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2011 Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami

Nuclear Risks

Monitoring radiation affected areas map by exposure levels, continually updated: 


Relevant because risk re: acute radiation exposures, medicine needs.  Children, babies, nursing and/or pregnant women, special attention.  Lesser exposed, a later problem re: some increase in cancer rates

Risks mitigated by 1)Proximity; 2)Intensity of Exposure (barriers, staying indoors-- even plastic protection can help); 3) Duration of Exposure

Caesium-137: lessons from Brazil, re:  Treatment, containment, issue of infected materials and how that spread by travel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident 

Woman, upon finding the source, put it in a plastic bag for transport to hospital, it didn't spread, by that simple barrier.  But also shows risks re: transportation of goods in contact with high levels of Caesium, infected areas (and risks re: salvaging radiated material, not cleaning it properly-- Markets are in a bit of a stir, b/c of that concern Nikkei). 

This case example also discussed clean-up, and value of Prussian Blue in treating Caesium.  Individual/Human absorbtion (or even animal absoption-- radioactive spreads bioaccumulative in food chain-- Chernobly example)

Prussian Blue, Medical use for Caesium exposure:
Prussian blue's ability to incorporate monocations makes it useful as a sequestering agent for certain heavy metal poisons. Pharmaceutical-grade Prussian blue in particular is used for patients who have ingested thallium or radioactive caesium. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an adult male can eat at least 10 grams of Prussian blue per day without serious harm. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that the "500 mg Prussian blue capsules, when manufactured under the conditions of an approved New Drug Application (NDA), can be found safe and effective therapy" in certain poisoning cases.[14] Radiogardase (Prussian blue insoluble capsules [15]) is a commercial product for the removal of caesium-137 from the bloodstream.[16]


CNN Quoting France Expert, warns of potential Level 6 Nuclear Accident: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/15/japan.nuclear/

"It's clear we are at Level 6, that's to say we're at a level in between what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl," Andre-Claude Lacoste, president of France's nuclear safety authority, told reporters Tuesday

On "International Nuclear Events Scale" Ratings:

Seems there's multiple partial meltdowns, one reactor has crack in last failsafe container, problems re: suppression pools, leakage

History of Fukushima Reactors:

Damages Prior to Earthquake, Structural Risks (alternative source to other official reports):

Fukushima Boiled Water Reactors:

US and others have direct experience operating with General Electric designed "Boiled Water Reactors":

Design Weakness: 

Kevin Camps (former insider, became Anti-Nuke Activist) comments on Reactor's features: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/democracy-now/worst-case-scenario-is-a-_b_835560.html 
. . . rest, some details about US Reactors.  Emergency Diesel Generators, kept in the basement, which were flooded (not a good design).  Puts in context, problem is not exclusive to Japan.  You can say fear-mongering, but some important points of fact, relevant to present crises.

The residential civillian 'greeny' here, but sometimes alternative persectives (inbetween 'biases') still reveals some factual information.

Some 'as it happens' news, sourced from Japan:

Hoping for the Best, US has done several successful helicopter rescue missions-- US Military Relief :salute:

Some detail about the reactors from Nextbigfuture:


What happened at Fukushima and the Levels of Containment of a Boiler Water Reactor

Brave New Climate has a description of what happened at Fukushima

    The earthquake that hit Japan was 7 times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; the difference between the 8.2 that the plants were built for and the 8.9 that happened is 7 times, not 0.7). So the first hooray for Japanese engineering, everything held up.

    When the earthquake hit with 8.9, the nuclear reactors all went into automatic shutdown. Within seconds after the earthquake started, the control rods had been inserted into the core and nuclear chain reaction of the uranium stopped. Now, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat. The residual heat load is about 3% of the heat load under normal operating conditions.

    The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. That is one of the most serious accidents for a nuclear power plant, and accordingly, a “plant black out” receives a lot of attention when designing backup systems. The power is needed to keep the coolant pumps working. Since the power plant had been shut down, it cannot produce any electricity by itself any more.

    Things were going well for an hour. One set of multiple sets of emergency Diesel power generators kicked in and provided the electricity that was needed. Then the Tsunami came, much bigger than people had expected when building the power plant (see above, factor 7). The tsunami took out all multiple sets of backup Diesel generators.

    When designing a nuclear power plant, engineers follow a philosophy called “Defense of Depth”. That means that you first build everything to withstand the worst catastrophe you can imagine, and then design the plant in such a way that it can still handle one system failure (that you thought could never happen) after the other. A tsunami taking out all backup power in one swift strike is such a scenario. The last line of defense is putting everything into the third containment (see above), that will keep everything, whatever the mess, control rods in our out, core molten or not, inside the reactor.

    When the diesel generators were gone, the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power. The batteries were designed as one of the backups to the backups, to provide power for cooling the core for 8 hours. And they did.

    Within the 8 hours, another power source had to be found and connected to the power plant. The power grid was down due to the earthquake. The diesel generators were destroyed by the tsunami. So mobile diesel generators were trucked in.

    This is where things started to go seriously wrong. The external power generators could not be connected to the power plant (the plugs did not fit). So after the batteries ran out, the residual heat could not be carried away any more.

    At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a “loss of cooling event”. It is again a step along the “Depth of Defense” lines. The power to the cooling systems should never have failed completely, but it did, so they “retreat” to the next line of defense. All of this, however shocking it seems to us, is part of the day-to-day training you go through as an operator, right through to managing a core meltdown.

