No end in sight for Fukushima disaster as bureaucrats battle the laws of physics
Monday, April 11, 2011
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles…)
(NaturalNews) As the famous physicist Dr. Michio Kaku said on April 4th, “The situation at Fukushima is relatively stable now… in the same way that you are stable if you hang by your fingernails off a cliff, and your fingernails begin to break one by one.” (http://bigthink.com/ideas/37705). That same article also refers to the Fukushima damage assessment by the NRC’s Nuclear Safety Team, which concluded that “cooling to the core of Unit 1 might be blocked by melted fuel and also by salt deposits left over from the use of sea water.”
That’s the same sea water, of course, that has been sprayed onto the fuel rods to prevent them from going Chernobyl. The unfortunate side effect of boiling off tens of thousands of gallons of sea water, however, is thatis leaves behind a lot of salt. Japan now appears to have an abundance ofradioactive sea saltthat’s unfortunately caked on top of the spent fuel rods and actually preventing much more water from reaching those rods. In a sense, spraying salt water on spent nuclear fuel rods is sort of like spraying them with a slow-acting insulation. It’s only a matter of time, it seems, before that insulation make it impossible for water to keep the rods below meltdown temperatures.
Meanwhile, theMinistry of Economics, Trade and Industryhas mysteriously stopped reporting the dry well radiation reading in Reactor No. 1. Why would they do that? Because no readings are far more politically correct than extremely high readings, of course. It all happened right after an “off-the-charts” reading of radiation in the drywell of Reactor No. 1, which TEPCO officials quickly dismissed as a broken radiation gauge (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/1110…). Sure, it probably is broken by this point due to its exposure to massive doses of radiation!
The only way a drywell reading can attain such high readings, by the way, is if the nuclear fuel rods have breached their containment core.
Some of the readings coming out of Fukushima are admittedly “immeasurable,” reported NHK World:
“A radiation monitor at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says workers there are exposed to immeasurable levels of radiation. The monitor told NHK that no one can enter the plant’s No. 1 through 3 reactor buildings because radiation levels are so high that monitoring devices have been rendered useless. He said even levels outside the buildings exceed 100 millisieverts in some places.”(http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english…)
The truth gets diluted far more than the radiation
You’re not supposed to know any of that, of course. Although the mainstream media claims that all the deadly iodine-131 gets dissipated across the Pacific Ocean before it can reach North America, the greater truth is thatthe facts about Fukushimaare diluted and dispersed long before they reach our shores. The result is an ongoing dangerous cover-up of what’s really happening there.
The mainstream media, of course, is blatantly engaged in an effort to suppress any scary-sounding information that might emerge about Fukushima. For example, a Forbes blog entitled“Radiation Detected In Drinking Water In 13 More US Cities, Cesium-137…”which contained the text, “Milk samples from Phoenix and Los Angeles contained iodine-131 at levels roughly equal to the maximum contaminant level permitted by EPA…” mysteriously disappeared, leaving just an empty shell of a page in its place. (After we published this article, the page was soon restored, by the way. We were contacted by the author who explained that he typo’d something in the Forbes content system, causing the article to appear blank. So it is accurate that this article mysteriously didn’t show up, but the reason behind it thankfully wasn’t censorship but rather just a typo. That’s a relief because Forbes.com has actually been a solid source for a lot of information about the national debt, economic news and other topics.)
With a few exceptions, the only stories that appear to be allowed to remain online are those that claim current radiation levels are “harmless.” For example, this story from AZCentral.com parrots the usual “don’t worry about radioactive milk” line:
Testing of milk samples in Arizona shows radiation levels that are thousands of times lower than a federal threshold that would cause authorities to take action, a state oversight agency said Friday. While the Arizona Department of Health Services has logged some concerns from the public following the Japanese nuclear incident, there is no reason to stop drinking milk, a department spokeswoman said. “I don’t want to trivialize it, but it is trivial,” Laura Oxley said. “It’s thousands of times below any action level that we would need to do.”(http://www.azcentral.com/business/a…)
Here come the pumping trucks
Have you ever seen an airplane swallow a truck? Check out the photos athttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art…
There, you’ll see a massive Russian cargo plane gulping down a 95-ton “Putzmeister” concrete pumping truck that’s being flown to Fukushima in order to spray more water on the nuclear fuel rods which continue to spew deadly radiation. The fuel rods are still in danger of reaching criticality (further meltdown with explosions), so the plan for now is to keep hosing them down with water.
