tagged w/ Fuel Rods
The New York Times...
February 27, 2012
Japan Weighed Evacuating Tokyo in Nuclear Crisis
By MARTIN FACKLER
TOKYO — In the darkest moments of last year’s nuclear accident, Japanese leaders did not know the actual extent of damage at the plant and secretly considered the possibility of evacuating Tokyo, even as they tried to play down the risks in public, an independent investigation into the accident disclosed on Monday.
The investigation by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a new private policy organization, offers one of the most vivid accounts yet of how Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A team of 30 university professors, lawyers and journalists spent more than six months on the inquiry into Japan’s response to the triple meltdown at the plant, which followed a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that shut down the plant’s cooling systems.
The team interviewed more than 300 people, including top nuclear regulators and government officials, as well as the prime minister during the crisis, Naoto Kan. They were granted extraordinary access, in part because of a strong public demand for greater accountability and because the organization’s founder, Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor in chief of the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, is one of Japan’s most respected public intellectuals.
An advance copy of the report describes how Japan’s response was hindered at times by a debilitating breakdown in trust between the major actors: Mr. Kan; the Tokyo headquarters of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco; and the manager at the stricken plant. The conflicts produced confused flows of sometimes contradictory information in the early days of the crisis, the report said.
It describes frantic phone calls by the manager, Masao Yoshida, to top officials in the Kan government arguing that he could get the plant under control if he could keep his staff in place, while at the same time ignoring orders from Tepco’s headquarters not to use sea water to cool the overheating reactors. By contrast, Mr. Funabashi said in an interview, Tepco’s president, Masataka Shimizu, was making competing calls to the prime minister’s office saying that the company should evacuate all of its staff, a step that could have been catastrophic.
The 400-page report, due to be released later this week, also describes a darkening mood at the prime minister’s residence as a series of hydrogen explosions rocked the plant on March 14 and 15. It says Mr. Kan and other officials began discussing a worst-case outcome if workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were evacuated. This would have allowed the plant to spiral out of control, releasing even larger amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere that would in turn force the evacuation of other nearby nuclear plants, causing further meltdowns.
The report quotes the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, as having warned that such a “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns could result in the evacuation of Tokyo, 150 miles to the south.
“We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai,” Mr. Edano is quoted as saying, naming two other nuclear plants. “If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself.”
The report also describes the panic within the Kan administration at the prospect of large radiation releases from the more than 10,000 spent fuel rods that were stored in relatively unprotected pools near the damaged reactors. The report says it was not until five days after the earthquake that a Japanese military helicopter was finally able to confirm that the pool deemed at highest risk, near the No. 4 reactor, was still safely filled with water.
“We barely avoided the worst-case scenario, though the public didn’t know it at the time,” Mr. Funabashi, the foundation founder, said.
Mr. Funabashi blamed the Kan administration’s fear of setting off a panic for its decision to understate the true dangers of the accident. He said the Japanese government hid its most alarming assessments not just from its own public but also from allies like the United States. Mr. Funabashi said the investigation revealed “how precarious the U.S.-Japan relationship was” in the early days of the crisis, until the two nations began daily informational meetings at the prime minister’s residence on March 22.
The report seems to confirm the suspicions of nuclear experts in the United States — inside and outside the government — that the Japanese government was not being forthcoming about the full dangers posed by the stricken Fukushima plant. But it also shows that the United States government occasionally overreacted and inflated the risks, such as when American officials mistakenly warned that the spent fuel rods in the pool near unit No. 4 were exposed to the air and vulnerable to melting down and releasing huge amounts of radiation.
Still, Mr. Funabashi said, it was the Japanese government’s failure to warn its people of the dangers and the widespread distrust it bred in the government that spurred him to undertake an independent investigation. Such outside investigations have been rare in Japan, where the public has tended to accept official versions of events.
He said his group’s findings conflicted with those of the government’s own investigation into the accident, which were released in an interim report in December. A big difference involved one of the most crucial moments of the nuclear crisis, when the prime minister, Mr. Kan, marched into Tepco’s headquarters early on the morning of March 15 upon hearing that the company wanted to withdraw its employees from the wrecked nuclear plant.
The government’s investigation sided with Tepco by saying that Mr. Kan, a former social activist who often clashed with Japan’s establishment, had simply misunderstood the company, which wanted to withdraw only a portion of its staff. Mr. Funabashi said his foundation’s investigators had interviewed most of the people involved — except executives at Tepco, which refused to cooperate — and found that the company had in fact said it wanted a total pullout.
