Monday, March 21, 2011

Reactor Leak

We had a reactor leak here now. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak, very dangerous.

A famous Han Solo line from Star Wars. You can read the whole thing here. So what is going on with the reactors on Japan? As you would expect the news is that the situation is improving. And while the situation is improving the news is worse.
Meanwhile, the government's task force to tackle nuclear accidents instructed municipal governments near the crisis-hit Fukushima plant on Monday to ease conditions under which they require people to undergo mandatory decontamination.

A radiation level of 100,000 counts per minute will be introduced as a new standard for decontamination, up from 6,000 counts per minute, the government said, adding that raising the bar will not endanger health.

The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the decision was made based on advice from domestic nuclear experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As the number of people who want to undergo radiation checks has surged, a lack of staff and equipment for the tests and decontamination was feared.
So upping the level of radiation required for decontamination by a factor of 16X will not affect health? Maybe. But you are starting to seriously eat in to your safety margins.

And with everything well under control officials have pulled all workers out of the area.
Emergency workers lost precious hours Monday in their fight to prevent a full-scale meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after mysterious gray smoke seen emanating from the facility prompted a mass evacuation.

The smoke was spotted just before 4 p.m. coming out of the building that houses the No. 3 reactor, the most badly damaged of the plant's half-dozen reactors. It tapered off after two hours, but more smoke was seen near reactor No. 2 about 20 minutes later, according to officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

Though authorities concluded the smoke was steam and not coming from the overheated spent fuel pool, they acknowledged that radiation spiked one kilometer west of the facility, rising from 494 microsieverts at 5:40 p.m. to 1,932 at 6:30 p.m.

The level dropped to 442 at 8:30 p.m., but officials suspended operations for the day until further notice and the 700 employees who had been working to restore electrical power at the plant were evacuated.

"If we find the levels of radioactivity go down, we'll go back to work," Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said at a news conference Monday night at the Prime Minister's office in Tokyo.
Well then. Every thing is fine.

And you know what else is fine? The weather.
Far greater amounts of radioactive iodine and cesium were found in rain, dust and particles in the air in some areas over a 24-hour period from Sunday morning due to rainfall, the science ministry said Monday.

''Considering the results of a separate test, radioactive materials in the air and drinking water are confined to levels that would not affect health,'' an official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said. ''The impact on agricultural crops needs to be examined mainly by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.''

In a notice to the nation's 47 prefectures, the health ministry called on local governments on Monday to advise residents to stop giving babies water in forms such as baby formula if radioactive iodine is found in drinking water at levels greater than 100 becquerels per kiloliter.


In Fukushima Prefecture, where the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located, the prefectural government said 23 becquerels of iodine was found per kiloliter of water.

Yamanashi appeared in the latest iodine list, after not being listed in the previous survey based on samples taken Saturday.

Cesium was detected in a sample in Tokyo on Saturday but was not detected Sunday. It was detected in Gunma on Sunday, though the prefecture was not cited in the previous survey.
Well nothing to worry about then. Except that the presence of those elements is an indication that containment has been breached. That of some fuel rods in the spent fuel pools for sure. Possibly even a reactor or three. In fact since Iodine 131 levels go down by a factor of 1,000X just 80 days after a shutdown, its presence is almost proof positive of a reactor containment breach. Nothing to worry about. For now. And of course the breach could be minor. Or it could be a crack down the middle of the containment building.

H/T Zero Hedge where you can get a sceptics view of what is going on along with some fairly knowledgeable commenters (plus the usual compliment of idiots and wags).

Update: 21 March 2011 2049z

Well the news just keeps getting better. Thermal images have finally been released. And what do you know? There is a hot spot that is only 128 deg C. Water boils at about 100 deg. C (depending on pressure, impurities etc.)
Next, a picture from Die Welt, emphasizing Reactor 3 and confirming that previous lies that all temperatures at Reactors 1 through 4, were under 100 degrees Celsius, were nothing but. Note the area indicating 128 oC Celsius. We would assume that is the reactor core area (which refutes the lie). If, instead, that is the spent fuel rod area, then we have some very big problems, even if TEPCO is telling the truth for once.
BTW the hot spot looks to be 128 C from the outside. Inside it is probably hotter. Tokyo - we have a problem.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


IowaBill said...

What I wonder amongst all the fuss is why the plant operators claim a lack of seeing the water level in the spent fuel pools.
Why can't a bomb-demolition robot or some similar apparatus be lowered onto the building and directed such that its video feed would show us, even if all the installed cameras were blown out?

M. Simon said...

My guess is that it has already been done and the news is very bad. So we will continue to get unwarranted optimism until the whole pile goes up in a blast or burns for months.