This water, of course, becomes highly radioactive and eventually gets released into the Pacific Ocean. Right now, the amount of radioactive water being released tops50,000 tons(over 12 million gallons). (http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english…)
This process of dumping radioactive water into the Pacific will reportedly continue fordecadesunless some other clever solution can somehow be put in place. Alongside all this, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), has mastered the art of Jedi mind tricks, saying, “We cannot say what the outlook is for the next stage… As soon as possible we would like to achieve stable cooling and set a course towards controlling radiation.” (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011…)
In other words,these are not the droids you’re looking for.
Notice, if you read between the lines, he is admitting the radiation is NOT controlled, and stable cooling has NOT been achieved. And really all they’re doing ishopingtohave a planon how to somehow achieve that.
Far from stable
Remember when we were told two weeks ago that Fukushima was “on the verge of stabilizing?” How’s that for clever spin?
In contrast, ABC News (which has probably had the very best reporting among the MSM) recently carried this sentence: “A confidential assessment by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission obtained by The New York Times suggests that the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant is far from stable. The report concludes that the Fukushima plant is facing a wide array of fresh threats that could persist indefinitely.” (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/fukush…)
It continues with:
…though a major leak in a maintenance pit of the plant has been plugged, there is still a great likelihood that significant amounts of radioactive water will continue to be released into the Pacific Ocean; the worldwide Just-In-Time manufacturing cycle has been interrupted; and increased levels of radiation have been detected on the U.S. East Coast.
Remarkably, CNN is now carrying a story that appears to openly acknowledge the Fukushima situation may be all but hopeless. Written by Matt Smith, the article says: (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/a…)
A month into the crisis, the utility acknowledges, there is no end in sight. The problems are so far “beyond the design capacity” of the plant that the Japanese are working in uncharted territory, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at U.S. nuclear power plants. “No nuclear power plant has ever considered the inability to get on long-term core cooling for more than a week, much less three weeks,” Friedlander said.
Murphy’s Law strikes again
Ah, that pesky Murphy has worked his magic yet again, it seems, interfering with the best-laid plans of arrogant men who stupidly believe they have conquered the laws of physics by having a backup diesel generator nearby. Now we’re hearing announcements out of Japan that all future nuclear power plants must have TWO diesel generators on site, not just one.
Murphy laughs at such ignorance. How is two diesel generators better than onewhen they’re both fifteen feet under water?
That such a preposterous suggestion is even being considered proves once again just how utterly out of touch with reality the nuclear industry remains. Why not just pass a government rule thatoutlaws earthquakes?It would have approximately the same effect.
Meanwhile, a citizen video showing anightmarish drive into the Fukushima zoneis making the rounds on YouTube and other sites. We’ve posted it on NaturalNews.TV for distribution across the NaturalNews articles. Watch it at:http://naturalnews.tv/v.asp?v=2343E…
Articles Related to This Article:
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• Fukushima beyond point of no return as radioactive core melts through containment vessel
• Fukushima meltdown update: Cesium in the soil, ocean waters contaminated and fuel core meltdown now under way
• Fukushima radiation taints US milk supplies at levels 300% higher than EPA maximums
Fukushima: A Nuclear Threat to Japan, the U.S. and the World
Japan Disaster Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences
BY STEPHEN BROZAK AND HENRY BASSMAN
April 6, 2011
For several weeks, radioactive leaks from the Fukushima nuclear power plants have been incapacitating a large part of Japan. Information from the Japanese government and TEPCO, the power company that operates the site, has been sparse, often incomplete and sometimes contradictory. A confidential assessment by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission obtained by The New York Times suggests that the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant is far from stable. The report concludes that the Fukushima plant is facing a wide array of fresh threats that could persist indefinitely.
The Fukushima disaster has become more than a local, regional or national Japanese event. The worldwide implications of the event are becoming apparent: though a major leak in a maintenance pit of the plant has been plugged, there is still a great likelihood that significant amounts of radioactive water will continue to be released into the Pacific Ocean; the worldwide Just-In-Time manufacturing cycle has been interrupted; and increased levels of radiation have been detected on the U.S. East Coast. Though the amount of radiation to reach the U.S. is small and poses no present danger, its presence demonstrates that the Fukushima event has global impact.
Circumstances are still evolving too fast and too out-of-control for the consequences to be fully appreciated in real time. Every day brings new revelations of failure and growing frustration in Japan and elsewhere. It has become obvious that not all the facts about the Fukushima tragedy will be known until the danger is long past.
In Japan, there continues to be uncertainty about the extent of the danger from radiation exposure and lack of information about how many people have already been exposed to health-impairing radiation. We don’t know how much contamination has leaked into surrounding land and water or when and how those leaks can be repaired.
