Fukushima Update - Hot Water, Radioactive Beef

Update # 38: Monday to Thursday, July 25-28, 2011

by Nelle Maxey

The Fukushima disaster is not getting better.

As I have discussed for months, the real key to "containment" is a balancing act between keeping the fuel cool and controlling the amount of contaminated water that is being produced as water is poured into the reactors and spent fuel pools. As you will see from the series of stories here:  *amounts of contaminated water have increased,

*water is not going directly into the reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) but rather around the shrouds of the RPVs,

*Unit 3 is of particular concern since it was blown full of holes in the huge explosion in March and requires more cooling water than the other reactors (and thus produces more contaminated water),

 *Unit 4 SPF (spent fuel pool) remains at almost 90°C emitting radioactive steam into the environment,

* the decontamination system is working so badly that river water is being used to augment the amounts needed to cool reactors and

*the combination of that water plus the rain from the typhoon has brought contaminated water levels to a new high.

Furthermore, temperatures in the reactors and SPF are hardly stable but fluctuate constantly.

I have produced a pdf file (442KB) from the JANTI charts and JAIF data if you are interested in the minutia of the data.

The second series of stories concerns the contamination levels, something else that TEPCO claimed to be under control as they move to Step 2 in their plan. However, the contamination from the March explosions and continued emissions from the plant contribute to both human, food and environmental contamination in Japan.

The Failing DECONTAMINATION SYSTEM

TEPCO seeks new ways to reduce contaminated water

"The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun looking for new ways to reduce the amount of contaminated water that is hampering efforts to stabilize the damaged reactors.

Tokyo Electric Power Company sent a remote-controlled robot into the No.3 reactor building on Tuesday to take photos of the piping and measure radiation levels.

TEPCO decided to use the robot to find methods of cooling the nuclear fuel in the first 3 reactors with less water.

The utility injects about 390 tons of water into the reactors every day, but most of it becomes contaminated with radioactive materials.

TEPCO says the temperature of the No.3 reactor is relatively stable, but it needs more water than the others because of leaks and other problems.

Reducing the volume of contaminated water is the key to putting the reactors under control, but a system for treating radioactive water has been hit by a series of troubles.

TEPCO hopes to eventually send workers into the buildings to pour water directly onto the reactors." Wednesday, July 27, 2011 08:27 +0900 (JST)

Wondering about that last sentence? Must be a translation problem. These two stories from SFK explain what is really up.

"Now They Tell Us" Series: Fukushima Reactor Cooling Was From Outside the Shroud

"Here I thought they'd been injecting water directly above the melted fuel or where the fuel had once been.

TEPCO in its daily press conference on July 26 said the cooling of the three reactors at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant has been done by cooling the core shrouds from outside. The shroud is a cylinder inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) that surrounds the reactor core. (The image is from Toshiba.)

Either they tell us now, or it occurred to no one to ask in detail how the fuel was cooled."

Mainichi Shinbun Japanese (7/26/2011):

[Translation from Japanese, Japanese characters removed-Nelle]

TEPCO announced on July 26 that the company started the work to change the method of water injection in order to cool the fuel inside the Reactor 3 more effectively. The Japanese-made robot "Quince" went inside the reactor building to investigate whether it was possible to use the pipe that could feed water closer to the nuclear fuel.

In Reactors 1, 2 and 3, the cooling water is being poured outside the core shroud to lower the temperature of the fuel. The method is adequate in Reactor 1 and 2 with about 4 tonnes/hour water injection, but in Reactor 3 this method of cooling is not efficient enough, and it requires 9 tonnes/hour water.

As the result, more contaminated water is being produced, and the company was looking for an alternative method of cooling. TEPCO is considering using the ECCS (emergency core cooling system) pipe which can pour water from above the fuel. On July 26, the company sent the robot "Quince" to the 1st and 2nd floors of Reactor 3 building to take pictures of the pipe, and started measuring the radiation levels to see if workers could enter the building.

