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The Yakuza’s Cleanup Crew: It’s Not What You Think But Still Alarming

Orga­nized crim­i­nal net­works could be thought of as a coven of keep­ers of well guard­ed secrets. Pow­er­ful, prof­itable well guard­ed secrets. The orga­nized “sys­tem” works because only “need to know” peo­ple know about it. It’s like Sci­en­tol­ogy, minus the actu­al Sci­en­tol­ogy. That’s sort of how mil­i­taries and gov­ern­ments work, where the most pow­er­ful and dan­ger­ous infor­ma­tion and capa­bil­i­ties are com­part­men­tal­ized in a hier­ar­chi­cal man­ner. Some mafias are qua­si-legal and part of the gov­ern­ment offi­cial­ly or unof­fi­cial­ly:

The Dai­ly Beast
The Death and Lega­cy of Yakuza Boss ‘Mr. Goril­la’

For years Yoshi­nori Watan­abe (aka ‘Mr. Goril­la’) ran Japan’s most pow­er­ful and suc­cess­ful yakuza group. Jake Adel­stein on his mys­te­ri­ous death over the weekend—and his lega­cy of mod­ern and ruth­less man­age­ment of the crime syn­di­cate.
Dec 3, 2012 5:54 PM EST
Jake Adel­stein

Watan­abe was found col­lapsed at his home in Kobe on Sat­ur­day, by his fam­i­ly; his death was con­firmed the same day. A memo­r­i­al ser­vice was held for him Mon­day. The cause of death is unknown, but he alleged­ly had been in poor health for years.

Watan­abe became the fifth head of the Yam­aguchi-gumi in 1989 after a four-year gang war between the Yam­aguchi-gumi and the Ichi­wa-kai, which had split off from the main group. Watan­abe, in a move to encour­age Ichi­wa-kai mem­bers to return to the fold, is cred­it­ed with intro­duc­ing a pen­sion plan to the Yam­aguchi-gumi that promised to take care of retired “employ­ees,” much like major Japan­ese cor­po­ra­tions. Watan­abe was a high­ly intel­li­gent gang­ster, but because of his slight­ly simi­an facial fea­tures, he was known amongst some police offi­cers and some yakuza affec­tion­ate­ly as “Mr. Goril­la”.

Watan­abe was a charis­mat­ic leader and a good busi­ness­man. By keep­ing the asso­ci­a­tion dues low and through aggres­sive gang wars and lever­aged peace treaties with rival gangs, he expand­ed the orga­ni­za­tion to become Japan’s largest orga­nized crime group; by 2004, the Yam­aguchi-gumi head­quar­ters was col­lect­ing near­ly $25 mil­lion per year in asso­ci­a­tion dues alone, accord­ing to police files. In the book The Busi­ness Man­age­ment Meth­ods of the Yam­aguchi-gumi (2005), by yakuza expert Atsushi Mizoguchi, Watan­abe suc­cinct­ly explains the secret of his orga­nized crime man­age­ment: “Absolute Uni­ty. Retal­i­a­tion. Silence. Appro­pri­ate rewards and pun­ish­ments, and judi­cious use of vio­lence.”

How­ev­er, dur­ing his reign, prob­lems also emerged. Anti-yakuza leg­is­la­tion went on the books (1992) and legal prece­dents were set that grad­u­al­ly forced the yakuza under­ground. In a civ­il law­suit over the shoot­ing death of a police­man in a gang con­flict that involved the Yam­aguchi-gumi, Watan­abe was effec­tive­ly ordered by Japan’s Supreme Count to pay dam­ages of about 80 mil­lion yen in 2004. This was the first time the courts rec­og­nized a Yakuza boss’s “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty.”

...

Watan­abe was a folk hero in Kobe, the town where he died, after orga­niz­ing relief efforts and pro­vid­ing food, water, and essen­tial sup­plies to the locals after the Great Han­shin Earth­quake in Jan­u­ary of 1995.

Under Watanabe’s suc­ces­sor, Shi­nobu Tsukasa, the Yam­aguchi-gumi absorbed the Tokyo-based Kokusui-kai in 2005, giv­ing them a strong base in east­ern Japan. By 2007 the Yam­aguchi-gumi had effec­tive­ly put the Ina­gawa-kai under their umbrel­la, mak­ing them the Wal­mart of Japan­ese orga­nized crime with more than half of the total yakuza (79,000) being under their con­trol.

Note the ref­er­ences to the Yam­aguchi-guchi’s pen­sion plan for its “employ­ees” as well as the “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty” legal rul­ing that forced the Yam­aguch-guchi clan to pay a fine in 2005 after one of its “employ­ees” killed a police offi­cer. The yakuza­’s employ­ment efforts will be high­ly rel­e­vant in excerpts below. Their dis­as­ter relief efforts are also going to be high­light­ed. As evi­denced by the yakuza­’s post-earth­quake/t­sunami/nu­clear melt­down actions, the yakuza are a lot like a cor­rupt polit­i­cal par­ty in many ways but one dif­fer­ence is that the yakuza­’s awful attempts at pop­ulist folksi­ness actu­al­ly involve help­ing peo­ple some­times:

The Dai­ly Beast
Yakuza to the Res­cue
Even Japan’s infa­mous mafia groups are help­ing out with the relief efforts and show­ing a strain of civic duty. Jake Adel­stein reports on why the police don’t want you to know about it.

Mar 18, 2011 5:00 AM EDT
Jake Adel­stein

The worst of times some­times brings out the best in peo­ple, even in Japan’s “losers” a.k.a. the Japan­ese mafia, the yakuza. Hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, open­ing their offices to those strand­ed in Tokyo, and ship­ping food, water, and blan­kets to the dev­as­tat­ed areas in two-ton trucks and what­ev­er vehi­cles they could get mov­ing. The day after the earth­quake the Ina­gawa-kai (the third largest orga­nized crime group in Japan which was found­ed in 1948) sent twen­ty-five four-ton trucks filled with paper dia­pers, instant ramen, bat­ter­ies, flash­lights, drinks, and the essen­tials of dai­ly life to the Tohoku region. An exec­u­tive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the sec­ond-largest crime group, even offered refuge to mem­bers of the for­eign community—something unheard of in a still slight­ly xeno­pho­bic nation, espe­cial­ly amongst the right-wing yakuza. The Yam­aguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, under the lead­er­ship of Tadashi Irie, has also opened its offices across the coun­try to the pub­lic and been send­ing truck­loads of sup­plies, but very qui­et­ly and with­out any fan­fare.

The Ina­gawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. It has sev­er­al “blocks” or region­al groups. Between mid­night on March 12th and the ear­ly morn­ing of March 13th, the Ina­gawa-kai Tokyo block car­ried 50 tons of sup­plies to Hitachi­na­ka City Hall (Hitachi­na­ka City, Ibara­ki Pre­fec­ture) and dropped them off, care­ful not to men­tion their yakuza affil­i­a­tion so that the dona­tions weren’t reject­ed. This was the begin­ning of their human­i­tar­i­an efforts. Sup­plies includ­ed cup ramen, bean sprouts, paper dia­pers, tea and drink­ing water. The dri­ve from Tokyo took them twelve hours. They went through back roads to get there. The Kana­gawa Block of the Ina­gawa-kai, has sent 70 trucks to the Ibara­ki and Fukushi­ma areas to drop off sup­plies in areas with high radi­a­tions lev­els. They did­n’t keep track of how many tons of sup­plies they moved. The Ina­gawa-kai as a whole has moved over 100 tons of sup­plies to the Tohoku region. They have been going into radi­at­ed areas with­out any pro­tec­tion or potas­si­um iodide.

The Yam­aguchi-gumi mem­ber I spoke with said sim­ply, “Please don’t say any more than we are doing our best to help. Right now, no one wants to be asso­ci­at­ed with us and we’d hate to have our dona­tions reject­ed out of hand.”

To those not famil­iar with the yakuza, it may come as a shock to hear of their phil­an­thropy, but this is not the first time that they have dis­played a human­i­tar­i­an impulse. In 1995, after the Kobe earth­quake, the Yam­aguchi-gumi was one of the most respon­sive forces on the ground, quick­ly get­ting sup­plies to the affect­ed areas and dis­trib­ut­ing them to the local peo­ple. Admit­ted­ly, much of those sup­plies were paid with by mon­ey from years of shak­ing down the peo­ple in the area, and they were cer­tain­ly not unaware of the pub­lic rela­tions factor—but no one can deny that they were help­ful when peo­ple need­ed aid—as they are this time as well.

It may seem puz­zling that the yakuza, which are orga­nized crime groups, deriv­ing their prin­ci­pal rev­enue streams from ille­gal activ­i­ties, such as col­lect­ing pro­tec­tion mon­ey, black­mail, extor­tion, and fraud would have any civic nature at all. How­ev­er, in Japan since the post-war peri­od they have always played a role in keep­ing the peace. Accord­ing to Robert Whiting’s Tokyo Under­world and Tim Weiner’s Lega­cy of Ash­es, the US gov­ern­ment even bought the ser­vices of one infa­mous yakuza fix­er, Yoshio Kodama, to keep Japan from going com­mu­nist and main­tain order. Kodama would lat­er put up the fund­ing to cre­ate the Lib­er­al Demo­c­rat Par­ty of Japan that ruled the coun­try for over fifty years. When Pres­i­dent Oba­ma vis­it­ed Japan last year, the police con­tact­ed the heads of all Tokyo yakuza groups and asked them to behave them­selves and make sure there were no prob­lems.
...

Inter­est­ing fun-fact: The “yakuza fixer”/power-broker ref­er­enced above, Yoshio Kodama, was the one-time prison cell mate of for­mer prime min­is­ter Nobo­suke Kishi for war crimes(Kishi is the grand­fa­ther of cur­rent prime min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe). Kodama was also a backer of gang­ster/oli­garch/sushi king/new mes­si­ah rev­erend Sun Myung Moon. It’s a small world at the top. The glue that seems to hold the world at the togeth­er appears to be high­ly prof­itable and pow­er­ful secre­cy and lots of mon­ey. Curi­ous­ly, though, an large num­ber of those pow­er­ful secrets aren’t real­ly very secret:

The Dai­ly Beast
Japan’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter to Resign Over Yakuza Ties
It’s almost too per­fect: Japan’s new min­is­ter of jus­tice is about to resign over his ties to a lead­ing yakuza (mafia) orga­ni­za­tion. Jake Adel­stein reports on the lat­est polit­i­cal scandal—and just what the yakuza do for the politi­cians.

Oct 18, 2012 11:30 PM EDT
Jake Adel­stein

It seems like Japan­ese politi­cians just can’t get enough of the yakuza.

It was report­ed last week that the new­ly appoint­ed Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Keishu Tana­ka (Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Japan) had strong ties to the Japan­ese mafia. This Thurs­day, Japan’s respect­ed week­ly news mag­a­zine, Shukan Bun­shun, ran an arti­cle on how Japan’s Min­is­ter of Finance Kori­ki Joji­ma, was sup­port­ed by a yakuza front com­pa­ny dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign. Min­is­ter Tana­ka is expect­ed to resign Fri­day (Japan time). If he does, he’ll be the sec­ond Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Japan (DPJ) appoint­ed cab­i­net min­is­ter since 2009 to resign after expo­sure of yakuza ties. Not a good thing for the DPJ, which came to pow­er as “the clean par­ty.”

Last Thurs­day the week­ly mag­a­zine Shukan Shin­cho was the first to write that Min­is­ter Tana­ka had long run­ning ties to the Ina­gawa-kai. The Ina­gawa-kai, Japan’s third-largest crime group, was found­ed as Ina­gawa-Kogyo cir­ca 1948 and their cur­rent head­quar­ters are across the street from the Ritz Carl­ton Tokyo; they have 10,000 mem­bers. Accord­ing to the police, since 2007 the group has been under the umbrel­la of the Yam­aguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group in the coun­try, with 39,000 mem­bers. Kazuo Uchi­bori, the leader of the Ina­gawa-kai, was arrest­ed this month on mon­ey-laun­der­ing charges. The Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office (TPO) has not yet decid­ed whether to pros­e­cute him. The TPO is also part of the Min­istry of Jus­tice, head­ed by Mr. Tana­ka.

The Shin­cho arti­cle alleges Tana­ka has long relied on the sup­port of the Ina­gawa-kai in his polit­i­cal and busi­ness deal­ings and had par­tic­i­pat­ed in many Ina­gawa-kai events—including serv­ing as a match­mak­er (nakou­do) at the wed­ding of an under­boss. The piece also states that the Ina­gawa-kai sup­pressed scan­dalous rumors about Tanaka’s life, involv­ing a tawdry love affair. The under­boss respon­si­ble for han­dling the neg­a­tive PR mat­ters alleged­ly told would-be extor­tion­ists, “Tana­ka was the match­mak­er at my wed­ding. Save my face—forgive and for­get about it.”

The Dai­ly Beast spoke with Ina­gawa-kai mem­bers and police offi­cers from Kana­gawa Pre­fec­ture who con­firmed that Tana­ka did indeed have strong ties to the Ina­gawa-kai, until at least two years ago.

Tana­ka has admit­ted to attend­ing Ina­gawa-kai events in the past, includ­ing the wed­ding, but has denied the rest of the alle­ga­tions.

Sen. Sho­ji Nishi­da who has inves­ti­gat­ed and writ­ten about the ties of some DPJ mem­bers to the mob in WILL mag­a­zine (Novem­ber 2011) says, “Tana­ka is the 4th DPJ-coali­tion-appoint­ed min­is­ter with yakuza ties. I won­der if they even screen the peo­ple they put in cab­i­net posi­tions. The min­is­ter of Jus­tice is sup­posed to be the watch­dog of the law, not a match­mak­er for the yakuza. Putting a yakuza asso­ciate in charge of Japan’s crim­i­nal-jus­tice sys­tem ... that’s out­ra­geous. Now I can under­stand why the Yam­aguchi-gumi endorsed their par­ty.”

...

It should be point­ed out that the DPJ coali­tion has not offi­cial­ly endorsed any orga­nized crime group in Japan. It may very well be a uni­lat­er­al rela­tion­ship. The DPJ has con­sis­tent­ly opposed pass­ing a Crim­i­nal Con­spir­a­cy Law, leg­is­la­tion that would be fatal to Japan’s semi-legit­i­mate orga­nized-crime groups. It would make sense for the mob to sup­port their own inter­ests.

It was not that unusu­al for Japan­ese politi­cians to have yakuza ties in the past. In the good old days, yakuza them­selves even served as min­is­ters of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment. The grand­fa­ther of ex-prime min­is­ter Junichi­ro Koizu­mi (Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty), Mata­jiro Koizu­mi, was a mem­ber of a yakuza group lat­er absorbed into the Ina­gawa-kai. Dur­ing his term serv­ing as the min­is­ter of gen­er­al affairs (1929–1931), due to his ornate body art, Mata­jiro Koizu­mi was fond­ly known as “Irezu­mi Dai­jin” or “the tat­tooed min­is­ter.”

...

It is increas­ing­ly like­ly that at least Keishu Tana­ka will be forced to resign from office due to his past role as a “yakuza match­mak­er.” His res­ig­na­tion is unlike­ly to be the end of—what so far—has been a real­ly great rela­tion­ship for the Japan­ese polit­i­cal par­ties and the underworld—a match made in heav­en. For Japan’s polit­i­cal par­ties the yakuza are a nec­es­sary evil. When you need to get out the vote, squelch pos­si­ble polit­i­cal scandals—or cre­ate them, nobody does the job quite as well as Japan’s mafia.

The embrace of the yakuza or any mafia out­fit as a “nec­es­sary evil” by politi­cians is not a sur­pris­ing glob­al phe­nom­e­na. If you go deep enough into the world of deep state pow­er pol­i­tics you’ll end up above the law. Nor­mal laws no longer apply in those envi­ron­ments.

Smol­der­ing piles of high­ly radioac­tive waste. No roof. Big prob­lem.
One promi­nent excep­tion to exemp­tion from nor­mal laws for deep state actors would be the laws of physics. They’re just real­ly hard to get around. For exam­ple, if an earthquake/tsunami hap­pens to trig­ger a pow­er­ful enough explo­sion to blow its roof off AND the build­ing hap­pens to con­tain over a thou­sand spent nuclear fuel rods, the laws of physics strong sug­gest that you’re going to have a real­ly hard time clean­ing that up. And those dif­fi­cul­ties are going to last for a very long time:

Asahi
High radi­a­tion bars decom­mis­sion­ing of Fukushi­ma plant
Feb­ru­ary 21, 2013

By HISASHI HATTORI/ Senior Staff Writer

Prepa­ra­tions for the mam­moth task of decom­mis­sion­ing crip­pled reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant are being stymied by con­tin­ued high lev­els of radi­a­tion from the triple melt­downs there two years ago.

Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., oper­a­tor of the plant, has had to install more tanks to store radioac­tive water, which con­tin­ues to swell by sev­er­al hun­dreds of tons dai­ly.

Asahi Shim­bun reporters entered the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing on Feb. 20, accom­pa­nied by inspec­tors from the sec­re­tari­at of the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, to assess the sit­u­a­tion.

The reac­tor was offline for reg­u­lar inspec­tions when the magnitude‑9.0 Great East Japan Earth­quake struck on March 11, 2011, gen­er­at­ing tow­er­ing tsuna­mi that swamped the plant.

In the days that fol­lowed, a hydro­gen explo­sion tore through the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing. It raised alarm world­wide that the stor­age pool for spent nuclear fuel in the build­ing might lose its water through evap­o­ra­tion, result­ing in the dis­charge of volu­mi­nous amounts of radioac­tive sub­stances.

That was nar­row­ly avert­ed.

Most of the debris, such as steel frames man­gled in the explo­sion, have been removed from the roof­less top floor of the reac­tor build­ing, but radi­a­tion lev­els remain high.

“Here, the read­ing is 200 microsiev­erts per hour,” an inspec­tor said. “But it is 1,000 microsiev­erts on the north side close to the No. 3 reac­tor build­ing. Keep your dis­tance.”

A shroud has been placed over the spent fuel stor­age pool on the top floor. The water tem­per­a­ture was about 20 degrees. The water, seen through an open­ing, was mud­dy and brown. The fuel inside the pool was not vis­i­ble.

Work­ers were installing a shroud for the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing on the south side of the build­ing. It will be equipped with a crane to remove spent fuel from the stor­age pool.

The foun­da­tion work was already com­plet­ed, and steel frames were being assem­bled.

TEPCO intends to mount a deter­mined effort to remove spent fuel from the stor­age pool in Novem­ber. Two fuel assem­blies were removed on a tri­al basis in July.

...

Ever-increas­ing radioac­tive water has become a key chal­lenge for TEPCO.

Ground­wa­ter is flow­ing into reac­tor build­ings, where it mix­es with water used to cool melt­ed fuel inside the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reac­tors.

The amount of radioac­tive water stored in tanks and oth­er facil­i­ties rose to 230,000 tons this month, up from 10,000 tons in July 2011.

In addi­tion, an esti­mat­ed 100,000 tons of water have accu­mu­lat­ed in the base­ments of build­ings.

Cur­rent­ly, there are near­ly 500 stor­age tanks on the plant premis­es, many as tall as three-sto­ry build­ings. TEPCO plans to add more by 2015 when it expects to have to store 700,000 tons of radioac­tive water.

...

Prepa­ra­tions for decom­mis­sion­ing have only recent­ly begun. Decom­mis­sion­ing will not be com­plet­ed for the next 30 to 40 years under a plan drawn up by the gov­ern­ment and TEPCO.

...

Cur­rent­ly, work­ers can­not eas­i­ly approach the three reac­tor build­ings where the melt­downs occurred due to high radi­a­tion lev­els. They have been remov­ing debris, such as con­crete blocks, on the plant premis­es.

Work to remove melt­ed fuel from the three reac­tors is expect­ed to begin by around 2022. Fuel is believed to be scat­tered with­in the pres­sure ves­sels, con­tain­ment ves­sels or pip­ing sys­tems, but exact loca­tions remain unclear.

In addi­tion, TEPCO has yet to iden­ti­fy where radioac­tive water has been leak­ing from the dam­aged con­tain­ment ves­sels. The con­tain­ment ves­sels must be filled with water before melt­ed fuel is removed.

In Decem­ber, TEPCO sent a remote-con­trolled robot near the pres­sure sup­pres­sion cham­ber in the No. 2 reac­tor build­ing to find out where water was leak­ing. But the mis­sion failed when the robot lost its bal­ance and got stuck.

New tech­nolo­gies must be devel­oped for decom­mis­sion­ing, but man­u­fac­tur­ers and gen­er­al con­trac­tors have shown lit­tle enthu­si­asm.

The com­pa­nies fear they will not be able to recov­er their invest­ments because the tech­nolo­gies would have lit­tle prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion oth­er than for the Fukushi­ma plant.

Yep, the nuclear plant that had its roof blown off two years ago by an earth­quake/t­suna­mi-induced hydro­gen explo­sion is going to take 30–40 years to decon­t­a­m­i­nate. And it’s still very very radioac­tive. And the build­ing is still leak­ing very very radioac­tive water. Thanks “Laws of Physics”!

Addi­tion­al­ly, the arti­cle ends by inform­ing us that fix­ing the sit­u­a­tion will require the devel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies. But busi­ness­es aren’t inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing the tech­nolo­gies because the anti-nuclear cat­a­stro­phe tech­nolo­gies won’t have obvi­ous appli­ca­tions beyond the still unfold­ing nuclear disaster...even though the suc­cess­ful cleanup of that nuclear waste is required for the long-term health of Japan and the bios­phere at large. As some might say, “cor­po­ra­tions are peo­ple”. And like peo­ple, cor­po­ra­tions can be mind-numb­ing­ly short­sight­ed and lack even a basic sense of self-preser­va­tion. Thanks “The Mar­ket”!

Help Want­ed: Smol­der­ing piles of high­ly radioac­tive waste. No roof. Big prob­lem.
For­tu­nate­ly, while new tech­nolo­gies may be at hand, there are strong indi­ca­tions that find­ing new peo­ple to work on the cleanup efforts won’t be as much of an issue. And there’s prob­a­bly going to be a lot of new work­ers required for the cleanup giv­en time-frame involved (30–40 years) and oth­er staffing com­pli­ca­tions.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that pool of avail­able man­pow­er appears to be due, in part, to orga­nized crime boss­es try­ing to secure nuclear cleanup con­tracts. Let’s hope there aren’t any “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty” cas­es relat­ed to the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort for the next few decades:

Japan­ese under­world tries to cash in on tsuna­mi clean-up

The yakuza is turn­ing its atten­tion from help­ing dis­as­ter vic­tims to win­ning con­tracts for the mas­sive rebuild­ing effort

Justin McCur­ry in Tokyo
The Guardian, Wednes­day 15 June 2011 09.44 EDT

In the after­math of the dev­as­tat­ing March tsuna­mi, Japan’s under­world made a rare dis­play of phil­an­thropy, hand­ing out emer­gency sup­plies to sur­vivors, some­times days before aid agen­cies arrived.

Three months lat­er, how­ev­er, the yakuza appears to have dis­pensed with largesse and is instead hop­ing to cash in on the daunt­ing clean-up effort in dozens of ruined towns and vil­lages.

The gov­ern­ment and police fear they are los­ing the bat­tle to pre­vent crime syn­di­cates from win­ning lucra­tive con­tracts to remove mil­lions of tonnes of debris left in the tsunami’s wake, includ­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed rub­ble near the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant that many firms are reluc­tant to han­dle.

The dis­as­ter cre­at­ed almost 24m tonnes of debris in the three hard­est-hit pre­fec­tures, Fukushi­ma, Miya­gi and Iwate, accord­ing to the envi­ron­ment min­istry. So far, just over 5m tonnes – or 22% – has been removed.

Those lin­ing up to prof­it from the clear­ance oper­a­tion, which is expect­ed to take three years, include home­grown gangs and Chi­nese crime syn­di­cates, accord­ing to the June edi­tion of Sen­taku, a respect­ed polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic affairs mag­a­zine.

The mag­a­zine recounts the sto­ry of a lead­ing Chi­nese gang­ster who, accom­pa­nied by a nation­al politi­cian, vis­it­ed the may­or of Minami­so­ma – a town near Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi, where a par­tial evac­u­a­tion order is in place – hop­ing to win con­tracts to remove radioac­tive waste that, accord­ing to police, could have end­ed up at dis­pos­al sites in Chi­na.

...

“The yakuza are try­ing to posi­tion them­selves to gain con­tracts for their con­struc­tion com­pa­nies for the mas­sive rebuild­ing that will come.”

...

Offi­cials have said that the removal of debris should come under cen­tral gov­ern­ment con­trol, and the names of “anti­so­cial” indi­vid­u­als have been for­ward­ed to local author­i­ties.

But giv­en the sheer quan­ti­ty of debris, and the man­pow­er required to remove and dis­pose of it, few believe Japan’s most pow­er­ful yakuza gangs will be kept out alto­geth­er.

...

“The nexus of mas­sive con­struc­tion projects, bureau­crats, politi­cians, busi­ness­men and yakuza are as reveal­ing about Japan as they are about Italy and Rus­sia,” Jeff Kingston, direc­tor of Asian stud­ies at Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty in Tokyo, wrote in his recent book, Con­tem­po­rary Japan.

...

So just months after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter (when the above arti­cle was writ­ten), orga­nized crime groups were angling to get a share of the mas­sive cleanup pro­ceeds. And they were already so infused into construction/government con­tract sec­tors of the econ­o­my that their involve­ment was vir­tu­al­ly guar­an­teed. And that cleanup effort is sched­uled to take decades and will involve the han­dling of large amounts of high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al. And the mafia appears to be inter­est­ed in the high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al dis­pos­al con­tracts. AND hard­ly any­one appears to be sur­prised or per­turbed by this devel­op­ment because the yakuza has sup­ply­ing man­pow­er to Japan’s nuclear pow­er indus­try for a long time. Major cat­a­stro­phes often have a sud­den “quick” phase of dis­as­ter (the earthquake/tsunami) fol­lowed by long, slow rolling phase of sec­ondary dis­as­ters that emerge in the wake of the cat­a­stro­phe. Orga­nized crim­i­nal out­fits infil­trat­ing pow­er­ful insti­tu­tions is an exam­ple of the larg­er pat­tern of endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion and endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion is a glob­al phe­nom­e­na. Endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion is also a slow motion dis­as­ter. And full-spec­trum too:

The Tele­graph
How the Yakuza went nuclear
What real­ly went wrong at the Fukushi­ma plant? One under­cov­er reporter risked his life to find out

By Jake Adel­stein

11:30AM GMT 21 Feb 2012

On March 11 2011, at 2:46pm, a 9.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck Japan. The earth­quake, fol­lowed by a colos­sal tsuna­mi, dev­as­tat­ed the nation, togeth­er killing over 10,000 peo­ple. The earth­quake also trig­gered the start of a triple nuclear melt­down at the Fukushi­ma Nuclear Pow­er Plant, run by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (Tep­co). Of the three reac­tors that melt­ed down, one was near­ly 40 years old and should have been decom­mis­sioned two decades ago. The cool­ing pipes, “the veins and arter­ies of the old nuclear reac­tors”, which cir­cu­lat­ed flu­id to keep the core tem­per­a­ture down, rup­tured.

Approx­i­mate­ly 40 min­utes after the shocks, the tsuna­mi reached the pow­er plant and knocked out the elec­tri­cal sys­tems. Japan’s Nuclear Indus­tri­al Safe­ty Agency (Nisa) had warned Tep­co about safe­ty vio­la­tions and prob­lems at the plant days before the earth­quake; they’d been warned about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a tsuna­mi hit­ting the plant for years.

The denials began almost imme­di­ate­ly. “There has been no melt­down,” gov­ern­ment spokesman Yukio Edano intoned in the days after March 11. “It was an unfore­see­able dis­as­ter,” Tepco’s then pres­i­dent Masa­ta­ka Shimizu chimed in. As we now know, the melt­down was already tak­ing place. And the dis­as­ter was far from unfore­see­able.

Tep­co has long been a scan­dal-rid­den com­pa­ny, caught time and time again cov­er­ing up data on safe­ty laps­es at their pow­er plants, or doc­tor­ing film footage which showed fis­sures in pipes. How was the com­pa­ny able to get away with such long-stand­ing behav­iour? Accord­ing to an explo­sive book recent­ly pub­lished in Japan, they owe it to what the author, Tomo­hiko Suzu­ki, calls “Japan’s nuclear mafia… A con­glom­er­a­tion of cor­rupt politi­cians and bureau­crats, the shady nuclear indus­try, their lob­by­ists…” And at the cen­tre of it all stands Japan’s actu­al mafia: the yakuza.

It might sur­prise the West­ern read­er that gang­sters are involved in Japan’s nuclear indus­try and even more that they would risk their lives in a nuclear cri­sis. But the yakuza roots in Japan­ese soci­ety are very deep. In fact, they were some of the first respon­ders after the earth­quake, pro­vid­ing food and sup­plies to the dev­as­tat­ed area and patrolling the streets to make sure no loot­ing occurred.

...

“Almost all nuclear pow­er plants that are built in Japan are built tak­ing the risk that the work­ers may well be exposed to large amounts of radi­a­tion,” says Suzu­ki. “That they will get sick, they will die ear­ly, or they will die on the job. And the peo­ple bring­ing the work­ers to the plants and also doing the con­struc­tion are often yakuza.” Suzu­ki says he’s met over 1,000 yakuza in his career as an inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist and for­mer edi­tor of yakuza fanzines. For his book, The Yakuza and the Nuclear Indus­try, Suzu­ki went under­cov­er at Fukushi­ma to find first-hand evi­dence of the long-rumoured ties between the nuclear indus­try and the yakuza. First he doc­u­ments how remark­ably easy it was to become a nuclear work­er at Fukushi­ma after the melt­down. After sign­ing up with a legit­i­mate com­pa­ny pro­vid­ing labour, he entered the plant armed only with a wrist­watch with a hid­den cam­era. Work­ing there over sev­er­al months, he quick­ly found yakuza-sup­plied labour, and many for­mer yakuza work­ing on site them­selves.

Suzu­ki dis­cov­ered evi­dence of Tep­co sub­con­trac­tors pay­ing yakuza front com­pa­nies to obtain lucra­tive con­struc­tion con­tracts; of mon­ey des­tined for con­struc­tion work fly­ing into yakuza accounts; and of politi­cians and media being paid to look the oth­er way. More shock­ing, per­haps, were the con­di­tions he says he found inside the plant.

His fel­low work­ers, found Suzu­ki, were a mot­ley crew of home­less, chron­i­cal­ly unem­ployed Japan­ese men, for­mer yakuza, debtors who owed mon­ey to the yakuza, and the men­tal­ly hand­i­capped. Suzu­ki claims the reg­u­lar employ­ees at the plant were often giv­en bet­ter radi­a­tion suits than the yakuza recruits. (Tep­co has admit­ted that there was a short­age of equip­ment in the disaster’s ear­ly days.) The reg­u­lar employ­ees were allowed to pass through sophis­ti­cat­ed radi­a­tion mon­i­tors while the tem­po­rary labour­ers were sim­ply giv­en hand rods to mon­i­tor their radi­a­tion expo­sure.

...

A for­mer yakuza boss tells me that his group has “always” been involved in recruit­ing labour­ers for the nuclear indus­try. “It’s dirty, dan­ger­ous work,” he says, “and the only peo­ple who will do it are home­less, yakuza, or peo­ple so bad­ly in debt that they see no oth­er way to pay it off.” Suzu­ki found peo­ple who’d been threat­ened into work­ing at Fukushi­ma, but oth­ers who’d vol­un­teered. Why? “Of course, if it was a mat­ter of dying today or tomor­row they wouldn’t work there,” he explains. “It’s because it could take 10 years or more for some­one to pos­si­bly die of radi­a­tion excess. It’s like Russ­ian roulette. If you owe enough mon­ey to the yakuza, work­ing at a nuclear plant is a safer bet. Wouldn’t you rather take a chance at dying 10 years lat­er than being stabbed to death now?” (Suzuki’s own feel­ing was that the effects of low-lev­el radi­a­tion are still unknown and that, as a drinker and smok­er, he’s prob­a­bly no more like­ly to get can­cer than he was before.)

...

The sit­u­a­tion at Fukushi­ma is still dire. Num­ber-two reac­tor con­tin­ues to heat up, and appears to be out of con­trol. Rolling black­outs are a reg­u­lar occur­rence. Nuclear reac­tors are being shut down, one by one, all over Japan. Mean­while, there is talk that Tep­co will be nation­alised and its top exec­u­tives are under inves­ti­ga­tion for crim­i­nal neg­li­gence, in rela­tion to the 3/11 dis­as­ter. As for the yakuza, the police are begin­ning to inves­ti­gate their front com­pa­nies more close­ly. “Yakuza may be a plague on soci­ety,” says Suzu­ki, “but they don’t ruin the lives of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple and irra­di­ate the plan­et out of sheer greed and incom­pe­tence.” Suzu­ki says he’s had lit­tle trou­ble from the yakuza about his book’s alle­ga­tions. He sus­pects this is because he showed they were pre­pared to risk their lives at Fukushi­ma – he almost made them look good.

Find­ing Good Help is Hard Every­where
The prac­tice of forc­ing debtors to work around nuclear waste isn’t just an incred­i­bly cru­el form of debtors prison, it’s also kind of crazy for all par­ties involved. When you’re pay­ing an orga­ni­za­tion to safe­ly dis­pose of tox­ic waste you have the obvi­ous con­cern that waste will be dis­posed of unsafe­ly. This is a les­son the Ital­ian mafia hasa long­time part­ner of both the Vat­i­can and Ital­ian pow­er net­works — taught us in recent years. And when it’s nuclear waste, you have the addi­tion­al con­cern that the mafia might want to dump it in the sea or bury it, or maybe enrich it (imag­ine a mob-bomb. yikes). These are some les­son the Ital­ian mafia has been teach­ing us for decades:

From cocaine to plu­to­ni­um: mafia clan accused of traf­fick­ing nuclear waste

Tom King­ton in Rome
The Guardian, Mon­day 8 Octo­ber 2007

Author­i­ties in Italy are inves­ti­gat­ing a mafia clan accused of traf­fick­ing nuclear waste and try­ing to make plu­to­ni­um.

The ‘Ndrangheta mafia, which gained noto­ri­ety in August for its blood feud killings of six men in Ger­many, is alleged to have made ille­gal ship­ments of radioac­tive waste to Soma­lia, as well as seek­ing the “clan­des­tine pro­duc­tion” of oth­er nuclear mate­r­i­al.

Two of the Cal­abri­an clan’s mem­bers are being inves­ti­gat­ed, along with eight for­mer employ­ees of the state ener­gy research agency Enea.

The eight are sus­pect­ed of pay­ing the mob­sters to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time they were based at the agen­cy’s cen­tre at Roton­del­la, a town in Basil­i­ca­ta province in the toe of Italy, which today treats “spe­cial” and “haz­ardous” waste. At oth­er cen­tres, Enea stud­ies nuclear fusion and fis­sion tech­nolo­gies.

The ‘Ndrangheta has been accused by inves­ti­ga­tors of build­ing on its ori­gins as a kid­nap­ping gang to become Europe’s top cocaine importer, thanks to ties to Colom­bian car­tels. But the nuclear accu­sa­tion, if true, would take it into anoth­er league.

An Enea offi­cial who declined to be named denied the accu­sa­tion, say­ing: “Enea has always worked with­in the rules and under strict nation­al and inter­na­tion­al super­vi­sion.”

A mag­is­trate, Francesco Basen­ti­ni, in the city of Poten­za began the inves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing oth­ers by mag­is­trates and the leak­ing to the press of the police con­fes­sion of an ‘Ndrangheta turn­coat, detail­ing his role in the alleged waste-dump­ing.

An Enea man­ag­er is said to have paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of tox­ic and radioac­tive waste from Italy, Switzer­land, France, Ger­many, and the US, the turn­coat claimed, with Soma­lia as the des­ti­na­tion lined up by the traf­fick­ers.

But with only room for 500 drums on a ship wait­ing at the north­ern port of Livorno, 100 drums were secret­ly buried some­where in the south­ern Ital­ian region of Basil­i­ca­ta. Clan mem­bers avoid­ed bury­ing the waste in neigh­bour­ing Cal­abria, said the turn­coat, because of their “love for their home region”, and because they already had too many kid­nap vic­tims hid­den in grot­toes there.

Inves­ti­ga­tors have yet to locate the radioac­tive drums alleged­ly buried in Basil­i­ca­ta — although, in a par­al­lel inves­ti­ga­tion, police are search­ing for drums of non-radioac­tive tox­ic waste they believe were dumped by the ‘Ndrangheta near the Unesco town of Mat­era in Basil­i­ca­ta, famous for its ancient hous­es dug into the rock, the Ansa news agency report­ed yes­ter­day.

Ship­ments to Soma­lia, where the waste was buried after buy­ing off local politi­cians, con­tin­ued into the 1990s, while the mob also became adept at blow­ing up shiploads of waste, includ­ing radioac­tive hos­pi­tal waste, and send­ing them to the sea bed off the Cal­abri­an coast, the turn­coat told inves­ti­ga­tors. Although he made no men­tion of attempt­ed plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion, Il Gior­nale news­pa­per wrote that the mob­sters may have planned to sell it to for­eign gov­ern­ments.

...

Ah, won­der­ful: the des­ti­na­tion of choice for the dis­pos­al of nuclear waste by the Ital­ian mafia has been some­where off the coast of Soma­lia. Prob­lem solved! And the most noto­ri­ous of the Ital­ian mafias, the ‘Ndrangheta, appears to be inter­est­ed in plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion (plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion ambi­tions should­n’t be as much of an issue for the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, although not for reas­sur­ing rea­sons).

So do we have to wor­ry about any yakuza with nuclear-traf­fick­ing ambi­tions? Well, giv­en that the yakuza are sort of like an arm of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment, full-scale nuclear enrich­ment and traf­fick­ing is prob­a­bly not a mas­sive con­cern. It sounds like the yakuza have been play­ing a role in Japan’s nuclear indus­try for decades includ­ing roles involv­ing the han­dling of nuclear mate­r­i­al. There’s got to be some sort of TEP­CO-yakuza infor­mal pro­to­col that’s been devel­oped over the years so indis­crim­i­nate nuclear traf­fick­ing. Nuclear dump­ing, on the oth­er hand, is a real pos­si­bil­i­ty giv­en the scale of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al that’s going to have to be decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed and moved some­where. Out of sight out of mind lots of prof­it. There’s going to be dump­ing. TEPCO has already engaged in no-longer-secret dumpling so it’s not real­ly a ques­tion of whether or not secret dump­ing of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al will take place but whether or not the yakuza will be doing TEP­CO-approved secret dump­ing or their own “inde­pen­dent” secret dump­ing.

It’s wide­ly pre­sumed that the mafia is going to con­tin­ue to be involved with these nuclear cleanup activ­i­ties and the police appear to lack the resources to iden­ti­fy mob-sup­plied work­ers. It seems like just a mat­ter of time before we get reports of ille­gal dump­ing of nuclear mate­r­i­al by yakuza affil­i­ates and prob­a­ble some non-yakuza affil­i­ates too. Hope­ful­ly that’s not the case. There was an enor­mous amount of offi­cial­ly tolter­at­ed dump­ing of radioac­tive waste into the coun­try­side in the ini­tial after­math based on reports. Nuclear cleanup fraud is where the big mon­ey’s going to be for a lot of con­nect­ed par­ties in Japan for a long time. Prob­a­bly.

So let’s hope the yakuza nev­er goes down the path of egre­gious dump­ing, because each of those ships filled with toxic/nuclear waste that the Ital­ian mafia sank off the coast of Italy were extreme­ly seri­ous wounds to the bios­phere. Life is pret­ty tough, but enriched nuclear waste can be tougher. Or at least it can give life a seri­ous headache. And maybe muta­tions. Muta­tions just add up. So does nuclear waste. The half can get nasty with the stuff found in that roof­less build­ing. The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment is still look­ing at sites to store the waste so we real­ly have very lit­tle idea of what the long-term plans are going to be for the dis­pos­al of that stuff but pre­sum­ably the dis­pos­al space will be at a pre­mi­um. There’s a lot or mate­r­i­al to store. Lots is going to get tossed. Please dump gen­tly Mr. yakuzas. Like, at least hire ecol­o­gy grad stu­dents to find the least dam­ag­ing spots to dump stuff if it comes to that. And take low­er prof­its to do it in the least envi­ron­men­tal­ly dam­ag­ing way. And if you could use your yakuza pow­ers to ensure all the oth­er dumpers also dump gen­tly that would be super of an epic pro­por­tion. Don’t dump, of course. But if you just have to dump, dump gen­tly. The ecosys­tem is already in a qua­si-state of col­lapse and cli­mate change is just get­ting under­way. Throw­ing large amounts of radi­a­tion into the mix is cru­el.

Just over a month ago, we saw the first arrest of a yakuza boss pro­vid­ing cleanup staff. Police called it the first such arrest of a yakuza boss for send­ing peo­ple to work at Fukushi­ma. It was also the sec­ond such “first arrest of a yakuza boss for Fukushi­ma”. The first one took place last May, although the reports are unclear if this is the same per­son that was arrest­ed on both occa­sions. Either way, there were no hints of improp­er activ­i­ties by the employ­ees in the reports...the prob­lem was that they were hired by a yakuza boss sub­con­trac­tor that was tak­ing a cut of their salaries. So it appears that there is indeed some yakuza mus­cle mov­ing that nuclear waste. Not much, based on reports, but some:

Japan police arrest mob­ster over Fukushi­ma clean-up

(AFP) – Feb 1, 2013

TOKYO — Japan­ese police have arrest­ed a high-rank­ing yakuza over claims he sent work­ers to the strick­en Fukushi­ma nuclear plant for the clean-up with­out a licence.

Offi­cers in north­ern Yam­a­ga­ta pre­fec­ture were quizzing Yoshi­nori Arai, a 40-year-old senior mem­ber of a local yakuza group affil­i­at­ed to the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syn­di­cate, a police spokesman said.

Arai alleged­ly dis­patched three men to Fukushi­ma to work on clean-up crews in Novem­ber, he said.

Under Japan­ese law, a gov­ern­ment licence is required by any­one who acts as an employ­ment agent.

Arai is also sus­pect­ed of send­ing peo­ple to work on the con­struc­tion of tem­po­rary hous­ing in the tsuna­mi-hit north­east, the spokesman said.

Arai report­ed­ly told police that he intend­ed to prof­it from the scheme by tak­ing a cut of the work­ers’ wages. Those employed at Fukushi­ma earn more than oth­ers in sim­i­lar work because of the poten­tial­ly haz­ardous nature of the job.

It was the first arrest of a mob­ster linked to Fukushi­ma clean-up, the police spokesman said.

...

The full scale of the dam­age done from the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter is yet to be deter­mined. Some of it will come down to luck, like whether or not anoth­er major earth­quake and/or tsuna­mi hits the plant before those nuclears rods can be safe­ly removed. But much of the dam­age that will emerge for the dis­as­ter two years ago is yet to be deter­mined and its going to be deter­mined pri­mar­i­ly by human error and human choic­es. The “Fukushi­ma 50” — work­ers that hero­ical­ly worked at the plant in spite of the enor­mous per­son­al risks — includ­ed Yakuza-affil­i­ates. Their actions pre­vent­ed a bad sit­u­a­tion from become much worse. There are going to be an enor­mous num­ber of sac­ri­fices required in the future in order to min­i­mize the addi­tion dam­age that has yet to be inflict­ed by the giant pile of high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al sit­ting in a build­ing with its roof blown off. Due the nature of the sit­u­a­tion and the exist­ing polit­i­cal pow­er struc­tures, those crit­i­cal future deci­sion are going to be large­ly in secret be large­ly unknown indi­vid­u­als. And due to the yakuza­’s unique “risky/dirt busi­ness” niche in both Japan’s pow­er struc­ture and nuclear indus­try it seems like­ly that some of those secret deci­sions will be made by the yakuza. Secrets like “who dumped what hor­ri­ble tox­in where?” might be the exclu­sive domain of yakuza boss­es in many instances.

The idea of yakuza mob boss­es pos­si­bly hav­ing con­trol of enor­mous­ly pow­er­ful nuclear secrets should be a rather dis­turb­ing thought. At the same time, orga­nized crim­i­nal syn­di­cates have always played a role in nation­al secu­ri­ty affairs and pow­er secrets, so this isn’t a new sit­u­a­tion and the world has­n’t blown up yet. Then again, the world is going to hell in a hand­bas­ket, so while qua­si-mob-rule isn’t a new sit­u­a­tion, it’s still a bad sit­u­a­tion that’s get­ting worse. And if you removed the mobs from the equa­tion, it would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly get much bet­ter. Mob rule can be a a state of mind.

The Sav­ing the Econ­o­my By Sav­ing Each Oth­er Stim­u­lus Plan
One of the rea­sons the Japan­ese gov­ern­men­t’s recent deci­sion to engage in seri­ous stim­u­lus spend­ing was like­ly to be a use­ful pol­i­cy is that an enor­mous amount of work needs to be done to address the still dire sit­u­a­tion at Fukushi­ma. That’s going to cost mon­ey. A LOT of mon­ey. The entire world real­ly should be par­tic­i­pat­ing in a glob­al eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus plan: the “Save Japan” plan. It had a hor­rif­ic earth­quake, tsuna­mi, and ongo­ing nuclear melt­down all at once. Yeah, it’s a very wealthy coun­try with immense resources but again: earth­quake, tsuna­mi, ongo­ing nuclear melt­down. And EVERYONE needs the exist­ing dan­gers put under con­trol. So why not have a glob­al “Save Japan because, you know, earth­quake, tsuna­mi, and ongo­ing nuclear melt­down” plan?

Japan may be act­ing like it has every­thing all under con­trol but it’s total­ly fronting. It’s not going to ask for help because, you know, it’s Japan. But they still need help and the more help they get, in terms of real man­pow­er, the less yakuza and oth­er shady con­trac­tors will be required and hired. They’re just going allow them­selves to qui­et­ly get irra­di­at­ed and it’s going to take longer to deal with those extreme­ly radioac­tive rods. “Save Japan” is in every­one’s best inter­est. Coun­tries around the world can build all sort of new busi­ness­es and areas of research and devel­op what­ev­er tech­nolo­gies the busi­ness­es report­ed­ly weren’t inter­est­ed in doing. This would be the per­fect stim­u­lus tar­get: glob­al radioac­tive calami­ty that could take place should anoth­er major event hit that plant and release even more radi­a­tion. How many tens of bil­lions of dol­lars would it cost to fig­ure out what­ev­er needs to be fig­ured out for Fukushi­ma rods? It’s going to take a while, but learn­ing how to move and store high­ly radioac­tive crap bet­ter seems like a very use­ful thing for human­i­ty to know how to do giv­en our predilec­tion for cre­at­ing it. $100 bil­lion over a decade for a crash movement/processing/storage pro­gram divid­ed up between the world maybe?

Ok, now add a save Yemen because it’s about to run out of water glob­al stim­u­lus pro­gram. There’s clear­ly going to be a num­ber of new tech­nolo­gies and infra­struc­ture need­ed to pre­pare Yemen for that fate­ful “oh crap” day that’s hit­ting some­time soon­er or lat­er.

Sim­i­lar­ly, make a “Save the Nile region because a Nile Water War Would be Hell” glob­al stim­u­lus plan. Nations all over could study the region’s grow­ing water needs and study what’s going to be required to tran­si­tion that regions towards a sus­tain­able econ­o­my. Not one on a tra­jec­to­ry towards eco-cat­a­stro­phe and war.

And just keep going find­ing regions of the world with the place is careen­ing towards calami­ty and needs help. And just do it as stim­u­lus. No coun­ter­bal­anc­ing aus­ter­i­ty non­sense (I’m look­ing at you Europe). Just stim­u­lus. Save the world and stim­u­late the econ­o­my while you’re doing it! Each coun­try could throw in what­ev­er mon­ey they want but would all have to be direct­ed as solv­ing one of the most trou­bled regions of the world. A place fac­ing loom­ing dis­as­ter. The amount should prob­a­bly be a pret­ty big chunk for coun­tries that can afford it. The US, for instance, could prob­a­ble afford to con­tribute at least, oh, say, around $85 bil­lion or so to the “Save the World and Stim­u­late While You Do It” plan. At least $85 bil­lion, if not more. US indus­tries could be devel­oped ded­i­cat­ed to find­ing things like awe­some new desalin­iza­tion tech­nolo­gies, bet­ter radi­a­tion shield­ing (great for space trav­el), robot­ic fac­to­ries that build ultra-eco-friend­ly homes and then fac­to­ries that build the fac­to­ries that build the homes. And then we give the home-build­ing fac­to­ries to the places that need ultra-eco-friend­ly homes. And we just keep doing that and no one cares about bal­ance of trade or what­ev­er. The entire mod­ern econ­o­my needs to be tech­no­log­i­cal­ly revamped to deal with the con­straints of the 21st cen­tu­ry. And once there are no more seri­ous prob­lems — prob­lems like pover­ty or thou­sand of high­ly radioac­tive spent fuel rods that are sit­ting in a build­ing with its roof blown off — we can end the stim­u­lus pro­gram. We will have saved our­selves by sav­ing each oth­er in a stim­u­lat­ing way.

Update 11/12/2013
Here’s an update on the sit­u­a­tion in Fukushi­ma: Tep­co is about to begin the high­ly dan­ger­ous process of safe­ly remov­ing the 1,300+ spent fuel-rods from Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi 4.

Q. What could go wrong?

A: OMFG.

Agence France-Presse
Novem­ber 6, 2013 23:21
Facts on com­plex oper­a­tion to remove Fukushi­ma fuel rods

Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (TEPCO) will this month start remov­ing fuel from a stor­age pool at Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear plant, the most chal­leng­ing oper­a­tion since run­away reac­tors were brought under con­trol two years ago.

Here are some key facts about the oper­a­tion.

Q: What’s the state of nuclear fuel at the site?

A: Reac­tors No. 1, 2 and 3 went into melt­down after their cool­ing sys­tems were knocked out by the March 2011 tsuna­mi. The tem­per­a­ture of the cores and spent fuel pools at all reac­tors is now sta­ble and water is being used to keep them cool.

Reac­tor No. 4, whose out­er build­ing was dam­aged by fires and an explo­sion, has an emp­ty core but a total of 1,533 fuel assem­blies — 1,331 spent fuel bun­dles and 202 unused ones — are in its stor­age pool.

Q: Why does TEPCO have to take fuel from the pool?

A: Accord­ing to the firm, it is safer to store all fuel in a shared pool that is rein­forced against pos­si­ble future earth­quakes and tsunamis.

This will be the first post-tsuna­mi attempt to move any fuel from one part of the plant to anoth­er.

Q: How will the oper­a­tion work?

A: Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, nuclear plants shuf­fle fuel rods around fair­ly fre­quent­ly, often using com­put­er-con­trolled robot­ic arms that “know” exact­ly where each fuel assem­bly is.

But the dam­age to the build­ing hous­ing this pool, along with the pres­ence in the pool of debris from explo­sions, is a wild­card that will com­pli­cate this oper­a­tion con­sid­er­ably.

Work­ers in heavy pro­tec­tive equip­ment will use a remote con­trol to direct a spe­cial­ly installed “grab­ber” into the pool where it will latch onto fuel assem­blies and drop them into a huge cask.

Each 4.5‑metre (15-foot) fuel bun­dle needs to be kept com­plete­ly sub­merged at all times to pre­vent it from heat­ing up.

Once loaded with assem­blies and water, the 91-tonne cask will be lift­ed out by a dif­fer­ent crane and put onto a trail­er. It will then be tak­en to anoth­er part of the com­plex and the process will be reversed.

Remov­ing all 1,500-odd assem­blies is expect­ed to take until the end of 2014. Get­ting this done suc­cess­ful­ly will mean engi­neers can then start try­ing to extri­cate fuel from the reac­tors that went into melt­down.

But where the fuel pool oper­a­tion is tricky and con­tains a few unknowns, remov­ing fuel from the melt­ed and mis­shapen cores of reac­tors 1, 2 and 3 will pose a whole new lev­el of dif­fi­cul­ty.

Q. What could go wrong?

A: Each rod con­tains ura­ni­um and a small amount of plu­to­ni­um. If they are exposed to the air, for exam­ple if they are dropped by the grab­ber, they would start to heat up, a process that, left unchecked, could lead to a self-sus­tain­ing nuclear reac­tion — known as “crit­i­cal­i­ty”.

TEPCO says a sin­gle assem­bly should not reach crit­i­cal­i­ty and the grab­ber will not car­ry more than one at a time.

Assem­blies exposed to the air would give off so much radi­a­tion that it would be dif­fi­cult for a work­er to get near enough to fix it.

Scep­tics say with so many unknow­ables in an oper­a­tion that has nev­er been attempt­ed under these con­di­tions, there is poten­tial for a cat­a­stro­phe.

Gov­ern­ment mod­el­ling in the imme­di­ate after­math of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, which was only sub­se­quent­ly made pub­lic, sug­gest­ed that an uncon­trolled nuclear con­fla­gra­tion at Fukushi­ma could start a chain reac­tion in oth­er near­by nuclear plants.

That worst-case sce­nario said a huge evac­u­a­tion area could encom­pass a large part of greater Tokyo, a mega­lopo­lis with 35 mil­lion inhab­i­tants.

Only one rod can be moved at a time and if one spent fuel rod drops on the ground dur­ing it might give off so much radi­a­tion that work­ers will be unable to get near enough to fix it. Plus, if a rod is allowed to heat up too much it could spon­ta­neous­ly go “crit­i­cal”. And this whole process will have to be repeat­ed 1,300+ times, hope­ful­ly by the end of 2014.

How about we all send some extreme­ly good vibes to the Fukushi­ma cleanup work­ers that are tak­ing one for Team Life-on-Earth. Espe­cial­ly the new ones.

Discussion

58 comments for “The Yakuza’s Cleanup Crew: It’s Not What You Think But Still Alarming”

  1. “They did it then and they are still doing it”:

    iol news
    Mafia’s tox­ic secret revealed

    Novem­ber 4 2013 at 09:09am
    By Alvise Armelli­ni

    Rome -

    Italy is reel­ing from rev­e­la­tions from a for­mer boss that the mafia made mon­ey from the late 1980s onwards by dump­ing huge quan­ti­ties of tox­ic waste through­out south­ern Italy, endan­ger­ing the lives of mil­lions of peo­ple.

    Carmine Schi­avone, an ex-affil­i­ate of the Camor­ra, the Neapoli­tan branch of the Ital­ian mafia, made the shock­ing state­ment to a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee of inquiry in 1997. His remarks were pro­tect­ed by state secre­cy laws until they were lift­ed on Thurs­day.

    “I know from expe­ri­ence that until 1992 (the year he was arrest­ed), south­ern regions... were all con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by tox­ic waste from all over Europe, not just Italy,” Schi­avone told law­mak­ers.

    “We are talk­ing mil­lions, not thou­sands” of tons of tox­ic mate­r­i­al, he said.

    There was indus­tri­al waste from north­ern Italy, but also radioac­tive mate­r­i­al from Ger­many, which was dis­posed of in caves up to 50m deep, near ground­wa­ter reserves, as well as in fish tanks and lakes, Schi­avone said.

    The Camor­ra is con­tin­u­ing its activ­i­ties today, he said on Fri­day, after a tran­script of his 16-year-old state­ment was made pub­lic. “They did it then and they are still doing it,” he told RAI state tele­vi­sion.

    In Par­lia­ment, Schi­avone explained how the Casale­si, a pow­er­ful Camor­ra clan he belonged to, con­trolled the waste dis­pos­al busi­ness between Lati­na, 70km south of Rome, and Caser­ta, 40km north of Naples.

    Res­i­dents of Casal di Principe, the town the Casale­si have tak­en their name from, and of sur­round­ing areas, “risk all dying from can­cer with­in 20 years... indeed, I don’t believe they will sur­vive”, Schi­avone said.

    There are no over­all sta­tis­tics on the rise of can­cer rates in Naples and its sur­round­ings, but in May it was revealed that a local gov­ern­ment health unit in the city had found that cas­es in its ward had increased from 136 in 2008 to 420 in 2012.

    Father Mau­r­izio Patriciel­lo, a local priest who is involved in grass­roots protests against waste pol­lu­tion, was out­raged by Ital­ian author­i­ties’ fail­ure to alert local res­i­dents about the dan­gers revealed by the mafioso.

    “If six­teen years ago the state had warned us cit­i­zens of Naples and Caser­ta that we would have died of can­cer from dumped waste, at least those who were younger could have packed their bags and gone liv­ing else­where,” he told Italy’s Huff­in­g­ton Post on Sat­ur­day.

    Alle­ga­tions about tox­ic waste have cir­cu­lat­ed for years. Rober­to Saviano, an anti-Mafia author, wrote about the Camor­ra’s dead­ly busi­ness in his 2006 best­seller Gomor­rah, which was lat­er turned into a crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed film.

    “The open secret has been revealed,” Legam­bi­ente, Italy’s biggest envi­ron­men­tal asso­ci­a­tion, said after the pub­li­ca­tion of the Schi­avone tes­ti­mo­ny.

    It called for “the truth” on “who, in pol­i­tics, kept qui­et for so many years and failed to act... pre­tend­ing not to know, amid gen­er­al indif­fer­ence, and becom­ing a de fac­to accom­plice of the mas­sacre in those lands”.

    Before the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee, Schi­avone said that in the late 1980s and ear­ly 1990s the Camor­ra direct­ly appoint­ed may­ors “in all 106 munic­i­pal­i­ties of the province of Caser­ta”.

    He said it could also count on the tac­it sup­port of nation­al politi­cians such as for­mer min­is­ters Francesco De Loren­zo, Vin­cen­zo Scot­ti, Anto­nio Gava, and for­mer pre­mier Ciri­a­co De Mita, cur­rent­ly a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

    “It is not like they were clan mem­bers, or mafiosi; unfor­tu­nate­ly each one of us has only one vote, and to win a lot of them, espe­cial­ly in cer­tain areas, you need a lot of friends,” Schi­avone said.

    The for­mer mob­ster was a key wit­ness in a tri­al that end­ed three years ago when life sen­tences against 16 Camor­ra boss­es — includ­ing his cousin Francesco — were upheld by Italy’s high­est appeals court. The legal case last­ed almost 12 years.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 4, 2013, 11:05 am
  2. See the 11/12/2013 update in the OP. Fuel rod removal from Fukushi­mi Dai­ichi 4 is begin­ning. The end might near, but hope­ful­ly not. We’ll find out in a year or so.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 12, 2013, 10:19 pm
  3. Some rare actu­al­ly good nuclear news:

    BBC
    16 Novem­ber 2013 Last updat­ed at 19:46 ET

    Naples ral­ly against mafi­a’s tox­ic waste dump­ing

    Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have protest­ed in Italy’s south­ern city of Naples against ille­gal dump­ing of tox­ic waste blamed on the local mafia.

