Earlier today Japan Geiger counters had a brief scare following news that a second radioactive powerplant - Fukushima Daini briefly emitted smoke. Reuters reported: "smoke was reported to be coming from a second
damaged nuclear plant nearby on Wednesday, with the authorities saying
an electric distribution board powering a water pump was the problem. The Daini plant several miles from the stricken Daiichi facility has been put into cold shutdown." And while the incident was subsequently said to be under control, a bigger issue for Japan's export market is the attempt to overturn the food export embargo which many countries have imposed on the island nation out of radiation concerns. That this is a major issue for Japan becomes apparent following disclosure that the country is already pushing hard to overturn this ban: "Japan called on the world not to impose "unjustifiable" import curbs on its goods as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to arrive on Thursday, the first leader to visit since an earthquake and tsunami damaged a nuclear plant, sparking the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. In a briefing to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Japan said it was monitoring radioactive contamination to prevent potential food safety risks and would provide the WTO with quick and precise information." Alas, with Japanese credibility non-existent following the abysmal treatment of the catastrophe over the past three weeks, one can see why the world may be a little skeptical. Add to this earlier news that according to the IAEA there "might" be recriticality in the reactor, and we can't wait to see Japan's March trade balance when it is released in just over a month.
Japan has ordered an immediate safety upgrade at its 55 nuclear power plants, its first acknowledgement that standards were inadequate.
A Reuters investigation showed Japan and TEPCO repeatedly played down dangers at its nuclear plants and ignored warnings, including a 2007 tsunami study from the utility's senior safety engineer.
Nuclear plants will now be required by mid-April to deploy back-up mobile power generators and fire trucks able to pump water, while beefing up training programmes and manuals.
Longer-term solutions such as higher sea walls at nuclear stations will be considered and Japan will review policy to encourage renewable energy.
Anger at Japan's nuclear crisis saw more than 100 people protest outside the Tokyo headquarters of TEPCO.
"We don't want to use electric power that can kill people," said Waseda University student Mina Umeda.
But the Japanese government says nuclear power will remain an integral supplier of power. Before the disaster, Japan's nuclear reactors provided about 30 percent of the country's electric power. That had been expected to rise to 50 percent by 2030, among the highest in the world.
TEPCO said it was inevitable it would have to scrap four of its six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
But even just scrapping the damaged nuclear reactors may take decades, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA).
"Even if they decide on scrapping the reactors, water spraying needs to be continued to prevent the fuels from overheating, and a sustainable cooling system needs to be established," said Nishiyama.
"It would be 10 to 20 years before the scrapping process runs its course and we see nothing but a flat piece of land at the plant site," he said.
Now that both project Irrigation and project Extension Cord have been failures, the latest strawman out of TEPCO is to sprinkle superglue.
TEPCO will test sprinkling synthetic resin in some areas of the Daiichi complex to prevent radioactive dust from flying into the air or being washed into the ocean by rain. The resin is water-soluble, but when the water evaporates, it becomes sticky and contains the dust.
"Radioactive dust from the hydrogen explosions in reactors No. 1 and 3 has drifted and is stuck on debris from the tsunami," said NISA's Nishiyama.
"We need to prevent that from spewing out into the sea along with the rain or from drifting away in the air." Pollution of the ocean is a serious concern for a country where fish is central to the diet. Experts say the vastness of the ocean and a powerful current should dilute high levels of radiation, limiting the danger of marine contamination.
We give this particular plan a half life of 2 days, and in the meantime we hope that Japan is ordering the concrete it will need for operation Trappuccino.