The Japanese government announced an evacuation zone extending 19 miles from the crippled Fukushima plants, the same distance as the exclusion zone around Chernobyl in Ukraine. But Japan is neither as large or as sparsely populated as Ukraine. Close to 73 percent of Japan is unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use. Millions of people could be dislocated in addition to those already homeless because of the quake. These people will need to be relocated and new homes will have to be created for them.
With the international challenge of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and national concerns about Congress being unable to agree on Federal Government funding, the U.S. news spotlight that was on Fukushima has been pointed elsewhere. However, smart investors and social observers continue to monitor the responses to the Fukushima tragedy and gauge its potential impact on world markets.
It will take the equivalent of billions of dollars for the Japanese to recover from these disasters and the U.S. economy is closely linked to theirs. The Japanese government and Japanese investors comprise the second largest holders of U.S. Treasuries, at $885 billion. The Bank of Japan also is reported to hold $493 billion in its reserve balance to avert credit problems. Some financial observers have speculated that the earthquake and tsunami may force Japan’s government and investors to liquidate much of the U.S. debt they hold. This possibility doesn’t even consider that there is no transparency as to what plans exist for using these funds.
The wholesomeness of much of Japan’s food supply has come under question. Farmers have been forced to destroy crops and dispose of dairy products. Because of continuing contamination of seawater, the healthfulness of seafood from the Pacific Ocean is in question. Japan is already a net food importer. In response to a continuing shortage of Japanese home-grown food, the Japanese government may encourage importation of even more foreign food, which is likely to increase the price of food in a nation where food is already an extremely expensive commodity. Worldwide, increased competition for food is likely to affect prices, causing some people in marginal economies to go hungry.
Japanese manufacturers are increasingly in competition with other Asian countries. With the domestic Japanese industrial base severely damaged by the earthquake, delivery of Japanese-manufactured products to the U.S. has been disrupted. Some U.S. plants using Japanese parts have been forced to slow down or halt production. They will probably recover when Japan begins exporting a full supply again, but in an already shaky economy, that could take months. If severe enough, the postponements could cause demand to disappear.
Some industries where Japan now has a predominant position are already threatened. Pre-Fukushima Japan produced a significant percentage of the world’s supply of silicon wafers, the base on which integrated circuits and memory chips are made. Because of the earthquake, it has been estimated that wafer supply has diminished by 25 percent.
A shortage of silicon wafers is likely to cause the price to rise, thus increasing the price of chips worldwide, which would have impact on the price of all sorts of goods from jumbo jet airplanes to programmable coffee makers. Korean manufacturers said they would fill the void. If customers establish supply agreements with new manufacturers in Korea, return to their former suppliers in Japan will become even more difficult.
Japan is a culturally unified nation, with more than 98 percent of its population sharing the same ethnicity. It also is a nation where the social norm is to achieve consensus and conform to standards. Japanese people are careful about expressing dissent or participating in controversy. Yet, we are seeing increased, almost unprecedented criticism of TEPCO and the government beginning to be expressed. If this is possible in such a polite and restrained society, imagine the response to a similar disaster elsewhere.
Increasingly, reports of heroic workers, dubbed the Fukushima Fifty by the press, have made their way into Western news media. There may be as many as 1,000 workers who are sacrificing themselves to prevent additional damage and repair existing damage to the nuclear reactors. It is possible some of these workers have been exposed to so much radiation that their lives will be changed in unforeseeable ways. It is likely many of these workers will suffer the long-term effects of radiation exposure, including increased likelihood of leukemia within a few years and other cancers as much as a decade or more from now. DNA damage to workers could become apparent only when these workers have children.
Though the aftermath of Fukushima will be with us for decades, and perhaps generations, immediate attention to this matter is imperative to save lives, provide knowledge that will avert a similar disaster elsewhere, and minimize domestic and worldwide economic impact.
After almost a month, there continue to be more questions than answers. There has been marginal success in cooling the at-risk reactors and little success stemming the flow of radioactive waste water. We have no credible estimate of the impact this disaster will have on the Japanese economy in particular or the world economy in general. There have been no credible steps in the U.S. or by the International Atomic Energy Agency to begin learning from this event and its aftermath and to apply those lessons to avert or minimize future tragedies.
The Japanese authorities, with the help of other experts, will have to muddle through this disaster, making up solutions as they go along. Hopefully, the damaged reactors will be brought under control before serious permanent harm is inflicted on national and international resources.
