Massive, uncontained leak at Fukushima is pouring over 710 billion becquerels of radioactive materials into atmosphere

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) The tsunami-caused nuclear accident at the Fukushima power station in Japan is the disaster that never ends, as new reports indicate that a wealth of new radioactive materials have been spewed into the atmosphere.
According to Singapore-based news outlet AsiaOne, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the multi-nuclear reactor power station at Fukushima, announced April 6 that some 120 tons of water that had been contaminated with radioactive substances had leaked from an underground storage facility at the No. 1 atomic power plant site.

Running out of storage room?

TEPCO officials announced the leak late in the day April 5, a Friday, "but said measures to address the problem had not been taken for two days because the cause had not been identified," Asia One reported. The company "assumed the water was still leaking."
According to company officials TEPCO estimates that the leaked water contains about 710 billion becquerels of radioactive substances, making it the largest leak of radioactive materials ever at the plant. Discovery of the leak led the company to transfer about 13,000 tons of polluted, radioactive water in the questionable storage area to a neighbouring underground storage unit.
That storage unit, TEPCO said, is 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and six meters deep. It is pool-like in structure and has a three-layer waterproof sheet with a concrete cover.
According to the company, water that has leaked from damaged nuclear reactors is run through filters and additional devices in order to remove radioactive elements. The water is then stored in facilities for low-level contaminated water.
TEPCO began using the storage facility Feb. 1. As of April 5, 13,000 tons of radioactive water was being stored there – very close to the 14,000-ton limit.

More leaking contamination

AsiaOne reported that water samples taken by TEPCO from soil surrounding the damaged facility a few days later showed 35 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive substances, which is abnormal. "Safe" levels of becquerels is 300 per kilogram of water, according to New Scientist.
However, TEPCO officials did not publicly announce their findings right away after not finding any other unusual changes in water quality data, such as chloride concentration.
On April 5, the report said, two days after the problem was first noticed, water with 6,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive substances was located between the first and second layers of the waterproof sheet, which alerted TEPCO engineers and plant officials that a leak had occurred.
Per AsiaOne:
As the sheet’s layers were joined when the facility was constructed, TEPCO assumed that the sheet may have been damaged, or that a mistake had been made during construction. An average of about 400 tons a day of groundwater seeped into buildings housing nuclear reactors and turbines, increasing the quantity of polluted water.
The latest problem will create a storage shortage; TEPCO officials said storage of polluted water at the facility will be reduced from 53,000 tons to 40,000 – a significant reduction. That will make it necessary for the power company to go over procedures for handling polluted water, which will include increasing the number of storage units.

The disaster that keeps on giving

TEPCO said earlier this month it expected the water transfer would take about five days to complete.
"As the height of the water storage facility is relatively low, we think it’s unlikely that the polluted water mixed into underground water and reached the sea 800 meters away," said Masayuki Ono, the acting chief of TEPCO’s nuclear facilities department, at a press conference April 6.
The plant was damaged by a huge earthquake-caused tsunami March 11, 2011. At the time of the incident, three of the plant’s atomic reactors were shut down: No. 4 had been de-fueled and Nos. 5 and 6 were in cold shut-down for maintenance.
The remaining three automatically shut down at the time of the accident and emergency generators came on to keep coolant systems operating.


120 tonnes of N-water leaked at Fukushima


The Japan News/ Asia News Network
Sunday, Apr 07, 2013

Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced Saturday that about 120 tonnes of water contaminated with radioactive substances leaked from an underground storage facility at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

TEPCO announced the leak late Friday, but said measures to address the problem had not been taken for two days because the cause had not been identified. It assumed the water was still leaking.

The power company estimated that the leaked water contains a total of 710 billion becquerels of radioactive substances. The leak is the largest ever at the plant.

Since Saturday morning, about 13,000 tons of polluted water in the questionable storage facility was being transferred into a neighboring underground storage unit.

The storage facility, which is 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and six meters deep, is pool-like in structure, with a three-layer waterproof sheet and a concrete cover.

