Huge 8.9 quake plus tsunami - Japan


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 2361 - 2380 of total 2402 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

Trad climber
Nov 9, 2013 - 07:48pm PT
how many times over did japan RAISE its "safe" exposure limit after the meltdowns???

dozens of links on this page,
have at it

e’ve long said that the greatest short-term threat to humanity is from the fuel pools at Fukushima.

The Japanese nuclear agency recently green-lighted the removal of the spent fuel rods from Fukushima reactor 4′s spent fuel pool. The operation is scheduled to begin this month.

The head of the U.S. Department of Energy correctly notes:

The success of the cleanup also has global significance. So we all have a direct interest in seeing that the next steps are taken well, efficiently and safely.

If one of the pools collapsed or caught fire, it could have severe adverse impacts not only on Japan … but the rest of the world, including the United States. Indeed, a Senator called it a national security concern for the U.S.:

The radiation caused by the failure of the spent fuel pools in the event of another earthquake could reach the West Coast within days. That absolutely makes the safe containment and protection of this spent fuel a security issue for the United States.

Award-winning scientist David Suzuki says that Fukushima is terrifying, Tepco and the Japanese government are lying through their teeth, and Fukushima is “the most terrifying situation I can imagine”.

Suzuki notes that reactor 4 is so badly damaged that – if there’s another earthquake of 7 or above – the building could come down. And the probability of another earthquake of 7 or above in the next 3 years is over 95%.

Suzuki says that he’s seen a paper that says that if – in fact – the 4th reactor comes down, “it’s bye bye Japan, and everyone on the West Coast of North America should evacuate. Now if that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is.”

The Telegraph reports:

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant … will begin a dry run of the procedure at the No. 4 reactor, which experts have warned carries grave risks.


“Did you ever play pick up sticks?” asked a foreign nuclear expert who has been monitoring Tepco’s efforts to regain control of the plant. “You had 50 sticks, you heaved them into the air and than had to take one off the pile at a time.

“If the pile collapsed when you were picking up a stick, you lost,” he said. “There are 1,534 pick-up sticks in a jumble in top of an unsteady reactor 4. What do you think can happen?

“I do not know anyone who is confident that this can be done since it has never been tried.”

ABC reports:

One slip-up in the latest step to decommission Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant could trigger a “monumental” chain reaction, experts warn.


Experts around the world have warned … that the fuel pool is in a precarious state – vulnerable to collapsing in another big earthquake.

Yale University professor Charles Perrow wrote about the number 4 fuel pool this year in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

“This has me very scared,” he told the ABC.

“Tokyo would have to be evacuated because [the] caesium and other poisons that are there will spread very rapidly.

Perrow also argues:

Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.

Former Japanese ambassador Akio Matsumura warns that – if the operation isn’t done right – this could one day be considered the start of “the ultimate catastrophe of the world and planet”:

(He also argues that removing the fuel rods will take “decades rather than months.)

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen and physician Helen Caldicott have both said that people should evacuate the Northern Hemisphere if one of the Fukushima fuel pools collapses. Gundersen said:

Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.

Harvey Wasserman wrote two months ago:

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.


A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.

Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Even Japan’s Top Nuclear Regulator Says that The Operation Carries a “Very Large Risk Potential”
Even the head of Japan’s nuclear agency is worried. USA Today notes:

Nuclear regulatory chairman Shunichi Tanaka, however, warned that removing the fuel rods from Unit 4 would be difficult because of the risk posed by debris that fell into the pool during the explosions.

“It’s a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool,” Tanaka said at a regular news conference. “They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break.”

He said it would be a disaster if fuel rods are pulled forcibly and are damaged or break open when dropped from the pool, located about 30 meters (100 feet) above ground, releasing highly radioactive material. “I’m much more worried about this than contaminated water,” Tanaka said

The same top Japanese nuclear official said:

The process involves a very large risk potential.

BBC reports:

A task of extraordinary delicacy and danger is about to begin at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station.


One senior official told me: “It’s going to be very difficult but it has to happen.”

Why It’s Such a Difficult Operation
CNN notes that debris in the fuel pool might interfere with operations:

South China Morning Post notes:

Nothing remotely similar has been attempted before and … it is feared that any error of judgment could lead to a massive release of radiation into the atmosphere.


A spokesman for Tepco … admitted, however, that it was not clear whether any of the rods were damaged or if debris in the pool would complicate the recovery effort.