Looking to the future, as fossil fuels are depleted and become more costly, the world inevitably will become more dependent on nuclear power. It is likely that another nuclear disaster will occur sooner or later. Depending on ad-hoc solutions to disasters of this magnitude is shortsighted at best. In the U.S., we have seen no concerted response by U.S. regulators and nuclear power operators to re-examine safety standards in the 104 nuclear plants in this country. Most of them are decades old, some are based on the same design as Fukushima, and some sit on or near fault lines as unstable as those in Japan.
What is needed, in our opinion, is a permanently staffed, international nuclear rescue team. The team could have a core staff of full-time team members with stand-by team members, drawn from government and industry experts, who would be activated in the event of a disaster. The team would be furnished with the scientific, technical and equipment resources necessary to address an equivalent or a worse level of nuclear disaster than Fukushima. It would create scenarios, plans and tactics for remediating disasters when they occur. It would train to prepare to respond to a nuclear accident as a cohesive unit.
Such a resource would not provide a fool-proof solution to inevitable nuclear disasters. However, it is a necessary first step in controlling the potentially cataclysmic effects of a Fukushima-scale, or worse, nuclear reactor tragedy. After Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island and Now Fukushima, failure to prepare in advance for another such tragedy would be foolishly self-destructive.
Steve Brozak is President of WBB Securities, an independent broker-dealer and investment bank specializing in biotechnology, medical devices and pharmaceutical research. Henry Bassman is a Managing Director at WBB Securities.
Tokyo (CNN) — Beneath the cherry blossoms of Shiba Park, more than 2,000 people lined up for a Sunday afternoon march calling for Japan’s nuclear power stations to be shut down.
A week before, a similar protest — though in a chilly drizzle, not on a warm, sunny day — drew about 250.
And a month of frustration, desperation and anger boiled over at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s headquarters Friday as officials from towns around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant demanded to know when the crisis that has besieged their farming communities would end.
“The nuclear plant situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible. If not, we farmers will die,” one of the officials, Iwao Suzuki, told the utility’s executives.
But the response from Naomi Hirose, the managing director of Japan’s largest utility, offered little encouragement to the delegation or the rest of the world.
“There is a need to draw an end to the current situation as soon as possible,” Hirose said, adding, “We totally agree to this and are taking the utmost endeavors to contain the radiation.”
Since the March 11 earthquake that ravaged northern Japan, workers at Fukushima Daiichi have been struggling to cool down three overheated reactors and keep pools of spent but still potent nuclear fuel from spreading further radioactive contamination across northern Japan.
A month into the crisis, the utility acknowledges, there is no end in sight.
The problems are so far “beyond the design capacity” of the plant that the Japanese are working in uncharted territory, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at U.S. nuclear power plants.
“No nuclear power plant has ever considered the inability to get on long-term core cooling for more than a week, much less three weeks,” Friedlander said.
Some Japanese experts now say the effort is in danger of failing unless Japan seeks more help from international experts to bring it to an end. Tetsunari Iida, an engineer-turned-industry critic, said the situation is “beyond the reach” of Japan’s closely knit nuclear establishment.
“A real exit strategy has to start with an inspection by the world’s top experts on nuclear accidents,” Iida told reporters at Japan’s national press club last week.
Engineers and workers so far have managed to stave off a complete meltdown in Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors 1-3 and in the spent fuel pool of unit 4. But experts say the overheated fuel rods are likely to have suffered extensive damage, and there is a complication for seemingly every advance.
Much of the past week was dominated by the attempt to stop water laced with massive amounts of radioactive particles from pouring into the Pacific Ocean — water that comes out of the reactors “screaming with radioactivity,” Friedlander said. Tokyo Electric is now grappling with where to put the stuff, even dumping thousands of tons of less-radioactive water into the Pacific to make room for it in a reservoir for low-level waste.
In a normally functioning plant, coolant water is circulated out of the reactors and chilled. Then it’s pumped back in to carry more heat away from the plant’s fuel rods, which continue producing energy long after the chain reaction at the heart of the units has been stopped.
“You have to get the recirculation system up and functioning so they can cool that water in the normal way,” said Gary Was, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Michigan and a CNN consultant. Normal cooling systems don’t require the massive amounts of water — around 7 metric tons (1,850 gallons) per hour — now being poured into the reactors.
“That’s a big problem,” Was said.
Tokyo Electric officials told CNN they can’t say when they’ll be able to restore those normal cooling. The first step is to get highly radioactive water out of the flooded basements of the units’ turbine plants, then figure out how badly the equipment inside has been damaged.
For the first two weeks of the crisis, engineers pumped seawater into the reactors. But the resulting buildup of salt inside has made it harder for coolant to circulate, U.S. nuclear safety officials advised in March.
