APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi update June 1st

There are a number of updates from the Fukushima Daiichi site to relate. None serious, but several noteworthy ... if only due to their being carried by major media outlets. We'll relate these things and put them in perspective.

-Radiation levels in the seawater outside the No. 1 through No. 4 plants have gone up somewhat in recent days, and water levels in the turbine buildings have been reported as rising faster. There is a typhoon in the vicinity which has been causing a lot of rain (as viewers of the Fukuichi camera and its predecessor can also assert) and it's speculated that this is one major cause for spikes in readings of some isotopes immediately offshore. As a response to this, and further as a hedge against the threat of running out of temporary contaminated water storage capacity, TEPCO is going to quickly install a filtration system for water in the area outside No. 1 through No. 4 plant seawater inlet gates, which is all inside the silt fences previously installed. Below is a TEPCO press release illustration showing one of the filtration tank units (supplied by Toshiba) and the general expected setup.

And just in, off the TEPCO wires.... this view taken today of one of the tanks actually installed and connected:

-Injection rates at the three reactor plants with cores installed continue to be decreased by TEPCO, as TEPCO both transitions over from the use of firefighting supply lines to the feedwater lines, and attempts to optimize injection rate to only that required for safe cooling to reduce water buildup in the reactor and turbine buildings. No. 1 plant is now at 5 cubic meters per hour, while No. 2 is at 4.9 cubic meters per hour; both are operating with injection only on the feed line. No. 3 plant is also only on the feed line and now is down to 11.5 cubic meters per hour. Temperatures at all three plants are slowly lowering as of now; readers are referred to the decay heat graph posted on this blog a few days back for comparison of the inferred heat generation decrease over time with the lowering cooling water injection rates.

-Remotely controlled construction equipment accidentally damaged an oxygen storage cylinder in the vicinity of No. 4 plant the day before yesterday. No one was injured; incredibly, there are still images floating around the net from the new Fukuichi 24-hour onsite camera that show the blast. Dramatic, if small, the blast caused no damage which has been reported by TEPCO or its contractors.

-There is a report circulating that while TEPCO told the Japanese Government that it had suspended seawater injection to the core of No. 1 plant at Fukushima Daiichi in the serious hours immediately after the typhoon, an on-site supervisor in fact made certain that seawater injection continued uninterrupted. (Government permission was required for this step, and there was uncertainty about it having been received, apparently.) While this caused a bit of a media stir in Japan, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has gone on the record as saying that this should not result in punishment of this particular supervisor. (He made the right call, by the way, in continuing injection with whatever water source he had available without outside non-expert interference.... APR opinion.)

-A brief oil spill outside No. 5 and No. 6 plants, found on the 31st, has resulted in the application of cleanup material (absorption) to the shore line, and the rapid installation of an oil fence. TEPCO is cleaning up this minor spill as this report is written. Below, TEPCO press photo showing the oil sheen on the water surface.

-TEPCO continues to experiment with the installed, recirculating cooling systems for the spent fuel pools at all three plants. Hydrazine addition (to prevent oxygen corrosion of the fuel elements) is being performed occasionally at the spent fuel pools as TEPCO deems necessary.

These appear to be the most important updates at the moment. There are a large number of projects underway right now at the site, and we'll report here on further developments as needed.

8:55 AM Eastern Wednesday June 1, 2011


  1. Good report! Good photos, great thorough concise essay of what's going on!

    It's good to see the progress being made and hope the media doesn't exaggerate side events like the O2 tank puncture which occasionally dramatically occurs without much notice out on Long Island with rookie Lloyd Bridges wanna-bees diving up here for the summer. Golly gee, what an oil "spill". Almost rates up there with some off just ONE Hudson River pier here! I just have to LOL to a bellyache at what too many quarters constitute as "massive environmental contamination."! I remember when the fair media here in the Big Apple reported a "radioactive water spill" at Indian Point (early 1980s) which was amounted to just a few gallons that just took rubber gloves and a bucket to clean up (ConEd now by law has to report ANY such "event"), but half of Westchester County practically lost their panties over this. Gee whiz, media, let's get some perspective here! This also makes me wonder just how radioactive that seawater is outside Fukushima's plants. The way this incident's falling off the media radar screen here even behind dog shows often makes me wonder whether they're disappointed Doomsday hadn't happened.

    Again, I'm surprised at the (to me) low water volume used to cool off the elements. I'd like to read up on the de-contam process as it relates to water; i.e. is it actually distilled and what's left behind? I was thinking too bad Japan couldn't erect some of those huge inflatable domes used for sporting events around some of those troubled buildings. Here in NYC you can see these things literally swallowing huge wharfs and up to maybe 15 stories tall. Surely that concept's adaptable to contain rad dust and debris of a sizable area. I'd be very interested if anyone knows of a Japanese site where engineering students there are following the progress and conjuring up their own (radical?) solutions for each given circumstance.

    Keep on pulling, Will.

    James Greenidge

  2. The state of the art for zeolites must have advanced pretty impressively in the past few decades.
    I'm very impressed that a zeolite can selectively pull cesium present at well below the part per million level
    from sea water, which will have a few percent of sodium ions. Whoever makes that stuff is going to make some good money.

  3. @jimwg "LOL to a bellyache at what too many quarters constitute as 'massive environmental contamination.'"

    Are you kidding me? Environmental contamination is for one, a cumulative effect. Secondly, the radiation at fukushima will probably cause millions of cancers and birth defects. The radiation levels are extremely bad for anything living in the ocean. Many creatures will die or fail to reproduce. Including humans. Every species will be affected. It will be heavier in Japan, but it will stretch the world over in cancers, birth defects, tumours, premature births.

