Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Fukushima Dai-ichi: Reactor No.2 suppression pool leaking highly radioactive water

March 27, 2011


Very high levels of radiation have been measured in water leaking from reactor #2. It is thought that the breach is in the suppression pool.

TEPCO, says it has measured radiation levels of 2.9 GBq/cc in water from the basement of the turbine building attached to the Number 2 reactor. The level of contamination is about 1,000 times that of the leaked water already found in the basements of the Number 1 and 3 reactor turbine buildings. The measurements indicated 2.9 GBq/cc iodine-134, 13 MBq/cc of iodine-131, and 2.3 MBq /cc for each of cesium 134 and 137. This is clear evidence that fission is continuing.

University of Tokyo graduate school professor Naoto Sekimura says the leak may come from the suppression chamber of the Number 2 reactor, which is known to be damaged. The chamber is designed to contain overflows of radioactive substances from the reactor.

All workers have been evacuated from the reactor #2 building.

Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant: Reactor #3 control room powered up and cooling pumps to be switched on tomorrow

March 23, 2011

Progress at the Fukushima Dai-ihi nuclear plant continues steadily but slowly.External power is now available to all 6 reactors. Highlights today:

  • A high-powered water cannon truck has arrived from Australia at a US base in Tokyo to help recovery efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The water cannon can shoot 150 liters of water per second at a target 150 meters away. It can also operate unmanned for 2 to 3 days while pumping seawater. It will be sent o Fukushima if needed.
  • A vehicle with a long spraying arm injected water into the No.4 reactor at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for about 3 hours on Tuesday. The vehicle, owned by a construction firm in Mie Prefecture in central Japan, began the operation at 5:17 PM Tuesday at the request of the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The vehicle is used in construction of high-rise buildings, and is capable of extending its arm more than 50 meters to pour concrete. The operation ended at about 8:30 PM.

Water spraying into Reactor #4: image nhk

  • Tokyo fire department started operation of spraying water to Unit-3 through cooperation with Osaka fire department. Water spraying  was conducted for one hour and finished around 16:00. Total amount of water sprayed is more than 3 times the pool capacity.
  • TEPCO said on Tuesday that it will restore power to the control rooms of No.3 and No.4 reactors as soon as water-spraying operations are completed to cool down fuel storage pools.
  • Defense Minister Kitazawa announced  that surface temperature measurement by helicopter will be conducted everyday, weather permitting, and not just twice a week in view of the smoke and steam that has been observed.

NHK World:

TEPCO has restored the electricity supply to the control room of the Number 3 reactor at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Lights in the control room were switched on again on Tuesday night.
Eleven days have passed since the massive earthquake devastated northeastern Japan and cut off external power to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
TEPCO reconnected power cables to the Number 3 and Number 4 reactors earlier on Tuesday.
TEPCO will now try to reactivate vital monitoring systems in the control rooms, such as those for measuring temperatures inside the reactors and water levels in the spent fuel storage pools. TEPCO says it will transmit electricity to the cooling pump for the Number 3 reactor on Wednesday. The company says if the pump functions normally, it will begin cooling the reactor and the spent fuel storage pool

Media coverage dies as work resumes at Fukushima Dai-ichi – steam plumes did not raise radiation levels

March 22, 2011

Fukushima hysteria dies down as the media find that their alarmist and sensational reporting is not going to be sustainable.

Perhaps they will return their attention and their headlines to the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami in between the bombing raids on Tripoli.

As George Monbiot puts it in The Guardian:

As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

Now George Monbiot’s views about energy in general, and renewables in particular, are usually quite ridiculous and ill thought through but  where he is absolutely right is of course that in spite of the headlines and the apocalypse scenarios, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation”.

The work at Fukushima is difficult and hazardous  and it will test the courage and ingenuity of many – but it goes on even if all the headlines are gone     —– Kyodo News:

Work to restore power and crucial cooling functions resumed Tuesday morning at the crisis-hit reactors at the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, following suspension Monday after smoke was detected at its No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, its operator said.