In addition, Was said, the fuel rods are likely in a state of “partial melt,” the extent of which will be difficult to determine. After 1979’s Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania, it took more than two years before operators were able to get a camera into the reactor to examine its condition, he said.
Satoshi Sato, a Japanese nuclear industry consultant, called the current line of attack a “waste of effort.” Plant instruments are likely damaged and unreliable because of the intense heat that was generated, and pumping more water into the reactors is only making the contamination problem worse, he said.
“There is no happy end with their approach,” Sato told CNN. “They must change the approach. That’s something I’m sure of 100 percent.”
After the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst to date, the Soviet Union encased the plant’s damaged reactor in a massive concrete sarcophagus. Iida said Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors remain too hot to pour concrete, but he suggested pouring a slurry of minerals and sand over them to carry away heat before encasing them.
And Was said the reactors have to be cooled in order to let the molten fuel harden again: “Only when it solidifies are you sure you can contain it.” He said Tokyo Electric should be in the lead — “It’s their plant” — but he added, “There’s a lot of different areas in which they could benefit from international help.”
Japan’s government is consulting with experts from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the French nuclear fuel company Areva, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the agency’s chief spokesman. U.S. Navy barges have been carrying fresh water to Fukushima Daiichi, and Tokyo’s foreign ministry has asked Russia about using a Japanese-built ship outfitted as a floating decontamination plant.
“We already have quite a bit of support from outside countries and organizations,” Nishiyama said. But he added, “I think the most urgent issue now is support in whatever form possible with regard to how we can dispose of the cooling water and be able to build a sustainable cooling system.”
General Electric which designed the reactors, and Hitachi, which built most of the plant, are also advising the government and Tokyo Electric. GE chief Jeffrey Immelt flew to Japan to consult with Japanese officials and executives last week, and Tokyo has asked Russian officials about using a Japanese-built ship outfitted as a floating decontamination plant.
But for now, Japan has “no choice” but to continue pouring water into the reactors, Friedlander said.
“I have no doubt that the men and women working at the power plant are indeed going to exert every human effort to make sure that they resolve this,” he said. “What I don’t know and what I can’t tell and the big question mark for me is, will it be done sooner than later?
“And again, my hope is, is that it’ll be done sooner. But in order for it to be done sooner, TEPCO’s going to have to step up and ask for more help from the international community.”
Ailing Chang and CNN’s Brian Walker contributed to this report.
Japan Orders Nuclear Plant Operators to Obtain More Emergency Generators
Sunday, April 10, 2011
By ANDREW POLLACK and MATTHEW L. WALD, The New York Times
TOKYO — Radiation readings spiked sharply in one reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after a powerful aftershock late Thursday, according to data released by the government, a development that might indicate new damage to the already compromised reactor.
But the plant owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, said the gauge used to measure radiation was most likely broken.
The high radiation was measured in the drywell of Reactor No. 1, directly below the reactor pressure vessel and part of the primary containment that is a crucial barrier preventing the escape of radioactive materials. The drywell reading raised the worrisome possibility that some of the nuclear core, perhaps molten, had escaped from the vessel, although this was far from certain.
Experts said, however, that keeping water in the drywell could prevent such a disaster.
On Tuesday the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission set off alarms when it said that such a leak might have happened in the No. 2 reactor at the plant, based on a high radiation reading in its drywell. But the agency has since appeared to step back slightly from that theory, emphasizing that its judgment was based on speculation because no one can get close enough to the reactor to judge what is really happening.
And on Saturday, Eliot Brenner, a spokesman for the commission, agreed with the power company’s assessment that the high reading in the No. 1 reactor was likely in error because there had not been a sharp increase in pressure or temperature in the drywell.
The radiation readings, while still quite high, were down Friday from the highest level, which was recorded a half-hour after the 7.1- magnitude aftershock.
The Japanese government, meanwhile, ordered reactor operators on Saturday to bring in additional emergency diesel generators, as the aftershock again demonstrated the potential for such events to shut down portions of the power grid.
The new government order came after problems were reported at two other nuclear power plants, both run by the Tohoku Electric Power Company. The plants suffered temporary losses of cooling to spent fuel pools, electricity cutoffs and problems with backup diesel generators after Thursday’s aftershock.
The Higashidori plant lost all outside power. Although it had three backup diesel generators, two were out of service for periodic maintenance. The remaining one worked for a while, but later, after some outside power was restored, it stopped because some of its oil spilled out.
At the Onagawa plant, three out of four outside power lines went down, but the plant continued to operate on the fourth line. Although diesel backup was not needed, it was discovered that one of the plant’s two diesel generators had been out of order since April 1.
“There was no problem this time,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which regulates the atomic energy industry, at a news conference. However, he said, nuclear plant operators will now be required to have more backup diesel generators available and working.
Mr. Nishiyama said his agency was also trying to find the causes for the loss of cooling to spent fuel pools. The Higashidori cooling system stopped for 21 minutes. At Onagawa, which has three reactors, the cooling was out for up to 80 minutes. The cause of one stoppage seemed to be essentially a blown fuse, Mr. Nishiyama said.
Loss of cooling can allow spent fuel to heat up, which can lead to the release of radioactive materials.
The government also moved to ban the planting of rice in soil containing too much radioactive material, which has been released from the Fukushima Daiichi plant in the weeks since a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. Sales of some milk, vegetables and fish have been prohibited because of contamination, but the new measures affect the nation’s staple crop, a foundation of its culture as well as its diet.
The new policy on rice will ban planting of the crop in soil that has more than 5,000 becquerels of cesium-137 per kilogram of soil.
So far, radiation testers have found only two spots in northeastern Japan, both in the town of Iitate, 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, that has had cesium levels that high. Cesium-137 can damage cells and lead to an increased risk of cancer.
The national and prefectural governments are now hurriedly performing broader soil surveys to identify which areas would be off limits to planting.
With planting about to begin, “we don’t have so much time,” said Sumito Yasuoka, an official in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, who said farmers pressed the government to let them know if they could plant their crop. The government also wants to assure consumers that the rice they eat will be safe.
“Rice is Japan’s main staple, and it is a very important food,” Mr. Yasuoka said. “It’s very important to maintain the safety of rice as well.”
The level of 5,000 becquerels per kilogram was chosen because rice grown in such soil would be expected to end up with about 500 becquerels of cesium 137 in the rice. That is the existing limit for vegetables and some other foods, Mr. Yasuoka said.
Fukushima Prefecture is the nation’s fourth-largest rice producer, and rice is its biggest crop, so any ban on planting would cause financial hardship.
“It hurts terribly,” said Yoshinori Sato, an official of an agricultural cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture with 13,000 households as members. Mr. Sato said that about half the rice acres his co-op’s members hoped to plant this year might be off limits, either because of radiation or because of tsunami damage.
Mindful of the sensitivities, Michihiko Kano, the minister of agriculture, visited Iitate on Saturday and promised that farmers who were not allowed to grow rice because of soil contamination would be compensated.
Thursday’s aftershock, which occurred off the northeastern coast of Japan, was the largest since March 11, the day of the 9.0-magnitude quake that set off a giant tsunami and the crisis at the Fukushima plant. More than four million households or stores lost power on Thursday night, but by Saturday, only about 160,000 were without power.
The fire and disaster management agency said that two people had died in the aftershock, but news reports cited more.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
First published on April 10, 2011 at 12:01 am
WRAPUP 1-Japan fails to stop radioactive discharge into ocean
TOKYO, April 11 | Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:09am EDT
(Reuters) – Japanese nuclear power plant operator TEPCO expects to stop pumping radioactive water into the ocean on Monday, days later than planned, a step that would help ease international concern about the spread of radiation from a smashed nuclear plant.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Democratic Party was likely to be punished at Sunday’s local polls for his handling of the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, killing 13,000 and triggering the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
China and South Korea have also criticised Japan’s handling of the nuclear crisis, with Seoul calling it incompetent, reflecting growing international unease over the month-long atomic disaster and the spread of radiation.
Japan is struggling to regain control of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that was damaged by the magnitude 9 quake and 15 metre tsunami.
The nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) , has been pumping sea water into the reactors to cool the nuclear core, and then discharging the water, after it has become contaminated, back into the Pacific Ocean.
TEPCO had planned to stop the discharge on Saturday, but work was interrupted by a powerful aftershock late on Thursday. The firm then pushed the target back to Sunday, a goal it failed to meet.
“We are making checks on remaining water, and the final check is scheduled for tomorrow,” a company spokesman told a press briefing late on Sunday.
TEPCO was forced to start pumping sea water into the power plant after failing to restart the reactors’ cooling systems after the quake. It has been pumping in nitrogen to cool the core, but officials say they are unsure of what to do next.
“We cannot say what the outlook is for the next stage,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director-general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said on Sunday. “As soon as possible we would like to achieve stable cooling and set a course towards controlling radiation.”
It is also grappling with a major humanitarian and economic crisis and facing a damages bill as high as $300 billion — the world’s biggest for any natural disaster.
Japanese who voted in local elections on Sunday were expected to shun Kan’s ruling party, further weakening him and bolstering opponents who will try to force his resignation once the crisis ends. Results of the vote are expected on Monday.
Unpopular prime minister Kan was already under pressure to step down before the disaster, but analysts say he is unlikely to be dumped during the nuclear crisis, which is set to drag on for months.
In Tokyo, around 5,000 people took to the streets in two separate anti-nuclear protests on Sunday. Some carried placards reading ‘No More Fukushima’ and ‘No Nukes’; others danced and played musical instruments.
One group of demonstrators marched to the offices of the operator of the stricken plant, which has apologised to Japan, and neighbouring countries, for the crisis.
Radiation from Japan spread around the entire northern hemisphere in the first two weeks of the nuclear crisis, according to the Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation.
Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, is reeling from the triple disaster and several countries have banned or restricted food imports after detecting radiation.
More critically, the nuclear crisis and power shortages have disrupted Japan’s manufacturing and electronics global supply chains, hitting computer and automakers in particular.
Power blackouts and restrictions, factory shutdowns, and a sharp drop in tourists have hit the world’s most indebted nation.
Efforts to regain control of six reactors hit by the tsunami, which caused partial meltdowns to some reactor cores after fuel rods were overheated, has been hindered by 60,000 tonnes of radioactive water.
NISA said efforts to restore cooling systems were not making clear progress.
TEPCO wants to start moving some of the highly contaminated water out of the reactors and into a condenser, a key step towards restoring the critical cooling system.
“We may be able to use (electric) systems that are currently functioning for cooling, and that may speed up the cooling restoration. But there is no concrete and clear option,” said NISA’s Nishiyama.
“It is one step forward, one step backwards.” ($1=85.475 Japanese yen) (Additional reporting byChisa Fujioka, Issei Kato and Masahiro Koike in Tokyo; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Miral Fahmy)
Radioactive water disposal delayed
Work to dispose of highly radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is not proceeding smoothly as more time is needed for preparations.
Heavily contaminated water in turbine buildings and a concrete tunnel is hampering work to restore cooling functions in the troubled reactors. The total amount of water in question is estimated at more than 50,000 tons.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, plans to transfer the highly radioactive water to a nuclear waste processing facility and turbine condensers.
The utility firm is now working to lay hoses between the turbine buildings and the facility.
Holes have already been bored in the walls of the buildings, but work to install the hoses has yet to begin.
Massive cargo plane transports $2m remote-controlled concrete pump to stricken Japanese nuclear plant
By WIL LONGBOTTOM
Last updated at 10:53 AM on 11th April 2011
95-ton pump could also bury damaged reactors in concrete
Two of vast concrete pumps being flown to Fukushima plant to avert nuclear disaster
Japanese government bans growing of rice in vicinity of crippled plant
Soil containing high levels of radioactive cesium found in two locations
A massive Russian cargo plane has been used to pick one of the world’s largest concrete pumps to pour water on the stricken nuclear power plant in Japan.
The 95-ton pump is mounted on a 26-wheel truck and can be operated from two miles away by remote control, allowing it to shoot water into the damaged reactors.
If necessary, it could also be used to entomb one of the damaged nuclear reactors in concrete.
Rescue giant: A $2million concrete pump is loaded on to a special Russian cargo plane in Atlanta, Georgia
Into the belly of the beast: The pumps can be remote-controlled from two miles away and could pour water into previously inaccessible parts of the Fukushima plant. Here a second pump is loaded into a plane at LAX
High tech: If necessary, the pump could also be used to bury reactors in concrete
Dave Adams, CEO of Putzmeister America, the Wisconsin-based company which manufactures the pump, said: ‘Our whole company fells hopeful that our equipment can be used to make a difference in helping solve the problem.’
Japanese authorities have struggled to cool the plant’s reactors after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out its backup cooling systems.
The stricken plant is believed to have suffered a partial meltdown of its nuclear fuel after desperate attempts to cool the reactors failed.
It comes as the Japanese government announced it would ban farmers from planting rice into soil contaminated by radiation from the nuclear power plant.
95-ton: The heavy-duty machinery is one of two being flown to Japan to try and avert the nuclear crisis in Fukushima
Leviathan: Engineers in Japan have struggled to pump water into the reactors at the plant to keep them cool, resulting in the release of radioactive particles
Prayers: A woman lays flowers where her house was swept away in Minamisoma
The ban will apply to any soil found to contain high levels of radioactive cesium. Farmers who cannot grow rice will be compensated.
So far, soil that exceeds the new limit has only been found in two places in Iitate, around 25 miles from Fukushima.
Agriculture minister Michihiko Kano said: ‘We had to come up with a policy quickly because we are in planting season.
‘Following this, I want to hear the opinions of experts and local officials on how to remediate the soil.’
High levels of seawater contamination around the plant prompted Japan to set limits on the amount of radiation permitted in fish for the first time.
The contamination levels have since decreased after plant workers managed to plug a leak in one of the reactors.
Damage: Girders hanging down and rubbish everywhere, this is the second floor of the main building at Fukushima
Engulfed: This shows the main entrance to the crippled plant
Crippled: The March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused catastrophic damage to the coolant systems at the Fukushima plant
Disaster: Firemen carry out a search for bodies in Ishinomaki. As many as 25,000 people have been killed in the earthquake and tsunami
Enduring: Evacuees watch television inside a centre in Rikuzentakata. The government today banned the planting of rice in contaminated soil as the country reaches planting season
There have also been concerns about radiation in vegetables and milk, and several countries including China have been imports of some items from Japan.
Experts say people would have to eat enormous quantities of produce or dairy before getting even the amount of radiation contained in a CT scan.
But caesium is a concern because it can building up in the body and high levels are thought to be a risk for various cancers.
It is still found in soil in Germany, Austria and France 25 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
An official from the U.S. company contacted the Tokyo Electric Power Co, which owns Fukushima Daiichi plant, after watching helicopters and fire trucks struggled to spray water on the plant.
Moment of impact: Waves from the tsunami batter the seawall in front of the Fukushima power plant
Ordeal: A man walks past a temporary shelter in Rikuzentakata. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate within miles of the Fukushima plant after its cooling system failed
Devastation: A man looks for missing residents in Minami Soma, near the site of the nuclear disaster
The company managed to reroute a smaller Putzmeister pump that had been destined for Vietnam.
A dozen workers used it to pump 150 tons of seawater into one of the reactor’s spent-fuel pools in three hours.
After landing in Atlanta, the cargo jet will join another flying from Los Angeles International Airport and head to Japan.
TEPCO bought the two pumps, which cost $2million each and have a 200ft boom, and is paying for transportation costs.
A magnitude-7.1 aftershock which struck off the coast of Japan on Thursday has not affected the plant.
The quake knocked out power to millions of people and sparked another tsunami warning, but this was later withdrawn.
Watch video of the exclusion zone around the stricken plant below
Owner of damaged nuclear plant was planning new reactors days after tsunami
BY JULIAN RYALL, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH APRIL 13, 2011
A Japanese civic group member holds a placard to protest against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) over the nuclear leakage at the comnpany’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami outside the TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo on March 30, 2011.
Photograph by: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images, edmontonjournal.com
The nuclear power company in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan submitted plans for two new reactors at the site 11 days after it was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami last month.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) filed its plan to start work on the reactors in spring next year with the Fukushima prefectural government the day after the death toll from the disasters surpassed 10,000 and an advisory panel to the government disclosed that the number three reactor was leaking radiation.
The proposal was incorporated into a report on future power consumption and generation capabilities that was given to Japan’s economic ministry on March 31.
Hiro Hasegawa, a spokesman for Tepco, said the firm was required to submit a report on its annual electricity plan for the next fiscal year by law. “We had prepared the report before March 11 [the day of the earthquake] and did not have time to change the information it contained,” he said.
“People ask why we did not drop the report, but it’s not as easy as that. We did not have time to reassess the plans.”
Tepco officials said it would not be possible to build the new plants although that opinion had not been formalized at a board meeting. “We know it will be impossible,” Mr Hasegawa said.
Yoichi Nozaki, the director general of Fukushima prefecture’s planning and co-ordination department, said: “It was just unbelievable. Tokyo Electric may want to ignore the feelings of Fukushima residents, but this is not acceptable.”
Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in politics and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, said: “I imagine there will be differences in the opinions of people in Tokyo, which will need power in the summer months, and those in northern Japan, but the timing of this proposal is terrible.
“The people who lived by this plant have to be angry when they think about all that they have lost.”
Engineers at the plant claimed to have plugged a crack yesterday that was leaking radioactive water into the Pacific. They pumped a mixture of liquid glass and a hardening agent into a maintenance pit close to the reactors.
High concentrations of radiation have escaped into the water, with Tepco confirming that levels of radioactive iodine-131 in the sea off the damaged number two reactor were 7.5?million times higher than normal. About 60,000 tons of contaminated water that was sprayed on the reactors to keep them cool was still awaiting disposal.
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