Regulators overseeing the management of the Fukushima nuclear site have given the OK to begin removal of spent fuel rods from reactor unit 4s cooling pool commencing in November 2013.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility has 6 reactors in total and at the time of the earthquake and tsunami that damaged the plant on March 11, 2011, units 4, 5 and 6 where shutdown in maintenance mode. Reactor 4 experienced an explosion and fire within days of the natural disaster and the building and spent fuel pool suffered some integral damage.
Experts since have speculated on the precarious nature of how to remove the spent fuel from unit 4s spent fuel pool which is housed on the reactor’s roof. Should spent fuel catch fire during removal it would be impossible to extinguish it. Burning spent fuel rods would release large amounts of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere unabated.
TEPCO hopes to have spent fuel from unit 4s cooling pool removed by the end of 2014. The project involves a specially constructed steel structure with a crane that will be used to remove the fuel rods remotely. Once removed the spent fuel rods will be placed in a protective flask and transferred to what is considered a more secure cooling pool.
Cooling pools for spent fuel are interim solutions in the ongoing uncertain plans of how to effectively dispose of spent nuclear fuel in the long-term (millions of years). This is a global problem and only Finland has begun construction on a permanent disposal site for their spent nuclear fuel, called Onkalo.
Authors David McNeill and Miguel Quintana,”Mission Impossible. What Future Fukushima?,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 39, No. 1. September 30, 2013.
Across much of Fukushima’s rolling green countryside they descend on homes like antibodies around a virus, men wielding low-tech tools against a very modern enemy: radiation. Power hoses, shovels and mechanical diggers are used to scour toxins that rained down from the sky nearly 31 months ago. The job is exhausting, expensive and, say some, doomed to failure. A sweating four-man crew wearing surgical masks and boiler suits cleans the home of Saito Hiroshi (71) and his wife Terue (68). Their aim is to bring average radiation at this home down to 1.5 microsieverts an hour, still several times what it was before the accident but safe enough, perhaps, for Saito’s seven grandchildren to visit. “My youngest grandchild has never been here,” he says. Since 2011, the family reunites in Soma, around 20 km away.
For a few days during March 2011, after a string of explosions at the Daiichi nuclear plant roughly 25 kilometers to the south, rain and snow laced with radiation fell across this area, contaminating thousands of acres of rich farming land and forests Over 160,000 people near the plant were ordered to evacuate. The Saito’s home fell a few miles outside the 20-km compulsory evacuation zone, but like thousands of others they left voluntarily. When they returned two weeks later their neat, two-story country house appeared undamaged but it was blanketed in an invisible poison only detectable with beeping Geiger counters. Nobody knows for certain how dangerous the radiation is. Japan’s central government refined its policy in December 2011, defining evacuation zones as “areas where cumulative dose levels might reach 20 millisieverts per year,” the typical worldwide limit for nuclear power plant engineers. The worst radiation is supposed to be confined to the 20-km exclusion zone, but it dispersed unevenly: less than 5km north of the Daiichi plant, our Geiger counter shows less than 5 millisieverts a year; 40km northwest, in parts of Iitate Village, it is well over 120 millisieverts. Those 160,000 people, most of whom left with nothing on a freezing cold night in March 2011, have not returned and are scattered throughout Japan, and as far away as Europe and North America. The nuclear diaspora is swelled by thousands of voluntary refugees. Local governments are spending millions of dollars to persuade them to come back, dividing the cleanup with the central government, which handles the most toxic areas. The price tag for cleaning a heavily mountainous and wooded area roughly half the size of Rhode Island (2000 sq. km) has government heads spinning. In August, experts from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology put the total cost of decontamination at $50 billion. Many experts believe that figure is too low.
Published in Open Journal of Pediatrics January 2013, published online March 2013
Title: Elevated airborne beta levels in Pacific/West Coast US States and trends in hypothyroidism among newborns after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown
Authors: Joseph J. Mangano, Janette D. Sherman
Various reports indicate that the incidence of congenital hypothyroidism is increasing in developed nations, and that improved detection and more inclusive criteria for the disease do not explain this trend entirely. One risk factor documented in numerous studies is exposure to radioactive iodine found in nuclear weapons test fallout and nuclear reactor emissions. Large amounts of fallout disseminated worldwide from the meltdowns in four reactors at the Fukushima-Dai-ichi plant in Japan beginning March 11, 2011 included radioiodine isotopes. Just days after the meltdowns, I-131 concentrations in US precipitation was measured up to 211 times above normal. Highest levels of I-131 and airborne gross beta were documented in the five US States on the Pacific Ocean. The number of congenital hypothyroid cases in these five states from March 17-December 31, 2011 was 16% greater than for the same period in 2010, compared to a 3% decline in 36 other US States (p < 0.03). The greatest divergence in these two groups (+28%) occurred in the period March 17-June 30 (p < 0.04). Further analysis, in the US and in other nations, is needed to better understand any association between iodine exposure from Fukushima-Dai-ichi and congenital hypothyroidism risk.