Firefighters and the Self-Defense Forces also prepared to restart a mission later in the day to spray a massive amount of coolant water onto spent nuclear fuel pools at the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Although white smoke, possibly steam, was found to be continuously billowing from the buildings of the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, the utility known as TEPCO found it does not obstruct electricity restoration work as radiation levels did not particularly surge at the site.

An external power source was connected to the No. 4 reactor in the morning, making it the fifth of the plant’s six reactors to have regained a power supply needed for the restoration of equipment such as a ventilation system to filter radioactive substances from the air and some measuring tools at the control room.

TEPCO aims to restore power systems to revive some key facilities such as data measuring equipment and functions at a control room by Wednesday for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors and by Thursday for the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, at a press conference.

Could the disaster in Japan power a wave of sustainable growth?

March 20, 2011

Natural disasters and wars are in general very bad things.

Nobody in their right minds would wish for one. But they occur anyway. Disasters and wars have an immediate cost in human life and capital destruction which can never be a chosen path for any ethical course of action. But when they do occur the long term consequences  can critically depend upon the economic environment in which they occur. It seems to me that when they occur in times of economic depression or economic stagnation they can provide the stimuli which can lift countries and whole regions onto a new path of economic growth. Of course the spending that follows does not in itself create wealth. The spending could have taken place on something else (or the wealth spent could have been saved). But it is the direction of spending and the mood of the spending which, I think, creates the potential benefit. It can create a step-change in thinking and behaviour and resolve and shift the path on which economic movement occurs.

The May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China killed over 80,000 and destroyed infrastructure on an unprecedented scale for modern China. Yet, the economy was not derailed and instead the massive rebuilding effort that followed added an extra 0.5% or so to the economic growth that followed. The January 1995 Kobe earthquake killed over 6,000 and wiped out the older central areas of Kobe and yet the investment that followed lifted the Japanese economy as a whole – but only for a time. A new mood was created but it was not accompanied by any real political shift. And from about 1999 onwards the Japanese economy has not only been stagnating but Japanese policies have also been stuck in a political rut. In spite of much talk about demographics and the ageing of Japan and the need for new thinking, the political inertia prevailed. This has only been exacerbated by the global financial crisis.

The dislocation to Japanese society and the economy caused by the Great Tohoku quake and tsunami will be massive. But I am quite sure that the Japanese and Japan will overcome. It will take some time but it could even break them out of the political rut and onto a quite different and much more sustainable path. If there is a fundamental shift out of the deadly political complacency which is long overdue, then the short term stimulus that rebuilding will surely bring could become sustainable and the Japanese economy could again be a major driver of global improvements.

chart of the day, japan industrial production 1995Natural disasters can give a boost to the countries where they occur

Rebuilding efforts serve as a short-term boost by attracting resources to a country, and the disasters themselves, by destroying old factories and old roads, airports, and bridges, allow new and more efficient public and private infrastructure to be built, forcing the transition to a sleeker, more productive economy in the long term.

“When something is destroyed you don’t necessarily rebuild the same thing that you had. You might use updated technology, you might do things more efficiently. It bumps you up,” says Mark Skidmore, an economics professor at Michigan State University. “Disasters help people think about things differently.”

Studies have found that earthquakes in California and Alaska helped stir economic activity there, and that countries with more hurricanes and storms tend to see higher rates of growth. Some of the most recent work has found a link between disasters and subsequent innovation.

Mark Skidmore of Michigan State, along with the economist Hideki Toya of Japan’s Nagoya City University, published a 2002 paper in the journal Economic Inquiry that mapped the disaster frequency of 89 countries against their economic growth over a 30-year period. Skidmore and Toya found that, in the case of climatic disasters – hurricanes and cyclones, as opposed to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – the more the better: nations with more climatic disasters grew faster over the long run than the less disaster-prone.

Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, a professor of economics at the University of Innsbruck, has found some support for Skidmore and Toya’s argument. In post-disaster rebuilding efforts in developing countries  at least in wealthier developing countries like Brazil and South Africa, there is indeed a tendency to use the rebuilding process as an opportunity to upgrade infrastructure that might otherwise have been allowed to grow obsolete.

