From: Gordon Edwards <ccnr at web.ca>
Date: April 17, 2011 4:49:03 PM EDT (CA)
Subject: April 17: Levels of Radioactive Materials Rise Near Japanese Plant
I (GE) will be on Canada AM tomorrow morning (April 18)
at about 7:05 am talking about radioactive contamination
and the 3-month, nine-month, 10-year, and 30-year
action plans announced by the industry.
Pro-nuclear and government scientists around the world
have been giving out misinformation about the long-term
effects of radiation exposure, especially in the case of
internal radioactive contamination caused by eating
slightly contaminated food, breathing slightly contaminated
air, and drinking slightly contaminated water and milk.
The overwhelming scientific consensus on health effects
from low-level chronic radiation exposure is that there is
no “safe” level of exposure to atomic radiation. When a
large enough population is exposed to even low doses of
such atomic radiation, there will be predictable increases
in cancers, leukemias, and genetically damaged offspring.
The number of such health effects is dependent on the
“population dose” — that is, the sum total of all the individual
doses calculated over the entire exposed population, which
in this case numbers in the hundreds of millions or billions.
This view has been strongly endorsed by the US National
Academy of Sciences in all SEVEN of their reports on the
Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (the BEIR Reports).
It is also strenuously endorsed the International Commission
on Radiological Protection (ICRP) even though that body is
thought by many (including myself) to be strongly biased
towards the nuclear industry. The same view, commonly
known as the “non-threshold linear model” is endorsed by
the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of
Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and by the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It is understandable, even commendable, to act in such a
way as to avoid panic and to allay unfounded fears. But
it is irresponsible to lie to people about the objective
scientific facts concerning low-dose radiation health effects.
This stuff is not harmless! As in the case of asbestos and
second-hand smoke, the only safe level is ZERO.
Much of the radioactive material that is given off by the plant
(and it will continue to be given off for the next several
months) is in the form of very tiny solid particles called
“aerosols”, which — like the smoke from a burning cigarette —
will hang in the air for a long time, but will also attach itself
quite readily to clothing, skin, hair, and internal organs. Unlike
cigarette smoke, however, radioactive aerosols cannot be seen,
smelled, tasted or touched.
Aerosol particles lodged on clothing, skin, and hair can be a
source of contamination for furniture or bedclothes, which is
why many hotels in Tokyo are refusing rooms to refugees from
the exclusion zone around the reactor. Insurance companies will
not cover any damage done by radioactive contamination caused
by a nuclear accident, so the hotels would have no compensation
if their furniture or bedding become contaminated.
Meanwhile, individuals who are contaminated may have these tiny
particles lodged in their pores, hair follicles, or (much worse) their
lungs, thyroids, reproductive organs, bones, mother’s milk, etc.
Nobody will be able to measure or calculate the total amount of
radiation exposure that such individuals are exposed to, and when
they get sick chances are slim that anyone will make the connection
between the exposure that is taking place now and the diseases that
will show up many years hence.
It’s the tobacco story all over again. The health dangers of smoking
are far from obvious, as we do not see people dropping down dead
from smoking a cigarette. In fact cigarette smokers used to look like
they were having a lot of fun and feeling great, they even looked
suave sophisticated and macho (like Yul Brynner). But in fact we
now know that they were engaged in a deadly practice. The situation
with chronic exposure to radioactive materials is similar in nature —
delayed diseases for which, in individual cases, it is impossible to prove
the “cause-effect” relationship even though such a “cause-effect”
link has been thoroughly established by innumerable studies.
For this reason, it is important that people be counselled as to how
they can choose to lower their intake of these dangerous materials,
since it is impossible to avoid them altogether. Drinking powdered
milk (previously prepared) for a period of months reduces the intake
of fresh milk and thus the intake of radioactive iodine, which concen-
trates very much in fresh milk and dairy products. Avoiding leafy
vegetables grown outdoors may reduce the intake of radioactive
fallout during the time when that fallout is still taking place. Choosing
water from deep sources like wells rather than rainwater (which collects
radioactive materials that are in the air) is a good idea.