He credited Mr. Kan with making the right decision in forcing Tepco not to abandon the plant.
“Prime Minister Kan had his minuses and he had his lapses,” Mr. Funabashi said, “but his decision to storm into Tepco and demand that it not give up saved Japan.”
Issei Kato/Reuters, via Bloomberg
Journalists, in protective gear, were taken on a tour last week of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, at the center of the crisis last yea
.The New York Times...
February 27, 2012
Japan Weighed Evacuating Tokyo... more
New nuclear reactors set to be OK'd for Georgia
By Steve Hargreaves @CNNMoney
February 8, 2012: 3:33 PM ET
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is set to approve the construction of two new reactors at Georgia's Vogtle plant, seen here. It would be the first new construction license for a reactor granted in over 30 years.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) --
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to approve licenses to build two new nuclear reactors on Thursday, the first approvals in over 30 years.
The reactors are being built in Georgia by a consortium of utilities led by Southern Co. (SO, Fortune 500) They will be sited at the Vogtle nuclear power plant complex, about 170 miles east of Atlanta. The plant already houses two older reactors.
Spokespeople for Southern Co. and the NRC were quiet on the matter Wednesday ahead of the vote set for Thursday at 1 PM ET. If approved, NRC staff would likely issue a construction and operating license within the next few days.
Although new nuclear reactors have been built in this country within the last couple of decades -- the last one started operation in 1996 -- the NRC hasn't issued a license to build a new reactor since 1978, a year before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. The reactors that have opened in the last decades were approved before 1978.
The combination of the Three Mile Island incident and the high costs of nuclear power turned many utilities away from the technology.
There are currently 104 operating nuclear reactors at 64 plants across the country that provide the nation with roughly 20% of its power. Half are over 30 years old.
The utilities building the new Vogtle reactors submitted their application seven years ago. Prep-work at the site has been under way for some time, but the actual reactors can't be built until NRC issues the final license.
How close is your home to a nuclear plant?
The new reactors are a Westinghouse design called the AP 1000. Together they are expected to cost $14 billion and provide 2200 megawatts of power, according to a spokesman for Southern Co. That's enough to power 1 million homes.
The plants are being built with the help of a conditional $8.3 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The loan guarantee is part of DOE's broader loan program that has been criticized for backing companies like Solyndra, the bankrupt maker of solar panels.
The Southern spokesman said the loan guarantee, combined with other regulatory measures, enable the project to receive cheaper financing that will ultimately save ratepayers $1 billion.
The first reactor is expected to come online in 2016 and the second one in 2017, according to Southern Co.
The AP 1000 is the newest NRC-approved nuclear reactor. This would be the first one built in the United States, although four are already under construction in China, said Scott Shaw, a Westinghouse spokesman.
Critics have said the containment walls of the AP 1000 aren't strong enough to withstand a terrorist attack, but Shaw says they were redesigned after September 11, 2001 and have held up during simulations.
He also said the design's passive cooling system makes it much safer than older designs. The AP 1000 uses gravity and condensation -- not electricity -- to cool the fuel rods.
It was the loss of electric power that led to the meltdown of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi reactors following the tsunami in 2011.
Still, a coalition of nine mostly regional environmental groups say the current design is not safe. They are asking the NRC to delay its decision Thursday until they can file a challenge in federal court.
First Published: February 8, 2012: 2:20 PM ET
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is set to approve the construction of two new reactors at Georgia's Vogtle plant, seen here. It would be the first new construction license for a reactor granted in over 30 years.
CLICK ON LINK TO ARTICLE TO VIEW VIDEO
New nuclear reactors set to be OK'd for Georgia
By Steve... more
Radiation, at minimum in the form of tritium, and more likely other particles and radionuclides, are leaking into the Missouri River from the Fort Calhoun nuclear generation plant in Nebraska.
I do not have proof. What I do have is the knowledge that every reactor is susceptible to small leaks at any time. Typically they are undiscovered and thus unreported – they are a few drops here and a few drops there from an improper weld or a stressed fitting – maybe the last one of the day before pau-hana time. And he intended to check it later, but never did. New baby, vacation, other things to think about. So thirty years later there are a couple gallons of it sitting under a pipe somewhere, not visible from the inspection point – and hey, this is all sealed up anyway….except for that pesky water leak the NRC is upset about…but a little water can’t hurt….
