost immediately after the disaster, and fishing in nearby waters still severely restricted, they say there is little or no direct danger to humans from the latest releases. But, they say, that does not rule out other impacts on the environment.

And while the air and water releases are a small fraction of what they were in the early days of the disaster, they are still significantly larger than what would normally be permitted of a functioning plant.

Both Tepco and the government say the largest continuing problem, the water releases, is not a cause for concern, because the radiation is diluted in the vast Pacific, limiting any potentially dangerous effects to the plant’s artificial harbor. But while scientists agree that dilution has made radiation levels outside the harbor, and even some places inside, low enough to pass drinking water standards, they say there are worrisome problems that may be the result of new leaks.

Besides the discovery of widespread radioactive hot spots, the government’s fisheries agency said that more than 1 in 10 of some species of bottom-feeding fish caught off Fukushima are still contaminated by amounts of radioactive cesium above the government’s safety level.

The latest concerns began in June, when Tepco announced a sharp rise in the amount of radioactive contaminants, including strontium 90, found in groundwater near two of the ruined reactors. The company says the source of the increased contamination appears to be highly radioactive water that had been trapped since the accident in conduits around the reactor buildings and had slowly found its way out.

The planned ice wall is meant to contain this water, as well as to sever the flow of groundwater that pours daily into the damaged reactor buildings while following its natural course from mountains behind the plant down toward the sea. (That water, which becomes sullied by radioactive materials from the melted nuclear fuel, is captured and stored in a cityscape of tanks.)

The magnitude of the recent spike in radiation, and the amounts of groundwater involved, have led Michio Aoyama, an oceanographer at a government research institute who is considered an authority on radiation in the sea, to conclude that radioactive cesium 137 may now be leaking into the Pacific at a rate of about 30 billion becquerels per year, or about three times as high as last year. He estimates that strontium 90 may be entering the Pacific at a similar rate.

Dr. Aoyama notes that those amounts would be much smaller than the amount of cesium 137 alone released into the Pacific during the accident itself, which he estimates at up to 18 quadrillion becquerels. Still, other scientists suspect that the new releases are having measurable effects beyond the harbor.

Blair Thornton, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo’s Underwater Technology Research Center, helped find the hot spots, spread across at least 150 square miles of the ocean bottom offshore from the plant. He said they appeared to be formed when radioactive particles like cesium and strontium, which are heavier than water, collect in low points like trenches.

Radiation levels there should naturally weaken over time, Dr. Thornton said, as sea currents deposit new sediments on top of toxic particles. The fact that radiation levels are still up to hundreds of times as high as they are in other areas of the sea floor raises the possibility that the spots are being blanketed in new contamination from the plant, he said. The other possibility, Dr. Thornton said, is that radioactive particles released by the original accident bonded to mud on the sea bottom and are not disappearing as quickly as expected.

In either case, researchers say, the hot spots are a concern because shrimp and small fish tend to gather in depressions on the ocean floor for protection. If the radioactive materials are entering their bodies, those particles could work their way into the food chain, requiring that fishing be suspended for longer than local fishermen had hoped.

The hot spots could explain why cesium-contaminated fish are still being caught off Fukushima, some scientists say. While the number of such fish has been steadily falling, it has not dropped as quickly as expected.

Obviously, there is some continuing source of cesium 137,” said Jota Kanda, an oceanographer at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. “We are not sure exactly what is happening, but we are seeing a bigger than expected effect on the environment.”

Less attention has been paid to the continued airborne releases of cesium from the site’s crippled reactors, whose layers of protection were damaged or destroyed. The plant still emits 10 million becquerels per hour into the atmosphere, according to Tepco. While the amounts of airborne emissions dropped sharply after the accident, which spewed radioactive materials across a wide swath of northeastern Japan, they have held steady since February 2012, Tepco said.

Tepco has tried to stop these continuing releases by taking steps like erecting a cover over one damaged reactor, but it acknowledges that radioactive materials still escape through tiny gaps in the cover, or through damaged ventilation systems and cracks in the reactor buildings. So long as such air and water releases continue, experts warn, there will be no end to Fukushima’s slowly unfolding environmental damage.

These aren’t levels that are going to directly affect human health,” Masashi Kusakabe, a researcher at an institute that has monitored cesium in the ocean for the government, said, referring to releases into the Pacific.

But that doesn’t mean that therefore these releases are good or acceptable,” he said. “There is no precedent for what is happening, so we are on untrodden ground.”

