As I tune in to NHK live TV, and see the piece on using Twitter to aid in disaster relief being shown for the 20th time over the last 48 hours, I wonder about what appears to be a sudden and dramatic drop in the level of coverage of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Over the last several days, the IAEA has stopped bothering to note that cooling systems are still not working and have shifted their attention to monitoring the rising radiation levels outside the plant on both land and sea. Meanwhile, TEPCO engineers are speaking of covering the reactor plant with a big blanket of some kind while reasonably credible sources (i.e., those involved in building the plant) seem increasingly convinced that one reactor’s core has breached its containment vessel.
We have mainly been simply reporting what the Internet has been saying, what the Japanese news has been saying, and what the International Atomic Energy Agency has been saying. This is interesting because Ana’s feed is live and catches with its currency and all the quirks and foibles along with the news, the Internet is a diversity of reaction delayed by hours, and the IAEA response is at least a day behind, measured, and we presume most accurate.
And, of course, we have been told to quiet down in a number of ways by a number of people. First we were told to quiet down because there really could not be a disaster here. Radiation could not really escape at serious levels. The buildings that exploded were not really needed. They are supposed to explode, so it is no big deal. The containment vessel is so solid that nothing can get out of it. Anyway, the Tsunami is the real disaster. Automobile deaths are the real problem. Food poisoning is where we should be focusing our attention. And, most recently, asking questions about what is happening during a very current and very real nuclear power plant disaster is offensive to the hard working people who are in danger at the plant.
We are not amused with the screeching monkeys.
Here’s what we’ve got:
Monday, March 28th, 5:30 AM
As of 16:00 March 28, 2011 – some very high readings outside the evac. zone.
Monday, March 28th, 5:30 PM
TEPCO analysis of soil samples:
- “Density of detected Pu-238, Pu-239 and Pu-240 are within the same level of the fallout observed in Japan after the atmospheric nuclear test in the past. Activity ratio of Pu-238 detected in site field and solid waste storage against Pu-239 and Pu-240 are 2.0 and 0.94 respectively. They exceed activity ratio of 0.026 which resulted from the atmospheric nuclear test in the past, thus those Pus are considered to come from the recent incident.”
TEPCO says the measured amounts of plutonium will have no impact on human health, but they’d like to increase monitoring “just in case.” (NHK)
TEPCO plans to sandbag around the plant to keep the reactor water out of the sea. (NHK)
SDF, and fire, and police have to clean up TEPCO’s mess? Send in the engineers and managers and lobbyists!: Kitazawa hints at bigger SDF role in Fukushima: link
Tuesday, March 29, 10 AM
(Ana approved comment by Greg filling in some details: Reactors heating to over spec, still mucking around with water, have not drained condensers yet. Tunnels on verge (10 cm) of overflowing. Water, including that in tunnels, believed to be from reactor. Fuel rods prob. melted, fission likely to have been occurring (indicated by Pu), fuel rod melting has advanced to “serious” situation Cooling equipment still off. You need to stop this sleeping thing, love, missing all the good stuff.)
Tuesday, March 29, 5PM
Lights have been turned on in the control room of reactor no. 4. That makes all 6, now, lit – but many of the instruments remain out of service. (NHK)
At no.1 – water is being pumped into the condenser for the third day. TEPCO says the level of radioactivity has dropped, but can’t say by how much. (NHK)
No major progress has been reported in the work to drain the contaminated water from the turbine rooms at reactors 2 and 3. This is hampering efforts to cool the reactors. (NHK)
- Surge tanks, several hundred meters away and normally used to drain water off of suppression chambers, will be used to hold the water presently in external storage tanks so that water from the condensers of reactors 2 and 3 can be emptied into the storage tanks, so that water in the turbine rooms can be pumped into the condensers. Then, it might be possible to get back to doing the electrical work needed for restarting the cooling systems. (NHK)
- It is not certain that the condenser tank’s volume will be sufficient, given the full trenches and deep pools in big turbine rooms – TEPCO is looking into acquiring some external tanks. (NHK)
- Despite the growing danger of highly contaminated water spilling out of these nearly full trenches and into the sea (150 ft. away), priority must be given to cooling down the reactors. There is no alternative – it seems that the meltdown has advanced – the surface temps. of the reactors have increased. (NHK)
Chubu Electric Power is running earthquake preparedness drills to confirm and revise emergency procedures. (NHK)
- A nuke plant in S. Japan will not restart 2 reactors until new safety guidelines are published and changes are made. (NHK)
- At another plant, one reactor that was shut down earlier for mechanical problems and a 2nd for maintenance, will not be restarted without the support of the local people and gov. (NHK)