War is also a “disaster” which costs human lives and destroys capital but can have similar effects.

As Prof. Joshua S. Goldstein puts it:

War is not without economic benefits. At certain historical times and places, war can stimulate a national economy in the short term. During slack economic times, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s, military spending and war mobilization can increase capacity utilization, reduce unemployment (through conscription), and generally induce patriotic citizens to work harder for less compensation.

War also sometimes clears away outdated infrastructure and allows economy-wide rebuilding, generating long-term benefits (albeit at short-term costs). For example, after being set back by the two World Wars, French production grew faster after 1950 than before 1914.

Technological development often follows military necessity in wartime. Governments can coordinate research and development to produce technologies for war that also sometimes find civilian uses (such as radar in World War II). The layout of European railroad networks were strongly influenced by strategic military considerations, especially after Germany used railroads effectively to overwhelm French forces in 1870-71. In the 1990s, the GPS navigation system, created for U.S. military use, found wide commercial use. Although these war-related innovations had positive economic effects, it is unclear whether the same money spent in civilian sectors might have produced even greater innovation.

Overall, the high costs of war outweigh the positive spinoffs. Indeed, a central dilemma for states is that waging wars – or just preparing for them – undermines prosperity, yet losing wars is worse. Winning wars, however, can sometimes pay.

Fukushima Dai-ichi Sunday 20th March: Power has reached reactor#2, plant will be decommissioned

March 19, 2011

Day No. 9 since the quake and tsunami.

Media hysteria is abating as the crisis  abates and Libya take s over the headlines.  “It is becoming more probable by the day that public health consequences will be zero and radiation health effects among workers at the site will be so minor as to be hard to measure”.

On Saturday, workers were close to restoring power to cooling systems at a quake-hit Japanese nuclear power plant. Fire trucks sprayed water for nearly half a day on reactor No.3.

“The situation there is stabilizing somewhat,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.

2400 JST (1600 CET): Known status by IAEA:

It would seem that the current critical  actions with the nuclear plant are connected – for now – with the spent fuel pools.

Unit 1 experienced an explosion on 12 March that destroyed the outer shell of the building’s upper floors. No precise information has been available on the status of the spent fuel pool.

For unit 2, no precise information has been available on the status of the spent fuel pool. Authorities began adding 40 tonnes of seawater to the spent fuel pool on 20 March.

Concerned by possible loss of water in the Unit 3 spent fuel pool, authorities began spraying water into the building in an effort to replenish water levels. First, helicopters dropped seawater on 17 March, and every day since then, including today, emergency workers have sprayed water from fire trucks and other vehicles.

Emergency workers began spraying water into the Unit 4 building today.

Temperatures in the spent fuel pools of Units 5 and 6 have gradually returned to significantly lower temperatures.

2230 JST ( 1430 CET): Status – Fukushima No. 5, No. 6 reactors stable after cold shutdown.

External power was restored at 3:46 p.m. to the reactor #2. Work is now ongoing to  start trying to restore the system to monitor radiation and other data, light the control room and cool down the reactor and the reactor’s spent-fuel storage pool.

Water spraying by fire trucks continues for cooling the overheating spent fuel pools by throwing thousands of tons of water into the No. 3 and No. 4 reactor buildings. The operation is possible because apparent hydrogen explosions blasted the roofs and walls of the buildings.

As of 11:00 a.m., Tokyo Electric said the radiation level about 0.5 kilometer northwest from the No. 2 reactor dropped to 2,579 microsievert per hour, compared to 3,443 microsievert per hour at 2 p.m. Saturday.

1830 JST (1030 CET): Water spraying on reactor #4 again (2nd time today). Sounds like some danger of radioactive leakage from the spent-fuel pond is persisting.

