Fukushima is Not Going Away

SUBHEAD: "Fukushima is pretty active, pretty intense and it's out of control",  John Lodge.

By John Large on 20 August  2013 for Voice of Russia -

[IB Publisher's note: John H. Large is an 'independent' nuclear engineer and analyst primarily known for his work in assessing and reporting upon nuclear safety and nuclear related accidents and incidents.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Large)]

Image above: Hartsville Station containment, part of one of two nuclear plants abandoned in mid-construction by TVA in the 80's. Huge 4 feet thick concrete walls overgrown by trees and grass. These plants were never fueled. Can you imagine what Fukushima will be like in a thousand years. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/21297926@N03/3900055435/in/set-72157622307343212). For more see (http://squattheplanet.com/community/threads/abandoned-nuclear-power-plants-in-tennessee.3961/).

At Chernoby... the radioactivity was controlled and held within a landmass, and there were very few opportunities for that radioactivity to seep a long way out beyond the 30 km zone.

What happened is (at Fukushima) the intensely radioactive fuel is beginning to migrate into the water. And the water is seeping and migrating out of the containment.

...In the immediate ecosystem, of course it moves beyond that. Once it comes out of the groundwater into the marine environment, then tides and currents will take it along — and the whole scenario’s rather like this: You get these very fine oxide particles of fuel, each intensely radioactive, being carried along the coastline. The tide taking it in,... it dries out. The onshore breeze that comes everyday blows the radioactive dust — these very fine particles — onto local communities, and those communities receive an exceptional dose.

...It’s pretty active, pretty intense, and out of control... [Tepco] didn’t think ahead, and of course they’re left with an in-addressable situation. There’s not much you can do when it gets out to the marine environment...

It looks like we’re in for a long term here. Remember 3 reactors went down, each reactor had about 120-130 tons of fuel. That’s lacking any containment. It’s beginning to drift into the marine and terrestrial environment. The situation is the radiation and the radiological effect in terms of health harm for that fuel will go on for hundreds, thousands, if not tens of thousands of years.

Fukushima will be worse than Chernobyl

SUBHEAD: We have a very efficient and effective way of dispersing the radioactivity to human beings a long way away from the plant.

By John Large on 2 September 2013 for Voice of Russia - (http://enenews.com/nuclear-expert-fukushima-melted-fuel-is-migrating-out-of-containment-it-will-end-up-on-coastline-in-fine-particles-and-gets-blown-into-neighborhoods-health-harm-from-this-fuel-to-last-for-thous)

At Chernobyl... the radioactivity was controlled and held within a landmass, and there were very few opportunities for that radioactivity to seep a long way out beyond the 30 km zone.

What we have in Fukushima is an accident with about 1/3 in terms of radioactivity the size of Chernobyl [See also: Study: Fukushima released 100 quadrillion becquerels of cesium into atmosphere... In just ONE day -- About equal to Chernobyl's total release], but it hasn’t finished yet, so this accident is ongoing and there’s opportunity for the radioactivity on the site — which involved 3 reactors and not one as at Chernobyl, very roughly 3-4 times the amount of radioactivity is available for release — we can see that accident is still going on 2 years after the event.

It’s not as though like Chernobyl, the situation was controlled and contained by a sarcophagus built around the damaged reactor, here we have a situation where the reactor fuel, the intensely radioactive fuel, is being carried away into the marine environment and beyond man’s control as to how further it disperses away from the site...

The problem with it going into the marine environment, not only does it spread much further, but it also gets ingested and re-concentrated by fish and filter feeders like oysters who re-concentrate the amount of radioactivity in a cubic meter of water from a few hundred becquerels, counts on a Geiger counter, to several hundred thousand becquerels because they re-concentrate it in their flesh. That’s another chain, another uptake route, to members of the public.

The other uptake route is as its swept along the eastern seaboard coastline of Japan, the tides will take it into the beach line, you get the intertidal strip...  here we’re talking about tiny particles of metal fuel being washed up on the beach line. They dry out between the tides, re-suspend and blow over the local communities. So you have a very efficient and effective way of dispersing the radioactivity to human beings a long way away from the plant. That’s the concern here.

For audio of interview listen to:

Criticality a Real Possibility

SUBHEAD:  We really could be back to 311 again because of the possibility of a fission accident in that spent fuel pond. 

By Richard Tanter on 3 September 2013 for Radio Australia -

IB Publisher's note" Richard Tantor is an expert on nuclear power, a senior research associate at the Nautilus Institute, and  professor of international relations at the University of Melbourne

RICHARD TANTER: Well I think it's extremely important in material terms, the revelations about the new hotspots, about the leaks into the ocean, the continuous groundwater coming into the basement of the turbine rooms, and as your correspondent said, the extraordinary problems of the storage of more than 300-thousand tons.