Professor Richard Broinowski – former Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Central American Republics and Cuba – and author of numerous books on nuclear policy and Fukushima, says some of the fuel rods are probably fused.

Murray E. Jennex, Ph.D., P.E. (Professional Engineer), Professor of MIS, San Diego State University, notes:

The rods in the spent fuel pool may have melted …. I consider it more likely that these rods were breached during the explosions associated with the event and their contents may be in contact with the ground water, probably due to all the seawater that was sprayed on the plant.

Fuel rod expert Arnie Gundersen – a nuclear engineer and former senior manager of a nuclear power company which manufactured nuclear fuel rods – recently explained the biggest problem with the fuel rods (at 15:45):

I think they’re belittling the complexity of the task. If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing.


I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.

In another interview, Gundersen provides additional details (at 31:00):

The racks are distorted from the earthquake — oh, by the way, the roof has fallen in, which further distorted the racks.

The net effect is they’ve got the bundles of fuel, the cigarettes in these racks, and as they pull them out, they’re likely to snap a few. When you snap a nuclear fuel rod, that releases radioactivity again, so my guess is, it’s things like krypton-85, which is a gas, cesium will also be released, strontium will be released. They’ll probably have to evacuate the building for a couple of days. They’ll take that radioactive gas and they’ll send it up the stack, up into the air, because xenon can’t be scrubbed, it can’t be cleaned, so they’ll send that radioactive xenon up into the air and purge the building of all the radioactive gases and then go back in and try again.

It’s likely that that problem will exist on more than one bundle. So over the next year or two, it wouldn’t surprise me that either they don’t remove all the fuel because they don’t want to pull too hard, or if they do pull to hard, they’re likely to damage the fuel and cause a radiation leak inside the building. So that’s problem #2 in this process, getting the fuel out of Unit 4 is a top priority I have, but it’s not going to be easy. Tokyo Electric is portraying this as easy. In a normal nuclear reactor, all of this is done with computers. Everything gets pulled perfectly vertically. Well nothing is vertical anymore, the fuel racks are distorted, it’s all going to have to be done manually. The net effect is it’s a really difficult job. It wouldn’t surprise me if they snapped some of the fuel and they can’t remove it.

The Japan Times writes:

The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.

CNN reports:

[Mycle Schneider, nuclear consultant:] The situation could still get a lot worse. A massive spent fuel fire would likely dwarf the current dimensions of the catastrophe and could exceed the radioactivity releases of Chernobyl dozens of times.

Reuters notes:

Experts question whether it will be able to pull off the removal of all the assemblies successfully.***

No one knows how bad it can get, but independent consultants Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt said recently in their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013: “Full release from the Unit-4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.”


Nonetheless, Tepco inspires little confidence. Sharply criticized for failing to protect the Fukushima plant against natural disasters, its handling of the crisis since then has also been lambasted.


“There is a risk of an inadvertent criticality if the bundles are distorted and get too close to each other,” Gundersen said.

The rods are also vulnerable to fire should they be exposed to air, Gundersen said. [The pools have already boiled due to exposure to air.]


[Here is a visual tour of Fukushima's fuel pools, along with graphics of how the rods will be removed.]

Tepco confirmed the Reactor No. 4 fuel pool contains debris during an investigation into the chamber earlier this month.

Removing the rods from the pool is a delicate task normally assisted by computers, according to Toshio Kimura, a former Tepco technician, who worked at Fukushima Daiichi for 11 years.

“Previously it was a computer-controlled process that memorized the exact locations of the rods down to the millimeter and now they don’t have that. It has to be done manually so there is a high risk that they will drop and break one of the fuel rods,” Kimura said.


Corrosion from the salt water will have also weakened the building and equipment, he said.

ABC Radio Australia quotes an expert on the situation (at 1:30):

Richard Tanter, expert on nuclear power issues and professor of international relations at the University of Melbourne:


Reactor Unit 4, the one which has a very large amount of stored fuel in its fuel storage pool, that is sinking. According to former prime Minister Kan Naoto, that has sunk some 31 inches in places and it’s not uneven.

And Chris Harris – a, former licensed Senior Reactor Operator and engineer – notes that it doesn’t help that a lot of the rods are in very fragile condition:

Although there are a lot of spent fuel assemblies in there which could achieve criticality — there are also 200 new fuel assemblies which have equivalent to a full tank of gas, let’s call it that. Those are the ones most likely to go critical first.