Until the plant gets submerged — or nearly so by a fast-running river which doesn’t cover the top (yet) but sure washes out all the leaky lines and the incomplete repair jobs which we didn’t care much about at the time because the river would never go that high.
So we are all standing on top of the buildings watching water pour in one side and out the other. Sandbags are sandbags. One million gallons of water a second washes sandbags away and all the cute little plastic pipes full of water – supported by sandbags and chain and not designed to hold 8 million pounds of water a second. Tomorrow it might be 150 million gallons of water a minute. If the dams hold. But we all know they aren’t going to — they are are right at the top of the US DAM potential failure list. The ‘domino’ dams.
contRadiation, at minimum in the form of tritium, and more likely other particles and... more
Radiation fears at new Japan nuclear plant
Tokyo - Local authorities said they suspected radiation leaks at a nuclear plant in central Japan, news reports said on Monday, after another plant in the north-east has been struggling with quake and tsunami damage for several weeks.
Officials in Fukui Prefecture reported radiation leaks from fuel rods at the Tsuruga plant, Jiji Press reported.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan. Since then plant has leaked radioactive substances into the air and sea.
- SAPARadiation fears at new Japan nuclear plant
Tokyo - Local... more
Nuclear threat level raised
Crisis rates in most severe category
Japan nuclear agency raises threat level
By Matt Smith, CNN
April 11, 2011 11:11 p.m. EDT
Click on picture to play Video
Anatomy of a ghost town
NEW: The agency raises the level from 5 to 7
7 is the highest possible level and is on par with Chernobyl
Japan's government has called for further evacuations
Cities covered by Monday's orders should evacuate in about a month, Edano says
Tokyo (CNN) -- Japanese authorities Tuesday "provisionally" declared the country's nuclear accident a level-7 event on the international scale for nuclear disasters -- the highest level -- putting it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency announced the new level Tuesday morning. It had previously been at 5.
Regulators have determined the amount of radioactive iodine released by the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was at least 15 times the volume needed to reach the top of the International Nuclear Event Scale, the agency said. That figure is still about 10 percent of the amount released at Chernobyl, they said.
The amount of radioactive Cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, is about one-seventh the amount released at Chernobyl, according to the agency.
Japan's nuclear concerns explained
Hidehiko Nishiyama, the safety agency's chief spokesman, explained the final level won't be set until the disaster is over and a more detailed investigation has been conducted.
Tetsunari Iida, a former nuclear engineer-turned-industry critic, told CNN the declaration has no immediate practical impact on the crisis. It is a sign, however, that Japanese regulators have rethought their earlier assessments of the disaster, said Iida, who now runs an alternative energy think-tank in Tokyo.
According to the scale, a level 5 equates to the likelihood of a release of radioactive material, several deaths from radiation and severe damage to a reactor core.
The 1979 incident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island was a 5. The partial meltdown of a reactor core there was deemed the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history.
The Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union rated a 7 on the scale, which equates to a "major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures."
Japan's government called for evacuations Monday from several towns beyond the danger zone already declared around Fukushima Daiichi, warning that residents could receive high doses of radiation over the coming months.
Japan to evacuate more towns
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the municipalities are likely to see long-term radiation levels that exceed international safety standards, and he warned that the month-old crisis at Fukushima Daiichi is not yet over.
"Things are relatively more stable, and things are stabilizing," he said. "However, we need to be ready for the possibility that things may turn for the worse."
And about an hour after he spoke, a fresh earthquake rattled the country, forcing workers to evacuate the plant and knocking out power to the three damaged reactors for about 40 minutes, the plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, reported. The magnitude 6.6 tremor came a month to the day after the magnitude 9 quake and tsunami that knocked out the plant's cooling systems, and followed a magnitude 7.1 aftershock Thursday night.
Neither the 6.6 quake nor any of the smaller ones that rippled across the region in its wake inflicted any more damage to the plant, Tokyo Electric officials told reporters.
At least six killed in latest Japan quake
Tuesday morning, a fire broke out in a battery storage building in a water discharge area of reactors 1-4 at Fukushima Daiichi, Tokyo Electric said. The fire was out a few hours later and the company said it caused no radiation emissions and no effect on cooling systems.
Japan's government said it did not know how many people would be displaced by the new evacuation orders. Evacuation orders have so far covered about 85,000 people inside the 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) zone, while another 62,000 within 30 kilometers have been told to stay inside, Fukushima prefecture officials told CNN.