    What really gives me a bellyache is people making light of the situation at Fukushima like it's no big deal. Yeah, well try growing up with a tumour in your skull that cannot be removed because it holds your face together. Try growing up with a deformed heart. Try living with mental instability. The catastrophe may be no big deal to you, but the children of pregnant women in Japan and abroad, and their families. They will know the gravity of the environmental consequences better than you.

    I've experienced some of the worse health effects of radiation in terms of genetic mutation as a baby, and now I have lifelong consequences. It's not all roses on this side of the fence. Radiation travels farther than you want to think, and it actually does damage to you and everyone else.

  4. netudiant:

    Thanks for that head's up on zeolites! I'm reading up on that very interesting stuff! Wonder of this process works by straining topsoil too!


    I'm sorry for whatever occurred to you as a child, but you don't condemn entire technologies based on rare unfortunate instances, and that includes bad/misused drugs or vaccines used on babies to their being bounced around in car accidents. You don't eliminate vaccines or cars because of that -- you repair the problem. This "planet" and its "fragile" life is FAR more rugged than environmentalists take granted for in lieu the cosmic catastrophes they've endured or they would folded like a house of cards and gone extinct literally eons ago. Sorry, but you've sauced out on lime Kool Aid when you talk about the seas being permanently poisoned and "millions" of monster pregnancies due to radiation. We've had fifty years of chances for that to happen in the most reckless ways and it just hasn't. I'm not into exaggerating concerns into bogus perils -- which sadly I hear here. Pray tell, we know where your passion lies, but where are your Facts? The same argument made decades ago predicted Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be radioactive deserts forever in a region of gross mutants and the Bikini Atolls sterile monuments to the atomic age -- but someone forgot to tell that to the fish and plants and corals growing there for the sport divers. I'd suggest you to save a stroke and do your own research not handed you by green-zealot groups with an implacable religious anti-nuclear grudge.

    James Greenidge

  5. Hi joshua, it's always instructive to be reminded of the alternative position to the scientific view.

    Radiation at Fukushima will cause a likely zero cancers among workers, zero cancers elsewhere and a likely zero birth defects. The radiation levels will be indistinguishable from normal in the ocean in a few months. The ecology will be unaffected, even if a few individual creatures die or suffer, in a strictly local effect.

    I strongly recommend you read (or re-read) the UN report on Chernobyl. Even though the spread and uptake of radioative contamination was many times worse than Fukushima, the major health issue was caused by rampant alarmism and consequent despondency and disinterest in health among the locals. And when I say "rampant alarmism", I'm looking at you, joshua.

    However, when you raise false linkage to serious health problems, you frankly disgust me. You are trading on the suffering of these people to further your own ideology with no proven link whatsoever. Please consider carefully whether you are really commited to this kind of ghoulishness, making your argument on the backs of the sick.

    Your own illnesses may or may not be due to radiation - obviously I don't know your story, as you haven't attempted to describe it. Reading between the lines (always an uncertain business), I doubt that you have a clear line of evidence to radiation, and I would suggest you have found an arbitrary scapegoat. But sometimes shit just happens; and exploitation of your own sickness is almost as bad as your attempted exploitation of others.

  6. @joshua: I am sorry to hear about your troubles. It might be very instructive to us to read how the radiation-induced mutation actually was induced. Were your parents exposed (one or the other) to nuclear weapon testing? Survivors of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki? In the nuclear, or the medicine, field? This information would help move the discussion along.

  7. @EVERYONE: I have just now found a workaround for being able to post comments ON MY OWN BLOG! There have been issues with Blogger since May 24 which are not yet resolved, but I discovered the workaround deep in the Blogger Owner help forums. I am sorry not to have been answering all of your posts. Please know that I do read all of them, appreciate them and very seriously appreciate the quality of discussion being carried on in the comments of this whole blog.. I also appreciate the candor, the observations, the level-headedness and most of all the passion of all sides. Thank you all.

  8. "This "planet" and its "fragile" life is FAR more rugged than environmentalists take granted for"

    I suppose the daily extinction of 150 plant and animal species are testimony to that "ruggedness" you are referring to.

    I like this blog for its technical analysis, so I stop here. Thank you Will.

    PS: Joshua - keep your spirits up.

  9. These are the relevant and facetious arguments Greens use to try to demonize and crucify nuclear power or any other techno-project they dislike. Species MUST die out all the time; That's called evolution. Forget that 95% of all species that ever lived left out even before we made the scene; Dozens of new species are found all the time; The Science/Green Channels keep pushing that line on us ad nuseum, so it pretty makes up for the "loss" -- which very few human beings or other creatures would ever notice. As I last checked the extinction of the passenger pigeon, kiwi and Mammoth hasn't much crashed the bio-system's dominos today. Life goes on like the Everyready bunny. Besides we can't keep accommodating every "unique" throw of the genetic dice nature daily throws us else we'd be out of a place to live much less eat. So if they want to site a nuclear plant for power and jobs and cut CO2 and carbon emissions where some orange-headed locust popped up, yea, he's got a new neighbor!

    James Greenidge

  10. I'll disagree with you in part there James: biodiversity is a useful measure of the health of an ecology and there are strong metrics that indicate that we have had, and continue to have, a strongly damaging effect on many ecologies around the world. Species that die out becuase they are replaced in their ecological niche could indeed be evolution; but that isn't what is being observed.

    However the irrelevance of these facts to any debate about nuclear power is clear, and a simple distraction tactic by ashen as you correctly diagnose.