Posts tagged Radiation
Posts tagged Radiation
After visiting Fukushima, Senator Ron Wyden warned that the situation was worse than reported and urged Japan to accept international help to stabilize dangerous spent fuel pools.
Fuel pool number 4 is, indeed, the top short-term threat facing humanity.
Anti-nuclear physician Dr. Helen Caldicott says that if fuel pool 4 collapses, she will evacuate her family from Boston and move them to the Southern Hemisphere. This is an especially dramatic statement given that the West Coast is much more directly in the path of Fukushima radiation than the East Coast.
And nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen recently said (at 25:00):
There’s more cesium in that [Unit 4] fuel pool than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground…
But of course it would happen all at once.
It would certainly destroy Japan as a functioning country…
Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.
This week, Wyden said that the spent fuel is a national security threat to the U.S.:
AlterNet asked Sen. Wyden if he considers the spent fuel at Fukushima Daiichi a national security threat.
In a statement released by his office, Wyden replied, “The radiation caused by the failure of the spent fuel pools in the event of another earthquake could reach the West Coast within days. That absolutely makes the safe containment and protection of this spent fuel a security issue for the United States.”
[Robert Alvarez – a nuclear expert and a former special assistant to the United States Secretary of Energy] agrees, saying, “My major concern is that this effort to get that spent fuel out of there is not something you should be doing casually and taking your time on.”
Yet Tepco’s current plans are to hold the majority of this spent fuel onsite for years in the same elevated, uncontained storage pools, only transferring some of the fuel into more secure, hardened dry casks when the common pool reaches capacity.
Why are American nuclear authorities ignoring this threat?
Wreckage including lumber, footballs, parts of roofs and factories, and even bikes will soon start coming ashore in North America
Wreckage from Japan’s tsunami – fishing gear and furniture, footballs and ships – has swept across the Pacific far faster than expected, with thousands of tonnes projected to land on North American shores this year.
Scientists believe lighter objects such as buoys and oil drums began reaching land last November or December. The rest is spread over thousands of miles of ocean between the Midway atoll and the northern islands of Hawaii.
About 95% will probably never come ashore and is destined for that massive swirl of floating plastic known as the north Pacific garbage patch. The remaining fraction is due to reach the west coast of the US and Canada in October.
No one expects to wake up one morning to a tsunami of rubbish. “It is not like you are going to be standing on the beach looking at the horizon and see a wall of debris come in,” said Nicholas Mallos, a marine debris expert at the Ocean Conservancy.
But there have already been some bizarre finds. This week a beachcomber in British Columbia found a moving crate containing a rusting Harley-Davidson motorcycle registered to Japan’s Miyagi prefecture, which absorbed the brunt of the tsunami. The crate also contained a set of golf clubs.
Last month a a football washed up on an uninhabited island off Alaskaand was traced to its owner, a Japanese schoolboy from the town of Rikuzentakata which was almost flattened by the tsunami. A 160ft fishing boat, the Ryou-Un Maru, drifting to within 300 miles of the British Columbia coast before it was deemed a hazard to shipping and sunk by the US coastguard, was also found.
Washington state officials last week put up posters advising residents what may arrive on their beaches, from common litter to aluminium canisters possibly containing insecticide, and derelict boats.
Two explosions at a chemical plant in western Japan on Sunday killed one worker and injured 22 others, including plant workers and nearby residents. The blasts occurred at Mitsui Chemicals Iwakuni-Ohtake plant as workers were trying to shut down the factory due to a problem in another section of the plant. Mitsui Chemicals, which is based in Waki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, produces adhesives for wood and rubber tyres. The first explosion occurred at about 2 a.m. local time, killing a 22-year-old factory employee and injuring 11 employees. At 8 a.m. local time a second explosion was caught on a surveillance camera, but the buildings were evacuated beforehand and no was hurt. More than 430 buildings, including nearby homes, were damaged in the blast. The fire department and police are investigating what caused the massive explosions. According to the police, there were no dangers of toxic leakage. The flames were brought under control about 15 hours after the second explosion.
Side Note: It is believed these buildings held uranium.
* Spent fuel rods need to be moved to safety-Wyden
* Urges Japan to accept help, asks US officials to do more
WASHINGTON, April 16 (Reuters) - Japan, with assistance from the U.S. government, needs to do more to move spent fuel rods out of harm’s way at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden on Monday.
Wyden, a senior Democratic senator on the Senate Energy committee, toured the ruined Fukushima plant on April 6, and said the damage was far worse than he expected.