    Demon­stra­tors car­ried pho­tos of rel­a­tives who they said had died of can­cer as a result of the pol­lu­tion.

    Locals call the area between Naples and Caser­ta the “Tri­an­gle of Death” because of tox­ic fumes after waste burn­ing.

    Some 10 mil­lion tonnes of indus­tri­al waste has report­ed­ly been dumped in the region over the past 20 years.

    Envi­ron­men­tal group Legam­bi­ente, which organ­ised Sat­ur­day’s protest, said near­ly 440 busi­ness­es in cen­tral and north­ern Italy had been tak­ing part in the ille­gal activ­i­ty.

    ...

    As more and more ille­gal dumps are found, the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment says it is start­ing an exten­sive project of clean­ing the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed area.

    The local mafia, the Camor­ra, is sus­pect­ed of secur­ing lucra­tive con­tracts to dis­pose of waste and then dump­ing much of it ille­gal­ly.

    Two decades ago doc­tors noticed that inci­dences of can­cer in towns around Naples were on the rise.

    Since then, the num­ber of tumours found in women has risen by 40%, and those in men by 47%.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 16, 2013, 9:38 pm
  4. It begins...err...it began. Yes­ter­day. So far so good!

    Bloomberg
    Tep­co Suc­cess­ful­ly Removes First Nuclear Fuel Rods at Fukushi­ma
    By Jacob Adel­man & Masu­mi Suga — Nov 18, 2013 3:28 AM CT

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (9501) suc­cess­ful­ly removed the first nuclear fuel rods today from a cool­ing pool at the wrecked Fukushi­ma nuclear plant, an ear­ly mile­stone in decom­mis­sion­ing the facil­i­ty amid doubts about whether the rods had been dam­aged and posed a radi­a­tion risk.

    The first of the fuel-rod assem­blies at the plant’s No. 4 reac­tor build­ing was trans­ferred from an under­wa­ter rack on the fifth floor to a portable cask just before 4 p.m., the util­i­ty known as Tep­co said in an e‑mailed state­ment.

    Tep­co planned to remove 22 assem­blies from the pool, which con­tains 1,331 spent fuel assem­blies and 202 unused assem­blies, by the end of tomor­row, the com­pa­ny said. Crews are begin­ning with the unused assem­blies because they are less frag­ile, spokesman Yusuke Kunik­age said by phone.

    The oper­a­tion is the most sig­nif­i­cant test to date of Tepco’s abil­i­ty to con­tain the threat stem­ming from the worst nuclear dis­as­ter since Cher­nobyl. Were the rods to break or over­heat, it could prompt a self-sus­tained nuclear chain reac­tion sim­i­lar to the melt­downs at three Fukushi­ma reac­tors fol­low­ing the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi.

    “Although mov­ing spent fuel into long-term stor­age is a rou­tine task that Tep­co has tak­en more than 1,200 times over the years, the cir­cum­stances at Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi require spe­cial care,” Tep­co pres­i­dent Nao­mi Hirose said in a video mes­sage on the company’s web­site. “The suc­cess of the extrac­tion process there­fore rep­re­sents the begin­ning of a new and impor­tant chap­ter in our work.”

    ...

    So the good news thus far is that the high­ly dan­ger­ous oper­a­tions in reac­tor 4 are get­ting under­way with­out any unex­pect­ed “crit­i­cal­i­ty”. But the good news is also part of the bad news in that the removal of over 1,500 fuel rods from the fuel pool in reac­tor 4 is the easy job. Get­ting the rods out of the actu­al reac­tor at Fukushi­ma’s Dai­ichi reac­tor 4’s (not the spent fuel pool) won’t be so easy:

    Some spent fuel rods at Fukushi­ma were dam­aged before 2011 dis­as­ter

    By Aaron Sheldrick

    TOKYO Thu Nov 14, 2013 6:32am EST

    (Reuters) — Three of the spent fuel assem­blies due to be care­ful­ly plucked from the crip­pled Japan­ese nuclear plant at Fukushi­ma in a haz­ardous year-long oper­a­tion were dam­aged even before the 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi that knocked out the facil­i­ty.

    The plan­t’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co, or Tep­co, said the dam­aged assem­blies — 4.5 meter high racks con­tain­ing 50–70 thin rods of high­ly irra­di­at­ed used fuel — can’t be removed from Fukushi­ma’s Reac­tor No. 4 using the large cask assigned to tak­ing out more than 1,500 of the assem­blies.

    One of the assem­blies was dam­aged as far back as 1982, when it was mis­han­dled dur­ing a trans­fer, and is bent out of shape, Tep­co said in a brief note at the bot­tom of an 11-page infor­ma­tion sheet in August.

    In a state­ment from April 2010, Tep­co said it found two oth­er spent fuel racks in the reac­tor’s cool­ing pool had what appeared to be wire trapped in them. Rods in those assem­blies have pin-hole cracks and are leak­ing low-lev­el radioac­tive gas­es, Tep­co spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai told Reuters on Thurs­day.

    The exis­tence of the dam­aged racks, report­ed in a Fukushi­ma region­al news­pa­per on Wednes­day, came to light as Tep­co pre­pares to begin decom­mis­sion­ing the plant by remov­ing all the spent fuel assem­blies from Reac­tor No. 4.

    “The three fuel assem­blies ... can­not be trans­port­ed by cask,” Tep­co spokes­woman Mayu­mi Yoshi­da said in an emailed response to queries on Thurs­day, refer­ring to the large steel cham­ber that will be used to shift the fuel assem­blies from the pool high up in the dam­aged reac­tor build­ing to safe stor­age.

    “We are cur­rent­ly review­ing how to trans­port these fuel assem­blies to the com­mon spent fuel pool,” she said.

    Tep­co is due with­in days to begin remov­ing 400 tones of the dan­ger­ous spent fuel in a huge­ly del­i­cate and unprece­dent­ed oper­a­tion fraught with risk.

    Hav­ing to deal with the dam­aged assem­blies is like­ly to make that task more dif­fi­cult and could jeop­ar­dize a 12-month time­frame to com­plete the removal that many have already called ambi­tious.

    ...

    And then there’s the REALLY hard part: Reac­tors 1, 2, and 3...

    AP
    Dam­aged Japan nuke plant begin remov­ing fuel rods
    Tues­day, Novem­ber 19, 2013

    TOKYO — It’s cost­ly, risky and depen­dent on tech­nolo­gies that have yet to be ful­ly devel­oped. A decades-long jour­ney filled with unknowns lies ahead for Japan, which took a small step this week toward decom­mis­sion­ing its crip­pled Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant.

    Nobody knows exact­ly how much fuel melt­ed after the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi knocked out cool­ing sys­tems. Or where exact­ly the fuel went — how deep and in what form it is, some­where at the bot­tom of reac­tor Units 1, 2 and 3.

    The com­plex­i­ty and mag­ni­tude of decom­mis­sion­ing the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant is more chal­leng­ing than Three Mile Island or Cher­nobyl, say experts such as Lake Bar­rett, a for­mer U.S. reg­u­la­tor who direct­ed the Three Mile Island cleanup and now is an out­side advis­er to Fukushi­ma oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co.

    One core melt­ed at Three Mile Island in 1979, ver­sus three at Fukushi­ma, and it did­n’t leak out of the con­tain­ment cham­ber, the out­er ves­sel that hous­es the reac­tor core. At Fukushi­ma, mul­ti­ple hydro­gen explo­sions caused exten­sive dam­age, blow­ing the roofs off three reac­tor build­ings and spew­ing radi­a­tion over a wide area.

    Cher­nobyl was a worse acci­dent in terms of radi­a­tion emit­ted, but author­i­ties chose an eas­i­er solu­tion: entomb­ing the facil­i­ty in cement.

    At Fukushi­ma, TEPCO plans a mul­ti-step process that is expect­ed to take 40 years: Painstak­ing­ly remov­ing the fuel rods in stor­age pools, find­ing and extract­ing the melt­ed fuel with­in the bro­ken reac­tors, demol­ish­ing the build­ings and decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the soil.

    “This is a much more chal­leng­ing job,” Bar­rett said dur­ing a recent vis­it to Japan. “Much more com­plex, more dif­fi­cult to do.”

    Also, water must con­tin­u­ous­ly be chan­neled into the pools and reac­tor cores to keep the fuel cool. Tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water leaks out of the reac­tors into their base­ments, some of it into the ground.

    Uncer­tain­ty runs high as Japan has nev­er decom­mis­sioned a full-size com­mer­cial reac­tor, even one that has­n’t had an acci­dent. TEPCO has ear­marked about 1 tril­lion yen ($10 bil­lion) for the decom­mis­sion­ing, and says it will agree to Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe’s request to set aside anoth­er 1 tril­lion yen to fight water leaks.

    The gov­ern­ment itself has con­tributed or promised 145 bil­lion yen, and is expect­ed to step up its involve­ment in the years to come, fol­low­ing crit­i­cism over its lack of sup­port and grow­ing con­cern that the tech­ni­cal and fund­ing chal­lenges are beyond TEP­CO’s capa­bil­i­ties.

    TEPCO began remov­ing fuel rods Mon­day from a stor­age pool at Unit 4, whose build­ing was severe­ly dam­aged but did­n’t have a melt­down because the fuel had been removed from the core for main­te­nance. In an under­wa­ter oper­a­tion, 22 of the 1,533 sets of fuel rods in a pool on the build­ing’s top floor were trans­ferred to a cask that will be used to move them to safer stor­age. By 2018, the util­i­ty hopes to remove all 3,100 fuel assem­blies from stor­age pools at the four dam­aged units.

    After that would come the real chal­lenge: remov­ing melt­ed or par­tial­ly melt­ed fuel from the three reac­tors that had melt­downs, and fig­ur­ing out how to treat and store it so it won’t heat up and start a nuclear reac­tion again.

    “This is an unprece­dent­ed task that nobody in the world has achieved. We still face chal­lenges that must be over­come,” said Hajimu Yamana, a Kyoto Uni­ver­si­ty nuclear engi­neer who heads a gov­ern­ment-affil­i­at­ed agency that is over­see­ing tech­no­log­i­cal research and devel­op­ment for the cleanup.

    Clos­ing the holes and cracks in the con­tain­ment ves­sels is the biggest hur­dle in the decom­mis­sion­ing process, experts say. Every open­ing must be found and sealed to estab­lish a closed cool­ing sys­tem. Then, under the cur­rent plan, the next step would be to fill the reac­tor ves­sels with water and exam­ine the melt­ed fuel.

    Because of still fatal­ly high radi­a­tion lev­els, the work will have to rely on remote-con­trolled robots for years. Sci­en­tists are devel­op­ing robots to spot leaks, mon­i­tor radi­a­tion lev­els and car­ry out decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion. They are also devel­op­ing robots that can detect holes and fill them with clay.

    Among them is a cam­era-loaded swim­ming robot that can go under­wa­ter to spot holes and cracks, and anoth­er one that can go into ducts and pipes.

    Com­put­er sim­u­la­tions show the melt­ed fuel in Unit 1, whose core dam­age was the most exten­sive, has breached the bot­tom of the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel and even par­tial­ly eat­en into its con­crete foun­da­tion, com­ing with­in about 30 cen­time­ters (one foot) of leak­ing into the ground.

    “We just can’t be sure until we actu­al­ly see the inside of the reac­tors,” Yamana said. “We still need to devel­op a num­ber of robots and oth­er tech­nol­o­gy.”

    Three Mile Island need­ed only a few robots, main­ly for remote-con­trolled mon­i­tor­ing, sam­pling and han­dling debris, as the melt­ed fuel remained in the core. Manned entry was pos­si­ble a lit­tle more than a year after the acci­dent.

    Some experts say Japan’s cur­rent decom­mis­sion­ing plan is too ambi­tious. They coun­sel wait­ing until con­t­a­m­i­na­tion lev­els come down, and even con­tem­plate build­ing a shell around the reac­tors for the time being, as at Cher­nobyl.

    “I doubt if Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi’s full decom­mis­sion­ing is pos­si­ble. Its con­t­a­m­i­na­tion is so wide­spread,” said Masashi Goto, a nuclear engi­neer who designed the Unit 3 reac­tor and now teach­es at Mei­ji Uni­ver­si­ty in Tokyo. “We should not rush the process, because it means more expo­sure to work­ers. Instead, we should wait and per­haps even keep it in a cement enclo­sure.”

    Oth­ers say the Cher­nobyl solu­tion would­n’t be effec­tive, not­ing that the reac­tor was a dif­fer­ent type with­out mas­sive water leaks. Devel­op­ing exper­tise dur­ing the oper­a­tion is also impor­tant to Japan, which has dozens of reac­tors that face even­tu­al retire­ment and is con­sid­er­ing turn­ing decom­mis­sion­ing into a viable busi­ness at home, and pos­si­bly in a grow­ing glob­al mar­ket.

    “If you just put con­crete over this, ground­wa­ter still will be flow­ing and things like that, and you have an uncon­trolled sit­u­a­tion,” Bar­rett said. “I just don’t see that as a plau­si­ble option.”

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 19, 2013, 8:27 pm
  5. Some­thing to keep in mind give all the bad news com­ing out of Fukuhi­ma: As bad as the sit­u­a­tion seems, it could have been worse. Reac­tor 4 could have actu­al­ly been in use that day:

    Bloomberg
    Fukushi­ma Engi­neer Says He Helped Cov­er Up Flaw at Dai-Ichi Reac­tor No. 4
    By Jason Clen­field — Mar 22, 2011 7:54 PM CT

    One of the reac­tors in the crip­pled Fukushi­ma nuclear plant may have been rely­ing on flawed steel to hold the radi­a­tion in its core, accord­ing to an engi­neer who helped build its con­tain­ment ves­sel four decades ago.

    Mit­suhiko Tana­ka says he helped con­ceal a man­u­fac­tur­ing defect in the $250 mil­lion steel ves­sel installed at the Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi No. 4 reac­tor while work­ing for a unit of Hitachi Ltd. (6501) in 1974. The reac­tor, which Tana­ka has called a “time bomb,” was shut for main­te­nance when the March 11 earth­quake trig­gered a 7‑meter (23-foot) tsuna­mi that dis­abled cool­ing sys­tems at the plant, lead­ing to explo­sions and radi­a­tion leaks.

    “Who knows what would have hap­pened if that reac­tor had been run­ning?” Tana­ka, who turned his back on the nuclear indus­try after the Cher­nobyl dis­as­ter, said in an inter­view last week. “I have no idea if it could with­stand an earth­quake like this. It’s got a faulty reac­tor inside.”

    Tanaka’s alle­ga­tions, which he says he brought to the atten­tion of Japan’s Trade Min­istry in 1988 and chron­i­cled in a book two years lat­er called “Why Nuclear Pow­er is Dan­ger­ous,” have resur­faced after Japan’s worst nuclear acci­dent on record. The No. 4 reac­tor was hit by explo­sions and a fire that spread from adja­cent units as the cri­sis deep­ened.

    No Safe­ty Prob­lem

    Hitachi spokesman Yuichi Izu­mi­sawa said the com­pa­ny met with Tana­ka in 1988 to dis­cuss the work he did to fix a dent in the ves­sel and con­clud­ed there was no safe­ty prob­lem. “We have not revised our view since then,” Izu­mi­sawa said.

    Ken­ta Taka­hashi, an offi­cial at the Trade Ministry’s Nuclear and Indus­tri­al Safe­ty Agency, said he couldn’t con­firm whether the agency’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Agency for Nat­ur­al Resources and Ener­gy, had con­duct­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion into Tanaka’s claims. Nao­ki Tsun­o­da, a spokesman at Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., which owns the plant, said he couldn’t imme­di­ate­ly com­ment.

    Tana­ka, who said he led the team that built the steel ves­sel, was at his apart­ment on Tokyo’s out­skirts when Japan’s biggest earth­quake on record struck off the coast on March 11, shak­ing build­ings in the nation’s cap­i­tal.

    “I grabbed my wife and we just hugged,” he said. “I thought this is it: we’re dead.”

    For Tana­ka, the night­mare inten­si­fied the next day when a series of explo­sions were trig­gered next to the reac­tor that he helped build. Since then, the risks of radioac­tive leaks increased as work­ers have strug­gled to bring the plant under con­trol.

    Fukushi­ma No. 4

    Tana­ka says the reac­tor pres­sure ves­sel inside Fukushima’s unit No. 4 was dam­aged at a Bab­cock-Hitachi foundry in Kure City, in Hiroshi­ma pre­fec­ture, dur­ing the last step of a man­u­fac­tur­ing process that took 2 1/2 years and cost tens of mil­lions of dol­lars. If the mis­take had been dis­cov­ered, the com­pa­ny might have been bank­rupt­ed, he said.

    Inside a blast fur­nace the size of a small air­plane hang­er the reac­tor pres­sure ves­sel was being treat­ed one last time to remove weld­ing stress. The cylin­der, 20 meters tall and 6 meters in diam­e­ter, was heat­ed to more than 600 degrees Cel­sius (1,112 degrees Fahren­heit), a tem­per­a­ture that soft­ens met­al.

    Braces that were sup­posed to have been placed inside dur­ing the blast­ing were either for­got­ten or fell over when the cylin­der was wheeled into the fur­nace. After the ves­sel cooled, work­ers found that its walls had warped, Tana­ka said.

    Warped Walls

    The ves­sel had sagged so that its height and width dif­fered by more than 34 mil­lime­ters, mean­ing it should have been scrapped, accord­ing to nuclear reg­u­la­tions. Rather than sac­ri­fice years of work and risk the company’s sur­vival, Tanaka’s boss asked him to reshape the ves­sel so that no-one would know it had ever been dam­aged. Tana­ka had been work­ing as an engi­neer for the company’s nuclear reac­tor divi­sion and was known for his pro­gram­ming skills.

    “I saved the com­pa­ny bil­lions of yen,” said Tana­ka, who says he was paid a 3 mil­lion yen bonus and pre­sent­ed with a cer­tifi­cate acknowl­edg­ing his “extra­or­di­nary” effort. “At the time, I felt like a hero,” he said.

    Over the course of a month, Tana­ka said he made a dozen night­time trips to an Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Machines Corp. office 20 kilo­me­ters away in Hiroshi­ma where he used a super- com­put­er to devise a repair.

    Mean­while, work­ers cov­ered the dam­aged ves­sel with a sheet, Tana­ka said. When Tokyo Elec­tric sent a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to check on their progress, Hitachi dis­tract­ed him by win­ing and din­ing him, accord­ing to Tana­ka. Rather than inspect­ing the part, they spent the day play­ing golf and soak­ing in a hot spring, he said.

    Win­ing and Din­ing

    “The guy wouldn’t have known what he was look­ing at any­way,” Tana­ka said. “The peo­ple at the util­i­ty have no idea how the parts are made.”

    After a month of com­put­er mod­el­ing, Tana­ka came up with a way to use pump­jacks to pop out the sunken wall. While it would look like noth­ing had ever hap­pened, no-one knew what the effect of the repair would have on the integri­ty of the ves­sel. Thir­ty- six years lat­er, that reac­tor pres­sure ves­sel is the key defense pro­tect­ing the core of Fukushima’s No. 4 reac­tor.

    “These pro­ce­dures, as they’re described, are far from ide­al, espe­cial­ly for a com­po­nent as crit­i­cal as this,” Robert Ritchie, Pro­fes­sor of Mate­ri­als Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia of Berke­ley, said in a phone inter­view. “Depend­ing on the extent of vessel’s defor­ma­tion, it could pos­si­bly lead to local crack­ing in some of its welds.”

    ...

    In late 2011, Mit­suhiko Tana­ka warned that Tep­co was using over­ly opti­mistic com­put­er sim­u­la­tions. It’s some­thing to also keep in mind giv­en reports that “com­put­er sim­u­la­tions show the melt­ed fuel in Unit 1, whose core dam­age was the most exten­sive, has breached the bot­tom of the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel and even par­tial­ly eat­en into its con­crete foun­da­tion, com­ing with­in about 30 cen­time­ters (one foot) of leak­ing into the ground.” Let’s hope those aren’t over­ly opti­mistic sim­u­la­tions.

    Let’s also hope that Mr. Tana­ka is being over­ly pes­simistic since he recent­ly warned that all of the dam­aged fuel rods could be mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion hope­less.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 21, 2013, 10:51 pm
  6. Here’s a reminder that the chal­lenge of extract­ing radioac­tive goo from build­ings at risk of col­laps­ing isn’t lim­it­ed to Fukushi­ma:

    BBC News Mag­a­zine
    26 Novem­ber 2013 Last updat­ed at 19:28 ET
    Cher­nobyl’s arch: Seal­ing off a radioac­tive sar­coph­a­gus
    By Nick Meo Cher­nobyl

    Work began in recent days to remove, bit by bit, the giant chim­ney pro­trud­ing from the Cher­nobyl nuclear pow­er sta­tion. It’s one small part of a mam­moth engi­neer­ing project, now near­ing com­ple­tion, designed to slash the risk of anoth­er major release of radioac­tiv­i­ty.

    Mas­sive and glit­ter­ing in the weak win­ter sun­shine, a half-built arch looms over Cher­nobyl’s decay­ing indus­tri­al land­scape of cool­ing tow­ers and pow­er lines.

    One of the biggest engi­neer­ing projects in his­to­ry, it has been likened to a gigan­tic met­al igloo, built to seal off hun­dreds of tons of nuclear fuel and dust buried inside reac­tor num­ber four, which in 1986 blew up and burned for 10 days.

    Every­thing about the project is epic: the size, the 1.5bn euro (£1.2bn) cost, the tech­ni­cal prob­lems of work­ing on a radioac­tive build­ing site.

    At 110m (360ft) tall, the struc­ture could house the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty, and at 257m (843ft) wide, there would be room for a foot­ball pitch. There are acres of met­al pan­els in the roof, to seal off the reac­tor and the dan­ger­ous mess inside. The whole lot will be held togeth­er by 680,000 heavy bolts.

    With these gigan­tic dimen­sions the arch would be dif­fi­cult to build any­where, but it is being assem­bled in one of Europe’s more remote cor­ners, a site sur­round­ed by for­est and marsh in north­ern Ukraine, far from the fac­to­ries of West­ern Europe where its com­po­nent parts are made. This autumn, as the project reached the half-way point, it was more than a decade behind sched­ule, although engi­neers believe work will now go more quick­ly and it could be fin­ished in 2015.

    ...

    The reac­tor build­ing itself, bad­ly dam­aged in the 1986 explo­sion and fire, is still far too radioac­tive for men to work there assem­bling the arch above it.

    Instead the arch has had to be put togeth­er a few hun­dred metres away, at a safer dis­tance from the reac­tor’s intense radi­a­tion. Half of it is ready, and when the oth­er half is fin­ished, the two parts will be clamped togeth­er. Then, as ner­vous engi­neers look on, 29,000 tons of met­al will slide along spe­cial­ly laid tracks, until the reac­tor is cov­ered and sealed off.

    At present, it is con­tained by a shel­ter of con­crete and met­al pan­els called the sar­coph­a­gus, built in the months after the acci­dent. It was sup­posed to have been replaced in 2006, and although it has been shored up, it is now rust­ing and in dan­ger of col­lapse. Last Feb­ru­ary there was a radi­a­tion alert when part of the tur­bine hall roof next to the reac­tor col­lapsed. The site was evac­u­at­ed, although nobody suf­fered harm­ful effects and work soon resumed.

    Every­one hopes the arch will be com­plet­ed before there is a major col­lapse. If this were to hap­pen now, it would send a plume of radioac­tive dust into the sky, scat­ter­ing radi­a­tion across a large area. It’s one rea­son Ukraini­ans wor­ry about the repeat­ed delays to the project.

    ...

    Work has start­ed remov­ing sec­tions weigh­ing up to 55 tons each. They must be cut off with a plas­ma cut­ter by teams of two men and removed by crane — a nerve-wrack­ing process. If a crane fails, or an oper­a­tor mis­cal­cu­lates, and a sec­tion falls into the reac­tor, this too could release a new cloud of radioac­tive dust into the atmos­phere.

    Any­one work­ing on the chim­ney must also be care­ful­ly mon­i­tored. All staff work­ing on the arch have an annu­al allowance of expo­sure to radi­a­tion. Once it has been used up, they are sent to work off­site. Around the chim­ney, an entire year’s allowance will be used up in a few hours.

    Engi­neers say the radioac­tive envi­ron­ment is why work has been so slow. “It’s not dan­ger­ous, it’s just very, very dif­fi­cult,” says Philippe Casse, 61, the site man­ag­er. “You have to organ­ise every­thing to avoid the risk to peo­ple. But it is worth doing. I’m not just here to make a liv­ing, I’m here to make Cher­nobyl safe.”

    The cost of the project is being paid by the G8 nations, includ­ing British tax­pay­ers, and the work is being done by West­ern cor­po­ra­tions assist­ed by Ukrain­ian com­pa­nies. Near­ly three decades after the acci­dent, the radioac­tive mess in Cher­nobyl remains a grave threat to the health of Ukraini­ans.

    Even­tu­al­ly, when the arch seals off the reac­tor, the plan is for giant cranes to lift out the remains of the reac­tor and what’s left of the fuel, which melt­ed and flowed like lava into cham­bers beneath it. But there are fears the cranes would quick­ly become so radioac­tive they could not be main­tained, and would grad­u­al­ly stop work­ing. There is also still no suit­able nuclear waste dump in the coun­try.

    Philippe Casse acknowl­edges that get­ting rid of all this high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al will be far more dif­fi­cult than build­ing the arch.

    “Dis­pos­al will be an even big­ger project,” he says.

    “There is no mon­ey at the moment.

    “It could be done in 50 years’ time. Per­haps there will be the tech­nol­o­gy to solve the prob­lem then.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 27, 2013, 10:06 am
  7. Here’s a reminder that the prob­lems of large vol­umes of radioac­tive goo seep­ing into under­ground aquifers and pos­si­ble spon­ta­neous nuclear reac­tions aren’t lim­it­ed to Fukushi­ma:

    The Los Ange­les Times
    Doubts grow about plan to dis­pose of Han­ford’s radioac­tive waste
    Experts raise con­cerns about the com­plex tech­nol­o­gy intend­ed to turn 56 mil­lion gal­lons of radioac­tive sludge at the for­mer Han­ford nuclear facil­i­ty into glass and pre­pare it for safe bur­ial.

    By Ralph Vartabe­di­an

    Novem­ber 29, 2013, 10:41 p.m.

    RICHLAND, Wash. — On a wind-swept plateau, under­ground steel tanks that hold the nation’s most dead­ly radioac­tive waste are slow­ly rot­ting. The soil deep under the desert brush is being fouled with plu­to­ni­um, cesium and oth­er mate­r­i­al so tox­ic that it could deliv­er a lethal dose of radi­a­tion to a near­by per­son in min­utes.

    The aging tanks at the for­mer Han­ford nuclear weapons com­plex con­tain 56 mil­lion gal­lons of sludge, the byprod­uct of sev­er­al decades of nuclear weapons pro­duc­tion, and they rep­re­sent one of the nation’s most treach­er­ous envi­ron­men­tal threats.

    Ener­gy Depart­ment offi­cials have repeat­ed­ly assured the pub­lic that they have the advanced tech­nol­o­gy need­ed to safe­ly dis­pose of the waste. An indus­tri­al city has been under devel­op­ment here for 24 years, designed to trans­form the sludge into sol­id glass and pre­pare it for per­ma­nent bur­ial.

    But with $13 bil­lion already spent, there are seri­ous doubts that the high­ly com­plex tech­nol­o­gy will even work or that the cur­rent plan can clean up all the waste. Alarmed at warn­ings raised by out­side experts and some of the pro­jec­t’s own engi­neers, Depart­ment of Ener­gy offi­cials last year ordered a halt to con­struc­tion on the most impor­tant parts of the waste treat­ment plant.

    “They are miss­ing one impor­tant tar­get after anoth­er,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D‑Ore.), chair­man of the Ener­gy and Nat­ur­al Resources Com­mit­tee. “It feels like we are going around in cir­cles.”

    Over the last two years, tech­ni­cal prob­lems on the project have mul­ti­plied. Con­cern has grown that explo­sive hydro­gen gas could build up inside the treat­ment plan­t’s pipes and tanks. Clumps of plu­to­ni­um could form inside the plan­t’s mix­ing tanks, some engi­neers now say, poten­tial­ly caus­ing a spon­ta­neous nuclear reac­tion.

    A fed­er­al over­sight board found that employ­ee safe­ty con­cerns had been dis­count­ed, while the Ener­gy Depart­men­t’s inspec­tor gen­er­al report­ed an esti­mate that more than a third of the plan­t’s nuclear safe­ty reviews — required on every pipe, valve and device — were nev­er con­duct­ed.

    Senior engi­neers at Han­ford have voiced sim­i­lar wor­ries.

    Gary Brun­son, then the fed­er­al engi­neer­ing chief at Han­ford, rec­om­mend­ed a year ago that the prime con­trac­tor, Bech­tel Nation­al, be removed as the plant design­er, cit­ing 34 instances of seri­ous safe­ty and engi­neer­ing errors. Two oth­er senior man­agers have also pub­licly said the pro­jec­t’s tech­nol­o­gy is flawed and that safe­ty con­cerns have been dis­re­gard­ed.

    Fed­er­al offi­cials and exec­u­tives at Bech­tel down­play the risk of a nuclear acci­dent and say they are mak­ing impor­tant progress on a dif­fi­cult job.

    “We have a lot of chal­lenges, but I am con­fi­dent,” said Bill Hamel, the fed­er­al man­ag­er who is direct­ing con­struc­tion of the waste treat­ment plant. “This is a very large, very com­plex facil­i­ty. We con­tin­ue to make progress.”

    This month, how­ev­er, the Ener­gy Depart­ment for­mal­ly offered a more cau­tious prog­no­sis. It noti­fied Wash­ing­ton state offi­cials that it might miss some of the most impor­tant project dead­lines, promised three years ago under a con­sent agree­ment reached to address ear­li­er laps­es. Now, 14 of 19 key mile­stones are in jeop­ardy, the depart­ment has acknowl­edged.

    But end­less delays are hard­ly an option — not when a mil­lion gal­lons of sludge from about a third of the 177 under­ground tanks have leaked into the soil, and some of it has reached aquifers under the plateau.

    The Colum­bia Riv­er, the West­’s biggest water­way, is sev­en miles down­hill from the waste and, under a worst-case sce­nario, could be hit by the plumes in as lit­tle as 50 years, accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy.

    “It is real­ly dis­ap­point­ing,” said Suzanne Dahl, who runs the depart­men­t’s Han­ford office.

    In late Sep­tem­ber, Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Ernest J. Moniz tried to inter­vene with a vague plan for accel­er­at­ing the project. He offered options that includ­ed the devel­op­ment of a new treat­ment plant and a change in the chem­i­cal process for treat­ing some of the liq­uid waste.

    But Wyden, among oth­er crit­ics, dis­missed it, call­ing it “a plan for a plan.”

    Many of the prob­lems stem from the deci­sion to launch con­struc­tion of the plant even before engi­neers had com­plet­ed the design. The job of turn­ing waste as thick as peanut but­ter into glass is at the lead­ing edge of nuclear chem­istry, a job made dif­fi­cult by the com­plex mix­ture of wastes that were fed into the under­ground tanks by some of the nation’s largest indus­tri­al cor­po­ra­tions under a cloak of gov­ern­ment secre­cy.

    The basic plan is to pump the waste into a pre-treat­ment plant, a fac­to­ry larg­er than a foot­ball field and 12 sto­ries tall, that would fil­ter and chem­i­cal­ly sep­a­rate the waste into two streams of high- and low-lev­el radioac­tiv­i­ty. Then, two oth­er plants would “vit­ri­fy,” or glas­si­fy, the waste. One would pro­duce high­ly radioac­tive glass des­tined for a future geo­log­i­cal repos­i­to­ry, and the oth­er a low­er radioac­tive glass that could be buried at Han­ford.

    But seri­ous ques­tions were raised last year after Wal­ter Tamo­saitis, one of the sci­en­tif­ic chiefs of the project, dis­closed that the inno­v­a­tive tech­nol­o­gy for mix­ing the waste in pro­cess­ing tanks could cause dan­ger­ous buildups of explo­sive hydro­gen gas and might allow plu­to­ni­um clumps to form.

    The Defense Nuclear Facil­i­ties Safe­ty Board, an inde­pen­dent fed­er­al agency that over­sees nuclear weapons sites, val­i­dat­ed Tamo­saitis’ con­cerns about the mix­ing tech­nol­o­gy and found that the safe­ty cul­ture at the project was flawed. Con­struc­tion on the pro­jec­t’s two most impor­tant com­po­nents, the pre-treat­ment plant and the high-lev­el vit­ri­fi­ca­tion plant, was sub­stan­tial­ly slowed. Tamo­saitis was fired.

    The ques­tions con­cern Bechtel’s deci­sion not to use tra­di­tion­al mechan­i­cal mix­ers with pad­dles dri­ven by elec­tric motors, as have been employed at oth­er nuclear pro­cess­ing plants.

    Instead, the com­pa­ny chose pulse jet mix­ers, which func­tion like giant turkey basters. Pow­ered by vac­u­um and air pres­sure, they suck waste into a cylin­der with­in the tanks and then spit it out under high pres­sure. Such a sys­tem has nev­er been used in such large tanks. The deci­sion was based on the con­cern that mechan­i­cal sys­tems could break down in high­ly radioac­tive “black cells,” as the tanks are known, over the 40-year design life of the plant.

    But doubts have grown about whether the pulse jet mix­ers can ade­quate­ly agi­tate the waste and pre­vent the for­ma­tion of hydro­gen gas and clumps of plu­to­ni­um at the bot­tom of the tanks and in pipes.

    The safe­ty board has demand­ed that the Ener­gy Depart­ment con­duct a full-scale test of the mix­ing sys­tem, using non­ra­dioac­tive sludge, before going any fur­ther. The test facil­i­ty is under con­struc­tion near Han­ford, but the test com­ple­tion date is uncer­tain.

    Project man­agers say they are not wor­ried. Hamel said he is “100% sure” that what­ev­er the tests show, the mix­ing hard­ware or the chem­i­cal process­es can be adjust­ed to allow the treat­ment plant to ful­fill its mis­sion.

    On a recent tour of the plant, Hamel nav­i­gat­ed around walls 6 feet thick designed to pro­tect work­ers from radi­a­tion.

    Mas­sive stain­less steel tanks that can hold up to 375,000 gal­lons of sludge were lined up in areas that will some­day be sealed off from human entry.

    “This entire design is based on safe­ty,” Hamel said.

    Rus­sell Daniel, Bech­tel Nation­al’s tech­ni­cal direc­tor at Han­ford, said the prob­a­bil­i­ty of an explo­sion is no greater than 1 in 1 mil­lion. And he said that even if 20 feet of hydro­gen gas accu­mu­lat­ed inside a pipe and det­o­nat­ed, it would not cause a rup­ture or any dam­age.

    But some of the nation’s top inde­pen­dent experts say the Bech­tel tech­nol­o­gy is far from proven.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 1, 2013, 7:02 pm
  8. The IAEA has idea that might help Tep­co avoid more uncon­trolled dis­charges of radioac­tive water into the Pacif­ic: Make con­trolled dis­charges instead:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    IAEA: Tep­co Should Con­sid­er Con­trolled Dis­charge

    By Mari Iwa­ta
    Dec. 4, 2013 6:20 a.m. ET

    TOKYO—The Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency has advised the oper­a­tor of the dam­aged Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear-pow­er plant to con­sid­er dis­charg­ing light­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the ocean, as stor­ing radioac­tive water at the plant has become increas­ing­ly unsus­tain­able.

    The IAEA’s advice reflects the dilem­ma fac­ing the plan­t’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., which must weigh risks from the stor­age of increas­ing amounts of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water against those of releas­ing some par­tial­ly cleaned water into the ocean, a move vehe­ment­ly opposed by local fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties and res­i­dents.

    Ground­wa­ter flow­ing into the site and its reac­tors is con­tin­u­ous­ly adding to about 400,000 tons of high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water stored in rough­ly 1,000 tanks at the site. Tep­co said ear­li­er this year that it had found con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water leak­ing from under­ground stor­age tanks. In addi­tion to the leaks, con­cerns have also grown that the tanks will obstruct oth­er work nec­es­sary to decom­mis­sion the plant, which suf­fered mul­ti­ple melt­downs after the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi.

    Juan Car­los Lenti­jo, head of an IAEA mis­sion in Japan to mon­i­tor the decom­mis­sion­ing work, said at a Tokyo news con­fer­ence Wednes­day that Tep­co should weigh the pos­si­ble dis­charge against the total risks involved in the work, adding, “Con­trolled dis­charge is prac­ticed in nuclear facil­i­ties across the world.”

    Every day, 400 met­ric tons of high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water is pro­duced at the site. Radioac­tive mate­ri­als can be removed from the water by a sys­tem known as ALPS, but rel­a­tive­ly less harm­ful tri­tium remains.

    On Tues­day, a gov­ern­ment-appoint­ed expert pan­el said in a draft of Japan’s new Fukushi­ma water-con­tain­ment plan that most of the high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water will be cleansed by ALPS in about sev­en years, but the amount of water con­tain­ing tri­tium will keep ris­ing, exceed­ing 700,000 tons in two years.

    Shu­nichi Tana­ka, chair­man of Japan’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, said on Wednes­day in a sep­a­rate news con­fer­ence that keep­ing all low-lev­el con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water at the site would cre­ate a huge obsta­cle for oth­er decom­mis­sion­ing work, includ­ing the use of remote-con­trolled machines to remove melt­ed fuel at some of the reac­tors where radi­a­tion lev­els are very high.

    “You can­not keep stor­ing the water for­ev­er. We have to make choice com­par­ing all risks involved,” Mr. Tana­ka told reporters.

    Tri­tium is a radioac­tive form of hydro­gen with a half-life of about 12 years. It occurs nat­u­ral­ly and is pro­duced in the process of nuclear fis­sion. Since it is a form of hydro­gen, one of the ele­ments in water, it is con­sid­ered vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble to sep­a­rate out.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 6, 2013, 10:38 am
  9. Sto­ries like this raise the ques­tion of what the ground water radi­a­tion lev­els will look like when the three melt­ed down cores final­ly melt through the con­crete base­ment floors and into the ground water:

    Mainichi
    Radi­a­tion 36,000 times per­mis­si­ble lev­el found in water at Fukushi­ma plant
    Decem­ber 03, 2013

    FUKUSHIMA — The oper­a­tor of the dis­as­ter-hit Fukushi­ma No. 1 Nuclear Pow­er Plant said on Dec. 2 that it has detect­ed radioac­tive mate­ri­als that topped 36,000 times the per­mis­si­ble lev­el in under­ground water extract­ed in the area.

    Accord­ing to plant oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (TEPCO), stron­tium-90 and oth­er radioac­tive sub­stances that emit beta rays were detect­ed at a lev­el of 1.1 mil­lion bec­querels per liter in under­ground water pumped up from an obser­va­to­ry well on Nov. 28. The well is locat­ed at a sea bank east of the No. 2 reac­tor, about 40 meters from the ocean.

    The amount of detect­ed radioac­tive mate­ri­als hit the high­est lev­el since Nov. 25, which marked 910,000 bec­querels per liter of under­ground water. The nation­al allow­able emis­sion lev­el for stron­tium-90, a typ­i­cal radioac­tive iso­tope that emits beta rays, is less than 30 bec­querels per liter of water.

    TEPCO said radioac­tive lev­els in sea­wa­ter with­in the har­bor around the plant do not show any major change.

    It has been feared that high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water is leak­ing to the ground from a trench that stretch­es from the No. 2 reac­tor build­ing to the sea bank. The radioac­tive iso­tope detect­ed this time sug­gests the pos­si­bil­i­ty of radioac­tive mate­ri­als remain­ing out­side the trench.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 8, 2013, 4:17 pm
  10. Accord­ing to TEP­CO’s own admis­sion, the sta­tus of reac­tor No. 3 might be worse than pre­vi­ous­ly thought:

    THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

    TEPCO: Not all pumped-in water reached over­heat­ing Fukushi­ma reac­tors
    Decem­ber 14, 2013

    Fire engines were used in a des­per­ate, and ulti­mate­ly futile, attempt to pump water to cool over­heat­ing reac­tors dur­ing the ear­ly phase of the 2011 Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant dis­as­ter, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said.

    Accord­ing to a Dec. 13 report by the oper­a­tor of the crip­pled facil­i­ty, water was pumped in suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ty to avert core melt­downs in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reac­tors, but much of it strayed into irrel­e­vant pipes and end­ed up else­where.

    In the report, TEPCO sin­gled out 52 issues that had been left unan­swered in its June 2012 inves­ti­ga­tion on the dis­as­ter trig­gered by the Great East Japan Earth­quake and tsuna­mi. The util­i­ty said it will find answers to those ques­tions with­in two years.

    The Dec. 13 report cov­ered analy­sis results for 10 of those issues.

    Equip­ment to cool reac­tor cores failed and quick­ly became unus­able fol­low­ing the tem­blors at the Fukushi­ma plant. For this rea­son, fire engines were con­nect­ed via hoses to the pip­ing sys­tem of the nuclear reac­tors to pump in water to cool them.

    TEPCO said more than sev­en times the req­ui­site vol­ume of cool­ing water was pumped into the No. 2 reac­tor. But the water failed to cool it and the oth­er reac­tors effi­cient­ly, and could not stop the core melt­downs in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reac­tors.

    An exam­i­na­tion of pipe dia­grams and relat­ed equip­ment showed the pipes to the reac­tors had branch­es lead­ing off to oth­er areas and devices, such as con­den­sa­tion stor­age tanks. TEPCO con­clud­ed that too much of the pumped-in water leaked into those branch­es and nev­er reached the reac­tors.

    TEPCO offi­cials said they knew as ear­ly as late March 2011 about those leak­age routes.

    “We should have shared the find­ing with the pub­lic in the belief it would help pro­mote uni­ver­sal safe­ty, but failed to do so,” said TEPCO Man­ag­ing Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Taka­fu­mi Ane­gawa.

    The util­i­ty has installed elec­tric valves in reac­tors at its idled Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa nuclear pow­er plant in Niiga­ta Pre­fec­ture to avert a sim­i­lar prob­lem dur­ing an emer­gency, the util­i­ty said.

    TEPCO also said the high pres­sure coolant injec­tion (HPCI) sys­tem for emer­gency use lost part of its func­tions ear­ly in the No. 3 reac­tor, which was rocked by a hydro­gen explo­sion.

    The gov­ern­men­t’s inves­ti­ga­tion com­mit­tee said a man­u­al shut­down of the HPCI sys­tem inter­rupt­ed the cool­ing oper­a­tions, which exac­er­bat­ed the nuclear cri­sis.

    But TEPCO took excep­tion to that the­o­ry and said the HPCI sys­tem had already lost part of its func­tions by the time it was shut down man­u­al­ly, because nuclear fuel had become exposed very quick­ly fol­low­ing the man­u­al shut­down.

    That means nuclear fuel in the No. 3 reac­tor may be more dam­aged than an ear­li­er study indi­cat­ed. This sug­gests more melt­ed fuel may have fall­en out­side the reac­tor pres­sure ves­sel, TEPCO said.

    ...

    In addi­tion to being alarm­ing, the report is a reminder that there’s still quite a bit yet to be learned about what hap­pened inside those build­ings and why. It’s an unfor­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion that’s prob­a­bly not going to chang any­time soon:

    Crooks and Liars
    What The Hell Is Hap­pen­ing At Fukushi­ma Reac­tor 3?
    By Susie Madrak Decem­ber 31, 2013 6:30 am
    We don’t know exact­ly what’s going on at Fukushi­ma. But then, we’re not sup­posed to.

    We know that TEPCO was in the dan­ger­ous process of remov­ing fuel rods from the No. 4 reac­tor, but since Japan is on the verge of pass­ing a state secrets law that would make it a seri­ous offense to leak infor­ma­tion about Fukushi­ma or for jour­nal­ists to try to get that infor­ma­tion, it’s just high­ly unlike­ly that any­one will tell us if there’s anoth­er nuclear dis­as­ter. We do know that steam has been observed com­ing from the Reac­tor 3 build­ing three times this week, and we know what it’s been asso­ci­at­ed with in the past — which ain’t much, but it’s all we have:

    Tep­co (trans­la­tion), Dec. 27, 2013: At around 7:00 am on Decem­ber 27, and con­firmed by the cam­era that from Unit 3 reac­tor build­ing, 5th floor near the cen­ter, steam is gen­er­at­ed. Have not been iden­ti­fied abnor­mal plant con­di­tions of 54 min­utes at 7:00 am the same day, the indi­cat­ed val­ue of the mon­i­tor­ing post (mete­o­ro­log­i­cal data of 50 min­utes at 7:00 am, 5.1 ? tem­per­a­ture, 93.1% humidity).SOURCE: Tep­co (July 24, 2013)

    Tep­co (trans­la­tion), Dec. 25, 2013: At around 7:00 am on Decem­ber 25, and con­firmed by the cam­era that from Unit 3 reac­tor build­ing, 5th floor near the cen­ter, steam is gen­er­at­ed. Have not been iden­ti­fied abnor­mal plant con­di­tions of 8:00 am the same day time, the indi­cat­ed val­ue of the mon­i­tor­ing post (mete­o­ro­log­i­cal data of 50 min­utes at 7:00 am, 2.8 ? tem­per­a­ture, 76.7% humid­i­ty).

    Tep­co (trans­la­tion), Dec. 24, 2013: At around 7:00 am on Decem­ber 19, and con­firmed by the cam­era that from Unit 3 reac­tor build­ing, 5th floor near the cen­ter, steam is gen­er­at­ed. Have not been iden­ti­fied abnor­mal plant con­di­tions of 55 min­utes at 7:00 am the same day, the indi­cat­ed val­ue of the mon­i­tor­ing post (mete­o­ro­log­i­cal data of 40 min­utes at 7:00 am, 5.6 ? tem­per­a­ture, 93.7% humid­i­ty). Then, in 58 min­utes around 7:00 am Decem­ber 24, steam is no longer observed. It should be not­ed, have not been iden­ti­fied abnor­mal plant con­di­tions in a 3‑minute time at 8:00 am the same day, the indi­cat­ed val­ue mon­i­tor­ing posts, etc. (mete­o­ro­log­i­cal data of 50 min­utes at 7:00 am, 4.1 ? tem­per­a­ture, 74.9% humid­i­ty).

    Is Reac­tor 3 melt­ing down now? We have no offi­cial way of know­ing. Blog­ger Susanne Posel is assum­ing it as real­i­ty:

    TEPCO are report­ing that “radioac­tive steam has sud­den­ly begun ema­nat­ing from pre­vi­ous­ly explod­ed nuclear reac­tor build­ing #3 at the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter site in Japan.”

    The cor­po­ra­tion is not clear on the details of the sud­den change at Reac­tor 3 because of “lethal radi­a­tion lev­els in that build­ing.”

    Sum­ma­tions from experts con­clude that this may “be the begin­ning of a ‘spent fuel pool crit­i­cal­i­ty (melt­down)’ involv­ing up to 89 TONS of nuclear fuel burn­ing up into the atmos­phere and head­ing to North Amer­i­ca.”

    Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, I’d dis­miss this as hys­ter­i­cal fear­mon­ger­ing and tell you it was high­ly irre­spon­si­ble to make such state­ments. But nei­ther can I tell you with any kind of clar­i­ty or reli­a­bil­i­ty exact­ly what is going on. We know that TEPCO has lied all along, and I don’t think our own gov­ern­ment is going to tell us even if some­thing is going on (under the law, they have the author­i­ty to lie to us in order to pre­vent pan­ic that would affect the food sup­ply). So it’s not unrea­son­able to assume that what­ev­er’s going on, it’s usu­al­ly a lot worse than what the Pow­ers That Be will admit.

    ...

    In what may be the first piece of good news to emerge from the Fukushi­ma tragedy since it began almost 3 years ago, we can prob­a­bly dis­miss the reports that reac­tor No. 3 has again reached crit­i­cal­i­ty. Those reports are based exclu­sive­ly on the “Turn­er Radio Net­work”.

    Still, as the above arti­cle sug­gests, if one of the reac­tors real­ly does go crit­i­cal again in the future, the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment and TEPCO may not feel to need to tell us about it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 1, 2014, 5:03 pm
  11. While humans aren’t immune to radi­a­tion, we’re con­tin­u­ing to find out just how immune Tep­co is to law­suits:

    Huff­in­g­ton Post
    US Sailors Sick From Fukushi­ma Radi­a­tion File New Class Action
    Har­vey Wasser­man
    Post­ed: 02/12/2014 4:50 pm EST Updat­ed: 02/12/2014 4:59 pm EST

    Cit­ing a wide range of ail­ments from leukemia to blind­ness to birth defects, 79 Amer­i­can vet­er­ans of 2011’s earthquake/tsunami relief Oper­a­tion Tomadachi (“Friend­ship”) have filed a new $1 bil­lion class action law­suit against Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er.

    The suit includes an infant born with a genet­ic con­di­tion to a sailor who served on the USS Ronald Rea­gan as radi­a­tion poured over it dur­ing the Fukushi­ma melt-downs, and an Amer­i­can teenag­er liv­ing near the strick­en site. It has also been left open for “up to 70,000 U.S. cit­i­zens [who were] poten­tial­ly affect­ed by the radi­a­tion and will be able to join the class action suit.”

    Now docked in San Diego, the USS Rea­gan’s on-going safe­ty has become a polit­i­cal hot pota­to. The $4.3 bil­lion car­ri­er is at the core of the U.S. Naval pres­ence in the Pacif­ic. Crit­ics say it’s too radioac­tive to oper­ate or to scrap, and that it should be sunk, as were a num­ber of U.S. ships con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by atmos­pher­ic Bomb tests in the South Pacif­ic.

    The re-fil­ing comes as Tep­co admits that it has under­es­ti­mat­ed cer­tain radi­a­tion read­ings by a fac­tor of five. And as eight more thy­roid can­cers have sur­faced among chil­dren in the down­wind region.Two new earth­quakes have also struck near the Fukushi­ma site.

    The amend­ed action was filed in fed­er­al court in San Diego on Feb. 6, which would have been Rea­gan’s 103rd birth­day. It says Tep­co failed to dis­close that the $4.3 bil­lion nuclear-pow­ered air­craft car­ri­er was being heav­i­ly dosed from three melt-downs and four explo­sions at the Fukushi­ma site. The Rea­gan was as close as a mile off­shore as the strick­en reac­tors poured dead­ly clouds of radi­a­tion into the air and ocean begin­ning the day after the earth­quake and tsuna­mi. It also sailed through nuclear plumes for more than five hours while about 100 miles off­shore. The USS Rea­gan (CVN-76) is 1,092 feet long and was com­mis­sioned on July 12, 2003. The flight deck cov­ers 4.5 acres, car­ries 5,500 sailors and more than 80 air­craft.

    Rea­gan crew mem­bers report­ed that in the mid­dle of a snow­storm, a cloud of warm air enveloped them with a “metal­lic taste.” The reports par­al­lel those from air­men who dropped the Bomb on Hiroshi­ma, and from cen­tral Penn­syl­va­ni­ans down­wind from Three Mile Island. Crew mem­bers drank and bathed in desali­nat­ed sea water that was heav­i­ly irra­di­at­ed from Fukushi­ma’s fall­out.

    As a group, the sailors com­prise an espe­cial­ly young, healthy cross-sec­tion of peo­ple. Some also served on the amphibi­ous assault ship Essex, mis­sile cruis­er Cow­pens and sev­er­al oth­ers.

    The plain­tiffs’ ail­ments par­al­lel those of down­winders irra­di­at­ed at Hiroshima/Nagasaki (1945), dur­ing atmos­pher­ic Bomb tests (1946–1963), and from the radi­a­tion releas­es at Three Mile Island (1979) and Cher­nobyl (1986). Among them are repro­duc­tive prob­lems and “ill­ness­es such as Leukemia, ulcers, gall blad­der removals, brain can­cer, tes­tic­u­lar can­cer, dys­func­tion­al uter­ine bleed­ing, thy­roid ill­ness­es, stom­ach ail­ments and a host of oth­er com­plaints unusu­al in such young adults.”

    One 22-year-old sailor declared to the court that “Upon my return from Oper­a­tion Tomodachi, I began los­ing my eye­sight. I lost all vision in my left eye and most vision in my right eye. I am unable to read street signs and am no longer able to dri­ve. Pri­or to Oper­a­tion Tomodachi, I had 2/20 eye­sight, wore no glass­es and had no cor­rec­tive surgery.” Addi­tion­al­ly, he said, “I know of no fam­i­ly mem­bers who have had leukemia.”

    Plain­tiff “Baby A.G.” was born to a Rea­gan crew mem­ber on Oct. 15, 2011–seven months after the crew mem­bers exposure–with mul­ti­ple birth defects.

    The suit asks for at least $1 bil­lion to “advance and pay all costs and expens­es for each of the Plain­tiffs for med­ical exam­i­na­tion, med­ical mon­i­tor­ing and treat­ment by physi­cians,” as well as for more gen­er­al dam­ages.

    Both Tep­co and the Navy say not enough radi­a­tion was released from Fukushi­ma to harm the sailors or their off­spring. But nei­ther can say exact­ly how much radi­a­tion that might have been or where it went. The Navy has dis­con­tin­ued a pro­gram that might have tracked the sailors’ health in the wake of their irra­di­a­tion.

    After its four days off­shore from Fukushi­ma the gov­ern­ments of Japan, South Korea and Guam refused the Rea­gan port entry because of its high radi­a­tion lev­els. The Navy has since exposed numer­ous sailors in a major decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion effort whose results are unclear.

    ...

    In tan­gen­tial­ly-relat­ed news:

    Tep­co took months to release record stron­tium read­ings at Fukushi­ma

    By Mari Saito

    TOKYO Thu Feb 13, 2014 2:00am EST

    (Reuters) — The oper­a­tor of Japan’s wrecked Fukushi­ma nuclear plantknew about record high mea­sure­ments of a dan­ger­ous iso­tope in ground­wa­ter at the plant for five months before telling the coun­try’s nuclear watch­dog, a reg­u­la­to­ry offi­cial told Reuters.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (Tep­co) said late on Wednes­day it detect­ed 5 mil­lion bec­querels per liter of radioac­tive stron­tium-90 in a sam­ple from a ground­wa­ter well about 25 meters from the ocean last Sep­tem­ber. That read­ing was more than five times the broad­er all-beta radi­a­tion read­ing tak­en at the same well two months ear­li­er.

    A Tep­co spokesman said there was uncer­tain­ty about the reli­a­bil­i­ty and accu­ra­cy of the Sep­tem­ber stron­tium read­ing, so the util­i­ty decid­ed to re-exam­ine the data.

    Shin­ji Kin­jo, head of a Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty (NRA) task­force on con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water issues at Fukushi­ma, told Reuters he had not heard about the record high stron­tium read­ing until this month. “We did not hear about this fig­ure when they detect­ed it last Sep­tem­ber,” he said. “We have been repeat­ed­ly push­ing Tep­co to release stron­tium data since Novem­ber. It should not take them this long to release this infor­ma­tion.”

    Stron­tium-90, which has a half-life of around 29 years, is esti­mat­ed to be twice as harm­ful to the human body as cesium-137, anoth­er iso­tope that was released in large quan­ti­ties dur­ing the melt­downs at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant in March 2011. The legal lim­it for releas­ing stron­tium into the ocean is 30 bec­querels per liter.

    ...

    And in oth­er news...

    Record cesium lev­el found in ground­wa­ter beneath Fukushi­ma lev­ee
    Feb­ru­ary 14, 2014

    THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

    A record lev­el of radioac­tive cesium has been found in ground­wa­ter beneath a coastal lev­ee east of reac­tor tur­bine build­ings at the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant, accord­ing to the plant oper­a­tor.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said Feb. 13 that 37,000 bec­querels of cesium-134 and 93,000 bec­querels of cesium-137 were detect­ed per liter of ground­wa­ter sam­pled ear­li­er in the day in a mon­i­tor­ing well on the lev­ee. The total read­ing of 130,000 bec­querels per liter is the high­est ever observed in ground­wa­ter beneath the lev­ee.

    The same sam­pling well had pro­duced a cesium read­ing of 76,000 bec­querels per liter on Feb. 12.

    The mon­i­tor­ing well is locat­ed close to under­ground pits, which are being flood­ed with inflows of high­ly radioac­tive water from reac­tor and tur­bine build­ings. High­ly radioac­tive water leaked from the bases of those pits to near­by areas imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the triple melt­down in March 2011.

    TEPCO offi­cials said they believe the radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­nants orig­i­nat­ed from the leaks at that time.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 18, 2014, 10:29 am
  12. Great, so accord­ing to Tep­co, all those radi­a­tion hor­ror sto­ries from April through Sep­tem­ber of 2013 were sig­nif­i­cant­ly more hor­ri­ble than we thought

    Bloomberg
    Tep­co Says Fukushi­ma Radi­a­tion ‘Sig­nif­i­cant­ly’ Under­count­ed
    By Jacob Adel­man and Masu­mi Suga Feb 25, 2014 2:26 AM CT

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (9501) is re-ana­lyz­ing 164 water sam­ples col­lect­ed last year at the wrecked Fukushi­ma atom­ic plant because pre­vi­ous read­ings “sig­nif­i­cant­ly under­count­ed” radi­a­tion lev­els.

    The util­i­ty known as Tep­co said the lev­els were under­count­ed due to errors in its test­ing of beta radi­a­tion, which includes stron­tium-90, an iso­tope linked to bone can­cer. None of the sam­ples were tak­en from sea­wa­ter, the com­pa­ny said today in an e‑mailed state­ment.

    “These errors occurred dur­ing a time when the num­ber of the sam­plings rapid­ly increased as the result of a series of events since last April, includ­ing ground­wa­ter reser­voir leak­age and a major leak from a stor­age tank,” accord­ing to the state­ment.

    It will run new tests of the sam­ples tak­en from April to Sep­tem­ber 2013 and will pub­lish cor­rect­ed beta radi­a­tion read­ings. Out­side experts were being sought in Japan and inter­na­tion­al­ly to cross-check analy­sis results and review Tepco’s mea­sure­ment meth­ods, the com­pa­ny said.

    The mea­sure­ment errors were halt­ed in Octo­ber 2013 after test­ing man­u­als were clar­i­fied and oth­er steps tak­en to ensure accu­ra­cy, Tep­co said.

    Shin­ji Kin­jo, leader of a dis­as­ter task force at Japan’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, said his office hadn’t been aware of the mea­sure­ment errors. The regulator’s over­sight of the util­i­ty is based on Tepco’s mea­sure­ments, he added.

