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Tuesday
Apr052011

Radiation leaking into Pacific Ocean now 7.5 million times legal limit

 

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that radioactive iodine levels in sea water off the coast of the stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant have risen to 7.5 million times the legally "permitted" levels. Radioactive cesiuim levels are now recorded at 1.1 million times the so-called "permissible" limit.  It must always be noted that even "permissible" levels are not medically considered safe levels for radiation exposure as there is no "safe" exposure level without an associated increase in risk to health.

NHK Japan news service is further reporting that the much longer lived  radioactive cesium (30 year half-life) in the marine enviroment off the coast of the stricken reactor is bioaccumulating in schools of "sand lance" fish.  As a result, sand lance fishing is now being restricted. The contamination of the marine food web or chain is of increasing concern.  The sand lance are near shore schooling fish that form an important food source for marine life including salmon, whales and sea birds.

NHK quoted a Japanese fisherman to say, "If these contaminated leaks continue, it will gradually ruin the sea. We have only one hope, stop the leaks." 

As barrier after barrier has failed to contain radiation from the multi-unit reactor accident, the containment structures have become sieves for uncontrolled releases of greater and greater amounts of radioactive isotopes leaking into the ocean and the atmosphere. High radiation levels continue to hamper and defeat repair efforts. After failure to inject concrete into one known crack with a flow rate of several tons of radioactive water per hour, TEPCO is now injecting a "liquid glass" to stem the toxic flow. The company is considering putting up offshore "silt fences" in a desparate attempt to dam the radiation closer in offshore water closer to the reactor site.

Brian Ross has also blogged at the Daily Kos about the impact of such large-scale radioactivity releases on the health of the world's oceans the life forms that live there.

Tuesday
Apr052011

Have the high-level radioactive waste pools survived?

The latest available high resolution photographs from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant -- taken by pilotless drones over a week ago -- beg the question, have the storage pools for high-level radioactive waste survived the explosions and fires that have ravaged the facilities in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami? Located immediately adjacent to the tops of the cores of reactor units 1, 2, 3, and 4, the frightful specter has been raised that one or more pools are not only damaged, but even destroyed, judging by the severe damage visibly suffered by the upper reaches of the secondary containment buildings, exactly where the pools are located. Unit 4's pool, at the very least, seems to have boiled dry, and its high-level radioactive waste caught fire, in the earliest days of this still-unfolding catastrophe. Given that the pools are not located in primary containment structures, and that the secondary containment buildings at all four reactor units were damaged or destroyed by huge hydrogen gas explosions, the large-scale radioactivity releases from pool fires and/or leaks are being directly discharged into the environment.

Whereas Fukushima Daiichi's Units 1 to 4 storage pools reportedly contain from 80 to 130 tons of high-level radioactive waste each, U.S. General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors -- such as Oyster Creek, NJ; Vermont Yankee; and Fermi 2, MI -- contain over 500 tons each. Thus, pool boil downs and high-level radioactive waste fires could happen much more quickly than at Fukushima Daiichi, and the catastrophic radioactivity releases could be several-fold worse. It does not require an earthquake and tsunami. Any pathway to station blackout could cause such a catastrophe in the U.S. -- including power loss due to severe weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wind storms, ice storms, lightning strikes, etc. A tree branch touching a power line in northwest Ohio led to the second biggest power outage in world history on August 14, 2003 -- plunging 50 million people into darkness in the Northeast and Midwest U.S. and Ontario. A raccoon knocked electricity out to the Fermi nuclear power plant in the late 1980s. In addition to a pool boil down over the course of a day or two, a terrorist attack on the vulnerable pools (especially GE BWR Mark 1's), or the accidental drop of a heavy load, could drain a pool instantly. Once the cooling water supply is gone, the high-level radioactive waste will catch on fire within hours. A 2001 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission technical study estimated that 25,000 people downwind, out to distances of 500 miles, could die of latent cancer due to the radioactive fallout from a high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire.

Tuesday
Apr052011

"Diapers" fail to stop flow of severely radioactive water into the ocean

Kyodo News has reported that the latest effort to block the discharge of highly contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's reactor unit number 2 -- addition of water-absorbing polymers used in baby diapers -- has failed. So has the attempt to plug the crack in a flooded trench on the edge of the ocean by using saw dust, shredded newspapers, and concrete. The radioactive water is believed to be coming from damaged reactor unit 2. The cracked pit is reported to contain water contaminated with radioactive Iodine-131 at 10,000 times legal limits, which has been gushing uncontrollably into the ocean for days on end, undoubtedly impacting sea food supplies.

Tuesday
Apr052011

Japanese govt. was aware of risk of reactor core meltdowns before March 11 quake and tsunami

Kyodo News has reported that nearly a year before the March 11 earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter scale, and consequent 45 foot tall tsunami that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Nobuaki Terasaka, the director of the Japanese government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), admitted that ‘‘It is logically possible for a reactor core to melt down if all outer electricity sources were lost, leading the plant’s cooling functions to be lost for many hours.’’ He was responding to a question from Japanese Communist Party legislator Hidekatsu Yoshii on May 26, 2010 in the Japan House of Representatives. Terasaka assured, however, that operators of Japan's atomic reactors ‘‘have ensured safety’’ by equipping the plants with multiple backup electricity sources. But the earthquake destroyed the electricity grid and the tsunami the emergency diesel generators, leaving only 8 hours of backup battery power, which was depleted on the first day of this still unfolding and worsening, nearlly month-old radioactive catastrophe.

Tuesday
Apr052011

Panel to suspend work to revise Japan's atomic energy platform

"The Japan Atomic Energy Commission said Tuesday it will suspend its work to revise the country's nuclear power platform in the wake of the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station triggered by the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan.

Commission chairman Shunsuke Kondo said the current crisis contradicts the conventional argument that nuclear power generation is safe. 'We have to admit that there has been an error in the criteria of judgment in promoting the country's nuclear power policy,' he said." Kyodo News