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Fukushima Update - What is happening at Fukushima
Update #20 - June 26, 2011
I'm sorry to report that nothing is getting better at Fukushima or for the citizens of Japan. Here are the latest stories from NHK. I'll review the developments over the last 10 days in my comments on each story. And add some stories from earlier.
WATER DECONTAMINATION SYSTEM
Nelle's comments: The water decontamination is still not working and may not be designed to handle the loads of radiation in the water. there are 110,000 tons of this water to be processed. I clipped these headlines on the decontamination system from EnergyNews so you can see the lack of progress:
• June 22, 2011: TEPCO admits decontamination system at Fukushima “not working”
• June 20, 2011: Report: Fukushima reactor water may be 144 times as radioactive as anticipated — Would be almost 20 times total Chernobyl release
• June 18, 2011: Water decontamination system halted after rapid rise in radiation — Reached radiation limit in 5 hours, wasn’t supposed to happen for a month
The radiation level on the cesium absorption towers (cylinders) reached the limit [4 millisievert/hour] in 5 hours. The limit was supposed to be reached in a month. There is a possibility that the contaminated water contained the sludge with extremely high level of radioactive materials. TEPCO hopes to investigate the cause and re-start the operation within a week.
• June 11, 2011: TEPCO: We’ll do utmost to get plant under control; Still huge number of obstacles — Decontamination system malfunctions during test run
Resumption of decontamination system not in sight
Nelle's comments: While work installing steel posts to support the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 was completed, more problems have arisen. TEPCO reduced water spraying and pumping in all the reactors two weeks ago in order to reduce the volume of contaminated water which is accumulating and which they have no ability to contain. Of course both the temperature and the radioactivity level rose as a result. As reported by NHK on June 20,2011:
TEPCO injects water to No.4 reactor storage pool
"...Tokyo Electric Company discovered that the water level of the pool had dropped to about 1/3 of its capacity as of June 11th.
The machinery is thought to have been exposed and releasing high amounts of radiation.
The operator fears it could hamper restoration work in the Number 4 reactor.
TEPCO says the radiation level on the top floor is so high that workers cannot enter, but if the equipment is submerged again, the radiation level will decline enabling operations to restart."
Monday, June 20, 2011 05:53 +0900 (JST)
Nelle's comments: Unit 3 is the unit containing MOX fuel. In a similar vein to Unit 4, reducing the cooling water spraying created problems.
Temperature at No.3 reactor rises
The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says temperatures at the No.3 reactor have started to rise after it reduced the injection rate of cooling water. The cutback is part of efforts to prevent possible overflows of radioactive water at the facility.
On Tuesday, Tokyo Electric Power Company reduced the amount of fresh water it has been injecting into 3 of the plant's reactors. The volume was cut back by 0.5 tons per hour at the No. 1 and 2 reactors, and by 1 ton at the No.3 reactor.
TEPCO says that by 5 AM on Wednesday, temperatures at the upper and lower parts of the No.3 reactor had risen by 4 and 7 degrees Celsius, respectively, from the day before. But it says temperatures at the other 2 reactors remained relatively stable.
The company says it will carefully monitor the No.3 reactor but will keep the rate of water injection unchanged. It added that it will further reduce the rate of water injection into the other 2 reactors by 0.5 tons per hour. TEPCO is facing difficulties in striking a balance between cooling down the reactors and limiting the amount of highly radioactive water threatening to spill out.
More than 110,000 tons of such water is believed to have accumulated at the nuclear complex. Tuesday's start of the annual rainy season has also added to fears of overflows. TEPCO has yet to start full operation of a crucial system to decontaminate the wastewater. It hopes to use the treated water to cool the reactors.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 13:04 +0900 (JST)
Nelle's comments: Unit 2 continues to be a huge problem. Attempts were made to decontaminate the highly humid (99.9%) air in the unit, but these failed. So the doors were opened to clear the humidity anyway. This resulted in a huge dump of radioactive contamination over last weekend. This (according to TEPCO) was necessary so workers could enter the unit and install new water and pressure gauges.
The Deusche Press report states: 1.6 billion becquerels of radioactive materials released from Reactor No. 2 late Sunday, says TEPCO
June 20th, 2011 at 12:24 AM
"…TEPCO also began late Sunday to release air containing radioactive substances from the building of reactor 2 by opening its doors.
An estimated 1.6 billion becquerels of radioactive materials were released, compared with 500 million becquerels when the double doors of the building of reactor 1 were opened in May, the Jiji Press agency reported, citing TEPCO. The operator denied that the releases would have an impact on the environment.
