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Sushi and Rev. Moon

How Amer­i­cans’ grow­ing appetite for sushi is help­ing to sup­port his con­tro­ver­sial church

By Mon­i­ca Eng, Del­roy Alexan­der and David Jack­son
Tri­bune staff reporters
Pub­lished by The Chica­go Tri­bune April 11, 2006

On a mis­sion from their leader, five young men arrived in Chica­go to open a lit­tle fish shop on Elston Avenue. Back then, in 1980, peo­ple of their faith were cas­ti­gat­ed as “Moonies” and called cult mem­bers. Yet the Japan­ese and Amer­i­can friends worked gru­el­ing hours and slept in a com­mu­nal apart­ment as they slow­ly built the foun­da­tion of a com­mer­cial empire.

They were led by the vision of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the self-pro­claimed mes­si­ah who sus­tained their spir­its as they played their part in ful­fill­ing the glob­al busi­ness plan he had devised.

Moon found­ed his con­tro­ver­sial Uni­fi­ca­tion Church six decades ago with the procla­ma­tion that he was asked by Jesus to save human­i­ty. But he also built the empire blend­ing his con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics, savvy cap­i­tal­ism and flair for spec­ta­cles such as mass wed­dings in Madi­son Square Gar­den.

In a remark­able sto­ry that has gone large­ly untold, Moon and his fol­low­ers cre­at­ed an enter­prise that reaped mil­lions of dol­lars by dom­i­nat­ing one of Amer­i­ca’s trendi­est indul­gences: sushi.

Today, one of those five Elston Avenue pio­neers, Takeshi Yashiro, serves as a top exec­u­tive of a sprawl­ing con­glom­er­ate that sup­plies much of the raw fish Amer­i­cans eat.

Adher­ing to a plan Moon spelled out more than three decades ago in a series of ser­mons, mem­bers of his move­ment man­aged to inte­grate vir­tu­al­ly every facet of the high­ly com­pet­i­tive seafood indus­try. The Moon fol­low­ers’ seafood oper­a­tion is dri­ven by a com­mer­cial pow­er­house, known as True World Group. It builds fleets of boats, runs dozens of dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters and, each day, sup­plies most of the nation’s esti­mat­ed 9,000 sushi restau­rants.

Although few seafood lovers may con­sid­er they’re indi­rect­ly sup­port­ing Moon’s reli­gious move­ment, they do just that when they eat a but­tery slice of tuna or munch on a morsel of eel in many restau­rants. True World is so ubiq­ui­tous that 14 of 17 promi­nent Chica­go sushi restau­rants sur­veyed by the Tri­bune said they were sup­plied by the com­pa­ny.

Over the last three decades, as Moon has faced down accu­sa­tions of brain­wash­ing fol­low­ers and per­son­al­ly prof­it­ing from the church, he and sushi have made sim­i­lar if unlike­ly jour­neys from the fringes of Amer­i­can soci­ety to the main­stream.

These par­al­lel paths are not coin­ci­dence. They reflect Moon’s dream of revi­tal­iz­ing and dom­i­nat­ing the Amer­i­can fish­ing indus­try while help­ing to fund his church’s activ­i­ties.

“I have the entire sys­tem worked out, start­ing with boat build­ing,” Moon said in “The Way of Tuna,” a speech giv­en in 1980. “After we build the boats, we catch the fish and process them for the mar­ket, and then have a dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work. This is not just on the draw­ing board; I have already done it.”

In the same speech, he called him­self “king of the ocean.” It proved not to be an idle boast. The busi­ness­es now employ hun­dreds, includ­ing non-church mem­bers, from the frigid waters of the Alaskan coast to the icon­ic Amer­i­can fish­ing town of Glouces­ter, Mass.

Records and inter­views with church insid­ers and com­peti­tors trace how Moon and mem­bers of his move­ment car­ried out his vision.

In a recent inter­view Rev. Phillip Schanker, a Uni­fi­ca­tion Church spokesman, said the seafood busi­ness­es were “not orga­ni­za­tion­al­ly or legal­ly con­nect­ed” to Moon’s church, but were sim­ply “busi­ness­es found­ed by mem­bers of the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church.”

Schanker com­pared the rela­tion­ship to suc­cess­ful busi­ness own­ers-such as J. Willard “Bill” Mar­riott, a promi­nent Mor­mon who found­ed the hotel chain that bears his name-who donate mon­ey to their church.

“Mar­riott sup­ports the Mor­mon Church but no one who checks into a Mar­riott Hotel thinks they are deal­ing with Mor­monism,” he said. “In the same way I would hope that every busi­ness found­ed by a mem­ber based on inspi­ra­tion from Rev. Moon’s vision also would be in a posi­tion to sup­port the church.”


But links between Moon’s reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion and the fish busi­ness­es are spelled out in court and gov­ern­ment records as well as in state­ments by Moon and his top church offi­cials. For one thing, Moon per­son­al­ly devised the seafood strat­e­gy, helped fund it at its out­set and served as a direc­tor of one of its ear­li­est com­pa­nies.

Moon’s Uni­fi­ca­tion Church is orga­nized under a tax-exempt non-prof­it enti­ty called The Holy Spir­it Asso­ci­a­tion for the Uni­fi­ca­tion of World Chris­tian­i­ty. The busi­ness­es are con­trolled by a sep­a­rate non-prof­it com­pa­ny called Uni­fi­ca­tion Church Inter­na­tion­al Inc., or UCI.

That com­pa­ny’s con­nec­tions to Moon’s Uni­fi­ca­tion Church go deep­er than the shared name. A 1978 con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion into Moon’s busi­ness­es con­clud­ed: “It was unclear whether the UCI had any inde­pen­dent func­tions oth­er than serv­ing as a finan­cial clear­ing­house for var­i­ous Moon orga­ni­za­tion sub­sidiaries and projects.”

UCI as well as its sub­sidiaries and affil­i­ates such as True World are run large­ly by church mem­bers, Schanker said. The com­pa­nies were “found­ed by church mem­bers in line with Rev. Moon’s vision,” he said. “It’s not coin­ci­dence.”

Some­times the links are more direct. The boat­build­ing firm US Marine Cor­po­ra­tion shares its head­quar­ters offices with the church and lists the church as its major­i­ty share­hold­er, accord­ing to cor­po­rate records.


A por­tion of True World’s prof­its makes its way to the church through the lay­ers of par­ent cor­po­ra­tions, Yashiro said, adding: “We live to serve oth­ers, and this is how we serve by build­ing a strong busi­ness.”

Moon pre­dict­ed in 1974 that the fish­ing busi­ness would “lay a foun­da­tion for the future econ­o­my of the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church.” In fact, while Moon and busi­ness­es affil­i­at­ed with him report­ed­ly have poured mil­lions of dol­lars into mon­ey-los­ing ven­tures includ­ing The Wash­ing­ton Times news­pa­per, the seafood ven­tures have cre­at­ed a prof­it-mak­ing infra­struc­ture that could last-and help sup­port the church-long after the 86-year-old Moon is gone.

Much of the foun­da­tion for that suc­cess has its roots in Chica­go. True World Foods, Yashiro’s whole­sale fish dis­tri­b­u­tion busi­ness spawned near Lawrence and Elston Avenues, now oper­ates from a 30,000-square-foot com­plex in Elk Grove Vil­lage.

The com­pa­ny says it sup­plies hun­dreds of local sushi and fine-din­ing estab­lish­ments. Even many who might have reli­gious reser­va­tions about buy­ing from the com­pa­ny do so for one sim­ple rea­son: It depend­ably deliv­ers high-qual­i­ty sushi.

“We try not to think of the reli­gion part,” said Haruko Ima­mu­ra, who with her hus­band runs Kat­su on West Peter­son Avenue. “We don’t agree with their reli­gion but it’s noth­ing to do with the busi­ness.”

Like Moon him­self, who served a 13-month prison sen­tence for tax fraud in the 1980s, the seafood com­pa­nies have at times run afoul of U.S. laws.

In June 2001, True World Foods’ Kodi­ak, Alas­ka, fish pro­cess­ing com­pa­ny plead­ed guilty to a fed­er­al felony for accept­ing a load of pol­lock that exceed­ed the boat’s 300,000-pound trip lim­it. The firm was fined $150,000 and put on pro­ba­tion for five years under a plea agree­ment with pros­e­cu­tors.

The com­pa­ny also has been cit­ed for san­i­ta­tion laps­es by the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion. Last year, after repeat­ed FDA inspec­tions found “gross unsan­i­tary con­di­tions” at True World’s sub­ur­ban
Detroit plant, the facil­i­ty man­ag­er tried to bar inspec­tors from pro­duc­tion areas and refused to pro­vide records, accord­ing to an FDA report. The plant man­ag­er told the inspec­tors that his True World super­vi­sor was “a great man, that he was a part of a new reli­gion, and that if we took advan­tage of him, then ‘God help you!’.”

Lat­er, accord­ing to that FDA report, an employ­ee wear­ing a ski mask approached one female inspec­tor, put his thumb and fore­fin­ger in the shape of a gun, point­ed at her and said: “You’re out of uni­form. Pow!”

Say­ing they had been “hin­dered, intim­i­dat­ed and threat­ened,” the FDA inspec­tors took the unusu­al step of secur­ing a court order com­pelling True World to let them inspect the facil­i­ty. Yashiro, chief exec­u­tive of True World Foods, said in a writ­ten state­ment that the “iso­lat­ed instance ..... arose from a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” The plant is now closed; Yashiro said its oper­a­tions were con­sol­i­dat­ed into the Elk Grove Vil­lage plant in Jan­u­ary, adding: “We main­tain the high­est stan­dards of food safe­ty.”


In the late 1970s, Moon laid out a plan to build seafood oper­a­tions in all 50 states as part of what he called “the ocean­ic prov­i­dence.”

This dream of har­vest­ing the sea would help fund the church, feed the world and save the Amer­i­can fish­ing indus­try, Moon said.

He even sug­gest­ed that the church’s mass wed­dings could play a role in the busi­ness plan by mak­ing Amer­i­can cit­i­zens out of Japan­ese mem­bers of the move­ment. This would help them avoid fish­ing restric­tions applied to for­eign­ers.

“A few years ago the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment set up a 200-mile lim­it for off­shore fish­ing by for­eign boats,” Moon said in the 1980 “Way of Tuna” ser­mon. But by mar­ry­ing Japan­ese mem­bers to Amer­i­cans, “we are not for­eign­ers; there­fore Japan­ese broth­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly those matched to Amer­i­cans, are becom­ing ..... lead­ers for fish­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion” of his move­men­t’s busi­ness­es.

Sushi’s pop­u­lar­i­ty had flow­ered enough by 1986 for Moon to gloat that Amer­i­cans who once thought Japan­ese were “just like ani­mals, eat­ing raw fish,” were now “pay­ing a great deal of mon­ey, eat­ing at expen­sive sushi restau­rants.” He rec­om­mend­ed that his flock open “1,000 restau­rants” in Amer­i­ca.

In fash­ion­ing a chain of busi­ness­es that would stretch from the ocean to restau­rant tables across Amer­i­ca, Moon and his fol­low­ers cre­at­ed a struc­ture unique­ly able to cap­i­tal­ize on the nation’s grow­ing appetite for sushi and fresh fish.

Some of the busi­ness start-up funds came from the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church. In a sev­en-month peri­od from Octo­ber 1976 to May 1977, Moon signed some of the near­ly $1 mil­lion in checks used to estab­lish the fish­ing busi­ness, accord­ing to a 1978 con­gres­sion­al report on alle­ga­tions of impro­pri­eties by Moon’s church.

After acquir­ing an ail­ing boat­mak­ing oper­a­tion, Mas­ter Marine, Moon and his fol­low­ers turned their atten­tion to estab­lish­ing the next link in the net­work. Church mem­bers who saw fish­ing as their call­ing took to the seas, many pow­ered by Mas­ter Marine boats. Moon’s Ocean Church would bring togeth­er mem­bers and poten­tial con­verts for 40-day tuna fish­ing trips every sum­mer in 80 boats he bought for his fol­low­ers.

Many of the tour­na­ments took place off the coast of Glouces­ter, Mass., by no coin­ci­dence one of the first homes to a church-affil­i­at­ed seafood pro­cess­ing plant. Moon proud­ly declared in his “Way of Tuna” speech that “Glouces­ter is almost a Moonie town now!” (The church has since reject­ed the term Moonies as deroga­to­ry.)


Some­times work­ing sur­rep­ti­tious­ly, Moon affil­i­ates and fol­low­ers bought large chunks of the key fish­ing towns–in each case ini­tial­ly spark­ing anger and sus­pi­cion from long­time res­i­dents.

The church and its mem­bers cre­at­ed an uproar when they bought a vil­la that had been a retire­ment home run by Roman Catholic nuns. Moon was hanged in effi­gy in the local har­bor.

Even­tu­al­ly, such resis­tance with­ered away. In Bay­ou La Batre, Ala., Rus­sell Stein­er was among com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers who clashed with the new­com­ers. But like many in the town, Stein­er has mel­lowed con­sid­er­ably since the church’s arrival. “They have been very active in the com­mu­ni­ty and are very nice peo­ple, actu­al­ly,” he said.

The Alaba­ma shrimp busi­ness is among the largest in the Gulf of Mex­i­co, and the near­by boat-build­ing plant has not only built more than 300 boats, but also done repairs on the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy ships, accord­ing to fed­er­al doc­u­ments.

And the fish busi­ness­es have thrived. Com­pa­ny offi­cials say the whole­sale dis­tri­b­u­tion arm, True World Foods, had rev­enue of $250 mil­lion last year.

Accord­ing to True World Foods, its fleet of 230 refrig­er­at­ed trucks deliv­ers raw fish to 7,000 sushi and fine-din­ing restau­rants nation­wide. Dozens of those trucks leave each day from the Elk Grove Vil­lage ware­house, one of 22 dis­tri­b­u­tion facil­i­ties around the coun­try.

True World Foods’ Alas­ka plant process­es more than 20 mil­lion pounds of salmon, cod and pol­lock each year, the com­pa­ny says. Its Inter­na­tion­al Lob­ster oper­a­tion in Glouces­ter ships monk­fish and lob­ster around the world from a 25,000-square-foot cold stor­age facil­i­ty that is among the largest on the East Coast.

And it is again in an expan­sion­ist mood. True World recent­ly opened up shop in Eng­land and estab­lished offices in Japan and Korea, set­ting its sights on the world’s biggest mar­ket for sushi.


When Takeshi Yashiro arrived in Chica­go in 1980 to help set up one of the ear­li­est out­posts of the fish­ing empire, the area had just a hand­ful of sushi joints. That num­ber has bal­looned to more than 200 restau­rants statewide, and Yashiro’s fish house has flour­ished.

The son of an Epis­co­palian Japan­ese min­is­ter, he immi­grat­ed to the U.S. and joined the church as a stu­dent in San Fran­cis­co. On July 1, 1982, Moon blessed Yashiro and his bride along with more than 2,000 oth­er cou­ples in one of his mass wed­ding cer­e­monies, in New York City’s Madi­son Square Gar­den.

The Rain­bow Fish House that Yashiro and fel­low church mem­bers found­ed on Chicago’s North­west Side has become not only the city’s dom­i­nant sushi sup­pli­er but also the nation’s. The fish house became True World Foods, which buys so much tuna from around the world that it has sev­en peo­ple in Chica­go sole­ly ded­i­cat­ed to sourc­ing and pric­ing the best grades.

One of True World’s advan­tages is that its sales force speaks Chi­nese, Kore­an and Japan­ese, mak­ing it easy for first-gen­er­a­tion eth­nic restau­rant own­ers to do busi­ness with them.

“It’s kind of tough to com­pete in this indus­try with a com­pa­ny that is so glob­al, has a major pres­ence in almost every mar­ket and that is dri­ven by reli­gious fer­vor,” said Bill Dugan, who has been in the fish busi­ness for almost 30 years and owns the Fish Guy Mar­ket on Elston Avenue, near the orig­i­nal Rain­bow shop. “We should all be so blessed.”

But not all of True World’s employ­ees are church mem­bers. Tuna buy­er Eddie Lin recent­ly left True World for For­tune Fish Co., a local rival. Lin said his for­mer work­place was not overt­ly reli­gious, but he added that as a non-church mem­ber he felt his abil­i­ty to advance was lim­it­ed. “You can feel the dif­fer­ence between the way they see mem­bers and non-mem­bers,” Lin said.


While dis­put­ing such asser­tions, Yashiro not­ed that new employ­ees “have to know that the founder is the founder of the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church. It’s a very clear dis­tinc­tion between join­ing the church or not join­ing the church. There’s no dis­crim­i­na­tion, but I think our cul­ture is def­i­nite­ly based on our faith.”

It’s that faith that makes some uneasy. Wang Kim, a Chica­go-area youth min­istry direc­tor and M
oon crit­ic, was cer­tain he could find local Kore­an Chris­t­ian sushi restau­ra­teurs who did­n’t use True World because they might con­sid­er his views hereti­cal. As Kim said, Moon “says that he is the Mes­si­ah, and we hate that.”

But Kim called back emp­ty-hand­ed. “I checked with sev­er­al of my friends,” he said, “and they know it is from Moon but they have to use [them because] they have to give qual­i­ty to their cus­tomers.”

The sheer suc­cess of the ven­ture has left lin­ger­ing ques­tions even in the minds of Moon’s ded­i­cat­ed fol­low­ers. Yashiro, the Chica­go pio­neer who now heads True World Foods, remem­bers ded­i­cat­ing his career and life 26 years ago to achiev­ing Moon’s dream, which includ­ed solv­ing world hunger.

But that part of Moon’s grand vision has yet to mate­ri­al­ize. “I was won­der­ing if we are real­ly here to solve the world’s hunger,” Yashiro said. “Every day I ..... pray on it.”

He still hopes True World Foods even­tu­al­ly will help end hunger. But until then, he said, his role will be to grow the busi­ness and make mon­ey.


49 comments for “Sushi and Rev. Moon”

  1. With radi­a­tion show­ing up in Toky­o’s super­mar­kets, it’s worth not­ing that True World is still up to its old tricks.

    From sea to sushi bar, a sys­tem open to abuse
    Boston Globe
    By Beth Daley and Jenn Abel­son, Globe Staff
    Over­all, the test­ing revealed that near­ly half of 183 fish sam­ples col­lect­ed at restau­rants and super­mar­kets were not the species ordered.

    Mass­a­chu­setts has long played a major role in the nation’s seafood indus­try, with both fresh catch­es and frozen fish being sent here to get processed. Last year, about $673 mil­lion worth of seafood was processed in Mass­a­chu­setts, accord­ing to the Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion Fish­eries Ser­vice, enough to rank the state fourth in the nation. (Alas­ka tops the list.)

    The Globe inves­ti­ga­tion found that the major­i­ty of the restau­rants sell­ing mis­la­beled fish get their prod­ucts from a hand­ful of dis­trib­u­tors, includ­ing True World Foods and Gold­well Trad­ing, which oper­ate Boston ware­hous­es. Some sup­pli­ers implic­it­ly or overt­ly encour­age seafood mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, accord­ing to restau­ra­teurs and their employ­ees.

    Restau­rant invoic­es and prod­uct cat­a­logs that were pro­vid­ed to the Globe show that sup­pli­ers often use two names for one species of fish. For exam­ple, Gold­well Trad­ing, which deliv­ers sushi to about 150 restau­rants in Mass­a­chu­setts, describes the same fish as white tuna and esco­lar on its invoic­es. The cat­a­log of True World, a large sup­pli­er that says it deliv­ers to high-pro­file clients such as the Red Sox club­house at Fen­way Park, lists it the same way.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 25, 2011, 7:07 am
  2. Con­sid­er­ing the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church’s dom­i­nant role in the Gulf of Mex­i­co shrimp­ing busi­ness, the recent NY Times report on the dec­i­mat­ed shrimp pop­u­la­tions in the Gulf is extra wor­ry­ing. You also have to won­der how much of that $20 bil­lion BP-spill com­pen­sa­tion fund is head­ing into the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church’s cof­fers (since it does­n’t sound like the local res­i­dents have had much luck get­ting their hands on it). Oh well, at least it sounds like it’s safe to eat! *eye roll*

    Gulf Shrimp Are Scarce This Sea­son; Answers, Too
    Pub­lished: Octo­ber 10, 2011

    LAFITTE, La. — The dock at Bundy’s Seafood is qui­et, the trucks are emp­ty and a crew a frac­tion of the nor­mal size sits around a table wait­ing for some­thing to do. But the most telling indi­ca­tor that some­thing is wrong is the smell. It smells per­fect­ly fine.

    “There’s no shrimp,” explained Grant Bundy, 38. The dock should smell like a place where 10,000 pounds of shrimp a day are bought off the boats. Not this year. In all of Sep­tem­ber, Bundy’s Seafood bought around 41,000 pounds.

    White shrimp sea­son began in late August, and two months in, the shrimpers here say it is a bad one, if not the worst in mem­o­ry. It is bad not just in spots but all over south­east­ern Louisiana, said Jules Nunez, 78, call­ing it the worst sea­son he had seen since he began shrimp­ing in 1950. Some fish­er­men said their catch­es were off by 80 per­cent or more.

    “A lot of peo­ple say it’s this, it’s that, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s BP,” Mr. Nunez said. “We just don’t know.”


    Those who work in the gulf seafood indus­try, as well as their lawyers, have watched close­ly for signs of a species col­lapse sim­i­lar to the one that dec­i­mat­ed the her­ring fish­ery four years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alas­ka. The caus­es of even that col­lapse remain a mat­ter of dis­pute, but it is often cit­ed as an exam­ple of the delayed dis­as­ter that shrimpers and oth­ers fear.

    This con­cern was stoked fur­ther by a recent study by L.S.U. researchers that report­ed that a species of fish abun­dant in Gulf marsh­es was show­ing signs of cel­lu­lar dam­age, prob­lems typ­i­cal­ly due to expo­sure to oil. The func­tions of the fish, a min­now called the kil­li­fish, have been affect­ed in ways that could harm repro­duc­tion, the study found.

    Seafood indus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives say there is enough uncer­tain­ty to raise doubts that the shrimp har­vest will recov­er by 2012, a sup­po­si­tion in a report that Ken­neth R. Fein­berg, the admin­is­tra­tor of the $20 bil­lion com­pen­sa­tion fund for vic­tims of the spill, used in his for­mu­la for deter­min­ing final set­tle­ments.


    Con­cerns about the lack of shrimp are dif­fer­ent from con­cerns about the state of shrimp that are found. Repeat­ed stud­ies have shown gulf seafood is safe to eat, a fact trum­pet­ed by indus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives and gov­ern­ment offi­cials, who launched a gulf seafood safe­ty Web site last week to reas­sure con­sumers.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 26, 2011, 10:16 am
  3. Anoth­er chill­ing round of updates just released sug­gests 20 times more cesium was leaked into the ocean dur­ing the ini­tial radi­a­tion release then pre­vi­ous­ly esti­mat­ed, putting the total esti­mate for the ocean release at 27,000 bec­querels (the ‘Lit­tle Boy’ bomb released 89 bec­querels, for ref­er­ence). Note that this is just the ini­tial release in the to ocean and atmos­phere and does­n’t appear to include all of the radi­a­tion that has been leak­ing from the plants since then as a result of rain and spray­ing.

    There’s also a new esti­mate of the clean up time: 3 years before radioac­tive waste dis­pos­al facil­i­ties will be online and 30 years for a com­plete cleanup.

    Fukushi­ma Plant Released Record Amount of Radi­a­tion Into Sea
    Octo­ber 31, 2011, 5:10 AM EDT

    Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) — The destroyed Fukushi­ma nuclear plant in Japan was respon­si­ble for the biggest dis­charge of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al into the ocean in his­to­ry, a study from a French nuclear safe­ty insti­tute said.

    The radioac­tive cesium that flowed into the sea from the Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi nuclear plant was 20 times the amount esti­mat­ed by its own­er, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., accord­ing to the study by the Insti­tute for Radi­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion and Nuclear Safe­ty, which is fund­ed by the French gov­ern­ment.

    It’s the sec­ond report released in a week call­ing into ques­tion esti­mates from Japan’s gov­ern­ment and the oper­a­tor of the plant that was dam­aged in the March earth­quake and tsuna­mi. The Fukushi­ma sta­tion may have emit­ted more than dou­ble the company’s esti­mate of atmos­pher­ic release at the height of the worst civ­il atom­ic cri­sis since Cher­nobyl in 1986, accord­ing to a study in the Atmos­pher­ic Chem­istry and Physics jour­nal.

    he ocean­ic study esti­mates 27,000 ter­abec­querels of radioac­tive cesium 137 leaked into the sea from the Fukushi­ma plant, north of Tokyo.

    Tep­co is aware of the esti­mate from the insti­tute through media reports and has no com­ment, spokesman Hajime Moto­juku said today by phone.

    Fukushi­ma nuclear plant could take 30 years to clean up
    Removal of fuel rods and decom­mis­sion­ing of reac­tors could take decades, warns Japan’s atom­ic com­mis­sion
    Justin McCur­ry in Tokyo and agen­cies
    guardian.co.uk, Mon­day 31 Octo­ber 2011 04.14 EDT

    Experts in Japan have warned it could take more than 30 years to clean up the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi pow­er plant.

    A pan­el set up by the coun­try’s nuclear ener­gy com­mis­sion said the sever­i­ty of the acci­dent meant it would take decades to remove melt­ed fuel rods and decom­mis­sion the plant, locat­ed 150 miles north of Tokyo.

    The com­mis­sion called on the facil­i­ty’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co), to begin remov­ing the fuel rods with­in 10 years. The dam­age to Fukushi­ma is more dif­fi­cult to repair than that sus­tained at Three Mile Island, where fuel removal began six years after an acci­dent in 1979.

    Work to decom­mis­sion four of Fukushi­ma’s six reac­tors could start this year if Tep­co brings the plant to a safe state known as cold shut­down.

    The util­i­ty will begin by remov­ing spent fuel from stor­age pools with­in three years of mak­ing the reac­tors safe, before begin­ning the more dif­fi­cult task of remov­ing melt­ed fuel from the three reac­tors that suf­fered melt­down.

    While radi­a­tion emis­sions have dropped sig­nif­i­cant­ly since the 11 March earth­quake and tsuna­mi, work­ers con­tin­ue to oper­ate in high­ly dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

    Towns near Fukushi­ma have respond­ed cau­tious­ly to plans to build tem­po­rary stor­age sites for mas­sive quan­ti­ties of radioac­tive debris gen­er­at­ed by the acci­dent.