Status summary (BBC)

  • Reactor 1: Fuel rods damaged after explosion. Power lines attached
  • Reactor 2: Damage to the core, prompted by a blast, helped trigger raising of the nuclear alert level. Power lines attached
  • Reactor 3: Contains plutonium, core damaged by explosion. Fuel ponds refilled with water in overnight operation, but pressure said to be rising again
  • Reactor 4: Hit by explosion and fire, temperature of spent fuel pond now said to have dropped after water spraying
  • Reactors 5 & 6: Temperature of spent fuel pools now lowered after rising dangerously high. Diesel generators powering cooling systems

1800 JST (1000 CET): Power has “been supplied” to reactor #2 says Kyodo news. It is not clear if the power now available has succeeded in starting up cooling pumps or just that power is now available at reactor #2. Nevertheless a huge leap forward.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is most likely to be decommissioned. ”Looking at the situation objectively, it is clear,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a news conference, when asked whether the government plans to decommission the plant.

1600 JST (0800 CET): Current evacuation area not expected to change according to Japan’s Nuclear Agency.

Spent-fuel storage pools of the reactors No. 5 and No. 6 were cooled down to 37.1 °C and 41.0 °C, respectively, as of 7 a.m. Sunday.

More than 2,000 tons of water is believed to have been sprayed onto the No. 3 reactor’s pool, which has a capacity of 1,400 tons. Pressure at No. 3 reactor’s containment vessel suppression pool rose and plans to reduce pressure by venting were planned but the pressure stabilised and immediate work to reduce pressure at No. 3 reactor at Fukushima plant was deferred.

Fears of radiation release led to Ground Self-Defense Force spraying about 80 tons of water on reactor #4 for nearly one hour until 9:30 a.m., according to the Defense Ministry. Eleven fire trucks were used. Indications are that that water reached the pool.

Work to connect power and restart cooling pumps at reactor #2 is continuing.  It is planned to check the systems of the No. 2 reactor first. The building housing its containment was not damaged, which means it is hard to cool it down using water from outside.

0800 JST( 0000 CET): On Saturday and the early hours of this morning water spraying was carried out for a total of 13 hours (till about 5am on Sunday morning). The water temperature in the spent fuel pond of reactor #6 has fallen.

Power company engineers finished connecting the No.1 and No.2 reactors to external sources on Saturday evening.

Technicians seem to have attached a power cable to the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, hoping to restore electricity later today prior to an attempt to switch the pumps on. Equipment checks are probably being conducted now.They aim to reach No. 3 and 4 soon after that.

The Register writes:

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan, badly damaged during the extremely severe earthquake and tsunami there a week ago, continues to stabilise. It is becoming more probable by the day that public health consequences will be zero and radiation health effects among workers at the site will be so minor as to be hard to measure. Nuclear experts are beginning to condemn the international hysteria which has followed the incident in increasingly blunt terms.

0100 JST (1700 CET 19th): IAEA  press conference on the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It hopes that power will be restored to reactor 2 today, which will then act as a hub to restore power to reactor 1. However it is not clear if water pumps have been damaged and if they will even work once power has been restored.

Fukishima Dai-ichi status updates on Thursday 17th “It is not going to be another Tjernobyl”

March 17, 2011

2000 CET: From the IAEA – Engineers plan to reconnect power to unit 2 once the spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building is completed, the statement says. “The spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building was temporarily stopped at 1109 GMT (2009 local time) on 17 March. The IAEA continues to liaise with the Japanese authorities and is monitoring the situation as it evolves”

1900 CET: The installation of the new high voltage power line to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and the restarting of the cooling systems seems now to be the critical and perhaps decisive step. Hopefully this can be done on Friday.

A Russian nuclear expert has said Japan should concentrate its efforts on restoring power to the Fukushima nuclear plant – rather than trying to cool its reactors by dropping water from helicopters. “One can only put out forest fires like this, by pouring water from helicopters. It is not clear where this water is falling,” Gennady Pshakin from the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering in the city of Obninsk told Reuters. “They need to start circulation pumps, at least one, maybe not at a full capacity, but I am not sure they have enough power. Diesel generators and mobile power stations which they sent there do not have enough capacity.” He added that it was not going to become another Chernobyl, saying that it was a “totally different situation”.

1700 CET: About 300 tons of water has been sprayed so far by helicopter and fire trucks. It is now 1 am Friday in Japan and there is little fresh news. But this is a case of “no news is good news”. There are no reports of any increased radiation levels but this kind of “stability” can be deceptive.  Helicopter water drops are planned again for Friday. The power line to restore high voltage power is still being installed and is taking longer than expected but is still expected to be ready on Friday. The cooling systems still have to be repaired before they can be restarted.