    It was at this stage that people started to talk about core meltdown. Because at the end of the day, if cooling cannot be restored, the core will eventually melt (after hours or days), and the last line of defense, the core catcher and third containment, would come into play.

    But the goal at this stage was to manage the core while it was heating up, and ensure that the first containment (the Zircaloy tubes that contains the nuclear fuel), as well as the second containment (our pressure cooker) remain intact and operational for as long as possible, to give the engineers time to fix the cooling systems.

    Because cooling the core is such a big deal, the reactor has a number of cooling systems, each in multiple versions (the reactor water cleanup system, the decay heat removal, the reactor core isolating cooling, the standby liquid cooling system, and the emergency core cooling system). Which one failed when or did not fail is not clear at this point in time.

    So imagine our pressure cooker on the stove, heat on low, but on. The operators use whatever cooling system capacity they have to get rid of as much heat as possible, but the pressure starts building up. The priority now is to maintain integrity of the first containment (keep temperature of the fuel rods below 2200°C), as well as the second containment, the pressure cooker. In order to maintain integrity of the pressure cooker (the second containment), the pressure has to be released from time to time. Because the ability to do that in an emergency is so important, the reactor has 11 pressure release valves. The operators now started venting steam from time to time to control the pressure. The temperature at this stage was about 550°C.

    This is when the reports about “radiation leakage” starting coming in. I believe I explained above why venting the steam is theoretically the same as releasing radiation into the environment, but why it was and is not dangerous. The radioactive nitrogen as well as the noble gases do not pose a threat to human health.

    At some stage during this venting, the explosion occurred. The explosion took place outside of the third containment (our “last line of defense”), and the reactor building. Remember that the reactor building has no function in keeping the radioactivity contained. It is not entirely clear yet what has happened, but this is the likely scenario: The operators decided to vent the steam from the pressure vessel not directly into the environment, but into the space between the third containment and the reactor building (to give the radioactivity in the steam more time to subside). The problem is that at the high temperatures that the core had reached at this stage, water molecules can “disassociate” into oxygen and hydrogen – an explosive mixture. And it did explode, outside the third containment, damaging the reactor building around. It was that sort of explosion, but inside the pressure vessel (because it was badly designed and not managed properly by the operators) that lead to the explosion of Chernobyl. This was never a risk at Fukushima. The problem of hydrogen-oxygen formation is one of the biggies when you design a power plant (if you are not Soviet, that is), so the reactor is build and operated in a way it cannot happen inside the containment. It happened outside, which was not intended but a possible scenario and OK, because it did not pose a risk for the containment.

    So the pressure was under control, as steam was vented. Now, if you keep boiling your pot, the problem is that the water level will keep falling and falling. The core is covered by several meters of water in order to allow for some time to pass (hours, days) before it gets exposed. Once the rods start to be exposed at the top, the exposed parts will reach the critical temperature of 2200 °C after about 45 minutes. This is when the first containment, the Zircaloy tube, would fail.

    And this started to happen. The cooling could not be restored before there was some (very limited, but still) damage to the casing of some of the fuel. The nuclear material itself was still intact, but the surrounding Zircaloy shell had started melting. What happened now is that some of the byproducts of the uranium decay – radioactive Cesium and Iodine – started to mix with the steam. The big problem, uranium, was still under control, because the uranium oxide rods were good until 3000 °C. It is confirmed that a very small amount of Cesium and Iodine was measured in the steam that was released into the atmosphere.

    It seems this was the “go signal” for a major plan B. The small amounts of Cesium that were measured told the operators that the first containment on one of the rods somewhere was about to give. The Plan A had been to restore one of the regular cooling systems to the core. Why that failed is unclear. One plausible explanation is that the tsunami also took away / polluted all the clean water needed for the regular cooling systems.

    The water used in the cooling system is very clean, demineralized (like distilled) water. The reason to use pure water is the above mentioned activation by the neutrons from the Uranium: Pure water does not get activated much, so stays practically radioactive-free. Dirt or salt in the water will absorb the neutrons quicker, becoming more radioactive. This has no effect whatsoever on the core – it does not care what it is cooled by. But it makes life more difficult for the operators and mechanics when they have to deal with activated (i.e. slightly radioactive) water.

    But Plan A had failed – cooling systems down or additional clean water unavailable – so Plan B came into effect. This is what it looks like happened:

    In order to prevent a core meltdown, the operators started to use sea water to cool the core. I am not quite sure if they flooded our pressure cooker with it (the second containment), or if they flooded the third containment, immersing the pressure cooker. But that is not relevant for us.

    The point is that the nuclear fuel has now been cooled down. Because the chain reaction has been stopped a long time ago, there is only very little residual heat being produced now. The large amount of cooling water that has been used is sufficient to take up that heat. Because it is a lot of water, the core does not produce sufficient heat any more to produce any significant pressure. Also, boric acid has been added to the seawater. Boric acid is “liquid control rod”. Whatever decay is still going on, the Boron will capture the neutrons and further speed up the cooling down of the core.