Some pictures that were released recently show that a lot of fuel is damaged, so when they go ahead and put the grapple on it, and they pull it up, it’s going to fall apart. The boreflex has been eaten away; it doesn’t take saltwater very good.

Nuclear engineers say that the fuel pool is “distorted”, material was blown up into air and came down inside, damaging the fuel, the roof fell in, distorting things inside.

Indeed, Fukushima documents discuss “fuel that is severely damaged” inside cooling pool, and show illustrations of “deformed or leaking fuels”.

The Urgent Need: Replace Tepco
Tepco is incompetent and corrupt. As such, it is the last company which should be in charge of the clean-up.

Top scientists and government officials say that Tepco should be removed from all efforts to stabilize Fukushima. An international team of the smartest engineers and scientists should handle this difficult “surgery”.

Bloomberg notes:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being told by his own party that Japan’s response is failing. Plant operator [Tepco] alone isn’t up to the task of managing the cleanup and decommissioning of the atomic station in Fukushima. That’s the view of Tadamori Oshima, head of a task force in charge of Fukushima’s recovery and former vice president of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.


[There's] a growing recognition that the government needs to take charge at the Fukushima station…. “If we allow the situation to continue, it’ll never be resolved” [said Sumio Mabuchi, a government point man on crisis in 2011].

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Nov 9, 2013 - 08:07pm PT
Thanks rSin.

The real concern I have are reactors 1 2 and 3 that actually melted down.

The idea that removing unmelted rods from 4 could cause something worse than what happened at those seems a bit unlikely.

1 2 and 3 are problems for which we seem to have no solution. I would like a lot more information about them. Those are problems that may or may not get worse.


Trad climber
Nov 9, 2013 - 08:57pm PT
you know how many authorities you have to dismiss to get that so backward???

all of them.

those guilty of building this abortion
those guilty of covering up its facts
and those guilty of preventing the real experts and whistleblowers opinions from LEADING the story the public is fed about it

the cores of one two and three have slumped into the basement and have mixed with numerous other elements forming corium, a decidely LESS critical admix than the intact fuel rods which are fuel pellets incased in tubes of a type of metal which gives off hydrogen when exposed to air as it heats to temperatures where it spontaneously combusts.

the cores are now deep inside the buildings basements and are of no threat of fires or explosion where their elements can be vaporized or hurled in all directions.

the spent fuel pools are some 80 feet in the air; basically in swimming pools which in the case of four is supported by the ricketty remains of a steel building which blew up after getting clocked by an earthquake and tsunami

there is more potential radioactive fallout available to be generated by the incineration of spent fuel pool 4, than has been released by EVERY nuclear bomb test the planet has every been subject to.

should it collapse and catch fire, the entire island of japan would have to be evacuated AS the radiation released would force the abandonment of each of the other nuclear reactors and power generation stations causing these reactors in turn to meltdown... releasing their radiation, etc etc.

a domino effect.

Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:01pm PT

It's more important to save face than to save lives. So, no data for you !

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:03pm PT
Yeah mebbe but that didnt happen at Chernobly, three mile island or reactors 1 2 and 3

And those things went about as bad as possible.

I'm thinking the worst they do is a repeat of 1 2 and 3. Not nearly as bad as Chernobyl.

Now what the f*#k do we do with 1 2 and 3 for a vey long time.. what's the worst that can happen.

For that matter how much are they leaking right now? Cause those things are really contaminated. No one can even go in those buildings with a lead suit.

1 2 and 3 are the real story and we cant get sh#t for data about them hardly.

Trad climber
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:15pm PT
turns out they wernt

chernobyl was a very different reactor
it didnt have decades of spent fuel lying around precariously

its widespread radioactive dispersal was caused by the graphite it used for moderation catching on fire and that was lofting all the stuff the explosion of its core had scattered

there was no chance of any portion of it ever going critical again after it blew

and in the case of three mile island. it didnt burn through it containment
its water circulation pumps were never destroyed. it spent fuel storage wasnt run over by an earthquake

removing the spent fuel at fukishima is going to be like trying to change your sparkplugs on the side of the road with chopsticks after you got in a headon collision

all the while your car is hanging off the side of a bridge held up by some telephone wire

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:19pm PT
cmon now.. more like changing your spark plugs using the best tools in the world with a months long deadline and you can hire the best mechanics in the world to do it. If you fail.. the damn thing melts down just like the other 3 did.