So far in terms of death and destruction the Fukushima nuclear plant is a pinprick compared to what has happened further north. But the spectre of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and of Tjernobyl elsewhere is probably what leads to the imbalance in the coverage. But unfortunately it is probably diverting some attention and resources from those in need.

1400 CET: At least 20 of the workers risking their lives at the Fukusima Dai-ich nuclear plant are suuffering from exposure to radiation.

Water shot out from the military trucks seem to have reached their target judging from the steam that was generated which in turn means that some cooling must have occurred. Apparently the military trucks are more effective than the fire trucks since the water cannons can be operated from within the safety of the cab. The effect on radiation levels is small so far.

They are hoping to connect the plant to external power during Thursday.

1240 CET: Breaking – Radiation levels have shot up after the shooting of water from water cannon. This may mean that the water is reaching its target and is evaporating on contact with the overheated spent fuel.

TEPCO Press conference.  Tepco spokesmen mainly repeat questions but provide no answers. One said that they had existing procedures in the Crisis Management Plan and they followed all procedures.  The spokesman only gave me the impression that since this accident is not in the book they had no idea what to do. Hardly any new information. No idea how much water the helicopters dropped. No information on the progress of the new power line. No information about the use of water cannon for cooling. A generally inept performance by TEPCO.

Some history from Reuters about TEPCO:

Five TEPCO executives resigned in 2002 over suspected falsification of nuclear plant safety records and five reactors were forced to stop operations.

In 2006, the government ordered TEPCO to check past data after it reported finding falsification of coolant water temperatures at its Fukushima Daiichi plant in 1985 and 1988, and that the tweaked data was used in mandatory inspections at the plant, which were completed in October 2005.

1200 CET: First attempt with the police riot truck water cannon was broken off due to high radiation levels. Another attempt is being made to shoot cooling water into the spent fuel ponds starting about 30 minutes ago.

The risk for a blackout in Tokyo seems to have been averted as the the evening load period comes to an end.

1000 CET: So far Tokyo has averted a blackout situation – but demand came close to the limit.

Radiation readings on this Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) site.

The Defence Minister said that he “expected” the cooling water actions to “be successful”.  The water cannon fire trucks are all from the Tokyo police or from the SDF. This sounds as if the cooling efforts have now been taken away from TEPCO and handed over to the military. TEPCO seems to be continuing with efforts to restore power to the plant with a new power line.

0900 CET: No further word about the fire trucks and the water cannon. 11 more fire trucks are on their way.

An unprecedented massive blackout could take place in Tokyo on Thursday evening. Trains have been asked to reduce services and the authorities are asking for all to avoid using power if possible.

0800 CET: US unmanned aircraft from Guam have taken pictures over the plant which have been supplied to Japan. None of the evacuees from the area have needed decontamination says Fukushima prefecture.

TV pictures of the helicopter operation show much of the water spray missing the target buildings.

Kyodo News reports Japanese Government irritation with US statements:

Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a congressional hearing, ”There is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”

But a Ground Self-Defense Force chopper, which doused the overheating spent nuclear fuel pool with water Thursday morning at the No. 3 reactor, found that water is left in the pond at the No. 4 unit, according to the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

0700 CET: SDF helicopters have made 4 sorties for dumping water on reactor #3. There is still some water left in the reactor #4 spent fuel pool. Helicopters had lead plates installed for protection during the operations today. Radiation decreased only very slightly as a result and no further helicopter sorties are planned today. The riot police water cannons are expected to be used shortly. Each truck carries only 4 tons of water which is discharged in just one minute. This will require many refillings of the trucks and will take time. Spent fuel pools at reactors #3 and 4 are the priority. For reactors #5 and 6 temperatures are increasing but slowly and boiling will not occur for a few days yet.

The new power transmission line is still being installed. Progress is hindered by having to limit the time workers can spend within the plant. To reactivate the plant’s cooling systems will need the repair of some of the pumps.