    Almost eight months after the start of the cri­sis the gov­ern­ment says the facil­i­ties will not be ready for at least anoth­er three years. In the mean­time, towns will have to store the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed waste local­ly, despite health con­cerns.
    Much of the ear­ly decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work has been per­formed by local author­i­ties and vol­un­teers, although nei­ther has found a sat­is­fac­to­ry means of stor­ing the waste. The cen­tral gov­ern­ment is not expect­ed to take con­trol of the cleanup oper­a­tion until a decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion law is passed in Jan­u­ary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 31, 2011, 6:53 am
  4. two steps for­ward: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204479504576636503693856820.html

    Tep­co said that emis­sions from the plant are now esti­mat­ed at 100 mil­lion bec­querels per hour, or one eight-mil­lionth of their peak on March 15, though Tep­co offi­cials not­ed cur­rent lev­els are still high­er than nor­mal.

    The assess­ment came after tem­per­a­tures in the three dam­aged reac­tor cores all recent­ly fell below 100 degrees Cel­sius, stop­ping radioac­tive steam from being emit­ted into the atmos­phere.

    “Stop­ping the steam leak­age is a major step for­ward in terms of radi­a­tion con­trol,” said Tadashi Narabayashi, pro­fes­sor of reac­tor engi­neer­ing at Hokkai­do Uni­ver­si­ty.

    one step back:

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. detect­ed signs of nuclear fis­sion at its crip­pled Fukushi­ma atom­ic pow­er plant, rais­ing the risk of increased radi­a­tion emis­sions. No increase in radi­a­tion was found at the site and the sit­u­a­tion is under con­trol, offi­cials said.

    The com­pa­ny, known as Tep­co, began spray­ing boric acid on the No. 2 reac­tor at 2:48 a.m. Japan time to pre­vent acci­den­tal chain reac­tions. Tep­co said it may have found xenon, which is asso­ci­at­ed with nuclear fis­sion, while exam­in­ing gas­es tak­en from the reac­tor, accord­ing to an e‑mailed state­ment today.

    and one very ill advised drink of water: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/japanese-official-drinks-water-from-fukushima-reactor-buildings/


    As Asahi Shim­bun explained, that skep­ti­cal mood was obvi­ous last month when a jour­nal­ist dared Mr. Son­o­da to drink some of the water.

    At an Oct. 10 news con­fer­ence host­ed by Tep­co, a free­lance writer said: “Because we are pro­hib­it­ed from enter­ing the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant grounds, we have to trust the infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by Tep­co. If the water is real­ly safe enough to drink, can you pro­vide the water in glass­es and have every­one drink it?”

    Three days lat­er, a muck­rak­ing jour­nal­ist named Yu Tera­sawa point­ed out to Mr. Son­o­da that, in 1996, when the pub­lic was con­cerned that radish sprouts might be con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with E. coli bac­te­ria, the Japan­ese health min­is­ter at the time ate some to demon­strate his faith in the food’s safe­ty. “Since Tep­co offi­cials said the water is safe enough to drink,” the jour­nal­ist asked, “why don’t you drink a cup? Will you drink it?”

    On Mon­day, after gulp­ing down half a glass of the water, Mr. Son­o­da said: “Just because I drank the water does not mean that its safe­ty has been con­firmed, so there is no sig­nif­i­cance to the act. I drank it because a request had been made.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 2, 2011, 10:12 am
  5. The phrase “avoid­ing own­er­ship of the prob­lem” comes to mind. Some less pleas­ant phras­es too:

    TEPCO: Radioac­tive sub­stances belong to landown­ers, not us
    Novem­ber 24, 2011

    By TOMOHIRO IWATA / Asahi Shim­bun Week­ly AERA

    Dur­ing court pro­ceed­ings con­cern­ing a radioac­tive golf course, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. stunned lawyers by say­ing the util­i­ty was not respon­si­ble for decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion because it no longer “owned” the radioac­tive sub­stances.

    “Radioac­tive mate­ri­als (such as cesium) that scat­tered and fell from the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant belong to indi­vid­ual landown­ers there, not TEPCO,” the util­i­ty said.

    That argu­ment did not sit well with the com­pa­nies that own and oper­ate the Sun­field Nihon­mat­su Golf Club, just 45 kilo­me­ters west of the strick­en TEPCO plant in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture.

    The Tokyo Dis­trict Court also reject­ed that idea.

    But in a rul­ing described as incon­sis­tent by lawyers, the court essen­tial­ly freed TEPCO from respon­si­bil­i­ty for decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work, say­ing the cleanup efforts should be done by the cen­tral and local gov­ern­ments.

    Although the legal bat­tle has moved to a high­er court, observers said that if the dis­trict court’s deci­sion stands and becomes a prece­dent, local gov­ern­ments’ cof­fers could be drained.

    The two golf com­pa­nies in August filed for a pro­vi­sion­al dis­po­si­tion with the Tokyo Dis­trict Court, demand­ing TEPCO decon­t­a­m­i­nate the golf course and pay about 87 mil­lion yen ($1.13 mil­lion) for the upkeep costs over six months.


    The golf course com­pa­ny com­mis­sioned a radi­a­tion test­ing agency to check the course on Nov. 13. It detect­ed 235,000 bec­querels of cesium per kilo­gram of grass, a lev­el that would put the area into a no-entry zone under safe­ty stan­dards enforced after the 1986 Cher­nobyl dis­as­ter.

    On Nov. 17, radioac­tive stron­tium at 98 bec­querels per kilo­gram was detect­ed in the grass and ground.

    Asked about TEPCO’s doubts con­cern­ing the city’s radi­a­tion mea­sure­ments, Nihon­mat­su May­or Kei­ichi Miho said, “We made the utmost efforts when we con­duct­ed the checks.”

    A TEPCO offi­cial told The Asahi Shim­bun that com­pa­ny will refrain from com­ment­ing on the legal bat­tle.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 30, 2011, 1:55 pm
  6. Some good news from Dec 1:

    Japan may announce Fukushi­ma cold shut­down on Dec. 16: Yomi­uri

    TOKYO | Thu Dec 1, 2011 8:26pm EST

    (Reuters) — Japan may announce on Decem­ber 16 that tsuna­mi-dam­aged nuclear reac­tors in Fukushi­ma are in a cold shut­down, the Yomi­uri news­pa­per report­ed on Fri­day, an impor­tant mile­stone in its plan to bring under con­trol the worst nuclear acci­dent in 25 years.

    The Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) north­east of Tokyo, was wrecked by the March 11 earth­quake and tsuna­mi, which knocked out reac­tor cool­ing sys­tems, caus­ing melt­downs of nuclear fuel rods.

    A cold shut­down is when water used to cool nuclear fuel rods remains below its boil­ing point, pre­vent­ing the fuel from reheat­ing.

    Prime Min­is­ter Yoshi­hiko Noda may declare a cold shut­down because a Novem­ber 30 analy­sis by plant oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co showed that tem­per­a­tures for the nuclear fuel lying at the bot­tom of the con­tain­ment ves­sel have sta­bi­lized, the paper said.

    Radi­a­tion lev­els at the reac­tors have also fall­en sig­nif­i­cant­ly, it said.

    Declar­ing a cold shut­down will have reper­cus­sions well beyond the plant as it is one of the cri­te­ria the gov­ern­ment has said must be met before it begins allow­ing 80,000 res­i­dents evac­u­at­ed from with­in a 20 km (12 mile) radius of the plant to return home.


    You have to won­der how soon res­i­dents are going to return to the quar­an­tined region now that it’s tech­ni­cal­ly allow­able.

    Anoth­er huge advan­tage of get­ting to the “cold-shut­down” sta­tus is that Tep­co no longer has to keep pump­ing water into build­ings. This issue was high­light­ed last week with anoth­er announce­ment. It was good news, in a bad sort of way:

    Fukushi­ma nuclear plant scraps plan to dump water into sea
    The deci­sion comes after the util­i­ty released more than 10,000 tons of water taint­ed with low lev­els of radi­a­tion in April.

    By Reuter­sThu, Dec 08 2011 at 10:20 PM EST

    TOKYO — Japan’s crip­pled Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant said Fri­day it has scrapped a plan to dump water it treat­ed for radi­a­tion con­t­a­m­i­na­tion into the sea fol­low­ing fierce protests from fish­ing groups.

    That caused an uproar among Japan­ese fish­ing coop­er­a­tives.


    Tep­co esti­mates that the amount of treat­ed water requir­ing stor­age is increas­ing by 200 to 500 tons every day. It says the plant is like­ly to reach its stor­age capac­i­ty of about 155,000 tons around March.

    The util­i­ty released more than 10,000 tons of water taint­ed with low lev­els of radi­a­tion in April to free up space for water with much high­er lev­els of radioac­tiv­i­ty, draw­ing sharp crit­i­cism from neigh­bors such as South Korea and Chi­na.

    Yes, achiev­ing cold shut­down is indeed a huge­ly impor­tant achieve­ment:

    IAEA wel­comes Japan’s announce­ment of cold shut­down at Fukushi­ma plant
    (Mainichi Japan) Decem­ber 17, 2011

    VIENNA (Kyo­do) — The Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency on Fri­day wel­comed the Japan­ese gov­ern­men­t’s announce­ment that the crip­pled Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant has achieved a sta­ble state of cold shut­down.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., the plan­t’s oper­a­tor, and the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment have “made sig­nif­i­cant progress,” IAEA Direc­tor Gen­er­al Yukiya Amano said in a state­ment.

    Amano also said the IAEA will con­tin­ue mon­i­tor­ing the sta­tus of the plant and radi­a­tion data in the wake of the nuclear dis­as­ter.

    “The agency con­tin­ues to stand ready to pro­vide nec­es­sary assis­tance to Japan as request­ed,” he said.

    (Mainichi Japan) Decem­ber 17, 2011

    Well that has to have the IAEA breath­ing a sigh of relief.

    In oth­er tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed news...

    ‘Absolute­ly no progress being made’ at Fukushi­ma nuke plant, under­cov­er reporter says

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 16, 2011, 9:51 pm
  7. Health offi­cials want you to know that there’s still noth­ing to be wor­ried about...:

    After Fukushi­ma, fish tales

    Mon­tre­al Gazette
    By Alex Roslin, The Gazette Jan­u­ary 14, 2012

    After the world’s WORST nuclear acci­dent in 25 years, author­i­ties in Cana­da said peo­ple liv­ing here were safe and faced no health risks from the fall­out from Fukushi­ma.

    They said most of the radi­a­tion from the crip­pled Japan­ese nuclear pow­er plant would fall into the ocean, where it would be dilut­ed and not pose any dan­ger.


    Dewar, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of Physi­cians for Glob­al Sur­vival, a Cana­di­an anti-nuclear group, says the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment has down­played the radi­a­tion risks from Fukushi­ma and is doing lit­tle to mon­i­tor them.

    “We sus­pect we’re going to see more can­cers, decreased fetal via­bil­i­ty, decreased fer­til­i­ty, increased meta­bol­ic defects — and we expect them to be gen­er­a­tional,” she said.

    And evi­dence has emerged that the impacts of the dis­as­ter on the Pacif­ic Ocean are worse than expect­ed.

    Since a tsuna­mi and earth­quake destroyed the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Nuclear Pow­er Plant last March, radioac­tive cesium has con­sis­tent­ly been found in 60 to 80 per cent of Japan­ese fish­ing catch­es each month test­ed by Japan’s Fish­eries Agency.

    In Novem­ber, 65 per cent of the catch­es test­ed pos­i­tive for cesium (a radioac­tive mate­r­i­al cre­at­ed by nuclear reac­tors), accord­ing to a Gazette analy­sis of data on the fish­eries agen­cy’s web­site. Cesium is a long-lived radionu­clide that per­sists in the envi­ron­ment and increas­es the risk of can­cer, accord­ing to the Unit­ed States Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, which says the most com­mon form of radioac­tive cesium has a half-life of 30 years.

    The Cana­di­an Food Inspec­tion Agency, which mon­i­tors food safe­ty, says it is aware of the num­bers but says the amounts of cesium detect­ed are small.

    “Approx­i­mate­ly 60 per cent of fish have shown to have detectable lev­els of radionu­clides,” it said in an emailed state­ment.

    “The major­i­ty of export­ed fish to Cana­da are caught much far­ther from the coast of Japan, and the Japan­ese test­ing has shown that these fish have not been con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with high lev­els of radionu­clides.”

    But the Japan­ese data shows ele­vat­ed lev­els of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in sev­er­al seafood species that Japan has export­ed to Cana­da in recent years.

    In Novem­ber, 18 per cent of cod exceed­ed a new radi­a­tion ceil­ing for food to be imple­ment­ed in Japan in April — along with 21 per cent of eel, 22 per cent of sole and 33 per cent of sea­weed.

    Over­all, one in five of the 1,100 catch­es test­ed in Novem­ber exceed­ed the new ceil­ing of 100 bec­querels per kilo­gram. (Canada’s ceil­ing for radi­a­tion in food is much high­er: 1,000 bec­querels per kilo.)


    Fish­er is research­ing how radi­a­tion from Fukushi­ma is affect­ing the Pacif­ic fish­ery. “There has been vir­tu­al­ly zero mon­i­tor­ing and research on this,” he said, call­ing on oth­er gov­ern­ments to do more radi­a­tion tests on the ocean’s marine life.

    “Is it some­thing we need to be ter­ri­fied of ? No. Is it some­thing we need to mon­i­tor? Yes, par­tic­u­lar­ly in coastal waters where con­cen­tra­tions are high.”


    In Octo­ber, a U.S. study — coau­thored by oceanog­ra­ph­er Ken Bues­sel­er, a senior sci­en­tist at the non-prof­it Woods Hole Oceano­graph­ic Insti­tu­tion in Woods Hole, Mass., — report­ed Fukushi­ma caused his­to­ry’s biggest-ever release of radi­a­tion into the ocean — 10 to 100 times more than the 1986 Cher­nobyl nuclear cat­a­stro­phe.

    “It’s com­plete­ly untrue to say this lev­el of radi­a­tion is safe or harm­less,” said Gor­don Edwards, pres­i­dent of the Cana­di­an Coali­tion for Nuclear Respon­si­bil­i­ty.

    “The reas­sur­ances have been com­plete­ly irre­spon­si­ble. To say there are no health con­cerns flies in the face of all sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence,” said Edwards, who has advised the fed­er­al audi­tor-gen­er­al’s office and Ontario gov­ern­ment on nuclear-pow­er issues.

    Oth­er Fukushi­ma impacts have been unex­pect­ed, too. The first debris swept into the sea by the tsuna­mi report­ed­ly start­ed to wash ashore on the west coast in mid-Decem­ber, a year ear­li­er than sci­en­tists and author­i­ties pre­dict­ed.


    The Gazette ana­lyzed the Japan­ese fish­eries data for 22 seafood species that Japan has export­ed to Cana­da in recent years.

    Some cesium was found in 16 of these 22 species in Novem­ber, the last full month for which data was avail­able.

    Cesium was espe­cial­ly preva­lent in cer­tain of the species:

    - 73 per cent of mack­er­el test­ed

    - 91 per cent of the hal­ibut

    - 92 per cent of the sar­dines

    - 93 per cent of the tuna and eel

    - 94 per cent of the cod and anchovies

    - 100 per cent of the carp, sea-weed, shark and monk­fish

    Some of the fish were caught in Japan­ese coastal waters. Oth­er catch­es were made hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres away in the open ocean.

    There, the fish can also be caught by fish­ers from dozens of oth­er nations that ply the waters of the Pacif­ic.

    Yet, Japan is the only coun­try that appears to be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly test­ing fish for radi­a­tion and pub­licly report­ing the results.

    CFIA is no longer doing any test­ing of its own. It did some radi­a­tion tests on food imports from areas of Japan around the strick­en nuclear plant in the weeks after the Fukushi­ma acci­dent.

    Only one of the 169 test­ed prod­ucts showed any radi­a­tion. CFIA stopped doing the tests last June, say­ing they weren’t need­ed.


    CFIA now relies on Japan­ese author­i­ties to screen Japan­ese food export­ed to Cana­da.

    But Japan’s mon­i­tor­ing of food has come under a storm of crit­i­cism from the Japan­ese pub­lic after food con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radi­a­tion was sold to con­sumers.


    But despite this belief and the impor­tance of the Pacif­ic fish­ery, few stud­ies exist on how Fukushi­ma affect­ed marine life.

    One of those stud­ies found that fish and crus­taceans caught in the vicin­i­ty of Fukushi­ma in late March had 10,000 times more than socalled safe lev­els of radi­a­tion. The study, pub­lished last May in the jour­nal Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence & Tech­nol­o­gy, also said macroal­gae had 19,000 times the safe lev­el.

    Those lev­els were mea­sured before the Japan­ese util­i­ty that runs the crip­pled nuclear plant dumped 11,000 tonnes of radioac­tive water into the Pacif­ic in April and addi­tion­al leaks that have released hun­dreds of tonnes more.

    But since that ear­ly study, lit­tle research has been pub­lished on the top­ic.


    He co-authored the study in Octo­ber that said cesium lev­els in the Pacif­ic had gone up an aston­ish­ing 45 mil­lion times above pre-acci­dent lev­els. The lev­els then declined rapid­ly for a while, but after that, they unex­pect­ed­ly lev­elled off.

    In July, cesium lev­els stopped declin­ing and remained stuck at 10,000 times above pre-acci­dent lev­els.

    It meant the ocean was­n’t dilut­ing the radi­a­tion as expect­ed. If it had been, cesium lev­els would have kept falling. The find­ing sug­gest­ed radi­a­tion was still being released into the ocean long after the acci­dent in March, Bues­sel­er said in an inter­view.

    It implies the ground­wa­ter is con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed or the facil­i­ty is still leak­ing radi­a­tion.

    The Japan­ese fish­eries data seems to sup­port this con­clu­sion. Far from declin­ing, con­t­a­m­i­na­tion lev­els in some species were flat or even rose last fall, includ­ing species that Japan exports to Cana­da like skip­jack tuna, cod, sole and eel.


    Con­tin­u­ing radi­a­tion leaks from Fukushi­ma could be to blame, he said. Anoth­er cul­prit, he said, may be a phe­nom­e­non called bio-mag­ni­fi­ca­tion — the ten­den­cy for radi­a­tion con­cen­tra­tions to increase in species that are far­ther up the food chain.


    See no evil, hear no evil, radi­ate no evil.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 18, 2012, 2:36 pm
  8. Of the many scary ques­tions raised by this arti­cle, per­haps the scari­est ques­tion is this: just how hell­ish did it need to get before the sit­u­a­tions was “out of con­trol”?

    The Irish Times — Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 27, 2012
    Report urg­ing mass evac­u­a­tion of Tokyo res­i­dents kept secret

    DAVID McNEILL in Tokyo

    JAPAN’S GOVERNMENT feared mil­lions of Tokyo res­i­dents might have to be evac­u­at­ed dur­ing the worst of last year’s nuclear cri­sis, but kept the sce­nario secret to avoid pan­ic in some of the world’s most crowd­ed urban areas, accord­ing to an inter­nal report.

    The 15-page report, by the Japan Atom­ic Ener­gy Com­mis­sion, was deliv­ered to then prime min­is­ter Nao­to Kan two weeks after the March 11th earth­quake and tsuna­mi trig­gered the cri­sis as the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant.

    It warned that if the sit­u­a­tion at the plant spi­ralled out of con­trol, com­pul­so­ry or vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion orders would have to be issued to res­i­dents liv­ing with­in 250km (155 miles), a radius that would have includ­ed the met­ro­pol­i­tan Tokyo area, home to about 30 mil­lion peo­ple.

    The direc­tive would have also cov­ered sev­er­al large cities north and west of the plant, includ­ing Sendai, which has rough­ly the same pop­u­la­tion as Dublin. Some of the areas would be con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed for “sev­er­al decades” warned the report, which has been seen by AP news agency.

    Last May, oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co (Tep­co) admit­ted that ura­ni­um fuel inside three of the plant’s reac­tors had melt­ed down in the first few days after March 11th. A series of hydro­gen explo­sions had show­ered thou­sands of square kilo­me­tres of land and sea with radioac­tive sub­stances, but gov­ern­ment and Tep­co offi­cials repeat­ed­ly denied the melt­down sce­nario.

    Over 80,000 peo­ple were sub­se­quent­ly told to leave the most heav­i­ly irra­di­at­ed areas around the nuclear plant and have yet to return. Tens of thou­sands more have since left Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture vol­un­tar­i­ly.

    Mr Kan and his gov­ern­ment insist­ed through­out March and April that the nuclear cri­sis was being con­tained and ignored calls to widen the evac­u­a­tion area, say­ing there was no need.

    After he left office, the prime min­is­ter admit­ted in an inter­view with a Tokyo news­pa­per last autumn that he feared the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter would leave the cap­i­tal unin­hab­it­able, and that evac­u­at­ing it would have been “impos­si­ble”. He said that the “spine-chill­ing thought” of a desert­ed cap­i­tal con­vinced him to scrap nuclear pow­er.

    The lat­est rev­e­la­tions will revive crit­i­cism that the author­i­ties have been less than forth­com­ing since the cri­sis erupt­ed, and add to sus­pi­cions that they are still down­play­ing the impact of radi­a­tion. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials recent­ly admit­ted that data on where the radi­a­tion went was with­held from the Japan­ese pub­lic for 10 days, but giv­en to the US mil­i­tary in Japan.

    The report will also add to con­cerns that Japan is unpre­pared for a sim­i­lar dis­as­ter. Last week researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tokyo warned that there was a 75 per cent prob­a­bil­i­ty that the cap­i­tal would be hit by a major earth­quake in the next four years.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 31, 2012, 7:27 pm
  9. So no one has died yet from the Fukushi­ma radi­a­tion? Well that’s a relief:

    No big Fukushi­ma health impact seen: U.N. body chair­man

    VIENNA | Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:15pm EST

    (Reuters) — The health impact of last year’s Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter in Japan appears rel­a­tive­ly small thanks part­ly to prompt evac­u­a­tions, the chair­man of a U.N. sci­en­tif­ic body inves­ti­gat­ing the effects of radi­a­tion said on Tues­day.

    The fact that some radioac­tive releas­es spread over the ocean instead of pop­u­lat­ed areas also con­tributed to lim­it­ing the con­se­quences, said Wolf­gang Weiss of the U.N. Sci­en­tif­ic Com­mit­tee on the effects of Atom­ic Radi­a­tion (UNSCEAR).

    “As far as the dos­es we have seen from the screen­ing of the pop­u­la­tion ... they are very low,” Weiss told Reuters. This was part­ly “due to the rapid evac­u­a­tion and this worked very well.”

    Weiss was speak­ing on the side­lines of a week-long meet­ing of 60 inter­na­tion­al experts in Vien­na to assess for the Unit­ed Nations the radi­a­tion expo­sures and health effects of the world’s worst nuclear acci­dent in 25 years.

    The March 11 dis­as­ter caused by a 9.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake and tsuna­mi wrecked the Fukushi­ma plant on the coast north of Tokyo, trig­ger­ing a radi­a­tion cri­sis and wide­spread con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. About 80,000 res­i­dents fled a 20-km (12-mile) exclu­sion zone.

    Weiss said Japan­ese experts attend­ing the meet­ing had told him that they were not aware of any acute health effects, in con­trast to the 1986 Cher­nobyl dis­as­ter in Ukraine.

    “What we have seen in Cher­nobyl — peo­ple were dying from huge, high expo­sures, some of the work­ers were dying very soon — noth­ing along these lines has been report­ed so far (in Japan),” he said. “Up to now there were no acute imme­di­ate effects observed.”

    Sev­er­al thou­sand chil­dren devel­oped thy­roid can­cer due to radi­a­tion expo­sure after the Cher­nobyl dis­as­ter in the then Sovi­et Union, when a reac­tor explod­ed and caught fire and radi­a­tion was sent bil­low­ing across Europe.

    Weiss said a few work­ers at Fukushi­ma had received high radioac­tive dos­es, but “so far the ini­tial med­ical fol­low-up of these work­ers who had high dos­es, as far as the Japan­ese col­leagues told us, was OK.”


    Asked whether he was opti­mistic that the over­all health effects would be quite small, Weiss said: “If we find out that what we know now is rep­re­sent­ing the sit­u­a­tion, then the answer would be yes ... the health impact would be low.”

    What hap­pens if we find out that we “we know” is NOTrep­re­sent­ing the sit­u­a­tion”?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 2, 2012, 1:17 pm
  10. Well this is con­fi­dence inspir­ing:

    Fukushi­ma farm­ers furi­ous over lack of con­sid­er­a­tion in decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion sub­si­dies

    Feb­ru­ary 2, 2012

    The Fukushi­ma Munic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment has worked out a spe­cif­ic plan to decon­t­a­m­i­nate all local farm­land between this month and March next year in order to ensure the safe­ty of agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts and pre­vent res­i­dents’ exter­nal expo­sure to radi­a­tion. Ship­ments of rice grown in some areas of the city have been pro­hib­it­ed because radioac­tive cesium in excess of the pro­vi­sion­al lim­it set by the nation­al gov­ern­ment has been detect­ed.

    How­ev­er, the munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment has deemed it dif­fi­cult to replace thick lay­ers of sur­face soil with sub­soil or to plow large por­tions of farm­land accord­ing to the guide­lines, because most local farm­land is divid­ed into small plots and large machin­ery can­not enter such land. For the time being, the munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment has decid­ed to plow a lay­er of sur­face soil about 12 cen­time­ters deep, using agri­cul­tur­al machin­ery that local farm­ers pos­sess.

    The nation­al gov­ern­ment has offered to extend sub­si­dies to cov­er the costs of buy­ing zeo­lite used to absorb radioac­tive sub­stances only if the sur­face soil is replaced and plowed in accor­dance with the Envi­ron­ment Min­istry guide­lines.

    The Fukushi­ma Munic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment is poised to demand that the cen­tral gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies cov­er the pur­chase of zeo­lite even if the require­ments are not met, on the grounds that spray­ing zeo­lite over farm­land can help reduce the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts through radioac­tive cesium.

    How­ev­er, bureau­crat­ic red tape has posed a stum­bling block to such sub­si­dies.

    The Envi­ron­ment Min­istry, which is aim­ing pri­mar­i­ly to reduce air­borne radi­a­tion, insists that reduc­ing agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts’ radi­a­tion lev­els is beyond its juris­dic­tion.