Water leaked from nuclear reactors is run through filters and other devices to remove radioactive elements, then stored in facilities for low-level contaminated water.

TEPCO started using the storage facility Feb. 1. As of Friday, 13,000 tons of polluted water was stored there, close to the 14,000-ton limit.

Water samples taken by TEPCO from soil around the facility on Wednesday showed 35 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive substances, indicating an abnormal situation.

However, TEPCO officials did not announce the finding immediately, as no other unusual changes in water quality data, such as chloride concentration, were seen.

On Friday, two days after the problem was noticed, water with 6,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive substances sat between the first and second layers of the waterproof sheet, alerting TEPCO officials that a leak had occurred.

As the sheet’s layers were joined when the facility was constructed, TEPCO assumed that the sheet may have been damaged, or that a mistake had been made during construction.

An average of about 400 tons a day of groundwater seeped into buildings housing nuclear reactors and turbines, increasing the quantity of polluted water.

The latest incident will reduce the plant’s storage capacity for polluted water from about 53,000 tons to 40,000 tons, making it necessary for TEPCO to review measures for handling polluted water, including increasing the number of storage tanks.

TEPCO said it expected the transfer of water would take at least five days to complete.

"As the height of the water storage facility is relatively low, we think it’s unlikely that the polluted water mixed into underground water and reached the sea 800 meters away," said Masayuki Ono, acting chief of TEPCO’s nuclear facilities department, at a press conference Saturday.


Nuclear crisis: How safe is Japan’s food and water?

Alerts have been issued on radiation levels in Japanese milk, spinach, leeks and tap water. Food shipments from four prefectures around the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been suspended. So how hazardous are the radiation levels found, and should people panic about what they’re eating?

Which goods have been contaminated?
Today the Japanese government ordered four prefectures to stop sellingspinach and leeks after levels of radiation above the legal limit were picked up in them. The affected prefectures were Fukushima, where the nuclear plant damaged by the tsunami is based, and the nearby Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.

Traces of radioactive iodine-131 were discovered in Tokyo tap water on Sunday. In Iiate, a village in Fukushima prefecture, there was so much in the water that the health ministry advised the village’s 3700 residents not to drink it. The water here contained 965 becquerels of radiation per kilogram – treble the "safe" legal level of 300 becquerels per kilogram.

Lastly, officials have discovered iodine-131 in three milk samples from Kawamata, a town in Fukushima prefecture. Radioactive caesium-137 also appeared in one of the samples, but at levels below the legal limit. As a precaution, the government has asked farmers in the prefecture to stop selling raw milk.

So how dangerous were the levels found?
Not very – at least, so says Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary. He isquoted in the Japan Times as saying that the contaminated milk from Kawamata contained up to 1500 becquerels of iodine-131 per kilogram, about five times the legal limit for milk. But to put this in perspective, he pointed out that if someone on a typical Japanese diet drank this milk for a whole year, the accumulated radiation would equal that from a single CT scan.

Turning to contaminated spinach from Ibaraki prefecture, Edano said that it contained up to 15,020 becquerels of iodine-131 per kilogram, about seven times the safe limit for spinach – plus 524 becquerels of caesium-137, which just exceeds the 500-becquerel limit. Again, to put this into perspective, he said that eating this spinach daily for a year would inflict a fifth of the radiation from a CT scan.

Nothing to worry about, then?
Apparently not, according to Edano. Urging the public not to overreact to the findings, he said that "eating food with radioactivity levels exceeding provisional limits isn’t going to affect your health". Affected farmers would be compensated, he added.

How trustworthy are the government’s reassurances?
Assuming the levels are being honestly reported, Edano’s attempts to prevent panic by putting the doses into perspective are justified. This impressive chartassembled by the web-based science "comic" XKCD shows how doses scale up in sieverts, the units by which absorption of radiation into living tissue is measured.

