Thursday, May 26, 2011

TEPCO Like a Pregnant Schoolgirl: Fukushima Round Up 26/05/11

I cannot think of a more fitting analogy than the pregnant schoolgirl, nuclear accidents on this scale have the same inevitability about them as the knocked up schooly, no amount of denial by TEPCO or the schoolgirl, will stop reality eventually coming to the fore.

On a slightly different note, and as a result of a bit philosophising, as one does now and then. I got to thinking what lies in store for our much abused little planet, and considering the two scenarios that I did, it don't look too good at all. Maintaining the status quo, polluting and destroying the worlds eco-systems at the rate we are doing, can only have one outcome, doomsday within the next few generations.

The second scenario involves a belief that the planet will see another great extinction, one that will do for us as a species, and given our track record, it's not a proposition that is entirely without merit. From the six minute mark, or transcript here, first and second paragraphs.

We have already shown ourselves as far from fit custodians of mother earth, think nuclear testing, Chernobyl and Fukushima here. (and others) Considering these accidents, thirty three in total, occurred while we were ''in charge,'' what then the legacy of the 442 nuclear power plants around the world when left untended in the event of our extinction or catastrophic de-population?

Given the half life of some of the radioactive isotopes involved are not just measured in the tens of thousands of years, but in millions, even billions of years, I guess you don't need me to paint the big picture.

Japanese nuclear company confirms meltdowns in three reactors
By Mike Head
25 May 2011

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted yesterday that there had been meltdowns of fuel rods inside three reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant soon after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the plant.

Earlier this month, TEPCO revealed a meltdown in the No. 1 reactor, while saying that the fuel rods had probably melted in reactors No. 2 and 3 as well. Yesterday, the company said a review of data since early May had confirmed that meltdowns had occurred in all three reactors, and within four days of the disaster.

TEPCO said a “major part” of the fuel rods in reactor No. 2 may have melted and fallen to the bottom of the reactor’s pressure vessel 101 hours after the earthquake and tsunami. A similar meltdown had happened within the first 60 hours at reactor No. 3. In both cases, the fuel was believed to be sitting at the bottom of pressure vessels, which are likely also to be damaged.

TEPCO emphasised that temperature levels in the reactors had cooled. Company spokesman Takeo Iwamoto said: “It is unlikely that the meltdowns could worsen the crisis because melted fuels are covered in water.” However, the state of the highly radioactive fuel is unknown and underscores the difficulties in bringing the nuclear emergency under control.

As the company continues to pour water into the reactors to cool the fuel, the damaged steel pressure vessels and their surrounding concrete containment vessels are believed to be leaking, causing the seepage of thousands of tonnes of contaminated water.

TEPCO also revealed that temporary containers holding radioactive water pumped from the reactors were almost full, raising concerns they could overflow. The company said water could fill the tanks within three days and a system to reprocess the water—now measuring more than 72,574 tonnes—for reuse in the reactors was not yet finished. TEPCO had initially said the storage area could last until mid-June.

In an interview with the London-based Financial Times, Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressed regret for what he called TEPCO’s underestimation of the extent of the fuel meltdown. Amid rising public distrust of the information provided by TEPCO and the government, there was immediate speculation in the media about the timing of the announcement.

An Asahi Shimbun editorial commented: “Few days pass without news that makes us wonder if the government is telling the truth about the disastrous nuclear accident triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake.” Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University told Reuters that TEPCO’s delay in confirming the meltdowns suggested that the company had feared setting off a panic by disclosing the severity of the accident earlier. more

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Chernobyl and Fukushima
25 May 2011
by: Matthew Penney and Mark Selden, The Asia-Pacific Journal

On April 12, 2011 the Japanese government officially announced that the severity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster had reached level 7, the highest on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Before Fukushima, the only level 7 case was the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, whose 25th anniversary was marked on April 26. Two and a half months after the 3.11 catastrophe, the first to affect multiple reactors, TEPCO and the Japanese government continue to struggle to bring the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi under control. TEPCO estimates that the problems could be solved in six to nine months now appearing extraordinarily optimistic and plans have been announced to close nuclear power plants deemed of particularly high risk such as the Hamaoka facility.

Following the upgrade to level 7, Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office released a statement comparing Fukushima and Chernobyl. (Source)

The Japanese government argues that apart from children who contracted thyroid cancer from drinking contaminated milk, there have been no health effects among ordinary citizens as a result of Chernobyl radiation. Is this really the case? Given the Japanese government’s precautions against thyroid cancer in children, is there reason to believe that the Fukushima accident will take no lives except those exposed to the highest dangers in the plant clean-up?

On April 15, Kyodo, Japan’s major news service, ran an English language piece by Russian scientist Alexey V. Yablokov (source). Yablokov’s stern warnings about the threat of even low levels of radiation had been ignored by the major media but was reported in Japanese in the Nishi Nippon Shimbun.

The English only Kyodo piece, however, ties Yablokov’s extensive Chernobyl research with the unfolding Fukushima crisis. Under the headline “How to minimize consequences of the Fukushima catastrophe,” Yablokov observed that

The analysis of the health impact of radioactive land contamination by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, made by Professor Chris Busby (the European Committee of Radiation Risk) based on official Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology data, has shown that over the next 50 years it would be possible to have around 400,000 additional cancer patients within a 200-kilometer radius of the plant.

This number can be lower and can be even higher, depending on strategies to minimize the consequences. Underestimation is more dangerous for the people and for the country than overestimation......

......Yablokov is one of the primary architects of the 2006 Greenpeace report “The Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences on Human Health” and an extensive 2010 follow-up study Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment published by the New York Academy of Sciences, which makes the startling claim that 985,000 deaths can be attributed to the 1986 disaster.

This claim is startling because it differs so dramatically from a 600 page 2005 study by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the WHO, and the UN Development Programme, which claimed that fewer than 50 deaths can be attributed directly to Chernobyl and fewer than 4000 likely from Chernobyl-related cancers in the future. Indeed, the two works continue to frame much of the public controversy, with little progress toward resolution. Attempts to assess the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster remain the subject of fierce debate over widely different estimates in both the scientific and policy communities. In the months since the Fukushima disaster, scores of reports have uncritically passed on the results of the IAEA/WHO or the Yablokov study published by the New York Academy of Sciences without seriously engaging the conflicting conclusions or moving the debate forward. Here we present the major findings of major studies across the divide that may help to clarify the likely outcomes of the Fukushima disaster. more

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The Implications of the Fukushima Accident on the World's Operating Reactors from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Arnie Gundersen explains how containment vents were added to the GE Mark 1 BWR as a "band aid" 20 years after the plants built in order to prevent an explosion of the notoriously weak Mark 1 containment system. Obviously the containment vent band aid fix did not work since all three units have lost containment integrity and are leaking radioactivity. Gundersen also discusses seismic design flaws, inadequate evacuation planning, and the taxpayer supported nuclear industry liability fund.

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