    “Decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion is aimed at pre­vent­ing ordi­nary peo­ple’s exter­nal expo­sure to radi­a­tion. We’re aware of the need to pre­vent agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts from being con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radi­a­tion, but it’s out­side our juris­dic­tion,” a min­istry offi­cial said.

    The Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries Min­istry says it is exper­i­ment­ing with var­i­ous decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion meth­ods, includ­ing those to be employed in small areas of farm­land where large machin­ery can­not be used. If some of these meth­ods prove effec­tive, the min­istry will urge the Envi­ron­ment Min­istry to incor­po­rate them in its guide­lines.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 2, 2012, 10:40 pm
  11. Still noth­ing to wor­ry about...

    More leaks found at crip­pled Japan nuclear plant

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    Pub­lished: Fri­day, Feb. 3, 2012 — 6:42 am
    Last Mod­i­fied: Fri­day, Feb. 3, 2012 — 7:28 am

    TOKYO — Leaks of radioac­tive water have become more fre­quent at Japan’s crip­pled nuclear pow­er plant less than two months after it was declared basi­cal­ly sta­ble.

    The prob­lem under­lines the con­tin­u­ing chal­lenges fac­ing Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. as it attempts to keep the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi nuclear plant under con­trol. A mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi bad­ly dam­aged the plant last March, result­ing in the melt­ing of three reac­tor cores.

    Work­ers spot­ted a leak Fri­day at a water repro­cess­ing unit which released enough beta rays to cause radi­a­tion sick­ness, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Mat­sumo­to said. He said no one was injured and the leak stopped after bolts were tight­ened on a tank.

    Mat­sumo­to said TEPCO also found that 8.5 tons of radioac­tive water had leaked ear­li­er in the week after a pipe became detached at Unit 4, one of the plan­t’s six reac­tors. The com­pa­ny ear­li­er had esti­mat­ed that only a few gal­lons (liters) had leaked.

    He said offi­cials are inves­ti­gat­ing the cause of that leak, but that it was unlike­ly the pipe had been loos­ened by the many after­shocks that have hit the plant.

    The struc­tur­al integri­ty of the dam­aged Unit 4 reac­tor build­ing has long been a major con­cern among experts because a col­lapse of its spent fuel cool­ing pool could cause a dis­as­ter worse than the three reac­tor melt­downs.

    Cold win­ter weath­er has also caused water inside pipes to freeze else­where at the plant, result­ing in leaks in at least 30 loca­tions since late Jan­u­ary, Mat­sumo­to said.

    Offi­cials have not detect­ed any signs of radioac­tive water from the leaks reach­ing the sur­round­ing ocean. Sand­bag walls have been built around prob­lem areas as a pre­cau­tion.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 6, 2012, 8:58 pm
  12. Shock­er: study finds that oil is tox­ic to marine life. Seri­ous­ly, this is being pre­sent­ed as a par­a­digm chang­ing study because, while it has long been known that expos­ing marine life to oil can be tox­ic in the lab, folks were appar­ent­ly skep­ti­cal that this was the case in the wild. Yep:

    Oil is more tox­ic than pre­vi­ous­ly thought, study finds
    By Dean Kuipers

    Decem­ber 27, 2011, 12:00 p.m.

    Bad news for the Gulf of Mex­i­co: a study released this week sheds new light on the tox­i­c­i­ty of oil in aquat­ic envi­ron­ments, and shows that envi­ron­men­tal impact stud­ies cur­rent­ly in use may be inad­e­quate. The report is to be pub­lished this week in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences.

    The study, spear­head­ed by the UC Davis Bode­ga Marine Lab­o­ra­to­ry in col­lab­o­ra­tion with NOAA, looked into the after­math of the 2007 Cus­co Busan spill, when that tanker hit the San Fran­cis­co-Oak­land Bay Bridge and spilled 54,000 gal­lons of bunker fuel into the bay.

    The key find­ing involved the embryos of Pacif­ic her­ring that spawn in the bay. The fish embryos absorbed the oil and then, when exposed to UV rays in sun­light, phys­i­cal­ly dis­in­te­grat­ed. This is called pho­to­tox­i­c­i­ty, and has not pre­vi­ous­ly been tak­en into account when talk­ing about oil spills.

    “This phe­nom­e­non had been observed in the lab­o­ra­to­ry, but had nev­er been observed in the field, and there were even some skep­tics out there won­der­ing if this was just a phe­nom­e­non that peo­ple would see under lab con­di­tions,” said Gary Cherr, direc­tor of the marine lab and pro­fes­sor of envi­ron­men­tal tox­i­col­o­gy.

    “One of the real take-home mes­sages from our study was: yes, in fact, it def­i­nite­ly hap­pens in the real world.”

    This is anoth­er big jump in under­stand­ing the real dam­ages from oil spills. Stud­ies of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill cre­at­ed an entire­ly new under­stand­ing of oil dam­age when it was found that oil was tox­ic in minute quan­ti­ties mea­sured in parts-per-bil­lion and even parts-per-tril­lion – much low­er than pre­vi­ous­ly rec­og­nized. This find­ing of pho­to­tox­i­c­i­ty, how­ev­er, presents a new chal­lenge.


    “It’s kind of a new par­a­digm in think­ing about the tox­i­c­i­ty of oil,” adds Cherr. “Up until now, there has been this aware­ness of it in the lab­o­ra­to­ry stud­ies, but it has not been tak­en into account in the real world, in envi­ron­men­tal analy­ses, and cer­tain­ly in reg­u­lat­ing the amounts of oil that are spilled.”


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 29, 2012, 3:53 pm
  13. Con­tem­po­rary “lead­er­ship” on dis­play:

    Recon­struct­ed records show Japan lead­ers knew melt­down risk ear­ly, feared worse than Cher­nobyl

    By Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Updat­ed: Fri­day, March 9, 11:19 AM

    TOKYO — Just four hours after the tsuna­mi swept into the Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant, Japan’s lead­ers knew the dam­age was so severe the reac­tors could melt down, but they kept their knowl­edge secret for months. Five days into the cri­sis, then-Prime Min­is­ter Nao­to Kan voiced his fears it could turn worse than Cher­nobyl.

    The rev­e­la­tions were in doc­u­ments released Fri­day, almost a year after the dis­as­ter. The min­utes of the government’s cri­sis man­age­ment meet­ings from March 11 — the day the earth­quake and tsuna­mi struck — until late Decem­ber were not record­ed and had to be recon­struct­ed retroac­tive­ly.

    They illus­trate the con­fu­sion, lack of infor­ma­tion, delayed response and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion among gov­ern­ment, affect­ed towns and plant offi­cials, as some min­is­ters expressed sense that nobody was in charge when the plant con­di­tions quick­ly dete­ri­o­rat­ed.

    The min­utes quot­ed an uniden­ti­fied offi­cial explain­ing that cool­ing func­tions of the reac­tors were kept run­ning only by bat­ter­ies that would last only eight hours.

    “If tem­per­a­tures in the reac­tor cores keep ris­ing beyond eight hours, there is a pos­si­bil­i­ty of melt­down,” the offi­cial said dur­ing the first meet­ing that start­ed about four hours after the mag­ni­tude 9.0 earth­quake and tsuna­mi hit the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant March 11, set­ting off the cri­sis.

    Appar­ent­ly the gov­ern­ment tried to play down the sever­i­ty of the dam­age. A spokesman for the Nuclear and Indus­tri­al Safe­ty Agency was replaced after he slipped out a pos­si­bil­i­ty of melt­down dur­ing a news con­fer­ence March 12.

    The plant oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., acknowl­edged a par­tial melt­down much lat­er, in May.


    It was near­ly 10 days before one of his top nuclear advis­ers pro­duced a worst-case sce­nario at his request. The March 25 paper, pro­duced by the head of the Japan Atom­ic Ener­gy Com­mis­sion, warned that a dis­as­ter of that scale would require evac­u­at­ing 30 mil­lion peo­ple from the greater Tokyo area. Fear­ing pan­ic, the gov­ern­ment kept the report a secret, but The Asso­ci­at­ed Press obtained it in Jan­u­ary.

    The fail­ure to record the min­utes of the government’s cri­sis man­age­ment meet­ings prop­er­ly has added to sharp pub­lic crit­i­cism about how the nuclear cri­sis was han­dled and deep­ened dis­trust of politi­cians and bureau­crats.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 9, 2012, 10:17 am
  14. If you’re feel­ing a lit­tle dizzy after read­ing this arti­cle, it’s under­stan­ble. The cen­trifu­gal force from all the spin­ning may be suck­ing the blood out of your brain:

    Fukushi­ma flood defens­es giv­en good marks
    March 22, 2012, 4:52 PM

    The nuclear dis­as­ter fol­low­ing the destruc­tion of Japan’s Fukushi­ma pow­er plant by a 9.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake last year had an upside. Real­ly?

    That’s what a cou­ple of indus­try offi­cials said at the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics con­fer­ence Thurs­day. While two of the plant’s four reac­tors suf­fered melt­downs, the facil­i­ty held up remark­ably well over­all, pre­vent­ing the kind of cat­a­stro­phe seen at Cher­nobyl, said Jacques Besnain­ou, chief exec­u­tive of Are­va Inc.

    Besnain­ou wasn’t alone in the assess­ment. Aris Can­dris, chief exec­u­tive of West­ing­house Elec­tric said the dis­as­ter showed that nuclear plants han­dled cat­a­stroph­ic flood­ing bet­ter than expect­ed.

    The two indus­try exec­u­tives said they were bull­ish on nuclear ener­gy, though not in the U.S. Chi­na remains the top mar­ket for nuclear ener­gy growth with 25 plants in the works. Sec­ond on the list is India.

    So a 50% melt­down rate dur­ing a flood was even bet­ter than expect­ed per­for­mance? Great...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 22, 2012, 2:48 pm
  15. There have been a num­ber of updates on the sit­u­a­tion in Fukushi­ma and it’s look­ing increas­ing­ly grim at all four reac­tors at Fukushi­ma 1. The water lev­els at reac­tor 2 appear to have dropped to a sur­pris­ing­ly low lev­el, caus­ing radi­a­tion lev­els to rise so high that exist­ing radi­a­tion-resis­tant robots can no longer func­tion long enough to inside the plant to be use­ful. For­tu­nate­ly, the loss of access for the robots isn’t expect­ed to delay the sched­uled plant decom­mis­sion­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly that’s because its sched­uled to take 40 years:

    Japan Times
    Thurs­day, March 29, 2012

    Reac­tor 2 radi­a­tion too high for access
    73 siev­erts laid to low water; lev­el will even crip­ple robots

    Staff writer

    Radi­a­tion inside the reac­tor 2 con­tain­ment ves­sel at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant has reached a lethal 73 siev­erts per hour and any attempt to send robots in to accu­rate­ly gauge the sit­u­a­tion will require them to have greater resis­tance than cur­rent­ly avail­able, experts said Wednes­day.

    Expo­sure to 73 siev­erts for a minute would cause nau­sea and sev­en min­utes would cause death with­in a month, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said.

    The experts said the high radi­a­tion lev­el is due to the shal­low lev­el of coolant water — 60 cm — in the con­tain­ment ves­sel, which Tep­co said in Jan­u­ary was believed to be 4 meters deep. Tep­co has only peeked inside the reac­tor 2 con­tain­ment ves­sel. It has few clues as to the sta­tus of reac­tors 1 and 3, which also suf­fered melt­downs, because there is no access to their insides.

    The util­i­ty said the radi­a­tion lev­el in the reac­tor 2 con­tain­ment ves­sel is too high for robots, endo­scopes and oth­er devices to func­tion prop­er­ly.

    Spokesman Junichi Mat­sumo­to said it will be nec­es­sary to devel­op devices resis­tant to high radi­a­tion.

    High radi­a­tion can dam­age the cir­cuit­ry of com­put­er chips and degrade cam­era-cap­tured images.

    For exam­ple, a series of Quince tracked robots designed to gath­er data inside reac­tors can prop­er­ly func­tion for only two or three hours dur­ing expo­sure to 73 siev­erts, said Eiji Koy­ana­gi, chief devel­op­er and vice direc­tor of the Future Robot­ics Tech­nol­o­gy Cen­ter of Chi­ba Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy.

    That is unlike­ly to be enough for them to move around and col­lect video data and water sam­ples, reac­tor experts said.

    “Two or three hours would be too short. At least five or six hours would be nec­es­sary,” said Tsuyoshi Mis­awa, a reac­tor physics and engi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor at Kyoto Uni­ver­si­ty’s Research Reac­tor Insti­tute.

    The high radi­a­tion lev­el can be explained by the low water lev­el. Water acts to block radi­a­tion.

    “The shal­low­ness of the water lev­el is a sur­prise . . . the radi­a­tion lev­el is awful­ly high,” Mis­awa said.

    While the water tem­per­a­ture is con­sid­ered in a safe zone at about 50 degrees, it is unknown if the melt­ed fuel is ful­ly sub­merged, but Tep­co said in Novem­ber that com­put­er sim­u­la­tions sug­gest­ed the height of the melt­ed fuel in reac­tor 2’s con­tain­ment ves­sel is prob­a­bly 20 to 40 cm, Tep­co spokes­woman Ai Tana­ka said.

    Tep­co has insert­ed an endo­scope and a radi­a­tion meter, but not a robot, in the con­tain­ment ves­sel. It is way too ear­ly to know how long Tep­co will need to oper­ate robots in the ves­sel because it is unknown what the devices will have to do, Tana­ka said.


    Accord­ing to experts, even though high radi­a­tion in the con­tain­ment ves­sel means addi­tion­al trou­ble, it is not expect­ed to fur­ther delay the decom­mis­sion­ing the three crip­pled reac­tors, a process Tep­co said will take 40 years.


    Tep­co has not been able to gauge the water depths and radi­a­tion lev­els of the con­tain­ment ves­sels for reac­tors 1 and 3, as, unlike unit 2, there is no access.

    The NYTimes also has an update with some addi­tion­al info. The “cold shut­down” sta­tus of reac­tor 2 is now in ques­tion as the arti­cle points out that 9 tons of water get­ting pumped into the reac­tor 2 every hour, also sug­gest­ing that the radioac­tive water leak­age could be much high­er than pre­viosly esti­mat­ed. In addi­tion, reac­tor 4 still has all the spent fuel rods sit­ting above it and offi­cials acknowl­edge that any prob­lems with keep­ing the ves­sel filled with water could result in anoth­er “colos­sal” radi­a­tion release from those spent rods. Adding to the risk of a radi­a­tion release is the fact that reac­tors 1 and 3 could be in even worse shape than reac­tor 2, but no one knows because they are still inac­ces­si­ble and it’s thought that the hydro­gen explo­sion that took place inside reac­tor 4 days after the tsuna­mi was pos­si­bly due to a build up of hydro­gen gas that leaked over from reac­tor 3. The one bit of good news in the report is that Tep­co and the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment appear to no longer have any cred­i­bil­i­ty with the Japan­ese pub­lic, so that sort of progress:

    Inquiry Sug­gests Worse Dam­age at Japan Nuclear Plant
    Pub­lished: March 29, 2012

    The results of the inquiry, released this week by the oper­a­tor of the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Nuclear Pow­er Plant, also cast doubt over the Japan­ese government’s dec­la­ra­tion three months ago that the rav­aged site is now under con­trol.

    Through­out the cri­sis that ensued after a pow­er­ful earth­quake and tsuna­mi last March, both the plant’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er, or Tep­co, and the gov­ern­ment were accused of play­ing down the dan­gers posed by the nuclear melt­down. Sub­se­quent dis­clo­sures that the event was indeed far more severe than they let on have bad­ly dam­aged their cred­i­bil­i­ty, to the point that almost any state­ment from the author­i­ties is now regard­ed as sus­pect by a dubi­ous Japan­ese pub­lic.

    Fukushi­ma Daiichi’s vital cool­ing sys­tems were knocked out in the ear­ly stages of the cri­sis last year. The ura­ni­um cores at three of the plant’s six reac­tors quick­ly melt­ed down, breach­ing their con­tain­ment ves­sels and set­ting off a large radi­a­tion leak.

    Three reac­tors were lat­er rocked by hydro­gen explo­sions, which blew out their out­er walls.

    What fol­lowed was a fran­tic effort to keep the inner parts of the reac­tors flood­ed with cool­ing water to pre­vent their cores from again over­heat­ing. Offi­cials at Tep­co had pre­vi­ous­ly said that oper­a­tion was suc­ceed­ing, and that the dam­aged fuel rods were safe­ly sub­merged in water.

    But ear­li­er this week, an exam­i­na­tion at one of the reac­tors showed the water lev­el at its core to be low­er than lev­els pre­vi­ous­ly esti­mat­ed, rais­ing fears that the bro­ken-down rem­nants of the ura­ni­um fuel rods there may not be com­plete­ly sub­merged and in dan­ger of heat­ing up again.

    Cool­ing water at the plant’s No. 2 reac­tor came up to just two feet from the bot­tom of the reactor’s con­tain­ment ves­sel, a beaker-shaped struc­ture that encas­es the fuel rods. That was below the 33-foot lev­el esti­mat­ed by offi­cials when the gov­ern­ment declared the plant sta­ble in Decem­ber.

    The low water lev­els also raise con­cerns that radioac­tive water may be leak­ing out of the reac­tor at a high­er rate than pre­vi­ous­ly thought, pos­si­bly into a part of the reac­tor known as the sup­pres­sion cham­ber, and into a net­work of pipes and cham­bers under the plant — or into the ocean.

    At the No. 2 reac­tor, work­ers still pump about nine tons of water an hour into the core to keep it cool.

    The inves­ti­ga­tion also found cur­rent radi­a­tion lev­els of 72.0 siev­erts inside the con­tain­ment ves­sel, enough to kill a per­son in a mat­ter of min­utes, as well as for elec­tron­ic equip­ment to mal­func­tion.

    Kazuhiko Kudo, a pro­fes­sor of nuclear engi­neer­ing at Kyushu Uni­ver­si­ty in south­west­ern Japan, said it was now sus­pect whether the nuclear fuel was being ade­quate­ly cooled. And if some parts of the fuel remained above water, there was a risk that the fuel could again heat up and melt. That could set off a dan­ger­ous spike in the pres­sure inside the con­tain­ment ves­sel, and lead to more radi­a­tion escap­ing the reac­tor, he said.


    Two oth­er bad­ly dam­aged reac­tors — Nos. 1 and 3 — could be in even worse con­di­tion. Hydro­gen explo­sions blew out the out­er walls of those reac­tors, and offi­cials believe that more nuclear fuel has breached the con­tain­ment ves­sel at the No. 1 reac­tor than the oth­ers.

    Experts also wor­ry about a fourth reac­tor that was not oper­at­ing at the time of the acci­dent, but nev­er­the­less pos­es a risk because of the large num­ber of spent nuclear fuel rods stored in a water coolant tank there. The No. 4 reac­tor was also hit by a hydro­gen explo­sion in the ear­ly days of the cri­sis, pos­si­bly due to hydro­gen that leaked into the reac­tor from the adja­cent No. 3 unit.

    The spent fuel rods stored at the No. 4 reac­tor pose a par­tic­u­lar threat, experts say, because they lie unpro­tect­ed out­side the unit’s con­tain­ment ves­sel. Tokyo Elec­tric has been rac­ing to for­ti­fy the crum­pled out­er shell of the reac­tor, and to keep the tank fed with water. But should a prob­lem also arise with cool­ing the spent fuel, the plant could run the risk of anoth­er colos­sal radi­a­tion leak, experts say.

    The many after­shocks that con­tin­ue to hit the Fukushi­ma region are also a source of wor­ry.

    “The plant is still in a pre­car­i­ous state,” said Mr. Kudo of Kyushu Uni­ver­si­ty. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, all we can do is to keep pump­ing water inside the reac­tors,” he said, “and hope we don’t have anoth­er big earth­quake.

    That last sen­tence is per­haps the most chill­ing state­ment found in either of the arti­cles because if a suc­cess­ful mul­ti-decade cleanup effort is con­tin­gent on no more large earth­quakes in the region, it’s prob­a­bly time for a pre­emp­tive evac­u­a­tion...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 29, 2012, 9:33 pm
  16. On looky, a new pair of nuke plants are approved for the US. For­tu­nate­ly, the license does­n’t include any of those pesky new reg­u­la­tions adopt­ed after the Fukushi­ma melt­down:

    March 30, 2012, 3:18 p.m. ET
    U.S. Approves New Nuclear Reac­tors in South Car­oli­na


    Fed­er­al reg­u­la­tors Fri­day approved Scana Corp.‘s pro­pos­al to build two new nuclear reac­tors in South Car­oli­na, paving the way for the sec­ond license issued to a new nuclear pow­er plant in two months after a drought that last­ed more than 30 years.

    The Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion vot­ed 4–1 to green-light con­struc­tion of the plant, with the agen­cy’s chair­man, Gre­go­ry Jaczko, dis­sent­ing.

    Mr. Jaczko said the vote was a “sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone,” but that he still dis­agreed with oth­er com­mis­sion­ers about some parts of the license. He did­n’t spec­i­fy his objec­tions on Fri­day, but in Feb­ru­ary he object­ed to issu­ing a new reac­tor license to South­ern Co. because the license did­n’t include a pro­vi­sion requir­ing the com­pa­ny to com­ply with reg­u­la­tions adopt­ed in light of Japan’s 2011 nuclear acci­dent.

    The two reac­tors to be built by Scana unit South Car­oli­na Elec­tric & Gas and state-owned util­i­ty San­tee Coop­er fol­low the two South­ern Co. reac­tors in Geor­gia that received the NRC’s bless­ing last month. But those four reac­tors, if built, may be the last to go for­ward for some time due to the low cost of nat­ur­al gas, which com­petes with nuclear as an avail­able fuel for gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­i­ty.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 30, 2012, 12:10 pm
  17. Today’s episode of “Things that aren’t sur­pris­ing but should be” is brought to you by the UN’s World Food Pro­gram:

    (Mainichi Japan) March 17, 2012
    Japan using over­seas food aid to help dis­pel con­t­a­m­i­na­tion fears

    TOKYO (Kyo­do) — Japan and the U.N. World Food Pro­gram exchanged notes Fri­day on using cer­ti­fied-safe food prod­ucts from dis­as­ter-hit east­ern Japan as over­seas aid as a way to dis­pel fears over radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

    Using 1 bil­lion yen in a sup­ple­men­tary bud­get for fis­cal 2011 end­ing this month, the WFP will pro­cure canned fish prod­ucts made in Aomori, Iwate, Ibara­ki and Chi­ba pre­fec­tures and pro­vide Cam­bo­dia and four oth­er devel­op­ing coun­tries with these prod­ucts for school lunch­es and oth­er pur­pos­es, Japan­ese offi­cials said.

    The offi­cial devel­op­ment aid plan has come under fire from some cit­i­zens’ groups, which are con­cerned about radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of food prod­ucts as a result of the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant acci­dent trig­gered by the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi.

    “We would like to break down deep-root­ed fears over­seas by export­ing food prod­ucts that are cer­ti­fied as safe after being test­ed for radi­a­tion,” a senior For­eign Min­istry offi­cial said.

    Par­lia­men­tary Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Toshiyu­ki Kato told a cer­e­mo­ny for the exchange of notes that the aid is planned at a time when “fish-pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies in the regions dam­aged grave­ly by the dis­as­ter are strug­gling to ful­ly restart their busi­ness oper­a­tions.”

    Fukushi­ma fish for school lunch­es? I can’t see any prob­lems with this plan:

    (Mainichi Japan) April 3, 2012
    Cesium up to 100 times lev­els before dis­as­ter found in plank­ton far off nuke plant

    Radioac­tive cesium up to 100 times pre-nuclear dis­as­ter lev­els has been detect­ed in plank­ton inhab­it­ing the sea far from the crip­pled nuclear plant fol­low­ing the March 2011 dis­as­ter, accord­ing to a sur­vey con­duct­ed by Japan­ese and U.S. researchers.

    The high con­cen­tra­tion of cesium, which is believed to derive from the Fukushi­ma No. 1 Nuclear Pow­er Plant, sug­gests that radioac­tive sub­stances that have leaked from the com­plex are spread­ing exten­sive­ly in the sea.

    Jun Nishikawa, research asso­ciate with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toky­o’s Atmos­phere and Ocean Research Insti­tute, under­scored the need for a long-term sur­vey on the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of marine crea­tures with radioac­tive sub­stances.

    “Even though radi­a­tion lev­els detect­ed from the plank­ton sam­ples were still low, there is a pos­si­bil­i­ty that large amounts of cesium will accu­mu­late in fish through the food chain in a phe­nom­e­non called bio­log­i­cal con­cen­tra­tion. We need to con­tin­ue our sur­vey,” he said. “Each species of marine crea­tures that feed on ani­mal plank­ton need to be mon­i­tored over the long term.”

    The results of the sur­vey were pub­lished in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences of the Unit­ed States on April 3.

    In the sur­vey, Nishikawa and oth­er researchers includ­ing those with U.S. Woods Hole Oceano­graph­ic Insti­tu­tion col­lect­ed sam­ples of sea water and ani­mal plank­ton at about 60 loca­tions in the sea some 30 to 600 kilo­me­ters off the crip­pled plant in June last year, and mea­sured the lev­els of radioac­tive cesium in them.

    Radioac­tive cesium was detect­ed in at least one sam­ple tak­en at each of the loca­tions.

    The largest amount of radioac­tive cesium in ani­mal plank­ton was found in a sam­ple col­lect­ed at a loca­tion 300 kilo­me­ters from the pow­er plant — at 102 bec­querels of cesium-134 and cesium-137 per kilo­gram in dry weight. This com­pares with the aver­age amount before the acci­dent, which stood at 0.1 to 1 bec­quer­el of only cesium-137.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 3, 2012, 2:32 pm
  18. Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 6, 2012, 12:49 pm
  19. Accord­ing to a for­mer Japan­ese diplo­mat, the fate of the world depends on what hap­pens to all those spent fuel rods sit­ting in reac­tor 4 and he’d like to see the UN assem­ble a team of experts to address the sit­u­a­tion. This sounds like a good idea.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 9, 2012, 2:39 pm
  20. There some new research out on the caus­es of the Per­mi­an extinc­tion event ~250 mil­lion years ago, when 95% of marine and land ani­mals went extinct over a rel­a­tive­ly short peri­od of time. Take a guess at the new sus­pect­ed cause...hint: it’s what we’re doing to the plan­et now:

    NY Times
    Life in the Sea Found Its Fate in a Parox­ysm of Extinc­tion
    Pub­lished: April 30, 2012

    It may nev­er be as well known as the Cre­ta­ceous extinc­tion, the one that killed off the dinosaurs. Yet the much ear­li­er Per­mi­an extinc­tion — 252 mil­lion years ago — was by far the most cat­a­stroph­ic of the planet’s five known parox­ysms of species loss.