- A previously planned transport of MOX fuel will not take place until forces can be pulled off the disaster and the gov. can provide adequate security. (NHK)
- Plants referenced above are: KyÅ«shÅ« Electric Power Company, in Saga Prefecture (2 reactors down) and Hokuriku Electric Power Company, in Ishikawa Prefecture (2 down). (NHK)
There are 500 dairy farms in Ibaraki Prefecture, out of business. (NHK)
8 local municipalities in the zone have been evacuated. The mayors met and asked the Pref. gov. to arrange for them to attend schools, find homes and jobs. The Fuku. gov. says the central gov. will shoulder restoration and recovery. Edano says a team has been established, within the task force, to help the people in the effected areas. (NHK)
Edano: Use of clean energy key feature of quake reconstruction plan. -kyodo news
The US has provided an aircraft carrier, 20 vessels and 20,000 troops – an unprecedented scale of assistance for a disaster. (NHK)
- “This girl says she is very happy with the help.” (NHK interview)
- At the plant, the US has provided expertise, protective gear, massive barges full of freshwater, and boron. (NHK)
“The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell,” Lahey said. “I hope I am wrong, but that is certainly what the evidence is pointing towards.” (link)
TEPCO thinks the water in the trench at no.1 has come from tsunami, and not from the reactor. They may just empty it into the sea. (NHK)
The governmental standard for radioactive cesium in food may be eased. (NHK)
Sea samples taken yesterday, 330 meters south of the southernmost discharge pipe contain Iodine-131 at 3,355 times the legal limit. (NHK)
- “Through some route,” radioactive water is being discharged out into the sea. That is what we believe is happening. – NHK analyst
- “Radioactive substances are removed from fish in several weeks.” -some expert
A grad school professor thinks these reactors can’t be salvaged, given how the debris is “scattered around”, and all… (NHK)
Edano says they are looking at covering the reactors with “a special cloth” to minimize the effect on environment and health. They are looking at every possibility and every option – this is uncharted territory, no one has ever had to deal with this before. (NHK)
Women are giving birth in their homes without water, but Shimizu gets into the hospital. (link)
(Ana’s Feed is a collection of Analiese Miller’s facebook status entries posted as she takes in the news live in Japan.)
Links to news stories and updates:
International Atomic Energy Agency update edited for brevity. This is the update for March 29th.
1. Current Situation
The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains very serious.
Accumulated contaminated water was found in trenches located close to the turbine buildings of Units 1 to 3. Dose rates at the surface of this water were 0.4 millisieverts/hour for Unit 1 and over 1 000 millisieverts/hour for Unit 2 as of 18:30 UTC on 26 March. The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan suggests that higher activity in the water discovered in the Unit 2 turbine building is supposed to be caused by the water, which has been in contact with molten fuel rods for a time and directly released into the turbine building via some, as yet unidentified path. An investigation is underway as to how the water accumulated in the trenches. Measurements could not be carried out at Unit 3 because of the presence of debris.
Fresh water has been continuously injected into the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) of Units 1, 2 and 3. From today at Unit 1, the pumping of fresh water through the feed-water line will no longer be performed by fire trucks but by electrical pumps with a diesel generator. The switch to the use of such pumps has already been made in Units 2 and 3. At Unit 3, the fresh water is being injected through the fire extinguisher line.
At Unit 1, there has been an increase in temperature at the feed-water nozzle of the RPV from 273.8 Â°C to 299 Â°C. The temperature at the bottom of the RPV remained stable at 135 Â°C. Temperatures at Unit 2 appear relatively stable at the same measurement points. At Unit 3, the temperature at the feed-water nozzle of the RPV is about 61.5 Â°C and 120.9 Â°C at the bottom of the RPV. The validity of the RPV temperature measurement at the feed water nozzle is still under investigation.
With the increase in temperature at Unit 1, there has been a corresponding increase in Drywell pressure. In the Drywell of Unit 2, the indicated pressure dropped slightly and is just above atmospheric.
It is planned to begin pumping fresh water into the spent fuel pool of Unit 4 today, on 29 March.
Units 5 and 6 remain in cold shutdown.
2. Radiation Monitoring
On 28 March, deposition of iodine-131 was detected in 12 prefectures, and deposition of cesium-137 in 9 prefectures. The highest values were observed in the prefecture of Fukushima with 23 000 becquerel per square metre for iodine-131 and 790 becquerel per square metre for caesium-137. In the other prefectures where deposition of iodine-131 was reported, the range was from 1.8 to 280 becquerel per square metre. For caesium-137, the range was from 5.5 to 52 becquerel per square metre. In the Shinjyuku district of Tokyo, the daily deposition of both iodine-131 and cesium-137 was below 50 becquerel per square metre. No significant changes were reported in the 45 prefectures in gamma dose rates compared to yesterday.