As a yardstick, 8 sieverts is considered fatal, even with treatment. The chart starts from the 0.05 microsieverts you could receive by sleeping next to someone, scaling up to the massive 50-sievert doses received every 10 minutes by the heroic workers who tackled the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

It reveals, for example, that the maximum average daily extra dose for people living near the Fukushima plant is estimated at around 3.5 millisieverts. The worldwide annual average background dose for a human being is about 2.4 millisieverts, according to the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

OK, so that helps with perspective, but what will happen to the radioactive material spreading from Fukushima into the environment?
Iodine-131 is the most hazardous isotope in the material, because if breathed in or eaten it can lodge in thyroid tissue and cause thyroid cancers, as happened after the Chernobyl accident when children drank contaminated milk.

But if people at risk receive tablets containing non-radioactive iodine, this reaches the thyroid first and effectively prevents the radioactive isotopes being absorbed. Also, the threat should be short-lived because half of any given amount of iodine-131 decays away weekly.

What about caesium-137?
It could be more of a problem. With a 30-year half-life, dangerous amounts can remain for years in pasture that might be grazed by livestock. That’s why farmers in the European "hotspots" most heavily contaminated from Chernobyl were banned from selling their produce for many years. It is not as harmful as iodine-131, but can still damage DNA and cause cancers long after iodine-131 has decayed to insignificance.

So the government precautions are sensible?
Indeed. The bans on sale of produce can be lifted once the scale of contamination has been fully evaluated, and once leakages from the nuclear plant have been permanently halted.

When is this likely?
Although the plant is still in a serious condition, the recent news has been promising. Almost all six reactor units at the plant are now stable or approaching stability, and power has been restored, enabling the operators to resume controlled cooling of the reactors. The worst contamination so far has come mainly from fires in ponds where spent fuel rods are stored. Because the ponds are open to the atmosphere, radioactive material from the spent fuel spread straight into the environment.

In an update yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that radiation levels had spiked three times since the quake, but have stabilised since 16 March "at levels which are, although significantly higher than the normal levels, within the range that allows workers to continue onsite recovery measures".


The Fukushima Cleanup Continues to Falter


J.K. TROTTER  MAY 1, 2013

Green Report bug

Time on the Fukushima power plant cleanup "If the consequences weren’t potentially so dire, the ongoing struggles to clean up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan would be the stuff of comedy," writes Bryan Walsh, who takes a long look at the efforts to decontaminate the plant since its meltdown in March 2011, which have recently struggled with accidents involving the area’s groundwater. He concludes: "In the end, the damage from Fukushima — especially to human health — is still unlikely to be anywhere near as large as nuclear critics feared when the plant first melted down. Indeed, the greater threat to the health of those who lived around the plant may be psychological, as they struggle with the both the upheaval of evacuation and the social taint of living near a meltdown."

Meeting: ‘Experts Convene to Examine Impacts of Fukushima on the Ocean’

May 1st, 2013

Japan’s "triple disaster," as it has become known, began on March 11, 2011, with a magnitude 9.0 earthquake—the fourth largest ever recorded. Following the quake, a 40 to 50-foot tsunami inundated the northeast Japanese coast and resulted in an estimated 20,000 missing or dead. The massive wave also caused catastrophic damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The release of radioactivity from Fukushima—both as atmospheric fallout and direct discharges to the ocean—represent the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history. More than two years after the disaster, some Japanese coastal fisheries remain closed. Questions and concerns over continued radioactive water leaks from the plant remain as well.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will convene international experts at a public colloquium to explore the impact of Fukushima on the ocean and human health. The panel will be held on May 9, 2013, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. EDT and simulcast on the Web (http://www.whoi.edu/fukushima). Online viewers are encouraged to participate and send questions for the panel discussion via Twitter. The event hashtag is #WHOIfukushima. Questions during the discussion can also be sent via email to cmer@whoi.edu.

Presentations and a panel discussion will examine natural and human sources of radiation in the ocean, what was released from Fukushima, impacts on marine ecosystems and human health, public policy implications, and how information is communicated to the public.

