Updates:Japan Nuke Disaster
The nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima Japan seems to have fallen off of the news radar, even though it is far from over. Below are two news articles with information from the past two days (May 10-11, 2011) about the ongoing nuclear crisis.
Date: 5/12/2011 6:30:56 PM ( 25 mon ) ... viewed 737 times
* note: all Update times are Eastern U.S. time
NUCLEAR CRISIS IN JAPAN
UPDATE, 11:30 am, Thursday, May 12, 2011.
At a Tokyo press briefing today, Tepco officials said that there is likely a hole inside the Unit 1 containment which is allowing highly radioactive water to leak—where the water is leaking to isn’t known at this point. Tepco has flooded Unit 1 with some 11 million liters of water so far, and the unit can only physically hold less than 8 million liters—although much of that loss could have been by evaporation and release of radioactive steam. But now Tepco admits that the fuel rods inside Unit 1 are essentially uncovered—meaning that much of the water poured into the reactor has leaked back out. Much of the fuel—exactly how much isn’t known--is now a molten mass on the bottom of the reactor vessel.
Tepco says this molten mass is currently covered by water and is thus being cooled, although temperatures inside the reactor remain above the boiling point (as they do at Units 2 and 3 as well).
This new development likely will set back Tepco’s 6-9 month plan to bring the situation at Fukushima to stability. Tepco had hoped to reach a cold shutdown (with temperatures under the boiling point) of Unit 1 within weeks and for Units 2 and 3 in July. But first the hole inside Unit 1 allowing the radioactive water to leak out must be found and somehow fixed—a job that would entail very high worker exposures. Stability is a concept that seems still to be a very long ways from reality at Fukushima.
Meanwhile, Tepco says it has fixed a leak at Unit 3 found yesterday that was allowing highly radioactive water to flow into the ocean.
The Japanese government is expected tomorrow to approve some sort of bailout bill for Tepco, to help it pay the enormous compensation claims and cleanup costs that already have occurred and will continue mounting for many years. Other nuclear utilities may be required to pitch in and help, and some sort of increased government oversight of Tepco is likely. The ability of Tepco to offer dividends to shareholders is likely to be prohibited for at least a decade. Utilities thinking about building nuclear reactors in other parts of the world may want to take heed….
The live webcam at Fukushima yesterday showed larger amounts of radioactive steam being released from all the reactors than has typically been the case in recent days. No explanation so far.
Greenpeace, whose Rainbow Warrior ship has been prohibited by the Japanese government from coming closer than 12 miles to Fukushima, has been testing seaweed further away from the site, and found several samples measuring 20 times legal limits of Cesium-137 in the ocean as far as 40 miles from the Fukushima site. Seaweed is a staple part of the Japanese diet, with the average household consuming seven pounds per year.
UPDATE, 2:30 pm, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced today that Japan is scrapping plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors and instead will rethink its energy policy with a focus toward renewable energy sources and efficiency.
Separately, Chubu Electric Co. yesterday agreed to Kan’s request that the three operational reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear complex be closed, at least until seismic upgrades can be performed and a new seawall to protect against tsunamis be built. The betting here is that these reactors, which sit atop probably Japan’s most dangerous earthquake fault, will not reopen. And Tokyo Electric Power, perhaps bowing to reality, said that it may never restart its four Fukushima Daini reactors. Like the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, they also lost cooling shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but cooling was restored before the accident became too severe.
92 former residents of the evacuation zone entered the zone yesterday on buses provided by the government—the first people to legally enter the zone since it was declared an exclusion zone April 22. They were required to wear radiation suits and were in the area for two hours and allowed to pick up some household belongings. Government officials conducting a test run of the operation a day earlier received doses of 25 microsieverts in their brief visit, indicating that radiation levels inside the zone remain quite high.
New joint U.S.-Japanese aerial monitoring results of the area have been posted and show significant Cesium contamination well beyond the government’s evacuation zone. Cesium levels above 600,000 becquerels per square meter are indicated more than 60 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi site. After Chernobyl, the Soviet Union evacuated areas above 550,000 becquerels per square meter. Maps are posted on the DOE website. Note: the maps are easier to see if you download them and view them in Powerpoint.
Work to put in a new cooling system has been set back at Unit 1 as radiation levels as high as 700 MilliSieverts/hour (70 rems/hour) were encountered. Some 500 million becquerels of radiation were released to the environment as access points to the reactor were opened up.
Meanwhile, there are some reports that the Unit 3 reactor has been heating up again. A remarkable new video of the fuel pool at Unit 3 has been released. While on the positive side it does show that the pool is now underwater, the pool is a picture of complete devastation. Perhaps most tellingly, there is no actual visual evidence any fuel remains in the pool—certainly not in racks as designed. However, some fuel must remain, as NHK TV reports radiation readings taken Sunday inside the pool of “140,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium-134 per cubic centimeter, 150,000 becquerels of cesium-137, and 11,000 becquerels of iodine-131.” The presence of short-lived Iodine-131 indicates that either the pool has become contaminated from melting fuel in the Unit 3 reactor or there has been inadvertent fissioning inside the fuel pool itself. An inadvertent criticality is believed by many to have caused the enormous explosion at Unit 3.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND ONGOING UPDATES GO TO: http://www.nirs.org/fukushima/crisis.htm
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