Fukushima Goes Critical and is Abandoned Briefly

This was written earlier.  Tonight, the fourth reactor blew and radiation levels forced the abandonment of all attempts to control this disaster.  The plant has been fully evacuated briefly.  The potential still exists for a breakthrough of the containment chamber(s) and release of molten material onto the floor of the structure into water.  This would surely cause large amounts of  radioactive material to be released into the atmosphere.  

The only good news is that the reaction masses are cooling quickly and may settle down fast enough.

Dropping water on it is a little like pissing on a bonfire.

The sharp rise in plant radioactivity strongly suggests something has already broken out and it is beyond any easy repair.  A melt down of some sort is certainly already under way and we do not know how far it will go. 

A really worst case scenario could see Tokyo abandoned.  Be scared.  It is not getting better yet.

This report brings us up toSunday and comes from an informed reporter who knows the industry and theground.  It is not reassuring and thebitter fact is that we are pumping sea water into the stack in order to speedup the cooling process.  The reactorsthemselves have been shut down, but that only means that the control rods weredropped in to moderate the process. There is still plenty of natural radiation in there.

What is obvious from thereporting and from the language used is that the normal cooling  and system is out completely and that we areusing the last resort, which is there as a last resort and a hand wave and ofcourse it is totally untested.  No oneever  tests out a fire hydrant by settingfire to a building.

The situation is serious but itappears it may be under enough control that heat dissipation is slowly coolingthe reactor.  The explosions aresecondary and reflect the white hot conditions in the reactors and theresultant production of hydrogen. Needless to say this power plant is going through a catastrophicde-commissioning.

Unless something is not beentold, the risk of melt down is abating by the hour.  In this case no news is good news.  Let it die and wait for the announcement thattemperatures are now reasonable.

Emergency Special Report: Japan's Earthquake, Hidden NuclearCatastrophe

By Yoichi Shimatsu

Emergency Special Report I

The Wave, reminiscent of Hokusai's masterful woodblock print, blew pastJapan's shoreline defenses of harbor breakwaters and gigantic four-leggedblocks called tetrapods, lifting ships to ram through seawalls and crash ontodowntown parking lots. Seasideareas were soon emptied of cars and houses dragged up rivers and back out tosea. Wave heights of up to10 meters (33 feet) are staggering, but beforedeeming these as unimaginable, consider the historical Sanriku tsunami thattowered to 15 meters (nearly 50 feet) and killed 27,000 people in 1896.

Nature's terrifying power, however we may dread it, is only as great asthe human-caused vulnerability of our civilization. Soon after Christmas 2004,I volunteered for the rescue operation on the day after the Indian Oceantsunami and simultaneously did an on-site field study on the causes offatalities in southern Thailand.The report, issued by Thammasat and Hong Kong Universities,concluded that high water wasn't the sole cause of the massive death toll. No,it's buildings that kill - to be specific, badly designed structures withoutescape routes onto roofs or, in our greed for real estate, situated insidedrained lagoons and riverbeds, or on loose landfill. In the Tohoku disaster, anultramodern Sendai Airport sat helplesslyflooded on all sides while nearby a monstrous black torrent swept entire housesupstream.

Other threats are built into the vulnerabilities of our criticalinfrastructure and power systems. The balls of orange flames churning out ofhuge gas storage tanks in Ichihara, Chiba, should never havehappened if technical precautions had been properly carried out. Wheneverthings go wrong, underlying risks had led to a liability and, in a responsiblesociety, accountability.

Most people assume that the meticulous Japanese are among the world'smost responsible citizens. As an investigative journalist who has covered theHanshin (Kobe) earthquake and the Tokyo subway gassing, Ibeg to differ. Japanis  just better than elsewhere in organizing official cover-ups.

Hidden nuclear crisis

The recurrent tendency to deny systemic errors - "in order toavoid public panic" - is rooted in the determination of an entrenchedbureaucracy to protect itself rather than in any stated purpose of serving thenation or its people. That's the unspoken rule of thumb in most governments,and the point is that Japanis no shining exception. 

So what today is being silenced on orders from the Tokyo government? The official mantra is thatall five nuclear power plants in the northeast are  locked down, safe andnot leaking. The cloaked reality is that at least one of those - Tepco's Fukushima Nuclear PowerPlant - is under an emergency alert at a level indicative of a quake-causedinternal rupture. The Fukushimapowerhouse is one of the world's largest with six boiling-water reactors.