    No won­der it is called the Great Dying: Sci­en­tists cal­cu­late that about 95 per­cent of marine species, and an uncount­able but prob­a­bly com­pa­ra­ble per­cent­age of land species, went extinct in a geo­log­i­cal heart­beat.

    The cause or caus­es of the Per­mi­an extinc­tion remain a mys­tery. Among the hypothe­ses are a dev­as­tat­ing aster­oid strike, as in the Cre­ta­ceous extinc­tion; a cat­a­stroph­ic vol­canic erup­tion; and a welling-up of oxy­gen-deplet­ed water from the depths of the oceans.

    Now, painstak­ing analy­ses of fos­sils from the peri­od point to a dif­fer­ent way to think about the prob­lem. And at the same time, they are pro­vid­ing star­tling new clues to the behav­ior of mod­ern marine life and its future.

    In two recent papers, sci­en­tists from Stan­ford and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San­ta Cruz, adopt­ed a cel­lu­lar approach to what they called the “killing mech­a­nism”: not what might have hap­pened to the entire plan­et, but what hap­pened with­in the cells of the ani­mals to fin­ish them off.

    Their study of near­ly 50,000 marine inver­te­brate fos­sils in 8,900 col­lec­tions from the Per­mi­an peri­od has allowed them to peer into the inner work­ings of the ancient crea­tures, giv­ing them the abil­i­ty to describe pre­cise­ly how some died while oth­ers lived.

    “Before, sci­en­tists were all over the map,” said one of the authors, Matthew E. Clapham, an earth sci­en­tist at San­ta Cruz. “We thought maybe lots of things were going on.”

    Dr. Clapham and his co-author, Jonathan L. Payne, a Stan­ford geo­chemist, con­clud­ed that ani­mals with skele­tons or shells made of cal­ci­um car­bon­ate, or lime­stone, were more like­ly to die than those with skele­tons of oth­er sub­stances. And ani­mals that had few ways of pro­tect­ing their inter­nal chem­istry were more apt to dis­ap­pear.

    Being wide­ly dis­persed across the plan­et was lit­tle pro­tec­tion against extinc­tion, and nei­ther was being numer­ous. The deaths hap­pened through­out the ocean. Nor was there any cor­re­la­tion between extinc­tion and how a crea­ture moved or what it ate.

    Instead, the authors con­clud­ed, the ani­mals died from a lack of dis­solved oxy­gen in the water, an excess of car­bon diox­ide, a reduced abil­i­ty to make shells from cal­ci­um car­bon­ate, altered ocean acid­i­ty and high­er water tem­per­a­tures. They also con­clud­ed that all these stress­es hap­pened rapid­ly and that each one ampli­fied the effects of the oth­ers.

    That led to a whole­sale change in the ocean’s dom­i­nant ani­mals with­in just 200,000 years, or per­haps much less, Dr. Clapham said.

    Among the hard­est hit were corals; many types, includ­ing the horn-shaped bot­tom-dwellers known as rugose corals, dis­ap­peared alto­geth­er. Sea sponges were also dev­as­tat­ed, along with the shelled crea­tures that com­mand­ed the Per­mi­an reefs and sea. Every sin­gle species of the once com­mon trilo­bites, with their hel­met­like front shells, van­ished for good.

    No major group of marine inver­te­brates or pro­tists, a group of main­ly one-celled microor­gan­isms, went unscathed. Instead, gas­tropods like snails and bivalves like clams and scal­lops became the dom­i­nant crea­tures after the Per­mi­an. And that shift led direct­ly to the assem­blage of life in today’s oceans. “Mod­ern marine ecol­o­gy is shaped by the extinc­tion spasms of the past,” Dr. Clapham said.

    So what hap­pened 252 mil­lion years ago to cause those phys­i­o­log­i­cal stress­es in marine ani­mals? Addi­tion­al clues from car­bon, cal­ci­um and nitro­gen iso­topes of the peri­od, as well as from organ­ic geo­chem­istry, sug­gest a “per­tur­ba­tion of the glob­al car­bon cycle,” the sci­en­tists’ sec­ond paper con­clud­ed — a huge infu­sion of car­bon into the atmos­phere and the ocean.

    But nei­ther an aster­oid strike nor an upwelling of oxy­gen-deprived deep-ocean water would explain the selec­tive pat­tern of death.

    Instead, the sci­en­tists sus­pect that the answer lies in the biggest vol­canic event of the past 500 mil­lion years — the erup­tions that formed the Siber­ian Traps, the stair­like hilly region in north­ern Rus­sia. The erup­tions sent cat­a­stroph­ic amounts of car­bon gas into the atmos­phere and, ulti­mate­ly, the oceans; that led to long-term ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion, ocean warm­ing and vast areas of oxy­gen-poor ocean water.

    The sur­prise to Dr. Clapham was how close­ly the find­ings from the Great Dying matched today’s trends in ocean chem­istry. High con­cen­tra­tions of car­bon-based gas­es in the atmos­phere are lead­ing to warm­ing, rapid acid­i­fi­ca­tion and low-oxy­gen dead zones in the oceans.

    The idea that changes in ocean chem­istry, par­tic­u­lar­ly acid­i­fi­ca­tion, could be a fac­tor in a mass extinc­tion is a rel­a­tive­ly new idea, said Andrew H. Knoll, a Har­vard geol­o­gist who wrote a sem­i­nal paper in 1996 explor­ing the con­se­quences of a rapid increase in car­bon diox­ide in the atmos­phere on the phys­i­ol­o­gy of organ­isms.

    “In terms of the over­all pat­tern of change, what we’re see­ing now and what is pre­dict­ed in the next two cen­turies is rid­ing a par­al­lel track to what we think hap­pened in the past,” he said.

    Dr. Clapham not­ed that Per­mi­an and mod­ern sim­i­lar­i­ties are not exact. The Per­mi­an ocean was eas­i­er to acid­i­fy than today’s ocean because it had less deep-water cal­ci­um car­bon­ate, which off­sets the acid. But he said that corals are the most vul­ner­a­ble crea­tures in the mod­ern ocean for the same rea­son they were dur­ing the Per­mi­an extinc­tion. They have lit­tle abil­i­ty to gov­ern their inter­nal chem­istry and they rely on cal­ci­um car­bon­ate to build their reefs.


    Like Dr. Clapham, he cau­tioned that the trends between the two peri­ods were not exact­ly com­pa­ra­ble. Back in the Per­mi­an, the plan­et had a sin­gle super­con­ti­nent, Pangea, and ocean cur­rents were dif­fer­ent.

    And he and Dr. Lang­don not­ed that car­bon was being inject­ed into the atmos­phere today far faster than dur­ing the Per­mi­an extinc­tion. As Dr. Knoll put it, “Today, humans turn out to be every bit as good as vol­ca­noes at putting car­bon diox­ide into the atmos­phere.”

    In the nuclear age we’ve grown up often think­ing of “mutu­al­ly assured destruc­tion” as one big sud­den explo­sive event. It turns out doing noth­ing mean­ing­ful towards fix­ing our long-term eco­log­i­cal prob­lems for decades and decades is also an act of MAD­ness. The pathet­ic-slow-grind-down-over-decades-because-human­i­ty-can’t-help-itself ver­sion of mutu­al­ly assured destruc­tion may not have the fire­works of nuclear anni­hi­la­tion but it gets the job done.

    And this is not to say that there won’t be plen­ty of radi­a­tion in our slow grind down...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 1, 2012, 6:54 am
  21. We been giv­en a ten­ta­tive time­frame for the removal of the spend fuel rods from reac­tor 4 at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi com­plex: Removal might start as ear­ly as 2014 and should take around a decade. Those spent fuel rods are the biggest dan­ger still lurk­ing in the melt­down after­math so don’t plan on caus­ing any big earth­quakes around Japan for the next dozen years. Things could get real­ly messy oth­er­wise:

    April 17, 2012, 8:44 PM JST
    Fukushi­ma Daiichi’s Achilles Heel: Unit 4’s Spent Fuel?

    By Phred Dvo­rak

    Just how dan­ger­ous is the sit­u­a­tion at Japan’s crip­pled Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant? Very, accord­ing to U.S. Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden, a senior mem­ber of the Senate’s ener­gy com­mit­tee who toured the plant ear­li­er this month.

    Anoth­er big earth­quake or tsuna­mi could send Fukushi­ma Daiichi’s frag­ile reac­tor build­ings tum­bling down, result­ing in “an even greater release of radi­a­tion than the ini­tial acci­dent,” Mr. Wyden warned in a Mon­day let­ter to Japan­ese Ambas­sador to the U.S. Ichi­ro Fujisa­ki.


    Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi suf­fered melt­downs at three of its reac­tors last year after the March 11 earth­quake and tsuna­mi knocked out pow­er in the area. Much of the nuclear fuel in those three reac­tors is thought to be in a melt­ed lump at the bot­tom of the ves­sels that sur­round the core. That’s bad, but at least the ves­sels shield the out­side world from the radioac­tive fuel.

    But Fukushi­ma Daiichi’s Unit 4 reac­tor was shut down for main­te­nance when last year’s acci­dent took place, mean­ing the nuclear fuel rods were out­side those pro­tec­tive ves­sels and sit­ting in a pool of water, high up in the reac­tor build­ing, where they were being stored. The water in that “spent fuel pool” keeps the rods cool and insu­lates them from the out­side. But if the pool should spring a leak, or anoth­er earth­quake bring the pool crash­ing down, all that fuel would be exposed to the out­side air, let­ting them heat up and release mas­sive amounts of radi­a­tion. Oth­er reac­tors have spent-fuel pools too, but they con­tain less fuel.

    Tep­co says an analy­sis it con­duct­ed on the Unit 4 pool showed the build­ing didn’t need rein­forc­ing, but it went ahead and rein­forced the struc­ture any­way, increas­ing its safe­ty mar­gin by 20%. Tep­co says it’s work­ing to remove the fuel rods as fast as it can. If all goes accord­ing to its timetable, the util­i­ty could start tak­ing the rods out in 2014.

    Mr. Wyden points out, though, that the sched­ule allows up to ten years to get all the spent fuel in all the Fukushi­ma reac­tor pools out — some­thing he says is too risky.

    “This sched­ule car­ries extra­or­di­nary and con­tin­u­ing risk if fur­ther severe seis­mic events were to occur,” he wrote in his let­ter to Ambas­sador Fujisa­ki. “The true earth­quake risk for the site was seri­ous­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed and remains unre­solved.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 8, 2012, 8:24 am
  22. Just FYI:

    May 28, 3:48 PM EDT

    Radioac­tive bluefin tuna crossed the Pacif­ic to US

    AP Sci­ence Writer

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Across the vast Pacif­ic, the mighty bluefin tuna car­ried radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion that leaked from Japan’s crip­pled nuclear plant to the shores of the Unit­ed States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrat­ing fish has been shown to car­ry radioac­tiv­i­ty such a dis­tance.

    “We were frankly kind of star­tled,” said Nicholas Fish­er, one of the researchers report­ing the find­ings online Mon­day in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences.

    The lev­els of radioac­tive cesium were 10 times high­er than the amount mea­sured in tuna off the Cal­i­for­nia coast in pre­vi­ous years. But even so, that’s still far below safe-to-eat lim­its set by the U.S. and Japan­ese gov­ern­ments.

    Pre­vi­ous­ly, small­er fish and plank­ton were found with ele­vat­ed lev­els of radi­a­tion in Japan­ese waters after a magnitude‑9 earth­quake in March 2011 trig­gered a tsuna­mi that bad­ly dam­aged the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi reac­tors.

    But sci­en­tists did not expect the nuclear fall­out to linger in huge fish that sail the world because such fish can metab­o­lize and shed radioac­tive sub­stances.


    The real test of how radioac­tiv­i­ty affects tuna pop­u­la­tions comes this sum­mer when researchers planned to repeat the study with a larg­er num­ber of sam­ples. Bluefin tuna that jour­neyed last year were exposed to radi­a­tion for about a month. The upcom­ing trav­el­ers have been swim­ming in radioac­tive waters for a longer peri­od. How this will affect con­cen­tra­tions of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion remains to be seen.

    Now that sci­en­tists know that bluefin tuna can trans­port radi­a­tion, they also want to track the move­ments of oth­er migra­to­ry species includ­ing sea tur­tles, sharks and seabirds.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 28, 2012, 8:25 pm
  23. Whoops, that’s a dead link above. Enjoy!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 29, 2012, 7:34 am
  24. It appears that the radi­a­tion being detect­ed in the bluefin tuna might actu­al­ly save the species because out of con­trol over­fish­ing was send­ing the fish into obliv­ion and over­fish­ing may not be as big an issue going for­ward. Con­rats human­i­ty, we’ve hit a low! Woohoo! Our basic eat­ing habits are more harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment than our nuclear cat­a­stro­phes:

    5/31/2012 @ 7:34AM
    Monte Burke, Forbes Staff
    Fukushi­ma Radi­a­tion May Actu­al­ly Save Bluefin Tuna

    This week, a trio of researchers report­ed that Bluefin tuna caught off the coast of south­ern Cal­i­for­nia car­ried radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma, Japan, nuclear plant that was dam­aged in the March 2011. The fish were caught in August 2011 as they migrat­ed east 6,000 miles from their spawn­ing grounds in Japan in search of prey.

    It sounds coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but the radi­a­tion in the tuna may turn out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise for the species.

    Bluefin tuna, found in the Atlantic and north­ern and south­ern Pacif­ic, are among the most imper­iled fish species on the plan­et. Though the U.S. gov­ern­ment recent­ly-and some­what con­tro­ver­sial­ly-refused to list Atlantic Bluefin as an offi­cial “endan­gered species,” they did cat­e­go­rize the fish as a “species of con­cern.” The Atlantic Bluefin pop­u­la­tion has dwin­dled by as much as 80% since the 1970s, main­ly because of over­fish­ing. (South­ern Pacif­ic Bluefin are also in per­il.) All species Bluefin are among the most prized table fish on the globe, espe­cial­ly among sushi afi­ciona­dos who pay up to $24 for one sin­gle piece of the fish. Last year, the U.S. gov­ern­ment did peti­tion CITES to pro­tect the Atlantic Bluefin. But the effort was blocked by Japan, where much of the world’s Bluefin end up at mar­ket.

    If the gov­ern­ments can’t help, maybe bad pub­lic­i­ty will. Nicholas Fish­er, the study’s co-author and a marine biol­o­gist at Stony Brook Uni­ver­si­ty in New York, says when he first saw the lev­els of radi­a­tion in the fish, caught off of San Diego, “my first thought was ‘this will do more for the con­ser­va­tion of this endan­gered ani­mal than near­ly any­thing else could.’”


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 31, 2012, 8:21 am
  25. Just FYI, if you hap­pen to be in Japan, avoid the weird patch­es of dried black soil, even if you see chil­dren play­ing with it. It’s some sort of goldilocks substance...radioactive enough to nuke you good but not radioac­tive enough for author­i­ties to clean it up. It is thought that the sub­stance con­tains large amounts of cyanobac­te­ria, a strain of bac­te­ria that’s seen as a pos­si­ble solu­tion to the decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion as a means of dis­pers­ing these con­cen­trat­ed patch­es of radioac­tive soil. The idea would be to bury­ing these patch­es deep in the ground and let the bac­te­ria slow­ly dis­perse the radaioac­tive com­pounds.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, in spite of exceed­ing­ly high lev­els of radi­a­tion found in some of these patch­es, there appears to be no plans by many local gov­ern­ments to clean up these patch­es. Why? Well, Tokyo offi­cials say the detect­ed lev­els don’t actu­al­ly exceed the gov­ern­ments lim­its requir­ing decontamination...even though it clear­ly does in a num­ber of instances. Also, because these patch­es are found nor­mal­ly on the ground, it’s not some­thing that would have an imme­di­ate effect on human health. I don’t get it either.

    Radioac­tive ‘black soil’ patch­es: A scourge or a solu­tion?

    June 14, 2012


    Koichi Oya­ma noticed some­thing strange when he was mea­sur­ing radi­a­tion lev­els in Mina­mi-Soma, Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture. In many places where the read­ings jumped, the munic­i­pal assem­bly mem­ber found patch­es of dried dark soil.

    Fur­ther stud­ies found sim­i­lar patch­es of soil–along with high radi­a­tion readings–in parts of Tokyo. In fact, the radioac­tive soil has been dis­cov­ered as far away as Miya­gi, Yam­a­ga­ta and Niiga­ta pre­fec­tures.

    Researchers are now refer­ring to “black soil” to describe these patch­es of dirt with unusu­al­ly high lev­els of radi­a­tion. It is a sort of play on the “black rain” term used by vic­tims of the atom­ic bomb­ings in Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki to describe the mys­te­ri­ous pre­cip­i­ta­tion that seemed to bring strange ill­ness­es and untold suf­fer­ing.

    Yet black soil, as omi­nous as it may seem, could end up actu­al­ly help­ing in the decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion efforts fol­low­ing last year’s acci­dent at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant.

    But for now, noth­ing is being done about the black soil with high lev­els of radi­a­tion.

    Because it nor­mal­ly is found on the ground, we believe it is not some­thing that will have imme­di­ate effects on human health,” a Mina­mi-Soma munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment offi­cial said.

    Mina­mi-Soma was the first area in which atten­tion was focused on the black soil. In autumn last year, a num­ber of places in the city had lim­it­ed but high lev­els of air­borne radi­a­tion, often close to 10 times high­er than lev­els in sur­round­ing areas. Invari­ably, the black pow­dery mate­r­i­al was found on the ground or road imme­di­ate­ly below the spots of high radi­a­tion.

    Oya­ma and his group col­lect­ed the soil and had it mea­sured by Tomoya Yamauchi, a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in radi­a­tion mea­sure­ment at Kobe Uni­ver­si­ty. The results showed the soil con­tained radioac­tive cesium at lev­els of 1.08 mil­lion bec­querels per kilo­gram.

    Accord­ing to Oya­ma, black soil with sim­i­lar­ly high radi­a­tion lev­els was sub­se­quent­ly found in oth­er parts of Mina­mi-Soma–and some sam­ples con­tained plu­to­ni­um and stron­tium.

    Sim­i­lar sam­ples of black soil were col­lect­ed from more than 100 loca­tions around the nation, main­ly in east­ern Japan. Analy­ses are con­tin­u­ing on the sam­ples with the coop­er­a­tion of Iwa­ki Mei­sei Uni­ver­si­ty and Tohoku Uni­ver­si­ty.

    In late May, a group of about 90 peo­ple orga­nized by par­ents con­cerned about the effects of radi­a­tion on their chil­dren met in Mizu­mo­to Park in Toky­o’s Kat­sushi­ka Ward.

    Those who brought their own dosime­ters began mea­sur­ing soil in ditch­es and under trees, and sev­er­al peo­ple imme­di­ate­ly record­ed radi­a­tion lev­els exceed­ing 1 microsiev­ert per hour. The high­est lev­el record­ed was 1.117 microsiev­erts per hour on the sur­face of black soil along an asphalt road run­ning through the park.

    The radi­a­tion lev­el at a near­by lawn was 0.25 microsiev­ert. The rain and wind is believed to have left almost intact the radioac­tive cesium that had accu­mu­lat­ed on the lawn and grass after last year’s Fukushi­ma nuclear acci­dent.

    How­ev­er, the radi­a­tion lev­el of the black soil was more than four times as high as that on top of the lawn.

    Pre­lim­i­nary find­ings showed that areas with high read­ings were in the path of the radioac­tive plume from the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant soon after the cri­sis start­ed. The main areas affect­ed were in north­west­ern Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture and a wide part of the north­ern Kan­to region. The east­ern part of Tokyo also record­ed high­er lev­els of radi­a­tion.

    The high­est lev­el of radioac­tiv­i­ty detected–about 5.57 mil­lion bec­querels per kilogram–came from black soil col­lect­ed in the Kanaya neigh­bor­hood of the Oda­ka dis­trict of south­ern Mina­mi-Soma. In 36 out of 41 loca­tions in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture where black soil was col­lect­ed, the radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­el exceed­ed 100,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram. If that lev­el was found in incin­er­a­tor ash, it would have to be han­dled very care­ful­ly and buried in a facil­i­ty that had a con­crete exte­ri­or sep­a­rat­ing it from its sur­round­ings.

    There have also been loca­tions in the greater Tokyo area with high radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els. For exam­ple, Kawa­ji­ma in Saita­ma Pre­fec­ture had a lev­el of about 420,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram. The area in front of the Crafts Gallery of the Nation­al Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, Tokyo, in the Kitanomaru Park of Toky­o’s Chiy­o­da Ward had a read­ing of about 90,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram while Shin­bashi in Mina­to Ward had a read­ing of about 70,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram.

    In 23 of 29 areas in the greater Tokyo area, the radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­el was of a degree that would require water­proof sheets cov­er­ing the mate­r­i­al if it had been incin­er­a­tor ash at sim­i­lar lev­els.

    One of the instruc­tors who took part in the May gath­er­ing at Mizu­mo­to Park was Yukio Hayakawa, a pro­fes­sor of vol­canol­o­gy at Gun­ma Uni­ver­si­ty. He has con­duct­ed his own study of air­borne radi­a­tion lev­els at about 60 loca­tions, from Hokkai­do in the north to Kagoshi­ma Pre­fec­ture in the south, and has released the results on his blog.

    The high­est lev­el found by Hayakawa was 9.1 microsiev­erts per hour in Koriya­ma, Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture. In the greater Tokyo area, two cities in Chi­ba Pre­fec­ture had high lev­els, with 3.8 microsiev­erts per hour in Abiko and 2.5 microsiev­erts per hour in Kashi­wa. Both cities attract­ed atten­tion after the Fukushi­ma nuclear acci­dent as “hot spots” close to Tokyo.

    “We have to sur­mise that the radi­a­tion may have spread at least as far away as the Tokai region, and it may have even reached the Kan­sai region,” Hayakawa said.

    The Tokai region includes Shizuo­ka Pre­fec­ture, where lev­els of radioac­tive cesium exceed­ing pro­vi­sion­al gov­ern­ment stan­dards were detect­ed in tea leaves.

    While Hayakawa has not per­son­al­ly con­duct­ed a study in the Kan­sai region, there has been a report­ed record­ing of 0.14 microsiev­ert per hour, or dou­ble the air­borne radi­a­tion lev­el at 1 meter above ground, on fall­en leaves that had accu­mu­lat­ed in a ditch of a park in Mino, Osa­ka Pre­fec­ture.

    One rea­son for the wide preva­lence of the black soil is that it con­tains a micro-organ­ism known as cyanobac­te­ria that is com­mon around Japan.

    Although there are var­i­ous types of cyanobac­te­ria, large amounts of oscil­la­to­ri­ales and Nos­toc com­mune have been found in the black soil sam­ples.

    The bac­te­ria is of a blue-green col­or, but it turns black upon dry­ing.


    While researchers study the black soil phe­nom­e­non, cleanup efforts have been slow.

    “Under the law to pre­vent radi­a­tion ill­ness­es, when the con­cen­tra­tion of radioac­tive cesium exceeds 10,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram and the total vol­ume reach­es 10,000 bec­querels, it must be han­dled as a radioiso­tope,” Yamauchi said. “Radioiso­topes have to be han­dled with care by stor­ing them in met­al bar­rels.”

    In light of such fig­ures, only about 1.8 grams of the black soil with radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els of 5.57 mil­lion bec­querels found in Mina­mi-Soma would require han­dling as a radioiso­tope. About 111 grams of the soil in Tokyo with radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els of 90,000 bec­querels would require sim­i­lar han­dling.

    “In areas around the nuclear plant, it is not unusu­al to have radi­a­tion lev­els of 4 mil­lion bec­querels per kilo­gram,” said Hidea­ki Sasa­ki, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of micro­bial phys­i­ol­o­gy at Iwa­ki Mei­sei Uni­ver­si­ty who has been involved in mea­sur­ing the radioac­tiv­i­ty in the soil. “For that rea­son, it is pos­si­ble that soil in Mina­mi-Soma would have radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els that exceed 5 mil­lion bec­querels per kilo­gram.”


    Ayako Ishikawa, 34, heads the group of par­ents who orga­nized the May gath­er­ing in Mizu­mo­to Park. Accord­ing to Ishikawa, black soil is often found on top of asphalt and in areas where rain­wa­ter can eas­i­ly accu­mu­late or where snow drifts occur.

    In par­tic­u­lar, the areas where black soil was com­mon­ly found were along roads, side­walks, squares or in park­ing lots with­out bar­ri­ers.

    In March, Ishikawa col­lect­ed soil near a fence of a con­crete square in Edo­gawa Ward and along a side­walk of a nation­al road in Koto Ward. She had the soil sam­ples mea­sured by Yamauchi.

    The results showed radioac­tive cesium of about 243,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram in the Edo­gawa Ward soil and about 90,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram in the Koto Ward soil.

    Ishikawa has sub­se­quent­ly found oth­er areas with­in the Tokyo met­ro­pol­i­tan area with high radi­a­tion lev­els.

    “Despite that, no efforts have been made to pre­vent the spread of the radi­a­tion,” Ishikawa said. “I have found signs that baby car­riages have passed close by such loca­tions and of chil­dren touch­ing the soil.”

    Yamauchi said: “The black soil could become air­borne, and that could lead to inter­nal expo­sure if the soil is inhaled through the mouth. Decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion efforts should be imple­ment­ed imme­di­ate­ly.”

    Mina­mi-Soma has been aggres­sive about decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion efforts, but it and oth­er local gov­ern­ments do not appar­ent­ly share the same sense of urgency con­cern­ing the black soil.

    “While we are aware of the exis­tence (of the black soil), it does not meet the guide­lines estab­lished by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment,” an offi­cial with the Envi­ron­ment Bureau of the Tokyo met­ro­pol­i­tan gov­ern­ment said.

    Cur­rent­ly, there are two major stan­dards to begin decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work.

    One is if air­borne radi­a­tion lev­els exceed the 0.23-microsievert-per-hour stan­dard set by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment for a height of 1 meter above ground. The oth­er is if the air­borne radi­a­tion lev­el at a height of 1 meter is more than 1 microsiev­ert per hour high­er than record­ings in sur­round­ing areas.

    How­ev­er, air­borne radi­a­tion lev­els 1 meter above the black soil do not reach either of these stan­dards.