    The plant came close to a core meltdown. Here is the worst-case scenario that was avoided: If the seawater could not have been used for treatment, the operators would have continued to vent the water steam to avoid pressure buildup. The third containment would then have been completely sealed to allow the core meltdown to happen without releasing radioactive material. After the meltdown, there would have been a waiting period for the intermediate radioactive materials to decay inside the reactor, and all radioactive particles to settle on a surface inside the containment. The cooling system would have been restored eventually, and the molten core cooled to a manageable temperature. The containment would have been cleaned up on the inside. Then a messy job of removing the molten core from the containment would have begun, packing the (now solid again) fuel bit by bit into transportation containers to be shipped to processing plants. Depending on the damage, the block of the plant would then either be repaired or dismantled.

    Now, where does that leave us?

    * The plant is safe now and will stay safe.
    * Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.
    * Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.
    * There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.

    * The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)

    * I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. About half of Japan’s nuclear reactors will probably have to be inspected, reducing the nation’s power generating capacity by 15%. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. That will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to potential power shortages during peak demand, in Japan.
That Nextbigfuture articles doesn't seem to match reality, or any even facts released by the Japanese.
The claim that everything is cooled down, there is no more heat, and that it is a level 4 four accident are very dated.

Fire reignites at Japan nuclear reactor
The company said an estimated 70% of the fuel rods had been damaged at the Unit 1 reactor and 33% at the Unit 2 reactor. Nuclear safety agency spokesman Shigekatsu Omukai said the utility reported the figures to the agency Wednesday.

Spent fuel at the complex is an increasing focus of concern. Tepco had moved all of the rods from the Unit 4 reactor to the spent-fuel pool sometime after Dec. 1 as part of routine maintenance, meaning the pool contained not only all of the rods accumulated from many years of service but also all of those currently in use.

If the pool was jam-packed with rods, they would generate significant heat and, once the water stopped circulating after the tsunami, its temperature would begin rising, eventually reaching the boiling point. If the water boiled long enough without being replenished, it would expose the rods to the air.

Blaze at Japan nuclear plant heightens radiation
TOKYO — Another fire broke out on Wednesday at an earthquake-crippled Japanese nuclear plant that has sent low levels of radiation wafting into Tokyo and triggered international alarm, suggesting that the crisis may be slipping out of control.

Academics and nuclear experts agree that the solutions being proposed to contain damage to the Daiichi reactors at Fukushima, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, are last-ditch efforts to stem what could well be remembered as one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.

While public broadcaster NHK said flames were no longer visible at the building housing the No.4 reactor of the plant, Japanese TV pictures showed smoke rising from the facility at mid-morning (1000 local, 0100 GMT)..............

In the first hint of international frustration at the pace of updates from Japan, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he wanted more timely and detailed information.

“We do not have all the details of the information so what we can do is limited,” Amano told a news conference in Vienna. “I am trying to further improve the communication.”


Several experts said that Japanese authorities were underplaying the severity of the incident, particular on a scale called INES used to rank nuclear incidents. The Japanese have so far rated the accident a four on a one-to-seven scale, but that rating was issued on Saturday and since then the situation has worsened dramatically.

“This is a slow-moving nightmare,” said Dr Thomas Neff, a research affiliate at the Center for International Studies, which is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This could be a five or a six — it’s premature to say since this event is not over yet.”

France’s nuclear safety authority ASN said Tuesday it should be classed as a level-six incident.

It doesn't look good.  Level 6, and potentially escalating:  Workers had to evaculate the plant due to seccumbing to radiation sickness.

From Associated Press: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_japan_earthquake/print

Japan suspends work at stricken nuclear plant
By ERIC TALMADGE and SHINO YUASA, Associated Press Eric Talmadge And Shino Yuasa, Associated Press
7 mins ago

FUKUSHIMA, Japan – Japan suspended operations to keep its stricken nuclear plant from melting down Wednesday after surging radiation made it too dangerous to stay.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the workers dousing the reactors in a frantic effort to cool them needed to withdraw.

"The workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now," Edano said. "Because of the radiation risk we are on standby," he said.

The nuclear crisis has triggered international alarm and partly overshadowed the human tragedy caused by Friday's earthquake and tsunami, which pulverized Japan's northeastern coastline, killing an estimated 10,000 people and severely damaging the nuclear plant. . .

. . .Since then authorities have tried frantically to avert an environmental catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex in northeastern Japan, 170 miles (270 kilometers) north Tokyo.

The surge in radiation was apparently the result of a Tuesday explosion in the complex's Unit 4 reactor, according to officials with Japan's nuclear safety agency. That blast is thought to have damaged the reactor's suppression chamber, a water-filled pipe outside the nuclear core that is part of the emergency cooling system.

Officials had originally planned use helicopters and fire trucks to spray water in a desperate effort to prevent further radiation leaks and to cool down the reactors.

"It's not so simple that everything will be resolved by pouring in water. We are trying to avoid creating other problems," Edano said.

"We are actually supplying water from the ground, but supplying water from above involves pumping lots of water and that involves risk. We also have to consider the safety of the helicopters above," he said.

A U.S. nuclear expert said he feared the worst.

"It's more of a surrender," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who now heads the nuclear safety program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group. "It's not like you wait 10 days and the radiation goes away. In that 10 days things are going to get worse."

"It's basically a sign that there's nothing left to do but throw in the towel," Lochbaum said.

The government has ordered some 140,000 people in the vicinity to stay indoors. A little radiation was also detected in Tokyo, 150 miles (240 kilometers) to the south, triggering panic buying of food and water.

