Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another day at Fukushima

I think this story is actually going to grow, now. It's showed up at the BBC, and the AP has picked it up, though with a very brief commentary.

Blessings on NHK -they speak the truth, unvarnished; however briefly. Here's today's installment, and I'm going to insert my "translations"; from "Official Obfuscatory" to "Real-Speak". Remember, the direct link to the article won't work in a day or so.

Tokyo Electric Power Company has detected extremely high levels of radiation inside one of the crippled reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

TEPCO was able to place monitoring equipment directly inside the reactor for the first time since last year's accident.

A dosimeter lowered into the containment vessel of the No.2 reactor registered 72.9 sieverts, or 72,900 millisieverts per hour at maximum -- a level where a human is certain to die within about 7 minutes of exposure.

(Real-Speak: wow! nice! The radiation is so intense you will literally cook to death in 7 minutes; not thermally, but from pure gamma and beta radiation damage.)

The utility hopes to determine the state of the vessels as it moves to decommission the reactors.

(Real-Speak: Stay tuned for further very, very, slow publication of what we knew last year.)

It says radiation levels increased as the dosimeter was lowered inside the reactor. This suggests the nuclear fuel melted down and collected at the bottom of the vessel.

(Real-Speak: we knew the fuel was melted and in the bottom of the vessel about 4 days after the tsunami. Really.)

The utility also learned the water level inside the vessel was only 60 centimeters, compared to the original estimate of about 3 meters.

(Real-Speak: Ok, the company didn't KNOW that until now; but they suspected it, with a probability well over 70%)

TEPCO suspects the suppression chamber at the bottom of the vessel may have been destroyed.

(Real-Speak: TEPCO KNEW it had been destroyed in the first month after the tsunami.)

The findings are a setback for plans to scrap the reactor. The utility has to pinpoint and repair damaged parts inside the vessel and fill it with water before extracting the fuel.

(Real-Speak: The idea of "fill it with water" has been a pure fiction for public consumption from the outset- no matter how much water they pour in; it's been leaking out as fast as water goes through a gallon glass jug with the bottom completely cracked off, the whole time; and they know it.)

TEPCO says the development of devices that can withstand the extremely high levels of radiation is a pressing matter.

(Real-Speak: this reactor had the lowest level of radiation of the 3 (4) ; TEPCO knows the others are WORSE. Yeah, it's so bad that the toughest instruments we can find, or think up, are destroyed by the intense reactor-core radiation in just a few minutes. )

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:13 +0900 (JST)


And in other radioactive news today, from NHK:

Fishing ban due to radioactive contamination

Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear accident is forcing fishermen in a neighboring prefecture to suspend catches of one of their fish.

Catches of Japanese sea bass are the first marine products of Miyagi Prefecture, north of Fukushima, to be suspended due to the nuclear accident.

Up to 360 becquerels of radioactive cesium were detected in sea bass hauls over the past 2 months off the coast of Miyagi.

Radioactive cesium levels in fish exceeded the stricter restrictions that will begin next month. This will be 100 becquerels per kilogram.

Miyagi Prefecture and fisheries cooperatives are considering asking fishers in the prefecture to voluntarily refrain from catching the fish.

2 other types of fish from the Miyagi coast have also exceeded the 100 becquerel level.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 07:39 +0900 (JST)

Bamboo shoot contamination detected

More radioactive contamination has been found in farm products for human consumption about 200 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Authorities in a northern city of Chiba prefecture on Tuesday sampled bamboo shoots grown for food. They found contamination of up to 250 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. 180 becquerels of cesium was found in the bamboo shoots harvested in another northern city in the prefecture. Both locations are some 200 kilometers from the crippled nuclear plant.

The contamination levels are up to two-and-a-half times the government's new limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram, which goes into effect next month.

Prefectural officials also say 130 becquerels of cesium per kilogram was detected last week in a bamboo shoot in a third city.

The prefecture is asking farmers to refrain from shipping their bamboo shoots to customers.

The officials suspect radioactive cesium carried from Fukushima landed upon the leaves of the parent bamboo and was absorbed by the roots.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 08:30 +0900 (JST)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oops. 60 cm; instead of 3 meters of water in the reactor-

Just a little shocker to take your mind off health care.. from NHK, and I'll bet you don't hear about this one again...

TEPCO: Just 60cm of water in Fukushima reactor

Tokyo Electric Power Company says it has found that the cooling water in one of the damaged reactors at Fukushima is only 60 centimeters deep, far lower than previously thought.

The utility confirmed the water level by inserting an endoscope into the No.2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Monday.

TEPCO had thought that the water level was about 3 meters. It has been injecting nearly 9 tons of water per hour into the reactor to cool the melted fuel that has fallen to the bottom of the containment vessel.