NYTimes Experts: Fukushima is having bigger effect on environment than we expected, we don’t know what’s happening

Radioactive releases from plant spiking this year — “Worrisome problems”

New York Times, Oct. 24, 2013 (Emphasis Added):  For months now, it has been hard to escape the continuing deluge of bad news from the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant. [...] [Scientists] say there are worrisome problems that may be the result of new leaks. [...] [Tepco] says the source of the increased contamination appears to be highly radioactive water that had been trapped since the accident in conduits around the reactor buildings and had slowly found its way out.

Michio Aoyama, oceanographer at a Japanese government research institute: The magnitude of the recent spike in radiation, and the amounts of groundwater involved, have led , to conclude that radioactive cesium 137 may now be leaking into the Pacific at a rate of about 30 billion becquerels per year [Actually PER DAY], or about three times as high as last year. He estimates that strontium 90 may be entering the Pacific at a similar rate.

Blair Thornton, associate professor at University of Tokyo’s Underwater Technology Research Center: hot spots [are] spread across at least 150 square miles of the ocean bottom [...] Radiation levels there should naturally weaken over time [...] The fact that radiation levels are still up to hundreds of times as high as they are in other areas of the sea floor raises the possibility that the spots are being blanketed in new contamination from the plant [...] particles could work their way into the food chain [...]

Jota Kanda, oceanographer at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology: “Obviously, there is some continuing source of cesium 137. We are not sure exactly what is happening, but we are seeing a bigger than expected effect on the environment.” [...]

Radioactive Debris in Pacific Ocean: Fukushima Radiation is Tearing up the West Coast of the US and Canada

Ethan A. Huff

28 October, 2013

As cleanup crews gear themselves up to begin the treacherous task of removing 400 tons of spent fuel from the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No. 4 in the coming weeks, reports continue to flood in showing that radiation from the stricken plant is still causing major environmental damage all over the world.
Particularly on the West Coast of the U.S., a multitude of strange animal deaths, high radiation readings and other recent anomalies suggest that the Fukushima disaster is far from over. It is simply ludicrous, in other words, for anyone to suggest at this point that these Fukushima woes are dwindling, as fresh evidence suggests that quite the opposite is true.
A recent report by Michael Snyder over at TheTruthWins.com highlights 28 signs that the U.S. West Coast is still being torn up by nuclear radiation from Fukushima. Many of these signs include strange illnesses and mass deaths among sea creatures and other animals, as well as high radiation readings from dozens of monitoring stations.
Every single day, 300 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima enters the Pacific Ocean,” writes Snyder about this one major sign. “That means that the total amount of radioactive material released from Fukushima is constantly increasing, and it is steadily building up in our food chain.”
Radioactive debris mass the size of California still impacting West Coast
Another obvious sign is the recent mass migration of radioactive debris the size of California across the Pacific Ocean. BBC News in the U.K. reported last year that literally millions of tons of radioactive debris had begun traveling across the Pacific Ocean, and that some of it had already impacted Hawaii and even the West Coast.
There has also been a series of strange animal deaths recently, including masses of sea lions, sockeye salmon and other sea creatures washing up on the shore. Many of the polar bears, seals and walruses observed along the Alaska coastline have also been found to have major fur loss and open sores, both of which are indicative of radiation poisoning.
Then we have the scientific reports that claim radioactive water will continue to impact the U.S. West Coast for many years to come, potentially doubling in strength over the next five or six years. Plankton, bluefin tuna and other sea life collected between Hawaii and California are already testing high for radiation, and these levels are expected to continue increasing.
Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” stated Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz recently to Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”
Initial Fukushima radiation release more than 100 times larger than Chernobyl, confirms study
There will most certainly be a major uptick in cancer rates due to the Fukushima incident, as the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute estimates that some 60 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and strontium are being dumped into the Pacific Ocean every single day. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) also admits that as much as 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have been released into the Pacific since the disaster began.
Those who still say that the Chernobyl disaster was worse than Fukushima may also want to consider that a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution study conducted in October 2011 concluded that Fukushima had already released up to 100 times more radiation into the environment than Chernobyl at that time. Today, this amount is likely astronomically higher, especially when you take into account all the airborne radioactive plumes that have been detected billowing across the ocean and over U.S. soil.
Be sure to read Snyder’s full report here:
Sources for this article include:

NRA to Tepco: Get a grip on No. 1 before thinking of restarts

28 October, 2013

FUKUSHIMA – Hirose said the safety screening process for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units was not among the topics discussed with Tanaka.

The NRA did not open the Tanaka-Hirose meeting to the media, except for the beginning, to allow them to engage in what it called “frank discussions.”

Tepco, which continues to struggle with the massive buildup of radioactive water at the Fukushima plant, filed for NRA safety assessments for idled reactors 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in September.