Trad climber
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:22pm PT
you know that fuel is "spent" when it falls below 92% of its manufacturer certified output???

they swap em out just as the gas gauge falls below FULL

there are several DOZEN full cores worth of fuel in each of those pools...
orders of magnitude MORE radioactive contamination potential than in the melted cores

Trad climber
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:23pm PT
oh, AND...

their NOT hiring the "best" to do it btw...

Japan's Cut-Price Nuclear Cleanup

Monday, 28 October 2013 09:57 By Justin McCurry and David McNeill, Japan Focus | News Analysis

During a visit to Fukushima Daiichi in September, Abe Shinzo told workers: “the future of Japan rests on your shoulders. I am counting on you.”

The prime minister’s exhortation was directed at almost 6,000 technicians and engineers, truck drivers and builders who, almost three years after the plant suffered a triple meltdown, remain on the frontline of the world’s most hazardous industrial cleanup.

Yet as the challenges facing Fukushima Daiichi become clearer with every new radiation leak and mishap, the men responsible for cleaning up the plant are suffering from plummeting morale, health problems and deep anxiety about the future. Even now, at the start of a decommissioning operation that is expected to last four decades, the plant faces a shortage of workers qualified to manage the dangerous work that lies ahead, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the situation inside the facility.

The dangers faced by the nearly 900 employees of Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and some 5,000 workers hired by a network of contractors and sub-contractors were underlined in October when six men were doused with contaminated water at a desalination facility.  Their brush with danger was a sign that the cleanup is entering its most precarious stage since the March 2011 meltdown.

Commenting on the latest leak, the head of Japan’s nuclear regulator Tanaka Shunichi, told reporters: "Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don't make silly, careless mistakes when they’re motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems."

“Very little has changed at Fukushima Daiichi in the past six months,” says Shigemura Jun, a lecturer in the psychiatry department of the National Defense Medical College who heads a team of psychologists that counsels Fukushima plant workers. “Tepco is doing its best to improve the situation, but you can see that the situation is severe.”The radiation spill was the latest in a string of serious water and radiation leaks that have raised questions about the state of mind of the workforce, and Tepco’s ability to continue the cleanup alone. According to sources with inside knowledge of the plant, the slew of bad news is sapping morale and causing anxiety, as the public and international community raise pressure on Japan to show demonstrable progress in cleaning up the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Shigemura is most concerned about the 70 percent of Tepco workers at Fukushima Daiichi who were also forced to evacuate their homes by the meltdown. They have yet to come to terms with the loss of their homes, and many are living apart from their families in makeshift accommodation near the plant.

Men such as Watanabe Kai(30), who was forced to flee his family home in March 2011, have never had psychological counseling and were immediately thrown back into the fight to save the Daiichi plant. Today, he monitors tanks full of highly toxic water for leaks. For a job with potentially serious consequences on his health, he is paid 15,000 yen a day.“They were traumatized by the tsunami and the reactor explosions, and had no idea how much they had been irradiated,” Shigemura says. “That was the acute effect, but now they are suffering from the chronic effects, such as depression, loss of motivation and issues with alcohol.”

Relatively little is known about the people who work at the Daiichi plant. Tepco severely rations interviews with its full-time staff. Contract workers such as Watanabe, employed by one of dozens of subcontractors, rarely talk to journalists because they fear for their jobs. Watanabe insists on a pseudonym for interviews.

Born and raised in the town of Okuma, a few miles from the plant, Watanabe’s family are nuclear refugees. His mother and father left the home he shared with them on March 12th and now live and work in Iwaki, 34 km south of the plant. He doesn’t believe they will ever return. Like Pripyat, the Ukrainian town evacuated after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Okuma is a nuclear ghost town.

Watanabe labored through the disaster at the Daiichi plant until he reached his annual limit for radiation exposure. He then cycled through the remaining jobs for nuclear workers in Fukushima, ending up with a decontamination crew, cleaning up the radiation that poisoned his home. The irony wasn’t lost on him but he says he bears no grudges. “We have to fix the mess we made.”

Anxiety over pay, conditions and personal health is compounded by uncertainty over the future of their embattled employer. Tepco is coming under mounting pressure to resolve the worsening water crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, which recently prompted the government to step in with half a billion dollars to help contain the buildup of toxic water.