As far as TEPCO is concerned, the melted core is still inside the RPV in Reactor 3.

And this story explains the follow-up of the Quince investigation:

Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Quince Entered Reactor 3, Now Humans' Turn to Brave 75 Millisieverts/Hr Radiation

so that TEPCO can conserve water that is being injected into the RPVs.

The robot "Quince" went to the 2nd floor of Reactor 3's reactor building at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on July 26 and measured the radiation. It was as high as 75 millisieverts/hour on the 2nd floor. To help "Quince", 6 TEPCO employees went to the reactor building (I don't think they were inside the building), and received maximum 2.22 millisieverts of radiation.

TEPCO's handout for the press on July 27, radiation measurement by Quince:

[Click on story link to see the diagrams of Unit 3 with radiation levels marked-Nelle.]

No radiation level is too high for carbon-based workers in the time of crisis, and TEPCO is sending 6 of them up the stairs to the 2nd and 3rd floors of Reactor 3 on July 27. However, the amount of time the workers spend inside the reactor building will be limited, according to TEPCO. The workers are to conduct the survey to determine whether it is possible to hook up the water injection system to the ECCS (emergency core cooling system) pipe, so that the water could be poured directly over the melted fuel (if there's melted fuel left in the RPV, that is) and thus more efficient (i.e. using less water) in cooling the fuel.

Here's the NHK's:

Workers to inspect No.3 reactor building

"The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it will send workers into the No.3 reactor building on Wednesday to check the condition of its piping. They will have to work quickly, with high levels of radioactivity making it difficult to operate inside the building for long periods of time.

Tokyo Electric Power Company made the decision after a remote-control robot on Tuesday found limited damage to pipes and valves in the building…."  Wednesday, July 27, 2011 14:25 +0900 (JST)

And already the Step 2 target for decontaminating water (which was NOT reached in Step 1) has been moved ahead.

Water treatment system running below capacity

"A water decontamination system at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been operating below its target capacity, resulting in delays to the firm's timetable of about 2 months….

The company was planning to decrease the amount of contaminated water to a safe level by early August. But, it now says the timetable is likely to be pushed back until late September…."

Thursday, July 28, 2011 11:48 +0900 (JST)

Here are SKF comments on this story:

http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/2011/07/contaminated-water-treatment-system-58.html

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#Contaminated Water Treatment System: 58% Operating Rate, Amount of Water Increased by 3000 Tonnes in a Week

"The rate is a slight improvement in the latest week, up from 53% in the previous week.

57% operating rate in one week from the system that is designed to process 1,200 tonnes per day means TEPCO managed to treat:

1200 x 7 x 58% = 4872 tonnes

But then, the pipes are clogged somewhere, and the throughput is only 37 tonnes per hour instead of 50:

37/50 x 4872 = 3605 tonnes

The amount of water injected into the RPVs (outside the core shrouds, mind you) in Reactors 1, 2 and 3 in a week is:

(3.8 + 3.5 + 8.9) x 24 x 7 = 2722 tonnes

Therefore, the contaminated water should have been decreased by:

3605 – 2722 = 883 tonnes

Wrong. According to TEPCO, as reported by Asahi Shinbun, the contaminated water INCREASED by 3000 tonnes in the latest week.

From Asahi Shinbun (7/28/2011):

[Japanese translation, Japanese characters removed-Nelle]

TEPCO announced on July 27 that the operating rate of the water treatment system at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant that treats highly contaminated water remained at less than 60% for two weeks in a row. It's been a month since the "circulation injection cooling system" which uses the treated water to cool the fuel in the reactors, but a series of troubles has caused the operating rate to be far below the target rate of 90%. If the rate remains low, the plan to reduce the amount of contaminated water to zero by the year end will be in jeopardy.

According to TEPCO, the operating rate for the week ended on July 26 was 58%, not much improvement from 53% of the previous week. The operating rate since the start of full operation is 63%, and the cumulative amount of treated water is about 30,000 tonnes. TEPCO had initially planned the operating rate in July to be 80%, but later lowered it to be 70%. The lowered target is not likely to be achieved.