People deserve to be told what measures can be taken to limit their
intake of these radioactive poisons rather than being given bland
reassurances without any understanding or objective information.
Levels of Radioactive Materials
Rise Near Japanese Plant
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, New York Times, April 16, 2011
TOKYO (AP) — Levels of radioactive materials have risen sharply
again in seawater near the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
in northern Japan, raising the possibility of new leaks at the complex,
the government said Saturday.
Nuclear Company to Compensate Evacuees in Japan (April 16, 2011)
Nuclear Cleanup Plans Hinge on Unknowns (April 15, 2011)
Workers have been struggling to deal with contaminated runoff at the
plant that resulted from makeshift efforts to cool reactors and spent
fuel rod pools after a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out
regular cooling systems.
Much of the tons of water that has been sprayed on the reactors and
pools has been stored, but the company that operates the plant, the
Tokyo Electric Power Company, recently discovered and eventually
plugged a leak that could have been gushing for days. The levels of
radioactive materials in the ocean near the plant dropped after that.
But the government said Saturday that levels of radioactive materials in
the seawater have risen again in recent days. The level of radioactive
iodine 131 jumped to 6,500 times the legal limit, according to samples
taken Friday, up from 1,100 times the limit in samples taken the day
before. Levels of cesium 134 and cesium 137 rose nearly fourfold.
The increased levels are still far below those recorded earlier this
month before the initial leak was plugged.
The government said the new rise in radioactivity could have been
caused by the installation on Friday of steel panels intended to contain
radioactive materials. The construction may have temporarily stirred up
stagnant waste in the area, Hidehiko Nishiyama, the deputy director
general of Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety
Agency, told reporters. However, the increase in iodine 131, which has
an eight-day half life, could signal the possibility of a new leak, he said.
“We want to determine the origin and contain the leak, but I must admit
that tracking it down is difficult,” he said.
The authorities have insisted that the radioactivity will dissipate and poses
no immediate threat to fish outside the waters nearest to the plant or to the
people who might eat them. The government has banned fishing close to
the shore there.
Both cesium and iodine can increase the long-term risk of cancer with
exposures to high levels.
Regardless, plant workers on Saturday began dumping sandbags filled with
zeolite, a mineral that absorbs radioactive cesium, into the sea.
Japan Plant Fuel Melted Inside Three Reactors: Report
Friday, April 15, 2011
Nuclear fuel has melted in three reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear power plant and fallen to the lower sections of their container
vessels, raising the specter of overheated material compromising a
container and causing a massive radiation release, the Atomic Energy
Society of Japan said in a report released on Friday (see GSN, April 15).
The group played down the possibility of a container breach, though,
noting that only a small amount of fuel had melted so far and affected
material had assumed a granulated structure and remained relatively
cool, Kyodo News reported. The six-reactor plant was crippled by the
9.0-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami that hit Japan on
March 11; the confirmed death toll from the events now exceeds
The melted fuel was thought to have dispersed uniformly across the
lower portions of the containers of reactors No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3,
making the material highly unlikely to resume the fission process in a
“recriticality,” according to the organization, which said fuel rods in all
three reactors had been harmed. Fuel in the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors
has made contact with air, while the No. 3 reactor’s rods have remained
underwater, the group said.
Bringing the fuel under control could take between two and three
months if restoration work moved forward as expected, said Takashi
Sawada, the group’s deputy chairman. The organization based its
assessment on information provided by the Japanese Nuclear and
Industrial Safety Agency and by Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s
Plant personnel pressed ahead in efforts to prevent additional
radioactive material from escaping the site, deploying steel barriers
around a No. 2 reactor pipeline and proceeding with the insertion
of nitrogen gas into the No. 1 reactor to prevent additional hydrogen
blasts. Pressure in the No. 1 reactor has fallen to a certain degree,
pointing to the possible escape of air, but radiation in the area has
remained largely unchanged.