The move was aimed at lowering the 99-per-cent humidity inside the reactors, which was further hindering repair work.
Then yesterday NHK reported the new gauges aren't working.
TEPCO unable to gauge No.2 reactor water level
"The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it still cannot obtain accurate data on the water level and pressure of the Number 2 reactor. It says a provisional measuring device installed earlier this week is not operating properly….Fuel meltdowns are believed to have occurred at the Number 1 through Number 3 reactors, leading to a possibility that there is little water left inside the Number 2 reactor. Accurate measurement of the water level is essential for ensuring stable cooling of the reactor.
The utility is struggling to find ways to activate the device."
Saturday, June 25, 2011 13:21 +0900 (JST)
Today NHK reports:
TEPCO ready to inject nitrogen into No.2 reactor
"Tokyo Electric Power Company is ready to inject nitrogen into the containment vessel of the Number 2 reactor at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to prevent hydrogen blasts.
The company says it will monitor radiation levels around the compound more closely as the nitrogen may force out tiny [!] amounts of gas containing radioactive substances....
Hydrogen can cause an explosion when it reacts with oxygen.
TEPCO has been pumping nitrogen into the No.1 reactor since April and has completed preparations to do the same at the No. 2 reactor.
The utility assessed the possible effects of nitrogen injection into the No.2 reactor, and submitted its report to the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency on Friday. It plans to start the injection as soon as it obtains the consent of the agency."
Sunday, June 26, 2011 02:50 +0900 (JST)
Nelle's comments: This unit is of the least concern at the moment. Although the radioactivity levels continue to be reported as jumping from 40 Sv/hr to 260 Sv/hr inside the drywell.
Nelle's comments: the contamination in Japan continues to arouse both the anger and the fear of citizens. There are many stories concerning government checks and reports on contamination levels and they continue to be reassuring that there is "no danger". I've reprinted two articles here.
This June 20th article from Mainichi Daily wraps up the situation:
Preventing radiation contamination more important than TEPCO's stock prices
By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer
A very disturbing article appeared in the Daily Kos on June 16th.
It is linked to other articles and shows the map developed by some citizens with the aide of nuclear experts in Japan. It is well worth the read and a look at the map which shows citizen exposure.
Vast Area of Japan Contaminated
“Japan is dangerously contaminated by radioactivity over a far larger area than previously reported by TEPCO and the central government according to new reports from multiple sources. The prefectural government of Iwate released new data that shows radioactive contamination of grass exceeds safety standards at a distance of 90 to 125 miles from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants….
The prefectural government found on Tuesday radioactive cesium exceeding the limit of 300 becquerels per kilogram in grass collected from pastures in four areas, including Tono and Otsuchi. The areas are located about 150 to 200 kilometers north of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Science Magazine reports that Japanese scientists have become so concerned about the health of their children that they have initiated their own radiation monitoring program and made their own maps. The results are shocking.
Parents in Tokyo's Koto Ward enlisted the help of Tomoya Yamauchi, a radiation physicist at Kobe University, to measure radiation in their neighborhood. Local government officials later joined the act, ordering radiation checks of schoolyards and other public places and posting the results on their Web sites. An anonymous volunteer recently plotted the available 6300 data points on a map. And Yukio Hayakawa, a volcanologist at Gunma University, turned that plot into a radiation contour map.
It shows one wide belt of radiation reaching 225 kilometers south from the stricken reactors to Tokyo and another extending to the southwest. Within those belts are localized hot spots, including an oval that encloses northeast Tokyo and Kashiwa and neighboring cities in Chiba Prefecture.
Radiation in this zone is 0.4 microsieverts per hour, or about 3.5 millisieverts per year. That is a fraction of the radiation found throughout much of Fukushima Prefecture, which surrounds the nuclear power plant. But it is still 10 times background levels and even above the 1-millisievert-per-year limit for ordinary citizens set by Japanese law. The health effects of such low doses are not clear and are passionately debated.…
A map of citizen measured radiation levels shows radioactivity is distributed in a complex pattern reflecting the mountainous terrain and the shifting winds across a broad area of Japan north of Tokyo which is in the center of the of bottom of the map.
The Watershed Sentinel is proud to share Nelle Maxey's Fukushima Updates prepared for the BC environmental community.
Every day, Nelle pours over the media and other reports of the status of the reactors at Fukushima, comparing figures and trying to make sense out of the conflicting reports.