Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fukushima update 3/16/11 - Situation Critical



The Guardian (UK) - World News
NHK WORLD English (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
HERALD SUN Breaking News (Australia)
The Telegraph (
GOOGLE RSS FEED FOR "Fukushima + nuclear"
Stars and Stripes
Check Democracy Now! for excellent reporting.

SEE ALSO: FALLOUT ALERT (includes info on radiation remedies and usage warnings)



Containment breaches are suspected following explosions at four reactors - fuel storage pond burns and vents radiation - no catastrophic meltdown is reported, but multiple partial meltdowns are suspected - extremely dangerous radiation levels rise and fall - local human catastrophe and environmental disaster with world-wide ramifications continues to unfold

facility fires reported involve areas with extremely dangerous "spent fuel" - spent fuel storage "pond" was on fire twice and radioactivity was being released directly into the atmosphere - - many workers evacuated due to high radiation levels, at times all of them - efforts to dump seawater with helicopters thwarted by high levels of radiation, then succeed - smoke seen rising from the site is assumed to be radioactive - winds have been mostly favorable, blowing contamination out to sea and away from population centers, but Tokyo reports radiation detected

Pacific Storm track bringing fallout to North America, but the severity of that could be slight - all this acknowledging that no amount of contamination is good at all; and that, especially locally in Japan and generally the West Pacific, this is surely of historic and catastrophic proportion.

Update 2:00 PM 1400 PDT THURSDAY MARCH 17
Animated map shows radioactive material's path across Pacific toward California
LA Times, Local: As The Times' Ralph Vartabedian reported, small amounts of radioactive isotopes from the quake-crippled Japanese nuclear power plant are being blown toward North America. Though they could reach California by Friday, officials said they see no health danger and stressed that any radiation reaching here would be well within safe limits.

Scientists Project Path of Radiation Plume
The New York Times, Science/Environment, March 16, 2011:

Health and nuclear experts emphasize that any plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States.

A United Nations forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume coming from crippled Japanese reactors shows it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting Southern California late Friday.

The projection, by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, an arm of the United Nations in Vienna, gives no information about actual radiation levels but only shows how a radioactive plume would probably move and disperse.

Forecast for Plume's Path Is a Function of Wind and Weather
The New York Times, MARCH 18 2:00 AM
The forecast does not show actual levels of radiation

Crews are frantically trying to keep the troubled reactors from melting down by flooding them with seawater, and now dropping water on them with helicopters (none of this is"in the manual" -- we are talking last-ditch efforts to prevent catastrophic meltdowns). Many workers evacuated due to extreme local levels of radiation - all workers have been evacuated at least once. The situation is described as "out of control."
Japan nuclear crisis escalates, The Guardian
The EU's energy chief, Günther Oettinger, told the European parliament the situation was out of control. "We are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster," he said. "There could be further catastrophic events, which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island." He said it was impossible to "exclude the worst", adding: "There is talk of an apocalypse and I think the word is particularly well chosen."
Japan steps up cooling operation - NHK VIDEO
BBC News ASIA-PACIFIC: Army helicopters dumped tonnes of water to try to prevent a meltdown of fuel rods. Water cannon will join the operation shortly and it is hoped electricity will be restored soon.


Michio Kaku on ABC's Nightline

Physicist: Nuke Plant Meltdown ‘All But Inevitable’
Posted on 03/16/2011, 11:25 pm, by Kevin Featherly
Too little too late. That’s how nuclear physicist Michio Kaku describes the efforts by the Japanese to dump water from helicopters on stricken nuclear reactors. He tells ABC’s Nightline:
That helicopter dropping borated water is like a squirt gun trying to put out a forest fire. We are extremely close now to the point of no return. Just a few more slight glitches and we are going to be in an uncontrolled breach of containment. That is a Class 7 accident. That is a full-scale Chernobyl.

I'm really not sure why he discounts, at the end, any significant impact for the U.S., especially on the Pacific Coast which get the most direct hit according to projections... and, so far, this looks pretty "uncontrolled" to me with all the explosions, fires, radiation spikes, etc. - and remember we are talking about multiple reactors plus the fuel pools.

The explosions so far are described as a hydrogen explosions - NOT nuclear explosions or Chernobyl type meltdowns. Smoke rising from the plant said to be radioactive - spent fuel rods are said to be completely exposed and possibly burning and/or melting down, spewing radiation into the air.
Spent fuel contains numerous, extremely dangerous radioactive elements which are the byproducts of the uranium and plutonium fission that occurs during the nuclear reaction process which is used to generate power.

