Latest Q&A On Fukushima

Tyler Durden's picture

With so much changing in Fukushima on a daily basis, it is easy to lose track of what is happening on any given day. In fact, some like Zero Hedge are now weary of reporting Fukushima news due to expectations of a full detraction within half an hour or so, after someone is discovered to have no idea what a decimal comma is, or another is simply lying, in ongoing efforts to spread confusion. Which is why the following Q&A from Reuters on the latest situation in the radioactive power plant is a useful recap for virtually everyone, even though most likely the party line, not to mention "fact" will change shortly.

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Workers are
struggling to restart the cooling pumps in four reactors damaged by the
9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami and later drenched from desperate
hosing operations to keep the reactors cool.

The immediate
challenge is to pump out radioactive water flooding the basements in
reactors No.1, No.2 and No.3 and hampering the restoration of
electricity to continuously power the cooling pumps.

The No.2
reactor has posed especially nasty risks, emitting high levels of
radiation at more than 1,000 millisieverts an hour in both the water and
air in the basement of the turbine building. That is the highest
reading seen in the crisis and compares with a national safety standard
of 250 millisieverts over a year. This most likely means that byproducts
from a partial meltdown in the reactor core are leaking out into the
water.

In the No.1 reactor, workers have been able to start
running a circulatory steam condensing system to begin to clear
contaminated water. But after five days of pumping, there is no clear
indication of significant progress.

The same systems in reactors
No.2 and No.3 are flooded and so need to be emptied before they can
handle the contaminated water. TEPCO has said it may need to think out
of the box to clear the dangerous waters, while preventing further flows
into the sea and soil.

HOW LONG MIGHT THIS TAKE?

Nobody knows. The most likely scenario is a long, drawn-out fight, with
incremental progress interrupted by emergency cooling measures and
spikes in radioactivity.

Once the pumps and the residual heat
removal systems are running, it would take only a couple days to bring
the reactors to a cold shutdown. But engineers are literally working in
the dark. Lights have only recently gone on in the control room, but
electrically powered monitors and gauges -- workers' eyes and ears
inside the reactor -- are still off. Radiation readings outside the
reactors are still taken via a moving car, because the monitoring posts
are not powered. Temperature and pressure readings from backup systems
are all that workers have to "see" what is going on in the reactors.

Workers remain hampered by broken pipes, debris, flooded equipment and a
scarcity of replacement pumps and water tanks. Work has also been
interrupted by hosing operations to lower rising temperatures in the
reactor cores and spent fuel pools, as well as by an occasional fire and
radiation injuries.

Because of the high levels of radiation in
the water, experts suspect damage to the containment structures around
the No.2 reactor core. They said it may take as long as a few months to
bring that reactor to a cold shutdown.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

The main risk comes from the radiation that will continue to seep, or
burst, out each time a pipe leaks or rising pressure forces workers to
vent steam. Leaking water from within the nuclear pressure vessels could
find their way into the soil and the ocean, while spikes in radiation
could contaminate crops over a wide area.

The risk that the
spent fuel pools could reach recriticality seems remote, as long as
there are workers and firefighters willing to douse the reactors with
water each time temperatures start to rise.

The same could be
said of a small, hypothetical risk of a corium steam explosion,
particularly in the No.1 reactor, which is the plant's oldest and which
is believed to have a weak spot. If workers are unable to continue
hosing operations, and if the nuclear fuel manages to melt through the
bottom of the reactor and fall into a water pool below, this would
result in a high temperature burst and a sudden release of a huge amount
of hydrogen that could, in an unlikely "perfect storm" scenario, breach
the containment vessel.

Should either worst-case scenarios
happen, it could disperse high levels of radiation up to 20 km (12
miles) around the site, making it impossible to bring the reactors to a
cold shutdown without great sacrifice.

WILL THE SITE BECOME A NO-MAN'S LAND?

Most likely, yes. Even after a cold shutdown there is the issue of
tonnes of nuclear waste sitting at the site of the nuclear reactors.
Enclosing the reactors by injecting lead and encasing them in concrete
would make it safe to work and live a few kilometres away from the site,
but is not a long-term solution for the disposal of spent fuel, which
will decay and emit fission fragments over several thousand years.