    Although that is the rea­son­ing gov­ern­ment offi­cials give for not decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ing those areas, the radi­a­tion stan­dards for incin­er­a­tor ash show that the black soil has radi­a­tion lev­els that require care­ful han­dling.

    The dis­cov­ery of the black soil is not all bad news.

    Exper­i­ments are con­tin­u­ing on using the absorbent qual­i­ties of cyanobac­te­ria to remove radioac­tive cesium from the soil.

    In August 2011, Micro Algae Corp. of Gifu city, a research and devel­op­ment com­pa­ny han­dling micro-organ­isms, began a joint research study with Iwa­ki Mei­sei Uni­ver­si­ty.

    Soil from Iwa­ki con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radioac­tive mate­ri­als was placed in trays. One form of cyanobac­te­ria known as Nos­toc com­mune was scat­tered in the soil.

    In one month, about 8 per­cent of the radioac­tive cesium in the soil had moved. Cal­cu­la­tions showed that in one year, about 69 per­cent of the cesium could be removed.

    That would mean that if black soil is removed and buried, it could con­tribute to decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ing those areas since the cyanobac­te­ria could absorb high lev­els of radioac­tive mate­ri­als from the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 19, 2012, 7:28 pm
  26. Ok, this HAS to be some sort of indi­rect attempt to employ the insan­i­ty defense. Kudos for the cre­ative script although the act­ing just isn’t very believ­able:

    NY Times
    Nuclear Oper­a­tor in Japan Exon­er­ates Itself in Report
    Pub­lished: June 20, 2012

    TOKYO — The much vil­i­fied oper­a­tor of the tsuna­mi-hit nuclear pow­er plant at Fukushi­ma released a report on Wednes­day that said the com­pa­ny nev­er hid infor­ma­tion, nev­er under­played the extent of fuel melt­down and cer­tain­ly nev­er con­sid­ered aban­don­ing the rav­aged site. It asserts that gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence in the dis­as­ter response cre­at­ed con­fu­sion and delays.

    The report, inch­es thick, was com­piled by an in-house exec­u­tive com­mit­tee, over­seen by a third-par­ty pan­el of experts and pre­sent­ed to reporters after deep bows by a line of exec­u­tives. The com­pa­ny stuck to a defense it has offered since the ear­li­est days of the cri­sis: that no com­pa­ny could have pre­dict­ed or pre­pared for last year’s mag­ni­tude 9.0 quake and sub­se­quent tsuna­mi.


    Over the last year, new details of the dis­as­ter have emerged that build a pic­ture of an orga­ni­za­tion that ignored or con­cealed that its reac­tors might be vul­ner­a­ble to quakes and tsunamis, used its close links with reg­u­la­tors and nuclear experts to hijack nuclear pol­i­cy and — since the acci­dent — has worked vig­i­lant­ly to shut out close scruti­ny of the rav­aged plant’s con­di­tion.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 21, 2012, 8:47 pm
  27. What could pos­si­bly go wrong?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 16, 2012, 10:02 pm
  28. Two down, 1,533 to go. Keep those fin­gers crossed:

    Japan util­i­ty takes out 2 Fukushi­ma nuke fuel rods

    TOKYO (AP) — A giant crane removed two rods packed with nuclear fuel from the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant on Wednes­day, the begin­ning of a del­i­cate and long process to reduce the risk of more radi­a­tion escap­ing from the dis­as­ter-struck plant.

    All of the 1,535 rods in a spent-fuel pool next to reac­tor No. 4 at the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant in north­east­ern Japan must even­tu­al­ly be moved to safer stor­age — an effort expect­ed to take until the end of next year, accord­ing to the gov­ern­ment.

    The build­ing con­tain­ing the pool and reac­tor was destroyed by an explo­sion fol­low­ing the fail­ure of cool­ing sys­tems after a mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi in March 2011. The cores of three reac­tors melt­ed.

    Fears run deep about the large amounts of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al stored in the pool, which unlike fuel in the cores of the reac­tors is not pro­tect­ed by thick con­tain­ment ves­sels. The plan­t’s oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., intends to remove all the rods to elim­i­nate the risk of the pool spew­ing radi­a­tion.

    Sep­a­rate­ly, a reac­tor at the Ohi nuclear plant in cen­tral Japan went online Wednes­day, the sec­ond to restart after the dis­as­ters. Anoth­er Ohi reac­tor was restart­ed ear­li­er this month.

    Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple took to the streets Mon­day demand­ing an end to nuclear pow­er, out­raged by the restarts. It was the biggest ral­ly since the Fukushi­ma cri­sis began.

    Also Wednes­day, the gov­ern­ment ordered two util­i­ties, Kan­sai Elec­tric Pow­er Co., which oper­ates Ohi, and Hokuri­ki Elec­tric Pow­er Co. to restudy earth­quake faults that lie beneath their nuclear plants.

    Japan­ese TV reports showed cranes remov­ing the 4‑meter (13-foot) rods. TEPCO declined com­ment, cit­ing the need for secre­cy in han­dling nuclear mate­r­i­al.

    About 150,000 peo­ple fled their homes after last year’s nuclear dis­as­ter, the worst since Cher­nobyl. A 20-kilo­me­ter (12-mile) zone around the plant remains a no-go area.

    Accord­ing to a worst-case sce­nario pre­pared by the gov­ern­ment, a loss of coolant in the spent-fuel pool at reac­tor No. 4 could have caused a mas­sive release of radi­a­tion and forced mil­lions of peo­ple to flee.

    A year and a half after the dis­as­ter, the pool’s cool­ing sys­tem has been fixed and rein­force­ments have been built to prop it up. But TEPCO recent­ly said the wall of the build­ing is bulging, although the pool has not tilt­ed.

    Hiroshi Tasa­ka, a nuclear engi­neer and pro­fes­sor at Tama Uni­ver­si­ty who served as advis­er to the prime min­is­ter after the dis­as­ter, said the spent-fuel pool pos­es a dan­ger because the build­ing is not suf­fi­cient­ly secure to stop radi­a­tion escap­ing in the case of a strong after­shock.


    It’s worth not­ing that a strong after­shock isn’t the only thing that could force mil­lions to flee:

    July 1, 2012 2:58 PM

    Japan reac­tor back online, 1st since Fukushi­ma

    (AP) TOKYO — Dozens of pro­test­ers shout­ed and danced at the gate of a nuclear pow­er plant as it restart­ed Sun­day, the first to go back online since Japan shut down all of its reac­tors for safe­ty checks fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter.

    Ohi nuclear plan­t’s reac­tor No. 3 returned to oper­a­tion despite a deep divi­sion in pub­lic opin­ion. Last month, Prime Min­is­ter Yoshi­hiko Noda ordered the restarts of reac­tors No. 3 and near­by No. 4, say­ing peo­ple’s liv­ing stan­dards can’t be main­tained with­out nuclear ener­gy. Many cit­i­zens are against a return to nuclear pow­er because of safe­ty fears after the Fukushi­ma acci­dent.


    Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi, in north­east­ern Japan, went into melt­downs and explod­ed after the March 11 tsuna­mi destroyed back­up gen­er­a­tors to keep the reac­tor cores cool.

    In the lat­est prob­lem at the crip­pled plant, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., its oper­a­tor, said the cool­ing sys­tem for the spent nuclear fuel pool at reac­tor No. 4 broke down Sat­ur­day, and a tem­po­rary sys­tem was set up Sun­day.

    The cool­ing sys­tem had to be restored with­in 70 hours, or tem­per­a­tures would have start­ed to rise, spew­ing radi­a­tion.

    Also note, that the two rods removed are part amongst the ‘easy’ ones to deal with because they haven’t been used yet. It’s the spent fuel rods sit­ting in that pool that are going to be par­tic­u­lar­ly trou­ble­some. Also, while the above arti­cles sug­gest that the spent rods should be removed by the end up next year, accord­ing to the fol­low­ing arti­cle Tep­co is sched­uled to start remov­ing them ‘in earnest’ by the end of next year:

    July 19, 2012, 3:34 AM JST

    Fukushi­ma Watch: Signs of Progress at Spent-Fuel Pool

    By Phred Dvo­rak

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., oper­a­tor of Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi, won’t say, cit­ing a law that for­bids dis­clos­ing infor­ma­tion about when or where nuclear fuel is being trans­port­ed.

    But a Tep­co spokesman-with­out com­ment­ing-help­ful­ly point­ed JRT to page 57 of a Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tion­from a May 28 gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee meet­ing on the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi cleanup process. That page and those that fol­low describe the removal, slat­ed for July, of two racks con­tain­ing unused fuel from Unit 4’s pool, to check them for ero­sion or oth­er trou­bles. The racks will be moved to the com­mon pool-anoth­er big water-filled struc­ture near­by-the pre­sen­ta­tion says.

    Why unused nuclear fuel? Because unlike used fuel, which emits heat and radi­a­tion for years and requires spe­cial equip­ment to han­dle safe­ly, fresh fuel can be removed right away, the pre­sen­ta­tion explains. And since reac­tor 4 was offline for repairs when the March 11 earth­quake and tsuna­mi struck, knock­ing out pow­er and spark­ing melt­downs, Tep­co had racks of fresh fuel wait­ing in the pool for the repairs to be com­plet­ed.

    The prob­lem is that remov­ing racks one at a time, with a big crane, is slow. Tep­co is build­ing a spe­cial cov­er on top of the spent-fuel pool to help speed things along. And it’s plan­ning even­tu­al­ly to put in place the equip­ment need­ed to remove the spent fuel rods as well.

    Slow or not, is Tep­co going to con­tin­ue tak­ing out more fuel racks after the first two are out? Tepco’s spokesman wouldn’t say. The cur­rent plant is for the removal process to start in earnest at the end of next year.

    Keep those fin­gers crossed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 18, 2012, 11:10 am
  29. This falls into the cat­e­go­ry of “things that should be imme­di­ate­ly inves­ti­gat­ed”:

    Japan probes under-report­ing of Fukushi­ma radi­a­tion dosage

    TOKYO | Sat Jul 21, 2012 2:43am EDT
    Report­ing by Osamu Tsuki­mori; Edit­ing by Ed Lane

    (Reuters) — Japan’s health min­istry said it would inves­ti­gate reports that work­ers at the strick­en Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant were urged by a sub­con­trac­tor to place lead around radi­a­tion detec­tion devices in order to stay under a safe­ty thresh­old for expo­sure.

    The Asahi Shim­bun news­pa­per report­ed on Sat­ur­day that an exec­u­tive from Build-Up, a sub­con­trac­tor to plant own­er Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er, told work­ers to cov­er the devices called dosime­ters when work­ing in high-radi­a­tion areas.

    Dosime­ters can be worn as badges or car­ried as devices around the size of a smart phone to detect radi­a­tion.

    Nine work­ers wore the lead plates around the devices once after the exec­u­tive’s plea, Pub­lic broad­cast­er NHK said, cit­ing the sub­con­trac­tor’s pres­i­dent.


    A Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er spokesman told Reuters on Sat­ur­day the com­pa­ny was aware from a sep­a­rate con­trac­tor that Build-Up made the lead shields, but that they were nev­er used at the nuclear plant.

    Build-Up could not be reached for com­ment.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 20, 2012, 11:06 pm
  30. This is one of those sto­ries where you real­ly have to hope there was an unde­tect­ed sys­temic prob­lem with the data col­lec­tion because this is some scary data:

    The Tele­graph
    Near­ly 36pc of Fukushi­ma chil­dren diag­nosed with thy­roid growths
    Near­ly 36 per­cent of chil­dren in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture have been dis­g­nosed with growths on their thy­roids, although doc­tors insist there is no link between the “clus­ter” of inci­dents and the dis­as­ter at the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi nuclear plant in March of last year.

    By Julian Ryall in Tokyo

    6:14AM BST 19 Jul 2012

    The Sixth Report of Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture Health Man­age­ment Sur­vey, released in April, includ­ed exam­i­na­tions of 38,114 chil­dren, of whom 35.3 per­cent — some 13,460 chil­dren — were found to have cysts or nod­ules of up to 5 mm (0.197 inch­es) on their thy­roids.

    A fur­ther 0.5 per­cent, totalling 186 young­sters, had nod­ules larg­er than 5.1 mm (0.2 inch­es).

    “Yes, 35.8 per­cent of chil­dren in the study have lumps or cysts, but this is not the same as can­cer,” said Nao­mi Tak­a­gi, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at Fukushi­ma Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical School Hos­pi­tal, which admin­is­tered the tests.

    “We do not know that cause of this, but it is hard to believe that is due to the effects of radi­a­tion,” she said. “This is an ear­ly test and we will only see the effects of radi­a­tion expo­sure after four or five years.”

    The local author­i­ty is car­ry­ing out long-term test­ing of chil­dren who were under the age of 18 on March 11 last year, the day on which the magnitude‑9 Great East Japan struck off the coast of north-east Japan, trig­ger­ing the mas­sive tsuna­mi that crip­pled the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant.


    And the doc­tors denials aren’t exact­ly sooth­ing: “yeah, it’s def­i­nite­ly not due to the radiation...must be some­thing else in the envi­ron­ment that we can’t explain yet”. Well that’s a relief!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 18, 2012, 8:57 am
  31. Just FYI, seafood devo­tees may want to go a lit­tle light on any bot­tom-dwelling del­i­ca­cies for the next few decades:

    Cesium Lev­els in Fish off Fukushi­ma Not Drop­ping

    By MALCOLM FOSTER Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    TOKYO Octo­ber 25, 2012 (AP)

    Radioac­tive cesium lev­els in most kinds of fish caught off the coast of Fukushi­ma haven’t declined in the year fol­low­ing Japan’s nuclear dis­as­ter, a sig­nal that the seafloor or leak­age from the dam­aged reac­tors must be con­tin­u­ing to con­t­a­m­i­nate the waters — pos­si­bly threat­en­ing fish­eries for decades, a researcher says.

    Though the vast major­i­ty of fish test­ed off Japan’s north­east coast remain below recent­ly tight­ened lim­its of cesium-134 and cesium-137 in food con­sump­tion, Japan­ese gov­ern­ment data shows that 40 per­cent of bot­tom-dwelling fish such as cod, floun­der and hal­ibut are above the lim­it, Ken Bues­sel­er, a marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceano­graph­ic Insti­tu­tion in Mass­a­chu­setts, wrote in an arti­cle pub­lished Thurs­day in the jour­nal Sci­ence.

    In ana­lyz­ing exten­sive data col­lect­ed by Japan’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries and Forestry, he found that the lev­els of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in almost all kinds of fish are not declin­ing a year after the March 11, 2011 dis­as­ter. An earth­quake and tsuna­mi knocked out the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plan­t’s vital cool­ing sys­tem, caus­ing three reac­tor cores to melt and spew radi­a­tion onto the sur­round­ing coun­try­side and ocean.

    “The (radioac­tiv­i­ty) num­bers aren’t going down. Oceans usu­al­ly cause the con­cen­tra­tions to decrease if the spig­ot is turned off,” Bues­sel­er told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press in an inter­view. “There has to be some­where they’re pick­ing up the cesium.”

    “Option one is the seafloor is the source of the con­tin­ued con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. The oth­er source could be the reac­tors them­selves,” he said.

    The safe­ty of fish and oth­er foods from around Fukushi­ma remains a con­cern among ordi­nary Japan­ese, among the world’s high­est per capi­ta con­sumers of seafood.

    Most fish and seafood from along the Fukushi­ma coast are barred from the domes­tic mar­ket and export. In June, author­i­ties lift­ed bans on octo­pus and sea snails caught off Fukushi­ma after test­ing showed very low lev­els of radi­a­tion.

    But the most con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed fish found yet off Fukushi­ma were caught in August, some 17 months after the dis­as­ter. The two green­lings, which are bot­tom-feed­ers, had cesium lev­els of more than 25,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram, 250 times the lev­el the gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers safe.

    A gov­ern­ment fish­eries offi­cial, Chikara Takase, acknowl­edged that the fig­ure for the green­lings was “extreme­ly high,” but he added high num­bers were detect­ed only in lim­it­ed kinds of fish sam­pled in the restrict­ed waters clos­est to the plant. He acknowl­edged that “we have yet to arrive at a sit­u­a­tion that allows an over­all lift­ing of the ban.”

    To bol­ster pub­lic con­fi­dence in food safe­ty, the gov­ern­ment in April tight­ened restric­tions for cesium-134 and cesium-137 on seafood from 500 to 100 bec­querels per kilo­gram. But the step led to con­fu­sion among con­sumers as peo­ple noticed more prod­ucts were barred.

    Plant oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. said some radioac­tive water used to cool the Fukushi­ma reac­tors leaked into the ocean sev­er­al times, most recent­ly in April.

    “Giv­en the 30-year half-life of cesium-137, this means that even if these sources (of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion) were to be shut off com­plete­ly, the sed­i­ments would remain con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed for decades to come,” Bues­sel­er wrote in Sci­ence.

    Experts sus­pect that radioac­tive water from the plant is seep­ing into the ground water at the same time, and is con­tin­u­ing to make its way into the ocean.

    Hideo Yamaza­ki, a marine biol­o­gist at Kin­ki Uni­ver­si­ty, agrees with Bues­sel­er’s the­o­ry that the cesium is leak­ing from the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant and that it will con­t­a­m­i­nate seafood for more than a decade.

    He said he believes the plant will con­tin­ue to leak until cracks and oth­er dam­age to the three reac­tors that melt­ed down are repaired. It’s unclear when that work will be com­plet­ed, or even how, because radi­a­tion lev­els in the reac­tors are too high for humans or even robots.


    Note that the cause of the ele­vat­ed cesium lev­els is spec­u­lat­ed to be due to ongo­ing radioac­tive water leak­age from the nuclear plant into the ground water and sub­se­quent­ly onto the sea floor. That’s cer­tain­ly a very real pos­si­bil­i­ty and one we should prob­a­bly expect at this point giv­en the dam­age done to the reac­tor build­ings and the ear­li­er reports of high­ly radioac­tive water flood­ing base­ments of the build­ings. But it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that there are oth­er plau­si­ble mech­a­nisms that could cause this “mys­tery” and they aren’t mutu­al­ly exclu­sive.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 25, 2012, 10:41 pm
  32. It must be nice to be able to be this uncon­cerned about caus­ing irre­versible genet­ic dam­age to your entire coun­try:

    Fukushi­ma safe­ty sci­en­tists paid by nuclear oper­a­tors
    7:55 AM Fri­day Dec 7, 2012

    Influ­en­tial Japan­ese sci­en­tists who help set nation­al radi­a­tion expo­sure lim­its have for years had trips paid for by the coun­try’s nuclear plant oper­a­tors to attend over­seas meet­ings of the world’s top aca­d­e­m­ic group on radi­a­tion safe­ty.

    The poten­tial con­flict of inter­est is revealed in one sen­tence buried in a 600-page par­lia­men­tary inves­ti­ga­tion into last year’s Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi nuclear pow­er plant dis­as­ter and point­ed out to The Asso­ci­at­ed Press by a med­ical doc­tor on the 10-per­son inves­ti­ga­tion pan­el.

    Some of these same sci­en­tists have con­sis­tent­ly giv­en opti­mistic assess­ments about the health risks of radi­a­tion, inter­views with the sci­en­tists and gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments show. Their piv­otal role in set­ting pol­i­cy after the March 2011 tsuna­mi and ensu­ing nuclear melt­downs meant the dif­fer­ence between school chil­dren play­ing out­side or indoors and fam­i­lies stay­ing or evac­u­at­ing.

    One lead­ing sci­en­tist, Oht­sura Niwa, acknowl­edged that the elec­tric­i­ty indus­try pays for flights and hotels to go to meet­ings of the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mis­sion on Radi­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion, and for over­seas mem­bers vis­it­ing Japan.

    He denied that the fund­ing influ­ences his sci­ence, and stressed that he stands behind his view that con­tin­u­ing radi­a­tion wor­ries about Fukushi­ma are overblown.

    “Those who evac­u­at­ed just want to believe in the dan­gers of radi­a­tion to jus­ti­fy the action they took,” Niwa told the AP in an inter­view.

    The offi­cial stance of the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mis­sion on Radi­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion is that the health risks from radi­a­tion become zero only with zero expo­sure. But some of the eight Japan­ese ICRP mem­bers do not sub­scribe to that view, assert­ing that low dose radi­a­tion is harm­less or the risks are neg­li­gi­ble.

    The doc­tor on the par­lia­men­tary pan­el, Hisako Sakiya­ma, is out­raged about util­i­ty fund­ing for Japan’s ICRP mem­bers. She fears that radi­a­tion stan­dards are being set at a lenient lev­el to lim­it cost­ly evac­u­a­tions.

    “The asser­tion of the util­i­ties became the rule. That’s eth­i­cal­ly unac­cept­able. Peo­ple’s health is at stake,” she said. “The view was twist­ed so it came out as though there is no clear evi­dence of the risks, or that we sim­ply don’t know.”

    The ICRP, based in Ottawa, Cana­da, does not take a stand on any nation’s pol­i­cy, leav­ing that to each gov­ern­ment. It is a char­i­ty that relies heav­i­ly on dona­tions, and mem­bers’ fund­ing varies by nation. The group brings sci­en­tists togeth­er to study radi­a­tion effects on health and the envi­ron­ment, as well as the impact of dis­as­ters such as Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma. In Japan, ICRP mem­bers sit on key pan­els at the prime min­is­ter’s office and the edu­ca­tion min­istry that set radi­a­tion safe­ty pol­i­cy.

    The Fukushi­ma melt­downs, the worst nuclear dis­as­ter since Cher­nobyl, brought a high­er lev­el of scruti­ny to Japan’s nuclear indus­try, reveal­ing close ties between the reg­u­la­tors and the reg­u­lat­ed. Last month, some mem­bers of a pan­el that sets nuclear plant safe­ty stan­dards acknowl­edged they received research and oth­er grant mon­ey from util­i­ty com­pa­nies and plant man­u­fac­tur­ers. The fund­ing is not ille­gal in Japan.

    Niwa, the only Japan­ese mem­ber to sit on the main ICRP com­mit­tee, defend­ed util­i­ty sup­port for trav­el expens­es, which comes from the Fed­er­a­tion of Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­nies of Japan through anoth­er radi­a­tion orga­ni­za­tion. Costs add up, he said, and he has spent tens of thou­sands of yen of his per­son­al mon­ey on ICRP projects and efforts to decon­t­a­m­i­nate Fukushi­ma. All ICRP mem­bers fly econ­o­my, except for long flights such as between Argenti­na and Japan, he said.

    The Fed­er­a­tion declined com­ment.


    The risk of get­ting can­cer at 20 mil­lisiev­erts rais­es the already exist­ing 25 per­cent chance by an esti­mat­ed 0.1 per­cent, accord­ing to French ICRP mem­ber Jacques Lochard, who vis­its Japan often to con­sult on Fukushi­ma.

    While that’s low, he says it’s not zero, so his view is that you should do all you can to reduce expo­sure.

    Kazuo Sakai, a Japan­ese ICRP mem­ber, said he was inter­est­ed in debunk­ing that gen­er­al­ly accept­ed view. Known as the “lin­ear no thresh­old” mod­el of radi­a­tion risk, the ICRP-backed posi­tion con­sid­ers radi­a­tion harm­ful even at low dos­es with no thresh­old below which expo­sure is safe.

    Sakai called that mod­el a mere “tool,” and pos­si­bly not sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly sound.

    He said his stud­ies on sala­man­ders and oth­er ani­mal life since the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter have shown no ill effects, includ­ing genet­ic dam­age, and so humans, exposed to far low­er lev­els of radi­a­tion, are safe.

    “No seri­ous health effects are expect­ed for reg­u­lar peo­ple,” he said.

    The par­lia­men­tary inves­ti­ga­tion found that util­i­ties have repeat­ed­ly tried to push Japan­ese ICRP mem­bers toward a lenient stan­dard on radi­a­tion from as far back as 2007.

    Inter­nal records at the Fed­er­a­tion of Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­nies obtained by the inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee showed offi­cials rejoic­ing over how their views were get­ting reflect­ed in ICRP Japan state­ments.

    Even ear­li­er, Sakai received util­i­ty mon­ey for his research into low dose radi­a­tion dur­ing a 1999–2006 tenure at the Cen­tral Research Insti­tute of Elec­tric Pow­er Indus­try, an orga­ni­za­tion fund­ed by the util­i­ties.

    But he said that before his hir­ing he antic­i­pat­ed pres­sures to come up with research favor­able to the nuclear indus­try, and he made it clear his sci­ence would not be improp­er­ly influ­enced.

    Niwa, a pro­fes­sor at Fukushi­ma Med­ical Uni­ver­si­ty, said that res­i­dents need to stay in Fukushi­ma if at all pos­si­ble, part­ly because they would face dis­crim­i­na­tion in mar­riage else­where in Japan from what he said were unfound­ed fears about radi­a­tion and genet­ic defects.

    Set­ting off such fears are med­ical checks on the thy­roids of Fukushi­ma chil­dren that found some nod­ules or growths that are not can­cer­ous but not nor­mal.

    No one knows for sure what this means, but Yoshi­haru Yoneku­ra, pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Radi­o­log­i­cal Sci­ences and an ICRP mem­ber, brush­es off the wor­ries and says such abnor­mal­i­ties are com­mon.

    The risk is such a non-con­cern in his mind that he says with a smile: “Low-dose radi­a­tion may be even good for you.”

    Yes, the ‘com­mon’ occur­ance of abnor­mal thy­roid growths in the chil­dren of Fukushi­ma is noth­ing to get stressed over. Stress caus­es can­cer don’t you know. Just accept, for the sake of your own health, that there’s noth­ing to wor­ry about. Noth­ing at all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 11, 2012, 1:39 pm
  33. And here’s anoth­er grim reminder of the obvi­ous:

    The Asahi Shim­bun
    Fukushi­ma plant sit­u­a­tion ‘volatile,’ a year after cold shut­down declared
    Decem­ber 18, 2012
    By NAOYA KON/ Staff Writer

    Work­ers are nowhere close to deter­min­ing the state of melt­ed fuel at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant, a year after the gov­ern­ment declared the dam­aged reac­tors were in a “cold shut­down” state.

    Stor­age tanks at the site are near­ing capac­i­ty for radioac­tive water. A makeshift sys­tem is still being used to cool the nuclear fuel. And leaks of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water and quake-induced col­laps­es of plant facil­i­ties remain a threat.

    Although progress has been made in clear­ing rub­ble and reduc­ing the amount of radioac­tive sub­stances released from the plant, NRA Chair­man Shu­nichi Tana­ka acknowl­edged that prepa­ra­tions to decom­mis­sion the reac­tors are only slow­ly get­ting under way.