The company planned to raise the target to 90% in August, but has decided to keep it at 70%.

The amount of contaminated water hasn't decreased as planned. With the rain from the typhoons and fresh water from the dam to supplement the treated water when the water treatment system was down, the total amount of contaminated water increased by 3,000 tonnes to 120,650 tonnes. The Central Waste Treatment Facility where the contaminated water is being stored is also reaching the capacity.

At this point, TEPCO must be hoping and praying that Toshiba's SARRY will deliver, once operational in early August. With the lack of workers and the high radiation level inside the Central Waste Processing Facility, TEPCO may not be able to unclog the pipes in AREVA's system."

A number of stories have appeared in the international press recently regarding worker contamination.

This one is the result of citizen requests.

Document suggests government estimated 1,600 workers exposed to radiation

"The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry estimated that approximately 1,600 workers partaking in efforts to rein in the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant will be exposed to over 50 millisieverts of radiation, according to a document that emerged July 26 after a citizens' group lodged a request for access to government information…."

And an interesting 5-page report from Reuters

Read the report in a PDF, go to link above to download

Brief summary:

* One of 5 worst nuclear plants in world for exposure to radiation

* Tepco prioritised cost-savings over radiation standard

* Tepco says old plants like Fukushima have high radiation

* Foreign workers used to avoid exposing staff to high radiation

* Improvements made at Fukushima before disaster hit

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION

Japan Scientists Say Sea Radiation Tests May Miss Seafood Threat

Bloomberg, July 26, 2011:

"Depending on the species, fish have been known to accumulate as much as 100 times the amount of pollutants in the environment," Jota Kanda, a professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology specializing in marine environment, said by phone yesterday. […]

The minimum detection limit is defined as 4 becquerels per liter for Iodine-131, 6 bq/l for Cesium-134 and 9 bq/l for Cesium-137, the report said.

"Which means that at 5 becquerels per liter the ministry will proclaim the water safe, but concentration in fish may exceed the 500 becquerel limit" per kilogram set by the government, Kanda said. […]

Tuesday NHK carried a story on contaminated leaf mulch. Here is the complete story from SFK

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Radioactive Compost Has Already Spread Wide

"From the press release by Akita prefectural government on July 25:

A resident in Akita Prefecture alerted the authorities when the bag of leaf compost that he purchased from a local garden/home center measured high in radiation with his portable survey meter. The authorities tested the content of the bag, and it had 11,000 becquerels/kg of cesium.

At the garden/home center (2 locations) the air radiation 1 meter from the pile of the leaf compost bags measured as high as 0.48 microsievert/hr.

The press release is somewhat misleading, as it says the air radiation 1 meter from one bag of the leaf compost is 0.06 microsievert/hr. If you measure in front of the pile of the same bags, the radiation is as high as 0.48 microsievert/hr. Akita's air radiation level (which the prefectural government measures only at 2 locations) is between 0.04 and 0.06 microsievert/hr.

According to Yomiuri Shinbun (7/27/2011), these bags were packed in Tochigi Prefecture, and 20,000 bags have already been sold in Akita Prefecture alone.

Shimotsuke Shinbun (local Tochigi paper; 7/27/2011) reports that Tochigi Prefecture tested the leaves that went into the leaf compost bags, and they found 72,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. The leaves were collected in the northern Tochigi in April, and was sold outside the prefecture from mid June to early July. The Tochigi prefectural government ordered the two sellers of leaf compost in Tochigi to recall what's been sold and refrain from shipping "voluntarily" (i.e. at the sellers' own cost, with no support from the government).