Over past decades, the Japanese public has been reassured by the TokyoElectric Power Company that its nuclear reactors are prepared for anyeventuality. Yet the mystery in Fukushimais not the first unreported problem with nuclear power, only the most recent.Back in 1996  amid a reactor accident in Ibarakiprovince, the government never admitted that radioactive fallout had driftedover the northeastern suburbs of Tokyo.Our reporters got confirmation from monitoring stations, but the press wasunder a blanket order not to run any alarming news, the facts be damned. For anation that's lived under the atomic cloud of Hiroshimaand Nagasaki,total denial becomes possible now only because the finger on the button is ourown.

People are the best defense

Despite the national addiction to nuclear power that keeps the neonlights bright over Shibuya's famous corner, Japan still remains the mostprepared of all societies for earthquakes, tsunami, conflagrations and otherdisasters. Every work unit, large or small, has an emergency response plan. TheTohoku quake hit on a workday afternoon, meaning the staff in every factory andoffice could act as a team to quell small fires, shut the gas lines, renderfirst aid and restore their communication system. Even in most homes, residentshave a rechargeable flashlight plugged into a socket and emergency bottles ofwater.

Northeast Japan is better prepared than other  localities becausein the wake of the Kobequake in 1995, the regional Keidanren, or federation of  industrialorganizations, sponsored a thorough risk-management and crisis response study.Tohoku Keidanren staffers, who had known of my reporting on the San Franciscoand Kobe quakes, asked me to write an article prioritizing disaster preparedness.

First on my list was a people-based communications network such as thecitizen's band radio that enabled Northern Californiansto self-organize despite power blackouts. That point directly led to the fastlicensing of new mobile phone towers equipped with back-up batteries.

Second was independent power generation inside all major factories sothat these large facilities could recharge batteries, provide lighting and pumpwater for their neighborhoods and, if necessary, offer shelter, sanitation andmedical care. These systems must be routinely used at least on weekends so thatthe equipment is regularly checked and the staff stay familiar with theiroperation.

Third, and most important, is the ability of individuals to rally as aself-sustaining community. In Kobe,society collapsed under a sense of personal defeat. In San Francisco, by contrast, neighbors reachedout as friends and opened their doors, food stocks and hearts to victims andtheir kin. Without compassion, each of us is very much alone indeed.

As participants in communities, who can suddenly find themselves nakedbefore unthinkable hazards, we must act to defuse the deadly "bomb"that provides us lighting, energy for appliances and air-con. Prevention of thenext Chernobyl or Three Mile Island  begins when we stop naively believing in thecost efficiency of uranium, and for that matter the cleanliness and healthinessof "clean" coal.

Japan has vast untapped reserves of offshore wind energy, the onlypractical alternative to nuclear power and fossil fuel. Yet the nuclear lobby,coal companies and oil majors have strong-armed the government and industry tostubbornly refuse to invest in advanced and efficient turbine engineering,including magnetic-levitation rotors that eliminate the need for energy-sappingbearings.

At certain stages of societal evolution, there arrives an unmistakablemessage to leave behind our worn-out security blanket and surf the wave of thefuture. The tsunami is just such a signal arising from the ocean's depths toawaken Japan,as a global technology leader, to push much faster into a cleaner, greener andsafer world.

Emergency Special Report II

Quake Monitor: Meltdown has started -  Saturday 12 March(noon Japantime zone)

Meltdown is underway. Japan'sIndustrial Nuclear Safety Agency reported that the radioactive isotopes cesiumand iodine were detected by a monitoring station in  the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant. Thepresence of these substances in air samples is a sure indicator that anuncontrolled chain reaction has started. Overheated uranium rods have eatenthrough their protective metal casings and have started nuclear fission. Theregulatory agency's announcement overturns the earlier claim of plant operatorTEPCO that all uranium rods were intact.

The National Institute of Radiological Science, in Chiba outside Tokyo,has flown a team of doctors and nurses by helicopter to a health center 5 kmfrom the Fukushima plant to monitor nuclear exposure in workers, emergency crewand local residents. 

Nuclear workers, who this morning restarted the pumping of cold waterinto the reactor, are being hampered by aftershocks of larger than Richter 6.Plant operator TEPCO ordered the release of steam from the overheated reactorthis morning because internal pressure is twice higher than the allowablelimits of the original facility design. Plant officials say that the steam isbeing filtered of radioactive particle. Outside the plant, however, themonitoring station detected outdoor radiation levels 8 times higher thannormal, indicating either leakage or filter malfunction.