The decision announced Monday does not create a wider radius around the plant, said Masanori Shinano, an official with Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission.
Instead, "if there are areas in the northwestern parts where there is a risk of exceeding 20 millisieverts as a cumulative dose over a one-year period, the area will be designated an evacuation area even if it is beyond the 30-kilometer area," Shinano told reporters Monday night.
That dose is a tiny fraction of what would cause immediate radiation sickness, but it's more than seven times the amount a typical resident of a western industrialized country receives from background sources in a year. Long-term exposures to those levels of radiation could increase the risk of cancer -- and the presence of cesium isotopes that have half-lives of up to 30 years means that radioactivity could linger for some time.
Nuclear threat level raised
Crisis rates in most severe... more
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Overcoming the nuclear crisis
The crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant does not warrant optimism. Nuclear fuel in the cores of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors is believed to have been severely damaged. In the No. 4 reactor's storage, where spent nuclear fuel is kept, water evaporated at one point, and a hydrogen explosion released radioactive substances into the environment
The government should pay close attention to proposals made by 16 Japanese experts on nuclear power engineering, nuclear physics and radiology on April 1. It should mobilize all available means to mitigate the crisis.
Tepco is cooling the reactors by pumping water into them by using pumps connected with external power sources. But it cannot stop highly radioactive water from flowing out of the reactors. The more water it pumps into the reactors, the more contaminated water flows outside. Apparently, components for containing radioactive water have been damaged. The No. 2 reactor's suppression pool is feared to have cracked.
On land, the accumulated radiation level during 11 days from March 23 has reached 10.34 millisieverts in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, just outside the 30-km radius of Fukushima No. 1. Residents inside the zone should evacuate or stay indoors. If the accumulated level over several days reaches a range of 10 to 50 millisieverts, the government calls on residents to stay inside their homes to avoid radiation.
The situation at Fukushima No. 1 is "extremely serious" and demands Japan's all-out efforts, the 16 experts said in their April 1 statement. Three of the 16 — Mr. Shiori Ishino, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, Mr. Shunichi Tanaka, former acting chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Mr. Shojiro Matsuura, former chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission — explained the statement at the education and science ministry.
Since those who signed the statement include former members of the AEC, a body that sets the nation's basic policy for development and use of nuclear power, the NSC, a body that sets the nation's basic nuclear safety policy, and scientists belonging to the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, the government and Tepco should share their sense of crisis and humbly follow their proposals.
The 16 "as people who have pushed peaceful use of nuclear power" expressed their regret over the nuclear crisis and apologized to people. But they did not hide their fear that a critical situation may develop at Fukushima No. 1. They do not rule out the possibility that as time goes on, a molten core melts a weak part of a pressure vessel and enters a containment vessel, destroying the reactor's function to contain radioactive substances, or that hydrogen gas forming inside a pressure vessel explodes and destroys a containment vessel, causing serious radioactive contamination over a large expanse of land and sea. They warn that release of a large amount of radioactive substances could make uninhabitable not only the current evacuation zone but also larger areas.
Mr. Tanaka and others said that the current makeshift efforts to cool the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors will not be able to completely cool down molten nuclear fuel so as it will not burst through the bottom of pressure vessels. They also said the three reactors contain a much larger amount of radioactive substances than the Chernobyl nuclear plant did.
The points made by the statement include: (1) utmost efforts must be made to both prevent the release of a large amount of radioactive substances and to reactivate the residual heat removal system which internally circulates water to cool reactors and spent fuel storages, (2) spent nuclear fuel must be completely immersed in water, (3) detailed measurement of radioactivity both in the air and the soil in various areas and assessment of their effects must be announced so that area-specific measures can be taken and (4) residents should be fully informed before and after radioactive substances are vented from reactors.
It adds that since hydrogen is forming all the time in the reactors, hydrogen explosions must be prevented at any cost.
The statement also calls for (1)increasing personnel at Fukushima No. 1 to lower their exposure to radiation and to enable them to take enough rest and (2) setting up the headquarters for the crisis containing operations inside or near the plant site (so that headquarters personnel share the burden of radiation exposure and pain with on-site workers.)