“Seeing the extent of the disaster first-hand during my visit conveyed the magnitude of this tragedy and the continuing risks and challenges in a way that news accounts cannot,” said Wyden in a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States.
Last March, an earthquake followed by a tsunami wrecked the Fukushima plant, causing the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years and prompting global scrutiny of the safety of nuclear power plants.
Wyden said he was most worried about spent fuel rods stored in damaged pools adjacent to the ocean, and urged the Japanese government to accept international help to prevent further release of the radioactive material if another earthquake should happen.
In a statement on his website, Wyden said the only protection for the pools from another tsunami appeared to be “a small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.”
Wyden said the spent fuel should be moved to safer storage sooner than anticipated under a 10-year clean-up plan from TEPCO, the owner of the nuclear plant.
The lawmaker also wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and top U.S. nuclear regulator Gregory Jaczko to ask them to find ways to help Japan address the problem.
Kelp off California was contaminated with short-lived radioisotopes a month after Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant accident, a sign that the spilled radiation reached the state’s coastline, according to a new scientific study.
Scientists from CSU Long Beach tested giant kelp collected off Orange County, Santa Cruz and other locations after the March 2011 accident and detected radioactive iodine, which was released from the damaged nuclear reactor.
The largest concentration was about 250 times higher than levels found in kelp before the accident.
“Basically, we saw it in all the California kelp blades we sampled,” said Steven Manley, a CSU Long Beach biology professor who specializes in kelp.
The radioactivity had no known effects on the giant kelp, or on fish and other marine life, and it was undetectable a month later.
Iodine 131 “has an eight-day half-life, so it’s pretty much all gone,” Manley said. “But this shows what happens half a world away does effect what happens here. I don’t think these levels are harmful, but it’s better if we don’t have it at all.”
Spread in large, dense, brown forests across the ocean off California, giant kelp is the largest of all algae and grows faster than virtually any other life on Earth. It accumulates iodine, making it a useful way to check how far radioactive material spreads.
“Kelp forests are some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth,” he said. “One thing about (kelp) is it has a large surface canopy,” which means it is continually exposed to the air and whatever contaminants are in it.
In addition, giant kelp concentrates radioactive iodine - for every 1 molecule in the water, there would be 10,000 in its tissues.
Kelp was collected at three sites off Orange County, as well as Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County, Santa Barbara, Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. The highest concentration of iodine 131 was found in the kelp off Corona del Mar, a town near Newport Beach that receives runoff from a large portion of Orange County. Its kelp was collected on April 15 of last year and tested five days later.
The level of radioactive iodine found there - 2.5 becquerel per gram of dry weight - was “well above” levels sampled in kelps prior to the Fukushima release, according to the paper, published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Normally I’d just highlight this part within the article - but I’m going to go one step further and outright just pull it to the top:
If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.
The infrastructure to safely remove this material was destroyed as it was at the other three reactors. Spent reactorfuel cannot be simply lifted into the air by a crane as if it were routine cargo. In order to prevent severe radiation exposures, fires and possible explosions, it must be transferred at all times in water and heavily shielded structures into dry casks.. As this has never been done before, the removal of the spent fuel from the pools at the damaged Fukushima-Dai-Ichi reactors will require a major and time-consuming re-construction effort and will be charting in unknown waters.
Japan’s former Ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Mitsuhei Murata, was invited to speak at the Public Hearing of the Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors on March 22, 2012, on the Fukushima nuclear power plants accident. Before the Committee, Ambassador Murata strongly stated that if the crippled building of reactor unit 4—with 1,535 fuel rods in the spent fuel pool 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground—collapses, not only will it cause a shutdown of all six reactors but will also affect the common spent fuel pool containing 6,375 fuel rods, located some 50 meters from reactor 4. In both cases the radioactive rods are not protected by a containment vessel; dangerously, they are open to the air. This would certainly cause a global catastrophe like we have never before experienced. He stressed that the responsibility of Japan to the rest of the world is immeasurable. Such a catastrophe would affect us all for centuries. Ambassador Murata informed us that the total numbers of the spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi site excluding the rods in the pressure vessel is 11,421 (396+615+566+1,535+994+940+6375).
I asked top spent-fuel pools expert Mr. Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Energy, for an explanation of the potential impact of the 11,421 rods.
I received an astounding response from Mr. Alvarez [updated 4/5/12]:
In recent times, more information about the spent fuel situation at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site has become known. It is my understanding that of the 1,532 spent fuel assemblies in reactor No. 304 assemblies are fresh and unirradiated. This then leaves 1,231 irradiated spent fuel rods in pool No. 4, which contain roughly 37 million curies (~1.4E+18 Becquerel) of long-lived radioactivity. The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements. If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.