Its ability to solve stem the water leaks by the time Tokyo hosts the Olympics in 2020 – as promised by Abe – could be hampered by a looming labor shortage. As Tepco cut costs and attempted to calm public anger over its handling of the crisis, it imposed a 20 percent pay cut for all employees in 2011. From a total workforce of 37,000, 1,286 people left the firm between April 2011 and June this year. Tepco did not hire any employees in fiscal 2012 and 2013.

Remarkably, despite his service to the Daiichi plant, Watanabe was made redundant earlier this year. Tepco no longer had money to pay subcontractors, he says. (Tepco declined to comment on this allegation.)

If it seems odd that the utility is running out of cash to clean up from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, that’s because it is, says Watanabe. “Every penny the company spends in Fukushima is a loss. So the mentality is to save as much as possible, not to ensure good conditions and safety for workers.”

Tepco’s astonishing penny-pinching became evident during the summer of 2013, when the company revealed it was relying on a skeleton crew to monitor a huge plantation of 1,000-ton makeshift water tanks for leaks. Instead of installing gauges, engineers were checking 1,000 tanks visually by standing on top of them.

Japan’s nuclear regulator said the leak was serious enough to warrant level three on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Fukushima and Chernobyl were level seven). More problematically for Japan, the revelation triggered a political furor just as Tokyo, 230km from the plant, made its final pitch to host the 2020 Olympics. In a controversial speech to the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires, Prime Minister Abe told the world to stop worrying. “Let me assure you the situation is under control,” he said, advising committee delegates to read “past the headlines and look at the facts”.

For Watanabe, the pledge was important. A few days later, he got a call from his subcontractor. Flush with new cash, Tepco was now hiring nearly 100 men to monitor those leaking tanks. The utility also promised to finally install gauges on about one-third of the most vulnerable water tanks, and build a giant artificial wall to stop contaminated groundwater from reaching the Pacific.

So Watanabe has a job again, for now. Some time soon, he will have absorbed 50 millisieverts of radiation – twice the annual recommended dose for nuclear workers, and then he will have to reconsider his options.

As a nuclear refugee, he gets free health treatment but no life insurance – he has been told that’s his responsibility. He is not married, and doubts he ever will be: “I would have to confess what I did, and what woman would accept it?” Eventually, he believes, Tepco and the government will run out of people to do what he does. “What will they do then?”

The utility plans to take on 331 new employees next April, according to Mayumi Yoshida, a Tepco spokeswoman. “[The employment] system will change so it will be easier for talented employees to gain promotion, and for unproductive employees to be demoted,” Yoshida said.

Even if, as many predict, Tepco’s balance sheet is in better shape this time next year, there is little it can do about the exodus of some workers. Tepco documents show that between March 2011 and July this year, 138 employees reached the 100-millisievert [mSv] threshold; another 331 had been exposed to between 75 mSv and 100 mSv, meaning their days at the plant are numbered. Those nearing their dose limit have reportedly been moved to other sites (like Watanabe) or asked to take time off, so they can return to work at Fukushima Daiichi at a later date. Others have left due to exhaustion and stress or to find work closer to their displaced relatives. “They are less motivated, “ says Shigemura, “and worried about continuing to work for a firm that might not exist in a decade from now.” Workers who have stayed on do so in the knowledge that they risk damaging their health through prolonged exposure to radiation and in accidents of the kind that occurred this week.

Earlier this year, Tepco said that 1,973 workers, including those employed by contractors and subcontractors, had estimated thyroid radiation doses in excess of 100 mSv, the level at which many physicians agree the risk of developing cancer begins to rise.

“These workers may show a tiny increased risk of cancer over their lifetimes,” says Gerry Thomas, professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College, London University.

“100 millisieverts is the dose we use as a cut-off to say we can see a significant effect on cancer rate in very large epidemiology studies. The numbers have to be large because the individual increase is minuscule. But, she added: “I would be far more worried about these workers smoking or feeling under stress due to the fear of what radiation might do to them. That is much more likely to have an effect on any one person's health.”

But Ian Fairlie, a London-based independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment is among those who have challenged the view of 100 mSv as a reliable threshold. Citing studies of tens of thousands of Japanese A-Bomb survivors, Fairlie concluded in a blog post last year that “very good evidence exists showing radiation effects well below 100 mSv”.