The 16 experts say it is essential to set up a system in which the NSC will take the lead in strategically and flexibly utilizing the knowledge and experience of Japan's nuclear authorities — including the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences — the power and related industries and universities to end the nuclear crisis. Prime Minister Naoto Kan must exercise strong leadership in setting up this system as soon as possible.http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20110407a1.html
Thursday, April 7, 2011... more
Jimmy Carter's exposure to nuclear danger
By Arthur Milnes, Special to CNN
April 5, 2011 6:50 p.m. EDT
Former President Carter attends a dedication ceremony for a nuclear submarine bearing his name April 27, 1998.
President Jimmy Carter was trained to work in the Navy's atomic energy program
Arthur Milnes says he was lowered into damaged nuclear reactor in Ontario in 1952
He says Carter's experience was similar to that of workers at Fukushima plant in Japan
Carter was exposed to high levels of radiation, Milnes says
Editor's note: Arthur Milnes, an award-winning Canadian journalist, is the Inaugural Fellow in Political History at Queen's University Archives in Kingston, Canada and the editor of "Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: A Canadian Tribute" (2011 McGill-Queen's University Press and the Queen's School of Policy Studies ). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kingston, Ontario, Canada (CNN) -- Though Georgia is a continent and an ocean away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, we can be confident that an 86-year-old man in that state knows full well the fears the Japanese cleanup crews are experiencing.
The Georgian's name? James Earl Carter, the 39th president of the United States. Almost 60 years ago, and then a young U.S. Naval officer working at the dawn of the nuclear age with the U.S. atomic submarine program, Carter was physically lowered into a damaged nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, and exposed to levels of radiation unthinkable today after an accident.
"We were fairly well instructed then on what nuclear power was, but for about six months after that I had radioactivity in my urine," President Carter, now 86, told me during an interview for my new book in Plains in 2008. "They let us get probably a thousand times more radiation than they would now. It was in the early stages and they didn't know."
Despite the fears he had to overcome, Carter admits he was animated at the opportunity to put his top-secret training to use in the cleanup of the reactor, located along the Ottawa River northwest of Ottawa.
"It was a very exciting time for me when the Chalk River plant melted down," he continued in the same interview. "I was one of the few people in the world who had clearance to go into a nuclear power plant," he said.
"There were 23 of us and I was in charge. I took my crew up there on the train."
On December 12, 1952, the NRX research reactor at Chalk River Laboratories suffered a partial meltdown. There was a power surge and as a result some fuel rods melted after rupturing. Millions of liters of radioactive water ended up in the reactor building's basement. The crucial reactor's core was left unusable. It was later rebuilt and worked for decades before its retirement in the early 1990s.
At the time, Carter was based in Schenectady, New York, and working closely with Adm. Hyman Rickover on the nuclear propulsion system for the Sea Wolf submarine. He was quickly ordered to Chalk River, joining other Canadian and American service personnel.
When he was running for president in 1975-76, Carter briefly described this experience in his book, "Why Not the Best?"
"It was the early 1950s ... I had only seconds that I could be in the reactor myself. We all went out on the tennis court, and they had an exact duplicate of the reactor on the tennis court. We would run out there with our wrenches and we'd check off so many bolts and nuts and they'd put them back on. ...
And finally when we went down into the reactor itself, which was extremely radioactive, then we would dash in there as quickly as we could and take off as many bolts as we could, the same bolts we had just been practicing on. Each time our men managed to remove a bolt or fitting from the core, the equivalent piece was removed on the mock-up."
Atomic Energy of Canada, a Crown corporation owned by the federal government in Ottawa, still operates nuclear facilities at Chalk River today but the aging systems have caused political controversy in Canada in recent years.
Carter biographer Peter Bourne, a close friend and adviser to Carter, believes the Chalk River experience had a lasting impact on the president, influencing him when he had to confront nuclear issues while leading the western alliance.
"My sense is that up until that point in his career, (Carter) had approached nuclear energy and nuclear physics in a very scientific and dispassionate way," he told me in a separate interview.
"The Chalk River experience made him realize the awesome and potentially very destructive power he was dealing with. It gave him a true respect for both the benefits but also the devastatingly destructive effect nuclear energy could have. I believe this emotional recognition of the true nature of the power mankind had unleashed informed his decisions as president, not just in terms of having his finger on the nuclear button, but in his decision not to pursue the development of the neutron bomb as a weapon."
In his 1995 foreign policy memoir (co-authored by Ivan Head), "The Canadian Way," the late Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau -- in office from 1968 to 1979 and 1980-1984 -- made it clear that fellow world leaders had great respect for Carter on nuclear and non-proliferation issues due to his pre-White House work in the nuclear field.