"The goal is not to alarm or assign blame, but to talk about lessons learned from this tragic event," said WHOI senior scientist and marine chemist Ken Buesseler, who led the first international, multidisciplinary assessment of the levels and dispersion of radioactive substances in the Pacific Ocean off the Fukushima nuclear power plant in June 2011.

Following the short keynote presentations, Heather Goldstone, host of Living Lab on WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station, will moderate a panel discussion from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. EDT.

The program will include presentations by:

  • Mitsuo Uematsu, University of Tokyo

    "The Fukushima Disaster: An Overview"

  • Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    "Radioisotopes in the Ocean"

  • Jota Kanda, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology

    "Radioisotopes in Marine Life"

  • Hiroyuki Matsuda, Yokohama National University

    "Seafood Safety and Public Policy"

  • James Seward, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    "Impacts of Radioactivity on Human Health"

  • Dennis Normile, Science Magazine

    "The Role of the Media in Disasters"

  • Jian Lin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    "Tsunamis and nuclear power in the U.S."

The program is part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Morss Colloquia series, established thanks to a generous gift by Elisabeth W. and Henry A. Morss, Jr.

Additional sponsors for this program include the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Center for Risk Management and Safety Sciences at YNU, Oceanographic Observation Center at TUMST, Center for International Collaboration at AORI, International Union of Radioecology, and Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity at WHOI.

Provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

Fukushima spawns dandelions with double heads – genetic mutations

Sadia Arshad

DATE: 01 MAY 2013

Recent pictures have shown double-headed dandelions growing in Minamisoma as a result of the Fukushima fallout. This is a dangerous mutation scenario.
Minamisoma is a small town on the Coast of Japan, situated about twenty five kilometers north of the collapsed nuclear reactor site of Fukushima Daiichi. Before the terrorising tsunami struck this area on 11th March, 2011, it was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice paddies and lush flora. Some people have reported that the area resembled a carpet of gold in the fall.
The farms in this region have now gone barren and the green houses are in ruins. Bales of hay are rotting in the snow. Where will these Fukushima related anomalies lead us to, with scenes of double-headed dandelions and mutant rabbits being born near Daiichi?
[Not radiation effect] Fasciate and double-headed dandelion mutation in Minamisoma Fukushima
Photo credit: Fukushima-diary.com


Fukushima Fallout affects West Coast babies

Sadia Arshad

DATE: 01 MAY 2013

The children born around the time of the Fukushima disaster a couple of years ago on the Pacific Coastline of North America have always been at great risk. This danger has been downplayed by many nuclear scientists and physicians.
The gravity of the situation is that the entire Western Coast of North America could be facing a serious threat. The radiation fallout could work as a major force behind children suffering with congenital hypothyroidism. Parents of children who may have shown symptoms of hypothyroidism should give themselves a wakeup call and take necessary steps towards providing immediate medical care.
The health agencies in North America have dragged their feet on taking proper and timely measures to counter these threats that have been posed on account of food and water contamination with radiation poisoning as suggested by the video below.

Fukushima: A Dire SOS Message

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 15:08By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster first began back in March of 2011, there have been near-daily updates on the condition of that stricken plant, updates which have been getting worse and worse, painting a very dire scene at the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

From the moment the earthquake and tsunami devastated the plant, officials have been struggling to contain the leaks of radioactive waste, fuel, and cooling water.

In February, for example, officials discovered a fish in a nearby water intake station for the plant that contained more than 7,400 times the recommended safe limit of radioactive cesium.

And now, officials are concerned that, because of all of the leaks, power outages, and glitches that have occurred, the Dai-chi nuclear power plant could begin to break apart and cause an even worse nuclear disaster, when a decades-long clean-up process finally begins.

But despite all of the chaos in Japan, and the continued fears of more nuclear disasters down the road, here in the United States, we are still relying heavily on nuclear power.

And to make matters worse, there are 23 General Electric Mark 1 nuclear reactors across our country, the same kind of nuclear power plants that failed so miserably at Fukushima.

These Mark 1 reactors are located all across America, from Vermont to Minnesota, New York to Nebraska.

