APRIL 2, 2018
by ROBERT HUNZIKER
Photo by Live Action Hero | CC BY 2.0
Fukushima is full of nasty surprises, similar to John Carpenter’s classic film The Thing (1982), which held audiences to the edge of their seats in anticipation of creepy monsters leaping out from “somebody, anybody, nobody knows for sure,” but unlike Hollywood films, Fukushima’s consequences are real and dire and deathly. It’s an on-going horror show that just won’t quit.
Only recently, a team of international researchers, including a group of scientists from the University of Manchester/UK and Kyushu University/Japan made a startling discovery. Within the nuclear exclusion zone in paddy soils and at an aquaculture center located several miles from the nuclear plant, the research team found cesium-rich micro-particles.
Evidently, the radioactive debris was blown into the environment during the initial meltdowns and accompanying hydrogen blasts. Accordingly, the environmental impact of radiation fallout may last much longer than previously expected. (Source: New Evidence of Nuclear Fuel Releases Found at Fukushima, University of Manchester, Phys.org, Feb. 28, 2018)
According to Dr. Gareth Law, senior lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester: “Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone. Whilst it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding….” Ibid.
Their discovery dispels the long-held view that the initial explosion only emitted gaseous radionuclides. Now, it is clear that solid particles with very long-lived radionuclides were emitted. The research team did not discuss the likely impact, as more analysis is necessary before drawing conclusions.
Decidedly, they’d best hurry up, as the Olympics are scheduled for 2020.
Still, this discovery smacks in the face the government’s and TEPCO’s statements about successful cleanup efforts and pressuring prior residents to return to homes in the exclusion zones.
In another recent development, lethal levels of radiation have unexpectedly popped up in leaks at the nuclear plant facility, as explained in an article by Jeff Farrell: Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Lethal Levels of Radiation Detected in Leak Seven Years After Plant Meltdown in Japan, Independent/UK, Feb. 2, 2018.
TEPCO has discovered lethal levels of radiation leaking around the facilities, radiation that would kill a person within one-hour of exposure. Even though this is not entirely a surprise with 100% total meltdowns and tons of radioactive corium sizzling wildly underneath, irradiating like crazy. This is why radioactive water continues flowing into the Pacific Ocean, necessitated to cool white-hot sizzling corium. Nobody knows what the long-term effect will be for the ocean, but guaranteed, it cannot be good.
Furthermore and distressingly, Mycle Schneider of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report claims, “TEPCO does not have a clue” to decommissioning the plant. That’s not comforting, knowing that mistakes could circumnavigate the planet much worse than the current flow of radioactive water into the Pacific, thus turning into a global catastrophe of unspeakable proportions.
After all, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the country has 100,000 earthquakes every year. Who knows what can happen to rickety broken down nuclear reactors in a country that slip slides so easily, so readily, so often, totally unpredictably.
According to Schneider: “It’s a disaster of unseen proportions.” The radiation leaks, coupled with inappropriate storage of radioactive waste has global consequences. Schneider is aghast at the sloppiness and ignorance of TEPCO, in charge of handling the disaster.
“This is an area of the planet that gets hit by tornadoes and all kinds of heavy weather patterns, which is a problem. When you have waste stored above ground in inappropriate ways, it can get washed out and you can get contamination all over the place… This can get problematic anytime, if it contaminates the ocean there is no local contamination, the ocean is global, so anything that goes into the ocean goes to everyone… It needs to be clear that this problem is not gone; this is not just a local problem. It’s a very major thing.” (Schneider)
And remarkably, the Olympics are coming to Tokyo and Fukushima in 2020.
For the world’s best and clearest understanding of the power and imposing danger inherent with nuclear power, the following is a spectacular power point demonstration that discusses the ABCs of nuclear power: The Age of Nuclear Waste, From Fukushima to Indian Point, prepared for the Fukushima anniversary on March 11, 2017 by Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., president Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Resp0nsibiliy. It’s the best-ever most important-ever description of nuclear power, the process, and inherent dangers.
See a list of 211 man-made radionuclides (p.59 of the power point) contained in irradiated nuclear fuel, not found in nature, which should be a big tipoff of potential dangers inherent with irradiated isotopes… umm, not part of nature!
Gordon Edwards discusses the nuclear waste “word game” as follows: (1) Clean-up is moving nuclear waste from one place to another;(2) Decontamination is collecting and repacking, but not eliminating; (3) Nuclear Waste Disposal is abandoning nuclear waste “somewhere.” In short, there is no such thing as “getting rid of nuclear radiation waste.”
According to The Age of Nuclear Waste, From Fukushima to Indian Point, it’s impossible to dispose of nuclear waste!
Postscript: “It would be irresponsible and morally wrong to commit future generations to the consequences of fission power… unless it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that at least one method exist for the safe isolation of these wastes….” Sir Brian Flowers, UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, London, 1976.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/04/02 ... a-jitters/
Warhead Lab Leaks Killed Thousands
In The Fukushima Disaster
By Yoichi Shimatsu Exclusive to Rense 3-9-18
One of the anomalies from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is that releases of radioactive isotopes throughout the Pacific Basin are far greater in quantity than what’s indicated on the ground in northeast Japan. Reaching across the western region of North America, into the Rockies some 10,000 km distant from Japan, the wildlife count of aquatic species, birds and insects has been plummeting since March 2011.
The long-distance effect should be a pale reflection of a huge toll in human deaths in and around Fukushima Prefecture. Although there’s been a decline in the Japanese birth rate and a spate of sudden deaths on train platforms in Tokyo, the island nation has witnessed only a gradual reduction in population rather than the precipitous drop anticipated soon after the disaster. What accounts for this disparity between the wide-spread radioactivity impact across the Americas versus the moderate toll inside Japan?
Sea-dumping doomed the Americas
As we learned early on, much of the nuclear releases from Fukushima was being transported eastward by the North Pacific current and the northern jetstream, much of that abetted by years of official tolerance of unchecked venting and wastewater releases. The groundwater outflows were and still are being enabled by the media myth of an “ice wall”, an expensive boondoggle that provided cover for the release of reactor coolant from the Fukushima storage tank farm. The so-called isotope-filtration equipment from AREVA and Kurion of Hanford were ineffective. For all the numbers games played by the “experts”, tossing out round-ball estimates, there’s been no containment of nuclear contamination in Japan, which soon proved itself again to be an eager exporter, this time of radioactive steel, used cars, motorbikes and bicycles.
To spare itself the burden of an effective containment program, Japan has been waging a “soft” nuclear war against its Pacific neighbors. Over the past seven years, I have suggested that boring tunnels into the hard-rock Abukuma Plateau is a proven method for water storage, as done under Kanto region rivers in lieu of new dams, but the government apparently prefers overseas dumping as a type of passive-aggressive vengeance.
Considering that the corium, or melted fuel rods, is mostly self-contained in the gravel and rock below the destroyed reactors, the math still would not account for the mega-effects of 311 on the environment of the Northern Hemisphere, which includes the sudden expansion of the Arctic ozone hole April-June 2011, fragmentation of the ice cap, annihilation of the wild salmon fisheries, the West Coast drought and lightning-triggered wildfires, poisoning of milk from dairy cows, and other bleak news that’s gone unreported in the mass media or falsely attributed to global warming, al in the service of course of the utilities companies that operate nuclear power plants.
How then did Fukushima disaster manage to achieve such planetary destruction while Japan itself remained relatively unharmed? The underlying answer to this paradox is center of the most pervasive cover-up in scientific history, authorized at the highest levels of the UN nuclear-energy agency IAEA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and uranium-producer Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission. After failing to warn, much less protect billions of their residents, the “regulators” in the US and Canada have been complicit in a cover-up of the rising radioactivity risk to population centers in the Americas due to their idolatrous worship of the nuclear bomb, the Moloch of our modern times.
The total absence of health-related data concerning radioactive ingestion, has forestalled any accurate determination of whether a global “hibakusha” (radioactivity victims) crisis is under way, but certainly the unborn have been sacrificed in their millions through miscarriages from radioactive exposure of ovaries and abortions out of unspoken fear. By the time in the future, or perhaps never, when studies are done on the spike in heart failure and cancers on top of terminated pregnancies, it will be too late for the health-care system to launch effective preventative measures to preserve the humane genome. As in the loss of insects across the Americas due to our inaction, homo sapiens will soon be extinct. And perhaps for the better, since our collective inaction proves the streak of inbred criminal denial in our less-than-masterful species.