The infrastructure to safely remove this material was destroyed as it was at the other three reactors. Spent reactor fuel cannot be simply lifted into the air by a crane as if it were routine cargo. In order to prevent severe radiation exposures, fires and possible explosions, it must be transferred at all times in water and heavily shielded structures into dry casks.. As this has never been done before, the removal of the spent fuel from the pools at the damaged Fukushima-Dai-Ichi reactors will require a major and time-consuming re-construction effort and will be charting in unknown waters. Despite the enormous destruction cased at the Da–Ichi site, dry casks holding a smaller amount of spent fuel appear to be unscathed.
Based on U.S. Energy Department data, assuming a total of 11,138 spent fuel assemblies are being stored at the Dai-Ichi site, nearly all, which is in pools. They contain roughly 336 million curies (~1.2 E+19 Bq) of long-lived radioactivity. About 134 million curies is Cesium-137 — roughly 85 times the amount of Cs-137 released at the Chernobyl accident as estimated by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP). The total spent reactor fuel inventory at the Fukushima-Daichi site contains nearly half of the total amount of Cs-137 estimated by the NCRP to have been released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, Chernobyl, and world-wide reprocessing plants (~270 million curies or ~9.9 E+18 Becquerel).
It is important for the public to understand that reactors that have been operating for decades, such as those at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site have generated some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet.
Many of our readers might find it difficult to appreciate the actual meaning of the figure, yet we can grasp what 85 times more Cesium-137 than the Chernobyl would mean. It would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.
There was a Nuclear Security Summit Conference in Seoul on March 26 and 27, and Ambassador Murata and I made a concerted effort to find someone to inform the participants from 54 nations of the potential global catastrophe of reactor unit 4. We asked several participants to share the idea of an Independent Assessment team comprised of a broad group of international experts to deal with this urgent issue.
Dr. Helen Caldicott: Conference on THE NUCLEAR DANGER: Nuclear War and Nuclear Power
Montreal. March 18, 2011
Sponsored by the Centre for Research on Globalization
The single most articulate and passionate advocate of citizen action to remedy the nuclear and environmental crises, Dr Helen Caldicott, has devoted the last 38 years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the necessary changes in human behavior to stop environmental destruction.
In the words of Dr. Caldicott, “When I first heard about the reactor damage at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, I knew the prognosis: If any of the containment vessels or fuel pools exploded, it would mean millions of new cases of cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.
Many advocates of nuclear power would deny this. During the 25th anniversary last week of the Chernobyl disaster, some commentators asserted that few people died in the aftermath, and that there have been relatively few genetic abnormalities in survivors’ offspring. It’s an easy leap from there to arguments about the safety of nuclear energy compared to alternatives like coal, and optimistic predictions about the health of the people living near Fukushima.
But this is dangerously ill informed and short-sighted; if anyone knows better, it’s doctors like me.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said as much as 12 tons of radioactive water leaked from a pipe at its crippled Fukushima nuclear station, the second such incident in 11 days at the same pipeline, raising further doubts about the stability of the plant.
Part of the water may have poured into the sea through a drainage ditch, Osamu Yokokura, a spokesman for the utility, said by phone. The company known as Tepco stopped the leak from a pipe connecting a desalination unit and a tank today, he said.
“There will be similar leaks until Tepco improves equipment,” said Kazuhiko Kudo, a research professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University, who visited the plant twice last year as a member of a panel under the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency. “The site had plastic pipes to transfer radioactive water, which Tepco officials said are durable and for industrial use, but it’s not something normally used at nuclear plants,” he said. “Tepco must replace it with metal equipment, such as steel.”
Tepco has about 100,000 tons of highly radioactive water accumulated in basements at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station nearly 13 months after the March 11 quake and tsunami caused meltdowns and the worst radiation leaks since Chernobyl. The tsunami knocked out all power at the station, causing cooling systems for reactors to fail. The utility was forced to set up makeshift pumps to get cooling water to the reactors, with most of it then draining into basements.
Tepco has been criticized before over its handling of the radioactive water following several leaks into the sea, including the one reported on March 26.
Last year, the environment group Greenpeace International said it found seaweed and fish contaminated to more than 50 times the 2,000 becquerel per kilogram legal limit for radioactive iodine-131 off the coast of Fukushima during a survey between May 3 and 9.
Mol, Belgium-based Nuclear Research Centre and Herouville- Saint-Clair, France-based Association pour le Controle de la Radioactivite dans l’Ouest confirmed at the time they conducted analysis of the samples supplied by Greenpeace.