0000 CET (midnight): A new power line is being laid to the Fukushima Daiichi plant to help restore the reactor cooling systems: Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) spokesman Naoki Tsunoda has said it is almost complete, and that engineers plan to test it “as soon as possible”, according to the Associated Press. Reviving the electric-powered pumps might allow the engineers to finaly cool the overheated reactors and spent fuel storage ponds.

The IAEA has released information about the temperature of the water in the spent fuel storage pools inside reactors 4, 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi. Spent fuel that has been removed from a nuclear reactor generates intense heat and the water is usually kept below 25C. The IAEA says that the temperature of the pool at reactor 4 was 84C on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday morning, it was 62.7C at reactor 5 and 60C at reactor 6. Current reports say the pools at both reactors 3 and 4 are boiling. Reactor 4’s pool may even be dry.

Kyodo News says that Tokyo police plan to use a water cannon truck to attempt to cool a spent fuel rod pool Thursday in a bid to contain the disaster at the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station in Japan.

The government earlier studied a plan to deploy Ground Self-Defense Force choppers to spray water over the spent fuel pools, but the Defense Ministry said Wednesday afternoon it had given up on the idea due to the high radiation level.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, will operate a Global Hawk unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, possibly on Thursday, to take images of the inside of the building that houses the No. 4 reactor, according to Japanese government sources.

Status by Kyodo News:

Among the six reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., part of the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel, key to enclosing harmful radioactive substances, suffered damage in the pressure-suppression chamber connected to the vessel following Tuesday’s apparent hydrogen explosion.

An estimated 70 percent of the nuclear fuel rods have been damaged at the plant’s No. 1 reactor and 33 percent at the No. 2 reactor, Tokyo Electric said Wednesday.

The cores of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors are believed to have partially melted with their cooling functions lost in the wake of Friday’s magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Wednesday that the water level had dropped in the No. 5 reactor, which was not in service when the killer quake jolted northeastern Japan, posing the risk of overheating. The agency said it will closely monitor data on the reactor to prevent the problems that occurred at other reactors.

Sarkozy is using the Sendai quake and Fukushima troubles to play politics

March 16, 2011

Sometimes Sarkozy’s opportunism for gaining economic advantage is almost as vulgar as bunga bunga Berlusconi’s sex parties. But it is also – I think – a very clever move. Sarkozy is attempting to take a pre-emptive lead by being in the forefront of denigrating the Japanese nuclear program so that he can – by contrast – promote French nuclear technology and the French  nuclear plant manufacturer Areva and thus preserve the French dependence on nuclear power.

I predict his line will be that the Japanese nuclear plants were old fashioned and that French nuclear technology is different and inherently safe. He will walk the fine line between supporting “the Japanese people in their hour of need” while criticising TEPCO, its handling of the Fukushima problems and the outdated technology (the 6 reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi were built starting in 1963 and came into operation between 1970 and 1979).

From the BBC:

No other country relies as heavily as France on nuclear power. It relies on nuclear power for 75% of it domestic supplies. It has 19 plants and 58 reactors. France is also at the forefront of nuclear technology, and President Sarkozy knows the debate over nuclear energy following events in Japan will affect the fortunes of the giant nucelar group Areva.

Like other countries, France is to check its nuclear reactors following the problems in Japan. But President Nicolas Sarkozy’s faith in the country’s nuclear programme seems unshaken. “France has made the choice of nuclear energy, which is an essential element of its energy independence and the fight against greenhouse gases,” he told his cabinet today. “This choice has been unseparable from an unfaltering undertaking to ensure a very high level of safety at our nuclear installations. I remain today convinced of the pertinence of these choices.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will call a special G20 meeting to discuss the energy sector in light of events in Japan. France currently holds the G20 presidency. France has also called a meeting of G7 finance ministers to respond to the crisis in Japan, Reuters reports. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde says the meeting will look at “how we can take part in their debt issues and how we can react on a financial level”.

From Paris, the BBC’s Christian Fraser says that France’s decision to offer it Tokyo-based citizens the chance to leave is partially motivated by domestic political problems. “Obviously it is a precaution and they might be accused of scaremongering but their new Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has been keen to get on the front foot, to show that they are in charge of the situation,” he said.