Tokyo Electric Power indicated it could drop sandbags filled with
zeolite into the nearby ocean as soon as Friday to help curb the
spread of radioactive contaminants (Kyodo News I, April 15). Silt
fencing was deployed in front of screening at the No. 3 and No. 4
reactors for containing radioactive water, the International Atomic
Energy Agency said on Thursday (International Atomic Energy
Agency release, April 15).
Workers earlier this week transferred roughly 660 tons of radiation-
tainted water out of an underground passage, but fluid flooding the
area reached its original depth again by Friday morning, Kyodo News
quoted the atomic safety agency as saying. Contaminated water
has hindered efforts to restore cooling mechanisms needed to
help prevent additional radioactive material from escaping the site.
A nuclear waste treatment area intended to receive the water was
still undergoing inspection for possible weak points in pipelines.
“I’m hoping that work to stop water leaks at the (facility) is finished
as soon as possible to start channeling the water there,” said
Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said on Friday (Kyodo News I).
Fresh water continued to be transferred into reactors No. 1, No. 2
and No. 3, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said. Conditions remained
consistent at the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors (International Atomic
Energy Agency release).
Soil samples taken at the facility between March 31 and April 4
contained small amounts of plutonium, Kyodo News reported on
Friday. The finding marked the third detection of plutonium traces
at the site (Kyodo News I).
Radioactive iodine and cesium levels increased dozens of
times over in groundwater close to the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors
between April 6 and 13 (Kyodo News II, April 15). Strontium also
turned up in soil close to the facility for the first time, the Sydney
Morning Herald reported on Friday.
Tokyo Electric Power was still developing a longer-term strategy
for stabilizing plant conditions, company president Masataka
Shimizu said (Danielle Demetriou, Sydney Morning Herald,
Specialists with Toshiba, one supplier of plant components, said
conditions could be brought under control “in several months,”
Norio Sasaki, the firm’s chief executive, said on Thursday. A plan
developed by the company calls for the removal of damaged
fuel from reactor containers to start after five years and for
decontamination to take place over another five years, the
New York Times reported on Thursday.
Hitachi, which has developed a separate plan to decommission
the facility, said Toshiba’s proposal was too hopeful and
suggested the fuel removal process alone could take a decade
The status of the nuclear fuel at the site would affect the speed
of dismantlement, said Tetsuo Matsumoto, a nuclear engineering
professor with Tokyo City University. “Will it still be shaped like
rods? Or will it have melted and collapsed into a big mass?” the
expert asked. “It could be 10 years or it could be 30. You just
won’t know until you open up the reactor” (Hiroko Tabuchi,
New York Times, April 14).
Tokyo Electric Power on Wednesday said the deterioration of
spent fuel stored in the No. 4 reactor’s cooling pond appeared
confined, the Asahi Shimbun reported. Fuel in the reactor was
only partly compromised, the company indicated
(Asahi Shimbun I, April 15).
The Japanese government on Friday indicated a smaller quantity
of radioactive contaminants had been poured into the ocean in
a controlled dump of low-level radioactive water than previously
suspected, Kyodo News reported. Tokyo Electric Power
suggested the 10,393 tons of water jettisoned between April 4
and 10 contained up to 170 billion becquerels of contaminants,
but the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimated the total
amount released to fall around 150 billion becquerels
(Kyodo News III, April 15).
The U.S. Energy Department was sending five massive steel
containers and a tractor trailer for holding contaminated water
from the plant, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo indicated on Thursday
(Kyodo News IV, April 14).
Fukushima University experts have plotted out the spread of
air-based radioactive materials from the plant using samples
taken late last month from 370 points around Fukushima
prefecture, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Friday
(Asahi Shimbun II, April 15).