Leaf composts are mainly used by the home gardeners. There may be many who hoped to grow their own, radiation-free vegetables and bought these bags to amend the soil for better growth of the seedlings. Well, that hope is dashed. The home gardeners may have ended up contaminating their own soil which may not have been contaminated before they put in the compost.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries couldn't even figure out that cattle farmers feed their cows with rice hay. What the individual home gardeners use for their small gardens was probably none of their concern, as the Ministry is there for the producers."

And this story from SKF on radioactive contaminated eggs

Radiation in Japan: 60 Becquerels/Kg Cesium from Eggs in Fukushima (Video-clip added)

"From TV Asahi's "Hodo Station" on July 26, in the segment that discusses the lifetime limit of 100 millisieverts radiation.

A chicken farmer in Kawamata-machi in Fukushima Prefecture has brought his eggs to a volunteer testing station in Fukushima City. After 20 minutes of testing, 60 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium is detected from the eggs.

Disappointed, the farmer says, "I don't know what to say to my customers. It's much lower than the provisional safety limit in Japan, but if I compare the number to the safety limit in Ukraine it is extraordinary…"

The reporter asks the farmer, "What is the safety limit in Ukraine?"

6 becquerels/kg, he tells the reporter.

The man who runs the station says, "For these farmers, the provisional safety limit in Japan is just too loose."

Kawamata-machi is 47 kilometers northwest of Fukushima I Nuke Plant.

The Japanese government's mishandling and concealing the radioactive fallout information has resulted in radioactive water, vegetables, fish, mushroom, beef, hay, pork, manure, compost, and now eggs. And the farmers like this chicken farmer who clearly wants to sell only "safe" eggs to his customers are at a loss. To the chicken farmer, 60 becquerels/kg was just too high to sell his eggs in good conscience."

Thursday at NHK another prefecture bans shipment of all beef:

Edano orders ban on shipping Miyagi beef cattle

"Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says he has ordered the governor of Miyagi Prefecture to suspend all of its shipments of beef cattle.

Edano made the announcement on Thursday, after levels of radioactive cesium above the government safety limit were detected in beef cattle raised in the prefecture.

 Miyagi is the second prefecture to have all of its cattle shipments banned, following Fukushima, which was given a suspension order last week." Thursday, July 28, 2011 17:04 +0900 (JST)

Meanwhile voluntary bans on beef are in place in 12 other prefectures:

12 prefectures step up voluntary checks on beef

Twelve prefectures in Japan have voluntarily stepped up radiation checks on beef before shipment in a bid to alleviate consumer concerns over meat safety.

About 3,000 beef cattle are suspected of having been shipped out after being fed rice straw contaminated with radioactive cesium from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

In Yamagata Prefecture, northwest of the plant, testing equipment is being used to measure radiation levels of meat from slaughtered cattle.

The beef is shipped only when its radiation levels are confirmed to be lower than the government safety limit.

In Shizuoka Prefecture, 350 kilometers southwest of the plant, local agricultural cooperatives are asking private laboratories to check all beef shipped from meat-processing plants run by the cooperatives.

Despite difficulties in tightening voluntary checks due to lack of testing equipment and financial burdens, more prefectures are expected to follow suit." Thursday, July 28, 2011 19:38 +0900 (JST)

And finally, for those interested in what happened after the earthquake, but BEFORE the tsunami, this very interesting article from CNIC (Citizens Nuclear INformation Centre) in Japan:

TEPCO will do anything to maintain the 'unforseeable' theory

The 'simulation analysis' deception technique-"voodoo" simulations

"If they possibly can, what the Japanese state and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) would like to see buried once and for all is the notion that the critical equipment at TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Reactor Units 1, 2, and 3 (1F 1-3) sustained serious damage from seismic motion unrelated to the ‘unforeseeable’ giant tsunami…."

***

The Watershed Sentinel is proud to share Nelle Maxey's Fukushima Updates prepared for the BC environmental community.

Every day, Nelle pours over the media and other reports of the status of the reactors at Fukushima, comparing figures and trying to make sense out of the conflicting reports.Saturday, July 23, 2011 13:41 +0900 (JST)

 

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