Monday, September 2, 2013

Bloomberg: Tepco may resort to controlled discharges of contaminated water into the ocean

How else did they think they could handle the problem, by building storage tanks till the end of time? 400 tons of radioactive water collects at the site daily, and it has to go somewhere. To wit:

"Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s plan to manage radioactive water at its wrecked Fukushima plant may include a controlled discharge into the ocean once its toxicity is brought within legal limits, Japan’s nuclear regulator said.
Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said today the ocean dump could be necessary as the country’s government prepares to present its plan for handling tainted water at the site that’s increasing by 400 tons a day. Managing the water used to cool melted fuel at the Fukushima plant’s reactors has become a fundamental challenge for the utility known as Tepco, which has struggled to contain a series of leaks including the loss of about 300 tons of contaminated water it reported two weeks ago. “It is important for us to understand the need to make difficult judgments in order to avoid larger problems in the future,” Tanaka said of the possible ocean discharge during a speech to reporters in Tokyo. Contaminant levels must be brought below accepted limits through filtration or other treatments before the water is discharged, he said."

Tepco's violation of public trust continues to run amok, and i doubt any watchdog agency will be able to confirm the levels of radioactivity contained in such "controlled"dumps. One thing is for certain - siphoning off the most offending tanks with the highest radiation readings would be a literal pipe dream for Tepco, and I wouldn't be surprised if it goes down that way. There are few repercussions for those managing a nuclear crisis, especially when they are confronted with physical limitations.

Read the full article here

Sunday, September 1, 2013

NBC News is now reporting the arrival time of radioactive ocean water arising from Fukushima

The West Coast of North America can expect contamination "as early as 2014 and peak in 2016"

This is the first major news source I've come across addressing the speculation. The researcher quoted in the article is Vincent Rossi, an oceanographer and postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems in Spain. "Rossi worked with former colleagues at the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia to simulate the spread of Fukushima’s radioactivity in the oceans — a study detailed in the October issue of the journal Deep-Sea Research Part 1".

Based on their research, waters 180 miles off the West Coast may experience an additional "10-30 becquerels per cubic meter of cesium-137", or .01-.03 becquerels per liter.  Before everyone runs off to panic, the U.S. EPA limit for radioactive cesium in drinking water is 200 picocuries per liter, which converts to (7.41 Bq/L). Given that we all don't dwell in the ocean every minute of the year - and even if we did - the additional radiation would result in an absurdly miniscule increase to the general population's yearly maximum permissible dose.

Based on available info and the leaks accounted for in Dai-chi, It's difficult to make an argument that Fukushima ocean spillage will adversely affect the health of people living in North America. However, Tepco must get a handle on the problem and find a sustainable solution. Future leaks with higher concentrations of radioisotopes, a massive volume leak, and contamination for years to come  may bump concentrations up to the point where it will register in tuna and other fish caught in the open pacific.

Keep an eye on the Hawaii Department of Health's website for an early warning into ocean water and fish contamination levels spreading across the Pacific. Interestingly enough, as of August 16 of this year, the Hawaii DOH has "no near-term plans to test", and "does not anticipate contamination of living marine resources in U.S. waters at this time. For this reason, sampling of U.S. harvested seafood is not currently planned".

Thursday, August 29, 2013 calculates the movement of debris and radiactive water originating from Fukushima

This helpful website uses ocean current data to track the path of a hypothetical object floating on the ocean's surface to see how it travels over a period of time. Considering the fact that diluted radioactivity in water flows along with the rest of the pacific current, this gives us an idea when tainted water from the Fukushima area will arrive at the west coast of the U.S. Just point your cursor near the Fukushima coast of Japan and observe the graphic and time-frame.

The model doesn't differentiate behavior of currents at various depths, however, so it would be terribly presumptuous to conclude most of the tainted water from Dai-chi would be flowing as the website's animation shows. We now know that much of the cesium and strontium spilling into the sea quickly deposit along the ocean floor just off the coast of Japan.

I suspect that amounts of radioactivity arriving from Fukushima will be negligible and nearly undetectable; though technically, it can be spoken of as contaminating the west coast.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Updates from Japanese sources on activity in Daiichi, Fukushima Tank surveillance consisted of patrols twice a day. The tanks are not equipped with water level gauges. This is the fourth leakage event so far, among the 350 tanks.  After a study group meeting held in the evening of 21 August, the NRA instructs Tepco to equip the tanks with water level gauges and to study alternative storage facilities. The study group will inspect the tanks at Fukushima Daiichi on 23 August. Tepco nuclear division top person, vice-president Aizawa will be permanently based in Fukushima. The existence of different people in charge at Fukushima Daiichi, at the Fukushima Daini-based Fukushima Daiichi stabilization center, at the main office and other places had been pointed out as a source of problems as regards information sharing and supervision.  6 mSv/hour was measured on the side of the drain 50 m away from the leaking tank, so that one cannot rule out that contaminated water could have flowed into the sea. On 20 August, based on a measurement of the water in the drain finding low radioactive concentrations, Tepco had said there was little probablility that the sea had been contaminated.  After the pumping from small scale wells that was started on 9 August, Tepco began on 15 August before midday the full scale ground water pumping using some of the planned thirty 5-metre deep pipes whose installation has been completed. After 18 August, when all pipes will be completed, the pumping capacity will reach 60 ton/day. Since pumping began, the ground water level has declined by about 50 cm. Even after the ground solidifying work will be completed, up to 35 ton/day of ground water is expected to seep out to the sea through the solidified layer, so that a radical solution is still wanting.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Curious how much radioactivity is present in both freshwater and saltwater fish varieties in Japan?

Check out fish monitoring data from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, nicely compiled in this chart prepared by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Keep in mind that 100 on the chart (100 bq/kg of cesium 134 and 137) is the legal safe limit for the consumption of fish in Japan.

Friday, August 16, 2013

This November, Tepco will attempt to remove 400 tons of spent fuel rods from reactor no. 4


Scientists at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant are preparing for their toughest clean-up operation yet – two and a half years after three of the plant’s reactors suffered a meltdown in Japan’s worst-ever nuclear power disaster.

The operation, to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel beneath the plant’s damaged Reactor No. 4, could set off a catastrophe greater than any we have ever seen, independent experts warn. An operation of this scale, says plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company, has never been attempted before, and is wrought with danger.

An uncontrolled leak of nuclear fuel could cause more radiation than the March 2011 disaster or the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, say consultants Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt. "Full release from the Unit-4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date," the scientists say in their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013.

The operation has been tried before – but only with the aid of computers. This time it will be a painstaking manual process.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

10 Tepco employees contaminated with radioactive water on face and head

They're still trying to figure out the source

From NHK, translated:
When they left the plant premises at 00:40 PM on 12 August, 10 employees were found to be contaminated mainly on their face and head. The highest contamination was 19 Bq/cm², which is 5 times Tepco's internal standard. The cause is being investigated. The mist generators installed as a countermeasure against heat strokes in the surroundings of the earthquake-isolated building are suspected. The contaminated employees were working indoors, but they took the bus in front of the earthquake-isolated building which is used as a base. Also, an air radiation alarm rang in this area in front of the earthquake-isolated building.
If it is from the mist generator, radioactive water may now have infiltrated (what is assumed to be) clean water sources within the plant. More speculation from NHK:

The contaminations are between 4 and 19 Bq/cm², which is 5 times Tepco's internal standard but less than the legal limit requiring decontamination. Tepco said [such contamination] "does not bear consequences on health". In order to investigate the cause, Tepco will check the mist generator's sprinklers, check each contaminated employee's movements, and examine the possibility that the bus could have projected contaminants upwards.
Another possibility is that radioactive dust is getting kicked in the air, making contact with the mist and settling on the workers, but that would also mean the airborne isotopes are subject to inhalation as well.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tepco: Contaminated groundwater now 60cm above the protective barrier, now freely leaking into the sea

On August 5th, Tepco disclosed that radioactive water was rising fast, and could possibly breach an underground protective barrier within "3 weeks". It has officially done so just five days later, and it makes you wonder if every future assessment out of the power company will be of the most overly optimistic variety.

Nevertheless, understanding the challenging circumstances Tepco faces and giving them all fairness due, they are scrambling to find solutions and are presently mid way through building a system constructed to pump out an additional 100 tons a day. That system is expected to be up and running by "mid-August".

Here are some recent updates from Japanese news sources, translated:


"After solifidying the ground in the area along the sea, the ground water level started rising and it is feared that it has started overflowing and pouring into the sea. Tepco was planning to start pumping up that ground water at the end of this month, but after receiving instructions from the NRA to start as soon as possible, it is starting this week to dig small wells and to pump up water. The water will be temporarily stored in an underground facility, and later it will be stored in the storage tanks within the plant premises. Between July 31 and August 5, in the measurement wells on the side of unit 2, cesium concentration rose 14-fold, and all beta (including strontium) rose 46-fold. Tepco doesn't know the reason for the rise and is researching the details of the cause. Now, two years and 4 months after the accident, the concrete situation and the spreading of consequences of contaminated water outflows are still unknown, and responses are following each other like searching one's way in the dark with one's hand."


"The NRA has set up a new working group dedicated to the contaminated water outflow into the sea. It had its first meeting on 2 August 2013. It admitted that it is feared that the ground water has already overflowed over the solidified ground layer, as the water level rose. As a countermeasure, they announced a plan to install new equipments called "catch basins", and to start pumping up water at the end of this month. Opinions were voiced such as the opinion that the countermeasures must be taken more quickly than planned and the opinion that the ground water flow must be analysed in detail. The NRA has set up another working group whose task is to analyse the spreading of radioactive substances that poured into the sea and to assess the consequences on the environment. Tepco estimates the tritium released into the sea from May 2011 to July 2013 to be between 20,000,000,000,000 and 40,000,000,000,000 Bq. This is about the same amount as the yearly release that is allowed under the regulations for the plant under normal operation. As regards cesium and strontium, it will take more time to produce an estimate because this requires analysing the underground migrations."

Also, analysis is showing that radioactive water from Fukushima could reach the west coast in 3 years time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Japan officials: 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaking into the ocean each day

Tepco considers a plan to freeze the ground around the plant 

The situation in Fukushima is taking on a more urgent tone over the last few days, with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appealing to his government to find "multiple, speedy and sure" ways to address the groundwater situation in Fukushima. Why is Mr. Abe resorting to such urgency? Tepco's history of procrastination has reached legendary status. They often reveal significant developments only when absolutely necessary, and often late in the process after much stonewalling or equivocating with the press over the problem.

Historically, though, Tepco is quick to offer solutions. To address the latest crisis, they've come up with a decent idea straight out of the mining engineers playbook - ground freezing, which essentially creates an impermeable barrier the strength of concrete or even greater (in certain situations) to stop underground flow of water. This could provide the short term solution Tepco desperately needs until they figure out a sustainable way to store all of the irradiated water coming from the reactors.

About a year ago, I recall Tepco considering the use of old, unused oil tankers as a storage possibility. I'm sure they canned the idea when they discovered nobody would skipper the darn vessel due to ungodly amounts of radioactivity produced by a tanker full of Fukushima water.

Click to see a University of Washington presentation on ground freezing 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Japan's NRA finally comes clean: "We have an emergency"

They don't say 'emergency' unless it really is an emergency

Well, i admit it. From a little over a year ago since my last post, i actually bought into the seductive idea that the crisis in Fukushima was in under control. Perhaps it was based on Tepco's repeated assurances that the situation was being managed properly. Maybe it was due to the volume of news and information, slowly reduced to a trickle, or blind faith in the the counter-intuitive explanations provided by Tepco for employees who seemed to be dying shortly after working on site, like first responder and plant chief Masao Yoshida of an 'esophageal' cancer that officials say had absolutely "no connection with his radiation exposure at the time of the disaster". Quite frankly, Tepco's updates and explanations had become so diminutive, and news sources for the topic became so scarce that U.S. google news searches for "Fukushima" yielded more results in foreign languages than those written in English.

Nevertheless, here we are back in crisis mode with Japan's NRA admitting the truth - that highly radioactive water is breaching the 1.8 meter deep underground barrier and is now just one meter below the surface, that ground water will reach the surface within three weeks, and that 85% of Fukushima's 380,000 ton water storage capacity is already full. Where do they go from here? Hopefully we will hear a slew of viable options within the coming days. However, recognizing Tepco's propensity to understate bad news, we can expect them to characterize the underground containment breach and subsequent unfettered flow of highly radioactive water into the ocean as an acceptable situation, because everyone knows that the ocean is a very big place and the dilution of all that radioactive water will keep things "manageable".


Tepco's "sense of crisis is weak," Kinjo said. "This is why you can't just leave it up to Tepco alone" to grapple with the ongoing disaster.

Fukushima radioactive water leak an 'emergency'

"If the water reaches the surface, "it would flow extremely fast."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fresh catch - A fish caught near the Fukushima plant contains very very high levels of Cesium

Tepco reports that a greenling (pictured left) caught on August 1 within 20 kilometers of Daichi tested the highest to date for Cesium contamination.  Just how high? The fish clocked in at a whopping 25,800 becquerels per kilogram for combined cesium 134 and cesium 137, compared to the previous high of 18,700 becquerels per kilogram found in a cherry salmon.

To put into perspective how high this level of radioactivity is, tea leaves shipped out of Japan have a cap of 500 becquerels per kilogram of cesium. Any higher than that and it is not fit for export, and presumably, not suitable for consumption within the country either.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Genetically altered butterflies from the Fukushima prefecture of Japan

52% of the population, 3 generations in

I apologize for not being around this past year. Radiation levels in the Philippines have since been normal (.04-.11 mSv per hour)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Have you seen this yet? The highly respected International Journal of Health Services says that 14,000 U.S. deaths can be attributed to Fukushima radiation

Virtually every agency (including the EPA) attempted to assess the impact of radiation originating from Fukushima throughout the entire crisis. Now we have a peer-reviewed study revealing that they may have been underestimating exposures all along

"This study of Fukushima health hazards is the first to be published in a scientific journal. It raises concerns, and strongly suggests that health studies continue, to understand the true impact of Fukushima in Japan and around the world. Findings are important to the current debate of whether to build new reactors, and how long to keep aging ones in operation."

Read the full story here

IJHS website here

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just weeks before tsunami debris will reach Midway Atoll and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

"US, Hawaii officials to take questions from public Monday, Dec. 12, on preparations and response plans, Islands are critical habitat for 23 endangered or threatened species, including Hawaiian monk seal"

From The Sacramento Bee:

HONOLULU, Dec. 11, 2011 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The earthquake and tsunami that destroyed parts of eastern Japan in March 2011 washed vast amounts of debris into the Pacific Ocean. The buoyant portion of that debris is making its way toward the US. Based on models, first landfall of the debris could occur in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) — designated as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument by President George W. Bush — as early as January/February 2012.

A free 90-minute webinar this Monday, Dec. 12, will examine how US and Hawaiian resource managers and partners are preparing for impacts of the tsunami debris on the NWHI ecosystem, which includes Midway Atoll. A webinar is a Web-based seminar that allows the public to interact directly with panelists via computer or phone.

The webinar "Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris: Anticipating and Mitigating Its Impacts on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands" starts at 10 am Hawaii time (noon Pacific; 3 pm Eastern), and is open to the media and public. To register, go to

The NWHI are home to 23 endangered or threatened species including the Hawaiian monk seal and several sea turtle species. The ecosystem also provides habitat for 14 million sea birds.

Lessons from the NWHI tsunami debris response, including on the nature and quantity of debris encountered, will inform responses when the debris eventually reaches the US West Coast, expected in 2013.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big problems ahead for Tepco in 2012

The obvious lesson out of the Fukushima disaster seems to be that you can't make a nuclear catastrophe go away within a years time. Given the magnitude of the crisis in Dai-ichi, creating such an expectation would merely amount to wishful thinking.

Despite Tepco's assurances that cold shutdown will be achieved by years end, it's possible that the radioactive water storage situation will spiral out of control to the point where it is no longer practical, affordable, or even physically possible to keep up with added burden. Tepco will have no recourse but to dump massive amounts of radioactive water into the pacific ocean on a regular basis. Reuters:

Tokyo Electric Power, (Tepco) the utility operating Fukushima's Daiichi plant, hit by a powerful tsunami in March that caused the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years, said it was running out of space to store some of the water it treated at the plant, due to an inflow of groundwater.

"We would like to increase the number of tanks to accommodate the water but it will be difficult to do so indefinitely," Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told reporters.

He said the plant was likely to reach its storage capacity of about 155,000 tons around March.

Tepco plans to come up with possible ways to handle radioactive waste and present its proposals to the government's nuclear regulatory body for approval.

"The government should not, and must not, approve a plan allowing Tepco to dispose treated water in the ocean," said Kenji Sumita, an emeritus professor at Osaka University who specializes in nuclear engineering.

"The reality is that semipermanent storage is the only solution available under current technological constraints. Tepco may have to find the storage space and look for a technological breakthrough in the coming years that allows it to condense and greatly reduce the volume of tainted water."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

6.0 earthquake detected right smack in the middle of Fukushima Province this morning

From iol news:

"Tokyo - An earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale struck early on Thursday in Japan's Fukushima province.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the 4.24am (local time) earthquake, which had an epicentre 30km under the seafloor off Fukushima. Authorities said there was no tsunami threat.

Fukushima was struck on March 11 by a magnitude-9 quake, which caused major damage across the region and set off a tsunami that devastated coastal communities. The twin disasters damaged a powerplant, leading to a nuclear meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, reported no immediate problems on Thursday at the crippled facility, broadcaster NHK said.

The latest earthquake was strong enough to set skyscrapers swaying in Tokyo, 260km away."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Be careful when purchasing a second hand car - it may have come from Iwate, Futaba, or other areas that were exposed to high levels of radiation

From The Telegraph:

Japanese dealers selling 'radioactive cars'

Unscrupulous used-car dealers in Japan are selling vehicles exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation to unsuspecting buyers

"The vehicles appear to be outwardly sound but were owned by people living close to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant when it was destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Others come from second-hand dealers in the north-east of Japan, with a report in the Asahi newspaper suggesting that a minivan that was originally registered in the town of Iwaki, on the edge of the 18-mile exclusion zone around the plant, tested positive for 110 microsieverts of radiation per hour. The Japanese government initially set a level of 5 microsieverts as the limit for cars to be exported to other countries, but in August tightened the rules to 0.3 microsieverts.

Dealers have long had a lucrative trade in buying up second-hand vehicles in Japan and exporting them to Russia and south-east Asia. But with those markets no closed to them because of radioactivity tests at docks, they have little choice but to dump them on the domestic market.

So far, more 660 cars have been refused export documents from Japan.

The dealer who purchased the notoriously contaminated vehicle from Iwaki did so in good faith at an auction for Y1.43 million (£11,737), he told the Asahi. Intending to transport it from Osaka to south-east Asia, authorities informed him that the minivan was more than 20 times the permissible radiation level for exports."

Japanese cars are often converted and then sold throughout Southeast Asia. I can see the Philippines being a target for these kinds of cars. Scary stuff.