As of 28 March information on radioactivity in drinking water collected mainly from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare indicates that recommendations for restrictions based on I-131 concentration remain in place only in four locations in the prefecture of Fukushima. To date, no recommendations for restrictions have been made based on Cs-137. The Japanese limits for the ingestion of drinking water by infants is 100 becquerel per litre.
Five soil samples, collected at distances between 500 and 1 000 metres from the exhaust stack of Unit 1 and 2 of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on 21 and 22 March, were analysed for plutonium-238 and for the sum of plutonium-239 and plutonium-240. (Due to analytical reasons, the isotopes plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 cannot be measured separately). Plutonium-238 was detected in 2 of the 5 samples, while plutonium-239/240 was detected in all samples as expected.
Concentrations reported for both, plutonium-238 and plutonium-239/240 are similar to those deposited in Japan as a result of the testing of nuclear weapons. The ratio of the concentrations of plutonium-238 and plutonium-239/240 in two of the samples indicate that very small amounts of plutonium might have been released during the Fukushima accident, but this requires to be further clarified.
As far as food contamination is concerned, 63 samples taken from 24 – 29 March, and reported on from 27 – 29 March, for various vegetables, fruit (strawberries), mushrooms, eggs, seafood and pasteurized milk in eight prefectures (Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Niigata, Tochigi and Yamagata), stated that results for iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137 were either not detected or were below the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities.
The Joint FAO/IAEA Food Safety Assessment Team met with local government authorities in Ibaraki prefecture on Monday and provided advice related to contamination of food and the environment, including the mechanisms and persistence of such contamination, examples of remediation strategies, international standards and sampling plan designs and radionuclide transfer from soil to plants, particularly as related to rice production in the area.
Local government authorities briefed the FAO/IAEA Team on the extent of contamination in Ibaraki, the principle agricultural products affected, the main production areas and production methods (greenhouse, open-air) and levels of contamination found.
The FAO/IAEA team is also meeting with the local authorities in Tochigi prefecture today, and will meet with local government officials in Gunma tomorrow.
Sea Water Samples
No new results from the marine monitoring stations 30 km off-shore were reported for 27 or 28 March. However, new analyses in seawater 330 m east to the discharges point of NPP Units 1 – 4 were made available for 27 March. These concentrations show a significant decrease from 74 000 Becquerel per litre of iodine-131, 12 000 Becquerel per litre of cesium-137, and 12 000 Becquerel per litre of cesium-134 on 26 March to 11 000 Becquerel per litre of iodine-131 and 1 900 Becquerel per litre of cesium-137 on 27 March.
Sea water samples were also collected daily at a location 30 m from the common discharge point for Units 5 – 6. These results also show an increase in the radionuclide concentrations on 26 March. The sea water samples collected on March 27 show as well a decrease of the radionuclide concentration.
Fig. 1 and 2
It can be expected that the data will be quite variable in the near future depending on the discharge levels. In general, dilutions by ocean currents and into deeper waters as well decay of short lived radionuclides e.g. I-131 or I-132 will soon lead to lower values.
First analyses were reported in fish carried out by the National Research Institute of Fishery Research. 5 samples of fish were collected from the port of Choshi (Chiba prefecture) and 4 of 5 samples showed Cs-137 concentrations below limit of detection. In one sample Cs-137 was found with 3 Bq/kg (fresh weight) and it was reported that it was slightly above the limit of detection. This concentration is far below any concern for fish consumption.
It is still too early to draw conclusions for expected concentrations on marine food, because the situation may change rapidly, however, it is expected that the detected initial concentrations of seawater will soon drop to lower values by dilution and the levels in marine food will most likely not reach levels above given limits for consumption, (presuming that discharges of contaminated seawater from the reactor will not continue). It is not expected that fish or other marine food will be collected in a close area to the NPP Fukushima at the present situation. Some marine algae are known to accumulate in particular I-131 and Tc-99m. However, these values will soon be of no concern due to the short half-lives of the radionuclides mentioned.
Modelling Marine Dispersion
The Group SIROCCO of the Observatoire Midi-PyrenÃ©es of the University of Toulouse, CNRS, is continuing to carry out model calculations. The model is based on an ocean circulation and current weather conditions and they results showed an initial north-eastern transport of liquid releases from the damaged reactors and the contaminated water would reach the northern monitored stations between 1 and 2 weeks later.
A model with tracer release directly in the sea show an along shore propagation in the southern direction and a northeast propagation moving away from the coast.
Fig. 3 and 4
With tracer release from atmospheric deposition, the propagation stretch offshore entering the Kuro-Shivo current in few days.
The first results are shown in Fig. 3 and 4. The data are converted into Bq/L by assuming arbitrary discharge or aerial release activities, respectively. The results should just be taken as indication of the dilution capacity and transport route of sea water.
For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.
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