In mid-October, UN experts said Japanese authorities may have underestimated radiation doses received by workers in the early days of the disaster by as much as 20 percent. The UN scientific committee on the effects of atomic radiation (Unscear) said tests on workers did not take into account some types of radiation. It voiced concern that workers had been tested for thyroid gland doses "after a significant delay", and that doses from iodine-132 and -133, which have half-lives of two hours and 20 hours, had not been taken into account. If Unscear's assessment is accurate, more Fukushima Daiichi workers would be eligible for free health checks.

While some experts have cautioned against reaching hasty conclusions about a possible rise in thyroid cancer among Fukushima Daiichi workers, there is little doubt that the punishing work they perform at the site is taking a toll on their health. A physician who visits Tepco employees at Fukushima Daiichi said he had observed symptoms of a stress-related condition associated with an imbalance between effort expended and the rewards that follow.

“I’m particularly worried about depression and alcoholism,” says Tanigawa Takeshi, a professor in the department of public health at Ehime University in western Japan. “I’ve seen high levels of physical distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Many of the casual laborers employed by subcontractors live in cheap accommodation in places such as Yumoto, a hot-spring resort south of the exclusion zone around the plant. The number of workers has declined in the past year amid complaints from hoteliers and inn-keepers about drink-fuelled fights. These days, more seem to prefer the bars and commercial sex establishments of nearby Onahama port.

A 42-year-old contract worker, who asked not be named, confirmed that alcohol abuse had become a problem among workers. "Lots of men I know drink heavily in the evening and come to work with the shakes the next day. I know of several who worked with hangovers during the summer and collapsed with heatstroke."

"There isn't much communication between workers. People want to look after number one. Newcomers are looked down on by their colleagues and some don't really know how to do their jobs."

Another worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had seen hung over colleagues collapse with heatstroke just minutes after beginning work.

The longer decommissioning continues, the harder it will become to find enough people with specialist knowledge to see it through, says Naka Yukiteru, a former General Electric employee who helped build some of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors. “There aren’t enough trained people at Fukushima Daiichi, even now,” he says. “For Tepco, money is the top priority – nuclear technology and safety comes second and third. That is why the accident happened. The management insists on keeping the company going. They think about shareholders, bank lenders and the government, not the people of Fukushima.”

Naka, who now runs a firm in Iwaki that provides technical assistance to Tepco, said the lack of expertise afflicts the utility and general contractors with a pivotal role in the cleanup.

“Most of their employees have no experience of working in conditions like these, and all the time their exposure to radiation is increasing, Naka says. “I even suggested to Tepco that it bring in retired workers who are willing to help, but the management refused.”

“As someone who helped build the plant and was aware of the technology was still in its infancy, I feel partly responsible for what happened. That’s why I’m trying to help now.”

Tepco is coming under renewed pressure to accept more specialist help from overseas. In October, Abe Shinzo told an international science conference in Kyoto: “My country needs your knowledge and expertise.” But this apparent spirit of openness is unlikely to turn the decommissioning operation into a genuinely international affair, says Fairlie. “Japanese officials say they want help, but Tepco and the government are not in the business of saying, ‘This is serious, please come and help us.’”

Tepco’s unshakable belief in its ability to complete the decommissioning operation rules out any meaningful cooperation, even with Japanese government officials, said Yoshikawa Akihiro, a Tepco employee of 14 years who recently left the company. “Tepco has always wanted to do its own thing,” he said. “It doesn’t want the government stepping in and telling it what to do; it just wants the government’s money.”

Yoshikawa said the spirit of resilience his former colleagues felt in the aftermath of the accident had turned to despondency, forcing younger workers to leave and older ones to take early retirement.

“They felt like they were being bullied, even though they were putting their lives at risk,” he said.

“Tepco is spending its money fixing the technical problems, but it also needs people to carry out that work. I’m very worried about the labor shortage. If they don’t do something about it soon, the employment system at Fukushima Daiichi will collapse first, not the plant.

For the thousands of non-Tepco employees hired across Japan to perform backbreaking work for subcontractors, the lure of earning decent money in return for working close to lethal levels of radiation has proved an illusion. Once money for accommodation has been subtracted, laborers are typically left with a few thousand yen at the end of each day. In some cases, employers withhold danger money, which can amount to more than half of a worker’s daily wage, because, they say, they need the cash to keep the company in business.