The spent nuclear fuel in Fukushima has been damaged by sea water, so
recycling it is probably not an option, while transporting it elsewhere
is unlikely given the opposition that proposal would bring.

WHAT RISK FROM PLUTONIUM?

Plutonium has been found in soil samples at the site, further evidence
that fuel rods in at least one reactor may have melted down considerably
before they were cooled, and that there is damage to the structures
containing the nuclear core.

Only trace amounts of the toxic
substance have been detected. The level of up to 0.54 becquerals per kg
of soil is not considered harmful. Most people have some plutonium in
their bodies from atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests and some
pacemakers are powered by plutonium.

But the presence of the
radioactive poison outside the reactors compounds worry for the workers
there as long as authorities are not sure how the heaviest of primordial
elements leaked out.

Plutonium-239, used most in reactors, has a
half-life of 24,200 years. It is not readily absorbed by the body but
what is absorbed, stays put, irradiates surrounding tissue and is
carcinogenic.

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dark pools of soros's picture

it was all a dream....

Highrev's picture

TEPCO has said it may need to think out of the box . . .

Highrev's picture

Double post due to "site difficulties".

(ZH must be getting hit pretty hard these days as I've seen this more than once recently.)

TheMerryPrankster's picture

Double posts are caused by random mutations of binary code possibly caused by excessive radiation levels or sympathetic reactions in electronic circuits as skynet becomes aware and aware of Fukushima.

Other possible causes:

fat fingers (once crashed entire stock market -also problem at ZH)

Excessive drinking (say no more)

salacious icons that cause computer to become distracted

 

and the number one reason for double posts,

Zero Hedge just supersized you.

 

 

westboundnup's picture

Good morning!

/turning around in de-contamination shower

jus_lite_reading's picture

Can someone tell me why TD provides better coverage of Fukushima than any multibillion dollar MSM outlet? (its a rhetorical question)

Thanks again TD!

Reptil's picture

+ 131

It's not over but so far.. ahead of the MSM curve.

flattrader's picture

This guy does a decent job--

http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/

And if we are to believe the entry for today, that situation in more fucked up from a remediation standpoint than we know.

Keep reading beyond these initial paragraphs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Case of Disappearing Articles: #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Workers' Harsh Conditions

Something strange is going on in some of the Japanese news media. The Kyodo News English article about the harsh work conditions for the workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant which I link below was reported in other papers in Japanese, but in some papers the article got shorter and shorter as they updated.

I first read the article in Japanese at Yomiuri. It was a two-webpage article. But then, it was trimmed down to only a few sentences, and that's how it is now. But I have located part of the original long article cut and pasted by people who post on the Japanese message boards.

hugovanderbubble's picture

Thanks for keeping us informed.

What does it all mean's picture

Did anybody ever saw the footage for reactor #4 blow up, caught on fire, or was it just given that it is demolished.  I have been following this since March 11th and never seen a footage on reactor #4...

Yes, I know that it was actually in cold shutdown, prior to the accident because it was under scheduled maintainance.  But the building looks so beat up.

Urban Roman's picture

I think the Japanese Ministry of Truth found that remote camera just in time to turn it off before reactor 4 blew up. It would have been interesting footage, since that was a spent fuel pool blowing up, not the reactor itself, which was shut down and emptied for maintenance.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Not only did they fail to provide video of unit 4 blowing, but they lied about it for almost 36 hours. If you remember, the only indication we had that unit 4 had a problem was a sudden mention of a fire that was seen through a 8 meter by 4 meter hole in the roof by one of the workers. I remember saying to myself "What hole in unit 4's roof"? We were then told the fire went out on it's own.

We heard other mentions of fire and steam releases from unit 4 over the next 24 hours, then suddenly Digital Globe had satellite images of the complex and it was obvious unit 4 had blown. Suddenly TEPCO and the government were saying there had been an explosion in unit 4. It was a deliberate cover up. I suspect it blew on the same day as unit 3 and they simply didn't want to admit two units blew up on the same day. That was the same day Tyler was referring to some Article number, meaning an official news blackout.

Reptil's picture

correct

which is a mutation of rule of fightclub

davepowers's picture

that's largely my recollection too.