There are six reactors at the plant, and the three that were operating at the time have been rocked by explosions. The one still on fire was offline at the time of the magnitude 9.0 quake, Japan's most powerful on record.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimated that 70 percent of the rods have been damaged at the No. 1 reactor.

Japan's national news agency, Kyodo, said that 33 percent of the fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor were damaged and that the cores of both reactors were believed to have partially melted.

"We don't know the nature of the damage," said Minoru Ohgoda, spokesman for the country's nuclear safety agency. "It could be either melting, or there might be some holes in them."

Meanwhile, the outer housing of the containment vessel at the No. 4 unit erupted in flames early Wednesday, said Hajimi Motujuku, a spokesman for the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Japan's nuclear safety agency said fire and smoke could no longer be seen at Unit 4, but that it was unable to confirm that the blaze had been put out.


Yuasa reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writers Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo and David Stringer in Ofunato contributed to this report.

Canada sending supplies to Japan: Cannon
By QMI Agency
Last Updated: March 16, 2011 7:22am
Canada is sending wool blankets to help with relief efforts in Japan and has offered its expertise, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon has announced.

Cannon met with his Japanese counterpart, Takeaki Mastumoto, on Tuesday.

Mastumoto "underlined the grave situation facing his country," Cannon said in a release. "The Japanese government has specified the assistance it needs from the international community, and will continue to do so. Canada stands ready to assist."

Canada will provide approximately 25,000 woven thermal wool blankets from its emergency relief supply stockpile.

"Canada has offered its expertise and assistance to Japan," Cannon said. "The array of capabilities that the Government of Canada has offered to the Government of Japan includes a 17-member disaster victim identification team, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear technical expertise and equipment, Canadian Forces military assets to facilitate humanitarian relief efforts, relief stocks, and emergency medical and engineering capabilities."

The supplies were sent by plane Wednesday morning and should arrive in Tokyo at noon local time on Thursday.

And another interesting link
Official U.S. Navy Imagery's photostream

An emergency medical team that can’t work in a unstable environment  - Oh, this is VERY comforting….

Canadian medical team pulls out of Japan

The unstable nuclear threat in Japan has forced a Canadian Medical Assistance Team from B.C. to return home, just three days after flying in.
The seven members of the team said on their website today that they're simply not equipped to work in a nuclear emergency.
Members of the team, who five Canadians and two Americans, were expected arrive at the Vancouver International Airport later Wednesday morning.

Team chair Valerie Rzepka, who is based in Canada, says the team made the call after Japanese officials temporarily pulled staff from a nuclear reactor site earlier on Wednesday.

"We made the decision to bring the team home temporarily in the event of a catastrophe and we'll continue to monitor," she said. '
When the situation is more stable, the team will likely return, the website said.


Edit: (delete emotional)

The United States advised its nationals living within an 80-kilometer radius of the stricken nuclear plant to evacuate as a precaution, while South Korea, Australia and New Zealand followed suit with the advisory. Singapore urged its nationals to move out of an area within a 100-km radius of the plant and Italy asked its citizens living in Tokyo or north of the Japanese capital to evacuate.

Fire trucks of the Self-Defense Forces joined Thursday evening in an unprecedented mission to direct jets of water onto a stricken nuclear reactor in an effort to cool down its apparently overheating spent fuel pool to prevent radiation being emitted. But the action had no immediate effect on radiation levels there, according to the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.....

Status of quake-stricken reactors at Fukushima nuclear power plants
TOKYO, March 17, Kyodo

The following is the known status as of Thursday night of each of the six reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the four reactors at the Fukushima No. 2 plant, both in Fukushima Prefecture, which were crippled by Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.

Fukushima No. 1 plant

-- Reactor No. 1 - Operation suspended after quake, cooling failure, partial melting of core, vapor vented, building housing reactor damaged Saturday by hydrogen explosion, seawater being pumped in.

-- Reactor No. 2 - Operation suspended after quake, cooling failure, seawater being pumped in, fuel rods fully exposed temporarily, vapor vented, building housing reactor damaged Monday by blast at reactor No. 3, damage to containment vessel feared, potential meltdown feared.

-- Reactor No. 3 - Operation suspended after quake, cooling failure, partial melting of core feared, vapor vented, seawater being pumped in, building housing reactor damaged Monday by hydrogen explosion, high-level radiation measured nearby on Tuesday, plume of smoke observed Wednesday and presumed to have come from spent-fuel storage pool, severe damage to containment vessel unlikely, seawater dumped over pool by helicopter on Thursday, water sprayed at it from ground.

-- Reactor No. 4 - Under maintenance when quake struck, fire Tuesday possibly caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, abnormal temperature rise in spent-fuel storage pool, fire observed Wednesday at building housing reactor, pool water level feared receding, renewed nuclear chain reaction feared.

-- Reactors No. 5, 6 - Under maintenance when quake struck, water temperatures in spent-fuel storage pools increased to about 64 C on Thursday.

-- Spent-fuel storage pools at all reactors -- Cooling functions lost, water temperatures or levels unobservable at reactors No. 1 to 4.

Fukushima No. 2 plant

-- Reactors No. 1, 2, 4 - Operation suspended after quake, cooling failure, then cold shutdown.

-- Reactor No. 3 - Operation suspended after quake, cold shutdown.