In his inaugural address, Carter said he would work towards the goal of ridding the Earth of nuclear weapons, and it is a quest he continues today as a former president.
While in the White House, Carter signed the SALT II nuclear arms limitation agreement with the Soviet Union. According to his memoir, "Keeping Faith," he also asked that Vice President Walter Mondale receive full briefings on his possible role in a nuclear exchange and was shocked to learn that no previous second-in-command had been so informed. "It was obvious to me that ... the president might be incapacitated and (the vice president) had to be fully qualified to assume his duties."
As the Japanese workers struggle in their dangerous work, there's no doubt Jimmy Carter's thoughts and prayers have been directed their way. Unlike most of us, he truly understands their fears.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Arthur Milnes.CNN...
Jimmy Carter's exposure to nuclear danger
By Arthur Milnes, Special... more
CNN... Submitted by EthicalVegan with no additional comments or opinions
Japan officials: No place to put tainted water from nuclear plant
By the CNN Wire Staff
March 28, 2011 1:53 a.m. EDT
This picture by TEPCO Saturday shows the control room of the second reactor of Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Authorities want to remove radioactive water from the No. 2 unit's turbine basement
There's no place to put the tainted water, an official says
A Japanese official blasts Tokyo Electric for its erroneously high radiation reading
The temperature is rising in the No. 1 reactor, another official says
Tokyo (CNN) -- Japanese officials on Monday worked to determine what to do with highly radioactive water collected at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant as they tackled other problems, including rising temperatures in one of the nuclear reactors.
As of Monday morning, there was no place to put water pooled in the basement of the No. 2 reactor's turbine building, said
Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency.
The water has sparked confusion in recent days after the release of alarming -- and ultimately incorrect -- levels of radiation.
That water is giving off radioactivity at a level of 1,000 millisieverts per hour, said an official with the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
This equates to more than 330 times the dose an average person in a developed country receives per year, and four times the top dose Japan's health ministry has set for emergency workers struggling to prevent a meltdown at the damaged plant.
But Tokyo Electric said that figure is a mere 100,000 times normal levels for reactor coolant, not the 10 million times normal reported Sunday.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Monday that the plant's owner cited fatigue among its workers as a reason for the error.
"However, measurement of radioactivity is vital for the safety of the workers there," Edano told reporters. "So such a mistake is not something that should be forgiven or acceptable."
Nishiyama said the plan is to pump tainted water out of the No. 2 turbine building's basement using what he called a condenser. But that apparatus is "almost full," as are several storage tanks nearby.
"So we will first have to empty some of the tanks," he said, without giving a timetable as to when this might occur. "Once that process is over, the puddle would be removed."
While high levels of radiation of water in the Nos. 2 and 3 turbine buildings -- and to a lesser extent in the No. 1 unit -- have been the chief focus of late, they aren't the only problems at the facility, which is 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo.
Most of the concerns have centered around the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 units, which were the only ones operating -- and with active fuel rods in their reactor cores -- on March 11. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami knocked out backup generators that ran their coolant systems and damaged water pumps at the plant, forcing workers to scramble to prevent a meltdown.
Despite reduced alarms in recent days, Nishiyama noted Monday that the temperature is rising inside the No. 1 reactor.
To address this issue, the flow of fresh water into the reactor core will be further adjusted, the nuclear safety official said.
That water is being directed via a fire truck and temporary electricity-driven pump with a more permanent power generator likely in place by Tuesday.
Authorities plan to also get distinct power sources for the cooling systems for units Nos. 2 and 3. Fresh water is being pumped into those two reactor cores using a fire truck and temporary electricity-powered pumps.
Between Monday and Tuesday, authorities hope to switch from using seawater to fresh water in these three unit's spent nuclear fuel pools, where some fuel rods are also located.
Besides covering and keeping nuclear fuel cool, the fresh water will help flush out salt so the cooling systems can operate better.
The spike in heat at the No. 1 unit could be a sign that nuclear fuel rods are overheating.
If those fuel rods are fully or partially exposed, that could lead to a buildup of pressure that could cause an explosion or the release of more radiation into the air, soil or water.
That's what experts fear has happened at the No. 2 reactor, after high levels of radioactive materials that are biproducts of the nuclear fission process were found in its turbine building's basement.
