Japan may raise nuke accident severity level to highest 7 from 5
TOKYO [April 12, Kyodo News]
The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan released a preliminary calculation Monday saying that the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had been releasing up to 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials per hour at some point after a massive quake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan on March 11.
The disclosure prompted the government to consider raising the accident’s severity level to 7, the worst on an international scale, from the current 5, government sources said. The level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale has only been applied to the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.
The current provisional evaluation of 5 is at the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.
According to an evaluation by the INES, level 7 accidents correspond with a release into the external environment radioactive materials equal to more than tens of thousands terabecquerels of radioactive iodine 131. One terabecquerel equals 1 trillion becquerels.
Haruki Madarame, chairman of the commission, which is a government panel, said it has estimated that the release of 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials per hour continued for several hours.
The commission says the release has since come down to under 1 terabecquerel per hour and said that it is still examining the total amount of radioactive materials released.
M 7.0 quake hits northeastern Japan
A strong earthquake struck north-eastern Japan at 5:16 PM, local time, on Monday, April 11. The earthquake’s magnitude was 7.0, and that its focus was in Fukushima Prefecture at a depth of 10 kilometers. Intensities of 6 minus on the Japanese scale of 0 to 7 were registered in some areas of Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, including Furudono Town, Nakajima Village and Hokota City. An intensity of 5 plus was registered in many areas in the southern Tohoku and northern Kanto regions.
Several minor quakes occurred following the major quake at 5:16. The agency is also warning of possible aftershocks with intensities of 6 plus or 6 minus. The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, says radiation figures at monitoring posts around the plant remain unchanged. The utility firm also says outdoor workers had been ordered to temporarily evacuate.
[Japan Atomic Industrial Forum Monday, April 11, 2011 18:46 +0900 (JST)
Expanded evacuation considered
The Japanese government is considering expanding its current 20-kilometer evacuation radius around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, taking into account the risks of long-term accumulated radiation exposure. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on Monday that the government may advise residents in areas between 20 and 30 kilometers from the plant to evacuate, based on accumulated radiation exposure levels. Currently such residents have been advised to remain indoors. Edano also said the government is considering advising residents to evacuate even from areas outside the zone where cumulative radiation exposure risks are higher. He said the possibility that the situation at the plant will worsen cannot be ruled out. Iitate Village
Water injection resumed at Fukushima Daiichi plant
The operator of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says water injection into the crippled reactors was briefly suspended after outside power lines were shut down by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Monday evening. Tokyo Electric Power Company said that outside power was restored for reactors No.1, 2 and 3. Water injection was resumed for these reactors after a suspension of about 50 minutes.
Monday, April 11, 2011 18:34 +0900 (JST)
Radiation dose higher than 1000 mSv was measured at the surface of water accumulated on the basement of Unit 2 turbine building and in the tunnel for laying piping outside the building on Mar. 27th.
Plutonium was detected from the soil sampled at Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS site on Mar. 21st, 22nd, 25th and 28th. The amount is so small that the Pu is not harmful to human body.
Radioactive materials exceeding the regulatory limit have been detected from seawater sample collected in the sea surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS since Mar. 21st. On Apr. 5th, 7.5 million times the legal limit of radioactive iodine, I-131, was detected from the seawater, which had been sampled near the water intake of Unit 2 on Apr 2nd.
It was found on Apr. 2nd that there was highly radioactive (more than 1000mSv/hr) water in the concrete pit housing electrical cables and this water was leaking into the sea through cracks on the concrete wall. It was confirmed on Apr. 6th that the leakage of water stopped after injecting a hardening agent into holes drilled around the pit.
Release of some 10,000 tons of low level radioactive wastewater into the sea began on Apr. 4th, in order to make room for the highly radioactive water mentioned above.
Regarding the influence of the low level radioactive waste release, TEPCO evaluated that eating fish and seaweed caught near the plant every day for a year would add some 25% of the dose that the general pubic receive from the environment for a year.
TEPCO and MEXT has expanded the monitoring for the surrounding sea area since Apr. 4th.
Radioactive materials were detected from underground water sampled near the turbine buildings on Mar. 30th.
Containment of radioactive material:
It is presumed that radioactive material inside the reactor vessel may leaked outside at Unit 1, 2 and Unit 3, based on radioactive material found outside.
NISA announced that the reactor pressure vessel of Unit 2 and 3 may have lost air tightness because of low pressure inside the pressure vessel.
NISA told that it is unlikely that these are cracks or holes in the reactor pressure vessels on the same occasion.