    But the decom­mis­sion­ing process, includ­ing the No. 4 reac­tor that con­tained no fuel at the time of the dis­as­ter due to a reg­u­lar inspec­tion, is expect­ed to take decades to com­plete.

    The decom­mis­sion­ing work also rep­re­sents an immi­nent chal­lenge for the Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, which will con­trol the gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing its vic­to­ry in the Dec. 16 Low­er House elec­tion.

    The gov­ern­ment and Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., the plant oper­a­tor, pre­sent­ed a road map on Dec. 21 last year that estab­lished land­marks for the even­tu­al decom­mis­sion­ing of the four reac­tors.

    Goals for the peri­od to spring 2013 includ­ed endo­scop­ic inspec­tions of the inte­ri­ors of reac­tor con­tain­ment ves­sels and a reduc­tion in the length of pipes used in the “cir­cu­lat­ing water cool­ing” sys­tem, which recy­cles radioac­tive water to cool down the melt­ed reac­tors.

    Endo­scope sur­veys of the con­tain­ment ves­sels at the No. 2 reac­tor in Jan­u­ary and the No. 1 reac­tor in Octo­ber found radi­a­tion lev­els high enough to kill a human with­in one hour. Specif­i­cal­ly, up to 73 siev­erts per hour was detect­ed inside the No. 2 reac­tor and 11 siev­erts per hour inside the No. 1 reac­tor.

    But TEPCO can­not deter­mine the state of the melt­ed fuel because cam­eras can only be insert­ed for a lim­it­ed time peri­od in the extreme­ly haz­ardous envi­ron­ment.

    One imme­di­ate prob­lem fac­ing TEPCO is the accu­mu­la­tion of radioac­tive water used to cool down the melt­ed fuel. TEPCO says it will mobi­lize robots and take oth­er mea­sures to locate where the radioac­tive water is leak­ing from the reac­tors.

    Stor­age tanks on the plan­t’s premis­es have a total capac­i­ty of 257,000 tons. As of Dec. 11, the tanks con­tained 237,000 tons of radioac­tive water.

    TEPCO plans to build addi­tion­al tanks on defor­est­ed land to expand the total capac­i­ty to 700,000 tons with­in three years.

    Ground­wa­ter flow­ing into the reac­tor build­ings is exac­er­bat­ing the radioac­tive water prob­lem. TEPCO said it will dig wells west of the reac­tor build­ings to pump up the ground­wa­ter and reduce the inflow, but lit­tle is known about ground­wa­ter flow vari­a­tions, sources said.

    The 4 kilo­me­ters of pipes in the “cir­cu­lat­ing water cool­ing” sys­tem were installed on a tem­po­rary basis in the fran­tic bat­tle to keep the melt­ed fuel sub­merged. They remain in the same state, and the risk of radioac­tive water leak­ing from dam­age on the pipes remains.

    TEPCO is prepar­ing full-scale oper­a­tions of a device that can elim­i­nate 62 vari­eties of radioac­tive sub­stances from the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water. But the device is still being test­ed for dura­bil­i­ty, and the gov­ern­men­t’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty has yet to give the green light for its use.

    Rub­ble has been removed from the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing, which was severe­ly dam­aged in a hydro­gen explo­sion in the ear­ly stages of the dis­as­ter and received rel­a­tive­ly light con­t­a­m­i­na­tion from radioac­tive sub­stances.

    TEPCO removed two nuclear fuel assem­blies from the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing’s stor­age pool on a tri­al basis in July. The assem­blies showed no signs of dam­age or defor­mi­ties, and the util­i­ty plans to start remov­ing the remain­ing fuel in Novem­ber 2013.

    Still, about 3,100 nuclear fuel assem­blies, includ­ing unspent ones, are now sit­ting in the stor­age pools of the No. 1 through No. 4 reac­tor build­ings.

    The amount of radioac­tive sub­stances released from the reac­tor build­ings has remained low since Feb­ru­ary. In Novem­ber, a max­i­mum of 10 mil­lion bec­querels were leak­ing from the No. 1 through No. 3 reac­tors per hour, only one-sixth the dis­charge rate in Decem­ber 2011.

    But Fumiya Tan­abe, a for­mer chief research sci­en­tist at the now-defunct Japan Atom­ic Ener­gy Research Insti­tute, said per­sis­tent dan­ger sur­rounds the plan­t’s reac­tors.

    “Despite the (offi­cial­ly declared) cold shut­downs of the reac­tors, the cool­ing func­tions have been main­tained there with no knowl­edge of where the melt­ed fuel lies and in what state,” Tan­abe said. “There is a risk of unfore­seen cir­cum­stances aris­ing if anoth­er major earth­quake hits.”

    Well, at least this should all be cleaned up in about 50 year. Although, if the Rock­et­dyne melt­down of 1959 is any indi­ca­tion of what to expect, it might take much longer:

    Radioac­tive hot spots remain at for­mer research facil­i­ty’s site
    A fed­er­al study shows hun­dreds of hot spots at the 2,850-acre facil­i­ty, over­look­ing the west San Fer­nan­do Val­ley, half a cen­tu­ry after a par­tial nuclear melt­down there
    Decem­ber 17, 2012|By Louis Sah­a­gun, Los Ange­les Times

    Half a cen­tu­ry after Amer­i­ca’s first par­tial nuclear melt­down, hun­dreds of radioac­tive hot spots remain at a for­mer research facil­i­ty over­look­ing the west San Fer­nan­do Val­ley, accord­ing to a recent­ly released fed­er­al study.


    Boe­ing spokes­woman Kama­ra Sams said her com­pa­ny wants to donate the prop­er­ty for use as “open space park­land” avail­able to nature enthu­si­asts, hik­ers, bik­ers, rock climbers and non­prof­its such as the Girl Scouts.


    Once home to 10 nuclear reac­tors and plu­to­ni­um- and ura­ni­um-car­bide fab­ri­ca­tion plants, the facil­i­ty also host­ed more than 30,000 rock­et engine tests as the near­by San Fer­nan­do and Simi val­leys were expe­ri­enc­ing a post­war pop­u­la­tion boom.

    The EPA sur­vey, three years in the mak­ing, col­lect­ed 3,735 soil and sed­i­ment sam­ples and 215 ground­wa­ter and sur­face water sam­ples. Each sam­ple was ana­lyzed for 54 radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­nants.

    The EPA says 423 of the sam­ples con­tained man-made radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­nants exceed­ing back­ground lev­els. Most of the con­t­a­m­i­nants were cesium-137 and stron­tium-90, both pow­er­ful car­cino­genic sub­stances.

    Most sam­ples exceed­ing back­ground lev­els were found in the sur­face soil at loca­tions known to be con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed, includ­ing where the par­tial melt­down occurred on the morn­ing of July 14, 1959. Details of that inci­dent, which spewed col­or­less and odor­less gas­es into the atmos­phere, were not dis­closed until 1979, when a group of UCLA stu­dents dis­cov­ered doc­u­ments and pho­tographs that referred to a prob­lem at the site involv­ing a “melt­ed blob.”

    Boe­ing said in a state­ment that the EPA sur­vey “over­whelm­ing­ly revealed no sur­pris­es or health haz­ards to our employ­ees, neigh­bors or peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty.”

    William Pre­ston Bowl­ing, founder of the Aero­space Con­t­a­m­i­na­tion Muse­um of Edu­ca­tion in Chatsworth, dis­agreed.

    “The good news is we now know how bad things are on the site,” Bowl­ing said. The bad news is that the high lev­els of con­t­a­m­i­nants were in an area that drains into the head­wa­ters of the Los Ange­les Riv­er, he said.

    A year ago, Boe­ing pre­vailed in a law­suit filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court to over­turn a 2007 state law that cre­at­ed stricter cleanup stan­dards for the facil­i­ty. A f

    The plan is to elim­i­nate man-made radioac­tive mate­ri­als with­in five years. But it may take decades longer to remove trichloroeth­yl­ene, a chem­i­cal that is used to wash rock­et motors, from the local aquifer, Boe­ing spokes­woman Sams said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 20, 2012, 2:37 pm
  34. It looks like the US nuclear indus­try’s plans to over­come pub­lic fears over the sig­nif­i­cant dan­gers of nuclear melt­downs is to cre­ate mini-nuclear reac­tors that can be con­fig­ured in a mod­u­lar fash­ion. The idea is viewed as a great way to increase US exports too. So, to put it anoth­er way, the US nuclear indus­try’s plans to allay pub­lic fears over the unfor­tu­nate release of radi­a­tion is to sell small­er, cheap­er nuclear reac­tors all over the world:

    1/15/2013 @ 8:19AM |3,162 views
    After Fukushi­ma, U.S. Seeks to Advance Small Nuclear Reac­tors

    Ken Sil­ver­stein, Con­trib­u­tor

    Two years ago, some thought that the nuclear ener­gy had been lev­eled. But the indus­try today is pick­ing up steam by get­ting con­struc­tion licens­es to build four new units and by get­ting gov­ern­ment fund­ing to devel­op small­er nuclear reac­tors that are less expen­sive and which may be less prob­lem­at­ic when it comes to win­ning reg­u­la­to­ry approval.

    The cre­ators of those rough­ly 100-megawatt elec­tric mod­ules want to sell their prod­ucts first in this coun­try before they would mar­ket them over­seas to less­er-devel­oped nations that don’t have a huge trans­mis­sion infra­struc­ture. They would be fac­to­ry-built before being shipped and fueled to where the ener­gy is need­ed. To the extent that more elec­tric gen­er­a­tion is required, no prob­lem: Just lay the small-scale mod­ules next to each oth­er, mak­ing the finan­cial out­lays more man­age­able.


    The right-sized reac­tors are expect­ed to oper­ate at high effi­cien­cies and to have built-in advan­tages, ulti­mate­ly giv­ing those invest­ments a respectable return. Such units, for exam­ple, gen­er­al­ly come with a nuclear waste stor­age con­tain­ment device. The facil­i­ties could also be used to cre­ate drink­able water sup­plies in those coun­tries where such a resource is in short sup­ply.

    Accord­ing to the San­dia Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, these small­er reac­tors would be fac­to­ry built and mass-assem­bled, with poten­tial pro­duc­tion of 50 a year. They would all have the exact same design, allow­ing for eas­i­er licens­ing and deploy­ment than large-scale facil­i­ties. Mass pro­duc­tion will keep the costs down to between $250 mil­lion and $500 mil­lion per unit.

    “This small reac­tor … could sup­ply ener­gy to remote areas and devel­op­ing coun­tries at low­er costs and with a man­u­fac­tur­ing turn­around peri­od of two years as opposed to sev­en for its larg­er rel­a­tives,” says Tom Sanders, who has been work­ing with San­dia. “It could also be a more prac­ti­cal means to imple­ment nuclear base-load capac­i­ty com­pa­ra­ble to nat­ur­al gas-fired gen­er­at­ing sta­tions and with more man­age­able finan­cial demands than a con­ven­tion­al pow­er plant.”

    In the case of San­dia, the right-sized reac­tors would gen­er­ate their own fuel as they oper­ate. They are designed to have an extend­ed oper­a­tional life and would only need to be refu­eled a few times dur­ing its pro­ject­ed 60-year lifes­pan. At the same time, the reac­tor sys­tem would have no need for fuel han­dling, all of which helps to alle­vi­ate pro­lif­er­a­tion con­cerns. Con­ven­tion­al nuclear pow­er plants in the U.S. have their reac­tors refu­eled once every 18 to 24 months.

    The issue that man­u­fac­tur­ers of small reac­tors have is that they are rely­ing on the ven­ture cap­i­tal com­mu­ni­ty to back their ideas. While they may be wor­thy, they must still endure years of reg­u­la­to­ry scruti­ny before they would get the per­mis­sion to be built in this coun­try. Investors don’t want to tie up their mon­ey for that long. That’s why the Ener­gy Depart­ment is get­ting involved.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 18, 2013, 12:58 pm
  35. Water water every­where, nor any drop to drink. Or store:

    More radioac­tive water leak­ing at Japan nuke plant
    By Mari Yam­aguchi, Asso­ci­at­ed Press 10:35a.m. EDT April 9, 2013

    TOKYO (AP) — The oper­a­tor of Japan’s crip­pled nuclear pow­er plant said Tues­day that it had detect­ed a fresh leak of radioac­tive water from one of the facil­i­ty’s stor­age tanks.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. pre­vi­ous­ly said two of sev­en huge under­ground tanks at the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant had been leak­ing since Sat­ur­day if not ear­li­er.

    The lat­est leak involves a tank that was being used to take water from one of the two that were leak­ing, TEPCO spokesman Masayu­ki Ono said. Up to 120 tons might have leaked from one of the tanks and small­er amount from the oth­er two, but none of the radioac­tive water was believed to have reached the ocean, he said.

    TEPCO has halt­ed the trans­fer of water to the third tank, divert­ing it to a fourth tank that remains intact. Two of the sev­en tanks are cur­rent­ly unused.

    Ono said TEPCO has decid­ed to stop using the two most dam­aged of the three leak­ing tanks as soon as they are emp­tied, but will use the oth­er because of a tank short­age.

    “We admit that the under­ground tanks are not reli­able,” Ono said. “But we must keep using some of them that are rel­a­tive­ly in good shape while mon­i­tor­ing them close­ly. We just don’t’ have enough tanks on the ground that can accom­mo­date the water.”

    The tanks are cru­cial to the man­age­ment of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water used to cool melt­ed fuel rods at the plan­t’s reac­tors, which were dam­aged in March 2011 by an earth­quake and tsuna­mi. They have since sta­bi­lized sig­nif­i­cant­ly but the melt­ed fuel inside must be kept cool with water, which leaks out of the reac­tors’ holes and rup­tures and flows into base­ment areas. Plant work­ers are scram­bling to find extra tanks at the plans and believe they can find space from unused con­tain­ers and under­ground tanks.

    The plant is being decom­mis­sioned but con­tin­ues to expe­ri­ence glitch­es. A fuel stor­age pool tem­porar­i­ly lost its cool­ing sys­tem Fri­day, less than a month after the plant suf­fered a more exten­sive out­age caused by a rat that short-cir­cuit­ed a switch­board, cut­ting off pow­er to four stor­age pools for fuel rods and oth­er key facil­i­ties.


    Ono said TEPCO has­n’t deter­mined the cause of the leak, but cit­ed a hole or a par­tial detach­ment of the lin­ings as a pos­si­bil­i­ty. Reg­u­la­tors also sus­pect a design prob­lem of the under­ground tanks, which TEPCO alleged­ly chose as cheap­er option to steel tanks to save mon­ey.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 9, 2013, 6:58 am
  36. This seems like it should be big­ger news:

    The New York Times
    Ex-Reg­u­la­tor Says Reac­tors Are Flawed
    Pub­lished: April 8, 2013

    WASHINGTON — All 104 nuclear pow­er reac­tors now in oper­a­tion in the Unit­ed States have a safe­ty prob­lem that can­not be fixed and they should be replaced with new­er tech­nol­o­gy, the for­mer chair­man of the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion said on Mon­day. Shut­ting them all down at once is not prac­ti­cal, he said, but he sup­ports phas­ing them out rather than try­ing to extend their lives.

    The posi­tion of the for­mer chair­man, Gre­go­ry B. Jaczko, is not unusu­al in that var­i­ous anti-nuclear groups take the same stance. But it is high­ly unusu­al for a for­mer head of the nuclear com­mis­sion to so blunt­ly crit­i­cize an indus­try whose safe­ty he was pre­vi­ous­ly in charge of ensur­ing.

    Asked why he did not make these points when he was chair­man, Dr. Jaczko said in an inter­view after his remarks, “I didn’t real­ly come to it until recent­ly.”

    “I was just think­ing about the issues more, and watch­ing as the indus­try and the reg­u­la­tors and the whole nuclear safe­ty com­mu­ni­ty con­tin­ues to try to fig­ure out how to address these very, very dif­fi­cult prob­lems,” which were made more evi­dent by the 2011 Fukushi­ma nuclear acci­dent in Japan, he said. “Con­tin­u­ing to put Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the prob­lem.”

    Dr. Jaczko made his remarks at the Carnegie Inter­na­tion­al Nuclear Pol­i­cy Con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton in a ses­sion about the Fukushi­ma acci­dent. Dr. Jaczko said that many Amer­i­can reac­tors that had received per­mis­sion from the nuclear com­mis­sion to oper­ate for 20 years beyond their ini­tial 40-year licens­es prob­a­bly would not last that long. He also reject­ed as unfea­si­ble changes pro­posed by the com­mis­sion that would allow reac­tor own­ers to apply for a sec­ond 20-year exten­sion, mean­ing that some reac­tors would run for a total of 80 years.

    Dr. Jaczko cit­ed a well-known char­ac­ter­is­tic of nuclear reac­tor fuel to con­tin­ue to gen­er­ate copi­ous amounts of heat after a chain reac­tion is shut down. That “decay heat” is what led to the Fukushi­ma melt­downs. The solu­tion, he said, was prob­a­bly small­er reac­tors in which the heat could not push the tem­per­a­ture to the fuel’s melt­ing point.


    Dr. Jaczko resigned as chair­man last sum­mer after months of con­flict with his four col­leagues on the com­mis­sion. He often vot­ed in the minor­i­ty on var­i­ous safe­ty ques­tions, advo­cat­ed more vig­or­ous safe­ty improve­ments, and was regard­ed with deep sus­pi­cion by the nuclear indus­try. A for­mer aide to the Sen­ate major­i­ty leader, Har­ry Reid of Neva­da, he was appoint­ed at Mr. Reid’s insti­ga­tion and was instru­men­tal in slow­ing progress on a pro­posed nuclear waste dump at Yuc­ca Moun­tain, about 100 miles from Las Vegas.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 9, 2013, 8:44 am
  37. The IAEA just warned Japan that it might take longer than 40 years to decom­mis­sion the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant. It’s one of the many bits of bad news that’s con­tin­u­ing to leak out of that dis­as­ter zone:

    ‘A very frag­ile sit­u­a­tion’: Leaks from Japan’s wrecked nuke plant raise fears
    By Ara­ta Yamamo­to and Ian John­ston, NBC News

    TOKYO — Like the per­sis­tent tap­ping of a des­per­ate SOS mes­sage, the updates keep com­ing. Day after day, the oper­a­tors of the wrecked Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi nuclear pow­er plant have been detail­ing their strug­gles to con­tain leaks of radioac­tive water.

    The leaks, pow­er out­ages and oth­er glitch­es have raised fears that the plant — dev­as­tat­ed by a tsuna­mi in March 2011 — could even start to break apart dur­ing a cleanup process expect­ed to take years.

    The sit­u­a­tion has also attract­ed the atten­tion of the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, which sent a team of experts to review the decom­mis­sion­ing effort last month. They warned Japan may need longer than the pro­ject­ed 40 years to clean up the site. A full report is expect­ed to be released lat­er this month.

    The dis­cov­ery of a green­ling fish near a water intake for the pow­er sta­tion in Feb­ru­ary that con­tained some 7,400 times the rec­om­mend­ed safe lim­it of radioac­tive cesium only served to height­en con­cern.

    There was also some reas­sur­ing news in Feb­ru­ary, when a report by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion said Fukushi­ma had caused “no dis­cernible increase in health risks” out­side Japan and “no observ­able increas­es in can­cer above nat­ur­al vari­a­tion” in most of the coun­try.

    But for the most affect­ed areas, the report said the life­time risks of var­i­ous can­cers were expect­ed to increase. For exam­ple, baby boys were pre­dict­ed to have up to a 7 per­cent greater chance of get­ting leukemia in their life­time and for baby girls the life­time risk of breast can­cer could be up to 6 per­cent high­er than nor­mal.

    Inde­pen­dent nuclear expert John Large — who has giv­en evi­dence on the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter to the U.K. par­lia­ment and writ­ten reports about it for Green­peace — said there would be hun­dreds of tons of “intense­ly radioac­tive” mate­r­i­al in the plant.

    He said nor­mal­ly robots could be sent in to remove the fuel rel­a­tive­ly eas­i­ly, but this was dif­fi­cult because of the dam­age caused by the tsuna­mi.

    Large said the plant was close to the water table, so it was dif­fi­cult to stop water get­ting in and out.

    “Until you can stop that trans­fer, you will not con­tain the radioac­tiv­i­ty. That will go on for years and years until they con­tain it,” he said. “The struc­tures of con­tain­ment start break­ing down. Engi­neered struc­tures don’t last long when they are put in adverse con­di­tions.”

    Larged added: “It may have some marked effect on the health of future gen­er­a­tions in Japan. What it will cre­ate is a Fukushi­ma gen­er­a­tion — like in Nagasa­ki and Hiroshi­ma — where girls par­tic­u­lar­ly will have dif­fi­cul­ty mar­ry­ing because of the stig­ma of being brought up in a radi­a­tion area.”

    Leaks into the sea would not only affect the marine envi­ron­ment, Large said, as tiny radioac­tive par­ti­cles would be washed up on the beach, dried in the sun and then blown over the sur­round­ing coun­try­side by the wind.

    Japan­ese activists are also wor­ried by the ongo­ing leaks from the plant.

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press report­ed that “runoff ... and a steady inflow of ground­wa­ter seep­ing into the base­ment of their dam­aged build­ings pro­duce about 400 tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water dai­ly at the plant.” Accord­ing to the plan­t’s oper­a­tor, 280,000 tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water has been stored in tanks there.

    Hisayo Taka­da, ener­gy cam­paign­er with Green­peace Japan, com­plained no real progress had been made.

    “It’s still a very frag­ile sit­u­a­tion and mea­sures imple­ment­ed by the gov­ern­ment and [pow­er com­pa­ny] TEPCO are only tem­po­rary solu­tions,” she said. “The issue with the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water is very seri­ous and we’re very con­cerned. And we’re very angry because it’s been two years and they’ve been say­ing that every­thing’s safe.

    Green­peace has been test­ing food sold in super­mar­kets, and to date has not found “radi­a­tion lev­els high­er than gov­ern­ment guide­lines,” Taka­da said.


    The nuclear indus­try in the U.S. argues its safe­ty stan­dards are high­er than at Fukushi­ma.

    Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Ener­gy Insti­tute, said it was “incred­i­bly unlike­ly” that a sim­i­lar acci­dent could hap­pen in the U.S.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 2, 2013, 2:47 pm
  38. They might want to recon­sid­er those restarts:

    Tep­co Finds Radioac­tive Water as Watch­dog Sets Restart Rules
    By Jacob Adel­man & Yuji Oka­da — Jun 19, 2013 2:34 AM CT

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (9501) found unsafe lev­els of radioac­tiv­i­ty in ground­wa­ter at its crip­pled Fukushi­ma sta­tion, even as Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor set the clock tick­ing on the restart of the nation’s idled reac­tors.

    The util­i­ty, known as Tep­co, detect­ed tri­tium lev­els of 500,000 bec­querels per liter and stron­tium lev­els of 1,000 bec­querels per liter at a mon­i­tor­ing well in its tur­bine com­plex at the Dai-ichi plant, it said in a state­ment today.

    Japan’s nuclear safe­ty guide­lines require tri­tium lev­els at nuclear plants to remain below 60,000 bec­querels per liter and stron­tium lev­els below 30 bec­querels per liter. Japan’s safe­ty lim­it for radioac­tive mate­ri­als in drink­ing water is 10 bec­querels per liter.

    The new find­ings by the util­i­ty, which has strug­gled with the han­dling of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water at Fukushi­ma, came as Japan’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty final­ized its new safe­ty guide­lines required for any nuclear plant restarts. All but two of Japan’s 50 reac­tors are idled for safe­ty assess­ments after the earth­quake and sub­se­quent tsuna­mi of March 11, 2011 caused melt­downs and radi­a­tion leaks at the Fukushi­ma plant. The NRA was set up after the dis­as­ter to inde­pen­dent­ly review Japan’s nuclear pow­er.

    The Fukushi­ma contamination’s spread seemed lim­it­ed, with a sep­a­rate mon­i­tor­ing well about 70 meters away show­ing tri­tium lev­els of 380 bec­querels per liter and stron­tium lev­els of 28 bec­querels per liter, accord­ing to the state­ment by the com­pa­ny.
    Ocean Water

    There was no appar­ent affect on the ocean water adja­cent to the sea­side plant, Toshi­hiko Fuku­da, gen­er­al man­ag­er for Tepco’s nuclear pow­er and plant sit­ing divi­sion, said at a press con­fer­ence today.i

    “Tri­tium con­cen­tra­tions in the sea water remain in the same range as before,” he said.


    While Tep­co hasn’t announced spe­cif­ic restart pro­pos­als, the resump­tion of four of sev­en reac­tors at its Kashi­waza­ki Kari­wa plant is cit­ed as part of a turn­around plan released in May 2012 that would return it to prof­it this fis­cal year.

    The tri­tium and stron­tium detec­tions at Tepco’s Fukushi­ma plant fol­lowed a gov­ern­ment order last month to build an under­ground wall to pre­vent ground­wa­ter from flow­ing into the base­ments of reac­tor build­ings. The plant site, 220 kilo­me­ters (137 miles) north­east of Tokyo, is run­ning out of space to store radioac­tive water, rais­ing con­cerns the oper­a­tor will be forced to dump it into the ocean.

    Also note that, while the stron­tium lev­els did­n’t appear to be changed from before the recent leaks were detect­ed, that’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly good news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 20, 2013, 12:18 pm
  39. In case any­one needs a reminder that the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter is still a full-scale mega-cat­a­stro­phe, here you go!

    Radioac­tive Water From Fukushi­ma Is Like­ly Leak­ing Into The Pacif­ic
    MARI YAMAGUCHI July 11, 2013, 10:46 AM

    TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor says radioac­tive water from the crip­pled Fukushi­ma pow­er plant is prob­a­bly leak­ing into the Pacif­ic Ocean, a prob­lem long sus­pect­ed by experts but denied by the plant’s oper­a­tor.

    Offi­cials from the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty said a leak is “strong­ly sus­pect­ed” and urged plant oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. to deter­mine where the water may be leak­ing from and assess the envi­ron­men­tal and oth­er risks, includ­ing the impact on the food chain. The watch­dog said Wednes­day it would form a pan­el of experts to look into ways to con­tain the prob­lem.

    The watchdog’s find­ings under­score TEPCO’s delayed response in deal­ing with a prob­lem that experts have long said exist­ed. On Wednes­day, the com­pa­ny con­tin­ued to raise doubts about whether a leak exists.