I have to say that (higher level meltdown or not) this is an extremely terrible event which will have major consequences for Japan, the entire Pacific Region, and the entire world over the coming days, weeks, years, decades... Do not believe otherwise.

SEE ALSO: fallout alert (including info on radiation remedies and usage warnings)

StormSurf weather animation >Click for current Wave Model - North Pacific Surface Pressure and Wind (180 hr. loop)

Iodine therapy unnecessary: B.C. officials
CBC NEWS Canada ( "The consumption of iodide tablets is not a necessary precaution as there is no current risk of radiological I131 exposure. Even if radiation from Japan ever made it to British Columbia, our prediction based on current information is that it would not pose any significant health risk." - provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall on March 14

-- NOTE: (11:00 PM 2300 WEDNESDAY MARCH 16) At this point rad levels on the North American West Coast (since there have been no full-blown meltdowns reported) may not warrant Iodine therapy - however: should a full-blown meltdown (or 4) become the reality, it would be wise to consider. I will continue to post updates as I can.
-- Click here to visit the Radiation Remedies and Usage Warnings portion of the fallout alert page.

US alarm over Japan atomic crisis
BBC (16 March 2011 Last updated at 23:39 ET): Increasing alarm has been voiced in the US about the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan... A top US nuclear official said attempts to cool reactors with sea water to prevent a meltdown appeared to be failing and workers could be exposed to "potentially lethal" radiation doses.

The Australian March 17, 2011 2:45PM (AEDT (GMT +11)): US agency fears cooling failure in reactor has led to 'extremely high' radiation levels
Earlier today the threat of a further spread in radiation appeared to increase when US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in Washington that all the water was gone from the spent fuel pools at reactor No 4 at Fukushima... Japanese officials denied it, but if Mr Jaczko is correct, it would mean there's nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down. The outer shells of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.

JAPANESE authorities are using helicopters to dump water on stricken reactors at a nuclear power plant as they battle to avert a nuclear catastrophe.
Herald Sun | AFP - Thursday March 17, 12.12pm AEDT (GMT +11): Three twin-rotor CH-47 Chinooks from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces were used in the operation... Two loads of seawater were dumped on the plant's damaged No. 3 reactor, with the third load dropped on the No. 4 reactor... Eleven water cannon trucks were also en route to the plant to spray water from the ground onto the No. 3 reactor.
- overheating has caused four hydrogen explosions and two fires at the plant as well as a partial meltdown at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors of the six-reactor facility..."Damage to the cores of the three units -- units 1, 2 and 3 -- has been confirmed. The cores remain uncovered [by cooling water] by one or two meters," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano said yesterday.

Japan: Gov. officials and TEPCO update on emergency water drop operations at Fukushima
Xeni Jardin at 7:48 PM Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011: About two hours ago, between 9am and 10am local time in Japan, emergency operations to drop water on to the Fukushima nuclear plant began: specifically, the No. 3. and 4 reactor buildings, including the depleted water pool in which spent fuel is stored. Without water, the fear is that this spent fuel would enter a state that would cause a catastrophic, massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. Government officials say this pool in reactor No. 4. seems to still contain some water, which is positive news; Water levels in no. 3, however, are very low or may be empty, so right now the focus is on No. 3. Immediately after the first phase of aerial water drop operations concluded, Japan's Defense Minister and government spokesman Yukio Edano gave press conferences, followed by a TEPCO press conference. Notes here are hastily transcribed from live broadcast on Japan's NHK TV.

LA Times: "Officials are particularly concerned about reactor No. 3 because it is the only reactor at the facility that is fueled with what is known as a mixed oxide fuel. The pellets in mixed oxide fuel contain both plutonium and uranium. Plutonium is highly carcinogenic in small quantities, and its release into the environment would be very dangerous."

Japan earthquake: live
Here are the latest minute-by-minute updates on the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami amid fears of a nuclear disaster
from The Telegraph
• EU energy chief: Fukushima plant 'effectively out of control'
• Officials warn of new 'Chernobyl' disaster at Fukushima plant
• US nuclear agency chief says no more water in spent fuel pool at troubled Japan plant, AP reports.