Related:  Does France have special information about Fukushima?

Does France have special information about Fukushima?

March 15, 2011

o600 CET : Wednesday 16th: France is now urging its nationals in Tokyo to leave Japan or head to the south of the country, Reuters reports. It says Paris has asked the Air France carrier to provide planes for the evacuation. The BBC’s Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the evacuation will begin on Thursday. Two French planes are already on their way to Japan.

It could be that France has access to some special information that the problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants are much worse than anything being reported in Japan or by the IAEA, but the almost orchestrated negativity from French Agencies is noteworthy.

Politicians and agencies are positive about support for Japan regarding the earthquake and the tsunami, but the negativity  is focused around the Fukushima nuclear plant and is particularly noticeable from Agence France Presse, the French Nuclear Agency and French Radio.

I tend to be extremely suspicious of  French nuclear politics and cannot help feeling that there is an agenda here which involves being as negative as possible about the Japanese nuclear industry to later show up how the French nuclear industry is so much better.

  1. France’s nuclear safety authority says it classifies the Fukushima plant accident as level six. The maximum is level seven, used only once for the 1986 Chernobyl accident, Reuters reports. The Japanese Nuclear Agency has classified the event as Level 4.
  2. Europe’s Energy Commissioner says Japan’s nuclear disaster is an “apocalypse”, adding that Tokyo has almost lost control of events at the Fukushima power plant, AFP report.
  3. AFP reports that several countries are screening passengers on flights arriving from Japan.
  4. Radio France to withdraw staff in Japan after nuclear accidents: Dow Jones

But at the same time France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said: “We expressed our admiration for the dignity and the courage shown by the Japanese during this unprecedented ordeal. We expressed our confidence in the way the Japanese authorities have faced the aftermath of the disaster with such efficiency, which the whole world has recognised.”

Status at Fukishima Dai-ichi and Dai-ni nuclear power plants

March 15, 2011

1428 CET: Quake of magnitude 6.2 in Shizuoka south of Tokyo in the Tokai region of central Japan at approx. 10km depth reported on NHK World. Inland quake and therefore no chance of a tsunami. Nuclear plants in Shizuoka not affected and continue operation. No effects of this quake on TEPCO plants reported. Buildings in Tokyo reported to be swaying. JR Tokai Shinkansen trains suspended.

1400 CET: Radiation leak risk increases as TEPCO unable to pour water into No. 4 reactor’s storage pool for spent fuel.

1300 CET: Reuters – The International Atomic Energy Agency says Japan has monitored 150 people for radiation levels and carried out decontamination measures on 23

Radiation too high for TEPCO personnel to stay in Fukushima nuke plant control rooms

From Kyodo News: 1200 CET (2000 Local time)

The following is the known status as of Tuesday evening for each of the six reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the four reactors at the Fukushima No. 2 plant, both in Fukushima Prefecture, crippled by Friday’s magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

Fukushima No. 1

— Reactor No. 1 – Cooling failure, partial melting of core, vapor vented, hydrogen explosion, seawater pumped in.

— Reactor No. 2 – Cooling failure, seawater pumped in, fuel rods fully exposed temporarily, damage to containment system, potential meltdown feared.

— Reactor No. 3 – Cooling failure, partial melting of core feared, vapor vented, seawater pumped in, hydrogen explosion, high-level radiation measured nearby.

— Reactor No. 4 – Under maintenance when quake struck, fire caused possibly by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, pool water levels feared receding.

— Reactor No. 5 – Under maintenance when quake struck.

— Reactor No. 6 – Under maintenance when quake struck.

Fukushima No. 2

— Reactor No. 1 – Cooling failure, then cold shutdown.

— Reactor No. 2 – Cooling failure, then cold shutdown.

— Reactor No. 3 – Cold shutdown.

— Reactor No. 4 – Cooling failure, then cold shutdown.

