Update on Fukushima
FUKUSHIMA RADIATION SPREADS WORLDWIDE
The University of California at Berkeley detected cesium levels in San Francisco area milk above over EPA limits … and even higher than they were 6 months ago.
Finnish public television says that cesium from Fukushima has been detected in lichens, fungi and elk and reindeer meat in Finland.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency confirmed a radiation cloud over the East Coast of Australia.
The West Coast of Canada is getting hit by debris from Japan … and at least some of it is likely radioactive.
The authors of the controversial study claiming 14,000 deaths in the U.S. so far from Fukushima are now upping their figure to 20,000. I spoke with nuclear health expert Chris Busby about their study, and he said that mortality figures fluctuate pretty substantially in the normal course, and so it is hard to know at this point one way or the other whether their figures are accurate.
And while there is no evidence linking them to Fukushima, Bed Bath and Beyond has recalled radioactive tissue holders after they set off police radiation monitors aboard a delivery truck This may just be an example of the incredibly lax handling of radioactive materials.
And thyroid cancers are – mysteriously – on the rise in the U.S.RADIATION DOSE NORTHEAST OF TOKYO (IBARAKI) SPIKES TO HIGHEST LEVEL SINCE APRIL AFTER LAST NIGHT’S 5 INTENSITY QUAKE
Nothing to see here, folks, move along ...
I noted last month in connection with Tepco’s announcement of “cold shutdown” of the Fukushima reactors:
If the reactors are “cold”, it may be because most of the hot radioactive fuel has leaked out.
The New York Times pointed out last month:
A former nuclear engineer with three decades of experience at a major engineering firm … who has worked at all three nuclear power complexes operated by Tokyo Electric [said] “If the fuel is still inside the reactor core, that’s one thing” …. But if the fuel has been dispersed more widely, then we are far from any stable shutdown.”
Indeed, if the center of the reactors are in fact relatively “cold”, it may be because most of the hot radioactive fuel has leaked out of the containment vessels and escaped into areas where it can do damage to the environment.
After drilling a hole in the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor 2, Tepco cannot find the fuel. As AP notes:
The steam-blurred photos taken by remote control Thursday found none of the reactor’s melted fuel ….
The photos also showed inner wall of the container heavily deteriorated after 10 months of exposure to high temperature and humidity, Matsumoto said.
TEPCO workers inserted the endoscope — an industrial version of the kind of endoscope doctors use — through a hole in the beaker-shaped container at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant’s No. 2 reactor ….
The probe failed to find the water surface, which indicate the water sits at lower-than-expected levels inside the primary containment vessel and questions the accuracy of the current water monitors, Matsumoto said.
And while cold shutdown means that the water inside the reactors is below the boiling point, CNN reports:
Massive steam and water drops made it difficult to get a clear vision….
Given that steam forms when water boils, this is an indication that the reactor is not in cold shutdown.
Asahi Shimbun reports:
Tadahiro Katsuta, associate professor of nuclear engineering at Meiji University, said: "While an inside look was provided much sooner than I expected, it is still too early to rest assured. The water level is lower than estimated, so there is the possibility that the melted fuel that fell to the bottom of the vessel is not being adequately covered by water."
The Daily Yomiuri notes that Tepco has gone from 100% confident that water was covering the fuel to saying it is "quite unlikely" that there is any problem:
Drops of water fall like rain in the video, which was shot using an industrial endoscope. The drops were apparently the result of vapor--created by the heat from melted nuclear fuel--that cooled inside the upper part of the reactor containment vessel.
"It's quite unlikely nuclear fuel was exposed, as liquid from condensation is dripping down," a TEPCO official said.
Mainchi points out that reactors 1 and 3 are probably in no better shape:
FUKUSHIMA COVER UP UNRAVELS: “THE GOVERNMENT CAN NO LONGER PULL THE WOOL OVER THE PUBLIC’S EYES”
The fuel inside the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors is believed to have melted through the pressure vessels and been accumulating in the outer primary containers after the Fukushima plant lost its key functions to cool the reactors in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year.
As I’ve pointed out since day one, the Japanese government and Tepco have covered up the extent of the radiation released by Fukushima and its health effects on the Japanese and others. See this and this.
The New York Times notes:
The government inspectors declared Onami’s rice safe for consumption after testing just two of its 154 rice farms.
Then … more than a dozen [farmers] found unsafe levels of cesium. An ensuing panic forced the Japanese government to intervene, with promises to test more than 25,000 rice farms in eastern Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is located.
The repeated failures have done more than raise concerns that some Japanese may have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation in their food, as regrettable as that is. They have also had a corrosive effect on public confidence in the food-monitoring efforts, with a growing segment of the public and even many experts coming to believe that officials have understated or even covered up the true extent of the public health risk in order to limit both the economic damage and the size of potential compensation payments.
Critics say … the government can no longer pull the wool over the public’s eyes, as they contend it has done routinely in the past.
“Since the accident, the government has tried to continue its business-as-usual approach of understating the severity of the accident and insisting that it knows best,” said Mitsuhiro Fukao, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo who has written about the loss of trust in government. “But the people are learning from the blogs, Twitter and Facebook that the government’s food-monitoring system is simply not credible.”
“No one trusts the national government’s safety standards,” said Ichio Muto, 59, who farms organic mushrooms in Nihonmatsu, 25 miles northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The Japan Times reports:
The government buried a worst-case scenario for the Fukushima nuclear crisis that was drafted last March and kept it under wraps until the end of last year, sources in the administration said Saturday.
After the document was shown to a small, select group of senior government officials at the prime minister’s office in late March, the administration of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan decided to quietly bury it, the sources said.
“When the document was presented (in March), a discussion ensued about keeping its existence secret,” a government source said.
In order to deny its existence, the government treated it as a personal document of Japan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Shunsuke Kondo, who authored it, until the end of December, the sources said.
It was only then that it was actually recognized as an official government document, they said.
“The content was so shocking that we decided to treat it as if it didn’t exist,” a senior government official said.
Major Japanese broadcaster NHK purportedly stopped a reporter in mid-sentence on March 12th as he was discussing the exposure of the nuclear fuel rods above the cooling pool, telling him:
They say you mustn’t read this draft.
Held, threatened, and shaken down for bribes before being detained without counsel or a phone call. He says he was eventually deported, though not before being ordered to sign a falsified confession and being threatened by an official at gunpoint.
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