“No Happy Ending”: Nuclear Experts Say Japan’s Disaster is Intensifying
Democracy Now! - Japan’s nuclear crisis is intensifying. A second reactor unit at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station may have ruptured and appears to be releasing radioactive steam. The plant has been hit by several explosions after a devastating earthquake and tsunami last Friday damaged its cooling functions. It has sent low levels of radiation wafting into Tokyo more than 130 miles away. The company operating the reactors withdrew at least 750 workers on Tuesday, leaving a crew of 50 struggling to lower the temperatures... “The best-case scenario at this point is not a good one, not a good one for the public, not a good one for the nuclear industry,” Bradford says. “There is not going to be a happy ending to this story.” [includes rush transcript]

Pentagon preparing for a nuclear worst-case scenario at Fukushima
Stars and Stripes: WASHINGTON — If the deteriorating situation at a Japanese nuclear plant veers toward a worst-case meltdown scenario, people across the country — including 86,000 American servicemembers, civilian employees and their dependents — could face an unprecedented atomic disaster. > Up to the minute reports from Stars and Stripes

Meltdown 101: Why is Fukushima crisis still out of control?
Christian Science Monitor: Workers at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant are still days – if not weeks – away from bringing the crisis under control. The reason: nuclear fuel rods remain dangerously hot well after reactors are shut down, and all cooling systems at Fukushima have failed.

See Yesterday's updates (3/15/11)

See also:

FALLOUT ALERT - info on radiation exposure treatments and warnings - rosemary, potassium iodide

All Things Nuclear - UCS Factsheet: “Nuclear Accident ABCs”
Radioactive Isotopes
Radioactive materials decay, releasing particles that can
damage living tissue and lead to cancer. Some elements
have different forms, called isotopes, that differ in the
number of neutrons in the nucleus. The radioactive
isotopes of greatest concern in a nuclear power accident
are iodine-131 and cesium-137.

Iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, meaning half of it will
have decayed after 8 days, and half of that in another 8
days, etc. Therefore, it is of greatest concern in the days
and weeks following an accident. It is also volatile so will
spread easily. In the human body, iodine is taken up by the
thyroid, and becomes concentrated there, where it can lead
to thyroid cancer in later life. Children who are exposed to
iodine-131 are more likely than adults to get cancer later in
life. To guard against the absorption of iodione-131,
people can proactively take potassium iodine pills so the
thyroid becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine and
is not able to absorb any iodine-131

Cesium-137 has a half-life of about 30 years, so will take
more than a century to decay by a significant amount.
Living organisms treat cesium-137 as if it was potassium,
and it becomes part of the fluid electrolytes and is
eventually excreted. Cesium-137 is passed up the food
chain. It can cause many different types of cancer.

All Things Nuclear - "Reactor Core Cooling"
Thermal energy (heat) is produced in the reactor core of an operating reactor by the fissioning, or splitting, of uranium and plutonium atoms. When these atoms are hit by a neutron, they may split into two smaller atoms—and not always the same two types of smaller atoms—and in the process release energy and more neutrons.

Many of the smaller atoms formed by this process are unstable and as a result release radioactivity in the form of gamma rays, alpha particles, or beta particles. These radioactive emissions create heat: they carry energy with them, and when they are absorbed by material around the atom, that energy heats the material up.

Atoms release radioactivity at different rates ranging from fractions of a second to hundreds of thousands of years. Long after a reactor has been shut down, the reactor core continues to emit radioactivity and continues to generate heat. Nuclear power plants have cooling systems designed to circulate water through the reactor core after a reactor is shut down to carry away this heat...

Without cooling, [the boil-off] would continue to drop the water level below the top of the nuclear fuel in the reactor core. As nuclear fuel was uncovered by water, it would begin heating up. As the fuel temperature increased to 1,800°F, a chemical reaction between the metal cladding of the fuel rods and the steam flowing past would generate large quantities of hydrogen. If the heat-up continued past 2,200°F, the exposed fuel would begin to melt.


NHK WORLD English (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
GOOGLE RSS FEED FOR "Fukushima + nuclear"

Also check Democracy Now! for excellent reporting.


See also:
• other Fukushima updates for background info and links -
Deepak Chopra homebase: Fukushima ~ Indian Point, NY
Fukushima a "Ticking Time Bomb"
Nuclear Catastrophe in Japan “Not Equal to Chernobyl, But Way Worse”
Nuclear Power = Crime Against Humanity
Obama: No Money for Nukes!
Pacifica Nuclear Teach-in | The Code Killers by Ace Hoffman
Nuclear Obama, Radioactive Boars & Frogs of Fukushima
fukushima plutonium
Fukushima still fuming - nuclear catastrophe update
March archive

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