    Ear­li­er today, Tep­co sus­pend­ed the removal of spent nuclear fuel rods at Fukushi­ma plant after a cool­ing sys­tem failed due to a dam­aged pow­er cable, the com­pa­ny said in a sep­a­rate e‑mailed state­ment. Work resumed at the reac­tor No. 4 spent fuel pool after acti­va­tion of a back­up sys­tem.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 25, 2014, 12:52 pm
  13. A senior advis­er to the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort has deter­mined that stor­ing mas­sive amounts of radioac­tive water on-site is not sus­tain­able. Uh oh:

    Fukushi­ma oper­a­tor may have to dump con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into Pacif­ic
    As Japan marks the third anniver­sary of the earth­quake, tsuna­mi and nuclear dis­as­ter, Tep­co is strug­gling to find a solu­tion for hun­dreds of thou­sands of tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water

    Justin McCur­ry in the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant
    theguardian.com, Mon­day 10 March 2014 12.56 EDT

    A senior advis­er to the oper­a­tor of the wrecked Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant has told the firm that it may have no choice but to even­tu­al­ly dump hun­dreds of thou­sands of tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the Pacif­ic Ocean.

    Speak­ing to reporters who were on a rare vis­it to the plant on the eve of the third anniver­sary of the March 2011 earth­quake, tsuna­mi and nuclear dis­as­ter, Dale Klein said Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er [Tep­co] had yet to reas­sure the pub­lic over the han­dling of water leaks that con­tin­ue to frus­trate efforts to clean up the site.

    “The one issue that keeps me awake at night is Tep­co’s long-term strat­e­gy for water man­age­ment,” said Klein, a for­mer chair­man of the US nuclear reg­u­la­to­ry com­mis­sion who now leads Tep­co’s nuclear reform com­mit­tee.

    “Stor­ing mas­sive amounts of water on-site is not sus­tain­able. A con­trolled release is much safer than keep­ing the water on-site.

    “Tep­co is mak­ing progress on water man­age­ment but I’m not sat­is­fied yet. It’s frus­trat­ing that the com­pa­ny takes four or five steps for­ward, then two back. And every time you have a leak­age it con­tributes to a lack of trust. There’s room for improve­ment on all fronts.”

    Tep­co’s fail­ure to man­age the buildup of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water came to light last sum­mer, when it admit­ted that at least 300 tonnes of taint­ed water were leak­ing into the sea every day.

    That rev­e­la­tion was fol­lowed by a string of inci­dents involv­ing spills from poor­ly assem­bled stor­age tanks, prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment to com­mit about $500m (£300m) into mea­sures to con­tain the water.

    They include the con­struc­tion of an under­ground frozen wall to pre­vent ground­wa­ter mix­ing with con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed coolant water, which becomes taint­ed after com­ing into con­tact with melt­ed nuclear fuel deep inside the dam­aged reac­tors.

    Tep­co con­firmed that it would acti­vate an exper­i­men­tal wall at a test site at the plant on Tues­day. If the test is suc­cess­ful, the firm plans to build a sim­i­lar struc­ture almost 2km in length around four dam­aged reac­tors next year, although some experts have ques­tioned its abil­i­ty to use the tech­nol­o­gy on such a large scale.

    Klein, too, voiced scep­ti­cism over the frozen wall solu­tion, and sug­gest­ed that the con­trolled release of treat­ed water into the Pacif­ic was prefer­able to stor­ing huge quan­ti­ties of it on site.

    But Tep­co, the gov­ern­ment and nuclear reg­u­la­tors would have to win the sup­port of local fish­er­men, and the release of even treat­ed water would almost cer­tain­ly draw a furi­ous response from Chi­na and South Korea.

    “It’s a very emo­tion­al issue,” Klein said. “But Tep­co and the gov­ern­ment will have to artic­u­late their posi­tion to oth­er peo­ple. For me, the water issue is more about pol­i­cy than sci­ence.”

    Tep­co is pin­ning its hopes on tech­nol­o­gy that can remove dozens of dan­ger­ous radionu­clides, apart from tri­tium, inter­nal expo­sure to which has been linked to a greater risk of devel­op­ing can­cer.

    Klein, how­ev­er, said tri­tium does not pose the same threat to heath as bone-set­tling stron­tium and cae­sium, and can be dilut­ed to safe lev­els before it is released into the sea.

    The Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plan­t’s man­ag­er, Aki­ra Ono, said the firm had no plans to release con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the Pacif­ic, but agreed that decom­mis­sion­ing would remain on hold until the prob­lem was solved.

    “The most press­ing issue for us is the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water, rather than decom­mis­sion­ing,” he said.

    “Unless we address this issue the pub­lic will not be assured and the evac­uees will not be able to return home.

    “We are in a pos­i­tive frame of mind over decom­mis­sion­ing the plant over the next 30 to 40 years, But we have to take utmost care every step of the way because errors can cause a lot of trou­ble for a lot of peo­ple.”

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 12, 2014, 12:14 pm
  14. Imag­ine get­ting laid off from your low-pay­ing job at the local nuclear melt­down site due to heavy radi­a­tion expo­sure and they don’t even give you the haz­ard pay you were promised:

    Fukushi­ma No. 1 work­ers ral­ly against Tep­co

    AFP-JIJI
    Mar 14, 2014

    Work­ers from the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant ral­lied Fri­day out­side the head­quar­ters of Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., com­plain­ing they are being forced to work for mea­ger pay in dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

    The group of about 100 demon­stra­tors shout­ed and pumped their fists in the air as they railed against being cheat­ed by con­trac­tors hired to find recruits to clean up the shat­tered site and sur­round­ing area.

    “Work­ers at the Fukushi­ma plant have been forced to do unrea­son­able tasks with no decent safe­ty mea­sures,” said one man in his 30s who declined to give his name.

    He said he was laid off after sev­er­al months in the job due to heavy radi­a­tion expo­sure.

    “Work­ers are forced to han­dle con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in such grim work­ing con­di­tions, where any human being should not be put to work,” he said. “They tend to make easy mis­takes under the pres­sure, but it’s not they who are at fault — it’s the con­di­tions that force them to do ter­ri­ble tasks.”

    Three years since the tsuna­mi plunged the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant into dark­ness on March 11, 2011, and sent reac­tors into melt­down, plant work­ers have yet to even start the dis­man­tling process.

    The decom­mis­sion­ing process is expect­ed to stretch over decades.

    ...

    Ques­tions have swirled about the work­ing con­di­tions cre­at­ed by the web of Fukushi­ma con­trac­tors and sub­con­trac­tors.

    Some demon­stra­tors said they received far less pay than promised as var­i­ous lay­ers of boss­es docked mon­ey for sup­ply­ing meals, trans­porta­tion and oth­er expens­es.

    They also said many had not received a ¥10,000 dai­ly pre­mi­um for decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work.

    “Most peo­ple are work­ing for small pay with­out get­ting the spe­cial com­pen­sa­tion,” said a 51-year-old man, who said he was doing cleanup work near the plant.
    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 15, 2014, 4:56 pm
  15. TEPCO promis­es to com­ply with the stan­dards reg­u­lat­ing the dump­ing of ground­wa­ter under the Fukushi­ma plants direct­ly into the Pacif­ic:

    Bloomberg
    Japan Fish­er­men Allow Tep­co Water Bypass Plan at Fukushi­ma Plant
    By Jacob Adel­man and Masu­mi Suga Apr 4, 2014 4:08 AM CT

    Fish­er­men near the Fukushi­ma plant have approved a plan to divert ground­wa­ter into the sea away from the station’s wrecked reac­tors after they were assured fish­ing grounds won’t be fur­ther con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by radi­a­tion.

    The Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­tur­al Fed­er­a­tion of Fish­eries Co-oper­a­tive Asso­ci­a­tions had pre­vi­ous­ly opposed the plan, cit­ing the plant operator’s his­to­ry of faked safe­ty reports and cov­er ups. The bypass is part of efforts by oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (9501) Co. to reduce radioac­tive water at the site.

    Lev­els of tox­ic water at the Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi plant are ris­ing at a rate of 400 tons a day as ground­wa­ter seep­ing into base­ments mix­es with cool­ing water that has been in con­tact with high­ly radioac­tive melt­ed reac­tor cores. The bypass sys­tem would reduce the amount of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water being stored by 100 tons a day, the util­i­ty known as Tep­co has said.

    Tep­co made assur­ances that it will com­ply with stan­dards for ground­wa­ter dis­charge and ade­quate­ly dis­close infor­ma­tion about the pipelines’ oper­a­tion to the pub­lic, asso­ci­a­tion spokesman Ken­ji Naka­da said by phone.

    “We want to applaud the fish­er­men for tak­ing a dif­fi­cult deci­sion and express to them our com­mit­ment to car­ry out our oblig­a­tions dili­gent­ly,” Tep­co spokes­woman Mayu­mi Yoshi­da said.

    Tep­co has strug­gled to man­age con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water stored at the site since the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi caused melt­downs at three Fukushi­ma reac­tors. The site had more than 446,000 met­ric tons of radioac­tive water stored in about 1,000 tanks as of March 25.

    Well, at least there are stan­dards in place. Let’s hope there are no clar­i­fi­ca­tions need­ed...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 4, 2014, 12:57 pm
  16. Embar­rass­ment isn’t nor­mal­ly very dan­ger­ous. But when it’s TEPCO express­ing the embar­rass­ment any­thing is pos­si­ble:

    Man­ag­er at Japan’s Fukushi­ma plant admits radioac­tive water ’embar­rass­ing’

    By Yuka Obayashi

    OKUMA, Japan Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:05pm EDT

    (Reuters) — The man­ag­er of the Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant admits to embar­rass­ment that repeat­ed efforts have failed to bring under con­trol the prob­lem of radioac­tive water, eight months after Japan’s prime min­is­ter told the world the mat­ter was resolved.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co, the plan­t’s oper­a­tor, has been fight­ing a dai­ly bat­tle against con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water since Fukushi­ma was wrecked by a March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi.

    Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe’s gov­ern­ment pledged half a bil­lion dol­lars last year to tack­le the issue, but progress has been lim­it­ed.

    “It’s embar­rass­ing to admit, but there are cer­tain parts of the site where we don’t have full con­trol,” Aki­ra Ono told reporters tour­ing the plant this week.

    He was refer­ring to the lat­est blun­der at the plant: chan­nel­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water to the wrong build­ing.

    ...

    The issue of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water is at the core of the clean-up. Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor and the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency say a new con­trolled release into the sea of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water may be need­ed to ease stretched capac­i­ty.

    But this is pred­i­cat­ed on the state-of-art ALPS (Advanced Liq­uid Pro­cess­ing Sys­tem) project, which removes the most dan­ger­ous nucle­i­des, becom­ing ful­ly oper­a­tional. The sys­tem has func­tioned only dur­ing peri­od­ic tests.

    As Ono spoke, work­ers in white pro­tec­tive suits and masks were build­ing new giant tanks to con­tain the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water — on land that was once cov­ered in trees and grass.

    A clus­ter of cher­ry trees, unmoved since the dis­as­ter, is in bloom amid the bus­tle of trucks and trac­tors at work as 1,000 tanks in place approach capac­i­ty. Pipes in black insu­la­tion lie on a hill pend­ing instal­la­tion for fun­nel­ing water to the sea.

    HUGE FLUSH

    “We need to improve the qual­i­ty of the tanks and oth­er facil­i­ties so that they can sur­vive for the next 30–40 years of our decom­mis­sion peri­od,” Ono said, a stark acknowl­edge­ment that the prob­lem is long-term.

    Last Sep­tem­ber, Abe told Olympic dig­ni­taries in Buenos Aires in an address that helped Tokyo win the 2020 Games: “Let me assure you the sit­u­a­tion is under con­trol.”

    Tep­co had pledged to have treat­ed all con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water by March 2015, but said this week that was a “tough goal.”

    The util­i­ty flush­es huge amounts of water over the reac­tors to keep them cool. That water mix­es with ground­wa­ter that seeps into base­ments, requir­ing more pump­ing, treat­ment and stor­age.

    In a rare suc­cess, the gov­ern­ment won approval from fish­er­men for plans to divert into the sea a quar­ter of the 400 met­ric tons (440.92 tons) of ground­wa­ter pour­ing into the plant each day.

    But things keep going wrong.

    Last week, Tep­co said it had direct­ed 203 tons of high­ly radioac­tive water to the wrong build­ing, flood­ing its base­ment. Tep­co is also inves­ti­gat­ing a leak into the ground a few days ear­li­er from a plas­tic con­tain­er used to store rain­wa­ter.

    In Feb­ru­ary, a tank sprout­ed a 100-tonne leak of radioac­tive water, the most seri­ous inci­dent since leaks sparked inter­na­tion­al alarm last year.

    A hangar-like struc­ture hous­es Toshi­ba Cor­p’s ALPS sys­tem, able to remove all nucle­i­des except for less nox­ious tri­tium, found at most nuclear pow­er sta­tions, its plan­ners say.

    It sat idle for 19 months after a series of glitch­es. The lat­est mis­cue occurred on Wednes­day, when a ton of radioac­tive water over­flowed from a tank.

    “The ulti­mate pur­pose is to pre­vent con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from going out to the ocean, and in this regard, I believe it is under con­trol,” Ono said. But the inci­dents, he said, oblig­ed offi­cials to “find bet­ter ways to han­dle the water prob­lem”.

    ...

    About that acci­den­tal­ly mis­di­rect­ed 203 tons of high­ly radioac­tive water that was
    pumped into the base­ment of the wrong building...it turns out the base­ment was already des­ig­nat­ed as an emer­gency water stor­age area and it was filled when four pumps locat­ed in two sep­a­rate build­ings were acci­den­tal­ly turned on:

    Mainichi
    Over 200 tons of radioac­tive water pumped into wrong build­ing at Fukushi­ma plant

    Apr. 23, 2014

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (TEPCO) said April 14 that 203 tons of high­ly radioac­tive waste water was trans­ferred to a build­ing at its crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 Nuclear Pow­er Plant by mis­take.

    It is believed the taint­ed water was deliv­ered to the build­ing, which was only sup­posed to store such water dur­ing emer­gen­cies, via tem­po­rary pumps. TEPCO offi­cials said that the water con­tained 37 mil­lion bec­querels per liter of radioac­tive cesium, but that there had been no leaks out­side the build­ing.

    Accord­ing to TEPCO, the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water was found in the base­ment floor of an incin­er­a­tion build­ing. Cesium removal equip­ment that is no longer used is locat­ed on the ground floor of the build­ing.

    On April 10, TEPCO offi­cials noticed that the water lev­el in two oth­er stor­age facil­i­ties was fluc­tu­at­ing. When offi­cials inves­ti­gat­ed, they found four tem­po­rary pumps that were only sup­posed to be used dur­ing emer­gen­cies run­ning. The pump switch­es were locat­ed in the incin­er­a­tion build­ing and anoth­er struc­ture, and it is pos­si­ble work­ers acci­den­tal­ly switched them on.

    TEPCO report­ed the sit­u­a­tion to the Sec­re­tari­at of the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty under the Act on the Reg­u­la­tion of Nuclear Source Mate­r­i­al, Nuclear Fuel Mate­r­i­al and Reac­tors.

    Sep­a­rate­ly on April 13, one ton of treat­ed radioac­tive water leaked from a stor­age tank at the nuclear plant, appar­ent­ly from a dam­aged part of the tank. This water was con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with 1,640 bec­querels per liter of cesium and 11 bec­querels per liter of stron­tium. None of the water was released into the sea, offi­cials said.

    Nuke plants + Water trou­bles. Yuck. Even worse? Nuke plants with exper­i­men­tal reac­tors + No Water trou­bles:

    Deutsche Welle
    Fears grow over safe­ty of North Kore­an reac­tor

    Shut-down of the reac­tor at Yong­by­on indi­cates that Pyongyang is hav­ing trou­ble cool­ing the plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion plant and that a fail­ure in the cool­ing sys­tem could trig­ger ‘the release of radioac­tiv­i­ty.’

    Date 21.04.2014
    Author Julian Ryall, Tokyo
    Edi­tor Shamil Shams

    Atom­ic ener­gy experts are express­ing con­cern over the prob­lems that North Korea appears to be expe­ri­enc­ing at its Yong­by­on Nuclear Sci­en­tif­ic Research Cen­ter, which has been report­ed­ly shut down ear­li­er this year when the sup­ply of cool­ing water from a near­by riv­er was halt­ed.

    Analy­sis of satel­lite images by the US-Korea Insti­tute at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty, released on the 38 North web­site, sug­gest that exten­sive rain­fall and flood­ing in July 2013 dra­mat­i­cal­ly altered the course of the Kury­ong Riv­er away from the facil­i­ty and may have filled col­lec­tionb cis­terns and ponds with sand or riv­er silt, as well as destroy­ing pipes to deliv­er the cool­ing water to the reac­tor.

    Images show that steam was released from the tur­bine build­ing in Feb­ru­ary, sug­gest­ing that the tur­bines had been halt­ed down ahead of the reac­tor shut­down, while snow had col­lect­ed on the nor­mal­ly warm roof of the reac­tor build­ing.

    North Kore­an engi­neers were quick­ly called in to car­ry out exca­va­tions and the con­struc­tion of a new dam, the insti­tute con­firmed, but the repairs appear to be insub­stan­tial.

    Short-term fix­es

    “Despite these short-term fix­es, the dan­ger posed by an unre­li­able sup­ply of water for the Yong­by­on reac­tors remains, par­tic­u­lar­ly since the chan­nels and dam con­struct­ed are made from sand and could be washed away by future floods,” the US-Korea Insti­tute warned. In the event that the sec­ondary cool­ing sys­tem for the five megawatt reac­tor was to fail, it added, the result would be a fire in the graphite core and the release of radioac­tiv­i­ty into the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment.

    Even a minor acci­dent could cause a leak, giv­en North Kore­a’s lack of expe­ri­ence in deal­ing with such prob­lems, while an inci­dent involv­ing the exper­i­men­tal light-water reac­tor that is present­ly under con­struc­tion would be poten­tial­ly far more dan­ger­ous.

    “Pyongyang has no such expe­ri­ence oper­at­ing the new facil­i­ty, the first indige­nous­ly built reac­tor of its kind in North Korea,” the insti­tute point­ed out. “The rapid loss of water used to cool the reac­tor would result in a seri­ous safe­ty prob­lem.”

    There has been no reac­tion from the North Kore­an gov­ern­ment to the analy­sis, although the con­cerns that are raised ring true to those mon­i­tor­ing the regime and its activ­i­ties.

    “I have talked to offi­cials and experts from oth­er coun­tries who have been to Yong­by­on and they told me they were just ner­vous to be there,” Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea ana­lyst with The Inter­na­tion­al Cri­sis Group in Seoul, told DW.

    Lit­tle atten­tion to safe­ty

    “North Korea is not famous for its labor stan­dards or its atten­tion to safe­ty, and it is all pret­ty shod­dy,” Pinkston said. “And once it has been built, the same sort of tech­nol­o­gy con­flicts will be in play, with safe­ty stan­dards at Yong­by­on unlike­ly to be any­where near as strin­gent as they would be in the rest of the world.”

    And if a dis­as­ter such as that which struck Japan’s Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi nuclear plant in March 2011 can hap­pen in a heav­i­ly reg­u­lat­ed and close­ly mon­i­tored atom­ic ener­gy sec­tor, it is hard to imag­ine the poten­tial impact of an acci­dent at Yong­by­on, he added.

    “This is absolute­ly cause for con­cern,” Pinkston added. “Made worse by the fact that there is no mon­i­tor­ing by the [Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency], no inter­na­tion­al assis­tance to the nuclear sec­tor, no trans­paren­cy in what they are doing there, no over­sight and very lit­tle like­li­hood they are oper­at­ing accord­ing to inter­na­tion­al safe­ty stan­dards.”

    Devel­op­ments at the site are being mon­i­tored by the South Kore­an author­i­ties, which would be the neigh­bor­ing coun­try that would bear the brunt of any leak of radioac­tiv­i­ty.

    In her speech to the recent Nuclear Secu­ri­ty Sum­mit in The Hague, South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye stat­ed that a nuclear acci­dent at Yong­by­on could cause more dev­as­ta­tion than the melt­down of the reac­tor at Cher­nobyl in 1986.

    ‘Worse than Cher­nobyl’

    And while ana­lysts say that is unlike­ly, giv­en the rel­a­tive­ly small scale of the reac­tor in North Korea, it would cause seri­ous con­cerns in north­east Asia, trig­ger pan­ic in local pop­u­la­tions, and height­en already ele­vat­ed mil­i­tary ten­sions.

    “Ide­al­ly, North Korea would be will­ing to open the plant to inter­na­tion­al observers and accept advice and help with run­ning the facil­i­ty, but that is clear­ly not going to hap­pen,” Go Ito, a pro­fes­sor of inter­na­tion­al rela­tions at Toky­o’s Mei­ji Uni­ver­si­ty, told DW.

    ...

    In a bit of good news, should there be a sud­den radioac­tive release com­ing from North Korea soon, it may not be a melt­down. It’s pret­ty bad good news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 22, 2014, 6:16 pm
  17. With the spent fuel rod removal still under­way at Fukushi­ma, it’s worth point­ing out that the US has a spent fuel rod issue of its own. For­tu­nate­ly, it’s not near­ly as urgent as the sit­u­a­tion in Japan. Yet:

    Cape Cod Times
    NRC: No mov­ing spent fuel rods to dry cask stor­age

    By CHRISTINE LEGERE
    clegere@capecodonline.com
    May 27, 2014

    PLYMOUTH – Pil­grim Nuclear Pow­er Station’s glut of spent fuel rods won’t be moved into more sta­ble dry cask stor­age any­time soon.

    Four out of five mem­bers on the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion vot­ed Tues­day to end fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion of a plan to expe­dite trans­fer of radioac­tive spent fuel rods from cool­ing pools to dry casks in plants across the coun­try.

    NRC Chair­woman Alli­son Mac­far­lane cast the sole vote in oppo­si­tion, say­ing the issue war­rant­ed fur­ther study.

    The vote was part of the NRC’s review of the post-Fukushi­ma study con­duct­ed by its staff. The staff’s over­all con­clu­sion had been that expe­dit­ed trans­fer of the rods to casks was not nec­es­sary since pools would like­ly with­stand earth­quakes with­out leak­ing.

    “The staff has not prop­er­ly explored all poten­tial ini­ti­at­ing events – in this case only con­sid­er­ing seis­mic ini­tia­tors,” Mac­far­lane wrote in a nar­ra­tive accom­pa­ny­ing her vote.

    A plan to store spent rods from all the nation’s reac­tors in a per­ma­nent geo­log­ic repos­i­to­ry at Yuc­ca Moun­tain, after years of debate, was aban­doned in 2010 and anoth­er stor­age loca­tion has yet to be iden­ti­fied.

    Mean­while the country’s 100 nuclear pow­er plant licensees have stored spent fuel on site. When spent fuel is removed from a nuclear reac­tor, it pro­duces both heat and radi­a­tion for sev­er­al years. The fuel assem­blies must cool in pools for five to sev­en years, but fre­quent­ly they remain there for a much longer time.

    Stud­ies by nuclear experts have shown even par­tial loss of water in spent fuel pools could result in a fire and release of radi­a­tion.

    Diane Tur­co, a Har­wich res­i­dent and founder of the Cape Down­winders, expressed frus­tra­tion over the NRC vote. “Once again, the NRC votes to sup­port prof­its for the nuclear indus­try over glar­ing pub­lic safe­ty issues of the dense­ly packed spent fuel pools that are an immi­nent dan­ger to the pub­lic,” Tur­co said.

    The commission’s vote prompt­ed an angry response from U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D‑Mass., who just last week filed a bill with fel­low Sens. Bar­bara Box­er, D‑Calif., and Bernie Sanders, I‑Vt., that would give plant own­ers 180 days to put togeth­er plans for mov­ing spent fuel rods from wet pools to dry casks.

    Oper­a­tors would then have sev­en years to com­plete the trans­fer.

    “Over­crowd­ed spent fuel pools are a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen,” said Markey in a writ­ten state­ment Tues­day. “Experts agree an acci­dent at one of these pools could result in dam­age as bad as that caused by an acci­dent at an oper­at­ing nuclear reac­tor.”

    Markey point­ed out that Pil­grim Nuclear Pow­er Sta­tion in Ply­mouth has about four times the num­ber of spent fuel assem­blies in its cool­ing pool than the unit was designed to hold.
    The pool was con­struct­ed for 880 assem­blies and cur­rent­ly holds about 3,200.

    “It is time for the NRC to post the ‘Dan­ger’ sign out­side the fuel pools and begin to swift­ly move spent fuel to safer stor­age now before a dis­as­ter occurs,” Markey wrote.

    Mary Lam­pert, a Duxbury res­i­dent and founder of Pil­grim Watch, said her group is “in a rage” over the NRC vote.

    Lam­pert not­ed there is ample sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence to prove the dan­gers of over-crowd­ed fuel pools.

    “Sen. Dan Wolf (D‑Harwich) tes­ti­fied that it would be a cinch to fly a plane into the fuel pool at Pil­grim and then the game would be over,” Lam­pert said. “The ques­tion is when and the ques­tion is where the next acci­dent will be. Pil­grim is a good one to bet on because of the spent fuel pools.”

    The Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists has long warned of the dan­ger of long-term stor­age of spent fuel in pools. Edwin Lyman, a senior sci­en­tist with the UCS Glob­al Secu­ri­ty Pro­gram, called the NRC vote Tues­day “deeply dis­ap­point­ing” and “short­sight­ed.”

    Lyman not­ed that Mac­far­lane, in her nar­ra­tive accom­pa­ny­ing her vote, said the NRC staff study had shown that reduc­ing the den­si­ty of spent fuel in a pool at the Peach Bot­tom Atom­ic Pow­er Sta­tion in Penn­syl­va­nia, “would low­er the human health con­se­quences of a zir­co­ni­um fire by more than a fac­tor of 10, the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als who may have to aban­don their homes by a fac­tor of 50, and the eco­nom­ic cost by $100 bil­lion.”

    ...

    Hmmm...well, at least now that the resources that were to be spent on the expe­dit­ed removal of fuel rods from spent fuel pools have been freed up (because the only thing to fear from earth­quakes is fear itself), hope­ful­ly there will be more resources avail­able for oth­er nuke-relat­ed projects. For instance, how about plan­ning for giant ice walls to trap the radioac­tive water under an earth­quake-strick­en plant? That might be use­ful assum­ing giant ice walls are a pru­dent idea in the first place:

    Wired.co.uk
    Radi­a­tion-stalling ‘ice wall’ will be built under Fukushi­ma
    Sci­ence
    28 May 14 by Liat Clark

    A pow­er com­pa­ny is due to start build­ing an “ice wall” under the Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant next month in order to stall the spread of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed under­ground water. The move, giv­en the okay by the nation­al Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty (NRA), comes after fears of extreme ground sink­age have been quashed.

    The nefar­i­ous spread of radioac­tive waste after the 2011 dis­as­ter in Japan has been of grow­ing con­cern for years. Most recent­ly a study of sed­i­ments, pub­lished in Octo­ber 2013, con­firmed that radioac­tive pol­lu­tants have been car­ried from inland, out to coastal rivers. Ground­wa­ter from the hills behind Fukushi­ma have been reach­ing the radioac­tive region, mix­ing with water under­ground, and car­ry­ing that con­t­a­m­i­na­tion along its flow to the ocean. Fur­ther stud­ies demon­strat­ed how the sum­mer typhoons in the region and the spring snowmelts were help­ing exas­per­ate the prob­lem.

    At the site itself, water was pumped to the reac­tors imme­di­ate­ly after the dis­as­ter in order to cool the plant and pre­vent fires. That water is meant to be con­tained, but in Feb­ru­ary 2014 Fukushi­ma owner/operator Tokyo Elec­tric (Tep­co) admit­ted 100 tonnes of high­ly radioac­tive water had leaked from their con­tain­ers, less than six months after 300 tonnes had seeped out. The fear is the flow­ing ground­wa­ter could mix with these, most potent water sam­ples.
    Don’t miss

    Tep­co is fun­nelling some of the build-up con­tained in the tanks out into the sea, an arti­cle pub­lished in Japan Today last week revealed. This is only done after dili­gent safe­ty tests have been car­ried out, and Tep­co report­ed­ly start­ed with around 620 tonnes of water last week. The com­pa­ny had been attempt­ing to reduce the amount of ground­wa­ter being con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed as it flows through the site by cre­at­ing a bypass sys­tem. But it’s not enough.

    Tep­co has now been giv­en the go ahead by the nation­al NRA to start build­ing an “ice wall” that will freeze the earth, the Japan Times has report­ed. It’s a plan that, bizarre as it sounds, could help pro­tect the future land­scape from some seep­age into the sur­round­ing riv­er net­works and beyond. It will not be a plug though — it will mere­ly slow down what is already hap­pen­ing.

    The wall of ice designed to fence in the radi­a­tion is made up of a net­work of pipes car­ry­ing a coolant strong enough to freeze the sur­round­ing earth. It will plunge 1,500m below the sur­face around four build­ings con­tain­ing the reac­tors, and will set the Japan­ese tax-pay­er back 32 bil­lion yen (£1.8 bil­lion).

    The plan has been in the off­ing since last Sep­tem­ber, but con­cerns of ground sub­si­dence way­laid the deci­sion. The effort will be a mam­moth one, and the great­est fear was that in imple­ment­ing the plan the ground and its con­t­a­m­i­na­tion would be fur­ther dis­turbed. Accord­ing to the arti­cle in the Japan Times, how­ev­er, Tep­co has esti­mat­ed the max­i­mum ground sink­age to be 16mm at some points — not enough to cause any harm.

    ...

    16mm hor­ror: It’s not just films.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 28, 2014, 7:45 am
  18. One of the few advan­tages a full-scale melt­down sit­u­a­tion is that, at least once the dam­age is already done, news like this isn’t quite as imme­di­ate­ly alarm­ing:

    The Japan News
    TEPCO planned to use PCs with XP OS for 5 more years

    9:26 pm, July 07, 2014

    The Yomi­uri Shim­bun
    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. will replace the Win­dows XP oper­at­ing sys­tem in its 48,000 per­son­al com­put­ers by Sep­tem­ber 2015, instead of 2018 as orig­i­nal­ly planned, the com­pa­ny said Mon­day.

    Microsoft Corp of the Unit­ed States has already end­ed its sup­port for this oper­at­ing sys­tem.

    “We’ll con­sid­er whether it is pos­si­ble to car­ry out this change even ear­li­er,” a TEPCO offi­cial said.

    TEPCO said it decid­ed to replace the OS ear­li­er than pre­vi­ous­ly planned because the Nation­al Infor­ma­tion Secu­ri­ty Cen­ter (NISC) of the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tari­at had repeat­ed­ly urged it to do so.

    The offi­cial also said the util­i­ty decid­ed to move up the sched­ule because “soci­ety as a whole was press­ing our com­pa­ny to update the OS.”

    TEPCO said that although it would con­tin­ue to use XP-installed PCs for the time being, it would take pre­cau­tions against cyber-attacks when the PCs are con­nect­ed to the Inter­net.

    Since Octo­ber, the NISC has issued three writ­ten notices on the issue to infra­struc­ture oper­a­tors, includ­ing TEPCO.

    The Yomi­uri Shim­bun report­ed Sun­day that TEPCO had planned to con­tin­ue using the unsup­port­ed PCs for the next five years, despite gov­ern­ment instruc­tions to replace them.

    Because Microsoft no longer pro­vides ser­vices to fix bugs and oth­er faults of the XP oper­at­ing sys­tem, PCs installed with this OS are vul­ner­a­ble to cyber-attacks.

    There­fore, the gov­ern­ment called on TEPCO and oth­er oper­a­tors of impor­tant infra­struc­ture to replace the unsup­port­ed OS or the PCs that use it.

    Accord­ing to the sources, TEPCO had planned to con­tin­ue using about 48,000 XP-installed PCs until 2018 or 2019, when the com­pa­ny could begin replac­ing the hard­ware.

    TEPCO offi­cials told The Yomi­uri Shim­bun recent­ly that some of its PCs are con­nect­ed to the Inter­net. “We are con­sid­er­ing var­i­ous tech­no­log­i­cal mea­sures [to deal with cyber-attacks],” an offi­cial said.

    Asked why TEPCO had not changed its PCs or updat­ed its OS and what kind of secu­ri­ty mea­sures it plans to take, the offi­cial said, “To ensure secu­ri­ty, we do not want to go into details.”

    No cen­tral gov­ern­ment min­istry or agency uses any PCs with the XP sys­tem.

    Kan­sai Elec­tric Pow­er Co. also has updat­ed all of its 30,000 XP-installed PCs. Tokyo Gas Co. updat­ed about 30,000 XP-installed PCs and the 500 PCs with the XP OS still installed are not con­nect­ed to the Inter­net.

    ...

    “We are con­sid­er­ing var­i­ous tech­no­log­i­cal mea­sures [to deal with cyber-attacks]”. That sure sounds like an admis­sion that cyber-attacks weren’t real­ly some­thing TEPCO wor­ried about before.

    In oth­er news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 7, 2014, 7:53 am
  19. While anger direct­ed towards TEP­CO’s man­age­ment, own­ers, and the larg­er Japan­ese nuclear reg­u­la­to­ry regime is prob­a­bly appro­pri­ate at this point, stig­ma­tiz­ing and under­pay­ing the peo­ple try­ing to clean up the radioac­tive mess threat­en­ing your entire soci­ety seems like an excep­tion­al­ly hor­ri­ble idea:

    Stig­ma­tized nuclear work­ers quit Japan util­i­ty
    Post­ed: Wednes­day, July 9, 2014 11:45 pm | Updat­ed: 5:06 am, Thu Jul 10, 2014.

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    TOKYO (AP) — Stig­ma, pay cuts, and risk of radi­a­tion expo­sure are among the rea­sons why 3,000 employ­ees have left the util­i­ty at the cen­ter of Japan’s 2011 nuclear dis­as­ter. Now there’s an addi­tion­al fac­tor: bet­ter pay­ing jobs in the feel good solar ener­gy indus­try.

    Engi­neers and oth­er employ­ees at TEPCO, or Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., were once typ­i­cal of Japan’s cor­po­rate cul­ture that is famous for priz­ing loy­al­ty to a sin­gle com­pa­ny and life­time employ­ment with it. But the March 2011 tsuna­mi that swamped the coastal Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant, send­ing three reac­tors into melt­down, changed that.

    TEPCO was wide­ly crit­i­cized for being inad­e­quate­ly pre­pared for a tsuna­mi despite Japan’s long his­to­ry of being hit by giant waves and for its con­fused response to the dis­as­ter. The pub­lic turned hos­tile toward the nuclear indus­try and TEPCO, or “Toh-den,” as the Japan­ese say it, became a dirty word.

    Only 134 peo­ple quit TEPCO the year before the dis­as­ter. The depar­tures bal­looned to 465 in 2011, anoth­er 712 in 2012 and 488 last year. Sev­en­ty per­cent of those leav­ing were younger than 40. When the com­pa­ny offered vol­un­tary retire­ment for the first time ear­li­er this year, some 1,151 work­ers applied for the 1,000 avail­able redun­dan­cy pack­ages.

    The exo­dus, which has reduced staff to about 35,700 peo­ple, adds to the chal­lenges of the ongo­ing work at Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi to keep melt­downs under con­trol, remove the fuel cores and safe­ly decom­mis­sion the reac­tors, which is expect­ed to take decades.

    The fac­tors push­ing work­ers out have piled up. The finan­cial strain of the dis­as­ter has led to bru­tal salary cuts while ongo­ing prob­lems at Fukushi­ma, such as sub­stan­tial leaks of irra­di­at­ed water, have rein­forced the image of a bum­bling and irre­spon­si­ble orga­ni­za­tion.

    “No one is going to want to work there, if they can help it, said Aki­hi­ro Yoshikawa, who quit TEPCO in 2012.

    After leav­ing he start­ed a cam­paign called “Appre­ci­ate Fukushi­ma Work­ers,” try­ing to counter what he calls the “giant social stig­ma” attached to work­ing at the Fukushi­ma plant.

    Many of the work­ers were also vic­tims of the nuclear dis­as­ter, as res­i­dents of the area, and lost their homes to no-go zones, adding to per­son­al hard­ships. They also wor­ry about the health effects of radi­a­tion on their chil­dren.

    The Fukushi­ma stig­ma is such that some employ­ees hide the fact they work at the plant. They even wor­ry they will be turned away at restau­rants or that their chil­dren will be bul­lied at school after a gov­ern­ment report doc­u­ment­ed dozens of cas­es of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

    While TEPCO is out of favor with the pub­lic, the skills and expe­ri­ence of its employ­ees that span the gamut of engi­neers, project man­agers, main­te­nance work­ers and con­struc­tion and finan­cial pro­fes­sion­als, are not.

    Ener­gy indus­try expe­ri­ence is in par­tic­u­lar demand as the devel­op­ment of solar and oth­er green ener­gy busi­ness­es is pushed along in Japan by gen­er­ous gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies.

    Cur­rent­ly the gov­ern­ment pays solar plants 32 yen ($0.31) per kilo­watt hour of ener­gy. The so-called tar­iff for solar pow­er varies by states and cities in the U.S., but they are as low as sev­er­al cents. In Ger­many, it’s about 15 cents.

    Sean Tra­vers, Japan pres­i­dent of Earth­Stream, a Lon­don-based recruit­ment com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in ener­gy jobs, has been scram­bling to woo TEPCO employ­ees as for­eign com­pa­nies do more clean ener­gy busi­ness in Japan.

    “TEPCO employ­ees are very well trained and have excel­lent knowl­edge of how the Japan­ese ener­gy sec­tor works, mak­ing them very attrac­tive,” he said.

    Two top exec­u­tives at U.S. solar com­pa­nies doing busi­ness in Japan, First Solar direc­tor Karl Brut­saert and Sun­Pow­er Japan direc­tor Takashi Sug­i­hara, said they have inter­viewed for­mer TEPCO employ­ees for pos­si­ble posts.

    Besides their expe­ri­ence, knowl­edge of how the util­i­ty indus­try works and their con­tacts, with both pri­vate indus­try and gov­ern­ment bureau­cra­cy, are prized assets.

    “It’s about the human net­work and the TEPCO employ­ees have all the con­tacts,” said Tra­vers, who says he has recruit­ed about 20 peo­ple from TEPCO and is hop­ing to get more.

    Yoshikawa, the for­mer TEPCO main­te­nance work­er, said he has received sev­er­al offers for green-ener­gy jobs that paid far bet­ter than his salary at TEPCO of 3 mil­lion yen ($30,000) a year.

    Since Sep­tem­ber 2012, all TEPCO man­agers have had their salaries slashed by 30 per­cent, while work­ers in non-man­age­ment posi­tions had their pay reduced 20 per­cent.

    But last year, TEPCO doled out 100,000 yen ($1,000) bonus­es to 5,000 man­agers as an incen­tive to stay on.

    In anoth­er effort to pre­vent the loss of qual­i­fied per­son­nel, TEPCO is reduc­ing the pay cuts to 7 per­cent from this month, but just for those involved in decom­mis­sion­ing the Fukushi­ma plant.

    The depar­tures, how­ev­er, have not been arrest­ed, part­ly because of ongo­ing finan­cial pres­sure.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 16, 2014, 2:18 pm
  20. A leak was just detect­ed in the pipes used to cool the spent fuel rod pool in the undam­aged No. 5 reac­tor build­ing. And this was fol­low­ing the shut down of a sim­i­lar cool sys­tem in the undam­aged No. 6 reac­tor build­ing after a leak was found there on July 11. It’s a chill­ing indi­ca­tion that the scale of the chal­lenge fac­ing the clean up crews is so daunt­ing that even the basic main­te­nance of the undam­aged units is becom­ing a chal­lenge:

    THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

    Water leaks con­tin­ue to plague No. 5 reac­tor at Fukushi­ma plant
    July 20, 2014

    A leak of radioac­tive water was found in the pip­ing of water used to cool the spent fuel pool in the undam­aged No. 5 reac­tor build­ing of the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant, its oper­a­tor said on July 19, a sign of pos­si­ble dete­ri­o­ra­tion in the sys­tem.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said water from the cool­ing pond leaked, cit­ing com­pa­ra­ble lev­els of the con­cen­tra­tion of radioac­tive sub­stances in the leak and the pool.

    A TEPCO employ­ee found a pool of water in each of two boxes–75 cen­time­ters by 50 cm–that house a con­trol valve in the cool­ing water pip­ing sys­tem on the fifth floor of the No. 5 reac­tor build­ing at 1:25 a.m. on July 19.

    The water had col­lect­ed to a depth of 9 cm in one box and 18 cm in the oth­er.

    The water con­tained 2–3 bec­querels of cobalt 60 per cubic cen­time­ter, accord­ing to the util­i­ty.

    This par­tic­u­lar pip­ing sec­tion has been unused since July 6, when a sim­i­lar leak was dis­cov­ered at anoth­er sec­tion.

    Experts say the con­tin­u­ing leaks indi­cate that valves are dete­ri­o­rat­ing, and that the utility’s inspec­tions are inad­e­quate.

    “We are aware that our approach proved to be lax as we were unable to detect the prob­lem until the leak occurred,” a TEPCO offi­cial said. “We are review­ing the way checks should be con­duct­ed.”

    At the also undam­aged No. 6 reac­tor build­ing, the pump­ing of cool­ing water was tem­porar­i­ly halt­ed after a leak in a sim­i­lar pip­ing sys­tem was detect­ed on July 11.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 21, 2014, 6:56 pm
  21. It looks like the future dump­ing of radioac­tive water in the Pacif­ic in the will be less due to acci­dents and leaks and more due to a lack of any oth­er options:

    Oilprice.com
    As Radioac­tive Water Accu­mu­lates, TEPCO Eyes Pacif­ic Ocean As Dump­ing Ground

    TEPCO is run­ning out of space to store con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water.

    By Nick Cun­ning­ham
    August 17, 2014

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (TEPCO), the embat­tled own­er of Japan’s crip­pled nuclear reac­tors, has said it is run­ning out of space to store water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radioac­tive mate­ri­als and is propos­ing to treat the water and dump it in the Pacif­ic Ocean.

    Up until now, TEPCO has been stor­ing radioac­tive water in giant stor­age tanks on the site of its Fukushi­ma reac­tor. But ground­wa­ter con­tin­u­al­ly flow­ing into the reac­tor site becomes con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed as it does so. Con­tain­ing and stor­ing an ever-increas­ing vol­ume of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water is a bit like run­ning on a tread­mill – new ground­wa­ter becomes con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed just as TEPCO suc­ceeds in remov­ing pre­vi­ous­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water. Mean­while, the stor­age tanks mul­ti­ply around the reac­tor com­plex.

    In June, TEPCO began con­struc­tion on what it hoped would be a more per­ma­nent solu­tion – an “ice wall.” This is how it is sup­posed to work: TEPCO would insert 1,500 pipes into the ground around the dam­aged reac­tors. It would then flow liq­uid through the pipes at ‑30 degrees Cel­sius, which would freeze the soil. That way, as ground­wa­ter rushed down­hill towards the com­plex, the ice wall would block the water from flow­ing under­neath the plant.

    Sep­a­rate­ly, TEPCO is try­ing to freeze the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water that has leaked direct­ly from the reac­tor build­ings into under­ground trench­es. In total, a stag­ger­ing 11,000 met­ric tons of water con­tain­ing sub­stances like ura­ni­um and plu­to­ni­um has accu­mu­lat­ed. TEPCO has thus far failed to freeze the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water, and had to resort to dump­ing ice onto the site in an effort to freeze the area.

    Now the com­pa­ny has admit­ted that it can’t keep up. So it wants approval from the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Author­i­ty to pump out the water, treat it, and begin dump­ing it into the Pacif­ic.

    ...

    The Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Author­i­ty (NRA) has been crit­i­cal of the com­pa­ny for not sole­ly focus­ing on the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed trench water – which it says should be the high­est pri­or­i­ty – but spend­ing resources on issues with low­er pri­or­i­ty.

    “The biggest risk is the trench water. Until that mat­ter is addressed, it will be dif­fi­cult to pro­ceed with oth­er decom­mis­sion­ing work,” Shu­nichi Tana­ka, NRA chair­man said at a news con­fer­ence, accord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal. “It appears that they are get­ting off track.”

    Con­trol­ling, treat­ing, stor­ing, and dis­pos­ing of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water is the most crit­i­cal task in the near-term. Even if that can be resolved, the next step will actu­al­ly decom­mis­sion­ing the destroyed reac­tors — a colos­sal engi­neer­ing chal­lenge expect­ed to take 40 years and cost over $15 bil­lion. Noth­ing like it has ever been done before; indeed, the task is so unprece­dent­ed, it will require robot­ics that haven’t been invent­ed yet.

    But first, TEPCO has to find a place for its tox­ic water.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 17, 2014, 7:32 pm
  22. FYI:

    Expert Urges Cal­i­for­nia Nuke Plant Shut­down After Quake

    By MICHAEL BLOOD
    Pub­lished August 25, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — A senior fed­er­al nuclear expert is urg­ing reg­u­la­tors to shut down Cal­i­for­ni­a’s last oper­at­ing nuclear plant until they can deter­mine whether the facil­i­ty’s twin reac­tors can with­stand pow­er­ful shak­ing from any one of sev­er­al near­by earth­quake faults.

    Michael Peck, who for five years was Dia­blo Canyon’s lead on-site inspec­tor, says in a 42-page, con­fi­den­tial report that the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion is not apply­ing the safe­ty rules it set out for the plan­t’s oper­a­tion.

    The doc­u­ment, which was obtained and ver­i­fied by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press, does not say the plant itself is unsafe.

    Instead, accord­ing to Peck­’s analy­sis, no one knows whether the facil­i­ty’s key equip­ment can with­stand stronger shak­ing from those faults. The NRC and plant own­er Pacif­ic Gas and Elec­tric Co. say the facil­i­ty is safe.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 25, 2014, 11:24 am
  23. In the future, pow­er plant dis­as­ters will just float away:

    Think Progress
    Post-Fukushi­ma Japan Turns To Off­shore Wind And Solar
    BY ARI PHILLIPS POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 AT 12:50 PM UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 AT 2:35 PM

    The March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi that dev­as­tat­ed Japan left a last­ing impres­sion on the country’s ener­gy infra­struc­ture and long-term ener­gy vision. The ensu­ing nuclear melt­down at the Fukushi­ma Nuclear Pow­er Plant put cit­i­zens on edge and the nuclear indus­try — on which lead­ers had been rely­ing to achieve ambi­tious clean ener­gy goals — in the cross hairs. After the dis­as­ter, the coun­try halt­ed its nuclear pro­gram and all 48 nuclear reac­tors have been dor­mant since. As the gov­ern­ment attempts to sway pub­lic opin­ion back in favor of nuclear pow­er, recon­sti­tute the nuclear reg­u­la­to­ry and over­sight pro­gram, and get at least some plants online by the end of 2015, an ener­gy swell has been build­ing off Japan’s coast.

    While the belt of solar pan­els around the moon pro­posed by a Japan­ese engi­neer­ing com­pa­ny may nev­er get built, a num­ber of future-think­ing off­shore pow­er sources are already in the works. Off­shore wind is a top pri­or­i­ty, with Toshim­it­su Mote­gi, a mem­ber of Japan’s rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and the for­mer min­is­ter of econ­o­my, trade and indus­try, telling Bloomberg this week that Japan is “now focus­ing on main­ly float­ing off­shore wind, but we want to push var­i­ous types of tech­ni­cal devel­op­ment and research.”

    In ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, Japan­ese elec­tron­ics and ceram­ics man­u­fac­tur­er Kyocera announced it was begin­ning work on what will be the world’s largest float­ing solar instal­la­tion. Com­prised of two large, float­ing solar arrays, the 2.9 meg­watt project is the first part of Kyocera’s plan to devel­op around 30 float­ing two-megawatt pow­er plants, capa­ble of gen­er­at­ing a com­bined 60 megawatts of pow­er. Solar pow­er instal­la­tions have tak­en off across Japan in the last few years, in large part dri­ven by gov­ern­ment incen­tives in the wake of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, and acquir­ing large swaths of land for util­i­ty-scale solar is espe­cial­ly daunt­ing in the face of such stiff com­pe­ti­tion. Japan will have 100 gigawatts of solar pow­er gen­er­a­tion capac­i­ty by 2030 accord­ing to recent esti­mates, and float­ing out­lets could play a sig­nif­i­cant role in this rapid growth.

    Oth­er buoy­ant devel­op­ments include pro­posed float­ing nat­ur­al-gas fired pow­er plants and even off­shore nuclear — both of which would pro­vide a safe­ty buffer against future nat­ur­al dis­as­ters that rum­ble the earth or pum­mel the coast. But Japan is also a nar­row, moun­tain­ous coun­try and sit­ing renew­able ener­gy projects on land is excep­tion­al­ly chal­leng­ing while the ocean is vast and open.

    In June, Japan unveiled the first off­shore float­ing wind tur­bine in Asia. Ten pri­vate-sec­tor com­pa­nies and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tokyo are part of the exper­i­men­tal project com­mis­sioned by the Min­istry for Econ­o­my, Trade and Indus­try. The world’s first float­ing pow­er sub­sta­tion was installed a mile away from the two-megawatt tur­bine, accord­ing to the Glob­al Wind Ener­gy Coun­cil. About anoth­er 350 megawatts of com­mer­cial off­shore wind projects are in devel­op­ment in the coun­try.

    “Off­shore wind is one of the best renew­able ener­gy resources that Japan has,” Alla Wein­stein, CEO of Prin­ci­ple Pow­er, mak­er of the Wind­Float, a semi-sub­mersible float­ing plat­form, said recent­ly. “If you look at the nat­ur­al resources that Japan has; it doesn’t have a lot to choose from.”

    ...

    On Tues­day, Bloomberg report­ed that Sevan Marine, a Nor­we­gian com­pa­ny that builds off­shore oil-drilling equip­ment, has pro­posed build­ing a float­ing nat­ur­al gas pow­er plant off the coast of Japan. The 700 meg­watt, $1.5 bil­lion project would float atop a cylin­dri­cal plat­form big­ger than a foot­ball field. It would burn liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas.

    “The pow­er sit­u­a­tion in Japan after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter has encour­aged us to pro­pose this solu­tion,” Fredrik Major, Sevan’s chief busi­ness devel­op­ment offi­cer, told Bloomberg.

    Off­shore nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tion has also been pro­posed as an alter­na­tive pow­er sup­ply. While Japan has not pur­sued this option yet, Rus­sia is work­ing on a ves­sel, the Akademik Lomonosov, that will house two nuclear reac­tors.

    With the excep­tion of the off­shore nuclear plant — which would like­ly jet­ti­son the reac­tor cores at the first hint of an emer­gency and gen­er­al­ly treat the oceans as a nuclear waste dump — the rest of these ideas sure sound like some­thing that not only Japan but the whole world could use...at least any coun­try with a coast­line. Sure, the float­ing nat­ur­al gas plant would exac­er­bate the threat of cat­a­sroph­ic sea lev­el ris­es but since human­i­ty seems intent on flood­ing the world any­ways (and may have already crossed the tip­ping down) there’s an unde­ni­able future appeal to float­ing pow­er plants. And the Seast­ead­ers will no doubt love all of these pro­pos­als (they already have an eye on the float­ing nukes). So who knows, maybe some­day we’ll even see the solar moon belt. Some­day. But not today:

    The New York Times
    Three Years After Fukushi­ma, Japan Approves a Nuclear Plant

    By MARTIN FACKLERSEPT. 10, 2014

    TOKYO — For the first time since the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter three and a half years ago, Japan’s new nuclear reg­u­la­to­ry agency declared Wednes­day that an atom­ic pow­er plant was safe to oper­ate, in a wide­ly watched move that brings Japan a step clos­er to restart­ing its idled nuclear indus­try.

    The two reac­tors at the Sendai pow­er plant on the south­ern island of Kyushu are the first to be cer­ti­fied as safe enough to restart by the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty since the agency was cre­at­ed two years to restore pub­lic con­fi­dence in nuclear over­sight. All of Japan’s 48 oper­a­ble com­mer­cial nuclear reac­tors were shut down after the March 2011 triple melt­down at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Nuclear Pow­er Sta­tion cre­at­ed seri­ous pub­lic doubts about the safe­ty of atom­ic pow­er in earth­quake-prone Japan.

    Even with the approval, it will prob­a­bly be months before either of the reac­tors can be turned back on. In addi­tion to fur­ther safe­ty checks, the plant’s oper­a­tor, the Kyushu Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny, must obtain the con­sent of local gov­ern­ments around the plant. The final deci­sion on whether to restart the plant will be made by the prime min­is­ter, prob­a­bly in Decem­ber, accord­ing to local news media reports.

    The approval fol­lows intense polit­i­cal pres­sure on the new agency by the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe, who sup­ports big busi­ness and wants to restore atom­ic ener­gy as part of his strat­e­gy to revive the nation’s long-ane­mic econ­o­my. He also wants to end Japan’s bal­loon­ing trade deficits, which many here attribute to the ris­ing cost of import­ed fuel to make up for the loss of nuclear-gen­er­at­ed elec­tric­i­ty.

    How­ev­er, opin­ion polls have shown that the pub­lic remains skep­ti­cal about both the safe­ty of the plants and the abil­i­ty of Mr. Abe’s gov­ern­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty to ensure that safe­ty, as the par­ty has long had close ties to the polit­i­cal­ly pow­er­ful nuclear indus­try. Those doubts were aired last month dur­ing a month­long pub­lic com­ment peri­od after the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty released a draft report in July that expressed approval of the Sendai plant’s safe­ty mea­sures.

    The agency said it had received 17,800 com­ments, more than it expect­ed. Many were high­ly skep­ti­cal about the safe­ty of the Sendai plant, which is in a vol­cani­cal­ly active area. Still, the agency on Wednes­day end­ed up adopt­ing its July find­ings with­out major mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

    The agency said it made the deci­sion after review­ing 18,600 pages of sup­port­ing doc­u­ments filed by Kyushu Elec­tric, as well as the results of its own inspec­tions of the plant. It said the design and con­struc­tion of the reac­tors and oth­er facil­i­ties, and also the con­tin­gency plans for deal­ing with emer­gen­cies, met new safe­ty stan­dards that the agency adopt­ed in July of last year.

    ...

    Oppo­nents of the restart said the agency was ignor­ing the con­cerns raised in the pub­lic com­ments. They said the agency, which had start­ed amid high hopes for more inde­pen­dent over­sight, was look­ing more and more like a rub­ber stamp for the admin­is­tra­tion.

    “There was clear­ly huge pres­sure on the reg­u­la­to­ry agency from the Abe gov­ern­ment,” said Aki­ra Kimu­ra, a pro­fes­sor of peace stud­ies at Kagoshi­ma Uni­ver­si­ty who has been involved in efforts to block the restart of the Sendai plant. “This gov­ern­ment is just ram­ming through its agen­da, with com­plete dis­re­gard for the pub­lic will.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 17, 2014, 4:44 pm
  24. Here’s one more rea­son it’s a tragedy the devel­oped world has­n’t invest­ed more in research­ing and fos­ter­ing cheap, safe green ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy over the last few decades: The devel­op­ing world is build­ing nuclear plants instead:

    Bloomberg News
    Nuclear Plants Across Emerg­ing Nations Defy Japan Con­cern
    By Alessan­dro Vitel­li Sep­tem­ber 26, 2014

    Three years after Japan closed all of its nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushi­ma melt­down and Ger­many decid­ed to shut its indus­try, devel­op­ing coun­tries are lead­ing the biggest con­struc­tion boom in more than two decades.

    Almost two-thirds of the 70 reac­tors cur­rent­ly under con­struc­tion world­wide, the most since 1989, are locat­ed in Chi­na, India, and the rest of the Asia-Pacif­ic region. Coun­tries includ­ing Egypt, Bangladesh, Jor­dan and Viet­nam are con­sid­er­ing plans to build their first nuclear plants, accord­ing to Bloomberg New Ener­gy Finance in Lon­don. Devel­oped coun­tries are build­ing nine plants, 13 per­cent of the total.

    Pow­er is need­ed as the economies of Chi­na and India grow more than twice as fast as the U.S. Elec­tric­i­ty out­put from reac­tors amount­ed to 2,461 ter­awatt-hours last year, or 11 per­cent of all glob­al pow­er gen­er­a­tion, accord­ing to data from the Orga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nom­ic Coop­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment and the Inter­na­tion­al Ener­gy Agency. That’s the low­est share since 1982, the data show.

    “We see most of the con­struc­tions in the grow­ing economies, in the parts of the world where you see strong eco­nom­ic growth,” Agne­ta Ris­ing, the head of the World Nuclear Asso­ci­a­tion in Lon­don, said Sept. 24 by e‑mail. “In many devel­oped coun­tries there is a large degree of pol­i­cy uncer­tain­ty con­cern­ing nuclear.”
    Pow­er Needs

    ...

    Yes, the tech­nol­o­gy that Japan needs to devel­op for the Fukushi­ma clean up over the next few decades has quite a grow­ing poten­tial mar­ket, espe­cial­ly in South and South­east Asian coun­tries like India, Chi­na, Viet­nam, Bangladesh. Hope­ful­ly Japan will make a devel­op­ing-world dis­count avail­able on the nuclear clean up tech because it might be get­ting unpleas­ant­ly wet in many of those grow­ing nuclear mar­kets:

    TPM Edi­tor’s Blog
    Not All Equal

    By Josh Mar­shall
    Pub­lished Sep­tem­ber 27, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT

    Sea lev­el rise is only one effect of cli­mate warm­ing. But it’s one of the most lin­ear and eas­i­est to grasp. On Con­rad Hack­et­t’s Twit­ter feed (a must fol­low, imo) I saw this study which was pro­duced by Cli­mate Cen­tral and then visu­al­ized by The Upshot. The upshot is that when it comes to the direct effects of ris­ing sea lev­els — sub­mer­sion and reg­u­lar flood­ing — all coun­tries are not equal. The impact is heav­i­ly weight­ed toward East and espe­cial­ly South­east Asia.

    ...

    This isn’t ter­ri­bly sur­pris­ing when you think about the geog­ra­phy and topog­ra­phy of the globe. But I had­n’t seen it visu­al­ized in quite this way before. And it’s quite strik­ing. I think main­ly about the small island nations of South­east Asia and the South Pacif­ic. But look at that info­graph­ic: Viet­nam, Thai­land, the Philip­pines, Chi­na, India, Bangladesh.

    Some of this is just a fac­tor of hav­ing real­ly large pop­u­la­tions. But the pat­tern is by per­cent­age of pop­u­la­tion too. This chart from Cli­mate Cen­tral gives anoth­er way of look­ing at the rel­a­tive and absolute num­bers.