But a formal safety screening meeting for the reactors, usually held in public, has not convened, meaning the assessment process has yet to enter full swing.

Tepco is desperate to curtail the heavy costs it’s paying to buy fuel for thermal power generation in place of atomic power.

ALPS unit resumes tests

Following a suspension of about four months, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday it resumed test operations at one of the three high-tech water filtering at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The start of the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, which removes most radioactive materials from tainted water at the plant, follows the resumption of another ALPS unit in September.

The daily water processing capacity at the plant now stands at 500 tons, with each unit capable of cleaning 250 tons.

Tepco began using the system in March but halted it in June when corrosion was discovered inside one of the tanks where contaminated water was being stored. A senior official at the Nuclear Regulation Authority suggested Monday that Tokyo Electric Power Co. improve its management of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant before restarting any reactors at its huge complex in Niigata.

Referring to two reactors at the seven-unit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant Tepco is seeking to restart, NRA Secretary-General Katsuhiko Ikeda told reporters, “The NRA will decide whether to go ahead with the safety assessment by seeing how the situation at Fukushima No. 1 improves.”

He made the comments after joining a rare meeting Monday between NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka and Tepco President Naomi Hirose to discuss ways to get a grip on the radioactive water leaking at Fukushima No. 1.

Tanaka was quoted by Ikeda as telling Hirose: “I want you to take drastic measures (to improve the situation) and respond, based on a long-term perspective.”

Clearing NRA safety checks is required before Tepco can restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, a move that would improve the firm’s tough business predicament resulting from the Fukushima disaster.

The repeated flows, spills and leaks of radioactive water plaguing Fukushima No. 1 have led NRA commissioners to doubt Tepco’s management adequately grasps the situation of the workers at the plant or whether the utility has the wherewithal to ensure the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors.

Tepco has submitted an analysis of the recent water spills and measures it plans to prevent further incidents. This includes transferring about 20 workers from Kashiwazaki-Kariwa to Fukushima No. 1, but the steps didn’t impress the NRA.

At Monday’s meeting at the NRA building in Tokyo, Tanaka told Hirose to improve the working environment at the Fukushima plant, such as by reducing radiation levels.

Work efficiency is not good when wearing full-face masks . . . and especially communication is difficult. I expect radiological countermeasures to be taken at the site to end this kind of situation,” Tanaka reportedly said.

Hirose separately admitted to reporters that there are still many areas where workers have to put on such masks and that he hopes to secure enough staff to deal with the stricken plant, where three reactors suffered core meltdowns

Fukushima News 10/28/13: NRA Urges "Bold" Fukushima Action; Nuclear Waste Disposal Challenged

TEPCO must address ‘institutionalized lying’ before it restarts world’s biggest nuclear power plant – governor
Tokyo Electric Power Co must give a more thorough account of the Fukushima disaster and address “institutionalized lying” in the company, before it will be permitted to restart the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, according to a local governor.

28 October, 2013

If they don’t do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted,” Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida told Reuters on Monday, adding that these limitations need to be overcome before the plant is restarted.

Hirohiko Izumida (Image from h-izumida.jp)Hirohiko Izumida (Image from h-izumida.jp)It is up to Izumida to approve plans to restart the reactor at the TEPCO-run Kashiwazaki Kariwa – the world’s biggest nuclear complex, located on the Japan sea coast, north-west of Tokyo. His personal commission would examine both the causes and handling of the disaster at Fukushima and lay them alongside existing regulatory safeguards to ensure a similar crisis could not reoccur.

However, he declined to mention to the wire agency when he would be launching his review and provided no agenda. “If they cooperate with us, we will be able to proceed smoothly. If not, we won't,” he said in response to questioning on the subject.

If Japanese nuclear safety regulators do lend their approval to the restart plans, Izumida remains able to essentially block TEPCO’s plans for the plant as the facility requires the backing of local officials, allotting Izumida some leverage.

Safety is our utmost priority and we are not acting on an assumption of nuclear restarts," said TEPCO spokesperson, Yoshimi Hitotsugi. “We want to work on this issue while gaining the understanding of the local population and related parties.”

Izumida suggested that TEPCO should be fully stripped of responsibility for decommissioning the destroyed Fukushima reactors, and the company subjected to a taxpayer-funded bankruptcy program. Presently, the company remains primarily concerned with funding the process, along with the frequently-occurring and very immediate issue of contaminated water leaking rather than overall nuclear safety.

Unless we create a situation where 80-90 percent of their thinking is devoted to nuclear safety, I don't think we can say they have prioritized safety,” he said.

The decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi plant itself will be a long and arduous process – expected to take 30 years – and has already sparked controversy in the country.