A team of 34 US atomic experts is also now on the ground in Japan, equipped with ground and aerial hardware to monitor the radiation leaks.

American ambassador John Roos denied their presence shows a lack of trust in Japan's handling of the crisis.

Japan Self-Defense Forces shot 30 tons of water from fire trucks to douse the overheated and possibly dry spent-fuel pool at the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, about 150 miles north of Tokyo. The power company's officials later said steam rising from the reactor led them to believe that they had added water to the pool, though it wasn't clear how much. They plan to resume their efforts early Friday.
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Efforts to cool reactors continue in Japan nuke crisis
TOKYO, March 18, Kyodo

..................The unprecedented mission, which was launched Thursday by the Self-Defense Forces to spray tons of water over the plant's No. 3 reactor building, will be bolstered later in the day with more pumps, after efforts were focused in the morning to restore power to some of the reactors' cooling systems, the government said.

The Tokyo Fire Department dispatched 30 trucks capable of discharging massive amounts of water to high places and some 140 firefighters of its ''hyper rescue'' team, who are specialists in rescue operations in large-scale disasters.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said all the 11 SDF fire trucks being mobilized will engage in pouring water into the pool at the No. 3 reactor later in the day, after up to 64 tons of water was aimed at it the day before by SDF helicopters and five of the trucks plus a police water cannon truck..............

Japanese engineers have connected a high-power line to the critically damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's Unit 2 reactor, a UN nuclear agency reports.

If power is successfully restored, engineers may be able to restart pumps to send a steady supply of water to cool down fuel cells.

Despite numerous international agencies calling it a 6,  This story appeared on the Kyodo site Friday.
Note the last line, that omits reactor number 4.

Japan's nuke agency raises accident severity level to 5 from 4
TOKYO, March 18, Kyodo

Japan's nuclear safety agency said Friday that it has raised the severity level of the country's nuclear accident involving the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station to 5 from 4 on a 7-level international scale.

The provisional evaluation would mean that the country's disaster has come to the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.

Among the six reactors at the power plant, the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors that were operating at the time of the magnitude 9.0 quake halted automatically, but the cores are believed to have partially melted as they lost their cooling functions after the quake.

Given the damage to the cores and continuing radiation leak, the incident would stand at level 5 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, an agency official told a press conference.

The evaluation is specifically for the incidents involving the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

Seoul to evacuate Koreans if Japan crisis worsens

SEOUL - SOUTH Korea said on Friday it would mobilise military aircraft and vessels to evacuate its nationals if Japan's nuclear crisis worsens.

Seoul has so far avoided talking about the withdrawal of Koreans for fear of undermining relations with its neighbouring economic power.

'The government has a plan to mobilise all kinds of transportation, including military aircraft and coastguard boats,' Second Vice Foreign Minister Min Dong Seok told a group of ruling Grand National Party lawmakers. He also said Seoul advised Koreans within 80km of the crippled nuclear plant to evacuate, more than doubling the previous evacuation distance of 30km from the stricken reactors..............
Japan reluctant to disclose footage of power plant taken by U.S. drone
19 March 2011

The Japanese government has in its possession video footage of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant taken by a U.S. military reconnaissance drone, but has yet to release the footage to the public, sources have revealed.

The footage taken from an RQ-4 Global Hawk drone was passed on to the Japanese government with permission for public release from the U.S. Air Force. U.S. military sources said that the decision to release the footage -- or not -- was up to the Japanese government.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is equipped with a high-performance camera that, according to the U.S. Air Force, takes "footage so clear that even automobile license plates are visible." Nearly real-time footage of the internal state of the power station is said to be captured, which is likely to assist experts in analyzing the situation.

The U.S. Air Force has been flying the state-of-the-art UAV based in Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, over quake- and tsunami-ravaged areas since March 12 -- a day after a massive quake and tsunami struck eastern Japan -- in response to a request from the Japanese government........

Tainted foodstuffs but also some good signs found in Japan nuke crisis
19 March 2011

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Excessive radiation was found Saturday in milk and spinach in Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, while officials spoke of some stability and lower-than-anticipated temperatures at crisis-hit reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as anticrisis efforts continued.

The radiation was above Japan's regulated standards but does not immediately pose a risk to human health, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said in a press conference.

Edano said, however, that conditions at the plant's most dangerous No. 3 reactor unit have likely become relatively stable after firefighters threw some 60 tons of water at a boiling spent fuel pool there shortly after midnight from outside the damaged building housing it.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa separately said the surface temperatures at the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors were found in the morning at 100 C or lower by a Self-Defense Force helicopter, adding their conditions remain more stable than expected.....
looks like things are stabilizing . . .  the media hysteria is settling down a bit.

With some exceptions . . .  from a posting at WUWT . .

"We had beautiful spring-like weather here in Tokyo today. I went jogging over by the imperial palace and it was packed with other runners. There were also tourists and retired couples out for a stroll. Then I went and bought some groceries in the busy Shinjuku district where there was plenty of food available despite the hoards of shoppers.

When I got home I turned the TV to CNN International and learned that most Tokyo streets are deserted due to the fear of radiation. I also learned that food supplies are dangerously low (as I unpacked the several bags of food that I had just bought). Then they announced that fuel supplies were also critically low and they showed a random gas station with a long line of cars waiting to get their gasoline rations. I peeked out the window at the gas station across the street and noticed that there were two cars waiting for their turn at the pump.