TEPCO started to inject nitrogen gas into the Unit 1 containment vessel to reduce the possibility of hydrogen explosion on Apr. 6th. The same measure will be taken for Unit 2 and 3.
Steam like substance has been observed rising intermittently from the reactor building at Unit 1, 2, 3 and 4. Injecting and/or spraying water to the spent fuel pool has been conducted.
Progress of the work to recover injection function:
Water injection to the reactor pressure vessel by temporary pumps were switched from seawater to freshwater at Unit 1, 2 and 3.
High radiation circumstance hampering the work to restore originally installed pumps for injection.
Discharging radioactive water in the basement of the buildings of Unit 1through 3 continue to improve this situation.
Water transfer work is being made to secure a place for the water to go.
Lighting in the turbine buildings became partly available at Unit 1 through 4.
Radioactive material was detected from milk and agricultural products from Fukushima and neighboring prefectures. The government issued order to limit shipment (21st-) and intake (23rd-) for some products.
Radioactive iodine, exceeding the provisional legal limit, was detected from tap water sampled in some prefectures from Mar. 21st to 27th.
Small fish caught in waters off the coast of Ibaraki on Apr. 4 have been found to contain radioactive cesium above the legal limit on Apr. 5th.
It was decided on Apr. 5th that as a legal limit of radioactive iodine, the same amount for vegetables should be applied to fishery products for the time being.
[ from Japan Atomic Industrial Forum.]
UPDATE (Apr 7) -TEPCO Completes Nitrogen Injection At Unit 1
An operation to reduce the risk of a hydrogen explosion at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi atomic power station’s No. 1 reactor by injecting it with nitrogen has gone smoothly, the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday. Pressure in the reactor’s containment vessel has risen as expected, indicating the success of the operation.
In its operation to prevent a hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor, TEPCO plans to insert nearly 6,000 cubic meters of nitrogen, an inert gas, into the reactor over six days and estimates that about 200 cubic meters were injected between 1:30 a.m. and 9:50 a.m. Thursday.
The firm and the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said they believe chances are slim that another hydrogen explosion will occur immediately or that high volumes of radioactive substances will be emitted following the nitrogen injection operation. – Kyodo News (April 7)
UPDATE – Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency – Seismic Damage Information (the 74th Release)
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency stated that at Units 1 through 4 at Fukushima Daiichi NPS , “White smoke was confirmed to generate continuously.” Reported on April 6.
TEPCO Press Release (Apr 6) – Measures Taken To Prevent Explosion
Injection of Nitrogen to Reactor Containment Vessel of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 1
“Regarding Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 1, taking into account the possibility of hydrogen accumulating inside, we have been considering encapsulation of hydrogen by injecting nitrogen to the reactor containment vessel.
Today, we received an order from minister of economy, trade and industry to report on matter such as necessity of encapsulating nitrogen, method for implementation, and impact assessment of safety.
Accordingly, we have compiled related matters and reported to minister of economy, trade and industry today. The report was approved after the deliberation in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Based on the report, we will begin injecting nitrogen to the reactor containment vessel of Unit 1 today, around 10:30pm”. END
Update [Apr.9] – TEPCO announced 0n 4_9 that they would perform an additional operation to inject nitrogen gas into the containment vessel of the Number 1 reactor to prevent a possible hydrogen explosion, TEPCO plans to increase the purity of nitrogen gas from 98 percent to 99.98 percent.
UPDATE – TEPCO Press Release (April 4) – Seawater at Unit-2 7.5 Million Times Limit
TEPCO Press Release – Apr 6
“As part of monitoring activity of the surrounding environment, we conducted analysis of plutonium contained in the soil collected on March 21st and 22nd at the 5 spots in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.As a result, plutonium 238, 239 and 240 were detected. (previously announced)
Subsequently, from the 3 spots where periodic sampling was conducted on March 25th and 28th and from another spot which was supplemented on 25th, we conducted analysis of plutonium contained in the soil. As a result, plutonium 238, 239 and 240 were detected.
In addition, we conducted nuclide analysis of gamma ray contained in the soil collected on March 21st and 22nd at the 5 spots in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Such analysis was also conducted on soil collected on March 25th and 28th at the 4 spots. As a result, radioactive materials were detected as described in the exhibit.
Accordingly, we have reported the result of analysis to Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Fukushima Prefecture. We will continue the radionuclide analysis contained in the soil.”
UPDATE – TEPCO Press Release – April 7
“Additionally Iodine, Cesium, Tellurium, Barium, Niobium, Ruthenium, Molybdenum, Technetium, Lanthanum, Beryllium, Silver have been detected from the sample of soil at the site of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station collected on 21st, 22nd, 25th and 28th of March.”