Three of the six reactors of the TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, were operatingat the time of the Tohoku quake. The failure of back-up generators causedsignificant rise in temperatures inside No.1 (46 MW output) and No.2 (784 MW)reactors.  

The Japanese government overnight dispatched truck-mounted powergenerators to both plants in order to restart cooling pumps. On-site back-upbatteries that run the control system were depleted of power within 8 hours ofthe blackout. Authorities are now locating robots to dispatch for remotecontrol repairs to the reactors because the interior is unsafe for humanemployees.

Impact on North America

The Pacific jetstream is currently flowing due east directly toward theUnited States. Inthe event of a major meltdown and continuous large-volume radioactive release,airborne particles will be carried across the ocean in bands that willcross over the southern halves of Oregon, Montana and Idaho, all ofCalifornia, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, the Dakotas, northern Nebraska andIowa and ending in Wisconsin and Illinois, with possible further eastward driftdepending on surface wind direction. 

Most of the particles can be expected to travel high in the atmosphere,with fallout dependent on low pressure zones, rainfall and temperatures overthe US.If a meltdown can be contained in Fukushima,a small amount of particles would be dispersed in the atmosphere with littleimmediate effect on human and animal health.

Another climate factor to be taken into account is the potential for anEl Nino Variable bulging the jetstream further northward, causing fallout overwestern Canadaand a larger number of American states. 

Seasonal rainfall over Japandoes not normally begin until mid-April and does not become significant untilearly June. 

If very high radiation releases are detected at some point, a potentialtactic to lessen contamination of North America is for the US, Canadian andRussian air forces to seed clouds over the northwest Pacific to create a lowpressure front and precipitation to minimize particle mass reaching NorthAmerica.
Emergency Special Report III

Ohoku Quake and Tsunami Monitor 2: "The Good News Guys" 

Sunday 13 March 2011 (0800 hrs TokyoTime)

Following a high-level meeting called by the lame-duck prime minister, Japaneseagencies are no longer releasing independent reports without prior approvalfrom the top. The censorship is being carried out following the imposition ofthe Article 15 Emergency Law. Official silencing of bad news is a polite way ofreassuring the public. According to the chief Cabinet Secretary, reactor heatis being lowered and radiation levels are coming down. The Unit 1 reactorcontainer is not cracked despite the explosion that destroyed its building.

The explosion did not erupt out of the reactor.

So what caused the explosion that blasted away the reinforced concrete roof andwalls? Silence. 

Yes, there's nothing to worry about if residents just stay indoors,turn off their air-cons and don't breathe deeply. Everyone, go back to sleep.

The radiation leak at FukushimaNo.1 nuclear plant is now officially designated as a "4" on theinternational nuclear-events scale of 7.  This is the samecriticality rating at an earlier minor accident at Tokaimura plant in Ibaraki. Technically,there is no comparison. Tokaimura did not experience a partial meltdown.

Enough of the Good News

The mayor of Tsuruga City, home of the trouble-plagued Monjuplutonium-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture, isn't buying Tokyo'sweak explanation about the Fukushima1 blast and demanded the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to conduct anall-points investigation immediately.

A specialist medical team from the National Radiology Health Institute,flown by helicopter from Chibato a field center 5 km from the No.1 Nuclear Plant,  found radiationillness in 3 residents out of a sample group of 90. Overnight that number ofcivilian-nuclear "hibakusha" shot up to 19, but in other counts to160. The evacuation zone has been further widened from 10 km to 20 km.

A third reactor, Unit 6, has lost its cooling system and is overheatingalong with Reactors 1 and 2.

Fukushima No.2 plant, further south, is ringed by a wall of silence asa quiet evacuation is being conducted.

Firefighters are pumping seawater into the three overheated Fukushima 1 reactors. Themandatory freshwater supply is missing, presumably due to tsunami contaminationfrom surging ocean waves. An American nuclear expert has called thisdesperation measure  the  equivalent of a "Hail Marypass"..

So, the Prime Minister should be hoping that Japan's tinyChristian community is feverishly praying. Because right now, Japan and much of the world areliving on a prayer. 

Players not prayers

USA: The White House sent in a team to consultwithe US-friendly  Naoto  Kan  government. Instead ofdispatching in experts  from the Department of Energy, Nuclear SafetyAgency and Health Department, President Obamas sent representatives of USAID,which is cover for the CIA.