But the shallow level indicates that the water continues to leak into the reactor building through the suppression chambers under the vessel.

The utility argues that the fuel is still being cooled, as the water temperature remains at around 48 degrees Celsius.

But the low level suggests that decommissioning the reactor could be much more difficult. The operator may need to repair more parts of the containment vessel so it can be filled with water to block the strong radiation.

The No. 2 reactor's containment vessel is believed to have been damaged on March 15th with the sudden loss of pressure inside the reactor.

Monday's survey was the second look inside the No.2 reactor since January. During the first survey, an endoscope was unable to confirm the water level in the containment vessel. This time, TEPCO used a scope that is 10 meters longer.
Monday, March 26, 2012 21:40 +0900 (JST)

UPDATE, 3/27-

The AP did pick up the story- which is repeated in several places, among them the Washington Post. It has, as expected, disappeared from the NHK news feed.

You have to pick out the bits of information on what is actually going on- basically, instead of 10 meters of water in the containment vessel, supposed to be cooling it; there are 60 cm- and all this time, TEPCO has been pouring cooling water into it- and the water has just been leaking right out the bottom (carrying radioactive stuff with it, of course) - and going- nobody knows where.

They didn't know. They hadn't looked. Yes, this is still going on, right now- the cracked reactors continue to leak. Into the ocean, of course. They did admit today that "80 liters" of strontium contaminated water had reached the sea:

Tokyo Electric Power Company says about 80 liters of water contaminated with radioactive strontium has leaked into the sea off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Workers found the leak in tanks at the plant site around 8:30 AM on Monday. The facilities store water after radioactive materials are removed.

The leakage stopped 20 minutes later when the workers turned the pumps off.

But the firm estimates that 120 tons of water has seeped out through pipe connections, and 80 liters reached the ocean via a sewer system located below the pipes.

TEPCO said it detected highly radioactive substances in the sea water around the overflow, emitting 0.25 becquerels per cubic centimeters of beta particles.

It said a safety barrier is still under construction and was unable to stop the spill.

The utility had a similar incident at the plant last December. After that, the government had declared a cold shutdown but since then, water has leaked many times.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 01:19 +0900 (JST)

So, that's all right, then.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

OMG. Actual good news.

One of the barriers to my writing more is the deep, deep, "good news" deficit the world has been running. I see limited value in just passing on depression; so tend to take the Thumper Option. I think we hit Peak Good News back in the 1950's.

But- here today- and in the New York Times, forsooth- is a chunk of what I have to consider seriously good news.

A company is entering the real world with a potentially world-changing technology- the first application of which is in solar power; a way to peel silicon wafers, 20 microns thick, off the stock material, rather than sawing far thicker wafers.

Take my word for it; that's HUGE. The cost per watt for photovoltaics is already under the supposed magic point of $1/watt, for large installations. Which is why Solyndra went broke. My guess- when this is fully mature, this process could put it under 10¢/watt; and in just a few years.

Genuinely mind-boggling. Kiss your nukes goodbye.

And it shifts the entire solar energy world. The barrier is just not cost of the cells, any more; it's the cost of the land to put them on; costs of installation and maintenance.

There is, you'll be glad to know, plenty of bad news there. While the inventor of this new process can rightly expect to make mind-blowing profits- the profits associated with a 30 year contract to keep a square mile of solar panels clean and connected- are not going to interest Big Capital. It's just not sexy enough. And; there will increasingly be security problems- like the moron who decided to shoot out a wind generator near here yesterday.

But, hey; there's a new career track opening up. Night watchman/woman at a solar power generator. That'll impress them at the singles bar. :-)

A bit more seriously- I do see this as a big technological leap forward. But, my inner Eeyore does grumpily demand acknowledgement of this particular bad aspect: it will encourage the "technophiles", who insist that progress in technology will, of course, solve all human and environmental problems.

Oh, that's a really, really, bad bet; and one not actually supported by history. While this means a lot in regard to clean energy, one of the most likely outcomes will ultimately be- more babies. And we know where that goes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

More News From Bree

That's a Tolkien quote; a phrase used to indicate news from far away, which is therefore highly doubtful, if not laughable.

We're struggling with climate change here, right at the moment; the calendar says March 13; but the weather seems to have settled on about April 25th. Or maybe May 10; hard to say exactly.

On a farm of any kind; you have to jump when spring hits; and it's here far too early, which causes dislocations in other work loads. Exhaustion is a side effect of climate change which is rarely addressed.

All of which is by way of making excuses for my lack of good activity here. Sorry. Working on it.