After #3 blew, they reported the fire (later amended to fire and explosion) at #4 which (as I recall) produced two 8 x 8 holes on one or two sides of #4. Then they reported a 2nd fire (or continuation of fire 1) which went out on its own. 

The two 8 x 8 holes stories stayed in the news for a long time, including late last week in mty local newspaper. This was well after photos showed #4 blown to hell. So the media was just picking up on the original damage version without bothering to update for reality.

One day we'll probably see video of the big explosion of #4, probably somewhere between #1 and #3 in intensity. For now, they've had enough of people seeing more explosions.

Oh regional Indian's picture

For worse or much much worse, this even is done. All the talk only delays the in-evitable realization that not only is it done, it will do most of us to. In that is.

The US, with it's own pile upon pile of spent (but hardly actually) fuel should, in this time of earthquakes, be scrambling to get them away.

But all we see is jawboning and safety tours.

Our blinders will not need to come off, it seems they have now afflicted us too deeply.

ORI

http://aadivaahan.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/for-dis-believers/

downrodeo's picture

Agreed. Well said.

Our blinders have practically grafted themselves to our faces at this stage. 

 

http://halfpasthuman.com/power.html

 

Gully Foyle's picture

It would be nice if someone had a links to all the recent Radiation detections in the US and the world. A lits that keeps articles archived and is updated. Before they disappear.

So far we have Radioactive Iodine in Ma, SC,NC, Fla,Ca, and Pa. We have Cesium in Wa, elevated readings in Nevada and Wa and something in Colorado.

Iceland and China have detected radiation.

It strikes me that the US has been blanketed and probably Europe. That whatever levels exist right now are rising daily.

And NOBODY is talking about it except to downplay the severity.

Cthonic's picture

Aye, looks like the Ministry of Truth has taken over RadNet.  Lot of sites that were showing elevated readings are now zeroed out or unavailable.

Jim in MN's picture

No need to concern people...until it's time to panic them.

malikai's picture

Finally a sensible report on the situation which addresses facts. I wonder how many people will actually read it before opening their pie-holes and spreading FUD?

goldfish1's picture
  • a sensible report on the situation

Depends if one believes the information coming from Reuters and their sources.

The Nuclear Safety Commission, a nuclear experts panel set up by the government, on Monday issued a statement that leakage of radioactive water into the soil or the sea is the biggest concern.

http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110329D29JF313.htm

malikai's picture

Yea that sounds about right. Iodine and caesium both love water. Caesium also has an affinity to plants. Strontium also loves plants, but luckily not water. Unfortinately, caesium is the #2 fission product by volume, and it has a nasty habit of making its way to the water table.

Those are indeed correct. As far as seawater goes, dilution is the solution, until plankton begin the bioaccumulation process. Therein lies the real problem.

whoopsing's picture

I like the 'drive by' monitoring part-priceless,oh and by the way,when buying used,check your carfax

Thorlyx's picture

Observing the medias and markets reaction to all of this, one must realize that this is a non-event. May be if one (or better two) reactor(s) breach and blow up, then we might see media coverage again and mild market corrections.

A Man without Qualities's picture

Observing the media and markets you can see there is an incredibly powerful desire to make it seem like a non-event.  The importance of nuclear energy to advanced nations, especially given concerns about carbon emissions (whether right or wrong), the emergency of new economic powers and the fragility of energy supplies cannot be understated.  

The nuclear lobby and governments have argued nuclear is both cheap and safe and accidents such as this (and the massive costs to deal with it) raise the question as to whether either is true.

To assume the media and markets are a reflection of reality is just plain dumb.

Thorlyx's picture

Reality is what it is, not what you believe is (or might be) right. Without nuclear power we would live in caves.

whoopsing's picture

Reality is a funny thing.Who know's,in a hundred year's,survivor's may be saying because of nuclear power,we are forced to live in cave's

downrodeo's picture

Reality is what it is

 

Jackass.

The reality is they did not build the plant to withstand an earthquake/tsunami, meaning they guessed it would probably never happen or it was well worth the risk. Miscalculation in the eyes of many now.

 

MSM does not reflect reality.

A Man without Qualities's picture

In the US, the MSM reflects the needs of the corporate owners and sponsors...  

jomama's picture

thanks for the belly laugh!