“The real work at Fukushima Daiichi s being done by the general contractors, with the smaller companies picking up the crumbs,” Yoshikawa said. “They outbid each other for contracts and so end up with less money to pay workers. They have no choice but to hire cheap labor.

Conditions for Tepco workers living in J Village – a football training complex just south of Fukushima Daiichi – have only recently improved. For two years after the disaster, those living in prefabricated units at J Village had to walk hundreds of meters at night to use communal toilets. Tepco belatedly installed private toilets earlier this year after the firm’s incoming president, Hirose Naomi, heeded health experts’ warnings that the lack of facilities was compromising the workers’ health.

“Tepco’s headquarters has little idea of how the workers live,” said Tanigawa. “It is focused on the compensation problem and doesn’t want to be accused of only looking after its own when there are still evacuees who haven’t been compensated.”

But as concern grows over Tepco’s ability to address the myriad technical challenges facing Fukushima Daiichi – starting, next month, with the removal of 1,300 spent fuel assemblies from the top of reactor No. 4 – the unfolding human crisis is being largely ignored.

There is still no full-time mental health counseling available at the plant, said Shigemura, whose team of mental health professionals visits the plant about once a month to talk to workers and administer pharmacological treatments. “That amazes me,” he said.

“Tepco workers worry about their health, but also about whether Tepco will take care of them if they were to fall ill in the future. They put their lives and their health on the line, but in the years to come, they wonder if they will just be discarded.”

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:29pm PT
they swap em out just as the gas gauge falls below FULL

Now there is an interesting point about current nuke design.

These f*#kers are greedy. it is possible to make much safer reactors than the current ones.

You have to be willing to accept lower yeild/unit of fuel.

Instead of running the damn thing as close to full throttle as possible.

Consider the reactor design used by the Mars Rover. There are a full range of possibilities in between. Plus we havn't even talked about how much cleaner and low waste product producing breeder styles can be.


Trad climber
Nov 9, 2013 - 09:54pm PT
and if you dont built them,
they NEVER produce waste and comtaminants you cant EVER dispose of...


they NEVER fail...

get it?

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Nov 9, 2013 - 10:29pm PT
And if we don't build them many thousands absolutely die from coal pollution. If we don't build them more stuff like what is happening in the philipines.

Something called opportunity cost. If you don't build them the alternatives that will be built are worse.

The energy needs of the billions and the technology they demand will not go down. Well they will eventually.. one way or another. Probably by eliminating a few billions. Avoidable if folks used their brains a little better than they do.

But that's like saying if your aunt had balls she'd be your uncle.

The next species much like us will be smarter on average and more socially adept. Their aunts will perhaps have balls (figuratively)
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Nov 10, 2013 - 02:08am PT
" If you fail.. the damn thing melts down just like the other 3 did."

This isn't true. The #4 spent fuel pool has NO CONTAINMENT! If it falls to earth, there will be a huge radioactive fire and the plant will be have to be abandoned. IF that happens, the other spent fuel pools will also evaporate and catch fire and all other cooling operations will cease and fail. The whole place goes wild and a Far far far far far worse disaster than the original meltdown will happen

Pretty serious stuff. We, and they, may be screwed.

Kinda ironic that after decades, Japan may nuke us



Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Nov 10, 2013 - 02:23am PT
Kinda ironic that after decades, Japan may nuke us

Uh, I think they'd be nuking themselves first and foremost.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Nov 10, 2013 - 06:02am PT
Containment? oops forgot the hydrogen explosion blew the roof off.

So a bunch of (relatively cold?) material and structure that survived that is now all of a sudden gonna fail and go critical or at least catch fire by removing it? The folks working on this haven't considered how to keep that from occurring?

Dunno.. mebbe I suppose. But I'm not buying it. I've seen some pretty sensational stories about the possible armageddon but they don't seem very credible. Strong on scary speculation but weak on supporting information. Without that supporting information I tend to default to the general info that is available regarding things that have actually happened. What has happened is bad but not exactly armageddon nor even as bad as coal production.

I still think the real problem is 1 2 and 3 with a big incredibly radioactive slag heaps sitting down there.

Hey I finally found some numbers for total radiation leakage by Fukushima in an article. They are not very scary numbers compared to coal plant radiactive output. About 1/4the the annual radioactive output of a single coal plant.