    What this makes me think of is how much of the ear­ly and mid-cen­tu­ry chal­lenges on the cli­mate front will come from these regions — coun­tries Chi­na, India, Bangladesh, Viet­nam. The devel­oped world, led by the US, brought us the car­bon cri­sis. Even if it’s not near­ly enough I have some lev­el of con­fi­dence that North Amer­i­ca and Europe can at least get their emis­sions going down. But in South and East Asia you have hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple lin­ing up get in on the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion — cars, cities, per­va­sive elec­tric­i­ty, all the life-trans­form­ing things which brought us the cli­mate cri­sis. So even if the ener­gy sources get green­er, the demand for ener­gy will grow by leaps and bounds for decades to come.

    In Europe and espe­cial­ly in North Amer­i­ca it’s incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to get peo­ple to sign on to even mar­gin­al increas­es in ener­gy prices — or at least effec­tive­ly plac­ing a price on the exter­nal­i­ties of car­bon emis­sions, which hits the dirt­i­est fuels the hard­est. These are minor incon­ve­niences com­pared to the huge cost of not get­ting access to the range of con­ve­niences and life trans­form­ing ser­vices peo­ple in Europe and North Amer­i­ca have tak­en for grant­ed for rough­ly a cen­tu­ry. This the cal­cu­lus that makes the cli­mate change out­look look so bleak. But see­ing this data visu­al­ized made me won­der how this all might be affect­ed by the fact that these coun­tries will get the brunt of the impact from ris­ing seas.

    As Josh points out, it’s unfair and insane to expect the poor­est parts of the world to skip out on ener­gy-dri­ven tech­nol­o­gy, but it’s also insane to expect that this isn’t going to dra­mat­i­cal­ly com­pli­cate deal­ing the cli­mate change (bar­ring the devel­op­ment of some incred­i­bly cheap and pol­lu­tion-free green tech). So more nuclear plants (and prob­a­bly more nuclear weapons too) are on the way for the coun­tries with the great­est growth in ener­gy needs and it just so hap­pens that those coun­tries are going to be the most flood-prone. So lets hope all those new nuke plants in soon-to-be flood­ed coun­tries are built on high ground because the moral high ground of com­mit­ting to clean, safe ener­gy (when it was obvi­ous the world was going to need it soon) was aban­doned quite a while ago. The moral low ground, on the oth­er hand, has yet to be ful­ly explored.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 28, 2014, 10:47 pm
  25. Tep­co’s plans for build­ing a giant ice wall in the ground around the plant have hit anoth­er snag: In addi­tion to build­ing a mas­sive under­ground ice wall (or some­thing else) to keep the fresh ground­wa­ter out of the nuclear facil­i­ties, the exist­ing high­ly tox­ic ground­wa­ter in the base­ments of the build­ings needs to be extract­ed too. And that base­ment extrac­tion process involves first block­ing the pri­ma­ry entry points where the ground­wa­ter is already entering/leaving the build­ings. And the lat­est attempts using an ice-plug to block those ground­wa­ter entry points in Fukushi­ma No. 2 reac­tor build­ing at plant No. 1 did­n’t work. Now they’re try­ing spe­cial­ly devel­oped cement. Cement has already been tried fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the freez­ing approach, but now they’re going to use spe­cial non-water-absorb­ing cement. That’s all pret­ty alarm­ing but on top of that Tep­co offi­cials acknowl­edge that this new method might cre­ate a build up of radi­a­tion in the soil in the imme­di­ate area around the plant, pos­ing a risk to work­ers. It’s a hor­ri­ble snag:

    The Japan Times
    Tep­co fails to halt tox­ic water inflow at Fukushi­ma No. 1 trench­es

    Kyo­do
    Nov 22, 2014

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. admit­ted fail­ure Fri­day in its bid to halt the flow of tox­ic water into under­ground tun­nels along­side the ocean at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 plant and said that it will try using a spe­cial­ly devel­oped cement instead.

    Some 11,000 tons of high­ly radioac­tive water have accu­mu­lat­ed in the tun­nels, trench­es dug to house pipes and cables that are con­nect­ed to the reac­tor 2 and 3 tur­bine build­ings of the wrecked facil­i­ty, accord­ing to Tep­co.

    There are fears that this tox­ic buildup, which is being caused by the jury-rigged cool­ing sys­tem and ground­wa­ter seep­age in the reac­tor base­ments, could pour into the Pacif­ic, which is already being pol­lut­ed by oth­er radioac­tive leaks. Ground­wa­ter is enter­ing the com­plex at 400 tons a day.

    Extract­ing the tox­ic water is a crit­i­cal step in Tepco’s plan to build a huge under­ground ice wall around the four destroyed reac­tors to keep ground­wa­ter out.

    Ini­tial­ly, Tep­co sought to freeze the water in a sec­tion of tun­nel con­nect­ed to the No. 2 reac­tor build­ing. This was intend­ed to stop the inflow and allow the accu­mu­lat­ed water to be pumped out. The util­i­ty said it took addi­tion­al mea­sures that also failed.

    On Fri­day, Tep­co pro­posed a new tech­nique for the tun­nels: injec­tion of a cement filler espe­cial­ly devel­oped for the task while pump­ing out as much of the accu­mu­lat­ed water as pos­si­ble.

    Under the new method, how­ev­er, it would be dif­fi­cult to drain all of this water and some of it would be left behind, endan­ger­ing plant work­ers, Tep­co acknowl­edged.

    ...

    And with that report about the poten­tial for more dan­ger­ous work­ing con­di­tions emerg­ing, here’s a report about a new Tep­co sur­vey that indi­cates false labor con­tract­ing is ram­pant:

    Fukushi­ma work­ers still in murky labor con­tracts: Tep­co sur­vey

    TOKYO Fri Nov 28, 2014 12:55am EST

    (Reuters) — The num­ber of work­ers at Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear plant on false con­tracts has increased in the last year, the sta­tion oper­a­tor said, high­light­ing murky labor con­di­tions at the site despite a pledge to improve the work envi­ron­ment.

    The sur­vey results released by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (9501.T) (Tep­co) late on Thurs­day showed that around 30 per­cent of plant work­ers polled said that they were paid by a dif­fer­ent com­pa­ny from the con­trac­tor that nor­mal­ly directs them at the work­site, which is ille­gal under Japan’s labor laws.

    A Reuters report in Octo­ber found wide­spread con­fu­sion among plant work­ers at the Fukushi­ma facil­i­ty over their employ­ment con­tracts and their promised haz­ard pay increase.

    ...

    The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment and Tep­co vowed last year to improve work­ing con­di­tions at the plant, where sub-con­trac­tors sup­ply the bulk of work­ers con­duct­ing a cleanup after the worst nuclear dis­as­ter since Cher­nobyl in 1986.

    Tokyo Elec­tric, known as Tep­co, said a ques­tion­naire sent to thou­sands of work­ers at the plant indi­cat­ed 30 per­cent of them were on false con­tracts, an increase of 10 per­cent­age points since it car­ried out a sim­i­lar sur­vey in 2013.

    The util­i­ty sur­vey cov­ered 6,567 con­tract work­ers at the sta­tion north of Tokyo and about 70 per­cent of them respond­ed.

    It did not ques­tion its own employ­ees, who form a small part of the huge work­force on the clean up that is expect­ed to take decades and cost tens of bil­lions of dol­lars.

    This is all an exam­ple of why this is a ‘good luck to Tep­co’ and ‘good luck to the peo­ple suing Tep­co’ kind of sit­u­a­tion going for­ward.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 1, 2014, 12:08 am
  26. Here’s a sto­ry from 2012 that’s a reminder that hav­ing a sys­tem for detect­ing radi­a­tion in the goods and raw mate­ri­als flow­ing across the glob­al sup­ply chain are use­ful for a lot more than any con­cerns over radioac­tive fish or oth­er mate­ri­als from the Fukushi­ma cleanup. Work­ing with radioac­tive sub­stances is basic com­po­nent of the mod­ern glob­al econ­o­my and that’s not chang­ing any time soon:

    Bloomberg News
    Nuclear Risks at Bed, Bath & Beyond Show Dan­gers of Scrap
    By Jonathan Tirone and Andrew MacAskill Mar 20, 2012 1:23 AM CT

    Going shop­ping? Don’t for­get your wal­let and cred­it card. Or Geiger counter.

    The dis­cov­ery of radioac­tive tis­sue box­es at Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc. (BBBY) stores in Jan­u­ary raised alarms among nuclear secu­ri­ty offi­cials and com­pa­ny exec­u­tives over the grow­ing glob­al threat of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed scrap met­al.

    While the U.S. home-fur­nish­ing retail­er recalled the bou­tique box­es from 200 stores nation­wide with­out any reports of injury, the inci­dent high­light­ed one of the top­ics draw­ing world lead­ers to a nuclear secu­ri­ty meet­ing in Seoul on March 26–27. The bi-annu­al sum­mit, con­vened by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma for the first time in 2010, seeks to stem the flow of atom­ic mate­r­i­al that has been lost, stolen or dis­card­ed as trash.

    As U.S. and Euro­pean lead­ers tack­le the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons-grade ura­ni­um or plu­to­ni­um in coun­tries like Iran and North Korea, indus­tries are con­fronting the impact of loose nuclear mate­r­i­al in an inter­na­tion­al scrap-met­al mar­ket worth at least $140 bil­lion, accord­ing to the Brus­sels-based Bureau of Inter­na­tion­al Recy­cling. Radioac­tive items used to pow­er med­ical, mil­i­tary and indus­tri­al hard­ware are melt­ed down and used in goods, dri­ving up com­pa­ny costs as they with­draw taint­ed prod­ucts and threat­en­ing the public’s health.

    ‘Major Risk’

    “The major risk we face in our indus­try is radi­a­tion,” said Paul de Bru­in, radi­a­tion-safe­ty chief for Jew­om­etaal Stain­less Pro­cess­ing BV, one of the world’s biggest stain­less- steel scrap yards. “You can talk about secu­ri­ty all you want, but I’ve found weapons-grade ura­ni­um in scrap. Where was the secu­ri­ty?”

    More than 120 ship­ments of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed goods includ­ing cut­lery, buck­les and work tools like ham­mers and screw­drivers were denied U.S. entry between 2003 and 2008 after cus­toms and the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty boost­ed radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing at bor­ders. The depart­ment declined to pro­vide updat­ed fig­ures or com­ment on how the met­al tis­sue box­es at Bed, Bath & Beyond, taint­ed with melt­ed cobalt-60 used in med­ical instru­ments to diag­nose and treat can­cer, evad­ed detec­tion.

    Rachael Risinger, a spokes­woman for Union, New Jer­sey-based Bed, Bath & Beyond, said in an e‑mail on Feb. 29 that “all pos­si­bil­i­ties to address this issue are being explored and imple­ment­ed as appro­pri­ate.”

    No Health Threat

    The com­pa­ny said in a Jan­u­ary press release it had been informed by the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion, a U.S. gov­ern­ment agency that over­sees radioac­tive mate­r­i­al, that “there is no threat to anyone’s health from these tis­sue hold­ers.” It said they had been with­drawn “out of an abun­dance of cau­tion.”

    Rot­ter­dam-based Jew­om­etaal, which found 145 nuclear items in scrap last year and 200 in 2010, reports inci­dents to Dutch author­i­ties and the Unit­ed Nations Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency. De Bru­in keeps pic­tures of the nuclear-fis­sion cham­ber con­tain­ing bomb-grade ura­ni­um and oth­er scrap with plu­to­ni­um that he’s uncov­ered using radi­a­tion mon­i­tors at his ship­ping yard.

    Clean­ing a smelter of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al erro­neous­ly melt­ed inside can cost a com­pa­ny as much as 40 mil­lion euros ($53 mil­lion) and dis­rupt pro­duc­tion for a week, he said.

    More Strin­gent Rules

    The Vien­na-based IAEA is work­ing with the scrap-met­al indus­try to draft more strin­gent rules to increase radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing, bol­ster report­ing require­ments and improve dis­pos­al. Between 350 mil­lion tons and 550 mil­lion tons of iron scrap trad­ed hands in 2010 for about $400 a ton, accord­ing to the lat­est fig­ures from the Bureau of Inter­na­tion­al Recy­cling, a glob­al recy­cling indus­try asso­ci­a­tion.

    “The gen­er­al pub­lic basi­cal­ly isn’t aware that they’re liv­ing in a radioac­tive world,” accord­ing to Ross Bart­ley, tech­ni­cal direc­tor for the recy­cling bureau, who said the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion has led to lost sales. “Those tis­sue box­es are prob­lem­at­ic because they’re radioac­tive and they had to be put in radioac­tive dis­pos­al.”

    Aban­doned med­ical scan­ners, food-pro­cess­ing devices and min­ing equip­ment con­tain­ing radioac­tive met­als such as cesium-137 and cobalt-60 are picked up by scrap col­lec­tors, sold to recy­clers and melt­ed down by foundries, the IAEA says. Dan­ger­ous scrap comes from derelict hos­pi­tals and mil­i­tary bases, as well as defunct gov­ern­ment agen­cies that have lost tools with radioac­tive ele­ments.

    Radi­a­tion Expo­sure

    Chron­ic expo­sure to low dos­es of radi­a­tion can lead to cataracts, can­cer and birth defects, accord­ing to the U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. A 2005 study of more than 6,000 Tai­wanese who lived in apart­ments built with radioac­tive rein­forc­ing steel from 1983 to 2005 showed a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant increase in leukemia and breast can­cer.

    Indus­try and reg­u­la­tors are work­ing to define an allow­able lim­it for radi­a­tion in prod­ucts that isn’t haz­ardous to cus­tomers’ health, accord­ing to the draft copy of the new IAEA rules for scrap han­dlers. This month’s Seoul nuclear-secu­ri­ty sum­mit will deal for the first time with the threats posed by uncon­trolled radioac­tive sources, said Ele­na Soko­va, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Vien­na Cen­ter for Dis­ar­ma­ment and Non- Pro­lif­er­a­tion.

    Forty-five heads of state includ­ing Oba­ma, Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Dmit­ry Medvedev and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao will attend the nuclear sum­mit, South Korea’s for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment on its web­site today.

    ...

    When the $140 bil­lion glob­al scrap met­al mar­ket is strug­gling to deal with “loose” radioac­tive indus­tri­al mate­r­i­al it’s pret­ty clear there’s more to wor­ry about than just a radioac­tive Fukushi­ma fish.

    But as the arti­cle below points out, those fish con­cerns remain, espe­cial­ly for South Korea, which banned seafood imports from Fukushi­ma and sev­er oth­er pre­fec­tures last year. Back in Sep­tem­ber, South Kore­an offi­cials were con­sid­er­ing review­ing that ban. And South Kore­an inspec­tors are inves­ti­gat­ing the safe­ty of the seasfood from those eight Japan­ese pre­fec­tures right now:

    The Japan News
    S. Korea to con­duct sur­vey on fish­ery prod­ucts in Fukushi­ma

    7:52 pm, Decem­ber 13, 2014

    Jiji Press

    South Korea will send a team of experts to Japan this week for a field inves­ti­ga­tion relat­ed to South Korea’s import ban on fish­ery prod­ucts from Fukushi­ma and sev­en oth­er Japan­ese pre­fec­tures, the Japan­ese Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries Min­istry said Fri­day.

    The South Kore­an experts will con­duct the sur­vey for five days from Mon­day. They will vis­it Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co.’s dis­as­ter-hit Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant and whole­sale mar­kets for fish­ery prod­ucts in the Pacif­ic coast pre­fec­tures of Fukushi­ma and Chi­ba to col­lect data for a pos­si­ble review of the import ban.

    They will also vis­it Japan­ese insti­tu­tions that con­duct radioac­tiv­i­ty analy­ses for food, sea­wa­ter and ocean soil.

    Due to the Fukushi­ma No. 1 plant acci­dent, which was caused by the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi, the South Kore­an gov­ern­ment banned imports of all fish­ery prod­ucts from the eight pre­fec­tures of Fukushi­ma, Aomori, Iwate, Miya­gi, Ibara­ki, Gun­ma, Tochi­gi and Chi­ba in Sep­tem­ber 2013.

    In Sep­tem­ber this year, South Korea estab­lished a com­mit­tee of experts for dis­cus­sions toward a pos­si­ble review of the ban.

    ...

    At a press con­fer­ence on Fri­day, Japan­ese Deputy Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Hiroshige Seko said, “Japan strong­ly hopes that South Korea will deep­en its accu­rate under­stand­ing through the sur­vey and that the ban will quick­ly be abol­ished.”

    So we’ll see if the ban is lift­ed but it’s going to be a big test for seafood safe­ty from that imme­di­ate area. Espe­cial­ly since the head of Japan’s nuclear watch­dog is call­ing for anoth­er round of emp­ty­ing radioac­tive water tanks into the ocean:

    The Asahi Shim­bun
    NRA head sig­nals mas­sive release of taint­ed water to help decom­mis­sion Fukushi­ma site
    Decem­ber 13, 2014

    By HIROMI KUMAI/ Staff Writer

    The head of Japan’s nuclear watch­dog said con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water stored at the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant should be released into the ocean to ensure safe decom­mis­sion­ing of the reac­tors.

    Shu­nichi Tana­ka, the chair­man of the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, made the com­ment Dec. 12 after vis­it­ing the facil­i­ty to observe progress in dis­man­tling the six reac­tors. The site was severe­ly dam­aged in the tsuna­mi gen­er­at­ed by the 2011 earth­quake.

    “I was over­whelmed by the sheer num­ber of tanks (hold­ing water taint­ed with radioac­tive sub­stances),” Tana­ka told reporters, indi­cat­ing they pose a dan­ger to decom­mis­sion­ing work. “We have to dis­pose of the water.”

    With regard to expect­ed protests by local fish­er­men over the dis­charge, Tana­ka said, “We also have to obtain the con­sent of local res­i­dents in car­ry­ing out the work, so we can some­how mit­i­gate (the increase in taint­ed water).”

    Tana­ka has said pre­vi­ous­ly that to pro­ceed with decom­mis­sion­ing, taint­ed water stored on the site would need to be released into the sea so long as it had been decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed to accept­ed safe­ty stan­dards.

    “While (the idea) may upset peo­ple, we must do our utmost to sat­is­fy res­i­dents of Fukushi­ma,” Tana­ka said, adding that the NRA would pro­vide infor­ma­tion to local res­i­dents based on con­tin­u­ing stud­ies of radioac­tive ele­ments in local waters.

    ...

    Keep in mind that the num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing off of the fish­ing indus­try in Fukushi­ma dropped pre­cip­i­tous­ly fol­low­ing the melt­downs of 2011, with a 77% drop to only 409 peo­ple liv­ing off of the fish­ing busi­ness today in the entire Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture accord­ing to one recent report that indi­cat­ing the fish­ing indus­try has been heav­i­ly impact­ed in the region .

    Keep in mind that the 6,000 Fukushi­ma work­ers work­ing to clean up the “for­got­ten” Fukushi­ma no. 1 plant, con­tin­ue to be wild­ly under­paid as their jobs only get hard­er and the build­ings no one can cur­rent­ly enter even­tu­al­ly become work sites. So con­cerns over the risks posed by that stored radioac­tive water to the clean up work­ers should be pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant giv­en their gen­er­al­ly unsafe work­ing con­di­tions. But since “releas­ing the radi­a­tion into the water” seems to be the pri­mar­i­ly solu­tion to these very valid safe­ty con­cerns, ongo­ing con­cerns over the local fish­ing indus­try are going to be very valid too because Japan’s clean up work­ers are prob­a­bly going to be fac­ing unsafe work­ing con­di­tions for anoth­er few decades:

    The Japan Times
    Fukushi­ma for­got­ten: No. 1 plant work­ers feel vot­ers don’t real­ize their ordeal
    Kyo­do

    Dec 10, 2014

    As Sunday’s snap elec­tion nears, many of the peo­ple work­ing toward the decom­mis­sion­ing of the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant say they want vot­ers to know about their harsh work­ing con­di­tions, insuf­fi­cient pay and wor­ries of radi­a­tion expo­sure.

    Cur­rent­ly some 6,000 peo­ple a day are engaged in the decom­mis­sion­ing work at the plant — a process expect­ed to take 30 to 40 years to com­plete.

    Every day, bus­es and cars car­ry work­ers back and forth between the reac­tor build­ings and the near­by J‑Village facil­i­ties used by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. as its for­ward base and oth­er offices.

    “I’m sin­gle, so I can some­how man­age (with the pay) if I don’t go out to amuse myself, but I don’t think you can make a liv­ing if you have a fam­i­ly,” said a man in his 50s who has worked in the plant for three years. He has been engaged in such work as remov­ing debris and set­ting up tanks to store radioac­tive water, and is now in charge of remov­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from the reac­tor build­ing base­ments. He works for a third-tier sub­con­trac­tor and makes a month­ly salary of less than ¥200,000.

    Radi­a­tion expo­sure at the plant remains high, so work­ers must wear heavy pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and a mask that cov­ers the whole face. It is dif­fi­cult for them to work more than an hour and a half at a time. Still, they must leave their apart­ments in Iwa­ki, Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, about 40 km away from the plant, at around 5 a.m. because of the time it takes to pass entrance checks and change cloth­ing.

    They share rooms and cars to go to work. Most of them buy their meals at con­ve­nience stores. Their only amuse­ment is the occa­sion­al vis­it to a pachinko par­lor.

    The man said his most recent month­ly radi­a­tion dosage was 1.8 mil­lisiev­erts. The law states that a nuclear worker’s radi­a­tion dosage should not exceed 100 mil­lisiev­erts in five years and 50 mil­lisiev­erts in a year. Since the ref­er­ence mark in the plant is 20 mil­lisiev­erts a year, the man’s dosage is near­ing its lim­it, he said.

    ...

    “I feel that peo­ple are grad­u­al­ly for­get­ting about the nuclear acci­dent,” he said. “From now, our work will become even harsh­er because we will have to go inside the reac­tor build­ings, where the radi­a­tion lev­el is even high­er. I want peo­ple to rec­og­nize that there are such work­places.”

    “From now, our work will become even harsh­er because we will have to go inside the reac­tor build­ings, where the radi­a­tion lev­el is even high­er. I want peo­ple to rec­og­nize that there are such work­places.” And the risks asso­ci­at­ed with work­ing in those new dan­ger­ous envi­ron­ments are only going to get com­pound­ed by the grow­ing risks of stored radioac­tive water leaks. So as the head of Japans nuclear watch­dog sug­gest­ed, more mas­sive water dumps into the ocean are prob­a­bly hap­pen­ing and that’s the sit­u­a­tion going for­ward. Water builds up in the radioac­tive tanks, space runs out or the tanks start leak­ing, the water gets dumped into the ocean, rinse, maybe scrap the tank, and repeat.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 15, 2014, 12:35 am
  27. Here’s some more good news/bad news from Fukushi­ma, and this case the good news is gen­uine­ly fab­u­lous news.

    The good news: All the spent fuel rods have been remove from reac­tor 4 at Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi, elim­i­nat­ing the risk of a future earth­quake caus­ing what could have been an even greater release of radi­a­tion than took place dur­ing the ini­tial cat­a­stro­phe.

    The bad news, of course, is the same bad news that has been plagu­ing the project all along: Removal of the spent fuel rods from reac­tor 4 was the easy part:

    The New York Times

    Fuel Rods Are Removed From Dam­aged Fukushi­ma Reac­tor Build­ing

    By MARTIN FACKLERDEC. 20, 2014

    TOKYO — The cleanup of Japan’s dev­as­tat­ed Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant crossed an impor­tant mile­stone on Sat­ur­day when the plant’s oper­a­tor announced it had safe­ly removed the radioac­tive fuel from the most vul­ner­a­ble of the four heav­i­ly dam­aged reac­tor build­ings.

    The oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny, removed the last remain­ing fuel rods from the ruined No. 4 reac­tor build­ing, putting the rods inside a large white con­tain­er for trans­porta­tion to anoth­er, undam­aged stor­age pool else­where on the plant’s grounds. The com­pa­ny, known as Tep­co, had put a high pri­or­i­ty on remov­ing the No. 4 unit’s some 1,500 fuel rods because they sat in a large­ly unpro­tect­ed stor­age pool on an upper floor of the build­ing, which had been gut­ted by a pow­er­ful hydro­gen explo­sion dur­ing the March 2011 acci­dent.

    This had led to fears of addi­tion­al releas­es of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al if the pool was dam­aged fur­ther, such as by an earth­quake. By suc­ceed­ing in the tech­ni­cal­ly dif­fi­cult task of extract­ing those rods, Tep­co elim­i­nat­ed one of the plant’s most wor­ri­some vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. This is also the first time that the fuel has been removed from one of the four wrecked reac­tor build­ings.

    ...

    Tep­co still faces the far more chal­leng­ing task of remov­ing the ruined fuel cores from the three reac­tors that melt­ed down in the acci­dent. These reac­tors were so dam­aged — and their lev­els of radioac­tiv­i­ty remain so high — that remov­ing their fuel is expect­ed to take decades. Some experts have said it may not be pos­si­ble at all, and have called instead for sim­ply encas­ing those reac­tors in a sar­coph­a­gus of thick con­crete.

    The fuel cores from those three reac­tors, Nos. 1–3, are believed to have melt­ed like wax as the uncooled reac­tors over­heat­ed, form­ing lumps on the bot­tom of the reac­tor ves­sels. Sci­en­tists have warned that the hot, molten ura­ni­um may have even melt­ed through the met­al con­tain­ment ves­sels, pos­si­bly reach­ing the floor of the reac­tor build­ings or even the earth beneath.

    How­ev­er, it was the stor­age pool at the No. 4 unit, and par­tic­u­lar­ly its high­ly radioac­tive spent fuel rods, that had caused the most intense con­cern in the first weeks after the acci­dent. While the No. 4 reac­tor itself had been safe­ly shut down when the acci­dent hap­pened, hydro­gen released by the melt­downs at the oth­er reac­tors caused an enor­mous explo­sion that blew off the reac­tor building’s roof and walls, leav­ing its stor­age pool exposed to the air.

    Japan­ese and Amer­i­can nuclear offi­cials at first wor­ried that the pool may have been cracked in the explo­sion, but this proved not to be the case. Still, falling water lev­els in the stor­age pool caused anx­i­ety that the fuel rods with­in could be exposed to the atmos­phere. This would have caused a far larg­er release of radioac­tive mate­ri­als than what occurred dur­ing the actu­al acci­dent, which spewed con­t­a­m­i­na­tion across a wide swath of north­ern Japan.

    In oth­er (entire­ly good) news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 15, 2015, 12:58 pm
  28. Tep­co has a mes­sage to the Japan­ese pub­lic: let us restart some nuclear reac­tors or also we’ll have to increase rates because the com­pa­ny can’t keep prop­ping up prof­its by post­pon­ing repairs. Yes, the com­pa­ny was prof­itable last year, and yes, that appears to be due, in part, to the post­pone­ment of repairs. Keep in mind that the reac­tors aren’t run­ning right now due to the pub­lic’s con­cerns over anoth­er melt­down, so it will be inter­est­ing to see the pub­lic’s response to the ‘high­er rates or more nukes’ pro­pos­al con­sid­er­ing Tep­co just acknowl­edged that it’s been run­ning a prof­it by cut­ting costs and post­pon­ing repairs:

    Bloomberg Busi­ness
    Tep­co to Mull Pow­er Rate Increase With­out Nuclear Plant Restart
    by Tsuyoshi Ina­ji­ma and Emi Urabe
    11:00 AM CST
    Feb­ru­ary 15, 2015

    (Bloomberg) — Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said it will need to con­sid­er rais­ing elec­tric­i­ty rates for the first time since 2012 unless it can restart the world’s biggest nuclear plant.

    Resump­tion of the Kashi­waza­ki Kari­wa sta­tion in west­ern Japan’s Niiga­ta pre­fec­ture is essen­tial for sus­tain­ing prof­its., Pres­i­dent Nao­mi Hirose said in a Feb. 14 inter­view at the utility’s head­quar­ters in Tokyo. The com­pa­ny known as Tep­co can­not con­tin­ue to prop up earn­ings by post­pon­ing repairs and tak­ing oth­er cost-cut­ting mea­sures, he said.

    The oper­a­tor of the crip­pled Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi plant had expect­ed to start two reac­tors at Kashi­waza­ki Kari­wa in July as part of its turn­around plan released in Jan­u­ary last year. Tep­co, which serves about 29 mil­lion cus­tomers in the Tokyo met­ro­pol­i­tan area, pledged ear­li­er this month to keep elec­tric­i­ty rates unchanged at least this year even as inac­tive nuclear reac­tors pres­sure Japan­ese util­i­ties to increase prices.

    “Even as Kashi­waza­ki Kari­wa remains offline, we post­ed a prof­it last year and can prob­a­bly do so again this year,” Hirose said. “I wouldn’t say there won’t be the third time, but we can­not expect it can last for­ev­er.”

    The sta­tion, 220 kilo­me­ters (137 miles) north­west of Tokyo, was idled for main­te­nance in March 2012. It con­sists of sev­en reac­tor units.

    All of Japan’s 48 reac­tors remain idled as the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Authority’s safe­ty checks and oth­er restart process­es have tak­en longer than expect­ed. In addi­tion, the major­i­ty of Japan’s pub­lic remain opposed to restart­ing nuclear reac­tors after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter raised safe­ty con­cerns, accord­ing to opin­ion polls.

    ‘Cease­less Effort’

    Hirose said Tep­co “must devote cease­less effort” to gain under­stand­ing of the gov­er­nor of Niiga­ta pre­fec­ture, Hiro­hiko Izu­mi­da, a vocal crit­ic of the util­i­ty, and of local com­mu­ni­ties on restart­ing the Kashi­waza­ki Kari­wa sta­tion.

    Tep­co returned to prof­it last fis­cal year, end­ing three con­sec­u­tive years of loss­es after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter left it with mas­sive lia­bil­i­ties. The util­i­ty fore­casts a net income of 521 bil­lion yen ($4.4 bil­lion) for the year end­ing March 31, up from 438.6 bil­lion yen prof­it in the pre­vi­ous peri­od, accord­ing to its lat­est earn­ings report in Jan­u­ary.

    ...

    That was­n’t exact­ly the most sym­pa­thy-induc­ing plea from Tep­co, but it could have been worse. For instance, it could have been an acknowl­edge­ment that Tep­co had kept secret for the past year a leak that was releas­ing mas­sive amounts of radi­a­tion into the Pacif­ic for the last 10 months. That would have been worse:

    Giz­mo­do
    The Lat­est Fukushi­ma Leak Was Unre­port­ed for Almost a Year
    Kelsey Camp­bell-Dol­laghan

    Yes­ter­day 12:40pm

    More reports, more mys­tery leaks, more ques­tions about the com­plex­i­ty of clean­ing up a bro­ken nuclear plant.

    Last week­end, we learned about Fukushi­ma’s lat­est leak, which led to water with 70 times the nor­mal lev­els of radi­a­tion leak­ing into the near­by ocean. It seems that Tep­co, the com­pa­ny respon­si­ble for the main­te­nance and decom­mis­sion­ing of the plant, detect­ed con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water com­ing from a gut­ter and dis­cov­ered that a leak was lead­ing to radi­a­tion leak­age into the plan­t’s drainage sys­tem.

    It’s just the lat­est leak in a long line of leaks. But this week, it was revealed that Tep­co knew about the prob­lem all the way back in May. And did­n’t report it. An offi­cial at the plant apol­o­gized, say­ing that “the trust of the peo­ple in Fukushi­ma is the most impor­tant thing,” and that “we’ve been work­ing with that in mind, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, we have dam­aged that trust this time,” accord­ing to Dig­i­tal Jour­nal, which calls the fail­ure to report the leak “gross incom­pe­tence.”

    It’s def­i­nite­ly incompetence—and it’s anoth­er glimpse into the com­plex­i­ty of the cleanup process. After all, it was just a few days ago that the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency said the oper­a­tion had improved sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

    Mean­while, under­stand­ing how radioac­tiv­i­ty is fil­ter­ing through the environment—from food to soil to water—will be its own, decades-long project, as Nature report­ed today

    ...

    Well, at least Tep­co gets brown­ie points for being hon­est about the dam­age to pub­lic trust their dis­hon­esty inflicts although the admis­sion that “the trust of the peo­ple in Fukushi­ma is the most impor­tant thing...we’ve been work­ing with that in mind, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, we have dam­aged that trust this time”. This time?

    Also keep in mind that the leak they’re acknowl­edg­ing after 10 months isn’t 70 times the nat­ur­al base­line radi­a­tion lev­els or what’s con­sid­ered the safe lim­it. That’s 70 times the aver­age read­ing for for the dis­charge gut­ter of one of the plant build­ing rooftops in a cor­ner where the leak is and those lev­els were already quite high. So this is a sig­nif­i­cant­ly worse leak than nor­mal that we’re just learn­ing about:

    Newsweek
    Fukushi­ma Has Been Leak­ing Radioac­tive Water Since May, But Tep­co Didn’t Tell Any­one
    By Zoë Schlanger 2/25/15 at 1:39 PM

    The fall­out from the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter is far from over.

    The oper­a­tor of the crip­pled nuclear pow­er plant announced Sun­day that sen­sors in its drainage sys­tem had detect­ed a leak of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water 50 to 70 times more radioac­tive than radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els already seen on its campus—which the AFP points out were already quite high.

    The drainage sys­tem dis­charges water into a near­by bay, which flows into the Pacif­ic Ocean. The oper­at­ing com­pa­ny, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (Tep­co), said it shut down a gut­ter to pre­vent the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from reach­ing the Pacif­ic on Sun­day morn­ing. The radi­a­tion lev­els dropped off steadi­ly through­out the day, but were still 10 to 20 times high­er than usu­al lat­er in the day.

    Yet more bad news sur­faced just days lat­er: On Tues­day, Tep­co announced it had detect­ed ele­vat­ed lev­els of radi­a­tion in rain­wa­ter pool­ing on the roof of a plant build­ing back in May, but had failed to dis­close the find­ing until now, accord­ing to NBC News. The radioac­tive water had like­ly leaked into the sea through a gut­ter when it rained, Tep­co announced.

    Tep­co has been “aware since last spring” that the rain­wa­ter pool­ing in one cor­ner of the roof con­tained 23,000 bec­querels per liter of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al cesium 137, which is more than 10 times more radioac­tive than sam­ples of water tak­en from oth­er parts of the roof, Reuters reports.

    ...

    “I don’t under­stand why [Tep­co] kept silent even though they knew about it. Fish­ery oper­a­tors are absolute­ly shocked,” Masakazu Yabu­ki, chief of the Iwa­ki fish­eries coop­er­a­tive, said at a meet­ing with Tep­co offi­cials, The Japan Times report­ed on Tues­day.

    The decom­mis­sion­ing of the Fukushi­ma plant has been plagued by a stag­ger­ing num­ber of acci­dents. This week’s leak announce­ments are the lat­est in a string of high-stakes radioac­tive water errors since an earth­quake and tsuna­mi crip­pled the plant in 2011. A high­ly dilut­ed radioac­tive plume from the orig­i­nal inci­dent, mean­while, has reached the waters off of Cal­i­for­nia.

    “Tep­co has been “aware since last spring” that the rain­wa­ter pool­ing in one cor­ner of the roof con­tained 23,000 bec­querels per liter of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al cesium 137, which is more than 10 times more radioac­tive than sam­ples of water tak­en from oth­er parts of the roof, Reuters reports.”

    Yikes. Well, let’s hope the roof leak is fix­able. And at least Tep­co is prof­itable! It’s impor­tant.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 28, 2015, 10:02 pm
  29. With a poten­tial­ly his­toric agree­ment between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear enrich­ment pro­gram pos­si­bly com­ing to fruition, here’s a reminder that although the coun­try still intends on pur­su­ing a indus­tri­al-scale nuclear pro­gram for peace­ful pur­pos­es, it still has plen­ty of com­pelling rea­sons to aban­don its peace­ful nuclear pro­gram too. Dit­to for every­one else:

    Sci­ence 6 March 2015:
    Vol. 347 no. 6226 pp. 1052–1053
    DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6226.1052

    IN DEPTH

    NUCLEAR DISASTER
    Muons probe Fukushi­ma’s ruins

    Den­nis Normile

    Japan’s Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Nuclear Pow­er Sta­tion, destroyed 4 years ago in explo­sions and melt­downs trig­gered by an earth­quake and tsuna­mi, won’t be tru­ly safe until engi­neers can remove the reac­tors’ nuclear fuel. But first, they have to find it. A nov­el way to map the scat­tered ura­ni­um may have come, lit­er­al­ly, from out of the blue. Two groups of physi­cists plan to cap­ture muons rain­ing down from the upper atmos­phere after they stream through the reac­tor wreck­age, result­ing in x‑ray–like images that could pin­point the ura­ni­um.

    The util­i­ty that oper­ates the sta­tion, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (TEPCO), thinks that after the tsuna­mi knocked out the reac­tors’ cool­ing sys­tems, most of the fuel in the Unit 1 reac­tor melt­ed. It burned through the reac­tor pres­sure ves­sel sur­round­ing the core, dropped to the bot­tom of the con­tain­ment ves­sel, and per­haps even ate its way into the con­crete base. Units 2 and 3 suf­fered par­tial melt­downs, and some fuel may remain in the core. But that’s as clear as the pic­ture gets. To devise ways to safe­ly remove the fuel, engi­neers need much more detail about its loca­tion and con­di­tion. Radi­a­tion lev­els inside the reac­tor build­ings are too high for work­ers to ven­ture in for a look. Even teth­ered robot­ic devices designed to probe inside the reac­tors require oper­a­tors to enter areas with high radi­a­tion.

    Mean­while count­less muons, gen­er­at­ed as cos­mic rays slam into the upper atmos­phere, are stream­ing through the reac­tor innards. Every minute, 10,000 or so of these wispy par­ti­cles, cousins of the elec­tron, hit every square meter of Earth­’s sur­face. Most flow through sol­id objects unmo­lest­ed. But a few get absorbed or deflect­ed in pro­por­tion to a mate­ri­al’s den­si­ty and thick­ness, a phe­nom­e­non physi­cists first put to use in the 1950s to study the geol­o­gy of an under­ground hydro­elec­tric facil­i­ty in Aus­tralia and, in the 1960s, to show that no un dis­cov­ered cham­bers are hid­ing in the Pyra­mid of Khafre in Egypt (Sci­ence, 6 Feb­ru­ary 1970, p. 528).

    Decades lat­er, Kane­ta­da Nagamine, a muon physi­cist at the High Ener­gy Accel­er­a­tor Research Orga­ni­za­tion (KEK) in Tsuku­ba, Japan, showed that detec­tors could snare muons spray­ing side­ways, par­al­lel to Earth­’s sur­face, from cos­mic-ray col­li­sions. He sug­gest­ed that these muons could be used to iden­ti­fy mag­ma chan­nels in vol­ca­noes, enhanc­ing fore­casts of erup­tions. He also saw the poten­tial for muon imag­ing in nuclear dis­as­ter zones.

    ...

    The KEK strat­e­gy is to flank the reac­tors with stacks of scin­til­la­tors: rods made of a plas­tic that flash­es when hit by a charged par­ti­cle. The team plans to map muon absorp­tion, which depends on the den­si­ty of the mate­r­i­al it tra­vers­es. Ura­ni­um, being denser than steel or con­crete, will cast a deep­er muon shad­ow, allow­ing the team to dis­tin­guish fuel debris from mate­r­i­al in the build­ings and reac­tor ves­sels.

    ...

    Last month, a TEPCO con­trac­tor installed two KEK-built detec­tors beside Fukushi­ma’s wrecked Unit 1 reac­tor. By the end of this month, Takasa­ki says, the detec­tors may have absorbed enough muons to con­firm there is no fuel left in the reac­tor core. But these detec­tors, placed at ground lev­el out­side the reac­tor, won’t be able to map fuel that may have flowed to the bot­tom of the con­tain­ment ves­sel, at base­ment lev­el. That will require inspec­tion by robots now under devel­op­ment.

    In units 2 and 3, fuel is like­ly scat­tered through­out the core, pres­sure ves­sel, and con­tain­ment ves­sel. For that more chal­leng­ing imag­ing assign­ment, TEPCO is turn­ing to the Los Alam­os team. Work on muon detec­tors there began in the 1990s, when physi­cist Christo­pher Mor­ris led a team look­ing for non­in­va­sive ways to inspect nuclear weapons. They observe muons before and after they pass through an object of inter­est, using detec­tors spot muons when they ion­ize a gas, pro­duc­ing an elec­tri­cal charge. The sig­nal pat­terns can reveal how the par­ti­cles are deflect­ed by atom­ic nuclei in the mate­r­i­al. The angle of deflec­tion depends on the num­ber of pro­tons in the nucle­us, iden­ti­fy­ing the ele­ment that the muon grazed, and the loca­tion of the col­li­sion.

    The tech­nol­o­gy has already been com­mer­cial­ized to scan car­go con­tain­ers and trucks for con­tra­band nuclear mate­r­i­al. “The detec­tors can spot 20 kilo­grams of ura­ni­um in less than a minute,” Mor­ris says. The team has test­ed their tech­nique on research reac­tors to ver­i­fy that it will also work at Fukushi­ma, but they face a prac­ti­cal prob­lem: installing their mam­moth 7‑by-7-meter detec­tors at Unit 2. “How do you get these detec­tors mount­ed next to those reac­tors in that radi­a­tion field?” Mor­ris asks. Toshi­ba Corp., which sup­plied two of Fukushi­ma’s six reac­tors, is build­ing the detec­tors and will install them lat­er this year, says Miyadera, who joined Toshi­ba to over­see the project.

    The KEK and the Los Alamos–Toshiba teams are both sup­port­ed by the Inter­na­tion­al Research Insti­tute for Nuclear Decom­mis­sion­ing, estab­lished by TEPCO, Toshi­ba, and oth­er pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor enti­ties to devel­op new tech­nolo­gies need­ed for the Fukushi­ma cleanup. The insti­tute won’t say what the muon-imag­ing efforts will cost. One thing is cer­tain: The cost of pin­point­ing Fukushi­ma’s ura­ni­um debris will be triv­ial com­pared with that of devis­ing a plan and the tech­nolo­gies for remov­ing it. Decom­mis­sion­ing could take 30 to 40 years and, TEPCO says, cost at least $8 bil­lion.

    Muon detec­tors to the res­cue! It’s a neat plan and hope­ful­ly it will work, but note this part:

    The team has test­ed their tech­nique on research reac­tors to ver­i­fy that it will also work at Fukushi­ma, but they face a prac­ti­cal prob­lem: installing their mam­moth 7‑by-7-meter detec­tors at Unit 2. “How do you get these detec­tors mount­ed next to those reac­tors in that radi­a­tion field?” Mor­ris asks. Toshi­ba Corp., which sup­plied two of Fukushi­ma’s six reac­tors, is build­ing the detec­tors and will install them lat­er this year, says Miyadera, who joined Toshi­ba to over­see the project.

    That’s the kind of ‘prac­ti­cal’ night­mare Japan is deal­ing with thanks to nuclear pow­er: it needs to set up muon radi­a­tion detec­tors out­side the reac­tor build­ings, but it’s unclear how it’s going to be able to do that because the over­all radi­a­tion lev­els out­side the build­ing are too high. So hope­ful­ly Toshi­ba can fig­ure out how to do that soon because you can’t decom­mis­sion those plants with­out find­ing the miss­ing fuel:

    Extreme­Tech
    Muon scans con­firm com­plete reac­tor melt­down at Fukushi­ma Reac­tor #1

    By Joel Hrus­ka on March 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    The Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (TEPCO) has announced that its muon tomog­ra­phy scan­ning efforts at Fukushi­ma have borne fruit, and con­firmed that nuclear plant’s Reac­tor #1 suf­fered a com­plete melt­down fol­low­ing the earth­quake and tsuna­mi that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.

    Thus far, the muon tomog­ra­phy scans haven’t revealed any­thing that sci­en­tists and cleanup crews work­ing at Fukushi­ma didn’t expect. But that doesn’t make the work any less impor­tant. The only way to safe­ly clean the site and dis­pose of the high­ly radioac­tive slag that’s now believed to fill the bot­tom of the Pres­sure Con­tain­ment Ves­sel, or PCV, is to first map out what melt­ed with­in the core and where the flow went after­wards.

    Muon tomog­ra­phy was used to scan the dam­aged reac­tor because muons can pen­e­trate mate­ri­als that absorb oth­er imag­ing wave­lengths, like X‑rays, in their tracks. Muons have also been used to image build­ings and struc­tures like the Great Pyra­mid in a search for secret cham­bers, and to exam­ine vol­cano mag­ma cham­bers for evi­dence of immi­nent erup­tions. Superman’s X‑ray vision is actu­al­ly more like muon vision, except for that whole can’t‑see-through-lead restric­tion.

    What today’s find­ings con­firm is that nuclear fuel rods inside the reac­tor under­went com­plete melt­down. The image below shows a before-and-after shot of what a reac­tor looks like in nor­mal oper­a­tion and then after par­tial melt­down has begun. Note that the water lev­el inside the Reac­tor Pres­sure Ves­sel (RPV) has dropped and the rods are melt­ing as a result. This began to hap­pen in Reac­tor #1 with­in hours of the tsuna­mi. Sub­se­quent analy­sis over the past few years has con­firmed that there seemed to be very lit­tle nuclear fuel remain­ing inside the RPV. Maybe.

    Did Fukushi­ma suf­fer a melt-through at Reac­tor #1?

    After first deny­ing that a melt-through had occurred, TEPCO lat­er changed its tune and said that it most like­ly had, at least at Reac­tor #1. This means that molten cori­um flowed com­plete­ly through the RPV and into the PCV before being stopped by the sev­er­al meters of con­crete with­in the base. This wasn’t an entire­ly set­tled ques­tion, how­ev­er, since radi­a­tion mea­sure­ments and water test­ing have not found the iso­tope lev­els that would be expect­ed if the major­i­ty of the cori­um were in direct con­tact with the con­crete lay­er beneath the PCV. One alter­nate the­o­ry is that the sea­wa­ter that was pumped into Reac­tor #1 after the dis­as­ter may have cooled the cori­um before it fin­ished burn­ing through the reac­tor pres­sure ves­sel.

    ...

    What hap­pened to the fuel rods is more than an aca­d­e­m­ic ques­tion. Reac­tor #1 con­tained an esti­mat­ed 125 tons of ura­ni­um diox­ide, zir­co­ni­um, steel, boron car­bide, and inconel, and find­ing out where the cori­um flowed is crit­i­cal. TEPCO has announced that unlike Cher­nobyl, which is slow­ly being sealed inside a lay­er of con­crete, they intend to scrap reac­tor Dai­ichi 1, 2, 3, and 4. This makes it par­tic­u­lar­ly crit­i­cal to under­stand where the cori­um is in order to facil­i­tate its even­tu­al removal. The scrap­ping process is a long one — it’ll take an esti­mat­ed 30–40 years to fin­ish, and the com­pa­ny won’t start remov­ing reac­tor fuel until ten years after the acci­dent.

    That was kind of a neat fun fact:

    Superman’s X‑ray vision is actu­al­ly more like muon vision, except for that whole can’t‑see-through-lead restric­tion.

    So if any­one knows where we can find Super­man that would be help­ful (or maybe one of his rel­a­tives).

    And as the arti­cle points out, con­firm­ing a com­plete melt­down in reac­tor 1 with muon detec­tors is pret­ty help­ful too. Sure, a com­plete melt­don was already sus­pect­ed, but know­ing is half the bat­tle, espe­cial­ly when attempt­ing to decom­mis­sion a nuclear melt­down site. Or, bet­ter yet, know that it’s not worth set­ting up a nuclear site in the first place.

    So now that Iran and the West appear to have reached a set­tl­ment that ide­al­ly halts Iran’s devel­op­ment of nuclear weapons capa­bil­i­ties but leaves open civil­ian nuclear pow­er devel­op­ment per­haps it would be a good to time for the world to empha­size to Iran how poten­tial­ly dis­as­ter­ous even civil­ian nuclear capa­bil­i­ties could be for Iran. Espe­cial­ly in the even any of future con­flicts that will leave those reac­tors vul­ner­a­ble.

    Sure, with­out nuclear pow­er plants it’s hard­er to even­tu­al­ly devel­op your own nukes and join the MAD­ness club. But at the same time, nations with­out nuclear pow­er plants are also nations with a Fukushi­ma-like mega-dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. So if Iran was will­ing to decomis­sion its exist­ing plants would the world help foot the bill? Sure, the cur­rent Iran­ian gov­ern­ment appears to be intent on con­tin­u­ing with the civil­ian pro­gram but that could eas­i­ly change in the future.

    So could the world maybe start work­ing on a nuclear decom­mis­sion­ing fund for coun­tries that would like to get rid of ALL their nuclear pow­er plants, includ­ing those for civil­ian pur­pos­es and any nukes they might have sit­ting around too? That could be use­ful. And not just for Iran.

    Still, assum­ing this deal dis­ar­ma­ment deal works out that’s some pret­ty great news. End­ing glob­al MAD­ness does­n’t hap­pen in a day.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 2, 2015, 10:04 pm
  30. Here’s some news you might find rather shock­ing: When an earth­quake is pow­er­ful enough, its after­shocks can go on for years:

    Strong off­shore quake rocks Tohoku

    Kyo­do, AFP-JIJI

    May 13, 2015

    A strong earth­quake of upper 5 on the Japan­ese seis­mic scale hit Iwate Pre­fec­ture and sur­round­ing areas at 6:13 a.m. on Wednes­day, the Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency said. No tsuna­mi warn­ing was issued.

    The focus of the quake, esti­mat­ed at mag­ni­tude 6.6, was in the Pacif­ic off Miya­gi Pre­fec­ture and its depth was about 50 km, the agency said.

    No dam­age was report­ed to nuclear reac­tors in the region, includ­ing those at Tepco’s crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 pow­er sta­tion. No nuclear plant in the coun­try is cur­rent­ly active.

    Hana­ma­ki in Iwate Pre­fec­ture logged an upper‑5 on the Japan­ese seis­mic scale, and many oth­er loca­tions along the San­riku coast felt strong jolts. Mod­er­ate tremors were also felt in Tokyo.

    The tremor rat­tled areas dam­aged by the 2011 quake and tsuna­mi which killed more than 18,000 peo­ple and trig­gered the nuclear melt­down.

    “We believe the lat­est earth­quake was an after­shock” from the 2011 tremor, said Yohei Hasegawa of the Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency.

    The 2011 quake was “such a huge tremor that its after­shocks are still con­tin­u­ing,” he told a press con­fer­ence.

    He warned that anoth­er strong tremor could strike with­in a week, adding “if it hap­pens (beneath) the sea, it could trig­ger a tsuna­mi.”

    Shinkansen and oth­er train ser­vices in the region were tem­porar­i­ly sus­pend­ed but lat­er resumed oper­a­tion.

    ...

    Here’s anoth­er bit of shock­ing news: The 6.6 mag­ni­tude after­shock expe­ri­enced off the coast of Japan this week was pre­ced­ed by well over 830 pre­vi­ous after­shocks of mag­ni­tude 5 or greater:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    Update: Megaquake After­shocks Jolt Japan Four Years On

    By Jun Hon­go
    1:54 pm JST
    Feb 17, 2015

    Two earth­quakes that struck off the coast of north­east­ern Japan on Tues­day were both after­shocks of the Great East Japan Earth­quake four years ago, Japan’s mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency said.

    The first quake, which occurred a lit­tle after 8 a.m., had a pre­lim­i­nary mag­ni­tude of 6.9. It trig­gered a tsuna­mi alert and 10- to 20-cen­time­ter waves were observed in some loca­tions. The quake was the 830th after­shock of mag­ni­tude 5 or high­er, , accord­ing to the agency’s web­site. Around 300 of those occurred with­in two days of the main earth­quake on March 11, 2011.

    A sec­ond quake with pre­lim­i­nary mag­ni­tude of 5.7 struck around 1:46 p.m. Tues­day, and it was also an after­shock of the 2011 earth­quake, the agency said. No tsuna­mi alert was issued after the sec­ond quake, and there have been no reports of dam­age from either.

    ...

    And here’s some news that, giv­en the vol­ume of after­shocks that have already hit the region, isn’t real­ly shock­ing. But it’s still rather alarm­ing:

    Japan Today
    M5.1 quake strikes off Fukushi­ma coast

    Nation­al May. 15, 2015 — 01:15PM JST

    TOKYO —

    An earth­quake with a mag­ni­tude of 5.1 struck off the coast of Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture on Fri­day, the Japan Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency said, adding there was no dan­ger of a tsuna­mi.

    The epi­cen­ter of the quake, which struck at 12:30 p.m., was 50 kilo­me­ters deep in the sea off the Fukushi­ma coast­line. There were no imme­di­ate reports of dam­age or injury.

    Tohoku Elec­tric Pow­er Co (TEPCO) said there were no abnor­mal­i­ties at the wrecked Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant.

    The quake reg­is­tered a 4 in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture and a 3 in Miya­gi Pre­fec­ture.

    While the after­shock only reg­is­tered a 4 in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, keep in mind that, once you start get­ting into the 5 range, weak struc­tures might start get­ting dam­aged. That’s why, even though Fukushi­ma has man­aged to dodge +830 after­shock ‘bul­lets’ since the 2011 dis­as­ter thus far, when these quakes hit off the cost of Fukushi­ma it’s still pret­ty alarm­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 14, 2015, 11:09 pm
  31. Giv­en the unprece­dent­ed chal­lenges fac­ing the Fukushi­ma cleanup work­ers, it’s tempt­ing to for­get that so much of the dam­age on the day of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter had noth­ing to do with the nuclear melt­down. That tsuna­mi, alone, was dev­as­tat­ing enough to clas­si­fy as a mega-dis­as­ter even with­out the nuclear melt­down. Hence, the Great Anti-Tsuna­mi Sea Wall of Japan plan. The under­ground ice­wall of frozen soil that’s sup­posed to redi­rect the ground water flow­ing into reac­tor base­ments is also still part of the plan. It’s a real­ly dif­fi­cult plan:

    Oilprice.com

    The $6.8 Bil­lion Great Wall of Japan: Fukushi­ma Cleanup Takes on Epic Pro­por­tion

    By Nick Cun­ning­ham
    Post­ed on Mon, 23 March 2015 23:58

    More than four years after the cat­a­stroph­ic tsuna­mi that crip­pled sev­er­al nuclear reac­tors in Fukushi­ma, the Japan­ese util­i­ty that owns the site is strug­gling to deal with a con­tin­u­ous flood of radioac­tive water.

    ...

    But get­ting a han­dle on the mess, let alone per­ma­nent­ly clean­ing up the site, has been extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult. The prob­lem is the dai­ly flood of rain­wa­ter that flows down­hill towards the sea, rush­ing into the man­gled radioac­tive site. An esti­mat­ed 300 tons of water reach­es the build­ing each day, and then becomes con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed. TEPCO, the util­i­ty that owns the site, has been furi­ous­ly build­ing above ground stor­age tanks for radioac­tive water. Stor­ing the water pre­vents it from being dis­charged into the sea, but this Sisyphean task does noth­ing to ulti­mate­ly solve the prob­lem as the tor­rent of water nev­er ends. TEPCO has already put more than 500,000 tons of radioac­tive water in stor­age tanks.

    To reduce the 300 tons of new­ly cre­at­ed radioac­tive water each day, TEPCO must cut off the flow of ground­wa­ter into the nuclear com­plex. To do that, it plans on build­ing an ice wall that will sur­round the four reac­tors. TEPCO plans on build­ing an intri­cate array of coolant pipes under­neath the reac­tors, freez­ing the soil into a hard­ened ice wall that will block the flow of water. The ice wall will stretch one and a half kilo­me­ters around the reac­tors.

    Great plan, except that it has nev­er been done before. TEPCO may be able to freeze the soil, but there is no telling if it can build an ice wall with­out any holes that could allow water to seep into the reac­tor build­ing. Ques­tions sur­round­ing the via­bil­i­ty of the ice wall, and with it the prospects for halt­ing the flow of radioac­tive water, height­ened after TEPCO announced in mid-March that it was post­pon­ing the project.

    In fact, much of what TEPCO has to do to clean up the dis­as­ter area is daunt­ing. TEPCO actu­al­ly has to dig up radioac­tive soil and remove it, putting it in an inter­im stor­age facil­i­ty. The idea is to make Fukushi­ma inhab­it­able again, rather than indef­i­nite­ly leave it as a radioac­tive and tox­ic no-go zone like the imme­di­ate sur­round­ings of Cher­nobyl. When or if that can hap­pen is anybody’s guess. The removal of radioac­tive soil began recent­ly.

    Anoth­er unnerv­ing chal­lenge is TEPCO’s plan to remove radioac­tive ele­ments from con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water and then dis­charge the water into the Pacif­ic Ocean, a plan that is fac­ing enor­mous push­back. That’s because TEPCO has lost the trust of the pub­lic. Not only has the util­i­ty respond­ed poor­ly to the cleanup, but it also recent­ly admit­ted to not hav­ing pub­licly dis­closed that a leak was result­ing in radioac­tive water flow­ing into the ocean. TEPCO knew about the leak for more than ten months, one of a long line of acts of obfus­ca­tion that has enraged the Japan­ese pub­lic. The Japan­ese Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Author­i­ty gave its stamp of approval for dump­ing cleansed water into the ocean, but the fish­ing indus­try is hop­ing to block the plan, as many fish­er­men do not trust that the water TEPCO plans on dump­ing is in fact clean of radioac­tiv­i­ty.

    The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment hopes to pre­vent future nuclear melt­downs by con­struct­ing “The Great Wall of Japan,” a con­tro­ver­sial $6.8 bil­lion cam­paign to build around 440 sea walls along the coast to fend off tsunamis.

    That may be able to pre­vent future dis­as­ters, but in the mean­time the cleanup and decom­mis­sion­ing of the Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant con­tin­ues. It could take anoth­er forty years before the work is com­plete.

    So let’s hope the ice and walls do indeed come to fruition so the cur­rent cri­sis can come to a sus­tain­able res­o­lu­tion and future crises can be avoid­ed.

    The ice wall is espe­cial­ly urgent, since, as we learned last year, the best sus­tain­able solu­tion rec­om­mend­ed by Tep­co for deal­ing with the radioac­tive water flow­ing into the base­ments of the Fukushi­ma build­ings was con­trolled release of the radioac­tive water into the ocean. Until the ice wall works or some oth­er plan ends the flow of water into the build­ings, con­trolled release is ‘Plan A’, as Tep­co was rec­om­mend­ing last March:

    The Guardian
    Fukushi­ma oper­a­tor may have to dump con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into Pacif­ic
    As Japan marks the third anniver­sary of the earth­quake, tsuna­mi and nuclear dis­as­ter, Tep­co is strug­gling to find a solu­tion for hun­dreds of thou­sands of tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water

    Justin McCur­ry in the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant

    Mon­day 10 March 2014 12.56 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Tues­day 3 June 2014 03.21 EDT

    A senior advis­er to the oper­a­tor of the wrecked Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant has told the firm that it may have no choice but to even­tu­al­ly dump hun­dreds of thou­sands of tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the Pacif­ic Ocean.