The presence of these paranoiac bumblers only confirms suspicions of atop-level cover up. Why would the Agency be worried about the disaster? Thereare security considerations, such as regional "enemies" Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow taking advantageof the crisis. To the contrary, Chinaand Russiahave both offered carte blanche civilian aid. 

Second, to coordinate a pro-American public campaign synchronized withthe USrelief effort from the nuclear carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Many Japanese mightactually be alarmed by Navy ships offshore, reminding them of the firebombingcampaign in the big  war, and US helicopters rumbling overhead as if Sendai was Danang Vietnam 1968.

The whole "aid" exercise smacks of a con job aimed at keepingUS military bases in Okinawa and surreptitiously at a Japanese Self-DefenseForce firing range at the foot of Mount Fuji

Third, to ensure the safekeeping of Misawa Air Force Base in quake-hit Iwate Prefecture.Misawa, the hub of USelectronic warfare and high-tech espionage in East Asiawith its fleet of P-3 Orions and an ECHELON eavesdropping antennae.

PRC: In contrast to Washington's ulterior motives, China in  an unprecedentedmove  has sent in an emergency team into Japan. Unbeknownst to the world, China hasworld-leading expertise in extinguishing nuclear meltdowns and blockingradiation leaks at their uranium mines and military nuclear plants. This wasdiscovered on a 2003 visit to a geological research center in the uranium-richAltai mountain region of Xinjiang, where a scientist disclosed "off therecord" China'sdevelopment of mineral blends that block radiation "much more than 90percent, nearly totally". When asked why the institute doesn'tcommercialize their formulas, he responded: "We've never thought aboutthat.
" That's too bad because if one of China's exports was ever needed,it's their radiation blanket.

Russia: Moscow too,is offering unconditional aid, despite ongoing territorial conflict with Japanover four northern islands. The Russian Air Force, from bases in Kamchatka andthe Kuriles, could play a key role in cloud-seeding to prevent radioactive particlesfrom drifting over to the United States. Americans should learn how to act asteam players in an international community, especially now their own children'slives will be at stake in the event of a total meltdown in Fukushima.

Canada: Meteorology is becoming evermoreinteresting, despite the "what me worry" attitudes of theglobal-warming skeptics. A freak of nature called El Nino Variable, if itoccurs later this spring, could push the Pacific jet stream northward, meaningwestern Canada and more U.S. states could find themselves along awinding stream of radiation fallout from Japan

Correction to Monitor 1: In our haste, we blurred over some importantdetails on the use of potassium iodide tablets. These are taken to blockradioactive iodine-131 from affecting the human thyroid gland, thus loweringthe risk of cancer and other disorders.

Yoichi Shimatsu currently with Fourth Media (China) is formereditor of the Japan Times Weekly, has covered the earthquakes in San Franciscoand Kobe, participated in the rescue operation immediately after the IndianOcean tsunami in 2004 and led the field research for an architectural report onstructural design flaws that led to the tsunami death toll in Thailand.

Today’s  News Item

GENEVA (Reuters) - Winds are dispersing radioactive material fromJapan'squake-crippled nuclear power plant over the Pacific Ocean, awayfrom Japan andother Asian countries, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)said on Tuesday.

But the United Nations agency warned that although winds had blownparticles offshore so far, weather conditions could change and it was closelymonitoring satellite and other data.

"At this point, all the meteorological conditions are offshore sothere are no implications for Japanor other countries near Japan,"Maryam Golnaraghi, chief of WMO's disaster risk reduction division,told a briefing in Geneva.

An explosion at Japan's quake-hit nuclear power plant sent out low levelsof radiation, prompting some people to flee the capital Tokyo and others tostock up on essential supplies.

The WMO's assessment was based on models derived from data from threemeteorological agencies in Japan,China and Russia,as well as other information, WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis said.

"So far they have been mainly offshore. That is, the winds havebeen dispersing materials introduced into the atmosphere to the open ocean.However, meteorological systems develop and progress," Golnaraghi told ReutersTelevision.

Winds on Tuesday and Wednesday in the stricken area would mainly blowtoward the northeast and east, but on Wednesday if particles are released inthe lower levels of the atmosphere, "they will be westerly, they will betoward inland (Japan),"she said.

"So what it means is that depending on the concentration of theparticles and depending on which level of the atmosphere they are issued, theycould be taking a very different trajectory," Golnaraghi added.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Anne Richardson; Editing by JanetLawrence)

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