Does CNN International exist in a parallel universe?"
Japan cites progress stabilizing nuclear plant
By David Nakamura and and Joel Achenbach
Saturday, March 19, 9:17 PM

TOKYO — The fight to regain control of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is a heroic one, but far from elegant.

Workers bored holes in the roofs of two reactor buildings to keep them from exploding. They set up a firetruck with a giant water cannon that fired for 13 straight hours through the blown-out side of another building, hoping to raise the level in a pond holding spent nuclear fuel rods. And the workers continued to lay cables and navigate through damaged electrical switches in an effort to restore power to the six-reactor complex.

Japanese authorities claimed progress, or at least the next best thing — no sign of things getting worse..............
Main killer in all this? The panic

"Experience from past nuclear incidents has shown that the stress and panic caused by these events can be as bad as, or worse than, the direct threat from radiation," according to Dr Jim Smith of Portsmouth uni's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.


The Fukushima reactors actually came through the quake with flying colours despite the fact that it was five times stronger than they had been built to withstand. Only with the following tsunami – again, bigger than the design allowed for – did problems develop, and these problems seem likely to end in insignificant consequences. The Nos 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Daiichi may never produce power again – though this is not certain – but the likelihood is that Nos 4, 5 and 6 will return to service behind a bigger tsunami barrier.

The lesson to learn here is that if your country is hit by a monster earthquake and tsunami, one of the safest places to be is at the local nuclear powerplant. Other Japanese nuclear powerplants in the quake-stricken area, in fact, are sheltering homeless refugees in their buildings – which are some of the few in the region left standing at all, let alone with heating, water and other amenities.

Nothing else in the quake-stricken area has come through anything like as well as the nuclear power stations, or with so little harm to the population. All other forms of infrastructure – transport, housing, industries – have failed the people in and around them comprehensively, leading to deaths most probably in the tens of thousands. Fires, explosions and tank/pipeline ruptures all across the region will have done incalculably more environmental damage, distributed hugely greater amounts of carcinogens than Fukushima Daiichi – which has so far emitted almost nothing but radioactive steam (which becomes non-radioactive within minutes of being generated).

And yet nobody will say after this: "don't build roads; don't build towns; don't build ships or chemical plants or oil refineries or railways". That would be ridiculous, of course, even though having all those things has actually led to terrible loss of life, destruction and pollution in the quake's wake.

But far and away more ridiculously, a lot of people are already saying that Fukushima with its probable zero consequences means that no new nuclear powerplants should ever be built again. ®

Personal bootnote

As one who earns his living in the media these days, I can only apologise on behalf of my profession for the unbelievable levels of fear and misinformation purveyed this week. I have never been so ashamed to call myself a journalist.

I wouldn't say it's all just hype, though there are some who are feeding on the drama of it which is not constructive, and panic can spread from there, as we've seen. 

I think its important, to continue the efforts of getting clean food, water, shelter, warm blankets and coats, and medical supplies and support handy.

Clean-up operations need to be handled with care re: the areas subjected to fallout, because the possibility of radioactive particulate matter.  (Clean with boron first?  Can't burn it, that's more fall out.  Can't dump it in the ocean either-- it's only killing off an important foodsource for much of the world, making it worse than it already is, is not ethical, nor desireable, IMO)

I asked a scientist (R&D) friend for their perspective and he answered some of my questions:

There are 27 isotopes of Iodine. Only one (I-127) is stable, although another stable isotope (I-129) once existed and is found in meteorites. The others are radioactive with half lives of up to 60 days so the effective half life of radioactive iodine is not simply that of I-131. I-125 was used in the X-ray fluorescence analyzers that IRAD used to make. The other radioactive nuclides from nuclear plants likewise have multiple versions so the fallout is a mix of a very large number of radioisotopes. Most elements have more than one stable isotope.

The people working at the reactor site are exposed to direct gamma radiation from the fuel rods – that is primarily what limits their access to the site – and to particulate matter and radioactive gases that can escape from unsealed fuel rods. The direct radiation falls off quickly as you move away from the source and the radioactive gases disperse so it is primarily the particulate matter that is of concern if you are not close to the reactor.

The particulate matter may emit gamma rays, affecting the whole body, or they emit alpha or beta rays that may affect particular parts of the body – the thyroid for Iodine, the bones for Strontium-90, other elements for the lungs or bladder, etc. The distribution of the particulates is very irregular so it can cause short term problems even at considerable distances away from the site (typically tens of miles). However, for most people it is the long term effects that are worrisome. Exposure can cause cancer later in life and even small quantities of fallout can cause genetic damage. For those of us in North America it is this genetic damage that is the most serious. Politicians are correct when they assure us that the Japanese fallout won’t make us sick but they usually fail to observe that the genetic damage can be done by very small amounts of fallout (there is no threshold).

What's done is done, it's a matter of coping with the consequences in the years to come as they arise.  That's how I see it.  I would hope for more sobering reflection in the aftermath of this.  Tsumani and earthquake they were prepared for, as best as can be expected.  Nuclear fallout, I don't think so -- I don't think they had a good plan for that at all, the logistics are fairly complicated.  You can see that it's no more of an exact science  than "global warming", because it doesn't seem to me that all the variables can be planned for, nothing is truly static out there in the world, the earth-- i.e. the idea of an arbitrary 'radius'-- lack of integrated systems, e.g. weather, geological features specific to a particular geography, "controlled experiment" in the desert of Nevada, away from dense populations, is quite a different system, vs. the uniqueness of other geographies of other parts of the world.  I'm angry.