In excess of 100 academic specialists intend next month to launch
an investigation of the ecological and safety implications of
radioactive contaminants released from the facility, Kyodo News
reported. Members of the team are expected to help the
Fukushima government gather soil samples from 1,500 points
along 62 miles of coastline and as far as 37 miles from the ocean
(Kyodo News V, April 14).
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday said specialists in
his country “will assess the impact of the Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear plant accident on the environment and will also conduct
environmental monitoring” (Kyodo News V, April 15).
Participating agencies would include the Russian Atomic Energy
Ministry and Russian Meteorological Service, ITAR-Tass quoted
Russian Geographical Society Vice President Artur Chilingarov
as saying. The monitoring “starts on April 22 and will continue
24 days,” he said ( ITAR-Tass, April 15).
Background to article below:
Irradiated nuclear fuel contains hundreds of man-made radioactive
poisons for which the natural background level is zero. They fall
into three broad categories:
(1) fission products — radioactive isotopes of xenon, krypton,
iodine, cesium, tellurium, ruthenium, and many others — which
are the broken pieces of atoms that have been split or “fissioned”;
(2) activation products — radioactive isotopes of argon, cobalt,
iron, and many others — which are created when non-radioactive
materials in the reactor absorb one or two neutrons and are
transformed into radioactive elements; and
(3) transuranic elements — plutonium, neptunium, americium, curium,
and others — which are created when uranium atoms absorb one or
more neutrons and then transform themselves into new elements.
See http://ccnr.org/hlw_chart.html and http://ccnr.org/hlw_graph.html
In addition to these man-made radioactive materials, there are also
huge amounts of radioactive materials created which do exist in small
amounts in nature — such as tritium (radioactive hydrogen) and
carbon-14 (radioactive carbon). These radioactive atoms are easily
incorporated into organic molecules of all kinds, including DNA.
This is the stuff that the nuclear industry wants to bury in geologic
formations in order to protect the biosphere for millions of years.
But when a reactor melts down, that radioactive junk is trapped in
the molten blobs that form. It’s an enormous toxic mess. Ad hoc
measures must be taken to package and move and guard these
unwieldy radioactive blobs and contain them so that they do not
leak their radioactive poisons into the environment.
At Chernobyl, where the core of the reactor melted right into the
earth, moving it has proven to be impossible. Constructing a
containment above the site of the core melt is also impossible
because of the intense radiation levels. An enormous structure
is being built AWAY from the reactor core melt, which will then — when
finished — be “slid” over the reactor site, enclosing the remnants of
the reactor building and all.
Already over $650 million (US) has been spent to build
this new structure, which will take the place of the crumbling
sarcophagus that was hastily erected over the molten core
following the accident 25 years ago. Authorities are now
seeking hundreds of million more in order to complete
the task — and this is by no means a permanent solution!
Meanwhile, the remnants of the half-melted TMI core (from
32 years ago) are also presenting storage difficulties….
Three Mile Island fuel storage modules at DOE facility cracking
William Freebairn, Washington (Platts), 15 April 2011
The US Department of Energy facility storing melted fuel from the Three
Mile Island nuclear plant has not done enough to address crumbling
concrete modules encasing the radioactive material, the US Nuclear
Regulatory Commission said in a letter made public Friday.
The DOE facility at the Idaho National Laboratory holds the damaged fuel
from unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Plant, which, in 1979, suffered a partial
meltdown of the core, leading to the US’ worst nuclear accident.
The so-called spent fuel rubble is now contained in concrete storage
modules located at an independent storage installation owned by DOE.
The concrete modules are “showing significant cracking and degradation,”
even though they were built in 1999 to last for 50 years, NRC said in the
letter, which is dated April 7.
DOE has analyzed the structural integrity of the modules, which have
walls two feet thick, and determined that the problem is getting
progressively worse, NRC said.