If just one of these reactors were to fail on the level that the Fukushima Dai-ichi Mark 1 reactor did, we could be looking at an unprecedented disaster.

But don’t tell that to government officials, lawmakers, or nuclear power proponents, who continually argue that not only is nuclear power one of the safest forms of energy, but that it is also one of cleanest and greenest forms of energy.

Events like Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disprove the safety claims about nuclear power pretty well, but what about the claims that it is one of the cleanest and greenest forms of energy out there?

Proponents of nuclear power love to claim that nuclear power is a "carbon-free" solution to climate change. Even Obama’s new Energy Secretary has said so.

Nuclear power lobbyists claim that the production of energy via nuclear power doesn’t emit any CO2, and as a result, is one of cleanest forms of energy out there.

But this is non-sense.

There is nothing clean, carbon-wise, about nuclear power, and the only thing green about it is the glowing radioactivity.

When nuclear power advocates argue that it’s a "carbon-free" form of energy, they’re failing to realize that, whenever a power plant is built, whether it’s a solar plant, a wind plant, or a nuclear plant, there is always CO2 emitted. Every form of energy production produces some amount of CO2.

In order to accurately calculate just how much CO2 is produced from a power plant, you have to look at the entire life-cycle of the plant as well as the production of the raw energy that it produces.

With nuclear power, that means looking at the construction of the plant, the operation of the plant, maintenance and refurbishment efforts and the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant’s nuclear reactor. And, you must also look at the nuclear fuel used, and the process for mining, refining, and transporting it.

Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith, nuclear energy consultants with Ceedata Consultancy in the Netherlands, carried out life-cycle analyses of nuclear power plants, and found, on average, they produce anywhere from 90 to 140 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity.

In comparison, solar power, wind power and hydroelectricity produce anywhere from 10 to 40 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity, while gas burning power plants produce 330 to 330 grams of CO2.

In other words, nuclear energy does produce carbon, and it certainly isn’t the solution to curbing the devastating effects of global warming and climate change. It’s less than gas, oil, or coal, but far, far more than solar.

The fact that government officials in Japan are continuing to struggle with the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plants, more than two years after they initially failed, should be all the proof needed that nuclear power is far too volatile a form of energy to safely rely on.

All the myths about nuclear power have been debunked.

It’s time to shut down reactors and put an end to nuclear power worldwide.

And let’s start that process right now – right here in the USA. No nukes.


Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant Has a Serious Rat Problem

The Atlantic Wire

By Connor Simpson | The Atlantic Wire – Mon, Apr 22, 2013

A cooling fuel pool was shut down for a few hours Monday at Japan’s embattled Fukushima nuclear power plant so workers could remove two dead rats. It was the third time in a little over a month that cooling equipment had to be shut down for rat related issues — and right now there are more radioactive rodent recurrences than answers.

Three times is a trend, friends. Japan Today reports Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) shut down one of the cooling systems Monday to remove two more dead rats and install a net to stop the recurring rodent problem — hopefully. On March 20, TEPCO lost power to its cooling system for 29 hours after a rat short-circuited a switchboard and caused the shutdown. At the time, the utility company released an hilarious and/or disgusting photo of the fried rat (right). That little guy had seen better days. And then a few weeks later construction of a rodent-catching net halted power for another two hours after they bungled that process, too — details have yet to emerged from the investigation into that particular rodent shutdown.

The rat problem has led to some of the biggest cooling outages since an earthquake caused major outages to the plant two years ago. If a cooling system is offline for too long the nuclear fuel rods emit strong radioactive energy. Since the earthquake, Fukushima has been plagued with troubles, including a lingering cancer risk, a heaping of blame for childhood obesity, and mutating butterflies.

So: The first net either didn’t work or the rodents are radioactive, have buzz-saws for teeth, and are chewing through whatever industrial material designed to keep them at bay, right? Probably not. So far the rodents have not been of unusual size. The first one was only about six inches long. That’s at least half the size of some New York City subway rats.


There will be more on Fukushima as this disaster is nowhere near being over yet