Today we have received a letter of protest from National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations (NFFCA) with regard to the discharge of the low level radioactive wastewater from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to the sea. We, as the operator of the power station, received the letter with sincerity, being painfully aware of the feelings and concerns of people in the fishery industry.
While the water discharge was an unavoidable emergency measure implemented after the consultation with the national government in order to prevent the spread of high level radioactive substances, protect the essential safety facilities from inundation and maintain the cooling functions of Units 5 and 6, we would like to make our deepest apologies for the concerns and anxieties caused by our insufficient explanation in advance.
With regard to the compensations related to the water discharge and other issues, we will follow the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damages and sincerely address them with support from the government. We would highly appreciate it if NFFCA could understand the above.
Working closely with the government, we will make every effort toward the earliest resolution of the situation.
April 6, 2011
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, Incorporated
The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools for spent fuel rods assemblies.
Six of the pools are located at the top of each reactor building and contained 3,450 fuel rod assemblies between them in 2010.
There is one common pool building housed in a dedicated building. The common pool contains 6,291 fuel rod assemblies.
A dry cask is used to store another 408 assemblies. This is a reported total of 10,149 as of March, 2010.
Add another 700 units for the period of March 2010 to 2011 and the current estimated total of fuel rod assemblies at the reactor site is 10,849.
Each assembly contains 63 fuel rods. So at the time of the accident there were almost 640,000 spent fuel rods being stored on site.
A total of 1,760 metric tons of spent nuclear rods are stored above and around the reactors.
Sometime prior to 2010 the holding capacity of the pools above the reactors was increased by re-racking the existing rods. It is unclear if this increase was anticipated in the original design.
What has become clear is that the added storage of spent fuel rods at the Fukushima reactors is greatly increasing the scale and mortality of this current, world-class emergency.
The practice of re-racking is not limited to Japan. Here in the US, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has increased the number of spent-fuel rods allowed per pool partly because a national disposal site for nuclear waste has not been established.
But the main reason that federally sanctioned re-racking has been allowed is because plant operators avoid millions of dollars in costs by delaying moves to safer but expensive dry cask storage. The concerns of the plant operators drown out any opposition bolstered by the immense amount of money and manpower marshaled by the various lobby groups and PACs – most notably the Nuclear Energy institute (NEI).
The NRC insists the practice is safe but many scientists and engineers say the practice is dangerous and warn that the sheer volume of radioactivity in the pools could turn an accident or natural disaster into a cataclysm. JUST LIKE FUKUSHIMA.
A 1997 study by the Brookhaven National Laboratory concluded that a pool fire at a plant like Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut or Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station in Massachusetts could kill 100 people instantly and another 138,000 people eventually. Some $546 billion in damage would result, the study said, and 2,170 square miles of land could be contaminated.
After uranium fuel has been used in a reactor for a while, it is no longer as efficient in splitting its atoms and producing heat to make electricity. It is then called “spent” nuclear fuel. About one-fourth to one-third of the total fuel load is spent and is removed from the reactor every 12 to 18 months and replaced with fresh fuel.
Spent nuclear fuel is still highly radioactive and potentially very harmful. Ten years after removal from a reactor, the radiation dose 1 meter away from a typical spent fuel assembly exceeds 20,000 rems per hour. A dose of 5,000 rems would be expected to cause immediate incapacitation and death within one week.
Many of the radioactive elements in spent fuel have long half-lives. For example, plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years, and plutonium-240 has a half-life of 6,800 years. Because it contains these long half-lived radioactive elements, spent fuel must be isolated and controlled for thousands of years.
Currently, most spent nuclear fuel is stored in specially designed pools at individual reactor sites around the country. The water-pool option involves storing spent fuel in rods under at least 20 feet of water, which provides shielding from the radiation for anyone near the pool.
The fuel pools vary in size from a capacity of 216 to 8,083 fuel assemblies. Most pools were originally designed to store several years worth of spent fuel.
A second hazard of spent fuel, in addition to high radiation levels, is the remote possibility of an accidental “criticality,” or self-sustained fissioning and splitting of the atoms of uranium and plutonium.
The original design and construction of US nuclear plants planned for used fuel storage over a decade or two, not long-term storage.
The nation’s 104 nuclear power plants are now storing some 63,000 metric tons of spent fuel rods, according to 2010 numbers compiled by the Nuclear Energy Institute.