On a positive note, my scientist friend does endorse the Candu reactors as safer (I guess, I don't have that detachment at the moment), but there are some important improvements that can be made.  The technology he has  been developing re: instead of having to add more to cool, a way to extract heat. . . 

Concerned about the workers health and safety at Fukushima, some casualties. 


Press Release (Mar 20,2011)
Plant Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (as of 9:00 AM Mar 20th)

*new items are underlined

All 6 units of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have been shut

Unit 1(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down. However, the explosive sound and white
  smoke were confirmed after the big quake occurred at 3:36PM Mar 12th.
  It was assumed to be hydrogen explosion.
- We have been injecting sea water into the reactor pressure vessel.

Unit 2(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down and the level of reactor coolant had dropped
  and the reactor pressure had increased because the Reactor Core
  Isolation Cooling System stopped. Measures were taken to lower the
  pressure within the Reactor Containment Vessel and to inject sea water
  into the Reactor while carefully confirming safety. The level of
  reactor coolant and the pressure of the Reactor resumed.
- At approximately 6:00AM on March 15, 2011, an abnormal noise began
  emanating from nearby Pressure Suppression Chamber and the pressure
  within this chamber decreased.
- We completed receiving electricity from the external transmission line
  up to the auxiliary transformer. We are installing the power cable from
  that transformer to the temporary power panel.
- We have been injecting sea water into the reactor pressure vessel.

Unit 3(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down. However, the explosive sound and white
  smoke were confirmed at 11:01AM Mar 14th. It was assumed to be hydrogen
- At 8:30AM on March 16th, fog like steam was confirmed arising from the
  reactor building.
- At approximately 6:15AM on March 17th the pressure of the Suppression
  Chamber has temporarily increased.
- We are working on receiving external power supply to Units 3 and 4.
- We have been injecting sea water into the reactor pressure vessel.

Unit 4(outage due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down. However, at approximately 6AM on March
  We have confirmed the explosive sound and the sustained damage around
  the 5th floor rooftop area of the Nuclear Reactor Building.
- On March 15th and 16th, we respectively confirmed the outbreak of fire
  at the 4th floor of the northwestern part of the Nuclear Reactor
  Building. We immediately reported this matter to the fire department
  and the related authorities. TEPCO employees confirmed that each fire
  had already died down by itself.
- At this moment, we do not consider any reactor coolant leakage inside
  the reactor containment vessel happened.

Unit 5 (outage due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and the sufficient level of reactor coolant
  to ensure safety is maintained.
- At 5 AM, Mar 19th, we started the Residual Heat Removal System Pump (C)
  in order to cool the spent fuel pool.
- At this moment, we do not consider any reactor coolant leakage inside
  the reactor containment vessel happened.

Unit 6 (outage due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and the sufficient level of reactor coolant
  to ensure safety is maintained.
- We are working on receiving external power supply to Units 5 and 6. We
  completed the repair work on the emergency diesel generator (A).
- At 10:14 pm, March 19, we started the Residual Heat Removal System
  Pump (B) of Unit 6 in order to cool the spent fuel pool.
- At this moment, we do not consider any reactor coolant leakage inside
  the reactor containment vessel happened.

Cooling of spent fuel pools
- In Unit 3, water discharge by Self-Defense Force's helicopters was
  conducted from 9:48 AM in the morning on March 17th. Also water
  discharge by the riot police's high-pressure water cannon trucks and
  Self-Defense Force's fire engines was conducted from 7PM on March 17th
  and finished at 8:09PM.
- In Unit 3, water discharge by Self-Defense Force's fire engines and US
  army's fire engines was conducted from 2 PM and completed a quarter to
  3 PM.
- After that, from 0:30 AM, Mar 19th, water discharge by Tokyo Fire
  Department's Hyper Rescue was conducted to Unit 3 and completed at
  1:10 AM. At around 2:10PM, water discharge by Tokyo Fire Department's
  Hyper Rescue to Unit 3 was conducted once again. At approximately
  3:40 am, they had finished water discharge.
- At approximately 8:21 am, March 20th, water discharge to Unit 4 by fire
  engine has started with the cooperation of Self-Defense Forces.
- We are considering further water discharge at Unit 3 and others subject
  to the conditions of spent fuel pools.

- 2 workers of cooperative firm were injured at the occurrence of the
  earthquake, and were transported to the hospital.
- 1 TEPCO employee who was not able to stand by his own holding left chest
  with his hand, was transported to the hospital by an ambulance.
- 1 subcontract worker at the key earthquake-proof building was
  unconscious and transported to the hospital by an ambulance.
- The radiation exposure of 1 TEPCO employee, who was working inside the
  reactor building, exceeded 100mSv and he was transported to the
- 2 TEPCO employees felt bad during their operation in the central
  control rooms of Unit 1 and 2 while wearing full masks, and were
  transferred to Fukushima Daini Power Station for consultation with a
  medical advisor.
- 4 workers were injured and transported to the hospital after explosive
  sound and white smoke were confirmed around the Unit 1.
- 11 workers were injured and transported to Fukushima Daini Nuclear
  Power Station etc. after explosive sound and white smoke were confirmed
  around the Unit 3.One of the workers was transported to the FUKUSHIMA
  Medical University Hospital at 10:56AM
- Presence of 2 TEPCO employees at the site is not confirmed.

