As the prior posting had run out to over 330 comments and was getting a bit “long to load”, I’m starting this as a follow-up thread. Folks wanting to revisit the older comments can hit this link:
If you would like to “catch up” on the quake maps, they are here:
Quake posting along with some historical pictures of the quake maps as it happened.
The diagram of the GE Mark I reactor as in Japan:
A short “catch up” summary of the present status, as I understand it:
They have found the 2 missing workers, killed in the original earthquake by the looks of it. Radiation most likely not involved, just the usual “stuff in the basement flying around” that a 9.0 quake would give.
The present “scare story” in the news is the “9 inch crack” in a concrete holding tank / sump and “radiation / radioactive water leaking into the ocean”. Somehow the MSM have forgotten that during the 1940s to 1960s we blew up dozens of nuclear bombs in the sea and air, spreading loads and loads of radioactivity all over the place. (Most of the radioactives in a nuclear bomb are not consumed in the detonation, and loads of the surroundings are “activated” in the process). The same folks who are presently having a cow over the trivial levels of “stuff” in the air and sea were often alive when tons more of it were being made via nuclear testing. They certainly have lived and eaten food growing in the “legacy” of those times. So you will hear a lot about barges and storing water and “radioactive water” and “radiation in the ocean”. By and large it is meaningless. The total radioactive material being dumped is near nothing and the size of the ocean is gigantic.
A real problems are that so many people have been displaced from the coast; and the food for a long ways around is subject to either of:
1) Some real contamination, so needs testing and / or validation.
2) A whole lot of scary stories.
Of the two, the scary stories are likely the worst.
At any rate, food and electricity shortages will likely do more damage and injure / kill more folks than the nuclear plants and any radiation they may leak.
Radiation discovery fans food fears in Japan
Discovery of radiation in spinach, milk fan fears about safety of Japan’s food supply
Kelly Olsen and Joe Mcdonald, Associated Press, On Sunday March 20, 2011, 6:26 pm EDT
TOKYO (AP) — At a bustling Tokyo supermarket Sunday, wary shoppers avoided one particular bin of spinach.
The produce came from Ibaraki prefecture in the northeast, where radiation was found in spinach grown up to 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Another bin of spinach — labeled as being from Chiba prefecture, west of Tokyo — was sold out.
“It’s a little hard to say this, but I won’t buy vegetables from Fukushima and that area,” said shopper Yukihiro Sato, 75.
From corner stores to Tokyo’s vast Tsukiji fish market, Japanese shoppers picked groceries with care Sunday after the discovery of contamination in spinach and milk fanned fears about the safety of this crowded country’s food supply
On Sunday, the government banned shipments of milk from one area and spinach from another and said it found contamination on two more vegetables — canola and chrysanthemum greens — and in three more prefectures. The Health Ministry also advised a village in Fukushima prefecture not to drink tap water because of radioactive iodine in its supply. It stressed, however, that the amounts remained minuscule and posed no health threat.
There were no signs Sunday of the panic buying that stripped Tokyo supermarkets of food last week. Instead, shoppers scrutinized the source of items and tried to avoid what they worried might be tainted.
Notice that earlier “panic buying”? That is part of why it is good to have a ‘disaster preparedness kit’ with some stored food in it. You never know when The Bad Thing will happen and you don’t want to be getting in line to buy food when it’s just not there…
Meanwhile, back at the reactors
One of the reactors was “open for refueling” so the containment was not sealed. As near as I can tell, it had no fuel in it at the time of the quake. Exactly what fuel was where is not clear to me. Any “spent fuel” that had been removed would still be very hot and that spent fuel pool would need extra water (IFF that reactor had been fueled and running prior to the event and was not a new startup). Pointers to clarification on that point would be welcome…
In a comment in the prior thread George said:
Some lights in the turbine buildings of units 1, 2, and 3 were restored yesterday.
Also, not that the employees were lost in unit 4 turbine building. Unit 4 reactor was not running when the quake hit and all fuel had been unloaded a month before.
So it looks like Unit 4 has an empty reactor, but probably a hot spent fuel pool. (As they are dumping a load of water on it…) But at least they are getting the lights and power back to some degree.
There are giant “mud / concrete” pumping trucks that can operated remotely intended for providing safer application of water to the spent fuel pools, and able to entomb things in concrete if needed. IMHO, it would be better NOT to entomb, as then you have a large lump you can not move, reprocess, nor in any way effectively deal with without taking jack hammers to it. Not a desired outcome… it’s just punting the problem to the future.
Electricity has been restored to some collection of the reactors (and some portions of the facilities at each reactor) but that’s just a start. Each one needs to get instrumentation repaired and pumps running, and that means pipes and fittings inspected and / or repaired.
A US team was “en route” but the Japanese had not requested them… That, IMHO, is a “big deal” as it means someone on our side is unsatisfied with the TEPCO response to date.
The government of Japan is not happy with TEPCO either, and the local people are, in some cases, quite livid about it. Death threats to the management of TEPCO have been posted on web sites in Japan.
And some folks have realized that trying to live without both nuclear power and carbon based power might just not work so well:
By Chikako Mogi and Risa Maeda
TOKYO | Mon Apr 4, 2011 1:42pm BST
(Reuters) – Japan’s protracted nuclear safety crisis has begun to cast doubts over its pledge of ambitious carbon emissions cuts by the end of the decade, which will rely heavily on plans to boost nuclear power generation.