Inexorably, as casualties mount and the economic damage spirals out of control, public anger will squarely put the blame not only on TEPCO and the deceitful Japanese political elite but also on the cowardly sold-out American and Canadian governments. Their ultimate responsibility, however, is the direct role of the US and Canada in supporting Japan’s rogue nuclear-weapons program, which lies at the heart of the 311 disaster(s).
Weapons-grade Plutonium unloosed
On this 7th anniversary of the Fukushima triple disaster, a video on Japanese N-weapons production in the Greater Fukushima region, produced by French environmental filmmaker Phillippe Carillo and myself, based on the disturbing findings from my dozen research visits into the 20-30 km nuclear exclusion zone is being released here at rense.com. Here the key points are summarized:
First, the meltdowns at three civilian reactors and related fires at the TEPCO Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant were not the only sources of radioactivity releases. As dangerous as it turned out to be, including the explosion of the weapons-related mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel rods inside the Toshiba-Westinghouse Reactor 3, the rate of isotope releases solely from Fukushima plant cannot account for the grandeur of scale of contaminated seawater and marine-layer moisture that’s been hitting the American shores.
Second, a much greater amount of highly enriched plutonium was released from separate nuclear disasters that occurred at four nuclear-warhead production sites:
- an underground lab inside the compound of the seaside Haramachi coal-fired plant operated by the Tohoku Electric Power Company, less than six km north of Fukushima No.1;
- the TEPCO Thermal (oil-fueled) power plant in Hirono, about 4 km south of the Fukushima No.2 nuclear plant in the Iwaki district;
- a yet-uncovered lab or processing center inside the Fukushima No.1 compound; and
- a military nuclear-weapons test site in Kitakami, near its namesake mountain range, in Iwate Prefecture, north of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.
In addition, steady releases of heavy water have flowed out of a suspected tritium-extraction facility inside the hollow structure of the Kido Dam, in the hills west of Hirono town. According to local residents, there are several other sensitive sites in the eastern Abukuma Plateau, making the Greater Fukushima nuclear complex one of the largest and the most-advanced warhead production site in the world.
It might be noted here, though unmentioned in the video, that the military-focused nuclear program will soon be resuming at the Oma nuclear plant on the northern tip of Honshu, near the Misawa USAF base and within sight of Hakodate, Hokkaido, across the Tsugaru Strait. The remote area has no major city in the vicinity for the marketing of electricity. One of the ramifications of secret weapons development by Japan is that it compels North Korea to amass a deterrence capability, and unless the Japanese program is officially exposed and dismantled, Northeast Asia will continue to be a center of nuclear-weapons confrontation between at least five countries.
The misdirection of focusing solely on Pyongyang, of course, has not only been hypocritical, it is a massive self-deception concerning Japanese duplicity over its vaunted “Three Non-Nuclear Principles”. When its warhead-production is fully functioning again it will be merely a matter of time before a revanchist faction decides to get its revenge for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, although in the meanwhile the radioactive outflows from Fukushima are doing that task quite efficiently.
Secret Underground Nuke Labs
Headquartered in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture the Tohoku Electric Power Company (a regional utility company unrelated to TEPCO) burns North Korean coal at its Haramachi thermal plant. Curiously, none of that enormous power supply is delivered to the nearby city of Soma or to Miyagi communities across the provincial border. All of its 20,000kW output is allocated to the TEPCO Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant or used on-site for indeterminate purposes. Why does a large-scale conventional power plant have to be dedicated to powering a nuclear plant along with its own massive energy consumption?
This question is the key to unlocking the secret vault of nuclear-weapons production. As exposed by my April 2011 interview with a parliamentarian who was trained in nuclear engineering, the earthquake-caused collapse of the power-transmission line from Haramachi resulted in the outage that knocked out the computers controlling the Fukushima No.1 facility, the first falling domino that led to the meltdowns.
Enormous amounts of continuous power are required for the new GE-Hitachi “global laser extraction” system employing gasification, electromagnetic charging and laser-separation of enriched plutonium from spent fuel rods. This novel process defies the traditional view that Pu cannot be separated from the uranium content in mixed-oxide rods, thereby enabling vast arsenals of hydrogen bombs to now be rapidly produced from nuclear waste from civilian power plants. Research and full-on production were being conducted in secret at the three secret underground labs: Haramachi, Hirono and somewhere underground at the Fukushima No.1 site.
The satellite photo of the excavated remains of the Haramachi weapons lab, which appears in the video, is on view below in the image collection, together with a slightly wider view of coal-fired plant’s coal port. Photo 1: notice the ship cleansing its bilge of North Korean coal dust. The coal is transferred along a hopper to a trucking terminus, where large trucks (the tiny white dots) convey it to the coal storage area in the upper left corner. That area is now being used for radioactive waste storage, packed inside rows of 3-ton black poly-fiber bag.
Photo 2: The close-up of the rectangular pit reveals the outline of a lab, about 2-3 stories below the surface. During the post-quake excavation, a ramp for trucks was dug out, descending west-to-east, and then turning 180 degrees down to about 8 floors underground to the second deeper lab. In between the two cavernous structure areas, poly bags of low-level waste were being laid to provide a radioactive cover for the highly contaminated site, as a literal cover so that any analysts of data from ground-detection satellites would assume it’s a mere nuclear waste site rather than a wasted nuclear site.
Why would a nuclear-weapons lab be positioned so close to the shoreline? Obviously for offloading US-warhead material and to transport the warheads to naval ports for loading onto submarines. In exchange for quiet cooperation in the nuclear blame game, Haramachi could also in the past have secretly supplied the DPRK with fissile materials, to create a strategic rationale for Japan’s own nuclear program.
Deadly Fallout across Minami-Soma
The Japanese government claimed that the Fukushima nuclear disaster took only a single life, the death of a nuclear worker. This grotesque deception was perpetrated to prevent an international investigation under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
At least 1,000 nuclear-weapons technicians and Self-Defense Force soldiers were killed inside the flooded Haramachi lab with no chance of escape or rescue due to the intense nuclear releases. Outdoors in the surrounding Minami-Soma district, high radioactivity levels forced the pullout of police rescue teams, abandoning many thousands of local villagers to die of a combination of radioactive fallout and freezing temperatures.
A longtime media colleague, photographer Takashi Morizumi was in that district three days into the disaster response and then a month later recounted to me: “Despite the risk to their own lives, those local policemen were begging, some with tears in their eyes, for permission to take on the risks of entering the radioactive circle to save their relatives and friends. Their morale was crushed when their appeal was rejected.”
On the edge the 20-km earliest exclusion zone, several hotspots northwest of the plan were due to nuclear materials that had been swept inland by the tsunami from the Haramachi nuclear-weapons site. In the Japanese language “hara” means a broad plain, and the stream-laced coastal plain lays flat for some distance into the interior between low hills. Due to the powerful seawater pressure, the front wave rose up the valleys (pushed from behind by tsunami force) and deposited the nuclear materials before receding. A local resident, who worked for state-run soil decontamination project, said the inland sites were left for last, being the most dangerous to health.
About 2 months later, a leak from employees at the Fukushima University Medical School Hospital indicated more than a thousand bodies in white lab coats and military uniforms were being kept inside a walk-in freezer in the hospital morgue. The cynical claim that the Fukushima nuclear disaster claimed only one life omits the deaths from the secret nuclear lab at Haramachi.
After frustrating disappointments in trying to set up soil-decontamination projects using phyto-remediation (vegetation-based absorption) techniques that I learned in the Altai mountains from a Kazakhstan expert at Chernobyl, I switched my research activity to the Hirono town region, south of Fukushima No. 2, as the only field researcher in that area of Iwaki municipality, which is a company town controlled by nuclear contractors Hitachi-GE.
Entering the southern part of the exclusion zone by bicycle to avoid radio-frequency detection that identifies cars and motorcycles, I spent a late morning on my first incursion with an evacuee, whose house had collapsed in the 311 quake. When he rested on the stones of a low embankment, he told me: “This place is known as the ‘hot corner’ because the radioactivity has always been high here.” Since Fukushima?, I asked. At the time, I was still naive about the scale of the hidden program.
“It’s been radioactive here for many decades” was his reply. “TEPCO claims this is a conventional plant but in reality nuclear work’s been going on here for decades.” It took me the remainder of the day to begin to spot the signs and tracks.
On another bike journey into the surrounding farmlands, I saw daisies bigger than my two hands put together and gladiolus stems twice my height, indicating genetic mutations causing gigantism over many generations.