Since the NRC inspection, DOE has identified funding to pay for repairs
and will begin the work this construction season, meaning from the spring
to the fall, spokeswoman Katinka Podmaniczky said in an email Friday.
“These cracks have no impact on the storage modules’ ability to safely
store spent nuclear fuel,” she said.
At the time of the inspection, it was not clear whether DOE had approved
or scheduled measures to stabilize the degradation, NRC said in the
letter. It asked DOE to provide the regulator with information about
corrective measures, a schedule for their implementation and a plan
for monitoring the effectiveness of actions taken.
The degradation of the modules was likely due to “water intrusion and
the annual thawing and freezing cycle,” NRC said in an inspection report
attached to the letter. Chunks of concrete have fallen from areas of the
modules and there are signs they are no longer water-tight, NRC said.
Cracking was first recognized in 2000 but considered to be “cosmetic,”
NRC said. In 2008, DOE recognized that continued cracking called into
question the ability of the modules to protect the fuel canisters inside
from natural phenomena and shield people from the radiation of the
A recent study determined that protective caps should be installed,
damaged concrete replaced and a sealant applied, but those actions
have not yet been taken, the NRC inspection report said.
NRC licensed DOE’s Idaho Operations office in 1999 to store the
damaged fuel in dry shielded stainless steel canisters, which are
loaded inside the reinforced concrete modules.
The 30 dry shielded canisters at the site contain melted fuel from the
Three Mile Island-2 reactor core. That unit, located in Pennsylvania,
experienced the melting of about half the fuel in the core during an
accident. The adjacent Three Mile Island-1 continues to operate.
The NRC inspectors concluded that the storage facility continues to
meet standards, but the degradation of the modules is “a concern
that will be tracked in the future,” agency spokesman David McIntyre
said in an email.
NRC also cited DOE in the inspection report for a “deviation from a[n]
NRC commitment” because it deleted certain material from an
NRC ordered the energy agency to respond within 30 days. The
deviation was minor, Podmaniczky said.
William Freebairn, [email protected]
Renewable power isn’t just safer than nuclear, it’s cheaper
Interview with Amory Lovins
Climate and Capitalism
April 14, 2011
Amory Lovins:”Nuclear is such a slow and costly climate solution, it actually reduces and retards climate protection”
On March 25, Bruce Gellerman of the Public Radio International program
Living on Earth spoke with Amory Lovins, Co-founder of Rocky Mountain
Institute about the true costs of nuclear power
GELLERMAN: There are “dangerously high” radiation levels in water leaking from Reactor number 3 at Japan’s Fukushima plant. At our deadline, operators still struggling to gain control of the facility, fear the core might be breached. Prime minister Kan calls the situation
“grave and unpredictable” and officials are urging those within 19 miles of the nuclear plant to leave voluntarily, and avoid eating many kinds of green vegetables.
To say the least, the nuclear disaster in Japan has refocused attention on the future of the atom as a source of energy. But the threat of global climate change has led even some die hard environmentalists to reconsider and embrace nuclear power. But not Amory Lovins. He’s chairman and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass,
Colorado. Amory Lovins, welcome to Living on Earth!
LOVINS: Thank you.
GELLERMAN: So is it possible that we can meet our carbon reduction targets without nuclear power?
LOVINS: Of course! Not only that, but we could do so more effectively
and more cheaply. It is quite true that if a nuclear plant displaces a
coal plant that would replace carbon emissions.
But if you spent the same money on efficiency, renewables and combined
heat and power, you would reduce the carbon emissions by about two to
ten times more and about 20 to 40 times faster. So nuclear is such a
slow and costly climate solution, it actually reduces and retards
climate protection, compared with a best buys first approach.
GELLERMAN: When you say it’s slow, isn’t it people like you that are
holding up the process with lawsuits, holding up the process of
licensing nuclear power plants?