Reuters investigations have identified widespread abuses at the plant, among them the involvement of illegal brokers. Over 6,000 staff are involved in the project. “The workers at the plant are risking their health and giving it their all,” said Izumida.

However, wage-skimming has been a habitual practice. Izumida offered to make the workers participating in the clean-up public employees.

TEPCO aims to restart Kashiwazaki Kariwa next April. If all of its reactors became operational again, the company could potentially save $1 billion on a monthly basis in fuel costs.

(FILE) A general view of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Kariwa village, Kashiwazaki 18 July 2007. (AFP Photo / Kazuhiro Nogi)(FILE) A general view of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Kariwa village, Kashiwazaki 18 July 2007. (AFP Photo / Kazuhiro Nogi)

The TEPCO-run Fukushima Daiichi power plant was disrupted in March 2011 by a massive earthquake and tsunami which wreaked havoc at Fukushima and sparked a nuclear crisis in which meltdowns occurred in three reactors. It was considered to be the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and has since cost TEPCO some $27 billion in losses.

Since then it has suffered frequent spillages of water containing radioactive substances. In August, one storage tank leaked over 300 tons of contaminated water. TEPCO first admitted that the Fukushima plant was leaking radioactive substances in July after months of denial.

In September, a senior utility expert at Fukushima, Kazuhiko Yamashita, said that the plant was “not under control.” TEPCO downplayed his comments, saying that he had only been talking about the plant’s waste water problem – not the facility as a whole.

There are three things required of a company that runs nuclear power plants: don't lie, keep your promises and fulfil your social responsibility,” Izumida concluded.

Fukushima Container & Bright Flashing Light - Was Fuel Removed During Typhoon Francisco?

I recorded this live at the time of Typhoon Francisco. The time period of 11:37 has been omitted from Tepco's video archive 

@http://www.youtube.com/user/fuku1live.... In fact, Tepco has omitted videos for the hours between 11:00-13:00 on 10/25/13.

It's very strange that the cranes would be moving anything during high winds and the visibility is poor due to the rain on the camera lens. 

Radioactive Reality (28 October 2013) Radiation readings spiking to record levels

Nuclear Slaves’ at Fukushima: Workers have debts paid off, forced to stay as ‘indentured servants’ — Foreign workers may soon be needed at plant, reveals official

Voice of Russia, Oct. 27, 2013: “Nuclear slaves” discovered at Fukushima [...] An in-depth journalistic investigation uncovered that thousands of unemployed Japanese were tricked into working underpaid and highly dangerous jobs on the site of Fukushima’s nuclear disaster. [...] Yakuza act as enforcers who keep the “nuclear slaves” from complaining or leaving their jobs. [...] Reuters reports that “labor brokers” [...] resort to “buying” laborers by paying off their debts and then forcing them to work in hazardous conditions until their debt to the “labor broker” is paid off. Such “employment schemes” are commonly referred to as “indentured servitude” and are a form of slavery [...] Lake Barrett, a former US nuclear regulator and an advisor to Tepco, told the news agency that existing practices won’t be changed for Fukushima decontamination: “There’s been a century of tradition of big Japanese companies using contractors, and that’s just the way it is in Japan. You’re not going to change that overnight just because you have a new job here, so I think you have to adapt.”

Asahi, Oct. 28, 2013: TEPCO President Naomi Hirose talked about the plan with Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, as the utility is facing mounting criticism over its handling of the situation. [...] Hirose explained that it is getting difficult for the utility to secure sufficient manpower at the plant and that it was grappling with tasks the company was not familiar with.

Reuters, Oct. 28, 2013: [TEPCO] must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster and address its “institutionalized lying”  [...] “If they don’t do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted,” Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida told Reuters [...] A former economy and trade ministry bureaucrat who has emerged as a leading critic of [Tepco], Izumida said he would launch his own commission to investigate the causes and handling of the Fukushima crisis [...] Izumida also called on the government to make more than 6,000 workers involved in decommissioning at Fukushima public employees. […]

AP, Oct. 28, 2013: [TEPCO president Naomi] Hirose acknowledged that TEPCO is having trouble finding a stable pool of workers at the plant [...] TEPCO has acknowledged that more than 700 employees have left the company in the last year alone. [...] TEPCO Vice President Zengo Aizawa said [...] that uncertainty remains over the long-term decommissioning process. “We are not sure about our long-term staffing situation during the upcoming process of debris removal, which requires different skills,” Aizawa told a news conference. Asked if the company may have to consider hiring foreign workers, he said TEPCO is open to that idea even though it’s not an immediate option. [...] [Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA] called on Hirose to implement sweeping steps to safeguard workers from high doses of radiation and other troubles […]

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