Meanwhile; I'm going to put up another couple of in toto quotes from Japanese public televsion news; if you'll check the last post, indeed the links to the original stories no longer work. So you have to grab this stuff while you can.

Three stories which will NOT hit MSM repeats here inside The Shire; one stemming from the anniversary of the quake/tsunami/melt-throughs:
Human chain surrounds Diet in anti-nuclear rally

Thousands of people have formed a human chain around Japan's Diet to call for scrapping nuclear power plants in the country.

The protesters held the rally in central Tokyo on Sunday, the first anniversary of the powerful earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

They observed a minute of silence at 2:46 PM, the time the quake struck. The demonstrators then marched to the Diet building and formed the human chain.

A 71-year-old man from Tokyo said he used electricity generated at the Fukushima plant while people from the prefecture shouldered the burden. He said nuclear plants must be shut down and everyone in Japan should think about energy issues.

A woman who brought her child to the rally said it's unthinkable to keep nuclear plants that could cause accidents and force people to leave their homes because of radioactive contamination.

A university student said daily life would become inconvenient if nuclear plants were shut down, but this is the time to switch to other energy sources to ensure safety 30 years from now.
Sunday, March 11, 2012 23:09 +0900 (JST)

Such a demonstration would have been impossible/unthinkable- before Fukushima. But the attitudes being reported from the common people in Japan are now radically different.

And; NHK goes to lengths to report on anti-nuclear activity elsewhere on the globe; which we do not hear about from our regular news sources. 30,000 people protesting in France, against nukes? Nah, that's not news.
Protestors say "No" to nuclear power plants

Around 30,000 protestors came together in France on Sunday to form a human chain to call for an end to nuclear energy.

One year after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, people linked arms for some 230 kilometers along a major road in southeastern France, where many nuclear facilities are located.

Demonstrators from France, Germany and Switzerland also rallied at 10 sites as part of the anti-nuclear power protest set up by an NGO.

In the town of Cruas, which has power plant facilities, many protestors, including children and old people, formed a human chain and chanted "No to nuclear power."

One participant said that even though Japan is known for its advanced technology, it still experienced a nuclear catastrophe. He said that means it will be even more difficult for France to avoid such risks.

Almost 80 percent of France's electricity is generated by nuclear power. The country has 58 reactors, the second-largest number in the world after the United States. In the wake of the nuclear accident in Japan, the French anti-nuclear movement has gained momentum.

Anti-nuclear rallies were also held across the United States on Sunday.

In New York, about 200 people, including some Japanese, marched through the city center, calling for a society without nuclear energy.

The protestors gathered in a square in Manhattan to hear speakers call on the world to learn from Fukushima to build a society without nuclear power stations.
Monday, March 12, 2012 11:05 +0900 (JST)

And another story about the memory of war, from the losing side. Japan often teaches its high school students essentially nothing about WWII; where Germany teaches basically everything; from Hitler to the Holocaust.
67th anniversary of US air raids on Tokyo

Tokyo is observing the 67th anniversary of massive US air raids during World War Two.

About 100,000 people living mainly in eastern residential areas of Tokyo are estimated to have been killed in the predawn raids and fire after the attack on March 10, 1945.

A memorial service was held on Saturday at the site in Sumida ward that contains the unidentified ashes of 105,000 people.

More than 350 people, including family members of the dead, mourned the victims.

A 71-year-old man, remembering the area burned flat that day, said he wants to tell his late father and brothers that he is now living in peace and in good health thanks to them.

An 80-year-old woman said she could not forget watching her mother die while trying to flee the devastation along with family members. She added that she wants to describe the disaster to her grandchildren as part of the horror of war.

The metropolitan government is still identifying the dead of that time.
Saturday, March 10, 2012 21:50 +0900 (JST)

And, fourthly; a "canary in the coalmine" story; which I am struggling to comprehend:
Beer shipments plunge in February

Shipments of beer and beer-like beverages in Japan dropped in February to a record low for the reporting month.

Domestic shipments totaled just less than 360,000 kiloliters. That's the lowest for the month of February since comparable records became available in 1992.

The February shipments were down 4.7 percent year-on-year, and marked a third straight month of decline.

Demand was hit by cold weather and heavy snowfall in parts of Japan. Beer makers add that sales of new, non-alcoholic-type drinks also hurt beer shipments.
Monday, March 12, 2012 12:36 +0900 (JST)

Beer consumption is down???? I think some analysis is called for! "Cold weather" might be part of it- but others are up... people usually drink a little more beer if they're feeling depressed, which all other measures in Japan indicate is the case... Is it possible to become too depressed to drink beer? That would news.

Just some more fun stuff to contemplate, as you go about your business today.