- We measured radioactive materials (iodine etc.) inside of the nuclear
  power station area (outdoor) by monitoring car and confirmed that
  radioactive materials level is getting higher than ordinary level. As
  listed below, we have determined that specific incidents stipulated in
  article 15, clause 1 of Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear
  Emergency Preparedness (Abnormal increase in radiation dose measured
  at site boundary) have occurred.
  · Determined at 4:17 PM Mar 12th (Around Monitoring Post 4 )
  · Determined at 8:56 AM Mar 13th (Around Monitoring Post 4 )
  · Determined at 2:15 PM Mar 13th (Around Monitoring Post 4 )
  · Determined at 3:50 AM Mar 14th (Around Monitoring Post 6 )
  · Determined at 4:15 AM Mar 14th (Around Monitoring Post 2 )
  · Determined at 9:27 AM Mar 14th (Around Monitoring Post 3 )
  · Determined at 9:37 PM Mar 14th (Around main entrance )
  · Determined at 6:51 AM Mar 15th (Around main entrance )
  · Determined at 8:11 AM Mar 15th (Around main entrance )
  · Determined at 4:17 PM Mar 15th (Around main entrance )
  · Determined at 11:05 PM Mar 15th (Around main entrance )
  · Determined at 8:58 AM Mar 19th (Around MP5)
  From now on, if the measured figure fluctuates and goes above and
  below 500 micro Sv/h, we deem that as the continuous same event and
  will not regard that as a new specific incidents stipulated in article
  15, clause 1 of the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear
  Emergency Preparedness (Abnormal increase in radiation dose measured
  at site boundary) has occurred. In the interim, if we measure a
  manifestly abnormal figure and it is evident that the event is not the
  continuous same event, we will determine and notify.

- The national government has instructed evacuation for those local
  residents within 20km radius of the periphery and evacuation to inside
  for those residents from 20km to 30km radius of the periphery, because
  it's possible that radioactive materials are discharged.
- At approximately 10AM on March 15th, we observed 400mSv/h at the inland
  side of the Unit 3 reactor building and 100mSv/h at the inland side of
  the Unit 4 reactor building.
- We checked the status of spent fuel in the common pool, and confirmed
  that the water level secured. We are planning to conduct a detailed
- We found no signs of abnormal situation for the casks by visual
  observation during the patrol activity. A detailed inspection is under
- At Units 5 and 6, in order to prevent hydrogen gas from accumulating
  within the buildings, we have made three holes on the roof of the
  reactor building for each unit
- We will continue to take all measures to ensure the safety and to
  continue monitoring the surrounding environment around the Power
shared in accordance with provisions of the copyright act

Alert: Fukushima Coverup, 40 Years of Spent Nuclear Rods Blown Sky High
By Kiyul Chung | 14:45 BeiJing Time,Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On the ground level there is a common pool in a separate building that was critically damaged by the tsunami. Each reactor building pool holds 3,450 fuel rod assemblies and the common pool holds 6,291 fuel rod assemblies. Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods. In short, the Fukushima Daiichi plant contains over 600,000 spent fuel rods - a massive amount of radiation that will soon be released into the atmosphere.

It should be obvious by now that the authorities in Japan are lying about the effort to contain the situation in order to mollify the public. It is highly likely there are no workers on the site attempting to contain the disaster.

Earlier today, a report was issued indicating that over 70% of these spent fuel rods are now damaged - in other words, they are emitting radiation or will soon. The disclosure reveals that authorities in Japan - who have consistently played down the danger and issued conflicting information - are guilty of criminal behavior and endangering the lives of countless people.

On Tuesday, it was finally admitted that meltdowns of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor cores are responsible for the release of a massive amount of radiation.

full article: http://en.m4.cn/archives/6294.html
That Chinese media number of 600000 fuel rods seems absurd. At least to me.
The Huffington post gives the total number as 4000.

The LA times had this;

"The pools in Fukushima were not filled to capacity, and the accident could have been a lot worse if they were filled as densely as ours are," said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Scientific American has this list:

    Reactor No. 1: 50 tons of nuclear fuel
•    Reactor No. 2: 81 tons
•    Reactor No. 3: 88 tons
•    Reactor No. 4: 135 tons
•    Reactor No. 5: 142 tons
•    Reactor No. 6: 151 tons
•    Also, a separate ground-level fuel pool contains 1,097 tons of fuel

combined that adds to 1744 tons in pool storage or water cooled.

Taking the weight of each rod from the link below, and some rough estimates:

The weight of each spent rod varies from 111 kg to 134 kg.

1744 x 1000 kg = 1 744 000 kg / 111 = 15711 rods total
1097 x 1000 kg = 1 097 000 kg / 111 = 9882 spent rods

The link above estimates there are only going to be 232 000 rods in the USA by 2030.

By Cassidy Olivier, Postmedia News March 23, 2011
"Canadian medical assistance team heads back to Japan:
Threat of nuclear fallout a concern:
Just days after pulling out of Japan over the threat of nuclear radiation, the Canadian Medical Assistance Team has deployed a new group back to the griefstricken country -even as the possibility of an atomic disaster still looms large.":