    TEPCO spokesman Noriyu­ki Imaizu­mi said the increase in cesium lev­els in mon­i­tor­ing well water sam­ples does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from the plant is leak­ing to the ocean. TEPCO was run­ning anoth­er test on water sam­ples and sus­pects ear­li­er spikes might have been caused by cesium-laced dust slip­ping into the sam­ples, he said. But he said TEPCO is open to the watchdog’s sug­ges­tions to take safe­ty steps.

    The Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant was rav­aged by the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi, and TEPCO has used mas­sive amounts of water to cool the dam­aged reac­tors since then. Repeat­ed leaks of the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water stored on site have ham­pered decom­mis­sion­ing efforts.

    Marine biol­o­gists have warned that the radioac­tive water may be leak­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly into the sea from under­ground, cit­ing high radioac­tiv­i­ty in fish sam­ples tak­en near the plant.

    Since May, TEPCO has report­ed spikes in cesium lev­els in under­ground water col­lect­ed from a coastal obser­va­tion pit, while the water-sol­u­ble ele­ment stron­tium showed high lev­els in sea­wa­ter sam­ples tak­en in areas just off the coast of the plant. The com­pa­ny says most of the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion has been there since the 2011 acci­dent.

    TEPCO has said it has detect­ed “no sig­nif­i­cant impact” on the envi­ron­ment. It says cesium tends to be absorbed in the soil, and denies water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with that ele­ment reached the sea.

    But the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty said Wednes­day that sam­ples from both the pit water and coastal sea­wa­ter indi­cat­ed that con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed under­ground water like­ly had reached the sea.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2013, 12:49 pm
  40. TEPCO is now admit­ting that radioac­tive water might be seep­ing into the ocean. This comes after repeat­ed past denials. So, while there’s radioac­tive water that’s prob­a­bly been con­tin­u­al­ly leak­ing into the ocean for the last two years and there appears to be lit­tle TEPCO can do about that, at least they’re now sort of admit­ting the obvi­ous. 21st cen­tu­ry progress:

    Japan plant radioac­tive water into sea like­ly
    — Jul. 22 9:42 AM EDT

    TOKYO (AP) — A Japan­ese util­i­ty said Mon­day its crip­pled Fukushi­ma nuclear plant is like­ly leak­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into sea, acknowl­edg­ing for the first time a prob­lem long sus­pect­ed by experts.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., which oper­ates the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant, also came under fire Mon­day for not dis­clos­ing ear­li­er that the num­ber of plant work­ers with thy­roid radi­a­tion expo­sures exceed­ing thresh­old lev­els for increased can­cer risks was 10 times what it said released ear­li­er.

    The delayed announce­ments under­scored the crit­i­cisms the com­pa­ny has faced over the Fukushi­ma cri­sis. TEPCO has been repeat­ed­ly blamed for over­look­ing ear­ly signs, and cov­er­ing up or delay­ing the dis­clo­sure of prob­lems and mishaps.

    Com­pa­ny spokesman Masayu­ki Ono told a reg­u­lar news con­fer­ence that plant offi­cials have come to believe that radioac­tive water that leaked from the wrecked reac­tors is like­ly to have seeped into the under­ground water sys­tem and escaped into sea.

    Nuclear offi­cials and experts have sus­pect­ed a leak from the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi since ear­ly in the cri­sis. Japan’s nuclear watch­dog said two weeks ago a leak was high­ly sus­pect­ed and ordered TEPCO to exam­ine the prob­lem.

    TEPCO had per­sis­tent­ly denied con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water reached the sea, despite spikes in radi­a­tion lev­els in under­ground and sea water sam­ples tak­en at the plant. The util­i­ty first acknowl­edged an abnor­mal increase in radioac­tive cesium lev­els in an obser­va­tion well near the coast in May and has since mon­i­tored water sam­ples.


    Ono said the radioac­tive ele­ments detect­ed in water sam­ples are believed to large­ly come from ini­tial leaks that have remained since ear­li­er in the cri­sis. He said the leak has stayed near the plant inside the bay, and offi­cials believe very lit­tle has spread fur­ther into the Pacif­ic Ocean.

    Marine biol­o­gists have warned that the radioac­tive water may be leak­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly into the sea from the under­ground, cit­ing high radioac­tiv­i­ty in fish sam­ples tak­en near the plant.

    Most fish and seafood from along the Fukushi­ma coast are barred from domes­tic mar­kets and exports.

    Ono said that an esti­mat­ed 1,972 plant work­ers, or 10 per­cent of those checked, had thy­roid expo­sure dos­es exceed­ing 100 mil­lisiev­erts — a thresh­old for increased risk of devel­op­ing can­cer — instead of the 178 based on checks of 522 work­ers report­ed to the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion last year.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 22, 2013, 8:11 am
  41. “Con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water could rise to the ground’s sur­face with­in three weeks”:

    Exclu­sive: Japan nuclear body says radioac­tive water at Fukushi­ma an ’emer­gency’

    By Antoni Slod­kows­ki and Mari Saito

    TOKYO | Mon Aug 5, 2013 8:24am EDT

    (Reuters) — High­ly radioac­tive water seep­ing into the ocean from Japan’s crip­pled Fukushi­ma nuclear plant is cre­at­ing an “emer­gency” that the oper­a­tor is strug­gling to con­tain, an offi­cial from the coun­try’s nuclear watch­dog said on Mon­day.

    This con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter has breached an under­ground bar­ri­er, is ris­ing toward the sur­face and is exceed­ing legal lim­its of radioac­tive dis­charge, Shin­ji Kin­jo, head of a Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Author­i­ty (NRA) task force, told Reuters.

    Coun­ter­mea­sures planned by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co are only a tem­po­rary solu­tion, he said.

    Tep­co’s “sense of cri­sis is weak,” Kin­jo said. “This is why you can’t just leave it up to Tep­co alone” to grap­ple with the ongo­ing dis­as­ter.

    “Right now, we have an emer­gency,” he said.

    Tep­co has been wide­ly cas­ti­gat­ed for its fail­ure to pre­pare for the mas­sive 2011 tsuna­mi and earth­quake that dev­as­tat­ed its Fukushi­ma plant and lam­bast­ed for its inept response to the reac­tor melt­downs. It has also been accused of cov­er­ing up short­com­ings.

    It was not imme­di­ate­ly clear how much of a threat the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter could pose. In the ear­ly weeks of the dis­as­ter, the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment allowed Tep­co to dump tens of thou­sands of met­ric tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water into the Pacif­ic in an emer­gency move.

    The tox­ic water release was how­ev­er heav­i­ly crit­i­cized by neigh­bor­ing coun­tries as well as local fish­er­men and the util­i­ty has since promised it would not dump irra­di­at­ed water with­out the con­sent of local town­ships.

    “Until we know the exact den­si­ty and vol­ume of the water that’s flow­ing out, I hon­est­ly can’t spec­u­late on the impact on the sea,” said Mit­suo Uemat­su from the Cen­ter for Inter­na­tion­al Col­lab­o­ra­tion, Atmos­phere and Ocean Research Insti­tute at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tokyo.

    “We also should check what the lev­els are like in the sea water. If it’s only inside the port and it’s not flow­ing out into the sea, it may not spread as wide­ly as some fear.”


    Tep­co said it is tak­ing var­i­ous mea­sures to pre­vent con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from leak­ing into the bay near the plant. In an e‑mailed state­ment to Reuters, a com­pa­ny spokesman said Tep­co deeply apol­o­gized to res­i­dents in Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture, the sur­round­ing region and the larg­er pub­lic for caus­ing incon­ve­niences, wor­ries and trou­ble.

    The util­i­ty pumps out some 400 met­ric tons a day of ground­wa­ter flow­ing from the hills above the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant into the base­ments of the destroyed build­ings, which mix­es with high­ly irra­di­at­ed water that is used to cool the reac­tors in a sta­ble state below 100 degrees Cel­sius.

    Tep­co is try­ing to pre­vent ground­wa­ter from reach­ing the plant by build­ing a “bypass” but recent spikes of radioac­tive ele­ments in sea water has prompt­ed the util­i­ty to reverse months of denials and final­ly admit that taint­ed water is reach­ing the sea.

    In a bid to pre­vent more leaks into the bay of the Pacif­ic Ocean, plant work­ers cre­at­ed the under­ground bar­ri­er by inject­ing chem­i­cals to hard­en the ground along the shore­line of the No. 1 reac­tor build­ing. But that bar­ri­er is only effec­tive in solid­i­fy­ing the ground at least 1.8 meters below the sur­face.

    By breach­ing the bar­ri­er, the water can seep through the shal­low areas of earth into the near­by sea. More seri­ous­ly, it is ris­ing toward the sur­face — a break of which would accel­er­ate the out­flow.

    “If you build a wall, of course the water is going to accu­mu­late there. And there is no oth­er way for the water to go but up or side­ways and even­tu­al­ly lead to the ocean,” said Masashi Goto, a retired Toshi­ba Corp nuclear engi­neer who worked on sev­er­al Tep­co plants. “So now, the ques­tion is how long do we have?”

    Con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water could rise to the ground’s sur­face with­in three weeks, the Asahi Shim­bun said on Sat­ur­day. Kin­jo said the three-week time­line was not based on NRA’s cal­cu­la­tions but acknowl­edged that if the water reach­es the sur­face, “it would flow extreme­ly fast.”

    A Tep­co offi­cial said on Mon­day the com­pa­ny plans to start pump­ing out a fur­ther 100 met­ric tons of ground­wa­ter a day around the end of the week.

    The reg­u­la­to­ry task force over­see­ing acci­dent mea­sures of the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er sta­tion, which met Fri­day, “con­clud­ed that new mea­sures are need­ed to stop the water from flow­ing into the sea that way,” Kin­jo said.

    Tep­co said on Fri­day that a cumu­la­tive 20 tril­lion to 40 tril­lion bec­querels of radioac­tive tri­tium had prob­a­bly leaked into the sea since the dis­as­ter. The com­pa­ny said this was with­in legal lim­its.

    Tri­tium is far less harm­ful than cesium and stron­tium, which have also been released from the plant. Tep­co is sched­uled to test stron­tium lev­els next.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 5, 2013, 8:20 am
  42. While the lat­est reports indi­cate that radi­a­tion lev­els around Fukushi­ma have been hold­ing steady (a sign, sci­en­tists say, that the sit­u­a­tion is clear­ly not under con­trol), it appears that the iso­topic dis­tri­b­u­tion of the radi­a­tion spew­ing out of Fukushi­ma is chang­ing. Less cesium, and more stron­tium. This isn’t a sign of progress:

    Fukushi­ma’s Radioac­tive Water Leak: What You Should Know

    Patrick J. Kiger

    Nation­al Geo­graph­ic News

    Pub­lished August 7, 2013

    Ten­sions are ris­ing in Japan over radioac­tive water leak­ing into the Pacif­ic Ocean from Japan’s crip­pled Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant, a breach that has defied the plant oper­a­tor’s effort to gain con­trol.

    Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe on Wednes­day called the mat­ter “an urgent issue” and ordered the gov­ern­ment to step in and help in the clean-up, fol­low­ing an admis­sion by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny that water is seep­ing past an under­ground bar­ri­er it attempt­ed to cre­ate in the soil. The head of a Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Author­i­ty task force told Reuters the sit­u­a­tion was an “emer­gency.” (See Pic­tures: The Nuclear Cleanup Strug­gle at Fukushi­ma.”)

    It marked a sig­nif­i­cant esca­la­tion in pres­sure for TEPCO, which has come under severe crit­i­cism since what many view as its belat­ed acknowl­edge­ment July 22 that con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water has been leak­ing for some time. The gov­ern­ment now says it is clear that 300 tons (71,895 gallons/272,152 liters) are pour­ing into the sea each day, enough to fill an Olympic-size swim­ming pool every eight days. (See relat­ed, “One Year After Fukushi­ma, Japan Faces Short­ages of Ener­gy, Trust.”) While Japan grap­ples with the prob­lem, here are some answers to basic ques­tions about the leaks:

    Q: How long has con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water been leak­ing from the plant into the Pacif­ic?

    Shu­nichi Tana­ka, head of Japan’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, has told reporters that it’s prob­a­bly been hap­pen­ing since an earth­quake and tsuna­mi touched off the dis­as­ter in March 2011. (See relat­ed: “Pho­tos: A Rare Look Inside Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi.”) Accord­ing to a report by the French Insti­tute for Radi­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion and Nuclear Safe­ty, that ini­tial break­down caused “the largest sin­gle con­tri­bu­tion of radionu­clides to the marine envi­ron­ment ever observed.” Some of that ear­ly release actu­al­ly was inten­tion­al, because TEPCO report­ed­ly had to dump 3 mil­lion gal­lons of water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with low lev­els of radi­a­tion into the Pacif­ic to make room in its stor­age ponds for more heav­i­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water that it need­ed to pump out of the dam­aged reac­tors so that it could try to get them under con­trol.

    But even after the imme­di­ate cri­sis eased, sci­en­tists have con­tin­ued to find radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in the waters off the plant. Ken Bues­sel­er, a senior sci­en­tist with the Woods Hole Oceano­graph­ic Insti­tu­tion who has ana­lyzed thou­sands of sam­ples of fish from the area, said he’s con­tin­ued to find the high lev­els of cesium-134, a radioac­tive iso­tope that decays rapid­ly. That indi­cates it’s still being released. “It’s get­ting into the ocean, no doubt about it,” he said. “The only news was that they final­ly admit­ted to this.” (See relat­ed: “Pho­tos: Japan’s Reac­tors Before And After.”)

    Q: How much and what sort of radi­a­tion is leak­ing from the plant into the Pacif­ic?

    TEPCO said Mon­day that radi­a­tion lev­els in its ground­wa­ter obser­va­tion hole on the east side of the tur­bine build­ings had reached 310 bec­querels per liter for cesium-134 and 650 bec­querels per liter for cesium-137. That marked near­ly a 15-fold increase from read­ings five days ear­li­er, and exceed­ed Japan’s pro­vi­sion­al emer­gency stan­dard of 60 bec­querels per liter for cesium radi­a­tion lev­els in drink­ing water. (Drink­ing water at 300 bec­querels per liter would be approx­i­mate­ly equiv­a­lent to one year’s expo­sure to nat­ur­al back­ground radi­a­tion, or 10 to 15 chest X‑rays, accord­ing to the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion. And it is far in excess of WHO’s guide­line advised max­i­mum lev­el of radioac­tiv­i­ty in drink­ing water, 10 bec­querels per liter.) Read­ings fell some­what on Tues­day. A sim­i­lar spike and fall pre­ced­ed TEPCO’s July admis­sion that it was grap­pling with leak­age of the radioac­tive water. (See relat­ed: “Would a New Nuclear Plant Fare Bet­ter than Fukushi­ma?”)

    Sci­en­tists who have been study­ing the sit­u­a­tion were not sur­prised by the rev­e­la­tion, since radi­a­tion lev­els in the sea around Japan have been hold­ing steady and not falling as they would if the sit­u­a­tion were under con­trol. In a 2012 study, Jota Kan­da, an oceanog­ra­ph­er at Toyko Uni­ver­si­ty of Marine Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, cal­cu­lat­ed that the plant is leak­ing 0.3 ter­abec­querels (tril­lion bec­querels) of cesium-137 per month and a sim­i­lar amount of cesium-134. While that num­ber sounds mind-bog­gling, it’s actu­al­ly thou­sands of times less than the lev­el of radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion that the plant was spew­ing in the imme­di­ate after­math of the dis­as­ter, esti­mat­ed to be from 5,000 to 15,000 ter­abec­querels, accord­ing to Bues­sel­er. For a com­par­i­son, the atom­ic bomb dropped on Hiroshi­ma released 89 ter­abec­querels of cesium-137 when it explod­ed. (See relat­ed: “Ani­mals Inher­it a Mixed Lega­cy at Cher­nobyl.”)

    Anoth­er poten­tial wor­ry: The make­up of the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al being leaked by the plant has changed. Bues­sel­er said the ini­tial leak had a high con­cen­tra­tion of cesium iso­topes, but the water flow­ing from the plant into the ocean now is like­ly to be pro­por­tion­al­ly much high­er in stron­tium-90, anoth­er radioac­tive sub­stance that is absorbed dif­fer­ent­ly by the human body and has dif­fer­ent risks. The tanks (on the plant site) have 100 times more stron­tium than cesium, Bues­sel­er said. He believes that the cesium is retained in the soil under the plant, while stron­tium and tri­tium, anoth­er radioac­tive sub­stance, are con­tin­u­ing to escape. (Relat­ed: “Japan’s Nuclear Refugees”)



    Q: Will seafood be con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by the leaks?

    As Buesseler’s research has shown, tests of local fish in the Fukushi­ma area still show high enough lev­els of radi­a­tion that the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment won’t allow them to be caught and sold for human consumption—a restric­tion that is cost­ing Japan­ese fish­er­men bil­lions of dol­lars a year in lost income. (But while floun­der, sea bass, and oth­er fish remained banned for radi­a­tion risk, in 2012 the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment did begin allow­ing sales of octo­pus and whelk, a type of marine snail, after tests showed no detectable amount of cesium con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.)

    Bues­sel­er thinks the risk is most­ly con­fined to local fish that dwell most­ly at the sea bot­tom, where radioac­tive mate­r­i­al set­tles. He says big­ger fish that range over long dis­tances in the ocean quick­ly lose what­ev­er cesium con­t­a­m­i­na­tion they’ve picked up. How­ev­er, the high­er con­cen­tra­tion of stron­tium-90 that is now in the out­flow pos­es a trick­i­er prob­lem, because it is a bone-seek­ing iso­tope. “Cesium is like salt—it goes in and out of your body quick­ly,” he explains. “Stron­tium gets into your bones.” While he’s still not too con­cerned that fish caught off the U.S. coast will be affect­ed, “stron­tium changes the equa­tion for Japan­ese fish­eries, as to when their fish will be safe to eat.” (See relat­ed blog, “Safe­ty Ques­tion on Fukushi­ma Anniver­sary: Should Plants of the Same Design Have Fil­tered Vents?”)

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 8, 2013, 11:04 am
  43. There was a seg­ment on Thom Hart­man­n’s show yes­ter­day where a guest from Beyond Nuclear dis­cussed the evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion around Fukushi­ma. The very alarm­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty was raised that the plan to freeze the ground around Fukushi­ma to trap the leak­ing water around a frozen wall might actu­al­ly be turn­ing the ground under­neath the dam­aged plant into radioac­tive quick­sand and threat­en­ing the entire struc­ture. So, with that in mind, check out the new plans:

    Japan Stud­ies Ice Wall to Halt Radioac­tive Water Leaks
    By Jacob Adel­man & Chisa­ki Watan­abe — Aug 14, 2013 2:11 AM CT

    Turn­ing soil into vir­tu­al per­mafrost with refrig­er­at­ed coolant piped through the earth was first used in the 1860s to shore up coal mines. One hun­dred and fifty years on, it’s the newest idea for con­tain­ing the Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter.

    At least 300 tons of water laced with radioac­tive par­ti­cles of cesium, stron­tium linked to bone can­cer, and tri­tium flow each day into the Pacif­ic Ocean from the crip­pled atom­ic sta­tion in Japan. The plan to con­tain the health threat is to build an under­ground con­tain­ment wall made of ice.

    After repeat­ed fail­ures to hold back water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by the 2011 dis­as­ter, plant oper­a­tor Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. (9501) is run­ning out of options to deal with what was called an “urgent prob­lem” by Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe last week for the first time. Deal­ing with the water leaks is an “emer­gency,” the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty said. Japan­ese tax­pay­ers already face an 11 tril­lion yen ($112 bil­lion) esti­mat­ed clean-up cost.

    Under­ground ice walls have been used to block radi­a­tion before, in an exper­i­ment at the for­mer site of the Oak Ridge Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Ten­nessee, which pro­duced plu­to­ni­um for atom­ic weapons, accord­ing to a report by Arc­tic Foun­da­tions Inc., an Alas­ka-based earth-freez­ing con­trac­tor.

    “It’s just some­times it’s the only sce­nario that will real­ly work,” said Joseph Sop­ko, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of More­trench, a Rock­away, New Jer­sey-based con­trac­tor spe­cial­ized on frozen-earth projects. “When noth­ing else will work, it just jumps out at you and says ‘Wow, it’s a freeze job.’”

    Long Wait

    The plan at Fukushi­ma has draw­backs: it won’t be com­plet­ed until 2015, and there’s no cost esti­mate yet. The envi­sioned wall of ice would run 1.4 kilo­me­ters (0.9 mile) under­ground, the world’s longest con­tin­u­ous stretch of arti­fi­cial­ly frozen earth, accord­ing to Japan’s nuclear acci­dent response office.

    Kaji­ma Corp. (1812), the con­struc­tion com­pa­ny that was the prin­ci­pal builder of the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, has been giv­en until March 31, 2014, to com­plete a fea­si­bil­i­ty study of the project.

    High­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water start­ed to accu­mu­late in base­ments of Fukushi­ma build­ings when crews began inject­ing tons of water into the reac­tors after the earth­quake and tsuna­mi on March 11, 2011, knocked out pow­er to cool­ing sys­tems.

    Ground­wa­ter then start­ed leak­ing into the base­ments, adding to the vol­ume of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water. In turn, radi­at­ed water seeped into ground­wa­ter, caus­ing radi­a­tion at near­by mon­i­tor­ing wells to spike. At least 300 tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter are thought to be flow­ing into the ocean from the plant each day, accord­ing to the Min­istry of Econ­o­my, Trade and Indus­try.

    Ice Wall

    Kajima’s pro­pos­al calls for engi­neers to sink ver­ti­cal pipes about a meter apart and between 20 and 40 meters deep into the ground around the struc­tures. Coolant would be cycled from on-site refrig­er­a­tor units into the pipes, where they would form a frozen wall to keep con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in and keep out any fresh water flow­ing down from near­by moun­tains. The gov­ern­ment antic­i­pates keep­ing the ground frozen for six years start­ing in July 2015.

    “We expect the walls will stem the flow of ground­wa­ter from the moun­tain side and also keep water inside the build­ings from leak­ing,” Tat­suya Shinkawa, direc­tor of the nuclear acci­dent response office in the Agency for Nat­ur­al-Resources and Ener­gy, said at an Aug. 7 press con­fer­ence.

    Gov­ern­ment offi­cials have not released a cost esti­mate for the project.

    Cool Cash?

    “The pro­pos­al to freeze the earth is noth­ing but a cash cow for the con­trac­tor,” said Richard McPher­son, a Cal­i­for­nia-based ener­gy and defense con­sul­tant who has researched the nuclear acci­dents at Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma. “The amount of ener­gy alone required to main­tain the coolant below freez­ing tem­per­a­ture is a waste.”

    Kaji­ma declined to com­ment on the cost of the project or any oth­er details, say­ing in an e‑mailed response that it has yet to start the fea­si­bil­i­ty study. Hiro­fu­mi Shi­ba­ta, also at the nuclear acci­dent response office, said the ener­gy require­ments were not yet known.

    A project of the scale being dis­cussed at the Fukushi­ma plant would require about 9.8 megawatts of pow­er to main­tain, accord­ing to Bernd Braun, a geot­ech­ni­cal con­sul­tant in Texas who works on ground-freez­ing projects. That’s enough elec­tric­i­ty to sup­ply about 3,300 Japan­ese house­holds, accord­ing to cal­cu­la­tions by Bloomberg.

    “This will require a hell of a refrig­er­a­tion sta­tion and a huge pow­er sup­ply,” Braun said in an e‑mail.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2013, 10:10 am
  44. Remem­ber of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment recent­ly inter­vened in the Fukushi­ma cleanup to announce that Tep­co had been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly under-report­ing the seri­ous­ness of the cri­sis? Well, here’s anoth­er report along those lines, although in this case it’s an inter­na­tion­al nuclear expert that’s warn­ing that the recent ele­vat­ed warn­ings by the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment aren’t ele­vat­ed enough:

    22 August 2013 Last updat­ed at 05:32 ET

    Fukushi­ma leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe’
    By Matt McGrath Envi­ron­ment cor­re­spon­dent, BBC News

    A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the cur­rent water leaks at Fukushi­ma are much worse than the author­i­ties have stat­ed.

    Mycle Schnei­der is an inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant who has pre­vi­ous­ly advised the French and Ger­man gov­ern­ments.

    He says water is leak­ing out all over the site and there are no accu­rate fig­ures for radi­a­tion lev­els.

    Mean­while the chair­man of Japan’s nuclear author­i­ty said that he feared there would be fur­ther leaks.

    The ongo­ing prob­lems at the Fukushi­ma plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (Tep­co) admit­ted that around 300 tonnes of high­ly radioac­tive water had leaked from a stor­age tank on the site.

    Note that pre­vi­ous reports indi­cat­ed that 300 tons of radioac­tive water was leak­ing EVERY DAY from the base­ment of the plant. The rea­son this lat­est leak of 300 tons of water is so dire is that this is a leak from an above ground water stor­age tank that is much more radioac­tive than the water leak­ing from the base­ment.


    Moment of cri­sis

    The Japan­ese nuclear ener­gy watch­dog raised the inci­dent lev­el from one to three on the inter­na­tion­al scale that mea­sures the sever­i­ty of atom­ic acci­dents.

    This was an acknowl­edge­ment that the pow­er sta­tion was in its great­est cri­sis since the reac­tors melt­ed down after the tsuna­mi in 2011.

    But some nuclear experts are con­cerned that the prob­lem is a good deal worse than either Tep­co or the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment are will­ing to admit.

    They are wor­ried about the enor­mous quan­ti­ties of water, used to cool the reac­tor cores, which are now being stored on site.

    Some 1,000 tanks have been built to hold the water. But these are believed to be at around 85% of their capac­i­ty and every day an extra 400 tonnes of water are being added.

    “The quan­ti­ties of water they are deal­ing with are absolute­ly gigan­tic,” said Mycle Schnei­der, who has con­sult­ed wide­ly for a vari­ety of organ­i­sa­tions and coun­tries on nuclear issues.

    “What is the worse is the water leak­age every­where else — not just from the tanks. It is leak­ing out from the base­ments, it is leak­ing out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can mea­sure that.

    “It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse,” said Mr Schnei­der, who is lead author for the World Nuclear Indus­try sta­tus reports.

    At news con­fer­ence, the head of Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tion author­i­ty Shu­nichi Tana­ka appeared to give cre­dence to Mr Schnei­der’s con­cerns, say­ing that he feared there would be fur­ther leaks.