This is not a new problem, it's really been there since the beginning, and the question now is how important is this politically? And that's why Prime Minister Abe has moved today to begin to setup a new government process beyond TEPCO.

SEN LAM, RADIO AUSTRALIA: Indeed as you say the government says it's not just up to TEPCO and now it will have to come up with a solution. Quite how well equipped is the Japanese government to do that, will they need help from overseas experts for instance?

TANTER: Well they certainly will need help from overseas, but one of the core problems with as your correspondent mentioned, the government is considering setting up a government agency for decommissioning Fukushima and perhaps other plants in future. The core point there however is there really has been no effective decommissioning of a commercial nuclear power plant anywhere in the world, even in the best of times this is a 20-30 year process.

So Japan is embarking on this under the worst possible circumstances. And of course all but one of the nuclear power plants, there's 55 in Japan, is closed down, and the last one closes down in I think a week and a half from now. And that will again raise the issue of what other plants really have to be decommissioned rather than starting up again.

LAM: And Professor Tanter it's been over two years since the disaster, and of course the situation as we've just found out is far from stable. In layman terms, what do you think is the biggest technical challenge facing the ruined nuclear plant to make it safe again?

TANTER: Well the first one and most immediate one is the news that the reactor unit 4, the one which had a very large amount of stored fuel in its fuel storage pool, that that is sinking, according to former prime Minister Kan Naoto that has sunk some 31 inches in places and it's not uneven. And this is really not surprising given what's happened in terms of pumping of water, the aftermath of the earthquake and the tsunami, but the continuing infusions of water into the groundwater area.

This is an immediate problem and if it is not resolved there is an extraordinary possibility we really could be back at March 2011 again because of the possibility of a fission accident in that spent fuel pond in unit no. 4. Beyond that the core question is what on earth are they going to do with this huge amount of water which has been contaminated, and that problem has been there since day one.

And it's worth just pointing out that while the Economy Minister, Mr Motegi in Prime Minister Abe's administration has now turned on TEPCO, which indicates that as with previous prime minister Kan Naoto, the government has lost trust in TEPCO, he said that TEPCO has been playing 'Whack-a-mole' and now it's time for the government to take some comprehensive action.

It's entirely reasonable to ask why that was not clear when the Abe government came into power more than a year ago. And so to that extent there is a certain amount of posturing going on, and it's not clear what the Japanese government can do beyond setting up a new agency to do this.

What we really need to see is comprehensive plans for shutting down Fukushima completely and safely. That's not on the horizon yet.

LAM: And the political implications aside, just very briefly, if the hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water has to be pumped into the Pacific, what does this mean, how dangerous is this?

TANTER: Well if they're talking about pumping the larger part of the 300-thousand tonnes they have at present, that's extraordinary. The levels of contamination and we'll be hearing about new hotspots, presumably also diffusing into that contaminated water.

This is the core problem which it's faced from the beginning.

If that water goes into the Pacific Ocean it will circulate and putting it mildly, the views of the neighbouring countries are going to be very dire indeed.

Will Japan exist in two millennia?

SUBHEAD: They will have to manage those plants at that site for millennia going into the future.

By Per Peterson on 3 September 2013 for On Point - 

[IB Publisher's note: Per Peterson holds chair at Department of Nuclear Engineering UC Berkeley (http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/People/Per_Peterson)]

What a nightmare at Japan’s deeply wounded Fukushima nuclear power plant.  Two years and counting after the plant was rocked by earthquake and tsunami, it remains a giant, lethal mess on Japan’s northeast coast.

Hundreds of tons of water being pumped through every day to keep it from boiling over.  Hundreds of tons of radioactive water leaking.  A new plan approved today to freeze a huge swath of shore to keep a radioactive river from despoiling the sea.  And it’s always worse than we’re told.

For audio of full interview with other guests listen to:
(http://onpoint.wbur.org/2013/09/03/radiation-risks-fukushima) This hour, On Point:  the lethal nuclear mess at Fukushima, and how far it could spread.
 Per Peterson, Guest:
The primary containment vessel, it’s being left submerged in salty water and is corroding. So by not making prudent decisions today about what water must be discharged and what water can be safely discharged and instead just storing it all, the risk is it will make it in the longer term much less likely that it will be possible to get the damaged fuel out. 

And so by misdirecting a lot of the effort to do things that don’t reduce risk significantly, they’re creating in Japan a much larger probability that in the end it will not be possible to get the damaged fuel out, and they will have to manage those plants at that site for millennia going into the future.
Tom Ashbrook, Host:
Millennia, that means thousands of years...

Per Peterson, Guest:
You want to be trying to flush out all of that salt that was injected into these reactors, which right now is contributing to the corrosion of these primary containment vessels, that if they don’t survive it will become challenging or impossible to get the damaged fuel out.


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