    Speak­ing to reporters who were on a rare vis­it to the plant on the eve of the third anniver­sary of the March 2011 earth­quake, tsuna­mi and nuclear dis­as­ter, Dale Klein said Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er [Tep­co] had yet to reas­sure the pub­lic over the han­dling of water leaks that con­tin­ue to frus­trate efforts to clean up the site.

    “The one issue that keeps me awake at night is Tep­co’s long-term strat­e­gy for water man­age­ment,” said Klein, a for­mer chair­man of the US nuclear reg­u­la­to­ry com­mis­sion who now leads Tep­co’s nuclear reform com­mit­tee.

    “Stor­ing mas­sive amounts of water on-site is not sus­tain­able. A con­trolled release is much safer than keep­ing the water on-site.

    “Tep­co is mak­ing progress on water man­age­ment but I’m not sat­is­fied yet. It’s frus­trat­ing that the com­pa­ny takes four or five steps for­ward, then two back. And every time you have a leak­age it con­tributes to a lack of trust. There’s room for improve­ment on all fronts.”

    Tep­co’s fail­ure to man­age the buildup of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water came to light last sum­mer, when it admit­ted that at least 300 tonnes of taint­ed water were leak­ing into the sea every day.

    That rev­e­la­tion was fol­lowed by a string of inci­dents involv­ing spills from poor­ly assem­bled stor­age tanks, prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment to com­mit about $500m (£300m) into mea­sures to con­tain the water.

    They include the con­struc­tion of an under­ground frozen wall to pre­vent ground­wa­ter mix­ing with con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed coolant water, which becomes taint­ed after com­ing into con­tact with melt­ed nuclear fuel deep inside the dam­aged reac­tors.

    Tep­co con­firmed that it would acti­vate an exper­i­men­tal wall at a test site at the plant on Tues­day. If the test is suc­cess­ful, the firm plans to build a sim­i­lar struc­ture almost 2km in length around four dam­aged reac­tors next year, although some experts have ques­tioned its abil­i­ty to use the tech­nol­o­gy on such a large scale.

    Klein, too, voiced scep­ti­cism over the frozen wall solu­tion, and sug­gest­ed that the con­trolled release of treat­ed water into the Pacif­ic was prefer­able to stor­ing huge quan­ti­ties of it on site.

    But Tep­co, the gov­ern­ment and nuclear reg­u­la­tors would have to win the sup­port of local fish­er­men, and the release of even treat­ed water would almost cer­tain­ly draw a furi­ous response from Chi­na and South Korea.

    “It’s a very emo­tion­al issue,” Klein said. “But Tep­co and the gov­ern­ment will have to artic­u­late their posi­tion to oth­er peo­ple. For me, the water issue is more about pol­i­cy than sci­ence.”

    Tep­co is pin­ning its hopes on tech­nol­o­gy that can remove dozens of dan­ger­ous radionu­clides, apart from tri­tium, inter­nal expo­sure to which has been linked to a greater risk of devel­op­ing can­cer.

    Klein, how­ev­er, said tri­tium does not pose the same threat to heath as bone-set­tling stron­tium and cae­sium, and can be dilut­ed to safe lev­els before it is released into the sea.

    The Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plan­t’s man­ag­er, Aki­ra Ono, said the firm had no plans to release con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the Pacif­ic, but agreed that decom­mis­sion­ing would remain on hold until the prob­lem was solved.

    “The most press­ing issue for us is the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water, rather than decom­mis­sion­ing,” he said.

    “Unless we address this issue the pub­lic will not be assured and the evac­uees will not be able to return home.

    “We are in a pos­i­tive frame of mind over decom­mis­sion­ing the plant over the next 30 to 40 years, But we have to take utmost care every step of the way because errors can cause a lot of trou­ble for a lot of peo­ple.”

    Cur­rent­ly about 400 tonnes of ground­wa­ter is stream­ing into the reac­tor base­ments from the hills behind the plant each day. The plant has accu­mu­lat­ed about 300,000 tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water, which is being stored in 1,200 tanks occu­py­ing a large swath of the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi site.

    Even­tu­al­ly Tep­co hopes to have enough space to store 800,000 tonnes, but fears are ris­ing that it will run out of space some­time next year because it can’t keep up with the flow of tox­ic water.

    Fukushi­ma three years on

    For vis­i­tors and work­ers alike, the jour­ney to the plant begins at J‑Village, a for­mer train­ing com­plex for the Japan­ese foot­ball team that now serves as the Fukushi­ma cleanup’s logis­ti­cal base.

    Dur­ing the 20-minute bus ride through neigh­bour­hoods still bear­ing the scars of the earth­quake and tsuna­mi, there were signs that decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work is mak­ing mod­est progress.

    Atmos­pher­ic radi­a­tion lev­els are falling, lead­ing the author­i­ties to par­tial­ly lift evac­u­a­tion orders in neigh­bour­hoods on the edge of the evac­u­a­tion zone.

    Some of Fukushi­ma’s 100,000-plus nuclear evac­uees are now per­mit­ted to return to their homes dur­ing the day, but radi­a­tion lev­els are still too high for them to make a per­ma­nent return.

    In the town of Nara­ha, where atmos­pher­ic radi­a­tion hov­ered around 2 microsiev­erts an hour on Mon­day – the offi­cial decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion tar­get is 0.23 microsiev­erts an hour – large black bags filled with radioac­tive soil cov­er fields once used for agri­cul­ture, where they will remain until agree­ment can be reached on a per­ma­nent dis­pos­al site.

    ...

    Keep in mind this arti­cle was from March of last year. So when it says this:

    ...
    Even­tu­al­ly Tep­co hopes to have enough space to store 800,000 tonnes, but fears are ris­ing that it will run out of space some­time next year because it can’t keep up with the flow of tox­ic water.
    ...

    That time is now.

    Also note one of the rea­sons giv­en for ground water decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion being a high­er pri­or­i­ty than the decom­mis­sion of the plant itself: The gov­ern­ment wants to ease wor­ries about the the ground water get­ting radioac­tive and then flow­ing into the sea (or get­ting d)evacuees to move back soon:

    ...

    The Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plan­t’s man­ag­er, Aki­ra Ono, said the firm had no plans to release con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the Pacif­ic, but agreed that decom­mis­sion­ing would remain on hold until the prob­lem was solved.

    “The most press­ing issue for us is the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water, rather than decom­mis­sion­ing,” he said.

    “Unless we address this issue the pub­lic will not be assured and the evac­uees will not be able to return home.

    ...

    And based on the recent state­ments by the Fukushi­ma gov­ern­ment, a num­ber of those evac­uees liv­ing just out­side manda­to­ry evac­u­a­tion zone just might end up doing and return­ing. In 2017. But not nec­es­sar­i­ly because they’ve been reas­sured that the ground water contamination/controlled dis­charge issues have been ade­quate­ly dealt with. They might return after get­ting kicked off the gov­ern­ment relo­ca­tion assis­tance pro­gram:

    The Japan Times
    Fukushi­ma may end free accom­mo­da­tions for vol­un­tary nuclear evac­uees in 2017

    May 18, 2015

    FUKUSHIMA – The Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­tur­al Gov­ern­ment may stop pro­vid­ing free accom­mo­da­tions at the end of March 2017 for peo­ple who vol­un­tar­i­ly left areas in the pre­fec­ture not des­ig­nat­ed by evac­u­a­tion advi­sories after the March 2011 nuclear cri­sis start­ed, it was learned Sun­day.

    The Fukushi­ma gov­ern­ment hopes to encour­age peo­ple who evac­u­at­ed at their own judg­ment to return home, but the pro­posed end to the assis­tance will cer­tain­ty draw objec­tions from them.

    The pre­fec­ture will make a deci­sion after lis­ten­ing to the opin­ions of offi­cials of relat­ed Fukushi­ma munic­i­pal­i­ties lat­er this month, sources said.

    Of about 115,000 peo­ple who have tak­en refuge in and out­side the north­east­ern pre­fec­ture, some 36,000 are believed to be from areas that are not cov­ered by the cen­tral government’s evac­u­a­tion advi­sories.

    Many vol­un­tary evac­uees are peo­ple with chil­dren as well as for­mer res­i­dents of munic­i­pal­i­ties such as the town of Hirono, the vil­lage of Kawauchi and the city of Minami­so­ma, all geo­graph­i­cal­ly close to the gov­ern­ment-des­ig­nat­ed evac­u­a­tion zones. They sought refuge out­side their home­towns main­ly due to con­cerns over expo­sure to radi­a­tion from the reac­tor melt­downs at Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co.’s Fukushi­ma No. 1 plant.

    Under the Dis­as­ter Relief Act, the pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment pro­vides pre­fab­ri­cat­ed tem­po­rary hous­ing for nuclear evac­uees for free and ful­ly finances their rent for pri­vate apart­ments.

    The accom­mo­da­tion aid was launched as a two-year pro­gram in prin­ci­ple and was extend­ed by a year twice, with the cur­rent pro­gram set to expire at the end of March 2016. For vol­un­tary evac­uees, the pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment hopes to ter­mi­nate the assis­tance after anoth­er one-year exten­sion, the sources said.

    It is look­ing at con­tin­u­ing the free accom­mo­da­tions for peo­ple who fled the des­ig­nat­ed evac­u­a­tion areas, the sources said.

    ...

    So the deci­sion on whether or not to rescind the assis­tance to the ~36,000 evac­uees liv­ing close to the offi­cial evac­u­a­tion zone is going to be made lat­er this month. And if they do return they’re going to pre­sum­ably be quite con­cerned about water safe­ty since that’s pre­sum­ably one of the main rea­sons they’re stay­ing away in the first place. So a sus­tain­able solu­tion is going to be increas­ing­ly urgent for the radioac­tive ground water that either leaks into the sea or gets dis­charged by Tep­co. The peo­ple most freaked out by that are get­ting forced back in a cou­ple years. And for some­thing like this, with four decade time frame for the whole decom­mis­sion­ing plan, a cou­ple of years isn’t much time. Under­ground ice walls with no leaks don’t build them­selves.

    For­tu­nate­ly, there’s an inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty that’s there to poten­tial­ly help is things get out of hand although the IAEA has already assessed the sit­u­a­tion and issued a rec­om­men­da­tion for how Tep­co should han­dle the water stor­age issue and the return­ing evac­uees prob­a­bly aren’t going to be very enthu­si­as­tic about the IAEA’s rec­om­men­da­tions:

    Bloomberg News
    Tep­co May Need to Dump Fukushi­ma Water Into Sea, UN Says

    by Jonathan Tirone
    6:21 AM CDT May 15, 2015

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. should con­sid­er dis­charg­ing water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi reac­tor melt­downs into the Pacif­ic Ocean, the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency said.

    More than four years after the nuclear pow­er-plant dis­as­ter in Japan, the Unit­ed Nations agency renewed pres­sure for an alter­na­tive to hold­ing the taint­ed water in tanks and offered to help mon­i­tor for off­shore radi­a­tion.

    “The IAEA team believes it is nec­es­sary to find a sus­tain­able solu­tion to the prob­lem of man­ag­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water,” the Vien­na-based agency said in a report. “This would require con­sid­er­ing all options, includ­ing the pos­si­ble resump­tion of con­trolled dis­charges into the sea.’

    Tep­co offi­cials are still using water to cool molten nuclear fuel from the reac­tors and while on-site tanks were installed to hold 800,000 cubic meters of efflu­ent, engi­neers have bat­tled leaks and ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. The assess­ment, pub­lished Thurs­day, was based on vis­its by an IAEA team in Feb­ru­ary and April.

    The IAEA also said it would send sci­en­tists to col­lect water and sed­i­ment sam­ples off the Fukushi­ma coast­line to improve data reli­a­bil­i­ty.

    ‘‘TEPCO is advised to per­form an assess­ment of the poten­tial radi­o­log­i­cal impact to the pop­u­la­tion and the envi­ron­ment aris­ing from the release of water con­tain­ing tri­tium and any oth­er resid­ual radionu­clides to the sea in order to eval­u­ate the radi­o­log­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance,’’ the agency said. ‘‘The IAEA team rec­og­nizes the need to also con­sid­er socioe­co­nom­ic con­di­tions .’’

    Fish­er­men Protest

    Pre­vi­ous releas­es of Fukushi­ma con­t­a­m­i­na­tion into the Pacif­ic have drawn protests by Japan­ese fish­er­men and envi­ron­men­tal groups. Fish caught off the coast of Fukushi­ma have been sub­ject to test­ing for radi­a­tion before being sold.

    ...

    The resump­tion of con­trolled dis­charges might be part of a “sus­tain­able solu­tion” accord­ing to the IAEA. And it real­ly is pos­si­bly the most sus­tain­able option in terms of the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of the over­all decom­mis­sion­ing work there since the tanks just might fill up and there real­ly won’t be anoth­er option oth­er than con­trolled dis­charges. In oth­er words, the IAEA’s rec­om­men­da­tion to Tep­co was basi­cal­ly “deal with real­i­ty”. If the tanks fill up, some­thing is get­ting dumped. Dump wise­ly. That’s basi­cal­ly the mes­sage and it might be the only mes­sage that’s fea­si­ble if space runs out.

    It all rais­es the ques­tion: So what hap­pens if the planned 800,000 tons of total water stor­age capac­i­ty even­tu­al­ly runs out? Will they be able to build more? If so, maybe not near­by:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    Fukushi­ma Watch
    Fukushi­ma Watch: Tep­co Eyes Radioac­tive Stron­tium-Removal Sys­tem

    By Mari Iwa­ta

    3:00 pm JST
    Jun 9, 2014

    Still try­ing to work out the bugs in its water pro­cess­ing sys­tem, the oper­a­tor of the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant has decid­ed to adopt tech­nol­o­gy to reduce risks posed by a dead­ly radioac­tive iso­tope stew­ing in water stored in a thou­sand tanks at the site.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said Mon­day that the new tech­nol­o­gy would remove radioac­tive stron­tium from the 400,000 met­ric tons of high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water. Kuri­on Inc., the provider of the tech­nol­o­gy, has already deliv­ered the first set of equip­ment to the site for inspec­tion and plans to ship the bal­ance of equip­ment in the com­ing weeks, the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment. The Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pa­ny said it expects the pro­cess­ing sys­tem, which can han­dle 300 tons of water a day, to be oper­a­tional this sum­mer.

    Stron­tium is essen­tial­ly the biggest eco­log­i­cal risk that the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water pos­es with radioac­tive cesium, a less dan­ger­ous but more preva­lent mate­r­i­al, hav­ing already been removed. Accord­ing to the U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, Stron­tium-90 is chem­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar to cal­ci­um, and tends to deposit in bone and blood-form­ing tis­sue. Inter­nal expo­sure is linked to bone can­cer, can­cer of the soft tis­sue near the bone, and leukemia.

    Shu­nichi Tana­ka, the chair­man of Japan’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, warned Tep­co last week that the utility’s pri­or­i­ty is to remove stron­tium from the water in the tanks, cit­ing ris­ing radi­a­tion lev­els in the site as the vol­ume of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water increas­es.

    ALPS, the sys­tem that Tep­co claims is capa­ble of remov­ing all radioac­tive mate­ri­als except for rel­a­tive­ly harm­less tri­tium, has still been hav­ing peri­od­i­cal tech­no­log­i­cal prob­lems since com­menc­ing test oper­a­tions in March 2013.

    Tep­co and gov­ern­ment are uphold­ing their tar­get to remove all radioac­tive mate­ri­als except for tri­tium from the water in the tanks by the end of March 2015, but have not spec­i­fied how they can achieve this goal. “We have been improv­ing the sys­tem lit­tle by lit­tle,” a Tep­co spokesman told the Japan Real Time.

    ...

    Deal­ing with the ris­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water is one of the biggest prob­lems at the Fukushi­ma plant faces. Because a large amount of ground­wa­ter flows into the melt­ed reac­tor cores on a dai­ly basis, the vol­ume of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in the tanks ris­es by 400 met­ric tons a day. Tep­co recent­ly announced a plan to build more tanks to boost stor­age capac­i­ty to 800,000 tons. But after that, there will be no place to build addi­tion­al tanks. Tep­co also start­ed build­ing facil­i­ties from this month to cre­ate a sub­ter­ranean ice wall around the Nos. 1–4 reac­tors to shut out the water flow, but it will take form only as ear­ly as April 2015.

    “Tep­co recent­ly announced a plan to build more tanks to boost stor­age capac­i­ty to 800,000 tons. But after that, there will be no place to build addi­tion­al tanks”.

    So we have ground­wa­ter that needs to be divert­ed using an ice wall, plus all the rest of the water that’s con­tin­u­al­ly used to cool the nuclear fuel in the reac­tors that needs to be even­tu­al­ly cycled through the var­i­ous radi­a­tion decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion sys­tems that we hope are work­ing. And if the 800 tons of water stor­age capac­i­ty is even­tu­al­ly reached there’s pre­sum­ably going to be a lot more dump­ing because, at that point, con­trolled dis­charges are the only sus­tain­able solu­tion left.

    Some sus­tain­able solu­tions are scari­er than oth­ers.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 17, 2015, 11:36 pm
  32. Here’s anoth­er bad news/worse news update out of Fukushi­ma.

    The bad news: 10 per­cent of the radioac­tive water tanks appear to be leak­ing.

    The worse news: The rea­sons so many tanks are leak­ing is because water is get­ting pushed out by the poten­tial­ly explo­sive hydro­gen gas­es that are build­ing up in the tanks:

    The Tele­graph
    Fukushi­ma leak ‘could cause hydro­gen explo­sion’ at nuclear plant
    Warn­ings of risk of hydro­gen explo­sion due to build up of gas­es in con­tain­ers leak­ing radioac­tive water at Japan’s dis­as­ter-hit Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant

    By Danielle Demetri­ou, Tokyo

    8:19AM BST 25 May 2015

    Leak­ing con­tain­ers at Japan’s embat­tled Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant are at risk of pos­si­ble hydro­gen explo­sions, experts have claimed.

    Almost 10 per cent of recent­ly inspect­ed con­tain­ers hold­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water at the nuclear plant in north­east Japan were found to be leak­ing radioac­tive water.

    The leak­ages, dis­cov­ered dur­ing inspec­tions by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (Tep­co), the oper­a­tors of the plant, were thought to be caused by a build-up of hydro­gen and oth­er gas­es due to radi­a­tion con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

    The dis­cov­ery was report­ed to the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty (NRA), which raised con­cerns sur­round­ing the poten­tial haz­ards of accu­mu­lat­ed hydro­gen build­ing up in the con­tain­ers.

    “If the con­cen­tra­tion lev­el is high, a spark caused by sta­t­ic elec­tric­i­ty could cause a con­tain­er to explore,” one NRA offi­cial told the Asahi Shim­bun.

    Tep­co offi­cials made the dis­cov­ery while inspect­ing 278 of the plant’s 1,307 con­tain­ers and found that 26 – close to ten per cent — had a leak­age or over­spill from their lids.

    It is believed that gas­es had accu­mu­lat­ed in the sed­i­ment at the base of the con­tain­ers, prompt­ing the vol­ume of the liq­uid to expand and result­ing in the over­flow.

    How­ev­er, offi­cials at Tep­co stat­ed that the risk of an explo­sion was believed to be min­i­mal, with a series of mea­sures being under­tak­en as a mat­ter of urgency to resolve the faulty stor­age con­tain­ers.

    The oper­a­tors also empha­sised that there was no sign of radioac­tive water escap­ing beyond the con­fines of the con­crete struc­tures that encase the leak­ing con­tain­ers.

    “We think the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an occur­rence of hydro­gen explo­sion from these stor­age facil­i­ties is extreme­ly low, since there is no fire ori­gin, or any­thing that gen­er­ates sta­t­ic elec­tric­i­ty near­by,” Mayu­mi Yoshi­da, a spokes­woman for Tep­co, told the Tele­graph.

    Out­lin­ing mea­sures to fix the prob­lem, she added: “For tem­po­rary mea­sures, we have been remov­ing the leaked water, installing absorp­tion mate­ri­als, mon­i­tor­ing by patrol, keep­ing water lev­el inside those facil­i­ties low­er than set and keep­ing equip­ment which may gen­er­ate fire away.

    “In the long term, we’re going to low­er the water lev­el of cur­rent facil­i­ties so as to pre­vent fur­ther leak­ages.”

    The plant, cur­rent­ly embroiled in a com­plex decades-long process of decom­mis­sion­ing, has been plagued by prob­lems since it was dam­aged in the earth­quake and tsuna­mi four years ago.

    Among its biggest chal­lenges relate to the dis­pos­al of the con­stant stream of water flushed over reac­tors to keep them cool enough to pre­vent fur­ther radioac­tive releas­es.

    ...

    “In the long term, we’re going to low­er the water lev­el of cur­rent facil­i­ties so as to pre­vent fur­ther leak­ages.” Yep. That’s the plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 26, 2015, 1:58 pm
  33. FYI, Japan, and the world, just dodged anoth­er cou­ple of bul­lets:

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    Earth­quakes strike off Japan coast, injur­ing 2
    No tsuna­mi warn­ing issued or reports of dam­age

    Post­ed: May 30, 2015 8:53 AM ET Last Updat­ed: May 30, 2015 6:32 PM ET

    A pow­er­ful earth­quake struck near remote Japan­ese islands and shook most of the coun­try Sat­ur­day evening, but it occurred well beneath the earth­’s sur­face and did not trig­ger a tsuna­mi warn­ing. Sev­er­al peo­ple suf­fered non-life-threat­en­ing injuries, and there were no reports of deaths or major dam­age.

    The magnitude‑8.5 off­shore quake struck off the Oga­sawara islands at a depth of 590 kilo­me­tres, the Japan Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency said. The U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey said the quake had a mag­ni­tude of 7.8 and a depth of 678 kilo­me­tres.

    The tem­blor was pow­er­ful enough to rat­tle most of Japan, from the south­ern islands of Oki­nawa to Hokkai­do in the north. It caused build­ings to sway in Tokyo — about 1,000 kilo­me­tres north of the Oga­sawara islands — and tem­porar­i­ly dis­rupt­ed some train ser­vices in the city. About 400 hous­es in Saita­ma pre­fec­ture, just north of the cap­i­tal, were with­out pow­er, accord­ing to the Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co.

    On Sun­day morn­ing, a strong magnitude‑6.4 earth­quake struck off of Japan’s Izu islands, which are north of the Oga­sawara islands, the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey said. It struck at a depth of 13 kilo­me­tres with its epicentres630 kilo­me­tres south-south­east of Tokyo.

    The earth­quake was not strong enough to gen­er­ate a tsuna­mi warn­ing or close enough to the islands to cause any sig­nif­i­cant dam­age or injuries, said John Belli­ni, a geo­physi­cist with the U.S.G.S. in Gold­en, Col­orado. He said it is con­sid­ered a sep­a­rate seis­mic event and not an after­shock to the magnitude‑8.5 quake that struck hours ear­li­er.

    Late Sat­ur­day, at Toky­o’s Rop­pon­gi Hills shop­ping and busi­ness com­plex, ele­va­tors stopped soon after the magnitude‑8.5 earth­quake struck the area, forc­ing hun­dreds of vis­i­tors to climb down the stairs. Among them were about 200 peo­ple who came to see the Star Wars exhib­it on the 52nd floor.

    ....

    The mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency did not issue a tsuna­mi warn­ing because the quake struck so far beneath the earth­’s sur­face. Deep off­shore earth­quakes usu­al­ly do not cause tsunamis, and gen­er­al­ly cause less dam­age than shal­low ones.

    In March 2011, a magnitude‑9.0 earth­quake rocked north­east­ern Japan, trig­ger­ing a tsuna­mi that killed more than 18,500 peo­ple and rav­aged much of the north­ern Pacif­ic coast. The depth of that quake was just 24 kilo­me­tres , accord­ing to the mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency.

    Yikes.

    In tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed news, the US just announced that it’s going to be extend­ing its “cyber defense umbrel­la” to Japan

    Reuters
    U.S. to Bring Japan Under Its Cyber Defense Umbrel­la

    MAY 30, 2015, 7:04 A.M. E.D.T.

    TOKYO — The Unit­ed States will extend its cyber defense umbrel­la over Japan, help­ing its Asian ally cope with the grow­ing threat of online attacks against mil­i­tary bases and infra­struc­ture such as pow­er grids, the two nations said in a joint state­ment on Sat­ur­day.

    “We note a grow­ing lev­el of sophis­ti­ca­tion among mali­cious cyber actors, includ­ing non-state and state-spon­sored actors,” they said in a state­ment released by the U.S.-Japan Cyber Defense Pol­i­cy Work­ing Group, which was estab­lished in 2013.

    Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty is a key area where Japan and the Unit­ed States are deep­en­ing their mil­i­tary part­ner­ship under a set of new secu­ri­ty guide­lines released in April, that will also inte­grate their bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tems and give Tokyo a big­ger secu­ri­ty role in Asia as Chi­na’s mil­i­tary pow­er grows.

    Both the Unit­ed States and Japan are wary of cyber threats, includ­ing poten­tial attacks from Chi­na or North Korea. While the Unit­ed States is invest­ing heav­i­ly in build­ing a force to counter and retal­i­ate against online attacks, Japan, which hosts the biggest U.S. mil­i­tary con­tin­gent in Asia, has been slow­er to but­tress its cyber defens­es.

    The Japan­ese mil­i­tary’s cyber defense unit has around 90 mem­bers, com­pared to more than 6,000 peo­ple at the Pen­ta­gon, a Japan­ese Defense Min­istry offi­cial said at a brief­ing on Thurs­day.

    Japan is try­ing to catch up as it pre­pares to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and with cyber attacks on the rise. Assaults on gov­ern­ment web­sites are now being detect­ed ever few sec­onds, accord­ing to Japan­ese cyber defense experts.

    In the state­ment on Sat­ur­day, Japan’s defense min­istry pledged to “con­tribute to join “efforts for address­ing var­i­ous cyber threats, includ­ing those against Japan­ese crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture and ser­vices uti­lized by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and U.S. Forces.”

    ...

    So why is this news relat­ed to Fukushi­ma? Well, let’s just say that when the Japan’s defense min­istry pledges to address “var­i­ous cyber threats, includ­ing those against Japan­ese crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture and ser­vices uti­lized by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and U.S. Forces,” there’s some very ‘crit­i­cal’ infra­struc­ture that could use a cyber umbrel­la. Plus an OS upgrade:

    Extreme­Tech
    48,000 PCs at Fukushi­ma plant oper­a­tor TEPCO still run Win­dows XP

    By Ryan Whit­wam on April 23, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    The Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (TEPCO) has been under intense scruti­ny ever since the 2011 melt­down at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear ener­gy com­plex. Fol­low­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion by Japan’s Board of Audit, TEPCO has been told to upgrade its com­put­er sys­tems. That doesn’t sound par­tic­u­lar­ly unusu­al, except that TEPCO oper­ates more than 48,000 PCs all run­ning Win­dows XP. Oh, and they’re con­nect­ed to the Inter­net.

    ...

    No one is alleg­ing that Win­dows XP was the cause of the dis­as­ter, of course. Pow­er plant infra­struc­ture runs on more robust embed­ded plat­forms, though TEPCO didn’t plan ahead very well in the case of Fukushi­ma. The chain of events that led to the run­away fis­sion reac­tion have been thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gat­ed, from the tsuna­mi to the sys­tem fail­ures that pre­vent­ed reac­tor shut­down. The heavy reliance on Win­dows XP could, how­ev­er, be seen as more evi­dence of com­pla­cen­cy with­in TEPCO.

    Win­dows XP was released in 2001, and enjoyed update sup­port from Microsoft for more than a decade until it was final­ly cut off in 2014. That was after sev­er­al exten­sions due to the poor per­for­mance of sub­se­quent ver­sions of Win­dows. A lack of secu­ri­ty patch­es means XP sys­tems will be vul­ner­a­ble to any and all secu­ri­ty flaws that are dis­cov­ered going for­ward. This might not be a huge deal if the TEPCO com­put­ers weren’t con­nect­ed to the Inter­net.

    TEPCO was report­ed­ly aware of how dat­ed its sys­tems were (it would be hard not to), but had active­ly cho­sen to keep using XP until at least 2019 as a cost-sav­ing mea­sure. That means TEPCO work­ers would be using 18-year-old soft­ware by the time it was upgrad­ed. It is pos­si­ble for busi­ness­es to pay Microsoft large sums of mon­ey for cus­tom XP sup­port, but obvi­ous­ly TEPCO was not doing that.

    The Board of Audit calls this out as not only cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly unsafe, but not even like­ly to result in cost sav­ings. Sup­port­ing ancient oper­at­ing sys­tems like this only gets hard­er as hard­ware and soft­ware moves on to sup­port more mod­ern plat­forms. TEPCO has report­ed­ly agreed to make the upgrades. But real­ly, it shouldn’t have tak­en a gov­ern­ment audit to con­vince an oper­a­tor of nuclear pow­er plants that using out­dat­ed, inse­cure com­put­ers is a bad idea.

    “The Board of Audit calls this out as not only cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly unsafe, but not even like­ly to result in cost sav­ings”. Dou­ble yikes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 30, 2015, 4:55 pm
  34. Oh great. Some­one else wants to join the nuclear melt­down club:

    MALAY MAIL ONLINE
    Malaysian fed­er­al agency: If Pak­istan, Roma­nia can have nuclear ener­gy, why can’t Malaysia?

    KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysia Nuclear Pow­er Cor­po­ra­tion (MNPC), which is look­ing to build the country’s first nuclear pow­er plant, has ques­tioned pub­lic objec­tions to the project when less devel­oped coun­tries already have nuclear ener­gy.

    MNPC chief exec­u­tive offi­cer Dr Mohd Zamzam Jaa­far point­ed out that nations behind Malaysia in terms of tech­nol­o­gy and eco­nom­ic sta­tus like Roma­nia and Pak­istan have been run­ning nuclear pow­er plants with­out major inci­dents.

    “These coun­tries are not as indus­tri­alised as the three big coun­tries, but still able to oper­ate plants smooth­ly. Some are less devel­oped than we are,” Dr Zamzam told Malay Mail Online in a recent inter­view.

    “That means if a nuclear pow­er plant can be oper­at­ed prop­er­ly by less devel­oped coun­tries, why should we have a prob­lem here?” he asked.

    South Africa, Argenti­na and Brazil too have been oper­at­ing sim­i­lar plants smooth­ly, unlike devel­oped coun­tries like Japan, Rus­sia and the Unit­ed States that have suf­fered nuclear acci­dents, he said.

    MNPC was formed under the government’s Eco­nom­ic Trans­for­ma­tion Pro­gramme and acts as a Nuclear Ener­gy Pro­gramme Imple­ment­ing Organ­i­sa­tion fol­low­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency as Malaysia looks to imple­ment nuclear ener­gy.

    How­ev­er, the pro­gramme which the gov­ern­ment aims to imple­ment around 2025, has come under pub­lic crit­i­cism over the dan­gers of nuclear pow­er, fol­low­ing major nuclear dis­as­ters in the US’ Three Mile Island in 1979, Cher­nobyl in Ukraine in 1986 (then part of the for­mer Sovi­et Union) and Fukushi­ma in Japan four years ago.

    Dr Zamzam dis­missed con­cerns over build­ing nuclear pow­er plants in a coun­try where sev­er­al gov­ern­ment con­struc­tion projects have suf­fered build­ing flaws, cit­ing state oil giant Petronas as an exam­ple of an inter­na­tion­al­ly recog­nised local com­pa­ny.

    “We always say Malaysia has poor main­te­nance cul­ture, but doesn’t mean every­thing does not work here. We have the inter­net, elec­tric­i­ty and world class fuel sys­tems here.

    “When it comes to nuclear ener­gy, we will look at safe­ty issues and make it as tight as pos­si­ble. Most impor­tant­ly peo­ple must trust our reg­u­la­tors, they must have con­fi­dence in them. We shouldn’t degrade our own peo­ple. We should have more faith in Malaysians,” he said.

    Putra­jaya plans to table the Atom­ic Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Bill in Par­lia­ment by this year in order to get the project under­way by 2021, said Dr Zamzam.

    “After the Bill is tabled in Par­lia­ment, first thing we want to do is organ­ise a forum where we call in peo­ple from every side, those sup­port­ing and against. We want to have an intel­lec­tu­al dis­cus­sion and lis­ten to every­one on their points. We have to edu­cate the pub­lic.”

    He added that much pub­lic engage­ment is nec­es­sary before pro­gress­ing with the nuclear pow­er project tabled in the government’s 11th Malaysia Plan that says an inde­pen­dent atom­ic ener­gy reg­u­la­to­ry com­mis­sion will be estab­lished based on a nuclear law for elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tion.

    “Most impor­tant is to con­vince the local peo­ple, where the site is going to be built. Even if we can­not con­vince the whole coun­try to sup­port it, the peo­ple in the area must know the ben­e­fits.”

    How­ev­er, Dr Zamzam clar­i­fied that he does not know how much pub­lic approval Putra­jaya expects for the nuclear pow­er plant project, say­ing: “If they want 100 per cent sup­port, we might not have nuclear at all.”

    ...

    The gov­ern­ment was report­ed as ear­ly as Decem­ber 2010 to have inten­tions of build­ing two nuclear pow­er plants.

    How­ev­er, the project ini­tial­ly aimed to be com­plet­ed by 2021 and 2022 was post­poned as the Fukushi­ma nuclear reac­tor melt­down in Japan made the pub­lic uneasy.

    Well, you can’t say the head of Malaysi­a’s nuclear pow­er isn’t opti­mistic:

    ...
    Dr Zamzam dis­missed con­cerns over build­ing nuclear pow­er plants in a coun­try where sev­er­al gov­ern­ment con­struc­tion projects have suf­fered build­ing flaws, cit­ing state oil giant Petronas as an exam­ple of an inter­na­tion­al­ly recog­nised local com­pa­ny.

    “We always say Malaysia has poor main­te­nance cul­ture, but doesn’t mean every­thing does not work here. We have the inter­net, elec­tric­i­ty and world class fuel sys­tems here.

    “When it comes to nuclear ener­gy, we will look at safe­ty issues and make it as tight as pos­si­ble. Most impor­tant­ly peo­ple must trust our reg­u­la­tors, they must have con­fi­dence in them. We shouldn’t degrade our own peo­ple. We should have more faith in Malaysians,” he said.
    ...

    There we go! Pos­i­tive ener­gy will save us from the dan­gers of nuclear ener­gy, so what’s the prob­lem?

    Of course, as Dr Zamzam also indi­cat­ed, get­ting the locals where the plants will be built on board with the project could be a chal­lenge. Which rais­es the ques­tion of where those plants are actu­al­ly built. For a coun­try on the edge of the Ring of Fire, deci­sion over the loca­tion or those plants (oth­er than the deci­sion to build them at all) is quite pos­si­bly going to be the most impor­tant deci­sion in this project. Earth­quakes can hap­pen where you don’t expect them. And also where you do expect them:

    The Malaysian Insid­er
    Mod­er­ate earth­quake ‘can hap­pen any­time’ in Malaysia

    Pub­lished: 8 Feb­ru­ary 2013 5:29 PM

    KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 – Although Malaysians may feel that the coun­try is not prone to earth­quakes, experts believe oth­er­wise.

    Locat­ed at the periph­er­al of the ring of fire and beside two neigh­bours, Indone­sia and the Philip­pines, which have seen vio­lent episodes of seis­mo­log­i­cal activ­i­ties in the past few years, the chances of being jolt­ed by at least one mod­er­ate earth­quake can­not be ruled out.

    So far, Malaysia has only encoun­tered strong vibra­tions and after­shocks after its neigh­bours were hit by strong earth­quakes.

    In 2012, the Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Depart­ment had detect­ed eight earth­quakes in the east­ern part of the coun­try, in Sabah and Sarawak (between 2 and 4.5 on the Richter scale).

    Six earth­quakes had occurred in Sabah (Tam­bunan, Kota Marudu, Kudat, Belu­ran, Kunak and Keningau) and two earth­quakes had occurred in Bela­ga, Sarawak.

    How­ev­er, an earth­quake with a mag­ni­tude of 5.8 on the Richter scale in Lahat Datu in Sabah in 1976 is believed to be the strongest earth­quake so far.

    THE THREAT IS REAL

    A seis­mol­o­gy expert, Dr Mohd Rosai­di Che Abas, 54, said the threat of an earth­quake in Malaysia can­not be ignored.

    The Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Department’s Deputy Direc­tor (Appli­ca­tion) said some of the country’s most vul­ner­a­ble areas are Buk­it Ting­gi in Pahang and Kuala Pilah in Negeri Sem­bi­lan.

    A rel­a­tive­ly strong earth­quake can hit these areas and some parts of Sabah and Sarawak.

    “Pre­vi­ous­ly, a mod­er­ate earth­quake had occurred in Lahad Datu, Sabah, and it is pos­si­ble for a mod­er­ate earth­quake to occur in oth­er areas locat­ed at or near active fault lines.

    “Malaysia is close to areas that have expe­ri­enced strong earth­quakes, includ­ing Suma­tra and the Andaman Sea, while Sabah and Sarawak are locat­ed close to the earth­quake zone of South Philip­pines and North Sulawe­si. There­fore, the odds of an earth­quake strik­ing Penin­su­la Malaysia can­not be ruled out,” he said to Berna­ma at the Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Department’s head­quar­ters.

    THE POSSIBILITY OF BEING HIT BY A STRONG EARTHQUAKE

    Nev­er­the­less, Dr Mohd Rosai­di, who has been with the mete­o­ro­log­i­cal depart­ment for the last 30 years, stat­ed that the pos­si­bil­i­ty of being hit by a strong earth­quake remains slim.

    This fact is based on the find­ings of local experts who study earth­quakes, with local uni­ver­si­ties con­duct­ing fur­ther stud­ies on the country’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to earth­quakes.

    “The pro­posed long term stud­ies on active fault lines, espe­cial­ly in Ranau and Lahad Datu in Sabah and Buk­it Ting­gi in Pahang, are being car­ried out by the depart­ment, along with the Min­er­al and Geo­sciences Depart­ment,” he said.

    Dr Mohd Rosai­di, who has a Doc­tor­ate in earth­quake stud­ies from Uni­ver­si­ti Teknolo­gi Malaysia and a Mas­ters degree in seis­mol­o­gy from Japan’s Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute of Seis­mol­o­gy and Earth­quake Engi­neer­ing, said earth­quakes in a seabed unleash­es anoth­er threat — tsuna­mi.

    “Based on some of the find­ings, strong earth­quakes occur at zones where tec­ton­ic plates col­lide at the Andaman Sea, the South Chi­na Sea, the Sulu Sea and the Sulawe­si Sea. When a strong earth­quake occurs in these seas, it can unleash a tsuna­mi that can end up at the coast­lines of Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Per­ak, Selan­gor, Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

    ...

    So it sounds like earth­quakes are pos­si­ble on the Malaysian penin­su­la, but it’s in places like Sabah, which was hit with a 5.8 earth­quake in 1978 where you prob­a­bly want to avoid plop­ping down a giant melt­down box (espe­cial­ly since a 6.0 earth­quake hit Sabah today).

    And then there’s the issue of tsunamis. So if Malaysia does decide to build those nuke plants, it sounds Malaysia is going to have to be rather care­ful in where it decides to go nuclear.

    And we do have a gen­er­al idea of where they’re going to be built based on pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment : The east coast states of Pahang, Johar, and Tereng­ganu, and Pahang, as indi­cat­ed above, has an active fault line that war­rants close study.

    So hope­ful­ly Malaysia choos­es wise­ly, and skips the nukes box­es and goes solar. But if we do end up see­ing nuclear pow­er in Malaysia, let’s hope those plants have exten­sive flood-proof­ing. Earth­quakes or not, Malaysi­a’s nuke box­es are going to need some seri­ous flood-proof­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 5, 2015, 7:08 pm
  35. The winds of change are blow­ing in Fukushi­ma. They might slight­ly radioac­tive winds but that’s less bad now now thanks to Fukushi­ma’s new giant wind tur­bine:

    Giz­mo­do
    This Huge Wind Tur­bine Float­ing on Water Is Fukushi­ma’s Ener­gy Solu­tion

    Bryan Lufkin
    6/23/15 12:30pm

    A mere 12 miles from the wrecked Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant will soon sit a 620-foot, 1,500-ton wind­mill atop a 5,000-ton podi­um. It’ll be the biggest float­ing wind tur­bine on Earth, and it could ush­er in a new age of green ener­gy for a region large­ly fed up with nuclear ener­gy.

    The tur­bine, com­plet­ed Mon­day, will gen­er­ate up to 7 megawatts of elec­tric­i­ty, mak­ing it Japan’s most pow­er­ful wind tur­bine, and the most pow­er­ful float­ing tur­bine in the world. That’s good news for Japan, a coun­try that’s shut down nuclear pow­er plants in the wake of the 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi and sub­se­quent melt­down.

    The beast of a tur­bine sports three 270-foot-long blades and is built to stand against winds near­ly 200 mph. It’ll be part of a wind farm that will include three tur­bines total, and will be sta­tioned in the Pacif­ic in the com­ing months. One is already in place in the ocean—that small­er one gen­er­ates 2 megawatts of elec­tric­i­ty.

    ...

    Japan’s a moun­tain-filled island, so land is at a pre­mi­um, mak­ing it hard to build sprawl­ing ener­gy infra­struc­ture. Luck­i­ly there are a lot of reser­voirs that irri­gate the country’s huge rice indus­try, so the country’s been plop­ping mas­sive solar pan­els on such water bod­ies. Coun­tries like the UK and India have also rolled out buoy­ant solar pan­els recent­ly, so it’s a trend that’s catch­ing on out­side of Japan. As far as wind tur­bines go, putting them out to sea is a plus because you don’t have to wor­ry about land restric­tions, and you get the ben­e­fit of stronger winds.

    In the future, we’ll be get­ting our ener­gy from more off­shore, float­ing behe­moths like this one in Fukushi­ma.

    Pret­ty nifty! Cleans and earth­quake proof. Two fea­tures that are easy to ignore until you can’t:

    Irish Inde­pen­dent
    Force 6.9 quake a reminder of Japan’s nuclear lega­cy

    An earth­quake with a pre­lim­i­nary mag­ni­tude of 6.9 struck deep under the seabed off the coast of Japan south of Tokyo yes­ter­day, the Japan Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency said.

    Aaron Sheldrick

    Pub­lished 24/06/2015 | 02:30

    The quake’s epi­cen­tre was near the Oga­sawara islands south of the cap­i­tal, the agency said, adding that a tsuna­mi warn­ing had not been issued. The quake’s pre­lim­i­nary depth was put at 480km below the seabed.

    There were no imme­di­ate reports of dam­age. Earth­quakes are com­mon in Japan, one of the world’s most seis­mi­cal­ly active areas, and a mag­ni­tude 8.5 quake struck the area around the chain of islands that run south from Tokyo last month. There were no reports of casu­al­ties or seri­ous injuries.

    Japan accounts for about 20pc of the world’s earth­quakes of mag­ni­tude 6 or greater, which has made the coun­try’s exten­sive nuclear pow­er infra­struc­ture huge­ly prob­lem­at­ic.

    ...

    With the coun­try is still deal­ing with the huge clean up after Fukushi­ma and debat­ing its future use of atom­ic ener­gy, Japan now faces anoth­er nuclear conun­drum — what to do with 16 tonnes of its plu­to­ni­um sit­ting in France after being reprocessed there.

    With its reac­tor fleet shut down in the wake of Fukushi­ma, Japan is unable to take fuel made from the plu­to­ni­um at the moment and could be forced to find oth­er coun­tries to use it.

    The mat­ter has tak­en on greater urgency as Are­va, the French nuclear com­pa­ny that owns the La Hague repro­cess­ing facil­i­ty hold­ing the plu­to­ni­um in west­ern Nor­mandy, faces bil­lions of dol­lars of loss­es.

    “In this whole mess (at Are­va) we have a huge amount of Japan­ese plu­to­ni­um,” said Mycle Schnei­der, an inde­pen­dent ener­gy con­sul­tant, adding Japan would need to resolve the prob­lem soon­er rather than lat­er.

    An Are­va spokesman said the com­pa­ny had long-stand­ing con­tracts with Japan­ese util­i­ties to take nuclear fuel made from the plu­to­ni­um.

    Schnei­der said leav­ing it in France would be one option, but that the cost would like­ly be high.

    “Giv­ing its plu­to­ni­um away and pay­ing for it would expose the Japan­ese to the real­i­ty of plu­to­ni­um as a lia­bil­i­ty rather than an asset,” said Schnei­der.

    A prece­dent for that kind of deal could be set in Britain, where the gov­ern­ment has offered to take own­er­ship of 20 tonnes of Japan­ese plu­to­ni­um stored at the Sel­l­afield pro­cess­ing plant.

    “This is a kind of win-win deal,” Tat­su­jiro Suzu­ki, a for­mer vice chair­man of the Japan Atom­ic Ener­gy Com­mis­sion, told Reuters, before he made a pre­sen­ta­tion on spent fuel at the same meet­ing as Von Hip­pel on Thurs­day.

    “The British side would make mon­ey and the Japan­ese would lose less,” said Suzu­ki. (Reuters)

    Tech­ni­cal­ly that would be a win-lose-less deal, but if Japan’s nuclear offi­cials wants to char­ac­ter­ize the pro­pos­al as ‘win-win’ for Japan to just pay the French com­pa­ny Are­va to store the grow­ing stock­piles of unus­able plu­to­ni­um fol­low­ing the shut­down of Japan’s nuclear plants fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma cat­a­stro­phe, that works too. What­ev­er helps get that plu­to­ni­um away from shaky fault lines.

    But it’s still hard to avoid see­ing this as a ‘lose-lose’ deal, like all deals that involve gen­er­at­ing a bunch of high­ly tox­ic mate­r­i­al that some­one is going to have to watch over for poten­tial­ly mil­lenia. France gets paid, but it also gets a bunch of plu­to­ni­um to take care of and for who knows how long. Nice work if you can get it and have a place to stash 16 tons of plu­to­ni­um fuel. As the ener­gy con­sul­tant hint­ed above, Are­va’s price for that plu­to­ni­um stor­age will prob­a­bly be pret­ty high. And it should be (not actu­al­ly). Are­va’s going to need that high rev­enue stream from Japan to pay for impor­tant things to do the ser­vice safe­ly, like hir­ing lots of secu­ri­ty to guard the plu­to­ni­um so no one steals it. And as Frank von Hip­pel, co-founder of the Inter­na­tion­al Pan­el on Fis­sile Mate­ri­als, warned France, Japan, and the rest of the world recent­ly, those kinds of con­cerns rep­re­sent a “clear and present dan­ger” that applies to every­one else’s grow­ing nuclear fuel stock­piles too:

    Reuters
    Japan faces dilem­ma over plu­to­ni­um stored in France

    TOKYO | By Aaron Sheldrick
    Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:33pm BST

    Still deal­ing with the huge clean up after the Fukushi­ma cri­sis and debat­ing its future use of atom­ic ener­gy, Japan now faces anoth­er nuclear conun­drum – what to do with 16 tonnes of its plu­to­ni­um sit­ting in France after being reprocessed there.

    The ques­tion will be among the issues that come under the spot­light on Thurs­day and Fri­day as nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion experts meet with leg­is­la­tors and gov­ern­ment offi­cials in Tokyo.

    With its reac­tor fleet shut down in the wake of Fukushi­ma, Japan is unable to take fuel made from the plu­to­ni­um at the moment and could be forced to find oth­er coun­tries to use it.

    ...

    An Are­va spokesman said the com­pa­ny had long-stand­ing con­tracts with Japan­ese util­i­ties to take nuclear fuel made from the plu­to­ni­um.

    Frank von Hip­pel, one of the founders of the Inter­na­tion­al Pan­el on Fis­sile Mate­ri­als (IPFM), a group of arms-con­trol and pro­lif­er­a­tion experts, brought up the issue of Japan’s stock of plu­to­ni­um over­seas at a pre­sen­ta­tion to Japan­ese leg­is­la­tors, includ­ing rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty mem­ber Taro Kono.

    “It is a big con­cern because we already have 10 tons” in Japan, Kono said when asked by Reuters after the pre­sen­ta­tion about the French stock­pile and Are­va’s finan­cial woes. “If Are­va needs some kind of mon­ey why don’t we just pay France to keep the plu­to­ni­um over there.”

    The IPFM argues the world’s grow­ing inven­to­ry of plu­to­ni­um from civil­ian use is a “clear and present dan­ger” as it could be used in so-called dirty bombs.

    Schnei­der said France would be one option, but that the cost would like­ly be high, espe­cial­ly as that coun­try has its own stock­pile to deplete. He did not give an exact cost.

    ...

    That was­n’t exact­ly the most uplift­ing assess­ment of the risks involved with stor­ing Japan’s plu­to­ni­um. Stor­age that could go on for a long, long time if Japan decides to keep its plants most­ly shut down. But don’t for­get that there’s a strange race going on between the devel­op­ment of new tech­no­log­i­cal capac­i­ties to safe­ly dis­pose the world’s nuclear stock­piles and the race and do poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous things with it, like build some­thing much scari­er than a dirty bomb. Who knows what will be pos­si­ble with civil­ian mate­r­i­al, say, 20 or 30 years from now with advances in tech­nol­o­gy.

    Who knows how many dif­fer­ent ways there are for us to use future-tech to dis­pose of the crap. We’ll have to not blow our­selves up to find out. Either way, we should prob­a­bly have every­one around the globe stop pro­duc­ing more fis­sile mate­r­i­al even if we do have some future-tech that can clean it up. Why? Because Lock­heed Mar­tin is appar­ent­ly a decade away from com­mer­cial­ly viable mobile fusion reac­tors:

    Mit Tech­nol­o­gy Review
    Does Lock­heed Mar­tin Real­ly Have a Break­through Fusion Machine?

    Lock­heed Mar­tin says it will have a small fusion reac­tor pro­to­type in five years but offers no data.

    By David Tal­bot on Octo­ber 20, 2014

    Lock­heed Martin’s announce­ment last week that it had secret­ly devel­oped a promis­ing design for a com­pact nuclear fusion reac­tor has met with excite­ment but also skep­ti­cism over the basic fea­si­bil­i­ty of its approach.

    Nuclear fusion could pro­duce far more ener­gy, far more clean­ly, than the fis­sion reac­tions at the heart of today’s nuclear pow­er plants. But there are huge obsta­cles and no hard evi­dence that Lock­heed has over­come them. The so-far-insur­mount­able chal­lenge is to con­fine hydro­gen plas­ma at con­di­tions under which the hydro­gen nuclei fuse togeth­er at lev­els that release a use­ful amount of ener­gy. In decades of research, nobody has yet pro­duced more ener­gy from fusion reac­tion exper­i­ments than was required to con­duct the exper­i­ments in the first place.

    Most research efforts use a method that tries to con­tain hot plas­ma with­in mag­net­ic fields in a dough­nut-shaped device called a toka­mak. Three research-scale toka­maks oper­ate in the Unit­ed States: one at MIT, anoth­er at a lab in Prince­ton, and a third at a Depart­ment of Ener­gy lab in San Diego. The world’s largest toka­mak is under con­struc­tion in France at an inter­na­tion­al facil­i­ty known as ITER, at a pro­ject­ed cost of $50 bil­lion.

    Tom McGuire, project lead of the Lock­heed effort, said in an inter­view that the com­pa­ny has come up with a com­pact design, called a high beta fusion reac­tor, based on prin­ci­ples of so-called “mag­net­ic mir­ror con­fine­ment.” This approach tries to con­tain plas­ma by reflect­ing par­ti­cles from high-den­si­ty mag­net­ic fields to low-den­si­ty ones.

    Lock­heed said the test reac­tor is only two meters long by one meter wide, far small­er than exist­ing research reac­tors. “In a small­er reac­tor you can iter­ate gen­er­a­tions quick­er, incor­po­rate new knowl­edge, devel­op faster, and make riski­er design choic­es. That is a much more pow­er­ful devel­op­ment par­a­digm and much less cap­i­tal inten­sive,” McGuire said. If suc­cess­ful, the pro­gram could pro­duce a reac­tor that might fit in a trac­tor-trail­er and pro­duce 100 megawatts of pow­er, he said. “There are no guar­an­tees that we can get there, but that pos­si­bil­i­ty is there.”

    The small team devel­op­ing the reac­tor at the company’s skunkworks in Palm­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, has done 200 fir­ings with plas­ma, McGuire said, but has not shown any data on the results. How­ev­er, he said of the plas­ma, “it looks like it’s doing what it’s sup­posed to do.” He added that with research part­ners Lock­heed could devel­op a com­pet­ed pro­to­type with­in five years and a com­mer­cial appli­ca­tion with­in a decade. The com­pa­ny is even talk­ing about how fusion reac­tors could one day pow­er ships and planes.

    But many sci­en­tists are uncon­vinced. Ian Hutchin­son, a pro­fes­sor of nuclear sci­ence and engi­neer­ing at MIT and one of the prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tors at the MIT fusion research reac­tor, says the type of con­fine­ment described by Lock­heed had long been stud­ied with­out much suc­cess.

    Hutchin­son says he was only able to com­ment on what Lock­heed has released—some pic­tures, dia­grams, and com­men­tary, which can be found here. “Based on that, as far as I can tell, they aren’t pay­ing atten­tion to the basic physics of mag­net­ic-con­fine­ment fusion ener­gy. And so I’m high­ly skep­ti­cal that they have any­thing inter­est­ing to offer,” he says. “It seems pure­ly spec­u­la­tive, as if some­one has drawn a car­toon and said they are going to fly to Mars with it.”

    Hutchin­son adds: “Of course we’d be delight­ed if a real break­through were pos­si­ble, but when some­one who shows no evi­dence of under­stand­ing the issues makes a bald claim that they will just make a small device and there­fore it will be quick­er [to devel­op], we say, ‘Why do they think they can do that?’ And when they have no answers, we are high­ly skep­ti­cal.”

    Lock­heed joins a num­ber of oth­er com­pa­nies work­ing on small­er and cheap­er types of fusion reac­tors. These include Tri-Alpha, a com­pa­ny based near Irvine, Cal­i­for­nia, that is test­ing a lin­ear-shaped reac­tor; Helion Ener­gy of Red­mond, Wash­ing­ton, which is devel­op­ing a sys­tem that attempts to use a com­bi­na­tion of com­pres­sion and mag­net­ic con­fine­ment of plas­ma; and Lawrenceville Plas­ma Physics in Mid­dle­sex, New Jer­sey, which is work­ing on a reac­tor design that uses what’s known as a “dense plas­ma focus.”

    ...

    Well, at least Lock­heed Mar­tin might be devel­op­ing portable fusion reac­tors. It did­n’t sound like the oth­er fusion experts were very con­vinced. But that’s no rea­son to give up on fusion. Espe­cial­ly since it could poten­tial­ly be used to clean up our fis­sile nuclear waste.

    And fusion or not, let’s hope we see a lot more giant wind tur­bines. Like solar, wind gen­er­ates waste too...when you don’t cap­ture it for your elec­tri­cal needs and use some­thing more pol­lut­ing instead, you waste it.

    So hope­ful­ly we’ll cut down on the build up of nuclear waste by cut­ting down on our wind waste. And that means more giant tur­bines. Real­ly giant tur­bines. There’s going to be a lot of wind waste to avoid gen­er­at­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 23, 2015, 11:25 pm
  36. There’s been more news com­ing out out Fukushi­ma recent­ly. Some good, some not so good. But to put it in con­text, here’s some bad news from back in Octo­ber,
    when TEPCO had to post­pone plans for the remov­ing the nuclear fuels from reactor‑1 for five years due to con­cerns over radioac­tive dust escap­ing into the atmos­phere:

    Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times
    Dis­man­tling Of Fukushi­ma Reac­tor 1 Faces Delays, US Judge Gives Sailor Go Sig­nal To Push Through Law­suit Against TEPCO Over Radi­a­tion

    By Esther Tan­quin­tic-Misa
    on Octo­ber 31 2014 2:08 PM

    Japan has announced that it will be delay­ing the dis­man­tling and removal of the molten nuclear fuel from the reactor‑1 of the crip­pled Fukushi­ma pow­er plant. The post­pone­ment will be for five years, from the orig­i­nal sched­ule of 2020.

    Both the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co, oper­a­tor of the facil­i­ty, explained the slow­down and sud­den change in plans were prompt­ed by safe­ty con­cerns aris­ing from the pres­ence of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al detect­ed in near­by pad­dy fields in July. The com­pa­ny had ear­li­er removed the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed debris around the build­ing that sur­round reactor‑3. Author­i­ties believed the pres­ence of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al they detect­ed result­ed from the dust that flew dur­ing the removal. They believe the same thing can hap­pen with reactor‑1.

    TEPCO had start­ed dis­man­tling the canopy over the dam­aged No. 1 reac­tor build­ing ear­li­er in Octo­ber. The canopy had been installed to pre­vent radioac­tive sub­stances from enter­ing the atmos­phere. Asahi Shim­bun report­ed both the gov­ern­ment and TEPCO are expect­ed to review the plans con­cern­ing the removal of the nuclear fuel at the No. 2 reac­tor build­ing so as not to fur­ther ham­per orig­i­nal plans. The removal of spent nuclear fuel from the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing, mean­time, is expect­ed to be fin­ished as sched­uled, which is by yearend.

    ...

    Mean­while, a Cal­i­for­nia court has ruled that U.S. Navy per­son­nel who were exposed to radi­a­tion from the crip­pled Fukushi­ma plant can sue TEPCO right inside the Unit­ed States.

    TEPCO had ear­li­er sought for the dis­missal of the class-action law­suit, cit­ing juris­dic­tion­al issues. More­over, it asked that the case be filed and heard in Japan. But U.S. Dis­trict Judge Janis L. Sam­marti­no based in San Diego quashed TEP­CO’s counter, say­ing in an Octo­ber 28 rul­ing that pri­vate and pub­lic inter­est fac­tors gath­ered on the case “sug­gest that it would be more con­ve­nient for the par­ties to lit­i­gate in a U.S. court.”

    At least 79 per­son­nel of the U.S. navy filed a US$1 bil­lion law­suit against TEPCO in April 2014 on alle­ga­tions the oper­a­tor lied about the high lev­el of radi­a­tion in the area as they car­ried out their human­i­tar­i­an mis­sion. They were the first respon­dents to the cri­sis three years ago. They were aboard USS Ronald Rea­gan at the time.

    Some of the sailors have devel­oped a num­ber of can­cer cas­es. One of them has giv­en birth to a child with birth defects, the law­suit filed in fed­er­al court in San Diego said.

    Yes, the dis­man­tling of reac­tor 1 got delayed five years due, in part, to con­cerns raised over the radi­a­tion released when from debris removal at reac­tor 3:

    ...
    Both the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co, oper­a­tor of the facil­i­ty, explained the slow­down and sud­den change in plans were prompt­ed by safe­ty con­cerns aris­ing from the pres­ence of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al detect­ed in near­by pad­dy fields in July. The com­pa­ny had ear­li­er removed the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed debris around the build­ing that sur­round reactor‑3. Author­i­ties believed the pres­ence of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al they detect­ed result­ed from the dust that flew dur­ing the removal. They believe the same thing can hap­pen with reactor‑1
    TEPCO had start­ed dis­man­tling the canopy over the dam­aged No. 1 reac­tor build­ing ear­li­er in Octo­ber. The canopy had been installed to pre­vent radioac­tive sub­stances from enter­ing the atmos­phere...

    So that was some bad news. Although the rul­ing by a Cal­i­for­nia court that US Navy per­son­nel exposed to radi­a­tion dur­ing the ini­tial event can indeed sue TEPCO from with­in the US sounds like good news (and poten­tial­ly quite impact­ful news regard­ing inter­na­tion­al nuclear lia­bil­i­ty laws).
    Flash for­ward to July and we got anoth­er round of good news/bad news: the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment is declar­ing some of the evac­u­a­tion zone hab­it­able again, includ­ing the town of Nahara, one of the towns that was com­plete­ly evac­u­at­ed. So assum­ing the gov­ern­ment and TEPCO are cor­rect in their assess­ment of the safe­ty for return­ing evac­uees, this would be pret­ty good news. On the oth­er hand...:

    Deutsche Welle
    Tokyo under fire for plans to speed return of Fukushi­ma evac­uees

    As Japan aims to lift evac­u­a­tion orders for many peo­ple forced from their homes by the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, envi­ron­men­tal­ists say many areas still show high­ly-ele­vat­ed lev­els of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion and are unfit for habi­ta­tion.

    Date 21.07.2015
    Author Gabriel Domínguez

    In a bid seen by crit­ics as aim­ing to speed up recon­struc­tion, the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment is prepar­ing to declare sec­tions of the evac­u­a­tion zone around the crip­pled Fukushi­ma nuclear plant a safe place to live. The rul­ing coali­tion led by Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe intends to revoke many evac­u­a­tion orders by March 2017, if decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion pro­gress­es as hoped, mean­ing that up to 55,000 evac­uees could return to the homes they aban­doned more than four years ago.

    More­over, Tokyo recent­ly announced that the 7,000 res­i­dents of Nahara, a town in one of the sev­en Fukushi­ma munic­i­pal­i­ties com­plete­ly evac­u­at­ed fol­low­ing the nuclear cri­sis, will be able to return home per­ma­nent­ly from Sep­tem­ber 5. How many res­i­dents of the set­tle­ment, which lies just 20 kilo­me­ters (12 miles) south of the plant, will return, how­ev­er, remains unclear as many still have mixed feel­ings, accord­ing to a recent poll.

    On March 11, 2011, a magnitude‑9 earth­quake and tsuna­mi struck north­east­ern Japan, caus­ing mas­sive dev­as­ta­tion and ulti­mate­ly send­ing three reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant into melt­down. It was the worst atom­ic acci­dent in a gen­er­a­tion. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple were forced to flee amid fears of ris­ing radi­a­tion, with more than 72,500 peo­ple — who used to live with­in a 20-kilo­me­ter radius of the plant — still liv­ing in tem­po­rary hous­ing units.

    ...

    Mount­ing con­cerns

    But while orga­ni­za­tions such as the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency (IAEA) say such efforts have con­tributed to reduc­ing radi­a­tion lev­els, many prob­lems remain, espe­cial­ly when one con­sid­ers the dis­pos­al of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in the plant and the fact that any­one liv­ing in the sur­round­ing areas would be exposed to radi­a­tion lev­els of more than 20 mil­lisiev­erts (mSv) a year.

    The glob­al­ly-accept­ed lim­it for radi­a­tion absorp­tion is 1mSv per year, although the IAEA says any­thing up to 20mSv per year pos­es no imme­di­ate dan­ger to human health. How­ev­er, var­i­ous stud­ies have shown health impacts from expo­sure to low­er lev­els. More­over, crit­ics argue that only res­i­den­tial areas are being cleaned in the short-term, and the worst-hit parts of the coun­try­side are being omit­ted or are impos­si­ble to be decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed, like dense forests and moun­tains.

    This devel­op­ment has raised con­cerns among envi­ron­men­tal­ist groups such as Green­peace, who fear that radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in Iitate dis­trict is so wide­spread and at such a high lev­el that it will be “impos­si­ble for peo­ple to safe­ly return to their homes.”

    ‘A vast stock of radioac­tiv­i­ty’

    “Prime Min­is­ter Abe would like the peo­ple of Japan to believe that they are decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ing vast areas of Fukushi­ma to lev­els safe enough for peo­ple to live in. The real­i­ty is that this is a pol­i­cy doomed to fail­ure. The forests of Iitate are a vast stock of radioac­tiv­i­ty that will remain both a direct haz­ard and source of poten­tial recon­t­a­m­i­na­tion for hun­dreds of years. It is impos­si­ble to decon­t­a­m­i­nate,” said Jan Vande Putte, a radi­a­tion spe­cial­ist with Green­peace Bel­gium.

    Based on its own inves­ti­ga­tion, Green­peace claims that even after decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion, radi­a­tion dose rates were mea­sured high­er than 2 micro Sv/h on decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed fields, the equiv­a­lent of an annu­al dose high­er than 10mSv/year or ten times the max­i­mum allowed dose to the gen­er­al pub­lic.

    “In the untouched and heav­i­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed forests, radi­a­tion dose rates are typ­i­cal­ly in the range of 1–3uSv/h — high lev­els that will remain for many years to come, said Green­peace, adding that the only for­est decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion under­way in Iitate is along pub­lic roads, where thou­sands of work­ers are remov­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil and plants along a 10–20 meter strip.

    Mamoru Sekiguchi, the group’s ener­gy cam­paign­er at Green­peace Japan, put the sit­u­a­tion into a broad­er per­spec­tive, argu­ing that even after near­ly thir­ty years, the 30-kilo­me­ter area around he crip­pled Cher­nobyl plant in Ukraine remains an exclu­sion zone.

    “It’s a shock­ing indict­ment of both the IAEA and the Abe gov­ern­ment, which reveals how des­per­ate they are to cre­ate the illu­sion that return­ing to ‘nor­mal’ is pos­si­ble after a severe nuclear acci­dent. Their posi­tion is inde­fen­si­ble and plans for a de fac­to forced return must be stopped,” Sekiguchi said.

    ...

    No com­pen­sa­tion?

    Cam­paign­ers also claim the gov­ern­men­t’s plans mean that some peo­ple will have no choice but to go back to their aban­doned homes giv­en that they will trig­ger the end­ing of some com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments. “Strip­ping nuclear vic­tims of their already inad­e­quate com­pen­sa­tion, which may force them to have to return to unsafe, high­ly radioac­tive areas for finan­cial rea­sons, amounts to eco­nom­ic coer­cion,” said Vande Putte.

    A sim­i­lar view is shared by Schnei­der: “The decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion pro­gram and the gov­ern­ment plan to ‘allow’ for the return of inhab­i­tants do have a very sim­ple goal: reduce the amount of com­pen­sa­tion being paid out to vic­tims,” said the expert.

    Tokyo Elec­tric has paid some $40 bil­lion (36.78 bil­lion euros) in com­pen­sa­tion to res­i­dents and expects to pay bil­lions more to decon­t­a­m­i­nate the area and decom­mis­sion the wrecked pow­er sta­tion, a project that could take an esti­mat­ed three decades, accord­ing to Reuters news agency.

    Under the exist­ing com­pen­sa­tion scheme, the util­i­ty pays each evac­uee about $1,000 (921 euros) a month for emo­tion­al dis­tress. The assis­tance is to be cut off a year after the gov­ern­ment lifts an evac­u­a­tion order, said Reuters, cit­ing a Japan­ese gov­ern­ment draft.

    It looks like there might be quite a few more num­ber of addi­tion­al inhab­i­tants in the areas around the clean up site. Finan­cial­ly coerced inhab­i­tants:

    ...
    Cam­paign­ers also claim the gov­ern­men­t’s plans mean that some peo­ple will have no choice but to go back to their aban­doned homes giv­en that they will trig­ger the end­ing of some com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments. “Strip­ping nuclear vic­tims of their already inad­e­quate com­pen­sa­tion, which may force them to have to return to unsafe, high­ly radioac­tive areas for finan­cial rea­sons, amounts to eco­nom­ic coer­cion,” said Vande Putte.

    A sim­i­lar view is shared by Schnei­der: “The decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion pro­gram and the gov­ern­ment plan to ‘allow’ for the return of inhab­i­tants do have a very sim­ple goal: reduce the amount of com­pen­sa­tion being paid out to vic­tims,” said the expert.
    ...

    So that some rather awful good news.

    But just a week lat­er, we got some very good news. At least, let’s hope it’s good news, because it was very sig­nif­i­cant: the canopy at reac­tor 1 that could­n’t be removed back in Octo­ber due to con­cerns over the release of radi­a­tion was get­ting removed:

    Asahi
    TEPCO removes canopy pan­el from Fukushi­ma reac­tor build­ing
    July 28, 2015

    By HIROMI KUMAI/ Staff Writer

    OKUMA, Fukushi­ma Prefecture–Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. on July 28 start­ed remov­ing a canopy cov­er­ing a dam­aged reac­tor build­ing at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant to pre­pare for the even­tu­al extrac­tion of spent nuclear fuel inside.

    Around 7 a.m., work­ers using a giant crane lift­ed away the first of six canopy pan­els, each mea­sur­ing 40 meters long and 7 meters wide, from the No. 1 reac­tor build­ing.

    The 30-minute removal of the pan­el left a large hole in the canopy through which steel beams on the dam­aged upper part of struc­ture could be seen from above. Work­ers close­ly mon­i­tored radi­a­tion lev­els in the sur­round­ing areas dur­ing the removal process.

    The util­i­ty plans to remove the remain­ing five pan­els from next week.

    The removal of the canopy will allow TEPCO to clear debris inside the build­ing, pos­si­bly in the lat­ter half of fis­cal 2016. That process should pave the way for the removal of nuclear fuel rods from the spent fuel pool in the build­ing.

    Before remov­ing the canopy pan­el, the util­i­ty sprayed the inside of the reac­tor build­ing with liq­uid resin through holes drilled in the cov­er to pre­vent radioac­tive mate­ri­als from being stirred up dur­ing the dis­man­tling work.

    TEPCO ini­tial­ly planned to start remov­ing the canopy pan­els from the No. 1 reac­tor build­ing in sum­mer 2014, but the sched­ule was delayed because a large amount of radioac­tive sub­stances was released into the envi­ron­ment when the util­i­ty removed debris from the No. 3 reac­tor build­ing in August 2013.

    ...

    Good news! At least, it’s good assum­ing it’s actu­al­ly safe to remove to the canopy.

    But that was­n’t the only good news. The sit­u­a­tion in reac­tor 3 just got unam­bigu­ous­ly MUCH bet­ter in a high­ly crit­i­cal way: A 20-ton fuel han­dling machine that had fall­en onto reac­tor 3’s spent fuel pool, pre­vent­ing the remove of those fuel rods, was suc­cess­ful­ly removed:

    euronews
    Com­pa­ny hails break­through in Fukushi­ma nuclear clear-up

    August 3, 04:56 CET

    The com­pa­ny that oper­ates the strick­en Fukushi­ma nuclear plant in Japan, says it has man­aged to remove a 20-ton fuel han­dling machine from one of the plant’s reac­tors.

    The Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny, TEPCO, said the oper­a­tion in reac­tor three took months of prepa­ra­tion.

    ...

    TEPCO said its removal clears the way for remov­ing the rest of the 514 spent fuel assem­blies in the pool.

    The Fukushi­ma nuclear plant was exten­sive­ly dam­aged as a result of a mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi in 2011.

    The com­pa­ny has faced a stream of legal cas­es and com­pen­sa­tion claims over the dis­as­ter and some of its exec­u­tives at the time could still face charges.

    Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are still in tem­po­rary hous­ing four years after the acci­dent.

    Excel­lent! In terms of good news sto­ries, remov­ing the giant piece of machin­ery that’s pre­vent­ing the spent fuel rod removal is one of the best pieces of news we can get. And it’s look­ing like TEP­CO’s exec­u­tives might actu­al­ly get sued too. More good news!

    But while TEP­CO’s lead­er­ship sucks, it’s cleanup work­ers sure don’t. And that brings us to the lat­est round of bad news which is par­tic­u­lar­ly alarm­ing giv­en the recent removal of both the canopy on reac­tor 1 and the debris removal on reac­tor 3: A 30 year old TEPCO work­er just died on the job while work­ing on the under­ground “ice wall”. The cause of death is not yet known:

    Vice
    Work­er Dies at Dis­abled Fukushi­ma Nuclear Pow­er Plant

    By Pierre Longer­ay et Pierre-Louis Caron
    August 4, 2015 | 3:15 pm

    A 30 year-old man died this week­end as he worked on decom­mis­sion­ing Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear plant, which was dev­as­tat­ed in the 2011 Tohoku tsuna­mi, in which 20,000 died or were report­ed miss­ing.

    It is not yet known whether the man’s death was due to radi­a­tion expo­sure, and an autop­sy is pend­ing.

    The Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant suf­fered a series of melt­downs in 2011 dur­ing a mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi off the coast of Japan. The quake knocked out the plan­t’s cool­ing sys­tems, caus­ing melt­downs in the plan­t’s reac­tors and a radioac­tive leak that trig­gered the evac­u­a­tion of thou­sands of peo­ple in the area.

    In a state­ment released Mon­day, the plan­t’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co), said that the man had been tak­en to the emer­gency room after com­plain­ing that he was­n’t feel­ing well. “His death was con­firmed ear­ly in the after­noon,” Tep­co said.

    Isabelle Dublin­eau, the head of the exper­i­men­tal radiotox­i­col­o­gy lab­o­ra­to­ry for France’s Insti­tute for Radi­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion and Nuclear Safe­ty (IRSN), said that, “there are many thresh­olds of radi­a­tion expo­sure.” Speak­ing to VICE News Tues­day, Dublin­eau said it was “too ear­ly” to com­ment on the death.

    This is the third record­ed death at the strick­en Fukushi­ma plant since the start of the decom­mis­sion­ing work. In March 2014, a labor­er at the plant was killed after being buried under grav­el while dig­ging, and in Jan­u­ary 2015, a work­er died after falling inside a water stor­age tank.

    While the lat­est death has already been brand­ed sus­pi­cious in the media, Tep­co has so far denied that any of the deaths are relat­ed to radi­a­tion expo­sure.

    On some days, radioac­tive emis­sions at the Fukushi­ma plant can be as high as 2.16 mil­lisiev­erts [mSv] — more than one-tenth of the allowed annu­al expo­sure for nuclear ener­gy work­ers. As a result, work­ers are lim­it­ed to three-hour shifts, and labor in gru­el­ing con­di­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the sum­mer, when the tem­per­a­ture can reach 113 degrees. The heat is made worse by the heavy pro­tec­tive gear worn by work­ers to pro­tect them­selves from radi­a­tion expo­sure — includ­ing suits boots, gloves and masks.

    The work­er who died over the week­end was work­ing up to three hours a day at the plant, on the con­struc­tion of the “ice wall” — an under­ground frozen wall designed to box in the melt­ed reac­tors and con­tain the seep­ing radioac­tive water to pre­vent fur­ther ground­wa­ter pol­lu­tion. Today, clean ground­wa­ter from around the plant flows through the melt­ed reac­tor and mix­es with the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in the reac­tors. To pre­vent ocean pol­lu­tion, Tep­co has to store the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in reser­voirs and treat it, before pump­ing it back out.

    Tep­co has warned that decom­mis­sion­ing the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant could take up to 40 years. In ear­ly July, the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment noti­fied the evac­u­at­ed res­i­dents of Nara­ha — a town of 7,400 that lies 20 miles from the nuclear plant — that they would be able return to their homes in Sep­tem­ber. Nara­ha has an esti­mat­ed annu­al radi­a­tion dose of 20 mil­lisiev­erts — the max­i­mum annu­al dose allowed for nuclear ener­gy work­ers in France.

    Fol­low­ing the 2011 nuclear dis­as­ter, Japan shut down all of its 50 work­ing reac­tors, which were sup­ply­ing close to a third of the coun­try’s elec­tric­i­ty. Forced to turn to oth­er sources of ener­gy, Japan has since become the sec­ond largest importer of coal behind Chi­na.

    Tep­co has been heav­i­ly crit­i­cized for its han­dling of the Fukushi­ma cat­a­stro­phe, and three for­mer Tep­co exec­u­tives cur­rent­ly face crim­i­nal charges and are due to stand tri­al soon for “neg­li­gence.”

    ...

    So that was some very bad news. And it was­n’t the only new com­ing from Japan’s nuclear pow­er sec­tor this week. Guess what Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor just did: It just placed the largest nuclear pow­er plant in the world, which has a sim­i­lar design to Fukushi­ma’s boil­ing-water reac­tor, on the list of nuclear plants to restart:

    Reuter
    Japan puts Tep­co reac­tors on pri­or­i­ty list for restart screen­ing
    TOKYO

    Thu Aug 6, 2015 9:58am BST

    Aug 6 Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor said on Thurs­day it placed on a pri­or­i­ty list for safe­ty screen­ing two reac­tors oper­at­ed by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co), the own­er of the wrecked Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant.

    The move poten­tial­ly brings Tep­co clos­er to restart­ing the Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa sta­tion, the world’s biggest nuclear plant, though the checks are expect­ed to take at least sev­er­al months, based on the progress of oth­er screen­ings.

    Even if Tep­co gets approval from the reg­u­la­tor any restart must be signed off by the gov­er­nor of Niiga­ta pre­fec­ture, where the plant is locat­ed. Gov­er­nor Hiro­hiko Izu­mi­da is vehe­ment­ly opposed to any restart, say­ing the util­i­ty has not ful­ly explained or atoned for the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter.

    All of Japan’s reac­tors remain shut down for screen­ing under tougher safe­ty stan­dards intro­duced after the melt­downs at Fukushi­ma in March 2011, fol­low­ing an earth­quake and tsuna­mi, although one in south­west­ern Japan is sched­uled for restart next week.

    The move by the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty (NRA) to place reac­tors num­ber 6 and 7 at the Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa sta­tion on the list is also sig­nif­i­cant because the units are boil­ing water reac­tors, the same type that melt­ed down at Fukushi­ma, albeit of a more advanced design.

    All oth­er units on the pri­or­i­ty list, includ­ing the Sendai reac­tor due to restart next week, are pres­sur­ized water reac­tors, which are more mod­ern and con­sid­ered less prone to melt­downs.

    ...

    Yes, Japan’s gov­ern­ment and TEPCO want to pri­or­i­tize the restart of the Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa plant. It’s not good news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 7, 2015, 8:54 pm
  37. Look who’s back!

    Japan Restarts Reac­tor After Break Due to Fukushi­ma

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    AUG. 10, 2015, 10:34 P.M. E.D.T.

    TOKYO — A pow­er plant oper­a­tor in south­ern Japan restart­ed a nuclear reac­tor on Tues­day, the first to begin oper­at­ing under new safe­ty require­ments fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter.

    Kyushu Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said Tues­day it had restart­ed the No. 1 reac­tor at its Sendai nuclear plant as planned. The restart marks Japan’s return to nuclear ener­gy four-and-half-years after the 2011 melt­downs at the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi nuclear pow­er plant in north­east­ern Japan fol­low­ing an earth­quake and tsuna­mi.

    ...

    A major­i­ty of Japan­ese oppose the return to nuclear ener­gy. Dozens of pro­test­ers, includ­ing ex-Prime Min­is­ter Nao­to Kan, who was in office at the time of the dis­as­ter and has become an out­spo­ken crit­ic of nuclear pow­er, were gath­ered out­side the plant as police stood guard.

    The Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty affirmed the safe­ty of the Sendai reac­tor and anoth­er one at the plant last Sep­tem­ber under stricter safe­ty rules imposed after the 2011 acci­dent, the worst since the 1986 Cher­nobyl explo­sion.

    The Sendai No. 1 reac­tor is sched­uled to start gen­er­at­ing pow­er Fri­day and reach full capac­i­ty next month. The sec­ond Sendai reac­tor is due to restart in Octo­ber.

    Koichi Miyaza­wa, Japan’s indus­try min­is­ter, said Tues­day that the gov­ern­ment would “put safe­ty first” in resum­ing use of nuclear pow­er.

    All of Japan’s 43 work­able reac­tors were idled for the past two years pend­ing safe­ty checks. To off­set the short­fall in pow­er out­put, the coun­try ramped up imports of oil and gas and fired up more ther­mal pow­er plants, slow­ing progress toward reduc­ing its emis­sions of green­house gas­es.

    Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe has sought to have the reac­tors restart­ed as soon as pos­si­ble to help reduce cost­ly reliance on import­ed oil and gas and alle­vi­ate the finan­cial bur­den on util­i­ties of main­tain­ing the idled plants.

    “There are very strong vest­ed inter­ests to reopen nuclear reac­tors. Accept­ing them as per­ma­nent­ly closed would have finan­cial impli­ca­tions that would be hard to man­age,” said Tomas Kaberg­er, chair­man of the Japan Renew­able Ener­gy Foun­da­tion.

    Util­i­ties are seek­ing approvals to restart 23 reac­tors, includ­ing the oth­er Sendai reac­tor.

    The gov­ern­ment has set a goal to have nuclear pow­er meet more than 20 per­cent of Japan’s ener­gy needs by 2030, despite the lin­ger­ing trou­bles at the Fukushi­ma plant, which is plagued by mas­sive flows of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water leak­ing from its reac­tors.

    Removal of the melt­ed fuel at the plant — the most chal­leng­ing part of the 30-to-40-year process of shut­ting it down per­ma­nent­ly — will begin only in 2022.

    Still, the gov­ern­ment favors restart­ing oth­er plants judged to meet the new safe­ty cri­te­ria, for both eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal rea­sons. Japan invest­ed heav­i­ly in its nuclear pow­er pro­gram and many com­mu­ni­ties rely on tax rev­enues and jobs asso­ci­at­ed with the plants.

    Japan also faces pres­sure to use its stock­pile of more than 40 tons of weapons-grade plu­to­ni­um, enough to make 40 to 50 nuclear weapons. The plu­to­ni­um, as fuel called MOX, will be burned in reac­tors since the coun­try’s nuclear fuel recy­cling pro­gram at Rokkasho in north­ern Japan has been stalled by tech­ni­cal prob­lems.

    To burn enough plu­to­ni­um, Japan needs to restart as many as 18 reac­tors. Nuclear experts say this could pose a chal­lenge.

    It’s one of the fun things about nuclear pow­er: you can turn the pow­er gen­er­a­tion off, but you can’t real­ly off the need to store your nuclear fuel. And when you have 40 tons of weapons grade plu­to­ni­um lying around, more nuclear reac­tions are one of your obvi­ous options for mak­ing your plu­to­ni­um a lit­tle more stor­able. 18 reac­tors is appar­ent­ly a good start:

    ...

    Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe has sought to have the reac­tors restart­ed as soon as pos­si­ble to help reduce cost­ly reliance on import­ed oil and gas and alle­vi­ate the finan­cial bur­den on util­i­ties of main­tain­ing the idled plants.

    “There are very strong vest­ed inter­ests to reopen nuclear reac­tors. Accept­ing them as per­ma­nent­ly closed would have finan­cial impli­ca­tions that would be hard to man­age,” said Tomas Kaberg­er, chair­man of the Japan Renew­able Ener­gy Foun­da­tion.

    ...

    Japan also faces pres­sure to use its stock­pile of more than 40 tons of weapons-grade plu­to­ni­um, enough to make 40 to 50 nuclear weapons. The plu­to­ni­um, as fuel called MOX, will be burned in reac­tors since the coun­try’s nuclear fuel recy­cling pro­gram at Rokkasho in north­ern Japan has been stalled by tech­ni­cal prob­lems.

    To burn enough plu­to­ni­um, Japan needs to restart as many as 18 reac­tors. Nuclear experts say this could pose a chal­lenge.

    ...

    So we’ll see what hap­pens with that 40 tons of weapons-grade plu­to­ni­um. Hope­ful­ly the tech­nol­o­gy to safe­ly get rid of all of it is devel­oped soon. There are less than safe alter­na­tives avail­able.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 11, 2015, 8:13 pm
  38. It turns out vol­cano gods don’t sup­port nuclear pow­er. Now we know:

    Agence France-Presse

    Saku­ra­ji­ma vol­cano: chance of large erup­tion ‘extreme­ly high’

    Japan rais­es erup­tion warn­ing for south­ern vol­cano to sec­ond-high­est lev­el and tells thou­sands of res­i­dents to pre­pare for a pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion

    Sat­ur­day 15 August 2015 07.15 EDT

    Japan’s weath­er agency on Sat­ur­day told thou­sands of res­i­dents near a south­ern city to pre­pare for a pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion as it upgrad­ed a vol­canic erup­tion warn­ing.

    Offi­cials raised their alert to its sec­ond-high­est lev­el after pick­ing up increas­ing seis­mic activ­i­ty around the vol­cano Saku­ra­ji­ma, which sits just off the coast of Kagoshi­ma, a city of more than 600,000 peo­ple.

    Activ­i­ty has spiked since Sat­ur­day morn­ing, they said.

    The vol­cano is about 50 kilo­me­tres (31 miles) from a nuclear reac­tor that was switched on this week, as Japan restart­ed its nuclear pow­er pro­gramme fol­low­ing the 2011 Fukushi­ma cri­sis when a quake-sparked tsuna­mi set off reac­tor melt­downs at the now-crip­pled site.

    Crit­ics have said the restart­ed reac­tor at Sendai was still at risk from nat­ur­al dis­as­ters.

    “The pos­si­bil­i­ty for a large-scale erup­tion has become extreme­ly high for Saku­ra­ji­ma,” the agency said, warn­ing res­i­dents to exer­cise “strict cau­tion” and pre­pare for a pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion. The warn­ing applies to a part of the island, which is home to more than 4,000 peo­ple.

    The last major erup­tion at the 1,117-metre-high Saku­ra­ji­ma – a pop­u­lar tourist attrac­tion – was in 2013 when it spewed ash as far as Kagoshi­ma and sent rocks fly­ing into pop­u­lat­ed areas, caus­ing dam­age but no major injuries.

    There are scores of active vol­ca­noes in Japan, which sits on the so-called “ring of fire”, where a large pro­por­tion of the world’s quakes and erup­tions are record­ed.

    ...

    “The vol­cano is about 50 kilo­me­tres (31 miles) from a nuclear reac­tor that was switched on this week, as Japan restart­ed its nuclear pow­er pro­gramme fol­low­ing the 2011 Fukushi­ma cri­sis when a quake-sparked tsuna­mi set off reac­tor melt­downs at the now-crip­pled site.”
    Yikes. Well, it would been nice if Japan had­n’t awok­en the vol­cano gods by tempt­ing fate so brazen­ly, but at least appeas­ing those gods might still be an option.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 15, 2015, 7:12 pm
  39. Parts of east­ern Japan were just hit with flood­ing so severe that parts of some towns are now sub­merged. Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture was­n’t in the hard­est hit areas, but it was still hit hard enough to over­whelm the pumps oper­at­ing at the nuclear plant, send­ing hun­dreds of tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the ocean. So it could have been a lot worse for Fukushi­ma, and was a lot worse for the areas that are still sub­merged:

    The Guardian
    Typhoon Etau: thou­sands evac­u­at­ed as severe flood­ing hits Japan

    More than 100,000 peo­ple ordered to leave homes as tor­ren­tial rains cause wide­spread dis­rup­tion in east of coun­try

    Justin McCur­ry in Tokyo

    Thurs­day 10 Sep­tem­ber 2015 05.25 EDT

    At least two peo­ple have died and sev­er­al oth­ers are miss­ing as flood­ing in east­ern Japan forced the evac­u­a­tion of more than 100,000 peo­ple and left large parts of one town sub­merged.

    TV footage showed Japan­ese mil­i­tary per­son­nel res­cu­ing dozens of strand­ed res­i­dents in Joso, a town of about 65,000 peo­ple 37 miles north-east of Tokyo, after the Kin­u­gawa riv­er burst its banks, send­ing a tor­rent of mud­dy water cas­cad­ing into the town.

    Aer­i­al footage from the pub­lic broad­cast­er NHK and oth­er net­works showed res­cuers pluck­ing peo­ple from the rooftops. A low-lying sec­tion of the town appeared to be com­plete­ly sub­merged, with just a short sec­tion of ele­vat­ed motor­way vis­i­ble above the water.

    Some res­i­dents stuck on the roofs of their homes waved cloths and tow­els to attract res­cuers as the flood­wa­ters pulled hous­es from their foun­da­tions and washed away cars.

    In one of the most dra­mat­ic scenes, a res­cuer low­ered him­self from a mil­i­tary heli­copter four times over a 20-minute peri­od to res­cue a strand­ed group peo­ple as flood­wa­ter coursed around their home.

    Anoth­er man was shown cling­ing to a tele­graph pole, unable to move as the water surged past. He was lat­er res­cued.

    Kyo­do News said mil­i­tary per­son­nel had res­cued 39 peo­ple by Thurs­day after­noon. In a mes­sage appar­ent­ly direct­ed at strand­ed res­i­dents, an NHK pre­sen­ter called on them to keep ask­ing for help. Joso res­i­dents were still being evac­u­at­ed when the riv­er burst its banks, send­ing water sev­er­al kilo­me­tres through the town.

    The trans­port min­istry said that 6,900 house­holds had been affect­ed, adding that only 2,500 peo­ple had fled to safe­ty when water lev­els rose dra­mat­i­cal­ly. Local offi­cials said res­cuers were no longer able to respond imme­di­ate­ly to the huge num­ber of requests for help.

    Many parts of cen­tral and east­ern Japan have been hit in recent days by tor­ren­tial rain caused by Typhoon Etau, which has since been down­grad­ed to trop­i­cal storm.

    “This is a down­pour on a scale that we have not expe­ri­enced before,” fore­cast­er Takuya Deshi­maru told an emer­gency press con­fer­ence. “Grave dan­ger could be immi­nent.”

    The prime min­is­ter, Shin­zo Abe, who has set up an emer­gency response head­quar­ters, said: “The gov­ern­ment will stand unit­ed and do its best to deal with the dis­as­ter, by putting its high­est pri­or­i­ty on people’s lives.”

    The threat of floods and land­slides – an ever-present dan­ger in Japan, where many small­er com­mu­ni­ties live on or close to moun­tains – prompt­ed the evac­u­a­tion of tens of thou­sands of peo­ple across the coun­try.

    The heavy rain, which is expect­ed to spread north on Fri­day, has also caused addi­tion­al leaks of radioac­tive water at the strick­en Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant.

    The plant’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co), said rain had over­whelmed the site’s drainage pumps, send­ing hun­dreds of tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the Pacif­ic Ocean.

    Work­ers at the Fukushi­ma plant have had to store huge quan­ti­ties of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water used to cool melt­ed fuel in three bad­ly dam­aged reac­tors in thou­sands of steel tanks.

    Japan’s mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency issued spe­cial warn­ings for Tochi­gi and Ibara­ki pre­fec­tures north of Tokyo, and urged res­i­dents to watch out for more flood­ing and land­slides.

    Etau, which made land­fall in Japan on Wednes­day, had moved out into the Sea of Japan by Thurs­day after­noon but con­tin­ued to dump heavy rain on many parts of the coun­try.

    Parts of cen­tral Tochi­gi have seen almost 60 cen­time­tres of rain since Mon­day evening. The author­i­ties had ordered more than 90,000 res­i­dents to evac­u­ate, and anoth­er 116,000 were advised to leave their homes, accord­ing to NHK. In neigh­bour­ing Ibara­ki pre­fec­ture, at least 20,000 were ordered to evac­u­ate.

    ...

    Etau also caused wide­spread dis­rup­tion to rail trans­port in the east and north­east of the coun­try. The mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency warned that heavy rain would con­tin­ue in the north­east, includ­ing Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture, until ear­ly Fri­day morn­ing.

    So Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture sort of dodged a bul­let con­sid­er­ing the dev­as­ta­tion to the south. And con­sid­er­ing the unprece­dent­ed nature of the storm, it might be tempt­ing to assume that this type bul­let is only going to have be dodged once or twice cen­tu­ry. And 50 years ago that may have been the case. Times change:

    smithsonian.com

    Warmer Waters Are Mak­ing Pacif­ic Typhoons Stronger
    Decades of storm data show that trop­i­cal cyclones in the Pacif­ic are get­ting more intense as ocean tem­per­a­tures rise

    By Sarah Zielin­s­ki
    May 29, 2015

    Trop­i­cal cyclones in the north­west­ern Pacif­ic have strength­ened about 10 per­cent since the 1970s because of warm­ing ocean tem­per­a­tures, researchers report this week in Sci­ence Advances. Accord­ing to an exten­sive analy­sis of his­tor­i­cal cyclone data, near­ly 65 per­cent of typhoons now reach cat­e­go­ry 3 or high­er on the Saf­fir-Simp­son scale, com­pared with around 45 per­cent just decades ago.

    The north­west­ern Pacif­ic pro­duces some of the world’s most intense and most dev­as­tat­ing trop­i­cal cyclones, called typhoons in the Pacif­ic and hur­ri­canes in the Atlantic. The cat­e­go­ry 5 super typhoon Haiyan, for instance, had record winds that reached near­ly 200 miles per hour, and the 2013 storm killed at least 6,300 peo­ple in the Philip­pines.

    ...

    For years sci­en­tists have been work­ing to deter­mine how cli­mate change is affect­ing these storms. Warmer waters should make for more intense storms in the­o­ry, but plen­ty of oth­er fac­tors can affect trop­i­cal cyclone devel­op­ment. This year’s Atlantic hur­ri­cane sea­son, for instance, should be below nor­mal in part because of El Niño, accord­ing to the most recent fore­cast from the Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion. Such vari­abil­i­ty has made find­ing a sig­nal from cli­mate change dif­fi­cult.

    In the new study, Mei’s team looked at the aver­age inten­si­ty of trop­i­cal cyclones that occurred in the north­west­ern Pacif­ic between 1951 and 2010. They focused on storms that reached at least cat­e­go­ry 1 on the Saf­fir-Simp­son scale and exam­ined sea­son-to-sea­son vari­abil­i­ty, of which there was quite a bit. Some sea­sons saw much stronger storms on aver­age than oth­ers, oth­ers much weak­er. Plot­ted out over the years, though, the aver­age inten­si­ty could be seen start­ing to rise in the 1970s.

    But what is caus­ing that rise? The team con­sid­ered sev­er­al fac­tors that influ­ence trop­i­cal cyclones, such as air pres­sure, sea sur­face tem­per­a­tures and local­ized dif­fer­ences in wind speed and direc­tion, known as wind shear. They were sur­prised to find that the vari­abil­i­ty in ocean tem­per­a­tures, rather than atmos­pher­ic con­di­tions, were dom­i­nant in con­trol­ling the observed changes in typhoon inten­si­ty, Mei says.

    “How strong­ly and quick­ly a cyclone can grow depends on two ocean­ic fac­tors: pre-storm sea sur­face tem­per­a­ture and the dif­fer­ence in tem­per­a­ture between the sur­face and sub­sur­face,” Mei explains. “A warmer sea sur­face gen­er­al­ly pro­vides more ener­gy for storm devel­op­ment and thus favors more intense typhoons. A large change in tem­per­a­ture from the sur­face to sub­sur­face, how­ev­er, can dis­rupt this flow of ener­gy, because strong winds dri­ve tur­bu­lence in the upper ocean, bring­ing cold water up from below and there­by cool­ing the sea sur­face.”

    Since the mid-1970s, sea-sur­face tem­per­a­tures in the trop­i­cal north­west­ern Pacif­ic have risen by about 1 degree Fahren­heit, while tem­per­a­tures at 250 feet below the sur­face have gone up by about 1.4 degrees. This reduc­tion in the ver­ti­cal tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence favors more intense typhoons, Mei says.

    The researchers project that even under a sce­nario of mod­er­ate warming—one in which there are cut­backs in green­house gas emissions—the aver­age typhoon inten­si­ty will still increase by anoth­er 14 per­cent by 2100. If emis­sions con­tin­ue apace, “we antic­i­pate that the typhoons will inten­si­fy even more,” Mei says.

    There appears to be a trade-off between typhoon num­ber and inten­si­ty. A recent study pub­lished in Nature Cli­mate Change found that as ocean waters have warmed over the last 30 years, trop­i­cal cyclones glob­al­ly have slight­ly decreased in num­ber but increased in inten­si­ty. And ear­li­er this year, a team led by Mei report­ed in the Jour­nal of Cli­mate that the num­ber of storms in the north­west­ern Pacif­ic has declined since the mid-1990s due to ris­ing sea sur­face tem­per­a­tures.

    But the decline in storm num­ber should not put any­one at ease, Mei notes: “It is the most intense typhoons that cause the most dam­age.”

    The researchers project that even under a sce­nario of mod­er­ate warming—one in which there are cut­backs in green­house gas emissions—the aver­age typhoon inten­si­ty will still increase by anoth­er 14 per­cent by 2100. If emis­sions con­tin­ue apace, “we antic­i­pate that the typhoons will inten­si­fy even more,” Mei says.

    Yes, times change, and that just might include changes in typhoon inten­si­ty. How fun facts like this change human­i­ty remains to be seen, although if that change comes in the form of us spon­ta­neous­ly sprout­ing gills that could work.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 10, 2015, 8:02 pm
  40. It was a his­toric day for the Fukushi­ma cleanup work: TEPCO dumped 850 tons of water into the ocean, but for the first time ever it’s not radioac­tive (at least not very radioactive...one hopes):

    AFP
    Fukushi­ma Dumps First Batch of Once-Radioac­tive Water In Sea

    Sep 14, 2015 12:30 PM ET

    Japan’s crip­pled Fukushi­ma nuclear plant Mon­day began releas­ing pre­vi­ous­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the sea, but the man tasked with pre­vent­ing anoth­er melt­down warned oth­er high­ly radioac­tive flu­id still stored on site could pose a major threat.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (TEPCO), which oper­ates the plant in east­ern Japan, dis­charged 850 tons of for­mer­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water it had extract­ed from the ground near the plant into the sea, say­ing a fil­tra­tion process had now made it safe.

    Mon­day was the first time the plant, whose reac­tors went into melt­down after being hit by a huge tsuna­mi in 2011, has released once radioac­tive water into nature after a years-long bat­tle with fish­er­men, who feared it could destroy their liveli­hood.

    But Dale Klein, the chair­man of a com­mit­tee cre­at­ed to ensure the nuclear melt­down is nev­er repeat­ed, said oth­er high­ly radioac­tive water used to cool the reac­tors four years ago and which is still kept in tanks in the plant could be dan­ger­ous.

    “The risk that you run is that you have all these tanks full of water,” Klein told AFP in an inter­view.

    “The longer you store the water, the more like­ly you are going to have (an) uncon­trolled release,” he said, adding that he would like to see the sup­plies released from stor­age in the next three years.

    TEPCO has faced crit­i­cism for its han­dling of the melt­down, which saw thou­sands of peo­ple evac­u­at­ed as radi­a­tion poi­soned the air, land and water and has already cost some $57 bil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion for res­i­dents.

    Four years lat­er it is still extract­ing some 300 tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from the ground every day, which had been stored in tanks before TEPCO start­ed releas­ing it into the sea after purifi­ca­tion on Mon­day.

    ‘Long-term solu­tion’

    The move is a mile­stone for the com­pa­ny, which said its Advanced Liq­uid Pro­cess­ing Sys­tem, which removes high­ly radioac­tive sub­stances like stron­tium and cae­sium, meant the ground water was now safe to release into the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment.

    Fish­er­men had argued that the dis­charge even of the ground­wa­ter would height­en con­t­a­m­i­na­tion con­cerns and hurt their already bat­tered rep­u­ta­tion.

    They had fought to stop the water being released into the sea, even after it is fil­tered, but even­tu­al­ly bowed to pres­sure from TEPCO, which is strug­gling to find space to store the taint­ed sup­plies.

    But it has yet to find a solu­tion to deal with anoth­er high­ly radioac­tive 680,000 tons of water that was used to cool the reac­tors dur­ing the melt­down, which is still stored on site.

    Fish­er­men are opposed to the flu­id being released into the sea, even after it is fil­tered.

    “I would much rather see Japan move to a long-term solu­tion of the con­trolled release, rather than have an unex­pect­ed release” that could be caused by pipebreaks or oth­er fail­ures, said Klein.

    Tor­ren­tial flood­ing this month in an area not far south of the plant added to con­t­a­m­i­na­tion con­cerns, flush­ing away at least 293 plas­tic bags of plants and soil that had been col­lect­ed in the clean up.

    ...

    This month saw the evac­u­a­tion order lift­ed for Nara­ha, the first of sev­en munic­i­pal­i­ties ful­ly emp­tied after the explo­sion whose res­i­dents can return per­ma­nent­ly, but the full clean up is expect­ed take decades.

    Just to put it into per­spec­tive, the 850 tons of treat­ed water is 0.125% of the 680,000 total tons of high­ly radi­ac­tive water, with 300 addi­tion­al tons added each day. So if we assume 850 tons can be cleaned and released every day, with 300 tons of new radic­tive water added to the stor­age tanks, that’s a net of 550 tons of water stor­age capac­i­ty that could be freed up each day and it would take 1,236 days to emp­ty them com­plete­ly which is just under 3 1/2 years. So when you read...

    ...
    But Dale Klein, the chair­man of a com­mit­tee cre­at­ed to ensure the nuclear melt­down is nev­er repeat­ed, said oth­er high­ly radioac­tive water used to cool the reac­tors four years ago and which is still kept in tanks in the plant could be dan­ger­ous.

    “The risk that you run is that you have all these tanks full of water,” Klein told AFP in an inter­view.

    “The longer you store the water, the more like­ly you are going to have (an) uncon­trolled release,” he said, adding that he would like to see the sup­plies released from stor­age in the next three years.
    ...

    keep in mind that it is sort of pos­si­ble that we could see those water stor­age tanks could be com­plete­ly emp­tied by 2018 if we assume an 850 ton/day clean­ing capac­i­ty.

    Anoth­er thing to keep in is mind that, as this arti­cle from last year men­tions, TEP­CO’s radi­a­tion scrub­bing equip­ment does­n’t remove tri­tium. And while tri­tium is prob­a­bly the best radioac­tive ele­ment to have around if you have to be exposed to radi­a­tion, it’s still not some­thing you real­ly want to dump in the envi­ron­ment at high lev­els:

    Asahi Shin­bun
    Prob­lems still plague ALPS decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion sys­tem at Fukushi­ma plant
    June 05, 2014

    High radi­a­tion lev­els and tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties con­tin­ue to stymie full-scale oper­a­tions of key decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion equip­ment at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant even though tests start­ed more than a year ago.

    The mul­ti-nuclide removal equip­ment, called ALPS (advanced liq­uid pro­cess­ing sys­tem), began tri­al runs in March 2013 to reduce lev­els of 62 kinds of radioac­tive sub­stances in con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water, such as stron­tium, to below detectable lim­its.

    But Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. has been forced to repeat­ed­ly sus­pend oper­a­tions, hav­ing dis­cov­ered holes from cor­ro­sion and liq­uid leaks.

    Cloudy water was found at the B chan­nel of the ALPS sys­tem in March. Two months lat­er, all three ALPS chan­nels were stopped after cloudy water was detect­ed at the A chan­nel and the C chan­nel on May 17 and 20, respec­tive­ly.

    TEPCO, oper­a­tor of the embat­tled nuclear plant, con­clud­ed that the pack­ing to fill gaps had dete­ri­o­rat­ed due to radi­a­tion expo­sure and resumed oper­a­tions at the B chan­nel on May 23. TEPCO also plans to restart the A and C chan­nels by the end of June after replac­ing the pack­ing.

    High radi­a­tion read­ings have not only dam­aged the sys­tem, but have also pre­vent­ed work­ers from spend­ing long hours near ALPS for inspec­tions and repairs.

    Radioac­tive water to be processed con­tains var­i­ous impu­ri­ties derived from sea­wa­ter and con­crete, and chem­i­cal agents are nec­es­sary to remove them. An elab­o­rate pipe arrange­ment also makes it dif­fi­cult for work­ers to han­dle ALPS.

    The ALPS sys­tem con­sists of two facil­i­ties: pre­pro­cess­ing and absorp­tion.

    The sys­tem first removes mate­ri­als that can ham­per radioac­tive sub­stance removal pro­ce­dures at its pre­pro­cess­ing facil­i­ty. At this stage, mud and met­al in con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water stored in tanks are pre­cip­i­tat­ed with chem­i­cal agents. Then cal­ci­um and mag­ne­sium are fil­tered out by adding sodi­um car­bon­ate and oth­er chem­i­cals to the water.

    The dete­ri­o­rat­ed pack­ing was found at a fil­ter used at the last stage of pre­pro­cess­ing.

    After all pre­pro­cess­ing pro­ce­dures are com­plete, the water is trans­ferred to the absorp­tion facil­i­ty, where radioac­tive mate­ri­als will be absorbed by par­ti­cles 0.5 mil­lime­ter in diam­e­ter and removed. A total of 15 devices of sev­en types can remove 62 kinds of radioac­tive sub­stances.

    But one of the three ALPS chan­nels has been found to fail to sig­nif­i­cant­ly decrease lev­els of four radioac­tive mate­ri­als.

    As of May 27, about 360,000 tons of high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water remain stored in tanks on the plant site to be processed with ALPS.

    While the decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion equip­ment has processed just 85,000 tons of water since the start of tri­al runs, TEPCO and the gov­ern­ment expect all the water on the premis­es to be processed by the end of the fis­cal year.

    To achieve that goal, the util­i­ty plans to dou­ble ALPS’ cur­rent pro­cess­ing capac­i­ty of up to 750 tons per day by this fall.

    The gov­ern­ment is also expect­ed to pro­vide fund­ing to intro­duce a sim­i­lar sys­tem with the capac­i­ty of up to 500 tons per day in the near future.

    How­ev­er, even after read­ings for the 62 types of radioac­tive sub­stances fall to well below detectable lim­its, radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els of those mate­ri­als in the processed water will like­ly remain at sev­er­al hun­dreds of bec­querels per liter in total.

    In addi­tion, ALPS can­not remove tri­tium, rais­ing radioac­tive lev­els in the processed water by sev­er­al hun­dreds of thou­sands of bec­querels per liter. Those lev­els of tri­tium are not allowed to be released into the sea.

    It is pos­si­ble that con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water on the premis­es con­tains radioac­tive mate­ri­als oth­er than the 62 kinds. The Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty has told TEPCO to re-exam­ine the water to decide if it includes addi­tion­al radioac­tive sub­stances.

    ...

    Yes, as of last year, the news reports about the Advanced Liq­uid Pro­cess­ing Sys­tem includ­ed fun facts like this:

    ...
    How­ev­er, even after read­ings for the 62 types of radioac­tive sub­stances fall to well below detectable lim­its, radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els of those mate­ri­als in the processed water will like­ly remain at sev­er­al hun­dreds of bec­querels per liter in total.

    In addi­tion, ALPS can­not remove tri­tium, rais­ing radioac­tive lev­els in the processed water by sev­er­al hun­dreds of thou­sands of bec­querels per liter. Those lev­els of tri­tium are not allowed to be released into the sea.

    ...

    And yet we now have the announce­ment from TEPCO in the first arti­cle about today’s debut ocean dump­ing that:

    ...
    The move is a mile­stone for the com­pa­ny, which said its Advanced Liq­uid Pro­cess­ing Sys­tem, which removes high­ly radioac­tive sub­stances like stron­tium and cae­sium, meant the ground water was now safe to release into the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment.
    ...

    So let’s not only hope that the ALPS radi­a­tion scrub­bers don’t suf­fer from any major main­te­nance issues over the next few years or so, but let’s also hope that TEPCO fig­ure out a solu­tion to the tri­tium prob­lem that does­n’t sim­ply involve declar­ing it safe to dump. Because as of April, sim­ply declar­ing the tri­tium safe to dump was def­i­nite­ly where TEPCO was lean­ing:

    Reuters
    Japan con­sid­ers evap­o­ra­tion, stor­age of tri­tium-laced Fukushi­ma water
    TOKYO | By Aaron Sheldrick
    Green Busi­ness | Wed Apr 8, 2015 6:34am EDT

    Japan is con­sid­er­ing evap­o­rat­ing or stor­ing under­ground tri­tium-laced water from the wrecked Fukushi­ma nuclear plant as an alter­na­tive to releas­ing it into the ocean, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co’s chief decom­mis­sion­ing offi­cer told Reuters on Wednes­day.

    The removal of hun­dreds of thou­sands of tonnes of water con­tain­ing tri­tium, a rel­a­tive­ly harm­less radioac­tive iso­tope left behind in treat­ed water is one of many issues fac­ing Tokyo Elec­tric as it tries to cleanup the wrecked plant.

    Tokyo Elec­tric wants to release the tri­tium laced water to the ocean, a com­mon prac­tice at nor­mal­ly oper­at­ing nuclear plants around the world, but is strug­gling to get approval from local fish­er­man, who are con­cerned about the impact on con­sumer con­fi­dence and have lit­tle faith in the com­pa­ny.

    With the release to the ocean stalled, the gov­ern­ment task force over­see­ing the cleanup is look­ing at let­ting the water evap­o­rate or stor­ing it under­ground, chief decom­mis­sion­ing offi­cer Nao­hi­ro Masu­da, told Reuters at the close of a sem­i­nar on decom­mis­sion­ing.

    Masu­da said he did­n’t know when the dis­cus­sions would be com­plet­ed and a deci­sion made.

    Time and space is run­ning out for Tep­co, which has been forced to build hun­dreds of tanks to hold con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed and treat­ed water.

    The evap­o­ra­tion method was used after the Three Mile Island dis­as­ter but the amounts were much small­er, Dale Klein, an out­side advis­er to Tep­co told Reuters last week.

    “They have huge vol­umes of water so they can­not evap­o­rate it like they did at Three Mile Island,” Klein said. “If they did it would like­ly be evap­o­rat­ed, go out over the ocean, con­dense and fall back as rain­wa­ter. There’s no safe­ty enhance­ment.”

    ...

    Water flushed over the wrecked reac­tors to keep them cool enough to pre­vent fur­ther radioac­tive releas­es is treat­ed but cur­rent tech­nol­o­gy can’t remove tri­tium.

    “They real­ly do need to make a deci­sion,” Klein said. “Stor­ing it in all those tanks, you are just ask­ing for fail­ure.”

    Mis­steps and leaks have dogged the efforts to con­tain the water, slow­ing down the decades-long decom­mis­sion­ing process and caus­ing pub­lic alarm.

    “I think they will need to make that deci­sion,” U.S. Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion Chair­man Stephen Burns, said when asked should Japan release the tri­tium laced water at a media brief­ing at the U.S. Embassy on Wednes­day.

    As Dale Klein, the for­mer chair­man of the US Nuclear Reg­u­la­tor Com­mis­sion puts it:

    ...
    The evap­o­ra­tion method was used after the Three Mile Island dis­as­ter but the amounts were much small­er, Dale Klein, an out­side advis­er to Tep­co told Reuters last week.

    “They have huge vol­umes of water so they can­not evap­o­rate it like they did at Three Mile Island,” Klein said. “If they did it would like­ly be evap­o­rat­ed, go out over the ocean, con­dense and fall back as rain­wa­ter. There’s no safe­ty enhance­ment.”
    ...

    Yes, if TEPCO dumps the tri­tium, it’ll just be rain­ing tri­tium in Japan. But as many experts also point out, sim­ply stor­ing the water indef­i­nite­ly isn’t real­ly an option either because at some point the space just runs out.

    So just FYI, it’s prob­a­bly about to start rain­ing tri­tium in the areas around Fukushi­ma. It’s cer­tain­ly noth­ing to be enthu­si­as­tic about but, of course, as far as radi­a­tion in the rain­wa­ter goes, it could be a lot worse.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 14, 2015, 6:30 pm
  41. There was some “good news/horrible news” news for a Fukushi­ma work­er that’s also a reminder of the risks the wild­ly under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed Fukushi­ma clean up work­ers are tak­ing: the hor­ri­ble news for the man, who worked at the cleanup site for 18 months, was get­ting diag­nosed with leukemia in his late 30’s. The good news is that he was com­pen­sat­ed by the gov­ern­ment for it, becom­ing the first Fukushi­ma cleanup work­er to get com­pen­sat­ed for devel­op­ing can­cer.

    The fact that he was the first to get com­pen­sat­ed is also, in itself, sort of a “good news/bad news” sit­u­a­tion. It’s good that work­ers might final­ly start get­ting com­pen­sat­ed when their can­cer can be con­nect­ed to their work. But it’s sort of bad news because, with over 44,000 peo­ple hav­ing worked at Fukushi­ma since the dis­as­ter, there’s going to be a lot more “good news/horrible news” sit­u­a­tions going for­ward. And that’s assum­ing the work­ers actu­al­ly get com­pen­sat­ed when they get can­cer which is going to be an open ques­tion for Fukushi­ma’s cleanup crew since, as the arti­cle below points out, the man who become the first recip­i­ent of can­cer com­pen­sa­tion was one of eight peo­ple at his site to apply for the com­pen­sa­tion:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    Japan Says Fukushi­ma Nuclear Plant Work­er Diag­nosed With Can­cer
    Con­struc­tion worker’s leukemia could have been caused by radi­a­tion expo­sure

    By Mit­su­ru Obe
    Updat­ed Oct. 20, 2015 11:44 a.m. ET

    TOKYO—A con­struc­tion work­er at the crip­pled Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant has can­cer that could have been caused by radi­a­tion expo­sure, the gov­ern­ment said Tues­day in announc­ing the first com­pen­sa­tion award to be grant­ed in such a case.

    The man, who wasn’t iden­ti­fied, was diag­nosed while in his late 30s with leukemia, the Health and Labor Min­istry said. His cur­rent age and con­di­tion weren’t dis­closed, but the min­istry said he is receiv­ing out­pa­tient treat­ment.

    The man worked at the Fukushi­ma plant for 18 months from 2011 to 2013, start­ing after the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi, which trig­gered three nuclear melt­downs. He is the first work­er at the plant to receive com­pen­sa­tion after devel­op­ing can­cer, although the min­istry said a defin­i­tive con­nec­tion hasn’t been estab­lished.

    Sev­en oth­er work­ers at the site who have been diag­nosed with can­cer had applied for com­pen­sa­tion. Three were denied and three appli­ca­tions are pend­ing. One work­er with­drew an appli­ca­tion. An expert pan­el under the min­istry reviews the appli­ca­tions.

    ...

    News of his diag­no­sis comes just weeks after the restart­ing of a sec­ond nuclear reac­tor in Japan, even as court bat­tles con­tin­ue between plant oper­a­tors and oppo­nents of restarts. The first was restart­ed in August.

    All of the country’s reac­tors were tak­en offline in the wake of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, the country’s worst, as the gov­ern­ment devel­oped more strin­gent safe­ty stan­dards.

    More than 44,000 peo­ple have been employed at the Fukushi­ma plant since the dis­as­ter, in capac­i­ties rang­ing from con­struc­tion work­er to engi­neer, as part of a cleanup and decom­mis­sion­ing effort that is expect­ed to take decades, accord­ing to Tep­co.

    Of them, 15,408 have been exposed to radi­a­tion exceed­ing 10 mil­lisiev­erts, Tep­co says. Most of the expo­sure has occurred near the dam­aged reac­tor build­ings, the offi­cial said, where work­ers have been remov­ing spent nuclear fuel stored at the top of these build­ings.

    On aver­age, peo­ple are exposed to 2.4 mil­lisiev­erts of radi­a­tion a year dur­ing dai­ly life, accord­ing to the U.N. The min­istry said it is dif­fi­cult to prove a link between can­cer and radi­a­tion expo­sure of less than 100 mil­lisiev­erts a year.

    The man award­ed com­pen­sa­tion was exposed to a total of 15.7 mil­lisiev­erts of radi­a­tion through his work at the plant, the min­istry said. He also worked at oth­er nuclear plants, bring­ing his total expo­sure to 19.8 mil­lisiev­erts, it said.

    He did con­struc­tion work at Fukushi­ma, includ­ing build­ing cov­ers for dam­aged reac­tor build­ings and an incin­er­a­tor for low-lev­el radioac­tive waste, the min­istry said.

    The gov­ern­ment and Tep­co also face law­suits from Fukushi­ma res­i­dents demand­ing com­pen­sa­tion for loss­es caused by the melt­down at the plant. About 71,000 res­i­dents of Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture are still unable to return to their homes because of high lev­els of radi­a­tion.

    Researchers have found high rates of thy­roid can­cer among chil­dren and ado­les­cents in Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture, but dis­agree about whether that is the result of radi­a­tion expo­sure or more rig­or­ous test­ing. Some peo­ple with thy­roid can­cer don’t have symp­toms.

    A total of 104 young peo­ple have been diag­nosed with thy­roid can­cer, accord­ing to the Fukushi­ma pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment.

    “Researchers have found high rates of thy­roid can­cer among chil­dren and ado­les­cents in Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture, but dis­agree about whether that is the result of radi­a­tion expo­sure or more rig­or­ous test­ing. Some peo­ple with thy­roid can­cer don’t have symp­toms.” That’s also some hor­ri­ble news.

    And keep in mind when you read:

    ...
    More than 44,000 peo­ple have been employed at the Fukushi­ma plant since the dis­as­ter, in capac­i­ties rang­ing from con­struc­tion work­er to engi­neer, as part of a cleanup and decom­mis­sion­ing effort that is expect­ed to take decades, accord­ing to Tep­co.

    Of them, 15,408 have been exposed to radi­a­tion exceed­ing 10 mil­lisiev­erts, Tep­co says. Most of the expo­sure has occurred near the dam­aged reac­tor build­ings, the offi­cial said, where work­ers have been remov­ing spent nuclear fuel stored at the top of these build­ings.

    On aver­age, peo­ple are exposed to 2.4 mil­lisiev­erts of radi­a­tion a year dur­ing dai­ly life, accord­ing to the U.N. The min­istry said it is dif­fi­cult to prove a link between can­cer and radi­a­tion expo­sure of less than 100 mil­lisiev­erts a year.

    The man award­ed com­pen­sa­tion was exposed to a total of 15.7 mil­lisiev­erts of radi­a­tion through his work at the plant, the min­istry said. He also worked at oth­er nuclear plants, bring­ing his total expo­sure to 19.8 mil­lisiev­erts, it said.
    ...

    that the 10 mil­lisiev­erts of radi­a­tion that Tep­co esti­mates over 15,000 work­ers have already been exposed to is the equiv­a­lent of about 2.5–5 coro­nary angiograms. So, assum­ing Tep­co’s esti­ma­tions are cor­rect, the Fukushi­ma work­ers are get­ting radi­a­tion dos­es that you might get after a series of med­ical imag­ing scans. And while 100 mil­lisiev­erts is clear­ly asso­ci­at­ed with can­cer, the can­cer risks for 10 — 100 mil­lisiev­erts of expo­sure is more of an open ques­tion.

    So it looks like about a third of Fukushi­ma’s ~44,000 work­ers are get­ting radi­a­tion dos­es at “maybe dan­ger­ous, but not con­clu­sive­ly can­cer-caus­ings” lev­els (and they’re under­paid). And that’s assum­ing Tep­co isn’t under­es­ti­mat­ing the expo­sure. So let’s hope that’s not the case.

    And let’s also hope that Fukushi­ma’s chil­dren aren’t also get­ting ele­vat­ed lev­els of thy­roid can­cer:

    AP
    Researcher: Chil­dren’s can­cer linked to Fukushi­ma radi­a­tion

    By YURI KAGEYAMA
    Oct. 8, 2015 4:25 AM EDT

    TOKYO (AP) — A new study says chil­dren liv­ing near the Fukushi­ma nuclear melt­downs have been diag­nosed with thy­roid can­cer at a rate 20 to 50 times that of chil­dren else­where, a dif­fer­ence the authors con­tend under­mines the gov­ern­men­t’s posi­tion that more cas­es have been dis­cov­ered in the area only because of strin­gent mon­i­tor­ing.

    Most of the 370,000 chil­dren in Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture (state) have been giv­en ultra­sound check­ups since the March 2011 melt­downs at the tsuna­mi-rav­aged Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The most recent sta­tis­tics, released in August, show that thy­roid can­cer is sus­pect­ed or con­firmed in 137 of those chil­dren, a num­ber that rose by 25 from a year ear­li­er. Else­where, the dis­ease occurs in only about one or two of every mil­lion chil­dren per year by some esti­mates.

    “This is more than expect­ed and emerg­ing faster than expect­ed,” lead author Toshi­hide Tsu­da told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press dur­ing a vis­it to Tokyo. “This is 20 times to 50 times what would be nor­mal­ly expect­ed.”

    ...

    Right after the dis­as­ter, the lead doc­tor brought in to Fukushi­ma, Shu­nichi Yamashita, repeat­ed­ly ruled out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of radi­a­tion-induced ill­ness­es. The thy­roid checks were being ordered just to play it safe, accord­ing to the gov­ern­ment.

    But Tsu­da, a pro­fes­sor at Okaya­ma Uni­ver­si­ty, said the lat­est results from the ultra­sound check­ups, which con­tin­ue to be con­duct­ed, raise doubts about the gov­ern­men­t’s view.

    ...

    Sci­en­tists are divid­ed on Tsu­da’s con­clu­sions.

    In the same Epi­demi­ol­o­gy issue, Scott Davis, pro­fes­sor at the Depart­ment of Epi­demi­ol­o­gy in the Seat­tle-based School of Pub­lic Health, said the key lim­i­ta­tion of Tsu­da’s study is the lack of indi­vid­ual-lev­el data to esti­mate actu­al radi­a­tion dos­es.

    Davis agreed with the find­ings of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion and UNSCEAR, or the Unit­ed Nations Sci­en­tif­ic Com­mit­tee on the Effects of Atom­ic Radi­a­tion, both of which have car­ried out reviews on Fukushi­ma and pre­dict­ed can­cer rates will remain sta­ble, with no ris­es being dis­cern­able as radi­a­tion-caused.

    David J. Bren­ner, pro­fes­sor of radi­a­tion bio­physics at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Cen­ter, took a dif­fer­ent view. While he agreed indi­vid­ual esti­mates on radi­a­tion dos­es are need­ed, he said in a tele­phone inter­view that the high­er thy­roid can­cer rate in Fukushi­ma is “not due to screen­ing. It’s real.”

    Con­clu­sions about any con­nec­tion between Fukushi­ma radi­a­tion and can­cer will help deter­mine com­pen­sa­tion and oth­er poli­cies. Many peo­ple who live in areas deemed safe by the gov­ern­ment have fled fear­ing sick­ness, espe­cial­ly for their chil­dren.

    An area extend­ing about 20 kilo­me­ters (12 miles) from the nuclear plant has been declared an exclu­sion zone. The bor­ders are con­stant­ly being remapped as cleanup of radi­at­ed debris and soil con­tin­ues in an effort to bring as many peo­ple back as pos­si­ble. Decom­mis­sion­ing the plant is expect­ed to take decades.

    ...

    Andrew F. Olshan, pro­fes­sor at the Depart­ment of Epi­demi­ol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, in Chapel Hill, not­ed that research on what fol­lows a cat­a­stro­phe is com­plex and dif­fi­cult.

    “Dr. Tsu­da’s study had lim­i­ta­tions includ­ing assess­ment of indi­vid­ual radi­a­tion dose lev­els to the thy­roid and the abil­i­ty to ful­ly assess the impact of screen­ing on the excess cas­es detect­ed,” he said.

    “Nonethe­less, this study is crit­i­cal to ini­ti­ate addi­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tions of pos­si­ble health effects, for gov­ern­men­tal plan­ning, and increas­ing pub­lic aware­ness.”

    Note the par­al­lels in the debate over whether or not the increased rates of thy­roid can­cer detec­tion in Fukushi­ma’s chil­dren and whether or not a Fukushi­ma work­er’s can­cer was due to their work at the cleanup site or just ran­dom. In both cas­es there’s inevitably going to be a num­ber of cas­es where some­one is known to be exposed to radi­a­tion lev­els that aren’t offi­cial­ly “you’re going to get can­cer” lev­els, but still high­er than “don’t wor­ry” lev­els. It’s a reminder that “what caused this tumor” is going to be be of a num­ber of dif­fi­cult judge­ment calls involv­ing the peo­ple both liv­ing at Fukushi­ma at the time and con­tin­u­ing to work there. So let’s hope the researchers make the most sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly appro­pri­ate calls, but since the dif­fi­cul­ty in con­duct­ing things like attribut­ing thy­roid can­cer spikes in the Fukushi­ma chil­dren to radi­a­tion is high­ly relat­ed to ques­tions like “did this Fukushi­ma work­er get can­cer from all the extra radi­a­tion they got exposed to?”, let’s hope the can­cer com­pen­sa­tion screen­ing com­mit­tees err towards not con­tin­u­ing to screw over the peo­ple try­ing to stop an ongo­ing cat­a­stro­phe.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 22, 2015, 10:14 pm
  42. Here’s an update on TEP­CO’s new strat­e­gy for dump­ing treat­ed radioac­tive water ground­wa­ter into the ocean to free up the lim­it­ed space in the stor­age tanks for more high­ly radioac­tive water: As we saw back in Sep­tem­ber, 300 tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground water has been pumped from the ground each day and stored in tank. But as that tank capac­i­ty nears its lim­it, the deci­sion was made to treat those 300 tons of ground water and dump it into the ocean. And while the “Advanced Liq­uid Pro­cess­ing Sys­tem” radi­a­tion scrub­bing tech­nol­o­gy is sup­posed to be able to get rid of 62 dif­fer­ent types of radi­a­tion, it can’t get rid of tri­tium. The lev­els of tri­tium were still deemed low enough to be safe for ocean dump­ing any­way.

    Well, as we’ll see below, fol­low­ing the instal­la­tion of sea­walls in Octo­ber to pre­vent the flow of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter into the sea, ground­wa­ter has been col­lect­ing in wells dug between the sea­walls and the nuclear plants. But the sea­walls have also result­ed in a build up of ground­wa­ter at a faster rater than TEPCO expect­ed. In addi­tion, TEPCO start­ed pump­ing ground­wa­ter from of those wells with the intent of treat­ing the water and dump­ing it into the ocean. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the com­pa­ny just announced that four of the five of those wells have way too much tri­tium to dump into the oceans and, as part of its emer­gency response to this sit­u­a­tion, TEPCO has start­ing pump­ing 200–300 tons of that con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter out of the wells since Novem­ber, but not into the swin­dling sup­ply of stor­age tanks. Instead, that 200–300 tons of ground­wa­ter each day is get­ting pumped back into the reac­tor build­ings (where it gets a lot more than just extra tri­tium added):

    The Asahi Shim­bun
    TEPCO con­fronts new prob­lem of radioac­tive water at Fukushi­ma plant
    Decem­ber 26, 2015

    By HIROMI KUMAGAI/ Staff Writer

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. has unex­pect­ed­ly been forced to deal with an increas­ing­ly large amount radioac­tive water accu­mu­lat­ing at the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant after sea­side walls to block the flow of ground­wa­ter were con­struct­ed in Octo­ber.

    TEPCO com­plet­ed the walls on Oct. 26 to block con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter from flow­ing into sea. The util­i­ty began pump­ing up ground­wa­ter from five wells dug between the walls and the plan­t’s reac­tor build­ings. The plan called for releas­ing the less con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the sea after a purifi­ca­tion process, but TEPCO dis­cov­ered that the water had larg­er amounts of radi­a­tion than it had expect­ed.

    TEPCO offi­cials said the sit­u­a­tion has left the util­i­ty with no option but to trans­fer 200 to 300 tons of ground­wa­ter each day into high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed reac­tor build­ings since Novem­ber, a move that could fur­ther con­t­a­m­i­nate the water.

    Com­prised of numer­ous cylin­dri­cal steel pipes mea­sur­ing 30 meters tall, the sea­side walls were installed on the coastal side of the No. 1 to No. 4 reac­tor build­ings to block con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter flow­ing out of the high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed build­ings from reach­ing the ocean.

    To con­trol ground­wa­ter lev­els, TEPCO planned to release the less con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter from the five wells into sea after a purifi­ca­tion process.

    How­ev­er, the water from four of the wells was dis­cov­ered to have high lev­els of tritium–a radioac­tive sub­stance that is hard to remove–at lev­els high­er than 1,500 bec­querels per liter, which means the water can­not be released into sea.

    To com­pound the prob­lem, the sea­side walls have also sig­nif­i­cant­ly raised ground­wa­ter lev­els, forc­ing the util­i­ty to pump a lot more ground­wa­ter than it orig­i­nal­ly planned.

    TEPCO has been forced to tem­porar­i­ly trans­fer large amounts of the ground­wa­ter into high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed reac­tor build­ings, where it could become con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed to an even fur­ther degree by being exposed to melt­ed nuclear fuel.

    The util­i­ty said it sus­pects the high lev­els of radi­a­tion found in the ground­wa­ter from the wells is due to the water being exposed to high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil near the plant’s coastal embank­ment.

    To reduce the amount of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water at the plant, TEPCO began oper­a­tions in Sep­tem­ber to pump up the ground­wa­ter in wells con­struct­ed around the reac­tor build­ings to release it into the sea after a purifi­ca­tion process.

    The com­pa­ny ini­tial­ly announced that the project had reduced the amount of ground­wa­ter flow­ing into the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed reac­tor build­ings from 300 tons to 200 tons a day.

    The increas­ing amount of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water has been stored in tanks con­struct­ed in the plant’s com­pound after going through oper­a­tions to reduce con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

    TEPCO plans to increase the amount of water it pumps from wells locat­ed else­where on the plant site to help reduce the amount of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter accu­mu­lat­ing in the sea­side wells.

    ...

    “TEPCO offi­cials said the sit­u­a­tion has left the util­i­ty with no option but to trans­fer 200 to 300 tons of ground­wa­ter each day into high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed reac­tor build­ings since Novem­ber, a move that could fur­ther con­t­a­m­i­nate the water.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 26, 2015, 11:27 pm
  43. The Japan­ese farm min­istry made an announce­ment that should please the farm­ers of Fukushi­ma: the EU is drop­ping manda­to­ry radi­a­tion checks on veg­eta­bles, fruits, and live­stock prod­ucts from the Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture:

    the-japan-news.com
    EU to ease import curbs on Fukushi­ma

    12:15 am, Jan­u­ary 08, 2016

    Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Euro­pean Union will sub­stan­tial­ly ease its restric­tions on food items import­ed from Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture effec­tive on Sat­ur­day, Japan’s farm min­istry said Thurs­day. Veg­eta­bles, fruits and live­stock prod­ucts import­ed from the pre­fec­ture will be exempt from the EU’s manda­to­ry radi­a­tion checks, the Japan­ese Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries said.

    The EU imposed restric­tions on food imports from the pre­fec­ture after the 2011 triple melt­down at Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co.’s dis­as­ter-strick­en Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant.

    The EU will also stop requir­ing radi­a­tion screen­ing for all food items import­ed from Aomori Pre­fec­ture and Saita­ma Pre­fec­ture.

    Rice, buck­wheat and some oth­er foods pro­duced in the Japan­ese pre­fec­tures of Iwate, Miya­gi, Ibara­ki, Tochi­gi, Gun­ma and Chi­ba will also be removed from the list of items sub­ject to the EU’s import restric­tions.

    While that’s the kind of news that could obvi­ous­ly raise con­cerns over radi­a­tion in import­ed food, here’s a reminder that con­cerns over radi­a­tion and oth­er tox­ins in your food
    prob­a­bly should­n’t be lim­it­ed to imports:

    The Inde­pen­dent
    Europe’s largest ille­gal tox­ic dump­ing site dis­cov­ered in south­ern Italy — an area with can­cer rates 80% high­er than nation­al aver­age
    The vast 60 acre site bears the hall­marks of organ­ised crime — but experts claim the Mafia alone is not respon­si­ble

    Michael Day

    Wednes­day 17 June 2015

    The biggest tox­ic dump­ing site ever dis­cov­ered in Europe is being inves­ti­gat­ed in the area of south­ern Italy plagued by can­cer rates that are up to 80 per cent high­er than the nation­al aver­age.

    Police say over two mil­lion cubic metres of dan­ger­ous mate­r­i­al, includ­ing 25kg pack­ets of French indus­tri­al waste and con­tain­ers with sol­vents, have been dug out up in the Calvi Risor­ta area north of Naples, where the Camor­ra crime syn­di­cate makes hun­dreds of mil­lions a year from ille­gal dump­ing.

    The dump site was so big that forestry offi­cials could only esti­mate its size after three days’ dig­ging with bull­doz­ers, Il Fat­to Quo­tid­i­ano news­pa­per report­ed. Ser­gio Cos­ta, the region­al com­man­der of the Forestry Police, said inves­ti­ga­tors would estab­lish to whom the prod­ucts has been sold – and thus who was respon­si­ble for dis­pos­ing of them.

    Mr Cos­ta said the vast dump site, cov­er­ing 60 acres, bore the hall­marks of the Camorra’s Casale­si clan, made noto­ri­ous by the hit book and film Gomor­rah. He said the site have been formed using the clan’s “almost sci­en­tif­ic sys­tem” in which rub­bish and soil were sep­a­rat­ed in dis­tinct but com­pact lay­ers, leav­ing just 10cm or so of untaint­ed soil on the sur­face as cov­er.

    A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in near­by San­ta Maria Capua Vet­ere said ongo­ing tests would reveal how dan­ger­ous the waste is. But sci­en­tists say the stud­ies have already shown the dead­ly effects of the ille­gal trade.

    Research pub­lished in 2012 sug­gest­ed that women in the Naples area were almost 50 per cent more like­ly to devel­op breast can­cer than their com­pa­tri­ots. Anto­nio Gior­dano, the direc­tor of the Sbar­ro Insti­tute for Can­cer Research at Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty in Philadel­phia, and Giulio Tar­ro, a doc­tor at the Cotug­no hos­pi­tal in Naples, found can­cer rates in some towns in the area were up to 80 per cent above the nation­al aver­age.

    ...

    The envi­ron­men­tal group Legam­bi­ente has warned that organ­ised crime groups across south­ern Italy were earn­ing €20bn a year by ille­gal­ly bury­ing heavy met­als and can­cer-caus­ing organ­ic com­pounds, often in agri­cul­tur­al areas or on land used to build homes. It said, though, that Cam­pa­nia, the region around Naples, was the area worst hit by Mafia-linked envi­ron­men­tal dam­age. The local crime syn­di­cate, the Camor­ra, is fre­quent­ly blamed for exac­er­bat­ing or even caus­ing the prob­lems – by encour­ag­ing the clo­sure of offi­cial incin­er­a­tion plants – to increase demand for its ille­gal dump­ing ser­vices.

    But experts said the Mafia alone was not respon­si­ble. “It’s not just the Camor­ra, but also insti­tu­tions and civ­il soci­ety who have a respon­si­bil­i­ty,” said Cor­ra­do De Rosa, the author of sev­er­al books on the Mafia. “Because those who have tak­en mon­ey from the Mafia to bury waste in their land, and those who didn’t report what was hap­pen­ing even though they knew about the tragedy, are also respon­si­ble.”

    Many com­pa­nies from the north of Italy are thought to pay Mafia clans to dis­pose of dan­ger­ous indus­tri­al waste.

    “The dump site was so big that forestry offi­cials could only esti­mate its size after three days’ dig­ging with bull­doz­ers.”
    That a lot of tox­ic waste, includ­ing nuclear waste...sit­ting just 10 cm below the sur­face, often in agri­cul­tur­al and res­i­den­tial areas:

    ...
    Mr Cos­ta said the vast dump site, cov­er­ing 60 acres, bore the hall­marks of the Camorra’s Casale­si clan, made noto­ri­ous by the hit book and film Gomor­rah. He said the site have been formed using the clan’s “almost sci­en­tif­ic sys­tem” in which rub­bish and soil were sep­a­rat­ed in dis­tinct but com­pact lay­ers, leav­ing just 10cm or so of untaint­ed soil on the sur­face as cov­er.
    ...

    The envi­ron­men­tal group Legam­bi­ente has warned that organ­ised crime groups across south­ern Italy were earn­ing €20bn a year by ille­gal­ly bury­ing heavy met­als and can­cer-caus­ing organ­ic com­pounds, often in agri­cul­tur­al areas or on land used to build homes...

    It sort of puts a new spin on the Mafi­a’s his­toric asso­ci­a­tion with ‘shal­low graves’.

    And with 20 bil­lion euros a year made from this ille­gal dump­ing, and plen­ty of com­plic­it author­i­ties and indus­tries that played a role and appar­ent­ly con­tin­ue to play a role, it’s hard to see how what’s going to stop the prac­tice. But when you con­sid­er that the Mafia groups sus­pect­ed of this are basi­cal­ly dump­ing this stuff in their own home states, hope­ful­ly the grow­ing can­cer rates, and this thing called a ‘con­science’, will help put a stop to the prac­tice. Because oth­er­wise there’s prob­a­bly going to be a lot more sto­ries about the peo­ple of that region head­ing to an ear­ly grave, includ­ing a grow­ing num­ber of very ear­ly, very tiny graves:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Italy con­firms high­er can­cer, death rates from mob’s dump­ing of tox­ic waste

    By Nicole Win­field Jan­u­ary 2

    ROME — A health sur­vey man­dat­ed by Italy’s Par­lia­ment has con­firmed high­er-than-nor­mal inci­dents of death and can­cer among res­i­dents in and around Naples, because of decades of tox­ic-waste dump­ing by the local Camor­ra mob.

    The report by the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health said it was “crit­i­cal” to address the rates at which babies in the provinces of Naples and Caser­ta are being hos­pi­tal­ized in the first year of life for “exces­sive” instances of tumors, espe­cial­ly brain tumors.

    The report, which updat­ed an ini­tial study in 2014, blamed the high­er-than-usu­al rates on “ascer­tained or sus­pect­ed expo­sure to a com­bi­na­tion of envi­ron­men­tal con­t­a­m­i­nants that can be emit­ted or released from ille­gal haz­ardous waste dump sites and/or the uncon­trolled burn­ing of both urban and haz­ardous waste.”

    Res­i­dents have long com­plained about adverse health effects from the dump­ing, which has poi­soned the under­ground wells that irri­gate the farm­land that pro­vides veg­eta­bles for much of cen­tral and south­ern Italy. Over the years, police have sequestered dozens of fields because their irri­ga­tion wells con­tained high lev­els of lead, arsenic and the indus­tri­al sol­vent tetra­chlo­ride.

    Author­i­ties say the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion is the result of the Camorra’s multi­bil­lion-dol­lar rack­et in dis­pos­ing of tox­ic waste, main­ly from indus­tries in Italy’s wealthy north that ask no ques­tions about where the garbage goes as long as it is tak­en off their hands — for a small frac­tion of the cost of legal dis­pos­al. In recent years, Camor­ra turn­coats have revealed how the mafia rack­et works, direct­ing police to spe­cif­ic sites where tox­ic garbage was dumped.

    In 2014, the Ital­ian Par­lia­ment passed a law man­dat­ing that the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health, a pub­lic insti­tu­tion under the Health Min­istry, report on the rates of death, hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and can­cer in the 55 munic­i­pal­i­ties in the “Land of Fires.”

    ...

    “The report by the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health said it was “crit­i­cal” to address the rates at which babies in the provinces of Naples and Caser­ta are being hos­pi­tal­ized in the first year of life for “exces­sive” instances of tumors, espe­cial­ly brain tumors.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 7, 2016, 9:20 pm
  44. Nao­to Kan, Japan’s prime min­is­ter dur­ing the 2011 Fukushi­ma tragedy, recent­ly reflect­ed on his expe­ri­ences dur­ing the dis­as­ter and his reassess­ment of the costs and ben­e­fits of nuclear pow­er. Sur­prise! He not a big fan. It’s an under­stand­able posi­tion for a lot of rea­son. But for Mr. Kan, those rea­sons includ­ed that time he was about to evac­u­ate Tokyo and declare mar­tial law:

    The Tele­graph
    Fukushi­ma: Tokyo was on the brink of nuclear cat­a­stro­phe, admits for­mer prime min­is­ter
    Five years on from the tsuna­mi, the for­mer Japan­ese prime min­is­ter says the coun­try came with­in a “paper-thin mar­gin” of a nuclear dis­as­ter

    By Andrew Gilli­gan, Tokyo

    10:00 PM GMT 04 Mar 2016

    Japan’s prime min­is­ter at the time of the 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi has revealed that the coun­try came with­in a “paper-thin mar­gin” of a nuclear dis­as­ter requir­ing the evac­u­a­tion of 50 mil­lion peo­ple.

    In an inter­view with The Tele­graph to mark the fifth anniver­sary of the tragedy, Nao­to Kan described the pan­ic and dis­ar­ray at the high­est lev­els of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment as it fought to con­trol mul­ti­ple melt­downs at the crip­pled Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er sta­tion.

    He said he con­sid­ered evac­u­at­ing the cap­i­tal, Tokyo, along with all oth­er areas with­in 160 miles of the plant, and declar­ing mar­tial law. “The future exis­tence of Japan as a whole was at stake,” he said. “Some­thing on that scale, an evac­u­a­tion of 50 mil­lion, it would have been like a los­ing a huge war.”

    Mr Kan admit­ted he was fright­ened and said he got “no clear infor­ma­tion” out of Tep­co, the plant’s oper­a­tor. He was “very shocked” by the per­for­mance of Nobua­ki Terasa­ka, his own government’s key nuclear safe­ty advis­er. “We ques­tioned him and he was unable to give clear respons­es,” he said.

    “We asked him – do you know any­thing about nuclear issues? And he said no, I majored in eco­nom­ics.”

    Mr Terasa­ka, the direc­tor of the Nuclear and Indus­tri­al Safe­ty Agency, was lat­er sacked. Anoth­er mem­ber of Mr Kan’s cri­sis work­ing group, the then Tep­co chair­man, Tsune­hisa Kat­suma­ta, was last week indict­ed on charges of crim­i­nal neg­li­gence for his role in the dis­as­ter.

    ...

    “When we got the report that pow­er had been cut and the coolant had stopped work­ing, that sent a shiv­er down my spine,” Mr Kan said. “From March 11, when the inci­dent hap­pened, until the 15th, the effects [of radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion] were expand­ing geo­graph­i­cal­ly.

    “From the 16th to the 20th we were able to halt the spread of radi­a­tion but the mar­gin left for us was paper-thin. If the [fuel rods] had burnt through [in] all six reac­tors, that would def­i­nite­ly have affect­ed Tokyo.

    “From a very ear­ly stage I had a very high con­cern for Tokyo. I was form­ing ideas for a Tokyo evac­u­a­tion plan in my head. In the 1923 earth­quake the gov­ern­ment ordered mar­tial law – I did think of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of hav­ing to set up such emer­gency law if it real­ly came down to it.

    “We were only able to avert a 250-kilo­me­tre (160-mile) evac­u­a­tion zone [around the plant] by a wafer-thin mar­gin, thanks to the efforts of peo­ple who risked their lives. Next time, we might not be so lucky.

    Dra­mat­ic CCTV footage from the plant, released in 2012, showed a skele­ton staff – the so-called “Fukushi­ma 50” — strug­gling to read emer­gency man­u­als by torch­light and bat­tling with con­tra­dic­to­ry, con­fus­ing instruc­tions from their supe­ri­ors at Tep­co. At one stage, an appeal went out for work­ers to bring bat­ter­ies from their cars so they could be hooked up to pro­vide pow­er for the crip­pled cool­ing sys­tems.

    Total dis­as­ter was avert­ed when sea­wa­ter was pumped into the reac­tors, but the plant man­ag­er, Masao Yoshi­da, lat­er said he con­sid­ered com­mit­ting hara-kiri, rit­u­al sui­cide, in despair at the sit­u­a­tion.

    Mr Kan said he had to retreat to an inner room after the atmos­phere in the government’s cri­sis man­age­ment cen­tre became “very noisy”.

    He said: “There was so lit­tle pre­cise infor­ma­tion com­ing in. It was very dif­fi­cult to make clear judg­ments. I don’t con­sid­er myself a nuclear expert, but I did study physics at uni­ver­si­ty.

    “I knew that even based on what lit­tle we were hear­ing, there was a real pos­si­bil­i­ty this could be big­ger than Cher­nobyl. That was a ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter, but there was only one reac­tor there. There were six here.”

    Although the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter caused no imme­di­ate deaths from radi­a­tion, it did force the evac­u­a­tion of almost 400,000 peo­ple, most of whom have still been unable to return to their homes. Hun­dreds of thou­sands more fled in pan­ic and much of Fukushi­ma province ceased func­tion­ing.

    An area with­in 20km (12.5 miles) of the plant remains an exclu­sion zone, with no-one allowed to live there. Some stud­ies have iden­ti­fied a high­er inci­dence of child can­cer in the wider region.

    Mr Kan said that the nuclear acci­dent is “still going on” today. He said: “In reac­tors 2 and 3, the radioac­tive fuel rods are still there and small amounts of [radioac­tive] water are leak­ing out of the reac­tor every day, despite what Tep­co says.”

    He said the expe­ri­ence had turned him from a sup­port­er of nuclear pow­er into a con­vinced oppo­nent. “I have changed my views 180 degrees. You have to look at the bal­ance between the risks and the ben­e­fits,” he said. “One reac­tor melt­down could destroy the whole plant and, how­ev­er unlike­ly, that is too great a risk.”

    Mr Kan lost the prime min­is­ter­ship lat­er in 2011 amid strong crit­i­cism of his han­dling of the cri­sis. A par­lia­men­tary inves­ti­ga­tion accused him of dis­tract­ing emer­gency work­ers by mak­ing a per­son­al vis­it to the plant, with­hold­ing infor­ma­tion, and mis­un­der­stand­ing a request by Tep­co to pull out some staff as a demand to with­draw them all.

    How­ev­er, anoth­er inde­pen­dent inquiry said his action in order­ing the “Fukushi­ma 50” to stay at their posts was vital. “I went to the Tep­co offices and demand­ed they not evac­u­ate. To this day I am crit­i­cised for that, but I believed then and I still believe now that I did the right thing and that that was a deci­sive moment in the cri­sis,” he told The Tele­graph.

    He admit­ted “regret” at his deci­sion not to pub­lish results from a com­put­er sys­tem called Spee­di, Sys­tem for Pre­dic­tion of Envi­ron­men­tal Emer­gency Dose Infor­ma­tion, which accu­rate­ly fore­cast the spread of radioac­tiv­i­ty around the plant and could have saved thou­sands of local res­i­dents from expo­sure.

    “As a result, some areas were exposed to high lev­els of radi­a­tion,” he said.

    He crit­i­cised his suc­ces­sor as prime min­is­ter, Shin­zo Abe, for restart­ing some of the country’s nuclear pow­er sta­tions, all of which were shut down after the cri­sis, say­ing that Japan had “not learned the lessons enough” and was “clos­ing its eyes” to the risk of a sec­ond dis­as­ter. He has joined protest demon­stra­tions against the plant reopen­ings.

    “There is a clear con­flict between gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy and the wish­es of the pub­lic,” he said. “Addi­tion­al pro­tec­tive mea­sures against tsunamis have been tak­en, such as rais­ing the pro­tec­tive walls, but I don’t think they go far enough. We shouldn’t be build­ing nuclear pow­er plants in areas where there is a pop­u­la­tion to be affect­ed. After the tsuna­mi, Japan went with­out nuclear pow­er for years, so it can be done.”

    The for­mer leader said that “a lot of the acci­dent was caused before March 11” by the com­pla­cen­cy and mis­judg­ment of Tep­co, a ver­dict echoed by the offi­cial inquiry, which dubbed the nuclear acci­dent a “man-made dis­as­ter”.

    The crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion which led to last week’s charges against Mr Kat­suma­ta and two oth­er Tep­co man­agers found that they had known since June 2009 that the plant was vul­ner­a­ble to a tsuna­mi but had “failed to take pre-emp­tive mea­sures [despite] know­ing the risk”.

    Mr Kan expressed sat­is­fac­tion at the charges brought last week against a senior Tep­co man­ag­er and said he would tes­ti­fy against Mr Kat­suma­ta if asked.

    “He said the expe­ri­ence had turned him from a sup­port­er of nuclear pow­er into a con­vinced oppo­nent. “I have changed my views 180 degrees. You have to look at the bal­ance between the risks and the ben­e­fits,” he said. “One reac­tor melt­down could destroy the whole plant and, how­ev­er unlike­ly, that is too great a risk.””
    Tech­nolo­gies with the capac­i­ty to dam­age the entire plan­et tend not to do well with cost/benefit analy­sis.

    And while the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter hope­ful­ly won’t spi­ral out of con­trol and end up, if not tak­ing down the ecosys­tem, at least doing mas­sive, mas­sive dam­age because it’s just hard­er to clean up than antic­i­pat­ed, let’s not for­get that there’s no guar­an­tee advance­ments in nuclear tech­nol­o­gy will actu­al­ly make future nuclear plants any safer. After all, as Mr. Kan acknowl­edges, this main cause of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter was­n’t the earthquake/tsunami. It was the fact that the plant was­n’t designed to han­dle such an event. And while there already exists plen­ty of nuclear tech­nolo­gies and designs that are vast­ly safer than what was used at the Fukushi­ma plant, the fact that plants as dan­ger­ous as the Fukushi­ma plant or worse are still oper­at­ing around the world is a reminder that the avail­abil­i­ty of safer nuclear tech­nol­o­gy does­n’t neces­si­tate the use of that safer options. There are plen­ty of rea­sons to keep using the dan­ger­ous nuclear pow­der kegs that are already built. They might be bad rea­sons, but they’re empir­i­cal­ly per­sua­sive rea­sons nonethe­less, which is why it’s not real­ly a ques­tion of whether or not the world expe­ri­ences anoth­er Fukushi­ma-league nuclear dis­as­ter. It real­ly just a ques­tion of fre­quen­cy.

    And once the dis­as­ter hits, the fre­quen­cy of anoth­er mega-dis­as­ter at the same loca­tion go up sig­nif­i­cant­ly. Why? Because as the inter­view below with Aki­ra Ono, the head of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter cleanup note, the five year old cleanup has bare­ly got­ten under way yet, with the most dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous tasks still ahead. And it’s prob­a­bly anoth­er four decades, assum­ing all goes well. But as Ono also nos, the biggest risk to that suc­cess­ful cleanup is some­thing that’s rather dif­fi­cult to con­trol for: anoth­er near­by nat­ur­al dis­as­ter. Because it’s prob­a­bly not going to take a mas­sive earthquake/tsunami near­ly as large as the one that struck in 2011 to hit the cleanup site and cause anoth­er mega-dis­as­ter:

    The Tele­graph

    Fukushi­ma: Five years after nuclear dis­as­ter, the clean-up has bare­ly begun
    Japan’s Fukushi­ma clean-up may take up to 40 years, says plan­t’s oper­a­tor, five years after melt­down

    By Julian Ryall, Fukushi­ma

    5:11PM GMT 11 Feb 2016

    Five years after the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant was crip­pled dur­ing a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake and tsuna­mi, the plant oper­a­tor has admit­ted that only a frac­tion of the clean-up has been accom­plished to make the site safe.

    As Japan pre­pares to mark the anniver­sary of the world’s sec­ond-worst nuclear dis­as­ter, it is clear that the progress to date – clear­ing up debris, and installing pro­tec­tive struc­tures around the four reac­tor build­ings that were destroyed – is large­ly skin deep.

    The most tech­ni­cal­ly com­plex and dan­ger­ous tasks, includ­ing locat­ing and remov­ing the nuclear fuel that has burned through the pres­sure ves­sels of three of the reac­tors and is believed to have pooled at the bot­tom of the con­tain­ment cham­bers, are yet to begin.

    The plant oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (Tep­co), believes that the work will take at least anoth­er 40 years to com­plete.

    “It is dif­fi­cult to esti­mate, but I would say that we have achieved around 10 per cent of decom­mis­sion­ing,” said Aki­ra Ono, super­in­ten­dent of the Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, 140 miles north-east of Tokyo.

    “We have a very dif­fi­cult chal­lenge in front of us, but the actions we take today and tomor­row will get us clos­er to achiev­ing that aim.”

    Look­ing down on what is left of the four reac­tors gives an idea of the scale of the task, with many areas still untouched after the mag­ni­tude 9 earth­quake struck direct­ly off­shore on March 11 2011 and sent a tsuna­mi bar­relling into the coast­line of north-east Japan. Almost 16,000 peo­ple were killed, with 160,000 more los­ing their homes.

    High-water marks are still vis­i­ble some 45ft up the side of the reac­tor build­ings.

    ...

    A boil­er build­ing has been reduced to skele­tal gird­ers and rust­ed machin­ery, while a large mobile crane is sus­pend­ed at an angle deter­mined by the waves. Bat­tered pipes and build­ing mate­r­i­al lit­ter the ground and the roofs of low­er build­ings, deposit­ed by the waves or the hydro­gen explo­sions.

    The debris has been joined by coils of pipes and wiring being used by work­ers who are strug­gling to wrest back con­trol of the site.

    Tep­co has man­aged to remove 1,535 fuel rods from the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 at the site, which was out of oper­a­tion at the time of the earth­quake and is now in a state of cold shut­down.

    Radi­a­tion lev­els around the plant are also steadi­ly falling, although the per­sis­tent tick­ing of per­son­al radi­a­tion coun­ters are a con­stant reminder that the dan­ger has not gone away.

    On a low hill over­look­ing the four reac­tors, the metre read 69.3 microsiev­erts an hour. Tep­co has set vis­i­tors’ max­i­mum dai­ly expo­sure to 100 microsiev­erts.

    The 100 microsiev­ert lim­it is tiny in com­par­i­son with expo­sure to up to 10 siev­erts an hour in what is left of the Unit 2 build­ing, where cranes are remov­ing rub­ble and twist­ed gird­ers from the upper lev­els of the struc­ture in prepa­ra­tion for the removal of 566 fuel rods in the spent fuel pool.

    Humans are still unable to enter the build­ing – expo­sure to those lev­els of radi­a­tion would be lethal, even with med­ical treat­ment – and efforts by robots to nav­i­gate the debris-strewn inte­ri­or have proved hit-and-miss.

    Around 8,000 work­ers labour at the site dai­ly, with those clos­est to the reac­tor build­ings still in full-body pro­tec­tive suits, three lay­ers of gloves, face masks with res­pi­ra­tors and hard hats.

    A 41-year-old man has been diag­nosed with leukaemia after spend­ing 12 months at the site. More cas­es are expect­ed, which thwart­ed efforts to encour­age peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties around the plant to return to their homes.

    Work con­tin­ues in the pad­dy fields and gar­dens in towns such as Nara­ha and Tomio­ka, where the clean-up is sched­uled to be com­plet­ed by 2017 and fam­i­lies are due to return.

    ...

    Back at the plant, the com­pa­ny has made bet­ter progress with ground­wa­ter that is flow­ing into the base­ments of the reac­tor build­ings and becom­ing high­ly radioac­tive. Efforts to restrict the amount seep­ing into the build­ings have proved effec­tive while decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion equip­ment set up on the site has helped to sta­bilise the amount held in 900 vast stor­age tanks at around 750,000 tons.

    The newest ini­tia­tive, a series of pipes dug into the land­ward side of the reac­tors that can be frozen and stop ground­wa­ter flow, was com­plet­ed this week and Tep­co is await­ing approval from the gov­ern­ment to put it into oper­a­tion.

    The atti­tude of a com­pa­ny that was crit­i­cised in gov­ern­ment inquiries for assum­ing that noth­ing could go wrong has also changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

    “We were not able to pre­vent the acci­dent from hap­pen­ing because we stopped think­ing,” said Yuichi Oka­mu­ra, a com­pa­ny spokesman.

    “We were not able to think beyond a cer­tain point, such as that a tsuna­mi might be high­er and what would hap­pen to the plant if that sce­nario did occur. We did­n’t think what would hap­pen if the safe­ty equip­ment did not func­tion as it was meant to.”

    Mr Ono warned that the biggest risk to the crip­pled facil­i­ty was anoth­er major nat­ur­al dis­as­ter.

    “The pos­si­bil­i­ty may be low, but if a major earth­quake or tsuna­mi hit, that would cause a lot of anx­i­ety,” he said.

    But he insist­ed the chaos of 2011 would not be repeat­ed.

    “The acci­dent was part­ly due to a nar­row view of what an acci­dent would be and a fixed view of safe­ty, and we now know that our atti­tude towards safe­ty has to be bet­ter today and bet­ter again tomor­row.”

    “The pos­si­bil­i­ty may be low, but if a major earth­quake or tsuna­mi hit, that would cause a lot of anx­i­ety”
    Yes indeed. And as the for­mer prime min­is­ter not­ed, that anx­i­ety could include the pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion of Tokyo if the next dis­as­ter is bad enough.

    Giv­en all that, you have to mar­vel as Mr. Ono’s insis­tence that the chaos of 2011 would not be repeat­ed. After all, it’s hard to avoid anoth­er ill-placed nat­ur­al dis­as­ter. At least if Japan con­tin­ues restart­ing nuclear reac­tors. As he put it, “the acci­dent was part­ly due to a nar­row view of what an acci­dent would be and a fixed view of safe­ty, and we now know that our atti­tude towards safe­ty has to be bet­ter today and bet­ter again tomor­row.” Let’s hope so. But if the fol­low­ing arti­cle about Stan­ford Pro­fes­sor Robert Ewing’s risk-assess­ment of the nuclear indus­try’s risk-assess­ment method­olo­gies and track record are accu­rate, Mr. Ono’s opti­mism might be an indi­ca­tion of a risk-assess­ment prob­lem:

    Stan­ford Report

    Fukushi­ma five years lat­er: Stan­ford nuclear expert offers three lessons from the dis­as­ter

    On the fifth anniver­sary of the par­tial melt­down at Japan’s Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Pow­er Plant, Stan­ford’s Rod­ney Ewing says we should rethink our lan­guage, reassess nat­ur­al dis­as­ter risks and appre­ci­ate the links between nuclear ener­gy and oth­er renew­ables.

    By Miles Traer
    March 4, 2016

    It has been five years since the emer­gency sirens sound­ed at Japan’s Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi pow­er plant fol­low­ing the mas­sive 2011 earth­quake and sub­se­quent dev­as­tat­ing tsuna­mi. The par­tial melt­down of three reac­tors caused approx­i­mate­ly 170,000 refugees to be dis­placed from their homes, and radi­a­tion releas­es and pub­lic out­cry forced the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment to tem­porar­i­ly shut down all of their nuclear pow­er plants. The events at Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi sent waves not only through Japan but also through­out the inter­na­tion­al nuclear indus­try. Rod­ney Ewing, an expert on nuclear mate­ri­als, out­lines three key lessons to be tak­en from the tragedy at Fukushi­ma.

    Les­son One: Avoid char­ac­ter­iz­ing the Fukushi­ma tragedy as an ‘acci­dent’

    One of the biggest lessons to be learned from Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi revolves around the lan­guage used to describe nuclear dis­as­ters. In the media and in sci­en­tif­ic papers, the event was fre­quent­ly described as an acci­dent, but this does not prop­er­ly cap­ture the cause of the event, which was a fail­ure of the safe­ty analy­sis.

    As an exam­ple, Ewing points specif­i­cal­ly to the domi­no chain of events that led to the par­tial melt­down at reac­tors 1 and 3. Fol­low­ing the pow­er­ful mag­ni­tude 9.0 earth­quake, the pow­er plant auto­mat­i­cal­ly shut down its reac­tors, as designed. Emer­gency gen­er­a­tors imme­di­ate­ly start­ed in order to main­tain cir­cu­la­tion of coolant over the nuclear fuel, a crit­i­cal process to avoid heat­ing and even­tu­al melt­down. But the tsuna­mi that fol­lowed flood­ed the diesel engines that were sup­ply­ing pow­er, and so cool­ing could no longer be main­tained.

    “The Japan­ese peo­ple and gov­ern­ment were cer­tain­ly well acquaint­ed with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of tsunamis,” said Ewing, the Frank Stan­ton Pro­fes­sor in Nuclear Secu­ri­ty and senior fel­low at the Cen­ter for Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty and Coop­er­a­tion in the Free­man Spogli Insti­tute. “Com­mu­ni­ties had alert sys­tems. But some­how, this risk did­n’t man­i­fest itself in the prepa­ra­tion and pro­tec­tion of the back­up pow­er for the Fukushi­ma reac­tors. The back­up pow­er sys­tems, the diesel gen­er­a­tors for reac­tors 1 through 5, were low along the coast where they were flood­ed and failed. They could have been locat­ed far­ther back and high­er, like they were at reac­tor 6. These were clear­ly fail­ures in design, not an acci­dent.

    “This is why when I refer to the tragedy at Fukushi­ma, it was not an acci­dent,” said Ewing, who is also a pro­fes­sor of geo­log­i­cal sci­ences in Stan­ford’s School of Earth, Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ences. “When some speak of such an event as an ‘act of God,’ this has the effect of avoid­ing the respon­si­bil­i­ty for the failed safe­ty analy­sis. We need to use lan­guage that does­n’t seek to place blame, but does estab­lish cause and respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

    Les­son Two: Rethink the mean­ing of ‘risk’

    Short­ly fol­low­ing the dis­as­ter at Fukushi­ma, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (TEPCO) received heavy crit­i­cism for its lack of plan­ning and response. For Ewing, this crit­i­cism speaks to a larg­er issue: “We need to rethink what we mean by ‘risk’ when we per­form risk assess­ments. Risk is more than the loss of life and prop­er­ty.”

    Reassess­ing risk also begins with chang­ing our lan­guage, Ewing said. When we say a risk like an earth­quake or tsuna­mi is rare or unex­pect­ed, even when the geo­log­i­cal record shows it has hap­pened and will hap­pen again, it great­ly lessens the urgency with which we ought to act and pre­pare.

    “It can be that the risk analy­sis works against safe­ty, in the sense that if the risk analy­sis tells us that some­thing’s safe, then you don’t take the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions,” he said. “The Titan­ic had too few lifeboats because it was said to be ‘unsink­able.’ Fukushi­ma is sim­i­lar in that the assump­tion that the reac­tors were ‘safe’ dur­ing an earth­quake led to the fail­ure to con­sid­er the impact of a tsuna­mi.”

    When eval­u­at­ing risk, Ewing rec­om­mends that we care­ful­ly con­sid­er the way in which we frame the ques­tion of risk. For exam­ple, a typ­i­cal risk assess­ment usu­al­ly only con­sid­ers the fate of a sin­gle reac­tor at a spe­cif­ic loca­tion. But per­haps that ques­tion should be asked in a dif­fer­ent way. “You could ask, ‘What if I have a string of reac­tors along the east­ern coast of Japan? What is the risk of a tsuna­mi hit­ting one of those reac­tors over their life­time, say, 100 years?’ ” he said. “In this case, the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a reac­tor expe­ri­enc­ing a tsuna­mi is increased, par­tic­u­lar­ly if one con­sid­ers the geo­log­ic record for evi­dence of tsunamis.”

    Ewing acknowl­edges that incor­po­rat­ing geo­log­i­cal haz­ards into a stan­dard risk assess­ment has proved to be dif­fi­cult because of the long recur­rence inter­vals of dam­ag­ing events. But ongo­ing research at Stan­ford Earth con­tin­ues to ana­lyze the seis­mic and tsuna­mi risks around Japan and over the entire world. Pro­fes­sor Paul Segall and grad­u­ate stu­dent Andreas Mavrom­ma­tis ana­lyze dense GPS net­works and small repeat­ing earth­quakes to bet­ter under­stand unprece­dent­ed accel­er­at­ing fault slip that took place in advance of the sur­pris­ing­ly large 2011 earth­quake. Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Eric Dun­ham, grad­u­ate stu­dent Gabe Lot­to and alum Jere­my Koz­don cre­ate math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els to bet­ter under­stand the rela­tion­ships between fault motions, ocean floor prop­er­ties and tsuna­mi gen­er­a­tion. And Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor Jen­ny Suckale is work­ing to improve tsuna­mi ear­ly warn­ing mes­sages that will allow pop­u­la­tions in Indone­sia to receive the spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion they need to pre­pare. This research, and more, helps quan­ti­fy some of the geo­log­i­cal risks that should have been con­sid­ered.

    Les­son Three: Nuclear ener­gy is strong­ly linked to the future of renew­ables

    In the five years since the tragedy at Fukushi­ma, Ewing has seen a num­ber of rip­ple effects through­out the nuclear indus­try that will have a great impact on the future of renew­able ener­gy resources.

    ...

    As recent­ly as 10 years ago, nuclear ener­gy was quick­ly gain­ing sup­port as a car­bon-free pow­er source. While the costs of renew­ables such as solar and wind remain more expen­sive than some fos­sil fuels, the steady decline in their costs and the boom of nat­ur­al gas com­bined with the tragedy at Fukushi­ma has once again mud­died the waters of many coun­tries’ ener­gy future.

    “The biggest need for the U.S. right now is to have a well-defined ener­gy pol­i­cy,” Ewing said. “With an ener­gy pol­i­cy, we would have a clear pic­ture of how our coun­try will address its ener­gy needs.”

    “It can be that the risk analy­sis works against safe­ty, in the sense that if the risk analy­sis tells us that some­thing’s safe, then you don’t take the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions,” he said. “The Titan­ic had too few lifeboats because it was said to be ‘unsink­able.’ Fukushi­ma is sim­i­lar in that the assump­tion that the reac­tors were ‘safe’ dur­ing an earth­quake led to the fail­ure to con­sid­er the impact of a tsuna­mi.”
    That’s quite a conun­drum: If you think you have safe tech­nol­o­gy, you’re less like­ly to ensure it’s actu­al­ly safe. It’s going to be some­thing to keep in mind going for­ward as long as human­i­ty con­tin­ues dab­bling in risky nuclear ener­gy tech­nolo­gies. Sure, once there’s a super-non-risky tried and test­ed nuclear ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy avail­able that replaces the risky tech­nol­o­gy, maybe we can start get­ting lazy. But for now, it’s hard to see how nuclear ener­gy is seen as viable option when, as Ewing points out, cheap renew­ables like wind and solar are get­ting cheap­er.

    So lets hope gov­ern­ments heed pro­fes­sor Ewing’s risk-assess­ment warn­ings. Espe­cial­ly warn­ings the need to ask ques­tions like:

    ...
    When eval­u­at­ing risk, Ewing rec­om­mends that we care­ful­ly con­sid­er the way in which we frame the ques­tion of risk. For exam­ple, a typ­i­cal risk assess­ment usu­al­ly only con­sid­ers the fate of a sin­gle reac­tor at a spe­cif­ic loca­tion. But per­haps that ques­tion should be asked in a dif­fer­ent way. “You could ask, ‘What if I have a string of reac­tors along the east­ern coast of Japan? What is the risk of a tsuna­mi hit­ting one of those reac­tors over their life­time, say, 100 years?’ ” he said. “In this case, the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a reac­tor expe­ri­enc­ing a tsuna­mi is increased, par­tic­u­lar­ly if one con­sid­ers the geo­log­ic record for evi­dence of tsunamis.”
    ...

    Ok, so it sounds like ques­tions like “What if I have a string of reac­tors along the east­ern coast of Japan? What is the risk of a tsuna­mi hit­ting one of those reac­tors over their life­time, say, 100 years?” are rather nov­el ques­tions in the nuclear risk-assess­ment world. That seems risky.

    Of course, non-nuclear ener­gy options are risky too in their own ways. Fos­sil fuels have obvi­ous cli­mate cat­a­stro­phe risks. Bio­fu­els can car­ry sim­i­lar cli­mate risks along with agri­cul­tur­al pol­lu­tion and habi­tat loss. And green tech­nol­o­gy like solar and wind have their own costs. But it’s the non-nuclear green tech­nolo­gies like wind and solar that don’t pose the pos­si­ble mega-dis­as­ter threat that comes with nuclear tech­nol­o­gy (that becomes more and more pos­si­ble over time) or the almost cer­tain mega-dis­as­ter that comes with cli­mate change. So, in the spir­it of Pro­fes­sor Ewing’s sug­ges­tions, should­n’t we be ask­ing what kind of risk we’re tak­ing by not mak­ing a tran­si­tion to a green ener­gy grid, glob­al­ly, a top pri­or­i­ty every­where? It seems insane risky not to do that ASAP. And yet we don’t. So that’s some­thing that should be added into the risk-assess­ment the risk-assess­ment of our mod­els for both nuclear and fos­sil-fuel ener­gy tech­nolo­gies: we’re too stu­pid not to use it. That seems like that should increase the over­all risk.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2016, 12:58 am
  45. Here’s an update on the Fukushi­ma clean up effort: The radi­a­tion-hard­ened robots being sent into the Fukushi­ma wreck­age are still dying. It’s not much of an update. So if any­one is sell­ing a robot man­u­fac­tur­ing firm that can build robots capa­ble of han­dling extreme­ly high lev­els of radi­a­tion, there’s still at least one big poten­tial buy­er:

    Reuters

    Fukushi­ma’s ground zero: No place for man or robot

    By Aaron Sheldrick and Mina­mi Funakoshi
    Fri Mar 11, 2016 2:38am EST

    The robots sent in to find high­ly radioac­tive fuel at Fukushi­ma’s nuclear reac­tors have “died”; a sub­ter­ranean “ice wall” around the crip­pled plant meant to stop ground­wa­ter from becom­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed has yet to be fin­ished. And author­i­ties still don’t know how to dis­pose of high­ly radioac­tive water stored in an ever mount­ing num­ber of tanks around the site.

    Five years ago, one of the worst earth­quakes in his­to­ry trig­gered a 10-meter high tsuna­mi that crashed into the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er sta­tion caus­ing mul­ti­ple melt­downs. Near­ly 19,000 peo­ple were killed or left miss­ing and 160,000 lost their homes and liveli­hoods in the quake and tsuna­mi.

    Today, the radi­a­tion at the Fukushi­ma plant is still so pow­er­ful it has proven impos­si­ble to get into its bow­els to find and remove the extreme­ly dan­ger­ous blobs of melt­ed fuel rods, weigh­ing hun­dreds of tonnes. Five robots sent into the reac­tors have failed to return.

    The plan­t’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (Tep­co) 9501.t, has made some progress, such as remov­ing hun­dreds of spent fuel roads in one dam­aged build­ing. But the tech­nol­o­gy need­ed to estab­lish the loca­tion of the melt­ed fuel rods in the oth­er three reac­tors at the plant has not been devel­oped.

    “It is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to access the inside of the nuclear plant,” Nao­hi­ro Masu­da, Tep­co’s head of decom­mis­sion­ing said in an inter­view. “The biggest obsta­cle is the radi­a­tion.”

    The fuel rods melt­ed through their con­tain­ment ves­sels in the reac­tors, and no one knows exact­ly where they are now. This part of the plant is so dan­ger­ous to humans, Tep­co has been devel­op­ing robots, which can swim under water and nego­ti­ate obsta­cles in dam­aged tun­nels and pip­ing to search for the melt­ed fuel rods.

    But as soon as they get close to the reac­tors, the radi­a­tion destroys their wiring and ren­ders them use­less, caus­ing long delays, Masu­da said.

    Each robot has to be cus­tom-built for each building.“It takes two years to devel­op a sin­gle-func­tion robot,” Masu­da said.

    ...

    “Each robot has to be cus­tom-built for each building.“It takes two years to devel­op a sin­gle-func­tion robot,” Masu­da said.”
    Yikes. That def­i­nite­ly sounds like a job for a robot­ics firm spe­cial­iz­ing in robots designed for rough ter­rains. And lo and behold, look what Google just put on the mar­ket:

    Bloomberg Busi­ness

    Google Puts Boston Dynam­ics Up for Sale in Robot­ics Retreat

    By Brad Stone and Jack Clark

    * Alpha­bet exec­u­tives ques­tioned path to mar­ketable prod­ucts
    * Toy­ota, Ama­zon are among pos­si­ble acquir­ers of divi­sion

    March 17, 2016 — 11:36 AM CDT

    The video, pub­lished to YouTube on Feb. 23, was awe-inspir­ing and scary. A two-legged humanoid robot trudges through the snow, some­how main­tain­ing its bal­ance. Anoth­er robot with two arms and pads for hands crouch­es down and lifts a brown box and del­i­cate­ly places it on a shelf — then some­how stays upright while a human tries to push it over with a hock­ey stick. A third robot top­ples over and clam­bers back to its feet with ease.

    Tens of mil­lions of peo­ple viewed the video over the next few weeks. Google and the divi­sion respon­si­ble for the video, Boston Dynam­ics, were seem­ing­ly push­ing the fron­tier in robot tech­nol­o­gy.

    But behind the scenes a more pedes­tri­an dra­ma was play­ing out. Exec­u­tives at Google par­ent Alpha­bet Inc., absorbed with mak­ing sure all the var­i­ous com­pa­nies under its cor­po­rate umbrel­la have plans to gen­er­ate real rev­enue, con­clud­ed that Boston Dynam­ics isn’t like­ly to pro­duce a mar­ketable prod­uct in the next few years and have put the unit up for sale, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the company’s plans.

    Pos­si­ble acquir­ers include the Toy­ota Research Insti­tute, a divi­sion of Toy­ota Motor Corp., and Amazon.com Inc., which makes robots for its ful­fill­ment cen­ters, accord­ing to one per­son. Google and Toy­ota declined to com­ment, and Ama­zon didn’t respond to requests for com­ment.

    Robot­ics Push

    Google acquired Boston Dynam­ics in late 2013 as part of a spree of acqui­si­tions in the field of robot­ics. The deals were spear­head­ed by Andy Rubin, for­mer chief of the Android divi­sion, and brought about 300 robot­ics engi­neers into Google. Rubin left the com­pa­ny in Octo­ber 2014. Over the fol­low­ing year, the robot ini­tia­tive, dubbed Repli­cant, was plagued by lead­er­ship changes, fail­ures to col­lab­o­rate between com­pa­nies and an unsuc­cess­ful effort to recruit a new leader.

    At the heart of Replicant’s trou­ble, said a per­son famil­iar with the group, was a reluc­tance by Boston Dynam­ics exec­u­tives to work with Google’s oth­er robot engi­neers in Cal­i­for­nia and Tokyo and the unit’s fail­ure to come up with prod­ucts that could be released in the near term.

    Ten­sions between Boston Dynam­ics and the rest of the Repli­cant group spilled into open view with­in Google, when writ­ten min­utes of a Nov. 11 meet­ing and sev­er­al sub­se­quent e‑mails were inad­ver­tent­ly pub­lished to an online forum that was acces­si­ble to oth­er Google work­ers. These doc­u­ments were made avail­able to Bloomberg News by a Google employ­ee who spot­ted them.

    The Novem­ber meet­ing was run by Jonathan Rosen­berg, an advis­er to Alpha­bet Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Lar­ry Page and for­mer Google senior vice pres­i­dent, who was tem­porar­i­ly in charge of the Repli­cant group. In the meet­ing, Rosen­berg said, “we as a start­up of our size can­not spend 30-plus per­cent of our resources on things that take ten years,” and that “there’s some time frame that we need to be gen­er­at­ing an amount of rev­enue that cov­ers expens­es and (that) needs to be a few years.”

    ...

    In Decem­ber, Google announced that Repli­cant had been fold­ed into Google’s advanced research group, Google X. In a pri­vate all-hands meet­ing around that time, Astro Teller, the head of Google X, told Repli­cant employ­ees that if robot­ics aren’t the prac­ti­cal solu­tion to prob­lems that Google was try­ing to solve, they would be reas­signed to work on oth­er things, accord­ing to a per­son who was at that meet­ing.

    Dis­tanc­ing Google

    Boston Dynam­ics, though, was nev­er fold­ed into Google X and was instead put up for sale. After the division’s lat­est robot video was post­ed to YouTube, in Feb­ru­ary, Google’s pub­lic-rela­tions team expressed dis­com­fort that Alpha­bet would be asso­ci­at­ed with a push into humanoid robot­ics. Their sub­se­quent e‑mails were also pub­lished to the inter­nal online forum and became vis­i­ble to all Google employ­ees.

    “There’s excite­ment from the tech press, but we’re also start­ing to see some neg­a­tive threads about it being ter­ri­fy­ing, ready to take humans’ jobs,” wrote Court­ney Hohne, a direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Google and the spokes­woman for Google X.

    Hohne went on to ask her col­leagues to “dis­tance X from this video,” and wrote, “we don’t want to trig­ger a whole sep­a­rate media cycle about where BD real­ly is at Google.”

    “We’re not going to com­ment on this video because there’s real­ly not a lot we can add, and we don’t want to answer most of the Qs it trig­gers,” she wrote.