full article dowload in PDF
Also see background study done in Japan on thyroid health in children post Fukushima at Fukushima Voices, a public blog for Fukushima Radioactive Contamination Symptoms Research located in the US. Their main website FRCSR.
It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear facility began. Radiation cleanup persists and lawsuits are filed. To date 15, 881 deaths were attributed to the natural disaster that struck the east coast of Japan, while 2668 people are still unaccounted for as the search for victims continues, according to the National Police Agency of Japan. Thousands still live in temporary housing and may never go home and it’s estimated that close to 300,000 people still can’t return home to radiation affected areas in coastal towns.
Here’s the news roundup from around the web marking the 2 year anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in history.
VIDEO Moxnews/BBC News – They still don’t know the condition of some of the reactors! Hard to believe but true.
A Symposium by the New York Academy of Medicine took place today with Dr. Helen Caldicott - The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
The Asahi Shimbun has created a free e-book chronicling the disaster - Catastrophe: A Special Report
Tohoku Has Been Rent Asunder for Future Generations - Asia Pacific Journal
Japan marks second anniversary of Fukushima disaster – in pictures – The Guardian
Inside Fukushima’s abandoned towns - in pictures – The Guardian
Fukushima: Fallout of Fear - Nature
Displaced Fukushima survivors come to terms with never going home again - Bellona Foundation
Survivors Recall Two Years of Struggle - The Japan Times
Remember and Revisit the Force of The Tsunami
GEOMAR is an Ocean Research Centre in Germany. This is a video based on their research into the dispersal of Cesium 137 from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear facility into the Pacific Ocean, and the reach it will have in ten year’s time.
Also read the related artilce Model simulations on the long-term dispersal of 137Cs released into the Pacific Ocean off Fukushima published online at http://iopscience.iop.org.
The “nuclear village” is the term commonly used in Japan to refer to the institutional and individual pro-nuclear advocates who comprise the utilities, nuclear vendors, bureaucracy, Diet (Japan’s parliament), financial sector, media and academia. This is a village without boundaries or residence cards, an imagined collective bound by solidarity over promoting nuclear energy. If it had a coat of arms the motto would be “Safe, Cheap and Reliable”. There is considerable overlap with the so-called ‘Iron Triangle’ of big business, the bureaucracy and Liberal Democratic Party that called the shots in Japan from the mid-1950s, and the evocative moniker ‘Japan, Inc.’, a reference to cooperative ties between the government and private sector. The nuclear village is convenient shorthand to describe a powerful interest group with a specific agenda, one that it has effectively and profitably promoted since the 1950s.
continue reading at Asia Pacific Journal
From “Black Rain” to “Fukushima”: The Urgency of Internal Exposure Studies,” Masuda Yoshinobu, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 39, No. 3, September 24, 2012
Translated by Sakai Yasuyuki and Steve Leeper
Internal exposure has become a major public concern as a result of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster. Hiroshima’s “black rain” was the first event that revealed the significance of internal exposure. I began working on the black rain problem in 1985 after meeting Mr. Murakami Tsuneyuki, then Director General of Hiroshima “Black Rain” A-Bomb Sufferers Organization. But let me tell the story from the beginning.
I was born on September 11, 1923 ten days before the Great Kanto Earthquake that devastated Tokyo. I am now 88 years old. I studied at the Meteorological Technical Officials Training School (predecessor of the Meteorological College) for two years before joining the Navy. I was commissioned a second lieutenant in June 1945. On the day of the defeat, I was in Taisha Air Base near Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine, Shimane, which sent attack aircraft to Okinawa. I worked there as a meteorological officer forecasting the weather. Although I did not know about the dropping of the Hiroshima A-bomb on August 6, I heard rumors that huge numbers of people, mainly soldiers, were brought to the Army Hospital near Izumo-Taisha, bandaged from head to foot. I knew something very serious had happened.
In 1946, I entered the newly opened post-graduate course at the Meteorological Technical Officials Training School. After three years of study, I started working for the Meteorological Laboratory in 1949.