LOVINS: Not in the least! I know the industry likes to blame
environmental groups – of which, by the way, we are not one – for
holding up licensing for several decades. New nuclear power plants in
this country are offered subsidies that now rival or exceed their total
And yet, even though that’s been true since 2005, three years before the financial crash, they’ve been unable to raise a penny of private
capital, simply because the cost and risks are unfinanceable. Wall
Street will not invest in them – it’s an utterly unfinanceable
technology, and it’s obvious why – it’s grossly uncompetitive.
GELLERMAN: But can renewables, like wind for example, produce enough
energy, enough density to replace nuclear power plants, which are huge
and hugely powerful. And, plus, the wind doesn’t blow on calm days.
LOVINS: Yeah, well, that’s two separate points. The first one – I’m
afraid the industry got it backwards. Actually, if you properly do the
math – and count if you count the whole nuclear fuel cycle, not just the
power plant, not just the core of the reactor, but the occlusion zone,
the uranium mining and so on, it turns out that wind power uses hundreds or thousands of times less land per kilowatt hour, than nuclear does.
Even solar photovoltaics are equal to or might be better than nuclear in
that respect. As for the wind not blowing and the sun not shining all
the time, that’s true. Every kind of power plant can fail. They differ,
however, how much fails at once, how often, how long and for what
reasons and how predictably. You can predict pretty well when wind or
solar will not work, but you cannot predict when a nuclear plant will fail.
They break without warning about three to five percent of the time – big coal nuclear plants are down about ten or twelve percent of the time –
and for that reason, we’ve designed grids for over a century to cope
with that intermittence that every power plant suffers from. So you
don’t depend on any single plant, you depend on the whole grid.
So it turns out, if you diversify renewables by type so they’re not all
affected by weather the same way, you diversify them by location, so
they don’t all see the same weather at the same time, and you integrate
them with the resources on the grid, both power plants and ways to save or shift electric use, then you can have a largely, or wholly renewable electric supply system at very reasonable cost, with greater reliability and resilience than we have right now.
GELLERMAN: I find it a little bit ironic, you know – I see in these
pictures from Japan – and if they had put a little bit – if they had put
a wind turbine on top of the nuclear complex there, the plant might have had power and would still be running.
LOVINS: Actually, the wind machines in the vicinity were not affected by
the earthquake and tsunami, and the utilities have been calling for them
to crank out every bit of juice they can to help keep the grid up. Look,
here’s a quick summary of what’s going on with nuclear in the world. At
the end of 2010, there were 66 nuclear units, officially listed as
“under construction” worldwide.
You look a little closer, you’ll find a dozen of them have been listed
as “under construction” for over 20 years, 45 of them have no official
start up date, half of them are late. All 66 of them are in centrally
planned power systems, not a single one of them is a free-market
purchase. And since 2007, nuclear growth has added less electricity to
our supply each year, then even the costliest renewable – solar power –
and it will probably never catch up.
GELLERMAN: But they’re having rolling blackouts in Japan right now
because they don’t have the nuclear power plants online.
LOVINS: Of course if you lose a lot of capacity, you can be short. And
they were already a bit short. But I would actually view that as a
drawback of nuclear power in two respects. First, to make it cheap, they
tried to put a bunch of plants in one place, which was always a bad
idea, because if something goes wrong with one plant, you can’t even get in to fix the others and keep them from developing serious problems.
Second, nuclear plants are shut down abruptly, when there’s a loss of
grid connection, like in the tsunami. And the trouble with that is, it
is then very hard to restart the plant. So in 2003, we had a big black
out in the northeastern US, nine plants were running perfectly until the
blackout and then they went to zero, and it took two weeks to get them
all back up. And so they’re like an anti-peaker, they’re guaranteed
unavailable when you most need them. Renewables don’t have that problem.
GELLERMAN: Amory Lovins is the chairman and chief scientist of Rocky
Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Colorado. Well, Mr. Lovins, thank you so
LOVINS: You’re welcome.