The radioactive material discharged into the sea from the Fukushima plant is the largest in history, according to a study by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety. The institute, which is funded by the French government, made the estimate in October last year and said it was 20-times the amount calculated by Tepco. Tepco declined to comment on the report at the time.
The latest leak contains about 16.7 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive cesium 134 and 137 combined, Tepco said in a statement today. It’s still investigating how much strontium and other types of radioactive particles are contained in the water, Yokokura said.
Strontium can be absorbed in the body through eating tainted seaweed or fish. It then accumulates in bone and can cause cancer, said Tetsuo Ito, the head of Kinki University’s Atomic Energy Research Institute, in a December interview.
On March 26, about 120 tons of radioactive water may have leaked from a pipeline connected to the desalination unit, Yokokura said. Of the leaked water, Tepco believes about 80 liters poured into the sea, he said.
The Journal Environmental Science and Technology reports in a new study that the Fukushima radiation plume contacted North America at California “with greatest exposure in central and southern California”, and that Southern California’s seaweed tested over 500% higher for radioactive iodine-131 than anywhere else in the U.S. and Canada:
Projected paths of the radioactive atmospheric plume emanating from the Fukushima reactors, best described as airborne particles or aerosols for 131I, 137Cs, and 35S, and subsequent atmospheric monitoring showed it coming in contact with the North American continent at California, with greatest exposure in central and southern California. Government monitoring sites in Anaheim (southern California) recorded peak airborne concentrations of 131I at 1.9 pCi m−3
Anaheim is where Disneyland is located.
EneNews summarizes the data:
Corona Del Mar (Highest in Southern California)
- 2.5 Bq/gdwt (gram dry weight)= 2,500 Bq/kg of dry seaweed
Santa Cruz (Highest in Central California)
- 2.0 Bq/gdwt = 2,000 Bq/kg of dry seaweed
Simon Fraser University in Canada also tested North American seaweed after Fukushima:
- “In samples of dehydrated seaweed taken on March 15 near the North Vancouver SeaBus terminal, the count was zero; on March 22 it was 310 Bq per kilogram; and by March 28 it was 380 Bq/kg.” -Vancouver Sun
- Seaweed in Seattle also tested positive for iodine-131; levels were not reported -KIRO
- No results after March 28 were reported
In addition, radioactive debris is starting to wash up on the Pacific Coast. And because the Japanese are burning radioactive materials instead of disposing of them, radioactive rain-outs will continue for some time … even on the Pacific Coast.
Of course, the government is doing everything it can to help citizens cover up what’s occurring. Wepointed out in January:
Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says that high-level friends in the State Department told him that Hillary Clinton signed a pact with her counterpart in Japan agreeing that the U.S. will continue buying seafood from Japan, despite that food not being tested for radioactive materials [see this].
And the Department of Energy is trying to replace the scientifically accepted model of the dangers of low dose radiation based on voodoo science. Specifically, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley Labs used a mutant line of human cells in a petri dish which was able to repair damage from low doses of radiation, and extrapolated to the unsupported conclusion that everyone is immune to low doses of radiation….
American and Canadian authorities have virtually stopped monitoring airborne radiation, and are not testing fish for radiation. (Indeed, the EPA reacted to Fukushima by raising“acceptable” radiation levels.)
Indeed, the core problem is that all of the world’s nuclear agencies are wholly captured by the nuclear industry … as are virtually all of the supposedly independent health agencies.
So the failure of the American, Canadian and other governments to test for and share results is making it difficult to hold an open scientific debate about what is happening.
And it’s not just radiation from Japan. An effort by the Southern California Edison power company to secretly ramp up production to avoid public disclosure may have led to a leak at the San Onofre nuclear power plant.
And see these articles on California radiation exposure courtesy of EneNews:
TOKYO — One of Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors still has fatally high radiation levels and hardly any water to cool it, according to an internal examination Tuesday that renews doubts about the plant’s stability.
A tool equipped with a tiny video camera, a thermometer, a dosimeter and a water gauge was used to assess damage inside the No. 2 reactor’s containment chamber for the second time since the tsunami swept into the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant a year ago. The probe done in January failed to find the water surface and provided only images showing steam, unidentified parts and rusty metal surfaces scarred by exposure to radiation, heat and humidity.
The data collected from the probes showed the damage from the disaster was so severe, the plant operator will have to develop special equipment and technology to tolerate the harsh environment and decommission the plant, a process expected to last decades.