International physicians’ recommendations for protecting health after the Fukushima nuclear disaster
29 August 2012
FUKUSHIMA/TOKYO “Our most important obligation to the many harmed by the Fukushima disaster is to eradicate nuclear weapons and phase out nuclear power,”says Associate Professor Tilman Ruff, Co‐President of IPPNW – International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War after a visit to Fukushima. Thirty physicians, medical students and scholars from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Israel, India, New Zealand and Australia visited Fukushima yesterday for an investigative tour.
The event was hosted by Physicians Against Nuclear War in Japan. The foreign experts have followed the Fukushima nuclear disaster with deep concern. In the past few days, they heard presentations by Japanese radiation, medical and nuclear engineering experts at the IPPNW 20th World Congress in Hiroshima and experts at a 27 August symposium in Tokyo.
August 19 The Mainichi Times
Volunteers flock to city in Fukushima after lifting of no-go zone designation
MINAMISOMA, Fukushima — Ever since this city’s no-go zone designation was lifted, volunteers from across the country have been flocking to help local residents reclaim their pre-disaster lives.
A new 160 page report published by Kyoto Journal/Heian-kyo Media, charts a clear path for Japan’s transition from nuclear reliance to a renewable energy future. The report is the combined efforts of a group of some 23 professional writers, editors, authors, environmentalists and concerned professionals living in Japan, that takes us through Japan’s historical reliance on nuclear energy, examining ethically and rationally Japan’s need to make the shift to renewable energy. The report is both poignant and factually compelling, demonstrating why renewable energy is the best path forward for Japan.
Historically Japan is known as a resilient, spiritual and resourceful country. Although focus on the cleanup and management of the radiological aftermath dispersed from the Fukushima nuclear crisis must continue, Japan must simultaneously chart it’s course forward with safer energy options. Japan was already a top global leader in the manufacturer of solar products for the global market and has the know how to make the shift to renewables fairly quickly.
quote from the report:
read the full report and share it with others, Fresh Currents: Japan’s flow from a Nuclear Past to a Renewable Future.
Ian Masters talks with Arnie Gundersen reflecting on the real cost of nuclear power, and discussion on the Fukushima NAAIC Report recently released in Japan. This Report takes a candid look at the mistakes Japan has made in handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis that resulted following the 311 earthquake and tsunami. Japan’s Government chose to task an independent commission, the NAAIC, to investigate how the Fukushima nuclear crisis has been handled. The Executive summary of the NAAIC Report is available here.
Toxic assets: nuclear reactors in the 21st century. Financing reactors and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. 2012 Greenpeace Report
This report looks at the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster from an investorsʼ point of view. It identifies the long known technological, management, governance and other institutional deficiencies that were instrumental in turning a predicted natural misfortune into a nuclear nightmare. The owner of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), lost 90% of its market capitalisation, had its bonds rated as junk and is currently in the process of being at least partly nationalised. Investors and financiers of nuclear utilities all over the world saw their nuclear investment eroded.
Had analysts and credit-rating agencies looked beyond short-term cash flows and paid attention to the many early warnings, they would have been able to save investors from major losses. These red flags included warnings
Wednesday, July 25, 2012, Japan Times Online
Tokyo Electric Power Co. will begin accepting claims in September for lump-sum compensation for psychological distress, unemployment and damage to nonfarm businesses caused by the meltdowns at its power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, the utility said.
The announcement made Tuesday follows the government’s release last week of detailed Fukushima compensation standards. Tepco will pay ¥100,000 per month to each victim for psychological suffering.
Five years’ worth of compensation, or ¥6 million, will be paid to victims in the most contaminated of the three new evacuation zones around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where residents are barred from returning for at least five years.
continue reading at > Japan Times Online
By MEGUMI IIZUKA
Kyodo July 12, 2012
A 95-year-old retired doctor is continuing to warn of possible health dangers to residents near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after some of them developed symptoms similar to those afflicting atomic-bomb survivors he treated for decades.
More than a year after the nuclear crisis erupted, Shuntaro Hida is busy giving lectures and interviews to make people aware of the danger of inhaling, drinking or eating radioactive substances.
Hida says he has received calls from residents around the Fukushima plant complaining of unexplained fatigue and diarrhea as well as hair loss, symptoms he suspects were caused by internal exposure to radiation.
continue reading at Japan Times Online
also see Study finds lifetime thyroid doses of radiation in Fukushima children. New radiation findings in children from Fukushima run counter to what the government originally told parents so they’ve decided not to say anything because it makes them look bad.
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