The Great Sendai Quake: Status at Fukushima Dai-Ichi still critical

March 14, 2011

Note ! My main sources are NHK, Kyodo News, Nikkei News, Asahi News, the BBC and CNN live blogs, Swedish Radio and some private emails. To follow only one of them is insufficient because even at such a time all of them tend to put some political “spin” into their reporting. CNN in my opinion is the most alarmist of these.

1400 CET: The fuel rods at reactor No.2 were fully exposed  for about 2.5 hours. The coolant level has now been raised by about 2m.

1300 CET: Press Conference by Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano: The pump failure at reactor no.2 was due to diesel fuel running out and took time to restart. Pumping has been resumed and the reactor is currently cooling. If cooling can be kept going stability will be reached. But some melting of the furl rods has likely taken place. The radiation measured was at a tolerable level for humans.

Some radioactivity had been detected at the plant periphery and surrounding area. A coolant pump at reactor No.2 has failed. Some steam is to be vented. There is conflicting information on the one hand about cooling working, coolant levels increasing by 30 cm but on the other hand also about 80cm of fuel rods being exposed, the possibility of fuel rod melting and of steam and gas being vented. But the radiation leakage is probably due to fuel rods melting at reactor no. 2 as well.

1230 CET: The coolant level at reactor no.2 is recovering and has gone up by 30cm.

Total number of people displaced now exceeds 500,000.

1100 CET: The problems with Reactor No.2 seem to have been losss of power and loss of all pumping capacity after the explosion at reactor No. 3. Power is now restored (by mobile generators?). At Fukushima Dai-ichi it seems (I hope) like a case of “Still critical but catastrophe avoided”.

TEPCO has introducing rotating blackouts. About 25% of Japan’s electricity generating capacity is down. Temperatures in Sendai will drop to freezing overnight and will affect over 300,000 people who are displaced from their homes. Rain – with some snow – is also expected tomorrow. Some offices of foreign companies in Tokyo have decided to close for the week.

By the numbers: 1,834 deaths confirmed with 15,000+ unaccounted for. 24,000 are known to be stranded and awaiting rescue. At least 6,200 buildings destroyed with at least 63,000 damaged.

0945 CET: Confirmed that cooling efforts at reactors No.1 and reactor No.2 have been successful. Whether and when all nuclear reactions have been or will have been shut down is not clear.

0930 CET: Kyodo News says that reactors No. 1 and 2 have been “pulled out of emergency” but the meaning of this is not clear for me. Presumably the power loss at reactor 2 after the explosion at reactor 3 has now been restored and pumping of sea water has restarted. But since fuel rods were exposed at reactor 2, I am not sure if this means that the risk of a hydrogen explosion at reactor 2 has gone. Also presumably reactor 3 has not yet been pulled out of “emergency”.

Tokyo Electric has started some power outages. Though these were due to begin in the morning they started only at 5pm because many have responded to calls to reduce their electricity consumption.

0900 CET: Reactor No.2 has lost all its coolant. Pressure in the building is rising and a third hydrogen explosion is possible. Clearly the fuel rods in reactor No. 2 have also been exposed. PM has called the situation “alarming”. US helicopter has detected radiation and the US aircraft carrier has suspended aid activity says Kyodo News. Fire being fought at Tohoku Electric’s thermal power plant in Fukushima.

Wintry weather expected with snow and moisture in next 48 hours in the Sendai region increasing risk of mud landslides. Heating is a problem at evacuation centres. Updated

0730 CET: Reactor No. 3 building has also suffered what seems to be a hydrogen explosion and the walls of the building have collapsed as with reactor No.1 building.  The explosion has relieved the pressure in the building. The fuel here is uranium and plutonium and potential radiation leaks are much worse than from reactor No.1 building. Higher levels of radiation than from reactor No. 1 have been observed but the reactor vessel is  said to be undamaged and safe. In the building, radiation levels of 50 μS and and outside the building  20 μS /hour were reported.

The real worry is that the cooling water being frantically pumped in is leaking away and not filling up the reactor vessel as it should. Reactor No.2 is also having sea water being pumped in but there is no report of fuel rod exposure here. Coolant levels are falling.

Reactor No. 4 is also giving cause for concern.

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