    ““There’s excite­ment from the tech press, but we’re also start­ing to see some neg­a­tive threads about it being ter­ri­fy­ing, ready to take humans’ jobs,” wrote Court­ney Hohne, a direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Google and the spokes­woman for Google X.”
    So Google is scared of being asso­ci­at­ed with tech­nolo­gies that could end up tak­ing human jobs. Huh. Well, at least there would­n’t be any human jobs stolen when it comes to build­ing radi­a­tion-hard­ened Fukushi­ma-bots!

    So it will be inter­est­ing to see if a Japan­ese com­pa­ny ends up acquir­ing Boston Dynam­ics. After all, a Japan­ese com­pa­ny work­ing with the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment on the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort prob­a­bly isn’t going to be focused on gen­er­at­ing a prof­it over the next few years. Espe­cial­ly when each of the cur­rent Fukushi­ma-bots take lit­er­al­ly years to build. And note which com­pa­nies are list­ed as poten­tial buy­ers: Ama­zon, and Toy­ota:

    ...
    Pos­si­ble acquir­ers include the Toy­ota Research Insti­tute, a divi­sion of Toy­ota Motor Corp., and Amazon.com Inc., which makes robots for its ful­fill­ment cen­ters, accord­ing to one per­son. Google and Toy­ota declined to com­ment, and Ama­zon didn’t respond to requests for com­ment.
    ...

    So who knows, maybe Toy­ota will end up the lucky own­er of a new cut­ting-edge robots firm. It seems pos­si­ble, although there’s going to be plen­ty of com­pe­ti­tion, includ­ing Ama­zon. So while we should­n’t be sur­prised if a Toy­ota-owned Boston Dynam­ics ends up send­ing robots where no human can go, we also should­n’t be super sur­prised if an Ama­zon-owned Boston Dynam­ic ends up send­ing robots where no human should go. Or, who knows, maybe the firm will get scooped up by a defense con­trac­tor and start churn­ing out the Ter­mi­na­tor-bots of our night­mares.

    Of course, it’s real­ly “all of the above” in the long run, which means it’s just a mat­ter of time before radi­a­tion-hard­ened robots are just a stan­dard tech­nol­o­gy. And while that’s the kind of future that any up and com­ing Skynets would like to see devel­oped as soon as pos­si­ble, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that radi­a­tion-hard­ened robots is one of those tech­nolo­gies the rest of us should prob­a­bly be pin­ing for too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 17, 2016, 9:06 pm
  46. The new ice wall is near­ing com­ple­tion. It’s intend­ed to freeze the soil and pre­vent ground­wa­ter from reach­ing the radioac­tive goo still sit­ting in the base­ment of the the Fukushi­mi Daichii com­plex and, for the most part, it sounds like it’s going to do that.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, due to the vol­ume of ground­wa­ter, some is still going to get through and add to the radioac­tive water headache. How much? About 50 tons a day, accord­ing to the esti­mates pro­vid­ed by the pro­jec­t’s chief archi­tect, which is around as much taint­ed water as was released in the eight months fol­low­ing the 3‑mile island dis­as­ter. So a lot less water should be join­ing the radioac­tive night­mare in the Fukushi­ma com­plex base­ment once the ice wall is nice and chilly, but it’s still a night­mare’s worth of water every day:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Fukushi­ma No. 1 plant’s ice wall won’t be water­tight, says chief archi­tect

    by Yuri Kageya­ma and Mari Yam­aguchi

    Cop­ing with the vast amounts of ground­wa­ter flow­ing into the bro­ken Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant — which then becomes irra­di­at­ed and seeps back out — has become such a prob­lem that the coun­try is build­ing a ¥35 bil­lion “ice wall” into the ground around it.

    Even if the frozen bar­ri­er built with tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey works as envi­sioned, it will not com­plete­ly block all water from reach­ing the dam­aged reac­tors because of gaps in the wall and rain­fall, cre­at­ing as much as 50 tons of taint­ed water each day, said Yuichi Oka­mu­ra, a chief archi­tect of the mas­sive project.

    In an inter­view ear­li­er this week Oka­mu­ra said “it’s not zero,” refer­ring to the amount of water reach­ing the reac­tors. He is a gen­er­al man­ag­er at Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., which runs the facil­i­ty hit by a triple core melt­down after swamped by tsuna­mi in 2011, prompt­ing 150,000 near­by res­i­dents to evac­u­ate.

    Pipes that con­stant­ly spray water into the reac­tors keep the fuel from over­heat­ing, but cop­ing with the result­ing water has been a major headache. Tep­co has stored the water in near­ly 1,000 huge tanks around the plant, with more being built and added each week.

    Tep­co resort­ed to devis­ing the 1.5‑km-long (1‑mile-long) ice wall around the facil­i­ty after it became clear it had to do some­thing dras­tic to stem the flow of ground­wa­ter into the facility’s base­ment and keep con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from flow­ing back out.

    ...

    The water woes are just part of the many obsta­cles involved in con­trol­ling and dis­man­tling the Fukushi­ma plant, a huge task that will take 40 years. No one has even seen the nuclear debris. Robots are being cre­at­ed to cap­ture images of the debris. The radi­a­tion is so high no human being can do that job.

    The ice wall, built by con­struc­tion com­pa­ny Kaji­ma Corp., is being turned on in sec­tions for tests, and the entire freez­ing process will take eight months since it was first switched on in late March. The entire wall requires as much elec­tric­i­ty as would be need­ed to pow­er 13,000 Japan­ese house­holds.

    Edward Yarmak, pres­i­dent of Arc­tic Foun­da­tions, based in Anchor­age, Alas­ka, which designs and installs ground freez­ing sys­tems and made an ice wall for the Oak Ridge reac­tor site, says the solu­tion should work at Fukushi­ma.

    “The refrig­er­a­tion sys­tem has just been turned on, and it takes time to form the wall. First, the soil freezes con­cen­tri­cal­ly around the pipes and when the frozen cylin­ders are large enough, they coa­lesce and form a con­tin­u­ous wall. After time, the wall increas­es in thick­ness,” he said in an email.

    But crit­ics say the prob­lem of the ground­wa­ter reach­ing the reac­tors was a no-brain­er that should have been pro­ject­ed.

    Build­ing a con­crete wall into the hill near the plant right after the dis­as­ter would have min­i­mized the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water prob­lem con­sid­er­ably, says Shigea­ki Tsunoya­ma, hon­orary pro­fes­sor and for­mer pres­i­dent of Uni­ver­si­ty of Aizu in Fukushi­ma.

    Even at the reduced amount of 50 tons a day, the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water pro­duced at Fukushi­ma will equal what came out of Three Mile Island’s total in just eight months because of the preva­lence of ground­wa­ter in Fukushi­ma, he said.

    Although Tep­co has set 2020 as the goal for end­ing the water prob­lems, Tsunoya­ma believes that’s too opti­mistic.

    “The ground­wa­ter com­ing up from below can nev­er become zero,” he said in a tele­phone inter­view. “There is no per­fect answer.”

    Oka­mu­ra acknowl­edged the option to build a bar­ri­er in the high­er ele­va­tion near the plant was con­sid­ered in the ear­ly days after the dis­as­ter. But he defend­ed his company’s actions.

    The pri­or­i­ty was on pre­vent­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from escap­ing into the Pacif­ic Ocean, he said. Var­i­ous walls were built along the coast­line, and radi­a­tion mon­i­tors show leaks have tapered off over the last five years

    Oppo­nents say the ice wall is a waste of tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey and that it may not work. “From the per­spec­tive of reg­u­lar peo­ple, we have seri­ous ques­tions about this piece of research that’s award­ed a con­struc­tion giant,” said Kan­na Mit­su­ta, direc­tor of ecol­o­gy group Friends of the Earth Japan.

    “Our reac­tion is: Why an ice wall?”

    “Even at the reduced amount of 50 tons a day, the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water pro­duced at Fukushi­ma will equal what came out of Three Mile Island’s total in just eight months because of the preva­lence of ground­wa­ter in Fukushi­ma, he said.”
    Well, let’s hope those radi­a­tion scrub­bers are work­ing. And note the amount of elec­tric­i­ty required:

    ...

    The ice wall, built by con­struc­tion com­pa­ny Kaji­ma Corp., is being turned on in sec­tions for tests, and the entire freez­ing process will take eight months since it was first switched on in late March. The entire wall requires as much elec­tric­i­ty as would be need­ed to pow­er 13,000 Japan­ese house­holds.

    ...

    And that’s just the elec­tric­i­ty for the ice wall. When you think about how much elec­tric­i­ty the rest of the cleanup efforts require, it’s not sur­pris­ing that the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment is so tempt­ed to restart more reac­tors beyond the two in Sendai. Those plans for fur­ther restarts were report­ed­ly halt­ed, though. Why? The strongest earth­quake since the 2011 dis­as­ter that just hit off the coast of Sendai:

    Bloomberg

    Japan’s Worst Quake Since 2011 Seen Delay­ing Nuclear Starts

    Stephen Stapczyn­s­ki

    April 25, 2016 — 7:23 PM CDT
    Updat­ed on April 25, 2016 — 11:16 PM CDT

    * Earth­quakes on south­ern island of Kyushu kill 49 peo­ple
    * Japan lawyer group renews call for shut­down of Sendai reac­tors

    Japan’s biggest earth­quake in five years may slow a gov­ern­ment plan to restart the country’s atom­ic fleet that was shut­tered amid safe­ty con­cerns after the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi that caused the triple melt­down at Fukushi­ma.

    A series of earth­quakes, includ­ing a magnitude‑7.3 tremor that struck about 119 kilo­me­ters (74 miles) from the Sendai nuclear facil­i­ty on the south­ern island of Kyushu this month, destroyed hun­dreds of homes, snapped bridges and left at least 49 peo­ple dead. It has also revived an effort to halt the plants’ oper­a­tions.

    The events may delay Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe’s goal of return­ing the country’s nuclear pow­er plants to oper­a­tion. About 60 per­cent of Japan­ese cit­i­zens oppose restart­ing reac­tors, accord­ing to a Nikkei news­pa­per poll from Feb­ru­ary, and the earth­quake is inten­si­fy­ing pres­sure on the country’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor to vet safe­ty rules.

    “Nuclear is under a mag­ni­fy­ing glass now, so even the small­est prob­lem can cre­ate big delays,” Michael Jones, a Sin­ga­pore-based gas and pow­er ana­lyst at Wood Macken­zie Ltd. said in an e‑mail. “Fukushi­ma has changed every­thing, and earth­quakes and vol­ca­noes are only mak­ing things worse.”

    Trans­port Dis­rup­tions

    Trains and high­ways were dam­aged in the Kyushu earth­quake and if there is a nuclear acci­dent from anoth­er earth­quake or vol­canic erup­tion, evac­u­a­tions may be dif­fi­cult, Dat­sug­en­pat­su Ben­go­dan, a group of lawyers work­ing to wean Japan off nuclear pow­er said in an April 19 state­ment. The group said Kyushu Elec­tric Pow­er Co.’s Sendai No. 1 and 2 reac­tors, which were the first to restart under post-Fukushi­ma safe­ty rules last year, should be shut.

    ...

    Evac­u­a­tion Pro­ce­dures

    “Giv­en this is the largest earth­quake in over a cen­tu­ry in Kyushu that has caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to infra­struc­ture, it could slow down the pace of restarts,” said Tom O’Sullivan, founder of Math­yos, a Tokyo-based ener­gy con­sul­tant. “It may now be even more imper­a­tive that emer­gency evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dures are thor­ough­ly test­ed.”

    A nuclear acci­dent at Sendai would require the evac­u­a­tion of about 5,000 peo­ple in the sur­round­ing 5 kilo­me­ters and more than 200,000 would need to seek imme­di­ate shel­ter with­in a 5- to 30-kilo­me­ter radius, accord­ing to a local gov­ern­ment sim­u­la­tion from 2014.

    The NRA, Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor, said on April 18 that it sees no need to shut the two Sendai reac­tors. A high court on April 6 upheld a rul­ing that the Sendai reac­tors can with­stand seis­mic dam­age and don’t pose a risk to the sur­round­ing area.

    A local court issued an injunc­tion in March pre­vent­ing the oper­a­tion of Kan­sai Elec­tric Pow­er Co.’s Taka­hama No. 3 and 4 reac­tors, ques­tion­ing whether evac­u­a­tion plans and tsuna­mi pre­ven­tion mea­sures — which had been endorsed by the gov­ern­ment — were robust enough.

    The earth­quake near Japan’s only oper­at­ing reac­tors “may boost the nation’s anti-nuclear sen­ti­ment,” Joseph Jaco­bel­li, an ana­lyst at Bloomberg Intel­li­gence, said in an April 22 note. “Tech­ni­cal and polit­i­cal obsta­cles mean even those units approved for restart are return­ing at a snail’s pace.”

    The earth­quake near Japan’s only oper­at­ing reac­tors “may boost the nation’s anti-nuclear sentiment...Technical and polit­i­cal obsta­cles mean even those units approved for restart are return­ing at a snail’s pace.”
    Yeah, that’s a rea­son­able analy­sis. When strongest earth­quake since the 2011 dis­as­ter hits near the only two plants restart­ed since, it’s a pret­ty strong sign the gods are anti-nuclear. Giant mon­sters are just a mat­ter of time. That’s all bound to increase anti-nuclear sen­ti­ments. Espe­cial­ly near Sendai.

    But as the delayed plans to restart more nuclear plants beyond Sendai reminds us, when you have a bunch of nuclear plants just sit­ting there, the temp­ta­tion is to use them. The Sendai plant is near a vol­cano. That’s the one that got reopened first. It’s clear there’s going to be a lot more reopened. And if some­thing does unfor­tu­nate­ly hap­pen and there’s a new nuclear dis­as­ter on the scale of Fukushi­ma that requires years of ener­gy-inten­sive cleanup efforts, the temp­ta­tion to open even more nuclear plants is only going to be that much more urgent as the pow­er it was pro­vid­ing goes away and anoth­er ener­gy-suck­ing cleanup effort gets cre­at­ed. And the more nuclear acci­dents that take place in the future, the more tempt­ed Japan is going to be to restart one of its oth­er many aging nuclear plants to fill in the gap. Until the shut­down plants are decom­mis­sioned, that temp­ta­tion to restart is going to be there due to all the result­ing nuclear ener­gy slack and plants that could be shut back on in short order. It’s one of the oth­er seem­ing­ly uncon­trol­lable chain-reac­tions set off by the 2011 melt­down and nuclear indus­try shut­down.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 1, 2016, 10:25 pm
  47. There was some new research at a recent geo­chem­istry con­fer­ence in Japan on how the cae­sium released from Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter spread. It’s unfor­tu­nate new research because it sug­gests that most of the radioac­tive fall­out on down­town Tokyo days after the dis­as­ter was a ‘glassy soot’. And the research shows that a very large amount of the cae­sium released (~89 per­cent) was cae­sium trapped in these glass par­ti­cles that were part of the glass soot. The micron-sized beads were formed by blow­torch tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the melt­down. And these microbeads were 100 times more con­cen­trat­ed with cae­sium than the rest of the soil and dis­trib­uted in a more uneven man­ner than was pre­vi­ous­ly assumed because of a lack of water-sol­u­bil­i­ty.

    So now we know when nuclear melt­down tem­per­a­tures hit blow­torch tem­per­a­tures we need watch out for radioac­tive micropar­ti­cle for­ma­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly:

    Phys.org

    Radioac­tive cesium fall­out on Tokyo from Fukushi­ma con­cen­trat­ed in glass micropar­ti­cles

    June 27, 2016

    New research shows that most of the radioac­tive fall­out which land­ed on down­town Tokyo a few days after the Fukushi­ma acci­dent was con­cen­trat­ed and deposit­ed in non-sol­u­ble glass micropar­ti­cles, as a type of ‘glassy soot’. This meant that most of the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al was not dis­solved in rain and run­ning water, and prob­a­bly stayed in the envi­ron­ment until removed by direct wash­ing or phys­i­cal removal. The par­ti­cles also con­cen­trat­ed the radioac­tive cae­sium (Cs), mean­ing that in some cas­es dose effects of the fall­out are still unclear. These results are announced at the Gold­schmidt geo­chem­istry con­fer­ence in Yoko­hama, Japan.

    The flood­ing of the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Nuclear Pow­er Plant (FDNPP) after the dis­as­trous earth­quake on March 11 2011 caused the release of sig­nif­i­cant amounts of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al, includ­ing cae­sium (Cs) iso­topes 134Cs (half-life, 2 years) and 137Cs (half-life, 30 years).

    Japan­ese geo­chemists, head­ed by Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya (Kyushu Uni­ver­si­ty, Japan), analysed sam­ples col­lect­ed from with­in an area up to 230 km from the FDNPP. As cae­sium is water-sol­u­ble, it had been antic­i­pat­ed that most of the radioac­tive fall­out would have been flushed from the envi­ron­ment by rain­wa­ter. How­ev­er, analy­sis with state-of-the-art elec­tron microscopy in con­junc­tion with autora­di­og­ra­phy tech­niques showed that most of the radioac­tive cae­sium in fact fell to the ground enclosed in glassy micropar­ti­cles, formed at the time of the reac­tor melt­down.

    The analy­sis shows that these par­ti­cles main­ly con­sist of Fe-Zn-oxides nanopar­ti­cles, which, along with the cae­sium were embed­ded in Si oxide glass that formed dur­ing the molten core-con­crete inter­ac­tion inside the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel in the Fukushi­ma reac­tor units 1 and/or 3. Because of the high Cs con­tent in the micropar­ti­cles, the radioac­tiv­i­ty per unit mass was as high as ~4.4x1011 Bq/g, which is between 107 and 108 times high­er than the back­ground Cs radioac­tiv­i­ty per unit mass of the typ­i­cal soils in Fukushi­ma.

    Clos­er micropar­ti­cle struc­tur­al and geo­chem­i­cal analy­sis also revealed what hap­pened dur­ing the acci­dent at FDNPP. Radioac­tive Cs was released and formed air­borne Cs nanopar­ti­cles. Nuclear fuel, at tem­per­a­tures of above 2200 K (about as hot as a blow­torch), melt­ed the reac­tor pres­sure ves­sel result­ing in fail­ure of the ves­sel. The air­borne Cs nanopar­ti­cles were con­densed along with the Fe-Zn nanopar­ti­cles and the gas from the molten con­crete, to form the SiO2 glass nanopar­ti­cles, which were then dis­persed.

    Analy­sis from sev­er­al air fil­ters col­lect­ed in Tokyo on 15 March 2011 showed that 89% of the total radioac­tiv­i­ty was present as a result of these cae­sium-rich micropar­ti­cles, rather than the sol­u­ble Cs, as had orig­i­nal­ly been sup­posed.

    Accord­ing to Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya: “This work changes some of our assump­tions about the Fukushi­ma fall­out. It looks like the clean-up pro­ce­dure, which con­sist­ed of wash­ing and removal of top soils, was the cor­rect thing to do. How­ev­er, the con­cen­tra­tion of radioac­tive cae­sium in micropar­ti­cles means that, at an extreme­ly localised and focused lev­el, the radioac­tive fall­out may have been more (or less) con­cen­trat­ed than antic­i­pat­ed. This may mean that our ideas of the health impli­ca­tions should be mod­i­fied”.

    Com­ment­ing, Prof. Bernd Gram­bow, Direc­tor of SUBATECH lab­o­ra­to­ry, Nantes, France and leader of the research group on inter­fa­cial reac­tion field chem­istry of the ASRC/JAEA, Tokai, Japan, said:

    “The lead­ing edge obser­va­tions by nano-sci­ence facil­i­ties pre­sent­ed here are extreme­ly impor­tant. They may change our under­stand­ing of the mech­a­nism of long range atmos­pher­ic mass trans­fer of radioac­tive cae­sium from the reac­tor acci­dent at Fukushi­ma to Tokyo, but they may also change the way we assess inhala­tion dos­es from the cae­sium micropar­ti­cles inhaled by humans. Indeed, bio­log­i­cal half- lives of insol­u­ble cae­sium par­ti­cles might be much larg­er than that of sol­u­ble cae­sium”.

    ...

    “Accord­ing to Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya: “This work changes some of our assump­tions about the Fukushi­ma fall­out. It looks like the clean-up pro­ce­dure, which con­sist­ed of wash­ing and removal of top soils, was the cor­rect thing to do. How­ev­er, the con­cen­tra­tion of radioac­tive cae­sium in micropar­ti­cles means that, at an extreme­ly localised and focused lev­el, the radioac­tive fall­out may have been more (or less) con­cen­trat­ed than antic­i­pat­ed. This may mean that our ideas of the health impli­ca­tions should be mod­i­fied”.

    Well, if there’s one pos­i­tive thing about some­thing like the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter it’s that we’ll inevitably learn lots of use­ful things about how to pre­vent and respond to future Fukushi­ma-like dis­as­ters. So now you know that if if you hap­pen to be caught in the wake of a nuclear dis­as­ter sim­i­lar to the Fukushi­ma melt­down, there’s non-water-sol­u­ble glass par­ti­cles you’ll want to think about scrub­bing away along with all the oth­er decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion pro­ce­dures. Hope­ful­ly, for per­son­al decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion pur­pos­es, the radioac­tive micropar­ti­cles will be sol­u­ble in all the body­wash and skin care prod­ucts that adver­tise their microbeads, although that rais­es the ques­tion of how radioac­tive micropar­ti­cles impact radi­a­tion bioac­cu­mu­la­tion in the wildlife since con­sump­tion of man-made microbeads is such a plague on the ecosys­tem from ani­mals eat­ing them.

    Radioac­tive glass soot that very heavy rain­wa­ter does­n’t wash away. That is some ter­ri­fy­ing soot. And now we know about it. Unfor­tu­nate­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 29, 2016, 10:49 pm
  48. Here’s a pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment for any Poke­mon Go play­ers who decide to make a pil­grim­age to the Poke­mon home­land: If you’re in the Fukushi­ma area and just got­ta catch ’em all, don’t for­get the radi­a­tion suit:

    The Tele­graph

    Japan urges Poke­mon Go play­ers not to hunt in Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter zone

    By Hele­na Hor­ton

    26 July 2016 • 5:54pm

    Japan has asked the mak­ers of Poke­mon go to pre­vent the ani­mat­ed mon­sters appear­ing in the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter zone after at least one was dis­cov­ered on the site.

    They are wor­ried Poke­mon hunters will put them­selves in dan­ger while play­ing the game if Poke­mon con­tin­ue to appear on the site of pow­er sta­tions in the area.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings (Tep­co) has asked Niantic and the Poke­mon Com­pa­ny to stop the col­lectible char­ac­ters appear­ing in or near areas affect­ed by the nuclear reac­tor melt­down in Fukushi­ma.

    This is to help pre­vent encour­ag­ing play­ers to enter dan­ger­ous areas.

    Tep­co said it test­ed the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant, the Fukushi­ma Dai­ni plant and the Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa plant in Niiga­ta Pre­fec­ture and found Poke­mon.

    The Fukushi­ma gov­er­nor, Masao Uchi­bori said it was not good that peo­ple could enter dan­ger­ous areas in pur­suit of Poke­mon and that “the pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment will con­sid­er how to draw atten­tion to this”.

    The city gov­ern­ment of Nagasa­ki has also asked Niantic to remove Poke­mon from Nagasa­ki Peace Park, a memo­r­i­al to vic­tims of the atom­ic bomb­ing of the city in 1945 and asked peo­ple not to play Poke­mon on the site.

    Poke­mon have been turn­ing up in inap­pro­pri­ate places since the launch of the game.

    A squir­tle report­ed­ly showed up on the front line of the war against Isil in Iraq. For­mer US marine Louis Park shared a pho­to of his Squir­tle encounter on Face­book.

    The 26 year-old is vol­un­teer­ing with Dwehk Naw­sha, Chris­t­ian mili­tia who are fight­ing against Islam­ic State forces.

    The Holo­caust Muse­um in Wash­ing­ton DC has report­ed­ly been attract­ing some unwel­come vis­i­tors in recent days – gamers play­ing Poké­mon Go.

    “Play­ing the game is not appro­pri­ate in the muse­um, which is a memo­r­i­al to the vic­tims of Nazism,” said muse­um spokesman Andrew Hollinger in an inter­view with the Wash­ing­ton Post.

    “We are try­ing to find out if we can get the muse­um exclud­ed from the game.”

    ...

    “Tep­co said it test­ed the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant, the Fukushi­ma Dai­ni plant and the Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa plant in Niiga­ta Pre­fec­ture and found Poke­mon.”

    Yeah, you prob­a­bly want to skip the actu­al Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant dur­ing your Poke­mon Go tour of Japan. Just skip the Poke­mon requir­ing a radi­a­tion suit. Although, while you’re wan­der around the sur­round­ing for­est and water­ways look­ing for non-radioac­tive Poke­mon, there’s a pock­et Geiger count that you can hook up to your iPhone that still might be worth tak­ing on your Fukushi­ma area Poke­mon hunt:

    Japan Times

    Green­peace reports jump in radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in Fukushi­ma water­ways

    by Eric John­ston
    Staff Writer

    Jul 21, 2016

    OSAKA – Green­peace Japan on Thurs­day said it has dis­cov­ered radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in Fukushima’s river­banks, estu­ar­ies and coastal waters at a scale hun­dreds of times high­er than pre-2011 lev­els.

    One sam­ple of sed­i­ment tak­en along the Nii­da Riv­er, less than 30 km north­west of the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 pow­er plant, revealed the pres­ence of cesium-134 and cesium-137 at lev­els of 29,800 bec­querels per kilo­gram.

    That was just one of 19 sam­ples of dried sed­i­ment and soil the envi­ron­men­tal activist group took and ana­lyzed from the banks of the Abuku­ma, Nii­da, and Ota rivers. The sam­ples were col­lect­ed by Green­peace in Feb­ru­ary and March.

    All of the sam­ples but one exhib­it­ed more than 1,000 Bq/kg of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al. The low­est lev­el, 309 Bq/kg, was logged at a spot along the Abuku­ma Riv­er.

    Cesium-134 has a half-life of about two years, but cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years and is con­sid­ered par­tic­u­lar­ly haz­ardous. The stan­dard lim­its set for radioac­tive cesium in Japan are 100 Bq/kg for gen­er­al foods and 10 Bq/kg for drink­ing water.

    “The radi­o­log­i­cal impacts of the Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter on the marine envi­ron­ment, with con­se­quences for both human and non­hu­man health, are not only the first years. They are both ongo­ing and future threats, prin­ci­pal­ly the con­tin­ued releas­es from the Fukushi­ma No. 1 plant itself and translo­ca­tion of land-based con­t­a­m­i­na­tion through­out Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, includ­ing upland forests, rivers, lakes and coastal estu­ar­ies,” the report said.

    ...

    “All of the sam­ples but one exhib­it­ed more than 1,000 Bq/kg of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al. The low­est lev­el, 309 Bq/kg, was logged at a spot along the Abuku­ma Riv­er.”

    Luck­i­ly for the Poke­mon they’re dig­i­tal.

    In oth­er news, radioac­tive wild boars are breed­ing out of con­trol with­in the Fukushi­ma exclu­sion zone and ram­pag­ing across sur­round­ing pop­u­lat­ed areas. It’s unclear what the best iPhone app is for deal­ing with packs of radioac­tive wild boars, although a real life army of Poke­mon would real­ly be prefer­ably dur­ing any sort of radioac­tive wildlife encounter.

    Oh well. Have fun on your Fukushi­ma Poke­mon Go adven­tures. Try to be safe.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 7, 2016, 10:22 pm
  49. Here’s a reminder that we should­n’t be sur­prised if the cost tal­lies for the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort change dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the years since the the ini­tial esti­mates for what it’s going to cost to clean up the Fukushi­ma plant were exact­ly that. Esti­mates. Specif­i­cal­ly, under­es­ti­mates:

    The Chica­go Tri­bune

    In Japan, nuclear acci­dent costs rise

    Decem­ber 9, 2016, 9:20 PM

    The Econ­o­my, Trade and Indus­try Min­istry released Fri­day an esti­mate that the cost of decom­mis­sion­ing nuclear reac­tors and pay­ing com­pen­sa­tion for dam­age caused by the acci­dent at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant will total about 21.5 tril­lion yen (about $186,835,000,000), near­ly dou­ble the for­mer esti­mate of 11 tril­lion yen.

    The fig­ure surged because the num­ber of com­pen­sa­tion tar­gets expand­ed and the decom­mis­sion­ing work for the unprece­dent­ed acci­dent is fac­ing more dif­fi­cul­ties than ini­tial­ly expecte. Part of the addi­tion­al costs will be reflect­ed in elec­tric­i­ty bills and cov­ered by tax, which means the gen­er­al pub­lic will shoul­der them.

    The esti­mate was revealed at a Fri­day morn­ing meet­ing of the min­istry’s expert pan­el tasked with dis­cussing man­age­ment reforms of plant own­er Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings Inc. and how to han­dle issues relat­ed to the acci­dent at the plant.

    Regard­ing costs relat­ed to the acci­dent, the min­istry ini­tial­ly cal­cu­lat­ed 2 tril­lion yen for nuclear reac­tor decom­mis­sion­ing, 5.4 tril­lion yen for com­pen­sa­tion, 2.5 tril­lion yen for decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion and 1.1 tril­lion yen for con­struct­ing inter­im stor­age facil­i­ties for radioac­tive mate­r­i­al. How­ev­er in the new esti­mate, decom­mis­sion­ing costs will be 8 tril­lion yen, up by 6 tril­lion yen; com­pen­sa­tion will cost 7.9 tril­lion yen, up by 2.5 tril­lion yen; decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion will be 4 tril­lion yen, up by 1.5 tril­lion yen; and the con­struc­tion of inter­im stor­age facil­i­ties will cost 1.6 tril­lion yen, up by 0.5 tril­lion yen.

    How the total costs will be shared depends on how they would be paid.

    To pay com­pen­sa­tion, not only TEPCO but also oth­er major com­pa­nies, along with new entrants to the elec­tric pow­er mar­ket known as PPSs (pow­er pro­duc­ers and sup­pli­ers), will be asked to shoul­der the bur­den, except for Oki­nawa Elec­tric Pow­er Co. as it oper­ates no nuclear pow­er plants. This means that extra costs will be added to most elec­tric­i­ty bills across the nation.

    All costs for decom­mis­sion­ing reac­tors will be borne by TEPCO with its prof­its.

    The decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work will be cov­ered by the gov­ern­ment sell­ing the TEPCO stocks it holds. Con­cern­ing the “dif­fi­cult-to-return zones,” the gov­ern­ment plans to take nec­es­sary mea­sures to secure a bud­get to car­ry out full-scale decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work start­ing next fis­cal year.

    ...

    The fig­ure surged because the num­ber of com­pen­sa­tion tar­gets expand­ed and the decom­mis­sion­ing work for the unprece­dent­ed acci­dent is fac­ing more dif­fi­cul­ties than ini­tial­ly expecte. Part of the addi­tion­al costs will be reflect­ed in elec­tric­i­ty bills and cov­ered by tax, which means the gen­er­al pub­lic will shoul­der them.”

    Yeah, while it would have been a remark­ably pos­i­tive turn of events if the cleanup effort turned out to be cheap­er and eas­i­er than expect­ed, it also would have been a remark­ably improb­a­ble turn of events. Instead, it’s what we should have expect­ed, which is that the cleanup effort is going to be a lot hard­er than expect­ed and the costs a lot high­er than expect­ed. This prob­a­bly isn’t going to be the last dou­bling.

    But that does­n’t mean there won’t be plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties for things to go bet­ter than expect­ed in some instances giv­en the mas­sive num­ber of dif­fer­ent things that are going to have to be actu­al­ly accom­plished if the sched­uled cleanup over the com­ing decades is going to come to com­ple­tion. Imag­ine all the cus­tom ordered tech­ni­cal feats that will be required, with each melt­ed down reac­tor its own spe­cial night­mare.

    So, for instance, if the radi­a­tion-hard­ened robot­ic crane that’s being built by Toshi­ba to go down into No. 3 reac­tor’s cool­ing pool and remove the high­ly radioac­tive fuel rods works out much bet­ter than expect­ed, who knows what kind of sav­ings that could cre­ate in the long run. So let’s hope it’s on sched­ule. Or bet­ter yet ahead of sched­ule. Because accord­ing to this arti­cle from Jan­u­ary of this year, it’s going to be need­ed very soon since the remote remove of reac­tor 3’s sub­merged fuel rods is sched­uled to start next year:

    The Japan Times

    Toshi­ba unveils remote-con­trolled device to remove reac­tor 3 fuel assem­blies at Fukushi­ma No. 1

    by Kazua­ki Naga­ta

    Staff Writer

    Toshi­ba Corp. on Mon­day demon­strat­ed a device it antic­i­pates will be used to remove fuel-rod assem­blies from the spent fuel pool in the reac­tor 3 build­ing at the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant.

    Sched­uled to begin extract­ing 566 fuel-rod assem­blies some­time in fis­cal 2017, Toshi­ba, the builder of reac­tor 3, showed how the gigan­tic remote-con­trol crane-like device will work dur­ing a demon­stra­tion at a com­pa­ny fac­to­ry in Yoko­hama.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. has said that although it is work­ing to reduce the radi­a­tion lev­el inside the reac­tor 3 build­ing, it remains impos­si­ble for humans to safe­ly mon­i­tor the removal of the fuel-rod assem­blies.

    It was this hur­dle that prompt­ed Toshi­ba to cre­ate the remote­ly con­trolled device to clear debris and remove rods from the cool­ing pool.

    The crane con­sists of two parts, includ­ing two robot­ic arms that can pick up and cut debris, and anoth­er arm that is designed to grab the assem­blies.

    ...

    In Decem­ber 2014, Tep­co fin­ished remov­ing 1,535 fuel rod assem­blies from the pool in the reac­tor 4 build­ing.

    For that job, low radi­a­tion lev­els allowed work­ers to stand at the pool to direct­ly mon­i­tor the removal process.

    Com­pared with that job, the removal of the fuel-rod assem­blies from the reac­tor 3 pool will be “more dif­fi­cult since it will have to be done com­plete­ly remote­ly,” Tep­co offi­cial Isao Shi­rai said.

    Unlike reac­tor 4, which had been shut down and unfu­eled at the time of the March 11, 2011, dis­as­ters, reac­tor 3 was dam­aged by a hydro­gen explo­sion and melt­down in the days that fol­lowed released radioac­tive mate­ri­als into the area.

    Tep­co said it hopes to even­tu­al­ly bring radi­a­tion lev­els down to 1 mil­lisiev­ert per hour — a rate still too high for long-term work at the reac­tor 3 site.

    The util­i­ty plans to install a cov­er over the pool and begin set­ting up the Toshi­ba device this year. Train­ing for work­ers to mas­ter the intri­ca­cies of the remote-con­trol sys­tem is expect­ed to begin next year.

    “Tep­co said it hopes to even­tu­al­ly bring radi­a­tion lev­els down to 1 mil­lisiev­ert per hour — a rate still too high for long-term work at the reac­tor 3 site.”

    Toshi­ba is going to be real­ly good at build­ing remote con­trolled dis­as­ter robots by the end of this. Let’s wish them luck. Espe­cial­ly next year. Hope­ful­ly there will be some pos­i­tive sur­pris­es. But don’t be sur­prised if we get some neg­a­tive ones instead. Neg­a­tive sur­pris­es like, for instance, the cool­ing sys­tem for No 3 reac­tor get­ting acci­den­tal­ly shut off for near­ly an hour dur­ing an inspec­tion. Things like that should be expect­ed too. Hope­ful­ly not too often:

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Fukushi­ma reac­tor briefly los­es cool­ing dur­ing inspec­tion

    By MARI YAMAGUCHI
    Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished Decem­ber 5, 2016 at 12:05 am
    Updat­ed Decem­ber 5, 2016 at 1:32 am

    TOKYO (AP) — One of the melt­ed reac­tors at the tsuna­mi-hit Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant had a tem­po­rary loss of cool­ing Mon­day when a work­er acci­den­tal­ly bumped a switch while pass­ing through a nar­row isle of switch pan­els dur­ing an inspec­tion and turned off the pump­ing sys­tem.

    The plant’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., said cool­ing for the No. 3 reac­tor, one of the three that melt­ed fol­low­ing the 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi, was out for near­ly an hour before a back­up pump kicked in.

    The reac­tor had enough water left inside and there was no tem­per­a­ture increase or radi­a­tion leak from the inci­dent, TEPCO spokesman Yuichi Oka­mu­ra said at a news con­fer­ence.

    Even though there was no radi­a­tion leak or over­heat­ing of the core, or any injuries, the inci­dent was a reminder that Fukushima’s decom­mis­sion­ing work is run­ning on a very frag­ile sys­tem.

    The plant was large­ly run­ning on makeshift pipes, wiring and oth­er equip­ment in the first two to three years fol­low­ing the 2011 dis­as­ters, suf­fer­ing a series of minor black­outs — includ­ing those caused by rats chew­ing cables — cool­ing stop­pages and oth­er prob­lems.

    The plant has since large­ly sta­bi­lized, but it remains vul­ner­a­ble to unan­tic­i­pat­ed inci­dents as it con­tin­ues to strug­gle with decom­mis­sion­ing work, which is expect­ed to last decades.

    Monday’s inci­dent occurred when the work­er was pass­ing by a dim­ly lit isle that was only 85 cen­time­ters (2.8 feet) wide, flanked by tall switch pan­els on both sides, Oka­mu­ra said. With radi­a­tion lev­els still high, the work­er was wear­ing a full-face mask and haz­mat suit when he lost his bal­ance while car­ry­ing equip­ment. His elbow jammed into the switch, break­ing off its safe­ty cov­er and inad­ver­tent­ly turn­ing the lever to turn off the water injec­tion pump to the No. 3 reac­tor.

    ...

    “Monday’s inci­dent occurred when the work­er was pass­ing by a dim­ly lit isle that was only 85 cen­time­ters (2.8 feet) wide, flanked by tall switch pan­els on both sides, Oka­mu­ra said. With radi­a­tion lev­els still high, the work­er was wear­ing a full-face mask and haz­mat suit when he lost his bal­ance while car­ry­ing equip­ment. His elbow jammed into the switch, break­ing off its safe­ty cov­er and inad­ver­tent­ly turn­ing the lever to turn off the water injec­tion pump to the No. 3 reac­tor

    Wow. That’s like the stum­ble of doom. But at least it sounds like a back­up sys­tem even­tu­al­ly kicked in. So that’s for­tu­nate. We don’t need to see Toshiba’s remote con­trolled radi­a­tion hard­ened robot devel­op­ment team receive any more cus­tom projects.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 12, 2016, 12:37 am
  50. Tep­co is get­ting a pair of ear­ly Christ­mas present this year: First we have Nuclear San­ta bring­ing the gift of state funds to cov­er the cleanup costs of Fukushi­ma. And it’s one of the best gifts you can get: mon­ey. Basi­cal­ly:

    Jiji Press

    State funds to cov­er cleanup of Fukushi­ma

    9:03 pm, Decem­ber 20, 2016

    Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — The gov­ern­ment decid­ed Tues­day to use state funds to decon­t­a­m­i­nate areas in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture where entry is banned in prin­ci­ple due to high lev­els of radi­a­tion fol­low­ing the March 2011 nuclear acci­dent.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings Inc., the oper­a­tor of the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er sta­tion, knocked out by the earth­quake and tsuna­mi on March 11, 2011, will not be asked to cov­er the costs.

    The plan is part of the government’s revised guide­lines for pro­mot­ing the recon­struc­tion of Fukushi­ma, which were adopt­ed at Tuesday’s Cab­i­net meet­ing.

    Based on the revamped guide­lines, the gov­ern­ment will sub­mit to next year’s ordi­nary ses­sion of the Diet a bill to revise the spe­cial law on rebuild­ing the pre­fec­ture.

    At a meet­ing of the government’s Nuclear Emer­gency Response Head­quar­ters ear­li­er on Tues­day, Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe said, “I want all relat­ed Cab­i­net min­is­ters to coop­er­ate close­ly to set out a con­crete path to help Fukushi­ma achieve recon­struc­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.”

    The gov­ern­ment plans to estab­lish a base for accel­er­at­ing the decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work and infra­struc­ture projects in the no-go zones inten­sive­ly from fis­cal 2017, aim­ing to lift its evac­u­a­tion order for the areas in five years.

    The revised guide­lines say that the gov­ern­ment will bear the costs for the con­struc­tion of the base, instead of call­ing on TEPCO to shoul­der the expens­es.

    Pre­vi­ous­ly, the gov­ern­ment took the stance of mak­ing TEPCO pay the decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion costs to hold it respon­si­ble for the Fukushi­ma No. 1 plant acci­dent.

    But it changed the pol­i­cy part­ly because TEPCO has fin­ished pay­ments of com­pen­sa­tion to all res­i­dents from the no-go zones.

    The gov­ern­ment plans to ear­mark about ¥30 bil­lion to fund the decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work under its fis­cal 2017 bud­get. How­ev­er, the move may draw pub­lic crit­i­cism as it could be regard­ed as a de fac­to res­cue of TEPCO.

    ...

    “The revised guide­lines say that the gov­ern­ment will bear the costs for the con­struc­tion of the base, instead of call­ing on TEPCO to shoul­der the expens­es.”

    Pub­lic financ­ing for melt­down clean up costs. That’s a pret­ty sweet gift from Nuclear San­ta. Radi­a­tion decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion bases can’t be cheap. It’s one of the implic­it fun gifts that come with being a nuclear pow­er util­i­ty: the pub­lic does­n’t just share the cost of build­ing the damn things, it’s also inevitably going to share the costs after the melt­downs. Because clean­ing that kind of mess up gen­er­al­ly isn’t option­al.

    The sec­ond gift to Tep­co this Christ­mas is pos­si­bly much sweet­er, and it’s also not exclu­sive­ly pub­licly financed, although it is pub­licly financed to the extent that the rest of the Japan­ese pow­er indus­try is pub­licly financed: Japan’s gov­ern­ment is urg­ing Tep­co to divest its risk and costs by part­ner­ing with the rest of Japan’s pow­er indus­try. Which is basi­cal­ly the gov­ern­men­t’s way of say­ing Tep­co should use it’s prof­itable oper­a­tions to entice oth­er play­ers to buy up those oper­a­tions, assum­ing parts of Tep­co’s long-term clean up costs in the process. As you can imag­ine, the rest of Japan’s pow­er indus­try does­n’t appear to be very enthu­si­as­tic about this par­tic­u­lar gift from Nuclear San­ta:

    Reuters

    Japan urges bold reform for Tep­co as Fukushi­ma costs soar
    l
    By Yuka Obayashi | TOKYO
    Tue Dec 20, 2016 | 5:05am EST

    Japan’s gov­ern­ment on Tues­day urged Fukushi­ma oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co) to inte­grate its trans­mis­sion and nuclear oper­a­tions with peers to cut costs and gen­er­ate high­er income to pay the costs from the 2011 nuclear dis­as­ter.

    A gov­ern­ment pan­el that has held inten­sive meet­ings since Octo­ber said the next six months will be “make or break” for Tep­co’s reform efforts, after it ear­li­er near­ly dou­bled the esti­mat­ed costs of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter to more than $180 bil­lion.

    Tep­co’s two pre­vi­ous busi­ness plans writ­ten to map out a recov­ery from the three melt­downs at its Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant after a 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi were based on assump­tions of oth­er nuclear reac­tors return­ing to ser­vice that now look unlike­ly any­time soon. The pan­el said that now is the time for Tep­co to act bold­ly.

    “Tep­co needs to focus on secur­ing funds for com­pen­sa­tion and decom­mis­sion­ing as well as boost­ing income through man­age­ment reforms. And it needs to car­ry out those actions with a sense of urgency,” the pan­el said. “The next half year is make or break for Tep­co’s reform.”

    Tep­co said it will come up with a new plan next year.

    “We take the pro­pos­al seri­ous­ly and will put bold reforms into effect to ful­fil our respon­si­bil­i­ties for Fukushi­ma,” Tep­co Pres­i­dent Nao­mi Hirose told reporters after the meet­ing where he attend­ed as an observ­er.

    The pan­el ear­li­er this month dou­bled its esti­mate for the Fukushi­ma-relat­ed costs to 21.5 tril­lion yen ($182 bil­lion). Tep­co’s por­tion of the bur­den has risen to 15.9 tril­lion yen from 7.2 tril­lion yen.

    The pan­el also rec­om­mend­ed that Tep­co ful­ly inte­grates its fuel and ther­mal pow­er oper­a­tions into JERA Co, a joint ven­ture between the com­pa­ny and Chubu Elec­tric Pow­er, and urged the same for its trans­mis­sion and nuclear oper­a­tions.

    “We will look into poli­cies that enhance alliances,” said Min­is­ter for Econ­o­my, Trade and Indus­try Hiroshige Seko when asked if the gov­ern­ment will change reg­u­la­tions to sup­port con­sol­i­da­tion between Tep­co and oth­er util­i­ties.

    Oth­er util­i­ties have voiced oppo­si­tion to join­ing with Tep­co because of con­cerns they will get sad­dled with the Fukushi­ma costs.

    The pan­el also called for finan­cial insti­tu­tions and oth­er Tep­co stake­hold­ers to pro­vide sup­port to what was once Asi­a’s biggest util­i­ty.

    Tep­co’s Hirose reit­er­at­ed that his com­pa­ny still aims to issue bonds by the end of March.

    ...

    “Oth­er util­i­ties have voiced oppo­si­tion to join­ing with Tep­co because of con­cerns they will get sad­dled with the Fukushi­ma costs.”

    With Nuclear San­ta, if you’re ‘meltdown’-league naughty you’ll get immense gifts that year. And for decades and per­haps cen­turies to come. But part of that gift might have to come from the oth­er Nuclear San­ta gift recip­i­ents. Nuclear San­ta isn’t like reg­u­lar San­ta but still pret­ty sweet. Sweet for Japan­ese oli­garchs.

    If the oth­er util­i­ties end up get­ting forced into unwant­ed part­ner­ships with Tep­co that will per­haps be some­thing to com­plain about. Although if any out­side play­ers should be sad­dling the costs of the Fukushi­ma clean up effort it would seem like the rest of Japan’s pow­er indus­try — which gets all sort of Pow­er Indus­try San­ta gifts day after day year after year — should be the first sec­tor of soci­ety to be sad­dled with costs of this nature.

    Also note that when you read things like:

    ...

    The pan­el also rec­om­mend­ed that Tep­co ful­ly inte­grates its fuel and ther­mal pow­er oper­a­tions into JERA Co, a joint ven­ture between the com­pa­ny and Chubu Elec­tric Pow­er, and urged the same for its trans­mis­sion and nuclear oper­a­tions.

    ...

    such merg­ers have already hap­pened, like the Tep­co Chu­ba liq­uid nat­ur­al gas mega-merg­er that cre­at­ed the largest nat­ur­al gas buy­er in the world. It’s a reminder that the Japan­ese gov­ern­men­t’s call for Tep­co to merge its oper­a­tions with oth­er pow­er oper­a­tors, the gov­ern­ment is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly call­ing for a pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant con­sol­i­da­tion of the ener­gy sec­tor:

    Reuters

    UPDATE 2‑Tepco, Chubu Elec­tric say may merge fos­sil-fuel plants

    * If merged, fos­sil fuel gen­er­a­tion would total 65 gigawatts

    * Deep­en­ing tie-up may lead to indus­try con­sol­i­da­tion (Adds com­ment, details on LNG pur­chas­es)

    By Osamu Tsuki­mori and Aaron Sheldrick
    Mon Feb 9, 2015 | 4:19am EST

    TOKYO, Feb 9 Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (Tep­co) and Chubu Elec­tric Pow­er Co said on Mon­day they may com­bine their fos­sil-fuel plants under a joint ven­ture they are set­ting up from April to han­dle fuel pro­cure­ment and relat­ed busi­ness­es.

    Should the com­pa­nies, the biggest and third biggest of Japan’s 10 region­al pow­er util­i­ties, include all their fos­sil-fuel sta­tions, the tie-up would over­see almost 68 gigawatts of capac­i­ty, mak­ing it one of the world’s largest pow­er gen­er­a­tors.

    The rigid bound­aries between Japan’s region­al monop­o­lies are grad­u­al­ly break­ing down in the wake of the 2011 Fukushi­ma nuclear cri­sis. The dis­as­ter exposed flaws in the nation­al grid, pushed up prices and led to three of them, includ­ing Tep­co, own­er of the Fukushi­ma plant, to turn to the gov­ern­ment for aid.

    The grow­ing ties between Chubu and Tep­co may prompt merg­ers in the indus­try after the gov­ern­ment opens up the $63 bil­lion retail mar­ket from April 2016, said Tom O’Sul­li­van, founder of inde­pen­dent ener­gy con­sul­tant Math­yos Japan.

    “The com­bi­na­tion of Tep­co and Chubu’s ther­mal pow­er busi­ness­es may be indica­tive of a con­sol­i­da­tion trend that might fol­low the pro­posed lib­er­al­iza­tion of Japan’s pow­er mar­ket,” he said.

    Such con­sol­i­da­tion has occurred in oth­er mar­kets that have lib­er­al­ized, O’Sul­li­van not­ed: “Ger­many has four pow­er com­pa­nies, the UK has six, while Japan has 10.”

    Chubu and Tep­co said they agreed to start a com­pre­hen­sive joint ven­ture from April that will grad­u­al­ly include fuel pro­cure­ment, invest­ment in gas and oth­er upstream devel­op­ments, and some areas of pow­er gen­er­a­tion to low­er costs.

    ...

    Tep­co was saved from bank­rupt­cy by the gov­ern­ment in 2012 fol­low­ing the reac­tor melt­downs at its Fukushi­ma plant north of Tokyo after an earth­quake and tsuna­mi in March 2011. The Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter was the world’s worst since Cher­nobyl in 1986.

    Fukushi­ma exposed Tep­co to tens of bil­lions of dol­lars of com­pen­sa­tion claims and clean-up costs and led to the shut­down of all of Japan’s nuclear reac­tors for strin­gent safe­ty checks.

    That forced oper­a­tors to import record amounts of coal and expen­sive liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas (LNG) for pow­er gen­er­a­tion, con­tribut­ing to a record run of trade deficits for Japan and forc­ing two oth­er region­al monop­o­lies to seek state aid.

    Tep­co, the world’s sec­ond-biggest LNG buy­er, cur­rent­ly buys about 25 mil­lion tonnes a year. Chubu Elec­tric, the third-biggest LNG buy­er, takes in around 14 mil­lion tonnes a year.

    “The grow­ing ties between Chubu and Tep­co may prompt merg­ers in the indus­try after the gov­ern­ment opens up the $63 bil­lion retail mar­ket from April 2016, said Tom O’Sul­li­van, founder of inde­pen­dent ener­gy con­sul­tant Math­yos Japan.”

    The pro­posed merg­er became a real­i­ty the next month.

    And as the arti­cle makes clear, we should­n’t expect the cor­po­rate merg­ers to be lim­it­ed to Tep­co. Because the cri­sis cre­at­ed in the elec­tric­i­ty mar­kets fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter when Japan’s nuclear sec­tor was shut­down became a pre­text for dereg­u­lat­ing Japans elec­tric­i­ty sec­tor. And now that dereg­u­la­tion is actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing. And that means a flood of oppor­tu­ni­ties for small oper­a­tors to enter the mar­kets. And a flood of oppor­tu­ni­ties for large oper­a­tors like Tep­co to form ser­vice “bun­dles” in part­ner­ship with oth­er major ser­vice providers and dom­i­nate its mar­kets more effi­cient­ly:

    Bloomberg Tech­nol­o­gy

    The $67 Bil­lion Prize on Offer as Japan Shakes Up Pow­er Mar­ket

    by Tsuyoshi Ina­ji­ma
    and Stephen Stapczyn­s­ki
    Octo­ber 26, 2015, 6:17 PM CDT Octo­ber 27, 2015, 1:43 PM CDT

    * Japan reg­is­tered pow­er sup­pli­ers jump sev­en-fold in two years
    * Soft­Bank to Cana­di­an Solar seek piece of $67 bil­lion mar­ket

    Spend a few min­utes to fill in a sin­gle-page form from a gov­ern­ment web­site. Mail it in. That’s all you need to reg­is­ter as a pow­er pro­duc­er in Japan as the coun­try opens its $67 bil­lion retail elec­tric­i­ty mar­ket.

    More than 750 appli­cants, from rice farm­ers to bil­lion­aire Masayoshi Son’s mobile car­ri­er Soft­Bank Group Corp., have signed up to pro­vide elec­tric­i­ty and com­pete with the exist­ing 10 region­al monop­o­lies. Few­er than 100 of them are already sup­ply­ing pow­er to the indus­tri­al mar­ket that’s already been dereg­u­lat­ed. They have almost dou­bled their share over the last three years and now account for about 5 per­cent of Japan’s sup­ply.

    While Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe push­es for the return of nuclear pow­er after the 2011 Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter led to the shut­down of the country’s reac­tors, he’s also pro­mot­ing lib­er­al­iza­tion as a way to reduce costs and increase grid reli­a­bil­i­ty for res­i­den­tial con­sumers. Cana­di­an Solar Inc. and South Korea’s Han­wha Q Cells Co. have been lured by the pos­si­bil­i­ty of get­ting a piece of Asia’s third-largest ener­gy mar­ket. Increased com­pe­ti­tion may help dri­ve retail elec­tric­i­ty costs down by 15 per­cent, accord­ing to Bloomberg New Ener­gy Finance.

    “New par­tic­i­pants are enter­ing the mar­ket at a time when the util­i­ties’ com­pet­i­tive pow­er remains weak because there are almost no oper­at­ing reac­tors,” said Moody’s Corp. ana­lyst Mariko Semetko. “Com­pe­ti­tion in areas that include Tokyo and Osa­ka will inten­si­fy as new entrants emerge to meet demand.”

    Japan­ese rice and grain grow­er Ari­ma Co, a 10-per­son oper­a­tion on the island of Shikoku about 600 kilo­me­ters (373 miles) west of Tokyo, reg­is­tered as a pow­er sup­pli­er because it’s con­sid­er­ing installing solar pan­els in unused fields, said Yoji Ari­ma, the sales man­ag­er. The busi­ness is opti­mistic rev­enue from pow­er pro­duc­tion could help sta­bi­lize volatile agri­cul­tur­al prof­its that are affect­ed by weath­er and com­mod­i­ty price swings.

    Yet enter­ing the mar­ket isn’t as easy as buy­ing solar pan­els and plug­ging into the grid. Par­tic­i­pants must pay a con­sign­ment charge to sup­ply cus­tomers through trans­mis­sion lines owned by region­al util­i­ties. And, unlike a clean ener­gy incen­tive pro­gram start­ed in 2012 that guar­an­tees pay­ment for pro­duc­ers, par­tic­i­pants must find their own cus­tomers.

    Japan elec­tric­i­ty demand may rise by about 22 per­cent to 1,177 bil­lion kilo­watt hours by the year start­ing April 2030 from fis­cal 2013 under one sce­nario, the Min­istry of Econ­o­my, Trade and Indus­try said in a report. Six­teen per­cent of house­holds plan to change their elec­tric­i­ty sup­pli­er if rates are 10 per­cent cheap­er, accord­ing to a sur­vey from Nomu­ra Research Insti­tute Ltd.

    In August, Japan rejoined the group of nations using atom­ic pow­er as it swept aside pub­lic oppo­si­tion and fired up one of the reac­tors shut­tered for safe­ty upgrades after the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi that wrecked the Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi sta­tion. The dis­as­ter led to rolling black­outs in Tokyo and helped sway pub­lic sup­port for the lib­er­al­iza­tion.

    ...

    Ana­lysts and aca­d­e­mics are divid­ed over whether lib­er­al­iz­ing pow­er mar­kets always ben­e­fits con­sumers. In the 11 states and Wash­ing­ton D.C. that have restruc­tured elec­tric­i­ty mar­kets in the U.S., prices have risen more than four times faster after dereg­u­la­tion than before, rel­a­tive to nation­al prices, accord­ing to a study pub­lished in the Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Ener­gy Eco­nom­ics and Pol­i­cy.

    Japan has already dereg­u­lat­ed pow­er mar­kets for fac­to­ries and large build­ings and the country’s total elec­tric­i­ty mar­ket is worth about 18.2 tril­lion yen ($150 bil­lion).

    Exist­ing com­pa­nies with cus­tomers may fare best under new rules.

    Pow­er, Mobile

    Tokyo Gas Co., the nation’s largest city-gas dis­trib­u­tor, plans to enter the pow­er busi­ness in April and tar­get sales in the Kan­to region of Japan, which includes Tokyo, and which has been dom­i­nat­ed by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. for decades.

    “If you’re Tokyo Gas you already have a res­i­den­tial cus­tomer base in Tokyo, so all you’re doing is going back to those cus­tomers and say­ing, ‘You are buy­ing gas from me now, how about you buy elec­tric­i­ty from me?’” said Iza­di-Najafaba­di of BNEF.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er, Japan’s largest util­i­ty, announced a part­ner­ship with Soft­Bank Group this month to pack­age pow­er, tele­phone and Inter­net ser­vice. More part­ner­ships may be on the hori­zon as com­pa­nies bun­dle offer­ings to scoop up more cus­tomers.

    “If some­one can give you a pack­age at a low­er price with a whole bunch of goods, then that is what you are going to take,” said Joseph Jaco­bel­li, a util­i­ties and infra­struc­ture ana­lyst with Bloomberg Intel­li­gence. “They want to sell pack­ages, which will basi­cal­ly own the cus­tomer, then they lever­age that up.”

    “Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er, Japan’s largest util­i­ty, announced a part­ner­ship with Soft­Bank Group this month to pack­age pow­er, tele­phone and Inter­net ser­vice. More part­ner­ships may be on the hori­zon as com­pa­nies bun­dle offer­ings to scoop up more cus­tomers.”

    As we can see, the Tep­co’s mega-merg­er with Chu­ba Pow­er’s LNG sec­tor hap­pened shorly before the whole elec­tric­i­ty mar­ket got dereg­u­lat­ed and com­pa­nies with large cus­tomer bases, the biggest being Tep­co, are poised to poten­tial­ly ben­e­fit the most. So those calls by the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment for Tep­co to form more part­ner­ships and rein­vent itself over the next year and half aren’t quite as out­landish as they might seem. Some sort of big Tep­co rein­ven­tion of sorts real­ly could hap­pen in the near future if more mega-merg­ers take place. And that appears like­ly because Tep­co is already huge and the whole sec­tor is about to get redrawn from the dereg­u­la­tion. Whether or not Tep­co’s dereg­u­la­tion rein­ven­tion plans actu­al­ly work and save Tep­co a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey remains to be seen. But if it does­n’t work there’s always anoth­er round of gifts from Nuclear San­ta. And prob­a­bly more dereg­u­la­tion and mega-merg­ers.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 23, 2016, 10:57 pm

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