Despite a massive security presence around the TEPCO oil-fueled thermal plant, and being berated once and expelled by plainclothesmen with the secret nuclear security force, I managed on several occasions into slip into the J-village soccer stadium site, where the Fukushima workers were housed. To my astonishment, most of the young works coming off-duty told be that their entire workforce was assigned to clearing nuclear waste out of the Hirono thermal plant, which confirmed the first old-timer’s claim that this was a secret nuclear production site, which means of course for N-weaponry. ‘
Indeed, behind a visual barrier of dense groves of fir trees, huge cranes were working night and day, and dump trucks roared out the gates and through the tunnels of Highway 6 to a loading dock, where waste was transferred to rail cars for outdoor storage in four inland prefectures. I could not help but feel alarmed as trucks blew off dust clouds over groups of children returning home from school. The Education Ministry had issued a nationwide order to public schools not to enroll out-of-town children so these kids were trapped on the edge of the exclusion zone. The saddest sight was to see teenage girls who had recently returned from temporary evacuation riding the local trains, with a quiet forlorn look of acceptance of their fate.
A young store clerk in the inland city of Koriyama, who recognized that I was not a government agent, disclosed: “A lot of guys from the coast moved here after the tsunami and rented the biggest apartments. They all drive around in Mercedes. All they do everyday is drink and gamble at cards. We’ve heard that each received 70 million yen ($750,000 at that time’s forex rate) from the government.”
“For what?” I asked. His answer: “Nobody knows”. Obviously, the payoffs were part of a sweetheart deal for the nuclear-weapons technicians on condition of their silence. Other than late-coming paltry “compensation” for evacuees from inside the exclusion zone, provincial and regional residents living in radioactive homes where the local economy has been impoverished by the nuclear crisis received not a single aluminum yen and zero tax breaks.
I then began tracing radioactivity levels along local lanes, following a path of high readings to the small fishing port of Hisanohama. When I asked unemployed fisherman about nuclear waste passing through their area, one old-timer told me that they had been told to stay at home when a huge pile of high-level waste was unloaded on the narrow road above the port. “Then one morning it was gone,” he said. “Where’d it go?” I asked. He shrugged.
At the other end of the port, the roadside readings were low, meaning all that high-level waste had been put on barges and towed out to sea, probably for dumping in the Philippine Trench. A seaside neighborhood with a view of boat lanes out to the Pacific had been wiped out by the tsunami, with an estimated (by neighbors) loss of more than 2,000 lives. Yet Iwaki reported only one death in a road accident during the tsunami. How blatant does it get?
Adding a element of mystery was the lack of a single survivor from that tsunami site, meaning no witnesses were left to tell tales of past secret nuclear shipments out of the little fishing port. Some of them must have been push inshore and could grab a hold on a tree or clamber up a rock. Why was there nobody left to tell the tale of how barges have occasionally been towed toward the horizon, where a line of clouds have become a permanent fixture since 311. On another day while looking at seashells bubbled up by strontium, I noticed along a cape a rectangular band of opaque white fog, one of the unique features of tritium. Soon thereafter, a shore-dwelling couple with whom I had occasionally chatted died right after the government tripled the height of the seawall.
On these incursions, I had to camp overnight in the radioactive forest areas, due to the fact that the Economy Ministry and Hitachi-GE had rented every room in Iwaki to deny accommodations for volunteers. Other than myself, none ever showed more because of NGO collaboration with the government. Locals told me not a single bottle of drinking water had been delivered to that company town during the 311 relief effort.
One sunny morning after a chilly night in the “hot” rain, I was investigating how the government was rigging radioactivity detection equipment when a group of grass-cutters approached while clearing the roadsides of radioactive weeds. Needless to say, they were stunned that I had slept outdoors. They warned me to be extremely cautious of the secret nuclear security forces because over past decades many locals who entered the mountainous areas were detained, questioned and ordered never to come back by men in brown uniforms, who were neither with the police nor from the self-defense force.
I took their warning seriously, and on many occasions carried my bicycle and gear up forested hillsides and waited under the eaves of abandoned houses until my pursuers gave up the chase. Then, a few years on, I traveled by car with filmmaker Phillippe Carillo, to a dam suspected of serving as a tritium-production facility. It was up a steep road at the edge of the Abukuma Plateau without human habitation in sight. We were soon joined by a truck, and we were obviously under surveillance. Then cars came roaring up and men in green uniforms ran to the entry doors of two towers on the dam to check if we had broken in. While they were preoccupied doing a full security check on the mystery dam, we tiptoed to the car and drove downhill as fast as possible. This drama was happening in “the middle of nowhere”. The villagers had not been jesting with me.
Beginning and End
The video closes with my bicycle journey in southwest Fukushima Province to an abandoned uranium mine run by Bund-1, a joint atomic bomb project of the Japanese militarist government and Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. A physicist at Fukushima University was the world’s first scientist to theorize the immense power of atom-splitting, and so the seed for the nuclear age was planted here, in this accursed soil.
One of the adverse aspects of the video shooting was the burn-out of so many cameras, Geiger counters and computers due to radioactivity and the consequent necessity for ever-cheaper equipment, in addition to clothing. Unfortunately many photos were blotted out by the passage of gamma rays. For example, a group portrait of mating season for golden beetles. Deep in a forest by a stream, I spotted a circle of these shiny creatures lying dead around a femme fatale.
What happened is that when the males closed in around the fertile female, the increasing radioactivity level from their bodies during the convergence killed all of them. The increase of body radioactivity levels during crowding accounts for the mystery of the sudden deaths of commuters inside the Tokyo metro system in recent years. For a survivor condemned to avoidance, and by now we’re all hibakusha, it is a path of loneliness.
Fukushima’s Other Big Problem: A Million Tons of Radioactive Water
The tsunami-driven seawater that engulfed Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has long since receded. But plant officials are still struggling to cope with another dangerous flood: the enormous amounts of radioactive water the crippled facility generates each day. More than 1 million tons of radiation-laced water is already being kept on-site in an ever-expanding forest of hundreds of hulking steel tanks—and so far, there’s no plan to deal with them.
The earthquake and tsunami that hammered Fukushima on March 11, 2011 triggered meltdowns in three of its six reactors. That left messes of intensely radioactive fuel somewhere loose in the reactor buildings—though no one knows exactly where. What is known, however, is that every day, as much as much as 150 tons of groundwater percolates into the reactors through cracks in their foundations, becoming contaminated with radioactive isotopes in the process.
To keep that water from leaking into the ground or the Pacific, Tepco, the giant utility that owns the plant, pumps it out and runs it through a massive filtering system housed in a building the size of a small aircraft hangar. Inside are arrays of seven-foot tall stainless steel tubes, filled with sand grain-like particles that perform a process called ion exchange. The particles grab on to ions of cesium, strontium, and other dangerous isotopes in the water, making room for them by spitting out sodium. The highly toxic sludge created as a byproduct is stored elsewhere on the site in thousands of sealed canisters.
This technology has improved since the catastrophe. The first filtering systems, installed just weeks after the disaster by California-based Kurion Inc. (which has since been bought by Veolia, a French resource management company), only caught cesium, a strong gamma radiation emitter that makes it the most dangerous of the isotopes in the water. The tubes in those arrays were filled with highly modified grains of naturally occurring volcanic minerals called zeolites. By 2013, the company developed entirely artificial particles—a form of titano silicate—that also grab strontium.
The filters, however, don’t catch tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. That’s a much trickier task. Cesium and strontium atoms go into solution with the water, like sugar in tea; but tritium can bond with oxygen just like regular hydrogen, rendering the water molecules themselves radioactive. “It’s one thing to separate cesium from water, but how do you separate water from water?” asks John Raymont, Kurion’s founder and now president of Veolia’s nuclear solutions group. The company claims to have developed a system that can do the job, but Tepco has so far balked at the multi-billion dollar cost.
So for now, the tritiated water is pumped into a steadily growing collection of tanks. There are already hundreds of them, and Tepco has to start building a new one every four days.
Tepco has at least reduced the water’s inflow. As much as 400 tons per day was gushing in just a couple of years ago. In an effort to keep the groundwater from getting in, Tepco has built a network of pumps, and in 2016 installed an underground “ice wall”—a $300 million subterranean fence of 30-yard-long rods through which tons of sub-zero brine is pumped, freezing the surrounding earth. All of which helps, but hasn’t solved the problem.
Tritium is far less dangerous than cesium—it emits a weaker, lower-energy form of radiation. Still, all that tritiated water can’t just be stored indefinitely. “Some of those tanks and pipes will eventually fail. It’s inevitable,” says Dale Klein, a former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission who has been consulting with Tepco since the early days following the disaster. (In fact, hundreds of tons of water leaked out of the tanks in 2013 and 2014, sparking an international outcry. Tepco has since improved their design.)
Klein, among others, believes that the concentrations of tritium are low enough that the water can safely be released into the sea. “They should dilute and dispose of it,” he says. “It would be better to have a controlled release than an accidental one.”
But the notion of dumping tons of radioactive water into the ocean is understandably a tough sell. Whatever faith the Japanese public had left in Tepco took a further beating in the first couple of years after the meltdowns, when several investigations forced the company to acknowledge they had underreported the amount of radiation released during and after the disaster. Japan’s fishing industry raises a ruckus whenever the idea of dumping the tritiated water is broached; they already have to contend with import restrictions imposed by neighboring countries worried about eating contaminated fish. Japan’s neighbors including China, Korea, and Taiwan have also objected.
For now, all Tepco can do is keep building tanks, and hope that someone comes up with a solution before they run out of room—or the next earthquake hits.
Humans still can't locate the hundreds of tons of fuel inside the nuclear reactors that suffered meltdowns in 2011—but maybe robots can.
Cancer rates spiked after Fukushima, but you shouldn't necessarily blame the radiation.
But nuclear energy still carries major risks: Do they outweigh the benefits in a rapidly warming world?
https://www.wired.com/story/fukushimas- ... ive-water/
New Photos From Inside The Heart Of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
OUTSIDE THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ON MAY 2, 2013. JUN TERAMOTO/FLICKR CC BY-SA 2.0
By Tom Hale
04 MAY 2018, 17:36
Over seven years have passed, but the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains stuck in a radioactive limbo land. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has released brand new images from inside the heart of the nuclear power plant, taken as part of the company’s massive clean-up project.
As you can see from the series of images, it isn’t looking too healthy. Much of this damage was most likely caused by the intense fires that continue to spark up throughout the fuel pools in the plant’s worst affected areas. Equally, the initial meltdown saw a flurry of aggressive hydrogen-air explosions inside the reactors.
International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning/TEPCO
Atmospheric readings taken inside the plant have shown that many of the reactors are still riddled with crazily high levels of radiation. Back in February, reactor 2 even gave readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour. For perspective, a single dose of 1 sievert would be enough to leave you feeling ill with radiation sickness and at an increased risk of cancer.
Radiation levels as high as this mean large parts of the plant are still not safe for humans, so these images were taken on January 19, 2018, using a specialized camera attached to a long rod lowered into the reactor. TEPCO often rely on remote-controlled robots to take photographs and document their decommissioning program. However, even their toughest robots can only survive an exposure of up to 1,000 sieverts, so at 530 sieverts per hour, they would be destroyed in just two hours.
International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning/TEPCO
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986. It occurred after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a 15-meter (49-foot) tsunami off the north-east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. The flood of water prompted the plant’s backup power supply to buckle. With no electricity, those working at the plant were unable to pump water into the reactors to sufficiently cool them down. This culminated in three of its six reactors overheating, leading to nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen-air explosions, and the release of radioactive material.
Authorities and TEPCO are still grappling to resolve the damage. One of the biggest problems facing the clean-up project is the million tons of radiation-laced water lurking in the plant. All in all, the decommissioning process is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars and could last for up to 40 years.
http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/ ... wer-plant/
Remediating Fukushima—“When everything goes to hell, you go back to basics”
It may take 40 years for the site to appear like "a normal reactor at the end of its life."
William Steel - 5/11/2018, 8:15 AM
Seven years on from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has come a long way from the state it was reduced to. Once front and center in the global media as a catastrophe on par with Chernobyl, the plant stands today as the site of one of the world’s most complex and expensive engineering projects.
Beyond the earthquake itself, a well understood series of events and external factors contributed to the meltdown of three of Fukushima’s six reactors, an incident that has been characterized by nuclear authorities as the world’s second worst nuclear power accident only after Chernobyl. It’s a label that warrants context, given the scale, complexity, and expense of the decontamination and decommissioning of the plant.
How does a plant and its engineers move on from such devastation? The recovery initiatives have faced major challenges, constantly being confronted by issues involving radioactive contamination of everything from dust to groundwater. And those smaller issues ultimately complicate the remediation effort's long-term goal: to locate and remove the nuclear fuel that was in the reactors.
A sense of scale
Jonathan Cobb, spokesperson for the World Nuclear Association, spoke with Ars about the scale of Fukushima, explaining that radioactive releases in Japan were much smaller than at Chernobyl, and the accident resulted in no loss of life from radiation: “Of course, this doesn’t take away from the enormous task currently being faced at Fukushima.”
The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) reported in May 2013 that radiation exposure following the Fukushima accident didn’t cause any immediate health effects and that future health effects attributable to the accident among either the general public or the vast majority of workers are unlikely. A 2017 paper from UNSCEAR reports that these conclusions remain valid in light of continued research since the incident.
Even the most at-risk citizens, those living in Fukushima prefecture, are only expected to be exposed to around 10mSv as a result of the accident over their lifetimes. “For reference, the global average natural background radiation tends to be around 2.4mSv/year, but even 20mSv/year isn’t exceptional,” said Cobb.
Still, the accident was rated a 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), which is the highest rating possible, and designates it a Major Accident due to high radioactive releases. Estimates vary slightly, but Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission report puts total releases at 570 petabecquerels (PBq) iodine-131 equivalent. (For comparison, Chernobyl released 5,200PBq iodine-131 equivalent.)
But the severity of the accident is probably most keenly felt in the scale of the cleanup. The incident has necessitated the ongoing cleanup and decommissioning of the plant—something that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s owner and operator, is responsible for. Even though the plant is seven years into the cleanup and has accomplished a great deal, we won’t see a conclusion for decades yet.
Meltdowns and immediate priorities
Remarkably, seismic shocks of the magnitude 9 earthquake didn’t cause any significant damage to the earthquake-proofed reactors; rather, the tsunami knocked out power that precipitated reactor meltdowns in Units 1, 2, and 3. Subsequent explosions caused by hydrogen buildup (from zirconium cladding of fuel assemblies melting and oxidizing) in Units 1, 3, and 4 then expelled radioactive contamination, most of which fell within the confines of the plant.
Cobb explained that in the aftermath of this, the ongoing risk posed by radionuclides (notably, iodine-131 and cesium isotopes 134 and 137) depended on their half-lives. Iodine-131, with a half-life of just eight days, posed virtually no threat at all after just several months. It has been cesium-134, with a two-year half-life, and cesium-137, with a 30-year half-life, that have been the major focus of decontamination efforts. “Radioactive decay means that we’ve seen a reduction in contamination simply through time passing; at the plant, however, my expectation is that the majority of reduction has been due to efforts of TEPCO. Conditions have improved markedly and a sense of normalcy has returned.”
It’s useful to take stock of what TEPCO had to contend with from the outset. Lake Barrett, a veteran of the US nuclear energy industry who spent several years at the helm of decommissioning work at Three Mile Island reactor 2, is currently an independent special advisor to the Japanese Government and TEPCO board of directors. He told Ars, “When everything goes to hell on you, you go back to basics. You’re concerned with accident response and immediate recovery of the situation. Over the longer timeframe, the decontamination & decommissioning (D&D) focus shifts to a more deliberate approach to major technical challenges.”
Barrett explained that reactor stabilization at Fukushima—an imperative of the immediate recovery—has long since been achieved. Temperatures within the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) and Primary Containment Vessels (PCVs) of Units 1-3 are stable at between 15 to 30ºC, and there have been no significant changes in airborne radioactive materials released from reactor buildings. This qualifies as a ‘comprehensive cold shutdown’ condition.
Barrett explained how the issue of cooling is mostly non-existent at this point: “The three melted reactor cores emit less heat than a small car. Decay heat was a huge issue in the first weeks, but it’s no longer an issue. And while TEPCO still injects water onto the cores, this is more for dust suppression than anything else.”
With the reactors stable, early phases of TEPCO’s work simply involved debris clearing and restorative efforts throughout buildings and across the 3.5 square miles of the plant—both having been ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami. In the most contaminated places, remotely operated machines undertook most of the work. To reduce environmental contamination, they also removed top soils and vegetation, deforested the site, and then applied a polymer resin and concrete across much of the plant complex. This has locked contaminated material in place and limited the flow of groundwater through the site.
Other work has been more substantial. Units 1, 3 and 4 were blown apart and have had to be reinforced and encased, both for safety and to prevent spread of radioactive material. Although Unit 2 retained its roof, TEPCO decided to dismantle the upper building nonetheless, as it will facilitate removal of fuel from the reactor.
At the peak of these operations, some 7,450 persons worked at Fukushima. As operations have evolved, the workforce has declined to a not inconsiderable 5,000 daily personnel. With such levels of permanent staffing, it’s little wonder that a new rest-house, cafeteria, shops, and office building have all been built.
The efforts have, in a practical sense, meant that the majority of the site has transitioned to a stable, relatively risk-free environment. Describing the decommissioning as an “enormous challenge never before undertaken by humanity,” Seto Kohta of TEPCO told Ars: “We have overcome the state of chaos that ensued after the accident and have succeeded in reducing site dose levels to an average of less than 5μSv/h, with the exception of the vicinity of Units 1-4.” (Global background levels are <0.5µSv/h.)
TEPCO reports that the additional effective dose (i.e. additional to natural background radiation) at the plant’s boundary has declined to the target value of less than 1mSv/y.
This is not to say the plant is without signs of past problems—far from it. Felled trees sit waiting for incineration; huge mounds of soil lie under tarps; buildings retain marks of past trauma; and with environmental dosage a perennial concern, close to a hundred dose-rate monitors are positioned around the site.
Kohta also noted that while “95 percent of the site no longer requires the donning of full- or half-face masks or coveralls,” some level of protection is still required for working around the plant according to three levels of contamination. The vast majority of the plant grounds are in what’s termed Zone G, which requires just generic coveralls and disposable medical masks. Zone Y provides a perimeter around the Units 1-4 and necessitates heavier-duty coveralls and either full- or half-face masks. And lastly there is Zone R, closer to and including the reactor buildings, requiring double-layered coveralls and full-face masks.
https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/05 ... to-basics/
Fukushima nuclear disaster from a foreign perspective: German film was shot inside exclusion zone
Greetings from Fukushima, a movie on the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, was shot on location, with the director Doris Dörrie even carrying a Geiger counter to monitor radiation levels
Richard James Havis12 May 2018
Rosalie Thomass (centre) in Greetings from Fukushima.
There have been numerous responses by Japanese artists and filmmakers to the earthquake that hit Japan in 2011 and the subsequent tsunami. By contrast, Greetings from Fukushima, a 2016 feature by German director Doris Dörrie, gives a foreigner’s perspective on the disaster and its aftermath.
The film is also known as Fukushima, Mon Amour, a reference to Alain Resnais’ 1959 classic Hiroshima, Mon Amour, which was set amid the devastation of the atomic bomb. Dörrie’s film has a more straightforward structure than Resnais’ elliptical work.
In fact, Dörrie does not focus on the wider impact of the tsunami, instead limiting the story to a relationship between a troubled German girl and a grumpy Japanese woman, both of whom are trying to come to terms with events from their pasts. As Dörrie reveals more about her protagonists, the Fukushima tragedy plays into the main theme of overcoming grief to build a better future.
We lived there. We shot there. We never left the zone through the entire shoot. Everything [you see in the film] is the real thing. Our main location is 11km away from the nuclear power plant
Director Doris Dörrie
Marie (Rosalie Thomass) is a German street theatre artist who travels to Fukushima to entertain a small community of elderly people who have returned to a safe part of the exclusion zone around the damaged nuclear reactor. The job doesn’t work out but she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the elderly Satomi (prolific actress Kaori Momoi), who’s a geisha. Satomi moves back into her old house, which is still within the exclusion zone, and Marie reluctantly starts to visit her. By roundabout methods, the two women assuage each other’s grief.
In the Fade film review: Diane Kruger goes after neo-Nazi terrorists in tragic revenge drama
Dörrie is no stranger to Japan, having travelled extensively around the country, and made a few films there, including 2008’s Cherry Blossoms, which also viewed the nation from a German perspective. She made a bold decision to shoot Greetings from Fukushima on location within the exclusion zone – in black-and-white – and even carried a Geiger counter to monitor radiation levels.
“We lived there. We shot there. We never left the zone through the entire shoot. Everything [you see in the film] is the real thing,” Dörrie told the Post in an interview in 2016. “Our main location is 11km away from the nuclear power plant.”
Thomass and Kaori Momoi (right) in Greetings from Fukushima.Thomass and Kaori Momoi (right) in Greetings from Fukushima.
Greetings from Fukushima is a cool-headed, quietly moving drama about personal loss and recovery. Sensibly choosing to depict the story through the eyes of a young German visitor, rather than a Japanese protagonist, the film avoids making any cultural errors, although its decision to focus on a geisha, rather than someone less traditional, does tend to reinforce the stereotypical view of Japanese women.
Greetings from Fukushima will be screened on May 18 at the Hong Kong Film Archive,
in Sai Wan Ho, as part of the German Film Forum – Dangerous Times programme.
http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-maga ... erspective
Seismologist testifies Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable
May 10, 2018
TOKYO -- A seismologist has testified during the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant, that the nuclear crisis could have been prevented if proper countermeasures had been taken.
"If proper steps had been taken based on a long-term (tsunami) evaluation, the nuclear accident wouldn't have occurred," Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told the Tokyo District Court on May 9.
Shimazaki, who played a leading role in working out the national government's long-term evaluation, appeared at the 11th hearing of the three former TEPCO executives as a witness.
Prosecutors had initially not indicted the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel consisting of members of the public deemed twice that the three deserve prosecution, court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors indicted the three under the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.
Court-appointed attorneys insist that former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto, 67, and others postponed implementing tsunami countermeasures based on the long-term evaluation, leading to the disaster.
The government's Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released its long-term evaluation in 2002 predicting that a massive tsunami could occur along the Japan Trench including the area off Fukushima.
In 2008, TEPCO estimated that a tsunami up to 15.7 meters high could hit the Fukushima No. 1 power station, but failed to reflect the prediction in its tsunami countermeasures at the power station.
The Cabinet Office's Central Disaster Prevention Council also did not adopt the long-term evaluation in working out its disaster prevention plan.
Shimazaki, who was a member of the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion's earthquake research panel in 2002, told the court that the Cabinet Office pressured the panel shortly before the announcement of the long-term evaluation to state that the assessment is unreliable. The headquarters ended up reporting in the long-term evaluation's introduction that there were problems with the assessment's reliability and accuracy.
In his testimony, Shimazaki pointed out that the Central Disaster Prevention Council decision not to adopt the long-term evaluation led to inappropriate tsunami countermeasures.
With regard to factors behind the council's refusal to accept the evaluation, Shimazaki stated that he can only think of consideration shown to those involved in the nuclear power industry and politics.
"If countermeasures had been in place based on the long-term evaluation, many lives would've been saved," Shimazaki told the court.
Shimazaki served as deputy chairman of the government's Nuclear Regulatory Authority after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
(Japanese original by Epo Ishiyama, City News Department, and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department)
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20 ... na/017000c
TEPCO employee dies working inside Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant
The employee working inside the power plant began vomiting suddenly Wednesday morning, and was declared dead in the afternoon
By Duncan DeAeth,Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Employees at the Fukushima facility in protective suits (By Associated Press)
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A worker involved in the clean-up and maintenance of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, died suddenly on Wednesday June 6, according to local media.
A 50 year-old male employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was working on dismantling scaffolding within the damaged nuclear plant when he began vomiting inside his protective suit at approximately 10:40 a.m.
He reportedly continued to work until a second round of vomiting began around 12:45 p.m, which caused him to collapse.
He was immediately rushed out of the radioactive zone to a nearby hospital, but was unresponsive. Doctors declared him dead at 4:00 p.m.
Liberty Times reports that the man was wearing the proper protective clothing, and that there had been no signs of illness or problems during the pre-work check. However, TEPCO did report that the man had suffered from an unspecified medical condition prior to his employment with the company.
The man had been employed to work at the facility since March 2016.
On March 11, 2011, a catastrophic tsunami struck the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan, resulting in the failure of the Fukushima nuclear fuel storage facilities. The radioactive fallout from the incident has been a continual concern for the Japanese government and global safety and energy organizations. TEPCO has been tasked with cleaning up and managing the hazardous facility.
Private firms bought Fukushima NPO corp. to gain edge on reconstruction contracts
June 7, 2018 (Mainichi Japan)
This picture shows the receipt for the purchase of an NPO corporation in Fukushima Prefecture for 100,000 yen. (Mainichi)
A specified nonprofit corporation set up for the promotion of Fukushima Prefecture following the March 2011 triple nuclear meltdown there was purchased by a local construction company and then resold to another builder for the purpose of winning reconstruction project contracts, a Mainichi Shimbun investigation has found.
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The two companies used society's high trust in those corporations, also known as NPO (nonprofit organization) corporations, to get closer to potential customers such as local companies or public entities and make money, although such entities are not meant for profit.
The corporation in question was originally established by a man in his 70s in Fukushima because he wanted to promote the prefecture's nature and counter damaging rumors related to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident. It is one of 11 NPO corporations that the Mainichi identified as targets of commercial transactions.
However, the original founder was forced to suspend its operation due to a funding shortage. He sold the corporation to the president of a construction company in Fukushima Prefecture for 100,000 yen on Dec. 5, 2014, and the purchaser resold it to the chairman of a contractor in Chiba Prefecture on Oct. 30, 2015, for 1 million yen.
The president of the Fukushima company thought that perhaps an NPO corporation would have an edge in competition for reconstruction-related contracts. So he approached the original owner, whom he had known for some time, to sell the corporation to him if it was dormant. However, the president's expectations proved hollow and his business began to fail, unable to cover workers' salaries.
The Chiba contractor's chairman learned about the NPO corporation through the construction industry rumor mill, and he made an immediate decision to buy it. He explained that the purchase was to make connections with potential customers such as major construction companies looking for subcontractors, local governments with information on future contracts, local assembly members who could wield influence or local companies that may distribute work to his company. Having a face as a local NPO corporation, the chairman said, would produce business opportunities unavailable to non-local competitors.
In fact, the NPO corporation has not played a role in his business and he uses other methods to win Fukushima contracts. "Perhaps I should use it in the future," said the chairman with a laugh.
Another contractor in Fukushima said that NPO corporations are in high demand and there have been many transactions since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. What the Mainichi investigation has uncovered is "just the tip of the iceberg," he said.
Brokers trying to buy NPO corporations in Fukushima contact the contractor, he said, "because it's easier for those corporations to win subsidies from the environment and agriculture ministries." Brokers resell those corporations at values several times higher than their purchase prices, according to the contractor.
A broker in the Kinki region in western Japan involved in the buying and selling of NPO corporations said, "Perhaps people are buying up NPO corporations in Kumamoto," in reference to reconstruction following the April 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake.
(Japanese original by Ryuji Tanaka and Taiji Mukohata, Special Reports Group)
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20 ... dm/101000c
Fukushima radioactive particle release was significant, says new research
May 24, 2018
University of Manchester
Scientists say there was a significant release of radioactive particles during the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident. The researchers identified the contamination using a new method and say if the particles are inhaled they could pose long-term health risks to humans.
This is research student Mr. Ryohei Ikehara conducting environmental monitoring in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear exclusion zone.
Credit: Dr Gareth Law, The University of Manchester
Scientists say there was a significant release of radioactive particles during the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident.
The researchers identified the contamination using a new method and say if the particles are inhaled they could pose long-term health risks to humans.
The new method allows scientists to quickly count the number of caesium-rich micro-particles in Fukushima soils and quantify the amount of radioactivity associated with these particles.
The research, which was carried out by scientists from Kyushu University, Japan, and The University of Manchester, UK, was published in Environmental Science and Technology.
In the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, it was thought that only volatile, gaseous radionuclides, such as caesium and iodine, were released from the damaged reactors. However, in recent years it has become apparent that small radioactive particles, termed caesium-rich micro-particles, were also released.
Scientists have shown that these particles are mainly made of glass, and that they contain significant amounts of radioactive caesium, as well as smaller amounts of other radioisotopes, such as uranium and technetium.
The abundance of these micro-particles in Japanese soils and sediments, and their environmental impact is poorly understood. But the particles are very small and do not dissolve easily, meaning they could pose long-term health risks to humans if inhaled.
Therefore, scientists need to understand how many of the micro-particles are present in Fukushima soils and how much of the soil radioactivity can be attributed to the particles. Until recently, these measurements have proven challenging.
The new method makes use of a technique that is readily available in most Radiochemistry Laboratories called Autoradiography. In the method, an imaging plate is placed over contaminated soil samples covered with a plastic wrap, and the radioactive decay from the soil is recorded as an image on the plate. The image from plate is then read onto a computer.
The scientists say radioactive decay from the caesium-rich micro particles can be differentiated from other forms of caesium contamination in the soil.
The scientists tested the new method on rice paddy soil samples retrieved from different locations within the Fukushima prefecture. The samples were taken close to (4 km) and far away (40 km) from the damaged nuclear reactors. The new method found caesium-rich micro-particles in all of the samples and showed that the amount of caesium associated with the micro-particles in the soil was much larger than expected.
Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya, Associate Professor at Kyushu University, Japan, and the lead author of the study says "when we first started to find caesium-rich micro-particles in Fukushima soil samples, we thought they would turn out to be relatively rare. Now, using this method, we find there are lots of caesium-rich microparticles in exclusion zone soils and also in the soils collected from outside of the exclusion zone."
Dr Gareth Law, Senior Lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester and an author on the paper, adds: "Our research indicates that significant amounts of caesium were released from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in particle form.
"This particle form of caesium behaves differently to the other, more soluble forms of caesium in the environment. We now need to push forward and better understand if caesium micro-particles are abundant throughout not only the exclusion zone, but also elsewhere in the Fukushima prefecture; then we can start to gauge their impact."
The new method can be easily used by other research teams investigating the environmental impact of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
Dr Utsunomiya adds: "we hope that our method will allow scientists to quickly measure the abundance of caesium-rich micro-particles at other locations and estimate the amount of caesium radioactivity associated with the particles. This information can then inform cost effective, safe management and clean-up of soils contaminated by the nuclear accident."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 104104.htm
Fukushima Nuclear Plant Radioactive Waste Flowed Into Bay for Five Years After Disaster
By Maria Perez On 6/7/18 at 11:51 AM
Radioactive waste from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan flowed into Tokyo Bay for five years after the 2011 disaster, according to a new study.
Hideo Yamazaki, a former professor of environmental analysis at Kindai University told The Asahi Shimbun that 20,100 becquerels of cesium per square meter were found in the mud of the Kyu-Edogawa river five years after a tsunami caused the meltdown of the plant.
Cesium-137 is a dangerous fission product that is a radioactive isotope found in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. The waste in the river was emptied into the Tokyo Bay.
Yamazaki’s team measured a maximum of 104,000 becquerels of cesium per square meter from the mud he and his study team collected in July 2016 in the same area of the bay. The cesium that was released at the beginning of the Fukushima plant meltdown was located upstream in the river in Chiba prefecture. The substances eventually moved downstream into the Tokyo Bay and seeped into the mud, Yamazaki told the publication. A becquerel is the International System of Units (SI) used to measure radioactivity.
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929916336 A guard motions at a checkpost exit from the exclusion zone in the town of Futaba, in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, on March 5. A researcher measured 20,100 becquerels of cesium per square meter in mud at the Kyu-Edogawa river, which empties into the Tokyo Bay, five years after the disaster. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
The highest level of radioactivity that was found in the mud during the 2016 study was 350 becquerels, The Asahi Shimbun reported. The Japanese government has said soil with 8,000 becquerels or lower of radioactive cesium per kilogram could be used in constructing new roads.
The flow of the dangerous radioactive chemical came after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on May 11, 2011. The devastating events left up to 20,000 people dead or missing. The tsunami slammed into seawalls and caused a power outage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The natural disasters caused three out of the six nuclear reactors of the Fukushima No. 1 plant to have severe meltdowns.
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In April, an employee at the plant during the time of the meltdown told a Japanese court that his former boss kept delaying the construction of a protective wall despite knowing that a tsunami could hit the plant.
A safety test conducted in 2008 proved that if an earthquake would strike, it could cause a 52-foot high tsunami, The Asahi Shimbun previously reported. The employee said the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was ready to build the wall, but former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto dropped the project.
http://www.newsweek.com/fukushima-japan ... ter-964458
These are the abandoned cars of Fukushima
We set out to find the cars left behind by the 2011 nuclear disaster...
A bleached-out calendar hangs open on 11 March 2011; on the floor, plastic baskets and metal pachinko balls are scattered everywhere, forcing you to pick a careful path through the debris.
The sense of loss and upheaval is palpable. You can taste it in the dank, cloying air. Outside the gambling parlour a kid’s bike lies on its side, now rusted through, perhaps in the same position it was tossed seven years ago when its owner dropped everything and bolted. Across the car park, a silver Audi A4 Avant – seemingly in perfect condition – is being consumed by the weeds, sucked back down into the earth from whence it came.
This had started as a fairly last-minute, light-hearted idea. I was in Tokyo anyway, so why not ask Honda to lend us their silliest Kei car and take a three-hour roadtrip to the now partly open nuclear-exclusion zone surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station? There had been reports and shots from a few intrepid photographers of abandoned vehicles everywhere, and given the depth of car culture in Japan, there was bound to be some interesting stuff left behind in the mass exodus.
Our motives weren’t sinister or discourteous, but born of curiosity. Exactly six years after a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake caused a series of tsunamis up to 39m high that pummelled Japan’s northeastern coastline, flooded an area of 217 square miles, killed 16,000 people and wiped out the cooling systems for three nuclear reactors, sending them into meltdown and spewing radiation into the surrounding area, the government’s evacuation order was lifted. That was in March 2017.
Former residents, in all but a handful of towns closest to the reactors, where radiation levels are still deemed unsafe, are being encouraged to move back, and £151m has been set aside to restore the healthcare system and other essential facilities. Despite the removal of housing subsidies to evacuees, worth around £640 a month to them, only around 15 per cent have taken the government up on its offer. The science says it’s now safe, but you would you send your kids back to school here? Would you drink the water?
The gambling hall in Tomioka is our first stop, and instantly shapes our mood. This doesn’t feel like bold exploration of somewhere few others have gone before; it feels like picking through the bones of real people’s lives. An abandoned Audi isn’t a finders keepers trophy, it’s someone else’s toil, left to the weeds because they had the sense to grasp that life is more precious than things. Above all, there’s a sense that today, as members of the human race, we’re duty-bound to show the utmost respect.
Which brings me to our car. The Honda N Box Slash Mugen is peak Japan: a kei car cube on wheels embellished with a bodykit of questionable aerodynamic benefit, 16in spider-web wheels, sports suspension, dual exhaust and decals inexplicably themed around “Muscle American Style”. And before you ask, there’s nothing remotely muscular under the bonnet – it gets a 660cc 57bhp triple. Earlier, as we wheezed our way out of Tokyo, it was a bit of a hit, probably getting more laughs than thumbs up, but still popular. Here, given the sobering atmosphere, it’s a bit of an embarrassment. Well, it would be if there were more people around to see us.
Stick to National Route 6, the coast road that carves straight through the centre of the exclusion zone, and besides the jumbo Geiger counters that line the roadside, the occasional sign for radioactive wild boar (a serious problem – the desolate towns were overrun with them until local hunters were drafted in to cull the numbers) and large sections with all exits blocked and guarded to restrict access into the red zone, and the traffic flow is fairly normal. Peel off into the towns open to the public, like Tomioka and Namie, and it’s clear that while the government is keen to invest, there’s little will from the people to repopulate.
We drive along Namie’s main high street and find nothing but collapsed buildings and boarded-up shops. Occasionally another car passes; largely we’re left to our own devices. Rowan and I, normally keen on cracking jokes to pass the time, are both mute. Everywhere we look, poignant images stare back: a single forgotten bike at the train station, billboards for an election long since passed, vending machines not used or emptied since the ground shook and the great wave.
In Tomioka, we roll past an abandoned school, and the gravity of it all hits like a sledgehammer. Not so much the derelict building, but the lack of children… the absence of life. Just outside Tomioka, a field of black sacks piled as far as the eye can see, each filled with the contaminated top soil the government has been working for years to remove and make farming, once again, a realistic possibility.
There are cars here and there, but strangely it’s not until we’re back on the busy Route 6, that we find anything of note. Our first meaningful encounter is a used-car dealership, the stock lined up with military precision, but the office long since deserted. A Jag XJ on 20s with a pedestrian-piercing bonnet mascot, an old Cadillac and a beautifully crafted Buddhist hearse based on a Lincoln Town Car catch our eye, but the best is around the corner: a stanced Merc S-Class, stricken on its belly, the air suspension long since packed in.
Soon, another car lot, obscured from the main road by long grass, so we pull off for a closer look. Another hearse and more American metal, but this time a stretched limo, an orange Chevy Impala SS with the door ajar that I can’t resist trying on for size and… a jet ski. Once upon a time, somebody’s pride and joy, now ornaments in a museum. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll be claimed, perhaps they’ll be here in 100 years.
It’s on our way south, back towards Tokyo, that I spot a British racing green Mini a long way from home, hidden behind a fence, surrounded by dense foliage. On closer inspection, it’s another sprawling forecourt sprinkled with unremarkable Japanese hatches and beige saloons. And then, a flash of white through the ivy. I climb in and wrestle the vines to one side, revealing a crystal-white R32 GT-R V-spec II. Not the most valuable GT-R, but still £30,000’s worth left to rot, swallowed by the plant life. And next to it, for all you odd Japanese car name aficionados out there, a Mazda Bongo Friendee.
On that victory, it’s clear our work here is done, so we leave. But not with a feeling of achievement for confirming that the Japanese have supreme taste in cars, but with a deep sense of sadness for the lives and livelihoods that this colossal natural disaster ripped apart in a moment.
If you’re wondering whether any of this was safe, whether I should have been wearing a triple-lined space suit or placed in quarantine for a month, allow me to furnish you with some numbers. Using a fairly primitive smartphone Geiger counter, I gathered readings at various points in our journey. At the school in Tomioka it read 0.38µSv/h (micro Sieverts per hour, Sieverts being the unit of radiation exposure), a good indication of the average dose we were receiving. By comparison, Tokyo residents receive 0.04µSv/h.
We were in the Fukushima area for five hours so received a total dose of (0.38 x 5) 1.9µSv. If we were there for a whole year we’d receive a total of (0.38 x 24 x 365) 3,329µSv. Still with me? Good. By comparison, take a flight from NY to LA and you’ll receive a one-off dose of 40µSv, a mammogram is 3,000µSv, the maximum allowable yearly dose for a nuclear-plant worker is 50,000µSv, and it’s not until you receive 100,000µSv in a year that there’s a link to increased cancer risk. So you see, on paper, it is safe. The government isn’t trying to con anyone, but numbers on a page are one thing, peace of mind is another.
If this whole episode teaches us anything, it’s that however deep we build our foundations and however robust the infrastructure appears to be, we’re all at the constant mercy of Mother Nature. As observed by novelist Jack London, walking the streets of San Francisco after the great quake in 1906: “The streets were humped into ridges and depressions, and piled with the debris of fallen walls. The steel rails were twisted into perpendicular and horizontal angles. The telephone and telegraph systems were disrupted. And the great water-mains had burst. All the shrewd contrivances and safeguards of man had been thrown out of gear by 30 seconds’ twitching of the earth crust.”
https://www.topgear.com/car-news/big-re ... -fukushima
Mixed reactions to Fukushima Daiichi memorabilia
5 hours ago
A decision by Tokyo Electric Power Company to start selling goods commemorating the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is drawing mixed reactions.
The plant is in the process of decommissioning after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered a meltdown in 3 of the 6 reactors.
The utility on Wednesday began selling clear plastic folders containing images of the plant at an on-site convenience store.
Some of the pictures show images of reactors No.1 to No.4, while others show workers walking near tanks that hold treated contaminated water.
A set of 3 folders costs 300 yen, or about 3 dollars.
TEPCO says the price is roughly equivalent to how much it costs to produce the goods.
The utility says it started selling the items after workers and visitors to the plant requested them. It says it hopes people who buy them will tell their families and friends about the progress of the decommissioning work.
The move drew a range of reactions on Twitter and other social media.
One critical comment said, "I wonder what people who were driven out of their communities would think," referring to evacuees of the nuclear disaster.
Another comment suggested that 'souvenirs' are inappropriate "when there is no clear end in sight for the decommissioning work or the decontamination of water."
One favorable comment said such goods "are not bad in the sense that they would help visitors and former workers remember their experience" at the power plant.
Extreme makeover: Fukushima nuclear plant tries image overhaul
03 Aug 2018 03:48PM
FUKUSHIMA: Call it an extreme makeover: In Japan's Fukushima, officials are attempting what might seem impossible, an image overhaul at the site of the worst nuclear meltdown in decades.
At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, there's a flashy new administrative building, debris has been moved and covered, and officials tout the "light" radioactive security measures now possible.
"You see people moving around on foot, just in their uniforms. Before that was banned," an official from the plant's operator TEPCO says.
"These cherry blossoms bloom in the spring," he adds, gesturing to nearby foliage.
If it sounds like a hard sell, that might be because the task of rehabilitating the plant's reputation is justifiably Herculean.
In 2011, a massive earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed thousands and prompted the meltdown of several reactors.
About 100,000 litres of water still seeps into the plant each day, which requires extensive treatment to reduce its radioactivity. (Photo: AFP/Kimimasa Mayama)
It was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and has had devastating psychological and financial effects on the region.
But TEPCO officials have been gradually trying to rebrand the plant, bringing in school groups, diplomats and other visitors, and touting a plan to attract 20,000 people a year by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics.
Officials point out that protective gear is no longer needed in most of the plant, except for a small area, where some 3,000 to 4,000 workers are still decontaminating the facility.
Since May, visitors have been able to move around near the reactors on foot, rather than only in vehicles, and they can wear "very light equipment," insists TEPCO spokesman Kenji Abe.
That ensemble includes trousers, long sleeves, a disposable face mask, glasses, gloves, special shoes and two pairs of socks, with the top pair pulled up over the trouser hem to seal the legs underneath.
And of course there's a geiger counter.
The charm offensive extends beyond the plant, with TEPCO in July resuming television and billboard adverts for the first time since 2011, featuring a rabbit mascot with electrical bolt whiskers called "Tepcon".
But the upbeat messaging belies the enormity of the task TEPCO faces to decommission the plant.
Officials have been gradually trying to rebrand the Fukushima nuclear plant, bringing in school groups, diplomats and other visitors. (Photo: AFP/Kimimasa Mayama)
It has installed an "icewall" that extends deep into the ground around the plant in a bid to prevent groundwater seeping in and becoming decontaminated, or radioactive water from inside flowing out to the sea.
But about 100,000 litres of water still seeps into the plant each day, some of which is used for cooling. It requires extensive treatment to reduce its radioactivity.
Once treated, the water is stored in tanks, which have multiplied around the plant as officials wrangle over what to do with the contaminated liquid.
There are already nearly 900 tanks containing a million cubic metres of water - equal to about 400 Olympic swimming pools.
And the last stage of decommissioning involves the unprecedented task of extracting molten nuclear fuel from the reactors.
"There was the Chernobyl accident, but they didn't remove the debris," said Katsuyoshi Oyama, who holds the title of TEPCO's "risk communicator".
"So for what we have to do here, there is no reference."
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/as ... l-10586540
Fukushima nuclear disaster: UN says clean-up workers risk exploitation
The nuclear reactor damaged by the tsunamiAFP
The nuclear plant remains contaminated and in ruins
Workers used to decontaminate the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan are at grave risk of exploitation, independent UN experts say.
Tens of thousands, reportedly including migrants and homeless people, may be being deceived about the risks of exposure to radiation, they say.
The UN is urging the Japanese government to act to protect them.
The plant was hit by a tsunami in 2011, causing the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Fukushima's long road to recovery
The UN experts, known as special rapporteurs, said they were also concerned that workers might be being coerced into accepting hazardous working conditions because of economic hardship and being given inadequate training and protection.
"We are equally concerned about the impact that exposure to radiation may have on their physical and mental health," they added.
From tsunami to nuclear meltdown, how the disaster unfolded
Tens of thousands of workers have been recruited under the decontamination programme.
However the UN said it was concerned by reports that big contractors had used hundreds of inexperienced smaller subcontractors and brokers to recruit a considerable number of the workers.
This may have "created favourable conditions for the abuse and violation of workers' rights", the UN experts said.
Workers are "often exposed to a myriad of human rights abuses, forced to make the abhorrent choice between their health and income, and their plight is invisible to most consumers and policymakers with the power to change it," they said.
Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare says 46,386 workers were employed in 2016 and the Radiation Worker Central Registration Centre of Japan says as many as 76,951 decontamination workers were hired in the five-year period up to 2016, the UN says.
The 2011 Fukushima disaster saw three reactors of the nuclear power plant, some 62km (39 miles) south-east of the city of Fukushima, fail after it was damaged and flooded in the tsunami.
The accident forced more than 470,000 people to be evacuated because of nuclear contamination concerns.
Just under 18,500 people were killed or went missing after an earthquake triggered the massive tsunami that led to the meltdown.
Authorities are running an education campaign about the "revitalisation" of Fukushima which aims to provide information and bring transparency to the clean-up process.
Yet in many of the areas where evacuation orders have long been lifted only a few former residents have returned to their homes.
Fukushima will also be one of the venues for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with hopes the event will showcase the region's recovery from the nuclear disaster.
First reliable estimates of highly radioactive cesium-rich microparticles released by Fukushima disaster
The flooding of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) after the disastrous earthquake on March 11 2011 caused the release of significant amounts of radioactive material, including cesium (Cs) isotopes 134Cs (half-life, 2 years) and 137Cs (half-life, 30 years). Initially scientists thought that all Cs was released in soluble form. Now however, they have realized that a part of the released Cs was in the form of glassy microparticles, formed at the time of the reactor meltdown; these particles were thrown over a wide area, but until now there has been no reliable estimate of how much radioactive cesium-rich microparticles was deposited in the surrounding area, and how this material was distributed.
Now a group of international scientists, led by Dr. Satoshi Utsunomiya (Associate Professor of Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan) has been able to give the first accurate estimates of the amount of the radioactive microparticles in the environment. This work describes the significance of the microparticles to current radiation levels, and provides fundamental data for a future re-evaluation of health risks from the highly radioactive microparticles which remain in the local environment.
"Most of the glassy microparticles are only a few microns in size, and were spread alongside the soluble cesium. The soluble cesium is generally bound to clay minerals after wet deposition, with the clay minerals also forming particles, so it was difficult to distinguish the cesium-rich microparticles from cesium absorbed on clay." said Dr Utsunomiya, "However, we realized that the cesium-rich microparticle has an extremely high radioactivity ~1011 Bq/g compared with the much lower radioactivity for cesium-sorbing clay particles, and this can be used to distinguish the two types. So we have established a novel procedure to quantify the cesium-rich microparticles by applying a quantitative autoradiography method."
Autoradiography exposes a photographic film or detector to a radioactive source, which causes the radiation to show up on the film (medical X-rays is the most common autoradiography technique). The team determined the threshold radioactivity for Cs-rich microparticles in the sieved fraction based on the relation between photostimulated luminescence signal and radioactivity. They applied this method to soil samples from 20 affected areas.
Dr Utsunomiya continued "In certain areas, these glassy particles are highly concentrated, so they are a major concern. We have found up to 318 of these particles in just 1 gram of soil, near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Most of these particles are still in the ambient environments, indicating the high stability.
Since the Fukushima accident we have been gradually coming to understand how the microparticles were distributed, and what this might mean to health and the environment. As you would expect, there are more radioactive particles nearer the reactor: we believe that there was a proportion of cesium released as soluble material, but we have found that the area south of the reactor contains a higher proportion of glassy particles. Our estimate is that around 78% of radioactive cesium was released as glassy particles. Many of the microparticles have been washed down from roofs and from plants, and have now gathered in radioactive hot spots.
Now that we have a better idea of the quantities involved and how the radiation has been distributed, it gives our team a better idea of how to approach the effect on health, which is obviously a major concern. This work does not imply that there is any additional radiation which has been missed -- the total amount of cesium released at Fukushima remains the same. However, the glassy particles have concentrated the radiation, which means that there is still much new work to be done to understand how this concentrated radiation might affect health"
Commenting on the work, Dr Ken Buesseler (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) said:
"The idea of microparticles has not been 'missed' in the assessment of total cesium levels in soil after Fukushima; it has been included, although this work highlights the fraction found in cesium microparticles. So we shouldn't think that there is additional radiation to worry about, but nevertheless in this highly concentrated form it may have different health impacts. These researchers have done a fine job of developing new tools to quantify these microparticles, and that is an important story to tell"
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 162611.htm
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