"The radioactive material that is found in that water is either from the reactor itself or the spent fuel pool," Nishiyama said. "At the moment, we consider that the possibilities are higher that the water is from reactor."
High radiation levels persisted in the Pacific Ocean waters near the seaside power plant, with one monitoring post reporting levels 1,850 times normal on Sunday.
However, Nishiyama said Sunday that it was "not possible" that radioactive water was leaking into the ocean from the plant.
He suggested runoff from the area around the damaged plant might have carried radioactive particles into the ocean, but said no definite source had been identified.
CNN's Whitney Hurst contributed to this report.CNN... Submitted by EthicalVegan with no additional comments or opinions
Smoke spews from 2 reactors at stricken Japanese nuclear plant
By the CNN Wire Staff
March 21, 2011 11:07 p.m. EDT
Spraying the reactor with concrete recalls measures taken to contain the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986.
Tokyo (CNN) -- What appeared to be smoke was rising Tuesday from two adjacent reactors in the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a nuclear safety official said.
Smoke spewed Monday from the same reactors, setbacks that came despite fervent efforts to prevent the further release of radioactive materials at the stricken facility.
Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said smoke was rising from the plant's No. 2 and No. 3 reactors. It was not immediately clear why.
On Monday, after 6 p.m., white smoke was seen emanating from the facility's No. 2 reactor, according to Nishiyama. About two hours earlier, workers were evacuated from the area around the No. 3 reactor after gray smoke began to rise from the wreckage of its steel-and-concrete housing, which was blown apart by a hydrogen explosion last week.
The No. 3 reactor has been the top priority for authorities trying to contain damage to the plant and stave off a possible meltdown. Its fuel includes a small percentage of plutonium mixed with the uranium in its fuel rods, which experts say could cause more harm than regular uranium fuels in the event of a meltdown.
Nishiyama said there was no evident explosion, spike in radiation or injuries at the No. 3 reactor Monday. The smoke was coming from the building's southeastern side, where the reactor's spent nuclear fuel pool is located, but the origin of the smoke at either reactor was unknown.
The coolant pools contain spent fuel rods that still generate high amounts of heat. Authorities have been working to keep them full to prevent the rods from being exposed. The nuclear agency estimated that, between roughly 9 p.m. Sunday to 4 a.m. Monday, 1,170 tons of water were sprayed on the reactor and its fuel pool.
In Geneva, Switzerland, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that while signs of improvement at the site are evident, the plant "has been seriously damaged by flood water and is littered with debris."
"The crisis has still not been resolved, and the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious," Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, told its board of governors Monday after a visit to the site.
"Buildings have been damaged by explosions," he said. "There has, for the most part, been no electric power. Radiation levels are elevated. It is no exaggeration to describe the work of the emergency teams as heroic."
On the other hand, Amano told reporters, rising pressure inside the containment unit at reactor No. 3, a concern from the weekend, was down and power had been restored to some of the reactors.
The plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, has been working to restore electricity to the damaged plant after it was hit by the massive earthquake and tsunami the struck northern Japan on March 11. The electric company told CNN on Monday that electrical cables had been laid to connect the No. 3 reactor and the neighboring No. 4 reactor with an outside power source.
That meant that power could now be funneled to all six of the plant's reactors for its cooling systems. But electricity was still not moving to units No. 1 through No. 4 because the quake and tsunami had damaged numerous pumps and other gear.
A Tokyo Electric official said spare parts were being brought in so that everything could work again.
The disaster has killed more than 8,900 people and left close to 13,000 missing, many of them killed as a wall of water rushed in following the quake. Ever since, authorities have been working to avert further crisis -- and prevent more deaths -- at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo.
Those efforts include the possibility of encasing one or more of the reactors in concrete, a last-ditch effort similar to what was done after the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the former Soviet Union -- considered the worst nuclear disaster at a plant.
Japan's nuclear agency said Monday that it expected to conduct tests on what it called a "concrete pump engine," which the agency initially said would pump a mix of mortar and water into the No. 4 reactor's spent nuclear fuel pool and containment vessel, the agency said.
But Tokyo Electric said later that the device would be used only to pour water, not the mortar mixture.
In just over two hours on Monday morning alone, 13 fire engines sprayed about 90 tons of water toward that reactor in an attempt to cool it down.
CONTINUED...Smoke spews from 2 reactors at stricken Japanese nuclear plant
PART ONE...... more