    “We should assume that what has hap­pened once could hap­pen again, and pre­pare for more. We are in a sit­u­a­tion where there is no time to waste,” he told reporters.

    The lack of clar­i­ty about the water sit­u­a­tion and the con­tin­ued attempts by Tep­co to deny that water was leak­ing into the sea has irri­tat­ed many researchers.

    Dr Ken Bues­sel­er is a senior sci­en­tist at Woods Hole Oceano­graph­ic Insti­tu­tion who has exam­ined the waters around Fukushi­ma.

    “It is not over yet by a long shot, Cher­nobyl was in many ways a one week fire-explo­sive event, noth­ing with the poten­tial of this right on the ocean.”

    “We’ve been say­ing since 2011 that the reac­tor site is still leak­ing whether that’s the build­ings and the ground water or these new tank releas­es. There’s no way to real­ly con­tain all of this radioac­tive water on site.”

    “Once it gets into the ground water, like a riv­er flow­ing to the sea, you can’t real­ly stop a ground water flow. You can pump out water, but how many tanks can you keep putting on site?”

    Sev­er­al sci­en­tists also raised con­cerns about the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of the huge amount of stored water on site to anoth­er earth­quake.

    New health con­cerns

    The stor­age prob­lems are com­pound­ed by the ingress of ground water, run­ning down from the sur­round­ing hills. It mix­es with radioac­tive water leak­ing out of the base­ments of the reac­tors and then some of it leach­es into the sea, despite the best efforts of Tep­co to stem the flow.

    Some of the radioac­tive ele­ments like cae­sium that are con­tained in the water can be fil­tered by the earth. Oth­ers are man­ag­ing to get through and this wor­ries watch­ing experts.

    “Our biggest con­cern right now is if some of the oth­er iso­topes such as stron­tium 90 which tend to be more mobile, get through these sed­i­ments in the ground water,” said Dr Bues­sel­er.

    “They are enter­ing the oceans at lev­els that then will accu­mu­late in seafood and will cause new health con­cerns.”

    There are also wor­ries about the spent nuclear fuel rods that are being cooled and stored in water pools on site. Mycle Schnei­der says these con­tain far more radioac­tive cae­sium than was emit­ted dur­ing the explo­sion at Cher­nobyl.

    “There is absolute­ly no guar­an­tee that there isn’t a crack in the walls of the spent fuel pools. If salt water gets in, the steel bars would be cor­rod­ed. It would basi­cal­ly explode the walls, and you can­not see that; you can’t get close enough to the pools,” he said.


    “The Japan­ese have a prob­lem ask­ing for help. It is a big mis­take; they bad­ly need it.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 22, 2013, 1:05 pm
  45. There are reports that the radioac­tiv­i­ty lev­els of the of the water leak­ing from the stor­age tanks around Fukushi­ma have sud­den­ly spiked to 1800 mil­lisiev­erts, from a report­ed 100 mil­lisiev­erts last week. 1800 mil­lisiev­erts is enough to kill a per­son after four hours of expo­sure and this is a leak from one of the 1000 stor­age tanks used to hold the water in need of treat­ment so it’s a sign of how dan­ger­ous the envi­ron­ment is for the work­ers on site. The 18-fold jump in radi­a­tion lev­els does­n’t appear to be due to a sud­den new leak, though. Instead, we’re learn­ing that the 100 mil­li­seivert lev­el report­ed last week was also the max­i­mum amount they could mea­sure with the equip­ment used at the time. It’s the lat­est change in a sit­u­a­tion that looks to be like­ly to con­tin­ue evolv­ing for many years to come:

    Fukushi­ma’s radioac­tive ocean plume due to reach US waters in 2014
    Jere­my Hsu Live­Science

    Aug. 31, 2013 at 1:49 PM ET

    A radioac­tive plume of water in the Pacif­ic Ocean from Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear plant, which was crip­pled in the 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi, will like­ly reach U.S. coastal waters start­ing in 2014, accord­ing to a new study. The long jour­ney of the radioac­tive par­ti­cles could help researchers bet­ter under­stand how the ocean’s cur­rents cir­cu­late around the world.

    Ocean sim­u­la­tions showed that the plume of radioac­tive cesium-137 released by the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter in 2011 could begin flow­ing into U.S. coastal waters start­ing in ear­ly 2014 and peak in 2016. Luck­i­ly, two ocean cur­rents off the east­ern coast of Japan — the Kuroshio Cur­rent and the Kuroshio Exten­sion — has dilut­ed the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al so much that its con­cen­tra­tion fell well below the World Health Organization’s safe­ty lev­els with­in four months of the Fukushi­ma inci­dent. But it could have been a dif­fer­ent sto­ry if nuclear dis­as­ter struck on the oth­er side of Japan.

    “The envi­ron­men­tal impact could have been worse if the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water would have been released in anoth­er ocean­ic envi­ron­ment in which the cir­cu­la­tion was less ener­getic and tur­bu­lent,” said Vin­cent Rossi, an oceanog­ra­ph­er and post­doc­tor­al research fel­low at the Insti­tute for Cross-Dis­ci­pli­nary Physics and Com­plex Sys­tems in Spain.

    Fukushima’s radioac­tive water release has tak­en its time jour­ney­ing across the Pacif­ic. By com­par­i­son, atmos­pher­ic radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma plant began reach­ing the U.S. West Coast with­in just days of the dis­as­ter back in 2011. [Fukushi­ma Radi­a­tion Leak: 5 Things You Should Know]


    Jour­ney across the Pacif­ic Rim
    The team focused on pre­dict­ing the path of the radioac­tiv­i­ty until it reached the con­ti­nen­tal shelf waters stretch­ing from the U.S. coast­line to about 180 miles (300 kilo­me­ters) off­shore. About 10 to 30 bec­querels (units of radioac­tiv­i­ty rep­re­sent­ing decay per sec­ond) per cubic meter of cesium-137 could reach U.S. and Cana­di­an coastal waters north of Ore­gon between 2014 and 2020. (Such lev­els are far below the U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s lim­its for drink­ing water.)

    By com­par­i­son, California’s coast may receive just 10 to 20 bec­querels per cubic meter from 2016 to 2025. That slow­er, less­er impact comes from Pacif­ic cur­rents tak­ing part of the radioac­tive plume down below the ocean sur­face on a slow­er jour­ney toward the Cal­i­forn­ian coast, Rossi explained.

    A large pro­por­tion of the radioac­tive plume from the ini­tial Fukushi­ma release won’t even reach U.S. coastal waters any­time soon. Instead, the major­i­ty of the cesium-137 will remain in the North Pacif­ic gyre — a region of ocean that cir­cu­lates slow­ly clock­wise and has trapped debris in its cen­ter to form the “Great Pacif­ic Garbage Patch” — and con­tin­ue to be dilut­ed for approx­i­mate­ly a decade fol­low­ing the ini­tial Fukushi­ma release in 2011. (The water from the cur­rent pow­er plant leak would be expect­ed to take a sim­i­lar long-term path to the ini­tial plume released, Rossi said.)

    But the plume will even­tu­al­ly begin to escape the North Pacif­ic gyre in an even more dilut­ed form. About 25 per­cent of the radioac­tiv­i­ty ini­tial­ly released will trav­el to the Indi­an Ocean and South Pacif­ic over two to three decades after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, the mod­el showed.

    That’s right, the Great Pacif­ic Garbage Patch is slow­ly becom­ing the Great Radioac­tive Pacif­ic Garbage Patch (because Cap­tain Plan­et just has it too easy).

    Also recall that the dilu­tion of radioac­tive par­ti­cles in the ocean does­n’t mean it’s also going to get dilut­ed in the wildlife. ‘Bioac­cu­mu­la­tion is the gift that keeps on giv­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 2, 2013, 2:51 pm
  46. It’s final­ly here: Radi­a­tion from the orig­i­nal 2011 Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter has final­ly trav­eled across the ocean to reach the shores of North Amer­i­ca. But it’s also at minis­cule lev­els so you’re very unlike­ly to notice its here unless you hap­pen to be car­ry­ing a Geiger counter at the beach.

    So tak­ing a dip in the ocean should­n’t real­ly be a con­cern at this point. And it nev­er real­ly was unless you hap­pened to be swim­ming around Fukushi­ma. It was always that post-swim snack that was going to be more of poten­tial con­cern for peo­ple liv­ing out­side of Japan. Espe­cial­ly if your snack spent some time swim­ming around Fukushi­ma;

    The Inde­pen­dent
    Food from Fukushi­ma could be hit­ting Britain’s shelves through legal safe­ty loop­hole

    Tom Baw­den Author Biog­ra­phy

    Mon­day 13 April 2015

    Food pro­duced around the Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter site could be mak­ing its way on to British shelves because of loop­holes in safe­ty rules, The Inde­pen­dent can reveal.

    Prod­ucts con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by radi­a­tion, includ­ing tea, noo­dles and choco­late bars, have already been export­ed from Japan under the cov­er of false labelling by fraud­sters.

    Experts warned that Britain’s food reg­u­la­tions were not strong enough to pre­vent these kinds of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed prod­ucts – which are fraud­u­lent­ly marked as com­ing from radi­a­tion-free regions of Japan – from enter­ing the UK. This rais­es the prospect of mild­ly car­cino­genic ingre­di­ents enter­ing the food sys­tem.

    The alarm is being sound­ed after Tai­wanese inves­ti­ga­tors uncov­ered more than 100 radioac­tive food prod­ucts which had been pro­duced in Fukushi­ma but false­ly pack­aged to give their ori­gin as Tokyo.

    There is no firm evi­dence that any radioac­tive food has entered the UK, but experts say there is a risk, and prod­ucts could already have arrived.

    “I sus­pect what has hap­pened in Tai­wan might well have already hap­pened in the UK. Inter­me­di­ary sup­ply chain mid­dle­men can buy food in bulk and pack­age and label as they like – before ship­ping them to the UK,” said Alas­tair Marke, a fel­low at the Roy­al Soci­ety of Arts and prin­ci­pal advis­er in Lon­don to Shan­talla, a food safe­ty con­sul­tan­cy.

    “Although we have adopt­ed one of the world’s most com­pre­hen­sive and strin­gent trace­abil­i­ty laws, the UK has vir­tu­al­ly no con­trol over how foods are processed, man­u­fac­tured and pack­aged in Japan.”

    Any food pro­duced for export in the “dan­ger zone” around Fukushi­ma, in north­ern Japan, must be declared as such so that it can be test­ed for radi­a­tion before leav­ing the coun­try and again when it reach­es the UK bor­der.

    But the sys­tem is pred­i­cat­ed on hon­est cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and evi­dence has emerged that fraud­sters are abus­ing the sit­u­a­tion by pass­ing Fukushi­ma foods off as com­ing from else­where in the coun­try.

    The reac­tor melt­down at the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant in 2011 sent sub­stan­tial amounts of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al into the atmos­phere. Some of this has land­ed on the sur­face of foods such as fruits, veg­eta­bles and ani­mal feed, while radioac­tiv­i­ty can build up with­in pro­duce over time as “radionu­clides” are trans­ferred through soil into crops or ani­mals.

    Experts say there is lit­tle to stop sim­i­lar prod­ucts being shipped to the UK. “There is a risk that radioac­tive food is get­ting on to the UK mar­ket,” said Eoghan Daly, of the Insti­tute of Food Safe­ty Integri­ty and Pro­tec­tion. The poten­tial health impact of con­sum­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed food is rel­a­tive­ly low but not entire­ly neg­li­gi­ble, he added.

    Accord­ing to the World Health Organ­i­sa­tion, the biggest dan­ger comes from the radioac­tive iso­tope cae­sium, which can linger in the sys­tem for decades and increas­es the risk of can­cer – although experts say that the lev­el of cae­sium in radioac­tive foods from the Fukushi­ma region are typ­i­cal­ly very low.


    Aha, so:

    Any food pro­duced for export in the “dan­ger zone” around Fukushi­ma, in north­ern Japan, must be declared as such so that it can be test­ed for radi­a­tion before leav­ing the coun­try and again when it reach­es the UK bor­der.

    But the sys­tem is pred­i­cat­ed on hon­est cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and evi­dence has emerged that fraud­sters are abus­ing the sit­u­a­tion by pass­ing Fukushi­ma foods off as com­ing from else­where in the coun­try.

    Well, it all sounds like one more rea­son for not just the UK but nations every­where to have rig­or­ous food-import screen­ing regimes as the glob­al­iza­tion of the food sup­ply makes it hard­er and hard­er of nations to keep track of where their food is com­ing from. Bet­ter safe than sor­ry!.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 14, 2015, 6:27 pm
  47. With the US Sen­ate hav­ing just passed a bill to grant Pres­i­dent Oba­ma Trade Pro­mo­tion Author­i­ty, the prospect of trade agree­ments effec­tive­ly becom­ing the high­est laws in the land, glob­al­ly, over the next 6 years is now very much a real­i­ty.

    So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of fun fea­tures we should expect from a world where “free trade” gets ele­vat­ed to the lev­el of some sort of cos­mi­cal­ly man­dat­ed force. Fun fea­tures like the free­dom to export your food to nations that don’t want it because they’re wor­ried that it might be radioac­tive. That kind of free­dom:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    Japan Takes Food Spat With South Korea to WTO
    Fol­lows fears of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of cer­tain foods fol­low­ing Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear melt­down

    By Matthew Dal­ton and Yuka Hayashi
    Updat­ed May 21, 2015 7:57 a.m. ET

    BRUSSELS—Japan brought a com­plaint against South Korea on Thurs­day at the World Trade Orga­ni­za­tion over import restric­tions on Japan­ese food that Tokyo says vio­late inter­na­tion­al trade rules.

    South Korea put the mea­sures in place after the 2011 tsuna­mi that caused the melt­down of the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear reac­tor. The mea­sures ban some prod­ucts and require addi­tion­al test­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Japan­ese food because of fears that it could be con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radi­a­tion.


    South Korea’s trade min­istry on Thurs­day defend­ed the restric­tions on Japan­ese food.

    “The gov­ern­ment will explain in future con­sul­ta­tions with Japan that import restric­tions have been placed to secure the safe­ty of peo­ple,” the min­istry in Seoul said in a brief state­ment issued Thurs­day evening.

    Japan has for years pressed coun­tries to aban­don trade restric­tions on Japan­ese food imposed after the Fukushi­ma acci­dent released radioac­tive mate­r­i­al that was detectable thou­sands of miles away. Mon­i­tor­ing of food pro­duced in the Fukushi­ma region has found that by 2014, less than 1% was con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radi­a­tion above Japan­ese food-safe­ty lim­its.

    The com­plaint will prompt Japan and Korea to hold dis­cus­sions at the WTO, the Gene­va-based arbiter of trade dis­putes. If they can’t resolve the dis­pute after 60 days, Japan can ask the WTO to assem­ble a pan­el of trade experts to rule on its com­plaint.

    “If they can’t resolve the dis­pute after 60 days, Japan can ask the WTO to assem­ble a pan­el of trade experts to rule on its com­plaint.”

    In oth­er fun food news, if you have an expired pack­age of Nestle’s “Mag­gi” brand noo­dles sold in India, there’s a whole new rea­son to give it a pass after food inspec­tors found sev­en times the allow­able lev­els of lead in all the test­ed pack­ages that were man­u­fac­tured in Feb 2014. Although if expired noo­dles are the best food option you have, Nes­tle does­n’t seem too con­cerned about it all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 21, 2015, 11:42 am
  48. It looks like TEPCO has final­ly arrived at a medi­um-term solu­tion for deal­ing with it’s grow­ing prob­lem of where to store the 300 tons of radioac­tive water that it’s gen­er­at­ing each day by pump­ing it out of the reac­tor build­ing base­ments. The solu­tion should cut in half that dai­ly buildup of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water and it’s very sim­ple and ele­gant: It’s the ol’ “pump and dump” scheme. Pump 300 tons of water from the reac­tor base­ments, treat it for radi­a­tion (hope­ful­ly), and them dump around 150 tons into the ocean. Every day:

    The Japan Times
    Fish­er­men OK Tepco’s plan to dump Fukushi­ma plant water into sea


    Aug 25, 2015

    FUKUSHIMA – Fish­er­men in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture on Tues­day approved a plan by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co. to take con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter con­tin­u­ous­ly flow­ing into the strick­en Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant and dump it into the ocean after remov­ing almost all radioac­tive mate­ri­als from it.

    The plan is one of Tepco’s key mea­sures aimed at curb­ing the amount of tox­ic water buildup at the com­plex. Local fish­er­men had long opposed the plan amid con­cern it would pol­lute the ocean and con­t­a­m­i­nate marine life.

    “I don’t know if it’s accept­able for all fish­ery oper­a­tors, but sta­ble work of decom­mis­sion­ing (of the Fukushi­ma plant) is nec­es­sary for the revival of Fukushima’s fish­ery indus­try,” Tet­su Noza­ki, chair­man of the Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­tur­al Fed­er­a­tion of Fish­eries Co-oper­a­tive Asso­ci­a­tions, told reporters after a board meet­ing.

    He also called on Tep­co to ensure it will only dis­charge water which does not con­tain radioac­tive mate­ri­als exceed­ing the legal­ly allowed lim­it.

    The amount of tox­ic water is pil­ing up every day. Taint­ed ground­wa­ter is seep­ing into the reac­tor build­ings and mix­ing with radioac­tive water gen­er­at­ed through cool­ing the reac­tors that suf­fered melt­downs fol­low­ing the March 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi.

    By pump­ing up water through drainage wells and dump­ing it into the ocean after treat­ment, Tep­co said it will be able to halve some 300 tons of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water being gen­er­at­ed each day.


    Tep­co has been strug­gling to resolve the prob­lem of tox­ic water buildup at the plant since 2011, with radi­a­tion leak­ages into the envi­ron­ment still occur­ring reg­u­lar­ly at the Fukushi­ma com­plex.

    The com­pa­ny is also behind sched­ule on a project to build a huge under­ground ice wall, anoth­er key mea­sure to pre­vent radioac­tive water from fur­ther increas­ing at the site.

    So until all the melt­ed cores are extract­ed and dealt with, it looks like the ocean dump­ing of treat­ed water pumped out of those reac­tor build­ings is now the offi­cial plan (as opposed to the unof­fi­cial plan). So let’s hope those radi­a­tion scrub­bers remain ful­ly oper­a­tional...for the next few decades or so.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 25, 2015, 1:28 pm
  49. Here’s a reminder that radi­a­tion is very far from the only pol­lu­tant you might find if your fish sticks: Researchers from the Scripps Insti­tu­tion of Oceanog­ra­phy recent­ly took a at a broad array of stud­ies exam­in­ing the lev­els of pol­lu­tion in ocean life and found that, while per­sis­tent organ­ic pol­lu­tants (POPs) with a ten­den­cy to stick around for long peri­ods con­tin­ue to con­t­a­m­i­nate fish pop­u­la­tions from around the globe, impact­ing vir­tu­al­ly every species, the lev­els of pol­lu­tants are still only about half of what was found a gen­er­a­tion. So, all in all, it was pret­ty bad news, but rel­a­tive­ly good bad news:

    CBW News

    Tox­ic pol­lu­tants found in fish across the world’s oceans

    By Bri­an Mas­troian­ni
    Feb­ru­ary 1, 2016, 7:34 AM

    When you go out for seafood, are you aware of what that fish on your plate might have been exposed to while swim­ming around in the world’s oceans? Accord­ing to new research, fish pop­u­la­tions around the world have been con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with indus­tri­al and agri­cul­tur­al pol­lu­tants known as per­sis­tent organ­ic pol­lu­tants (POPs).

    Researchers from the Scripps Insti­tu­tion of Oceanog­ra­phy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego exam­ined hun­dreds of peer-reviewed reports that stretched from 1969 through 2012. Some of the pol­lu­tants that were iden­ti­fied in the study includ­ed 20th cen­tu­ry “lega­cy” tox­ins like DDT, which is banned in the U.S. and no longer wide­ly used world­wide, and mer­cury, as well as more con­tem­po­rary pol­lu­tants like coolants and oth­er indus­tri­al chem­i­cals like flame retar­dants.

    “Based on the best data col­lect­ed from across the globe, we can say that POPs can be any­where and in any species of marine fish,” study co-author Stu­art Sandin said in a press release.

    How­ev­er, there were some signs of improve­ment. The researchers found that the con­cen­tra­tions of pol­lu­tants con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing fish pop­u­la­tions have been drop­ping at a con­sis­tent rate over the past 30 years.

    The study found that the aver­age con­cen­tra­tions of each class of POP were much high­er back in the 1980s than today. Con­cen­tra­tions of these tox­ic mate­ri­als in the world’s oceans dropped about 15 to 30 per­cent each decade.

    “This means that the typ­i­cal fish that you con­sume today can have approx­i­mate­ly 50 per­cent of the con­cen­tra­tion of most POPs when com­pared to the same fish eat­en by your par­ents at your age,” lead author Lind­say Boni­to said. “But there still remains a chance of get­ting a fil­let as con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed as what your par­ents ate.”

    By com­par­ing results of this research to fed­er­al safe­ty guide­lines for seafood con­sump­tion, the research team found that the aver­age lev­el of con­t­a­m­i­nants were either at or below U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) health stan­dards. The over­all decline in lev­els of tox­ic sub­stances in the world’s oceans sug­gests that the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty at large has made progress in improv­ing the con­di­tions of marine life over the past decades.


    “This means that the typ­i­cal fish that you con­sume today can have approx­i­mate­ly 50 per­cent of the con­cen­tra­tion of most POPs when com­pared to the same fish eat­en by your par­ents at your age...But there still remains a chance of get­ting a fil­let as con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed as what your par­ents ate.”
    Well, it could be worse! Just imag­ine how pol­lut­ed the oceans would be if the inad­e­quate efforts in recent decades to con­trol ocean pol­lu­tion weren’t even done at all. You go from pol­lut­ed fish to no fish. So at least things appear to be get­ting some­what bet­ter on that front.

    And now here’s a recent study that’s a reminder that the health of the oceans does­n’t sim­ply depend on stop­ping ocean pol­lu­tion. Because if we don’t also stop pol­lut­ing the atmos­phere with green­house gas­es, you could have the clean­est oceans in his­to­ry and still have a lot of dead fish:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post

    Large Swaths Of The Pacif­ic Ocean May Actu­al­ly Suf­fo­cate In Just 15 Years

    Take a wild guess what the cul­prit is.
    04/28/2016 11:52 pm ET

    Chris D’Angelo
    Asso­ciate Edi­tor, Huff­Post Hawaii

    It should come as no sur­prise that human activ­i­ty is caus­ing the world’s oceans to warm, rise and acid­i­fy.

    But an equal­ly trou­bling impact of cli­mate change is that it is begin­ning to rob the oceans of oxy­gen.

    While ocean deoxy­gena­tion is well estab­lished, a new study led by Matthew Long, an oceanog­ra­ph­er at the Nation­al Cen­ter for Atmos­pher­ic Research, finds that cli­mate change-dri­ven oxy­gen loss is already detectable in cer­tain swaths of ocean and will like­ly be “wide­spread” by 2030 or 2040.

    Ulti­mate­ly, Long told The Huff­in­g­ton Post, oxy­gen-deprived oceans may have “sig­nif­i­cant impacts on marine ecosys­tems” and leave some areas of ocean all but unin­hab­it­able for cer­tain species.

    While some ocean crit­ters, like dol­phins and whales, get their oxy­gen by sur­fac­ing, many, includ­ing fish and crabs, rely on oxy­gen that either enters the water from the atmos­phere or is released by phy­to­plank­ton via pho­to­syn­the­sis.

    But as the ocean sur­face warms, it absorbs less oxy­gen. And to make mat­ters worse, oxy­gen in warmer water, which is less dense, has a tough time cir­cu­lat­ing to deep­er waters.

    For their study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Glob­al Bio­geo­chem­i­cal Cycles, Long and his team used sim­u­la­tions to pre­dict ocean deoxy­gena­tion through 2100.

    “Since oxy­gen con­cen­tra­tions in the ocean nat­u­ral­ly vary depend­ing on vari­a­tions in winds and tem­per­a­ture at the sur­face, it’s been chal­leng­ing to attribute any deoxy­gena­tion to cli­mate change,” Long said in a state­ment. “This new study tells us when we can expect the impact from cli­mate change to over­whelm the nat­ur­al vari­abil­i­ty.”

    And we don’t have long.

    By 2030 or 2040, accord­ing to the study, deoxy­gena­tion due to cli­mate change will be detectable in large swaths of the Pacif­ic Ocean, includ­ing the areas sur­round­ing Hawaii and off the West Coast of the U.S. main­land. Oth­er areas have more time. In the seas near the east coasts of Africa, Aus­tralia, and South­east Asia, for exam­ple, deoxy­gena­tion caused by cli­mate change still won’t be evi­dent by 2100.

    Long said the even­tu­al suf­fo­ca­tion may affect the abil­i­ty of ocean ecosys­tems to sus­tain healthy fish­eries. The con­cern among the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty, he said, is that “we’re con­ceiv­ably push­ing past tip­ping points” in being able to pre­vent the dam­age.

    Michael Mann, a cli­mate sci­en­tist at Penn State Uni­ver­si­ty, shared these con­cerns, telling The Wash­ing­ton Post that the new study adds to the “list of insults we are inflict­ing on the ocean through our con­tin­ued burn­ing of fos­sil fuels.”
    “Just a week after learn­ing that 93 (per­cent) of the Great Bar­ri­er Reef has expe­ri­enced bleach­ing in response to the unprece­dent­ed cur­rent warmth of the oceans, we have yet anoth­er rea­son to be grave­ly con­cerned about the health of our oceans, and yet anoth­er rea­son to pri­or­i­tize the rapid decar­boniza­tion of our econ­o­my,” Mann said.


    “By 2030 or 2040, accord­ing to the study, deoxy­gena­tion due to cli­mate change will be detectable in large swaths of the Pacif­ic Ocean, includ­ing the areas sur­round­ing Hawaii and off the West Coast of the U.S. main­land. Oth­er areas have more time. In the seas near the east coasts of Africa, Aus­tralia, and South­east Asia, for exam­ple, deoxy­gena­tion caused by cli­mate change still won’t be evi­dent by 2100.”
    Well, it could be worse. At least it won’t be a simul­ta­ne­ous oceans-wide suf­fo­cat­ing col­lapse. We’ll have a whole cen­tu­ry to smoth­er the oceans. Although that also means the areas that don’t end up suf­fo­cat­ing first are also going to be the only places left to fish as the rest of the ocean ecosys­tems col­lapse around them. Best of luck, Nemo.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 29, 2016, 3:21 pm

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