Nuclear power is barely net positive in terms of energy in, energy out, when you take into consideration the building, maintenance, and decomissioning.  

Since we haven't learned to harness solar energy, showering the earth daily with over 1000x the energy humans use every day, we just might wind up living in caves.  Especially if one of these reactors hits ground water and blows sky high.

trav7777's picture

eh...nuclear power is heavily energy-positive, but the breakeven can be long, like 10+ years.  And it certainly doesn't compare to surface oil at 100:1, not even close.

This is why they run these plants for 40, 50, 60 years now.  It increases the EROI.

Solar is what is barely energy positive given that half the time it is dark.

i-dog's picture

"nuclear power is heavily energy-positive"

Do you have a source on that? 'Stoneleigh' claims otherwise and she was a research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHrpCEpvo0o)

For example, does your conclusion include the energy allowance for building the storage facilities for the spent fuel and continuously keeping it cool for decades/centuries?

I also wonder at the energy cost of decommissioning a nuclear plant. Have any actually been decommissioned yet, or do they just extend the operating life by another 10 years every 10 years (as they did at Fukushima) -- because there is no money set aside and no acceptable plan for effective decommissioning?!

StychoKiller's picture

Is the surface of a planet the right place for an expanding technological civilization?

 

gratefultraveller's picture

"Reality is what you can get away with"

 

Robert Anton Wilson

nkktwotwozero's picture

>Without nuclear power we would live in caves.

What?

--

Brawndo, they've got what nuclear plants crave!

 

goldfish1's picture

"The detection of plutonium in soil samples from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suggests that the release of radioactive substances from the crippled facility has been far more extensive and serious than initially thought.

...Plutonium is far more toxic than uranium. Exposure to plutonium-238, which emits neutrons, is known to increase the risk of cancer."

http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110328D28JFA24.htm

 

Herman Strandschnecke's picture

Ummm, it all sounds a bit too clinical for me.

I'd be happier if they put a herd of sheep and cattle in a field nearby with cctv. Also; they should build a pool within the harbour (harbor) with fish in there on cctv. They could feed off the planktonium and whatnot.

At least we could then watch for signs of health and or side effects.

i-dog's picture

The two most important questions, for most of the planet, are:

  1. Will the 35 million people in the Tokyo area (and 90 million others in Japan outside of, say, an 80km exclusion zone) be able to continue their lives, and grow food, with a minimal increased risk of contracting cancer.
  2. Will the 7 billion others on the planet be able to continue their lives, and grow food, with a minimal increased risk of contracting cancer.

It is reasonable to assume that those currently residing less than 80km from the plant should GTF out of there, presto!

Well, IMO, the answers to both 1 and 2 above are probably "yes" as of right now ... but this could change to "no fucking way" IF/WHEN the next tsunami or storm or wind change or snafu occurs in the vicinity of the Fukushima plant.

In any event, placing animals or fish right next to the plant would not answer either of the above questions for me.

flattrader's picture

>>>...or wind change or snafu occurs in the vicinity of the Fukushima plant...<<<

IIRC from yesterday, the weather forecast for that region indicated an change in wind direction to the south and west.

We may find out the answer to your Q1 sooner rather than later.

goldfish1's picture

In a news conference Friday, Kan had stressed the NSC's role in the limiting of the evacuation zone to within a 20km radius of the plant.

http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110328D28JFA05.htm

Govt May Ask Farmers To Delay Rice Planting Amid Radiation Scare

The delay would give the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries time to examine whether rice paddies are too contaminated with radioactive substances to allow cultivation, the officials said.

http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110329D29JF371.htm


Repran's picture

Zerohedge has declined at least 3 notches in my regard with all this nuclear panic making. Shame, shame, shame...

malikai's picture

Take it in stride. Everybody makes mistakes and the situation is not over yet. Also remember that the most vociferous fear spreading has only come from a few people.

The real lesson here is that one should always question their information source, especially when it is one's most favorite/trusted information source.

Herman Strandschnecke's picture

'Zerohedge has declined at least 3 notches in my regard with all this nuclear panic making. Shame, shame, shame...'

 Since when did zerohedge own and operate Tepco?