All of these concerns sit atop a shaky foundation where most plants in the US are re-licensed automatically way past their originally designed lifetime.
We know that in the days after the Fukushima nuclear plant began releasing radioactive materials into the atmosphere, all of the “weather readers” on the networks and local channels appeared to be reading from the same script. Soon after “experts” were paraded in front of the camera to dismiss the possibility. We all know now that they were dead wrong!
Examples of this:
March 15, Dr. Perry Kendall (public health officer – British Columbia) said, “winds from Japan take five or six days to reach B.C. and by then any radioactive particles would have dispersed over the Pacific Ocean.“
“Japan has an evacuation area of about 12 miles from the nuclear plants. Washington state is 5,000 to 6,000 miles away from Japan,” Tim Church, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health, told the Wall Street Journal in a March 15th article.
March 18, a Baltimore Sun article stated, “There’s just one problem with all this panic: It’s completely irrational. Nuclear radiation can extend around 12 miles from the point of meltdown — not 12-friggin’-thousand miles. ”
“Worst-case scenario, there is no threat to public health in California,” said the California Emergency Management Agency Secretary Mike Dayton.
“Based on the type of reactor design and the nature of the accident, we see a very low likelihood — really, a very low probability — that there’s any possibility of harmful radiation levels in the United States or in Hawaii or any other U.S. territories,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko stated .
And now that it is here they are all now saying that the levels aren’t harmful.
What I haven’t heard discussed much is whether or not the massive amounts of material flowing into the Pacific Ocean can make it to the US shores.
Fig. 1 is a map of the ocean currents in the Pacific. Much like the jet stream, gulf currents follow fairly predictable seasonal paths.
As you can see, just as with the jet stream there is ample opportunity for ANY material to be transported thousand of miles.
Recently in Bloomberg Business Week, Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts said, “The ocean can absorb significant increases in cesium and iodine, the two most common radioactive isotopes coming from the plant, before it becomes unsafe for humans or marine animals.”
“For cesium and iodine, they are soluble,” Buesseler said “This time of year off the coast of Japan, they would mix with water down 100 feet to 300 feet, and be diluted by a factor of about 100. The currents there would move it to the south, just north of Tokyo, and then out to sea.”
OUT TO SEA???? AND THEN WHERE???
More to come on this issue in a latter post.
Complied by Webworker
Here is a list of resources that will aid in understanding of the current nuclear emergency
DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE
Japan’s leading English-language newspaper–is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Japan. The Daily Yomiuri is an excellent source of both domestic and foreign news.
THE JAPAN TIMES
In addition to economic, political, sports and hard news, other information includes commentaries from opinion leaders in various fields and editorials that reflect Japanese public opinion.
YOKOSO NEWS -TV
Television feed of Japanese man named “ Katz” reading and interpreting Japanese news sources in English. Very good info here.
NHK WORLD TV – English Language
NHK operates international television, radio and Internet services in Japan. Together, they are known as NHK WORLD. This is their English language feed.
RT (Russian Television)
24 hr news and commentary from a Russian perspective.
Official Tokyo Electric & Power Company English language site. Press Releases and periodic Main Gate readings are published here.
PRESS TV (Iran)
Press TV is the first Iranian international news network, broadcasting in English.
Japans Leading News Network (self-proclaimed)
UNLV AIR RADIATION TEST RESULTS
UNLV Health Physics department has set up a high-volume air sampler on the roof of the Bigelow Health Sciences building in an attempt to measure radionuclides released from the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PHYSICS DEPT quickly adapted one of their basic research labs to monitor for the arrival of trace amounts of fission products produced at Fukushima.
JET STREAM AND WEATHER MAPS/FORECASTS
The California Regional Weather Server’s weather maps and images are created at San Francisco State University using data from the National Weather Service.
UNIVERSITY OF MD. PLUME FORECASTS
University of Maryland atmospheric science researchers are publishing atmospheric dispersion patterns using a tool developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – the HYSPLIT model.
Japan 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami U.S. Government Information
Official US Gov with information on air quality, food safety, Americans in Japan, disaster preparedness, and donations.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This site provides information to help people protect themselves during and after a radiation event.
EPA RADNET (public site)
EPAs nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, continuously monitors the nations air and regularly monitors drinking water, milk and precipitation for environmental radiation. The RadNet system consists of both fixed and deployable monitors. To see data from an individual monitor click on the monitor in that state.
Unit 1 – Explosive sound and white smoke were confirmed after the big quake occurred at 3:36 pm on March 12th. It was assumed to be a hydrogen explosion.