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Fukushima reactor contamination zones. Source US Department of Energy

Fukushima nuclear complex goes from bad to worse

by DarkSyde for Daily Kos

Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 09:35 AM EDT

Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor complex appears to have gone from bad to worse, in part due to continual aftershocks and a small fire Monday morning. That nation’s nuclear safety agency will raise the crisis level from five to seven, putting it in the same category as the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and the danger zones could widen. The WaPo reports:

The plant’s debilitated reactors face constant threat of strong aftershocks, and the latest on Tuesday morning — a 6.4-magnitude temblor — caused a brief fire at a water sampling facility near Daiichi’s No. 4 reactor. The Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the facility, said that the critical process used to cool the hot fuel rods had not been interrupted, and radiation levels showed no signs of change. A level 7 accident, according to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, is typified by a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects.”

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Radioactive water leaks from crippled Japan plant

By EUGENE HOSHIKO and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press 47 mins ago

RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan – Highly radioactive water spilled into the ocean from a tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant Saturday as Japan’s prime minister surveyed the damage in a town gutted by the wave.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex has been spewing radioactivity since March 11, when a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing wave knocked out power, disabling cooling systems and allowing radiation to seep out of the overheating reactors. Authorities said the leak they identified Saturday could be the source of radioactivity found in coastal waters in recent days.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan went to the plant and flew over the tsunami-ravaged coast soon after the wave hit, but Saturday was the first time he set foot in one of the pulverized towns.

Dressed in the blue work clothes that have become almost a uniform for officials, Kan stopped in Rikuzentakata, where the town hall is one of the few buildings still standing. All its windows are blown out and a tangle of metal and other debris is piled in front of it.

The prime minister bowed his head for a minute of silence in front of the building. He met with the town’s mayor, whose 38-year-old wife was swept away in the wave and is still missing. Officials fear about 25,000 people may have been killed, many of whose bodies have not been found.

“The government fully supports you until the end,” Kan later told 250 people at an elementary school that is serving as an evacuation center.

Megumi Shimanuki, whose family is living in a similar shelter 100 miles (160 kilometers) away in Natori, said Kan didn’t spend enough time with people on the ground. Kan returned to Tokyo in the afternoon.

“The government has been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims,” said Shimanuki, 35. “Both deserve attention.”

Saturday’s leak was from a newly discovered crack in a maintenance pit on the edge of the Fukushima complex, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

The crack was apparently caused by the quake and may have been leaking since then, said spokesman Osamu Yokokura of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the plant.

Measurements showed the air above the radioactive water in the pit contained more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour of radioactivity. Even just two feet (60 centimeters) away, that figure dropped to 400 millisieverts. Workers have taken samples of the water in the pit and seawater and are analyzing them to determine the level of contamination.

(more…)

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Fukushima Forecast: Radioactive particles to be concentrated over Midwestern US on April 1, 2 (VIDEO)

Energy News
March 29th, 2011 at 03:55 PM

Fukushima Potential Releases, Xe-133 Total Column for March 29-April 2, 2011, Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), March 29, 2011:

* Although xenon is not toxic, its compounds are highly toxic — CRC handbook of chemistry

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How much is ‘too much’?

CNN

Radiation is invisible. You cannot taste it, smell it or feel it. It’s not possible to directly measure the amount of radiation exposure a person has had. When you see people with Geiger counters checking a site like Fukushima Daiichi, they’re measuring contamination, which generally refers to actual radioactive particles.

There are four main types of ionizing radiation:

–Alpha particles: relatively heavy, cannot penetrate human skin or clothing, but can be harmful if they get into the body in another manner.

–Beta radiation: can cause skin injury and is harmful to the body internally.

–Gamma rays: high-energy invisible light that can damage tissue and is most dangerous to humans.

SOURCE

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The Lessons of Fukushima

Truthout

Monday 28 March 2011

by: Hugh Gusterson   |  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | Report

As an anthropologist, I am always interested in what humans learn from their mistakes. Can humans change their behavior, thereby improving their chances of survival, not just through natural selection, but also through cultural learning? Or are we hardwired to repeat our mistakes over and over, like humanoid lemmings?

More to the point, what lessons will we learn from the nuclear accident at Fukushima, an accident thought to be impossible just two weeks ago?

Some people, many of them presumably already ill-disposed toward nuclear energy, have concluded that the lesson of Fukushima is that nuclear energy is inherently dangerous. Thus, Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post: “We can engineer nuclear power plants so that the chance of a Chernobyl-style disaster is almost nil. But we can’t eliminate it completely — nor can we envision every other kind of potential disaster. And where fission reactors are concerned, the worst-case scenario is so dreadful as to be unthinkable.” His colleague Anne Applebaum wrote on the same op-ed page: “If the competent and technologically brilliant Japanese can’t build a completely safe reactor, who can? … I … hope that a near-miss prompts people around the world to think twice about the true ‘price’ of nuclear energy, and that it stops the nuclear renaissance dead in its tracks.” (The nuclear renaissance comprises plans around the world to build as many as 350 new nuclear reactors, partly as a way of inhibiting climate change.)

MORE HERE

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In this undated but recent photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactors stand in line intact in Okumamachi in Fukushima Prefecture (state), northeastern Japan. Reactors encased in square boxes, from left,

Doomsday Scenario at Fukushima

Marvin Resnikoff- HuffPost
Senior Associate, Radioactive Waste Management Associates
Posted: March 15, 2011 11:03 AM

The slow motion events occurring at Japan’s (or GE’s) Fukushima reactor cannot be sugar-coated. It is a doomsday scenario unfolding.

Nuclear reactors are not the same as coal/oil/gas electricity plants. Unlike conventional plants, they cannot be turned off. So while brave workers were tending to Units 1, 2 and 3 reactors, attempting against all odds to keep the reactor from overheating, the fuel pool at Unit 4 was left untended; without makeup water to cool them, the fuel rods overheated. Above 1800 oF, an exothermic reaction, a fire, took place with the zirconium cladding around the uranium pellets. Zirconium burned, forming zirconium oxide and hydrogen gas, which then exploded and released radioactive cesium, a semi-volatile metal, to the atmosphere.

Near the plant, the radiation levels dangerously escalated to 400 milliseiverts/hour (or 40 rems/hour in U.S. parlance). Considering background is on the order of 1 milliseivert per YEAR, this means a yearly background dose every 9 seconds. Put plainly, workers at the Fukushima reactors are putting their lives in immediate jeopardy.

MORE HERE

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Fukushima Explosion: Japan Nuclear Plant Rocked By Hydrogen Explosion (VIDEO)

AP/The Huffington Post First Posted: 03/14/11 01:33 AM Updated: 03/14/11 08:01 AM

SOMA, Japan – The second hydrogen explosion in three days rocked Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant Monday, sending a massive column of smoke into the air and wounding 6 workers. The plant’s operator said radiation levels at the reactor were still within legal limits.

(SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE UPDATES)

The explosion at the plant’s Unit 3, which authorities have been frantically trying to cool following a system failure in the wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami, triggered an order for hundreds of people to stay indoors, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radiation levels at Unit 3 were 10.65 microsieverts, significantly under the 500 microsieverts at which a nuclear operator must file a report to the government.

MORE HERE

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