"The radiation that fossil fuel plants spew into the environment each year is around 0.1 EBq. That’s ExaBecquerel, or 10 to the power of 18. Fukushima is pumping out 10 trillion becquerels a year at present. Or 10 TBq, or 10 of 10 to the power of 12. Or, if you prefer, one ten thousandth of the amount that the world’s coal plants are doing. Or even, given that there are only about 2,500 coal plants in the world, Fukushima is, in this disaster, pumping out around one quarter of the radiation that a coal plant does in normal operation."

Trad climber
Nov 10, 2013 - 05:20pm PT
its simple astonishing how the biggest proponents of this sh#t know the least about it

the building isnt the containment sonny
its the pressure vessel

the pumps stopped and the water quit flowing,
the reactors overheaded and burped radioactive steam
the fuel pools boiled over and started producing hydrogen
the hydrogen somehow managed to detonate and blew the roof and walls
not the containment

the cores melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel into the basement. there are half a dozen feet of steel and concrete in between that slag and the open air

ever seen the picture of the hardrock miners who excavated under chernobyl in order to install the system of cooling radiators they installed to catch that coreium and keep it from reaching the water table should it have burned through the last of that reactors basement?

crazy sh#t. you see a guy running the drill in a cavern with the note that the core melted to withing 18 inches of the space he was in.

nothing in between the spent fuel rods and the open air cept for a couple inches of steel.

dozens of reactors worth of fuel in each spent fuel pool which doesnt have ANY containment and is still nearly 100 feet off the ground on broken stilts!


Trad climber
Nov 15, 2013 - 06:16pm PT
Tepco’s Negligence In 1982 Makes Removal More Difficult Now
Tepco’s efforts to remove the radioactive fuel rods – already extremely dangerous and difficult – have hit a bump before they’ve even started.

Enenews rounds up the developments here:

Yomiuri Shimbun translated by EXSKF, Nov. 12, 2013: On November 12, TEPCO disclosed that there were three fuel assemblies [...] in the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 [...] that were deformed and would be difficult to remove.

Fukushima Minyu translated by EXSKF, Nov. 13, 2013: According to TEPCO, one of the damaged fuel assemblies is bent at a 90-degree angle [literal meaning: bent in the shape of a Japanese character "く"; actual angle could be less]. It was bent 25 years ago when a mistake occurred in handling the fuel. The other two were found to be damaged 10 years ago; there are small holes on the outside from foreign objects.

And here:

Japan Times, Nov. 14, 2013: Earlier this week, Tepco found three damaged assemblies that will be difficult to remove, but officials said the damage appeared to have occurred before the March 11 disasters.

Reuters, Nov. 14, 2013: One of the assemblies was damaged as far back as 1982, when it was mishandled during a transfer, and is bent out of shape, Tepco said in a brief note at the bottom of an 11-page information sheet in August. In a statement from April 2010, Tepco said it found two other spent fuel racks in the reactor’s cooling pool had what appeared to be wire trapped in them. Rods in those assemblies have pin-hole cracks and are leaking low-level radioactive gases, Tepco spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai told Reuters on Thursday. [...] Having to deal with the damaged assemblies is likely to make [removing the other fuel] more difficult [...]

Tepco spokeswoman Mayumi Yoshida: “The three fuel assemblies … cannot be transported by cask [...] We are currently reviewing how to transport these fuel assemblies to the common spent fuel pool,” she said.

Why didn’t Tepco fix or replace these mangled fuel assemblies decades ago?

Its failure to fix these problems when they happened is now making its attempt to solve the most dangerous crisis since the Cuban missile crisis now even more difficult.

In many other ways, Tepco has been insanely negligent – and engaged in criminal acts – for many decades.
command error

Trad climber
Nov 15, 2013 - 10:25pm PT
A nuke friend advised never learn how reactors operate if
I enjoyed getting a good nights sleep without nightmares.


Social climber
Ridgway, CO
Nov 15, 2013 - 10:33pm PT
Thanks rSin for keeping us all informed . . . don't hear too much about the F-shima in the mainstream media. Sweet dreams y'all!

Trad climber
Nov 16, 2013 - 05:40am PT
your welcome!

Fairewinds has fielded a number of questions regarding the removal of the fuel rods from the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 at Fukushima Daiichi. Today’s video shows Arnie debunking TEPCO’s animated film point by point, and highlights the issues TEPCO will have removing the fuel rods. TEPCO needs to be removed as the organization overseeing the cleanup of the site prior to the removal of the fuel rods.
Messages 2361 - 2380 of total 2402 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews