Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fukushima Fall Out Facts Continue To Unfold … Maybe!

Fukushima Fall Out Facts Continue To Unfold … Maybe!

We all know this is going to get worse before it ever gets better, but like mushrooms we’re still really in the dark being fed bullshit as deemed necessary. Isn’t government/media/corporate cooperation just wonderful?
Japanese Declare Crisis at Level of Chernobyl 

TOKYO—The Japanese government raised its assessment of the monthlong crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the highest severity level by international standards—a rating only conferred so far upon the Chernobyl accident. 

“The Fukushima Daiichi plant is still releasing radioactive materials, the total level of radiation released could eventually exceed that of Chernobyl. 

Strain From Japan Earthquake May Lead To More Seismic Trouble, Scientists Say. 

A new calculation by American and Japanese  scientists has concluded that the March 11th Japanese earthquake might have heightened the stress on faults bracketing the ruptured segment of the Japan Trench - increasing the risk for more powerful earthquakes. Washington Post  

Experts say the government isn't telling the public the whole story about the risks of radioactive milk.

Last week, samples taken from a farm in San Luis Obispo and Spokane, Wash., showed contamination with low levels of the radioactive isotope, iodine 131.

Not surprisingly, there was instant speculation about whether that milk posed a threat to human health. Government officials were quick to say the levels were low and posed no risk.

“Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day,” wrote Patricia Hansen, a Food and Drug Administration scientist, in response to the milk findings.

“For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round-trip cross-country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials,” she wrote.

There was an almost immediate backlash to her statement.

A coalition of scientists and environmentalists insisted ingesting radiation is not the same as background exposures from airplane flights.

“The FDA spokesperson should have informed the public that radioiodine provides a unique form of exposure in that it concentrates rapidly in dairy products and in the human thyroid,” wrote Robert Alvarez, a former senior policy adviser to President Clinton’s U.S. Secretary of Energy.

“The dose received, based on official measurements, may be quite small, and pose an equally small risk," Alvarez said in a statement. "However, making a conclusion on the basis of one measurement is fragmentary at best and unscientific at worst. As the accident in Fukushima continues to unfold, the public should be provided with all measurements made of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima reactors to allow for independent analyses.”

Indeed, just how radioactive particles – particularly iodine 131 and the more dangerous cesium 137 – move through the food chain remains unclear.

Here's what we do know:

Iodine 131 has a fairly short "half-life" of eight days, which means that in about 80 days, the isotope is cleared from the body. Scientists also know that it targets the thyroid.

Cesium 137, on the other hand, has a half-life of 80 years, and goes straight for the bones.

But knowing those details doesn’t address questions regarding the effects of chronic or cumulative intake of these substances. For instance, how are people affected when they drink contaminated milk, water or vegetables on a daily basis?

According to a fact sheet I found from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the half-life of the chemical doesn't matter when chronic exposure occurs, “because new releases occur continuously.”

Therefore, a contaminated milk supply represents a continuous and chronic exposure.

So, what does that mean? Do the isotopes biomagnify – or concentrate – as they move up the food chain, as dioxins and some other toxins do? And will fatty milk, or cream, have more radioactive nucleotides than skim milk?

Getting concrete answers for these questions was difficult.

Here's what I found: Cows, sheep and other grazing animals ingest radiation when radioactive particles drift and drop onto grass and feed. If rainwater is contaminated, that can increase the concentration of radioactive particles an animal is exposed to.

Once the animal has ingested the contaminated particles, some is released into its milk. And according to the Agency for Toxic Substances, different animals have different concentration levels of radioactive particles. For instance, goat and sheep’s milk have higher levels of iodine 131 than cow’s milk. Whether that is due to their size, or the fat concentrations in the milk, I was not able to determine.

However, it should be noted that radioactive concentrations in food drop with time. So the longer a gallon of milk sits on the store or refrigerator shelf, the less the amount of radiation – specifically iodine 131. That’s because of iodine 131’s eight-day half-life.

What about mothers who are breast-feeding? Presumably, if cows, sheep and goats can pass radiation along in their milk, so can humans.

It was this concern that enraged Michael Mariotte, the executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, when the federal government released its statement downplaying the milk situation.

“No mother should ever have to wonder if the milk she feeds her child might be harmful,” he wrote in a statement. “Having worked on nuclear issues for 25 years, I know the difference between internal exposures and background radiation. But lots of people don’t. As the father of an 11-month old daughter, I’m personally furious at the government for this misleading information.”

However, because humans aren’t grazing irradiated grass and feed, their concentration is presumably less than a cow or sheep's.

But, what does this all mean?

Paul Carroll, a nuclear expert with Ploughshares Fund, a San-Francisco-based international nuclear security foundation, said the information on long-term chronic exposure and food chain effects is murky.

Scientists learned a lot from the bombs that dropped on Japan at the end of World War II, and from Chernobyl. But a lot of the questions we ask now about radiation exposure we didn't know to ask back then. And long-term epidemiological studies on people can't always give definitive answers to questions such as, "How much radiation causes cancer?" or "How long do you have to be exposed?"

The bottom line, he said, is that “any additional exposure to radiation will increase your risk of developing cancer.”

Hitachi, GE Submit Plan to Dismantle Fukushima Nuclear Plant

(Translation: Who Is Going To Get The Big Bucks?)

Hitachi Ltd. (6501) and General Electric Co. (GE) submitted a plan to dismantle the crippled Fukushima Dai- Ichi plant they helped build as Japanese engineers battle to contain the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The proposal, which also involves Exelon Corp. (EXC) and Bechtel Corp., was submitted April 8, said Yuichi Izumisawa, a Tokyo- based spokesman at Hitachi, Japan’s second-largest maker of nuclear reactors. He declined to specify details of the plan.

The Hitachi-led proposal will vie against plans from groups led by Toshiba Corp. (6502) and Areva SA (CEI) as Tokyo Electric Power Co. begins preparing to clean up a nuclear disaster that’s led to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. Decommissioning the reactors may take three decades and cost more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion) to complete, engineers and analysts say.

“It’s unclear how much the contract will be worth but it’s going to be a large amount given it would take decades to complete,” said Yuichi Ishida, a Tokyo-based analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co. “This isn’t an ordinary dismantling.”
Hitachi rose 0.3 percent to 401 yen at the midday break in Tokyo trading. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 0.1 percent.

Rival Groups

Toshiba’s group, which includes Babcock & Wilcox Co. (BWC) and Shaw Group Inc. (SHAW), submitted a plan on April 4 that would take 10 years or more to complete, spokesman Keisuke Ohmori said last week. Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric Co., Babcock & Wilcox and Shaw were involved in the decommissioning of the Three Mile Island plant, he said. Toshiba, Japan’s largest maker of nuclear reactors, also helped build the Fukushima reactors.

Areva, the world’s biggest maker of nuclear reactors, plans to submit a proposal, Jacques Besnainou, chief executive of the Paris-based company’s U.S. subsidiary, said this week.
Hitachi’s U.S. partners were also involved in the cleanup work at Three Mile Island and the 1986 Chernobyl incident, the company said yesterday.
At Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island in 1979, one reactor partially melted in the worst U.S. accident, taking $973 million to repair and almost 12 years to clean up, according to a report on the World Nuclear Association’s website. More than 1,000 workers were involved in designing and conducting the cleanup operation, the report said.
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency yesterday raised the severity rating of its nuclear crisis to 7, the highest and matching the Chernobyl disaster. The accident was previously rated a 5 on the global scale, the same as the Three Mile Island meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s chief defended the utility’s response to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl and pledged executive pay cuts as workers struggle to stop radiation leaks from a crippled atomic station.

“The steps we have taken so far were the best that we could do,” Masataka Shimizu, president of the utility known as Tepco, said at a news conference in Tokyo. Tsunami defenses at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant followed guidelines, and sea water was injected to cool four of its six reactors without worrying that they would have to be scrapped as a result, he said.
A magnitude-9 earthquake on March 11 generated a bigger tsunami than the plant was designed to withstand, knocking out backup generators and cooling systems and causing radiation leaks. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara criticized Tepco’s reaction to the crisis on March 25, saying “they were greedy and wanted to try to re-use the reactors.”
“We made a judicious decision on the timing and acted” to pump sea water and vent radioactive steam, Shimizu, 66, told a room packed with journalists at what was his third public appearance since the crisis started. “With respect to the tsunami, we acted in accordance with the guidelines in place.”

‘Decisions Were Slow’ (Do You Think? Ed.)

“There is no doubt that Tepco’s decisions were slow,” said Tadashi Narabayashi, a professor of nuclear engineering at Japan’s Hokkaido University. “If venting of steam was necessary, Tepco should have done it before reactor cores got damaged” to limit the release of radioactive materials.

The utility has been criticized for ignoring warnings about the tsunami risks that caused the crisis.
The Fukushima plant was designed to withstand a 5.7-meter tsunami, according to Tepco. The tsunami generated by last month’s earthquake was as high as 15 meters, the company said April 10.
Shimizu said Tepco’s board members and senior executives will take pay cuts, and the company is in discussions with the government on how to compensate people affected by Japan’s worst civilian nuclear crisis.

(Ed. … Pay Cuts! Why don’t the bastards change into blue jeans roll up their sleeves and jump into helping with the clean up inside one of those plants?)

The earthquake, the nation’s strongest on record, and tsunami left about 27,500 dead or missing, according to Japan’s National Police Agency. The government has estimated the damage at 25 trillion yen ($295 billion). Tepco may face claims of as much as 11 trillion yen, and that may lead to nationalization, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said last month.

Shimizu has also faced calls to quit after the crisis wiped off 2.65 trillion yen in the company’s market value. The stock has slumped 77 percent since the crisis began.

‘Working on it’

Shimizu said he would like Tepco to remain independent. He declined to answer questions about his own future and that of the utility, saying it wasn’t the appropriate time to comment.
Responding to questions seeking a time frame for resolving the nuclear crisis, Shimizu repeated: “We are working on it.”
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has asked Tepco to give an assessment of when the company expects to resolve the crisis. “An outlook will be presented soon,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo yesterday.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency yesterday raised the severity rating of the accident to 7, the highest on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, and the same level as the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The ranking was increased from 5, the same as the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Each level on the scale represents a 10-fold increase in severity.


A 7 rating means there has been a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures,” according to the INES factsheet.

The Fukushima station is yet to stabilize and the reactors must be kept cool to prevent the crisis from deteriorating, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said at a Senate hearing yesterday.

Efforts to restore cooling systems have been hindered as aftershocks forced workers to evacuate temporarily.
Tepco said a 5.2-magnitude earthquake today didn’t damage the plant and recovery work is continuing. Japan was struck by two earthquakes stronger than magnitude 6 yesterday, following a 6.6-magnitude temblor on April 11 and a magnitude 7.1 aftershock on April 7.
The utility can’t rule out the possibility that some fuel may be damaged after analyzing water in the spent fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor, Junichi Matsumoto, a spokesman, said at a news conference today.
Shimizu reaffirmed that reactors No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be decommissioned, and said the fate of the two remaining units, which were shut when the tsunami struck, remains undecided.

Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Update: Get All The Data

Japan is racing to gain control of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Where does the most detailed data come from? Updated daily

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake and following tsunami on March 11 has seen a rush by officials to gain control of power plants in the north-east of the country.

The latest news is that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has raised it's severity level from five to seven - the same level as Chernobyl in 1986. Justin McCurry writes:

"Nuclear safety officials had insisted they had no plans to raise the severity of the crisis from five – the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 – according to the international nuclear and radiological event scale.

But the government came under pressure to raise the level at the plant after Japan's nuclear safety commission estimated the amount of radioactive material released from its stricken reactors reached 10,000 terabecquerels per hour for several hours following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country's northeast coast on 11 March. That level of radiation constitutes a major accident, according to the INES scale."

Fukushima nuclear power plant has been closely scrutinised as reports flow in on the progress of the situation - Japan's nuclear board previoulsy raised the nuclear alert level from four to five in the weeks following the disaster and the JAIF warned of products such as dairy and spinach being restricted for shipping. Explosions and reports of nuclear fuel rods melting at the power plant have meant progress on the situation has been closely followed as has the environmental effects with concerns for marine life and spreading radiation through seawater.

Industry body the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum are currently publishing daily updates of the status of power plants in Fukushima which give great detail into the condition of each reactor. Ranked from a level of low to severe, the update records the conditions of core and fuel integrity, water level and containment amongst other key information. These are some of the most in-depth and recent records and show how the crisis is being handled.

The table below shows the status of the reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi (the largest of the Fukushima power plants) and is colour coded to show the severity. Green for low, yellow represents high and red shows those of severe significance as judged by the JAIF. We have used JAIF's update 87 as of 20:00 local time as this is the most up to the minute data we can get.

A table of major incidents and accidents at the plants can be found in our spreadsheet as can the data for Daini, Onagawa and Tokai Daini Nuclear power stations. What can you do with this data?

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