While Tokyo has not said explicitly that it would consider backing away from its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels, the scrapping of at least four reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant and public wariness of new reactor projects could force a greater reliance on fossil fuels than policymakers had anticipated.
“It is true that our reduction target will be affected significantly,” Vice Environment Minister Hideki Minamikawa was quoted by the Yomiuri newspaper as telling reporters in Bangkok on Sunday.
“The target year and the size of the reduction will be up for review.”
Senior officials from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan were more circumspect, although they did not rule out a rethink of existing nuclear policy and the 2020 emissions target.
Ya think? It was nearly impossible a goal WITH nuclear power. Without it, there is just no way. So what was the size of the plan? And what happens if it goes of the rails?
The environment ministry’s scenarios for achieving 25 percent carbon reduction are all based on a government plan to add nine new commercial nuclear reactors by 2020 to the 54 currently in operation.
So you had a net 9 add to 54. That’s about a 16% growth. But now there are ’4 gone’ and another 2 at that site that are in questionable status. That makes it more like 13 out of 50 just for ‘return to plan’. In 9 years. That’s a 25% build rate. I don’t know how many they were building in the past, but a 25% jump in any industry can be hard to swallow (I know, I’ve done it). Having it in the middle of a great natural disaster and with a complete regulatory review? It just isn’t going to happen. Not on schedule by years.
As of now:
More than three weeks after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan knocked out power sources and cooling systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, engineers are still struggling to cool down reactors and spent fuel pools and to contain radiation leaks.
Quake and tsunami damage and high radiation levels have forced a shutdown of the entire Fukushima complex, whose two plants and 10 reactors account for one-fifth of Japan’s total nuclear capacity, while spurring the government to impose extra safety measures against a similar disaster.
So 20% of Japanese nuclear capacity is functionally “toast”, and the natives are not happy… The government is imposing more “safety measures”… ( a good thing, IMHO, like maybe not putting backup generator fuel tanks on the seaward side of a tsunami area…).
Several of Japan’s 10 nuclear power producers have delayed the restart of reactors taken down for maintenance, to implement additional short-term steps to bolster safety.
Some have also tentatively halted preparations for building new reactors but no plans have been formally altered, while senior government officials have talked of an energy policy review that could include promoting renewables.
OK, so more than 20% is shut-in, but might restart someday… after a large group of folks decide what to build to make them “safer”… and after the learn just how many windmills it takes to replace a nuke…
There are also some lessons that Great Britain could learn about shutting down old power plants. Don’t be in a big hurry to tear them down:
Complicating the issue is the prospect of power shortages in the summer, when traditionally heavy demand for air-conditioning could force rolling blackouts in the Tokyo area and deliver a severe blow to Japan’s economic heartland.
“People have now realized the importance of stable energy supplies,” Sawa said. “The government should start with the supply and demand outlook for energy and assess how that would affect its low-carbon policy. The government cannot review climate policy in isolation.”
Tokyo Electric estimates it will be able to supply 46,500 megawatts of power by summer, after bringing some damaged and mothballed thermal power plants back online, but this would still be nearly 10,000 MW short of estimated peak demand, despite extensive conservation efforts since the quake.
Just substitute “freezing in a cold winter” for “smelly and hot at work and home” … That 10,000 MW is going to hurt. I don’t care how many curly bulbs you put in, or how many windmills you order. It’s going to be “cold soba noodles” for lunch and extra deodorant … One TV news report was that Japan was planning for ‘rotating shifts’ with different companies getting power different times of the day as a power leveling method. So you might find your bank running from midnight to 8 AM or your grocery store open from 4 AM to noon… (as a hypothetical for illustration purposes only…)
Somehow the Japanese people don’t impress me as being dumb, and I think they will figure out pretty darned quick that if it is a question of some ephemeral CO2 goal, or having working stoves, AC, trains, and offices; making a living building things… I’m pretty sure they will pick “function” over “political brownie points”…
Tokyo Electric, which accounts for about one-third of Japan’s total power consumption, resorted to rolling blackouts last month after the quake.
The government, keen to avoid the blow that blackouts could deliver to industries from autos to aluminum, is considering regulatory steps to make it easier for firms to curb power use.
These may include allowing industries to coordinate plant operating hours, to prevent concentration of power use in peak periods, which could require exceptions in enforcement of the antimonopoly law by the Japan Fair Trade Commission.
Land use restrictions that prevent setting up power generators at certain factory sites may also be waived, while labor and building maintenance rules may be eased to allow cutbacks in air-conditioner use.
Expect to see some extra Diesel shipped to Japan, and expect to see price hikes on Honda Generators from a combination of short supply and increased home demand…
IMHO, it’s going to be a long summer in Japan. We can only hope it will be a cooler than normal one.
While writing this article, George has provided an “update” in a comment on the old thread. I’m going to reproduce it here so it will not get lost in the transistion:
There actually has been pretty extensive structural damage but not to the parts one might expect. The reactors themselves survived the quake just fine. They were continuing to operate in their normal decay-heat dumping mode for the first hour or so until the tsunamis hit. They continued cooling off for several more hours until the batteries finally gave out.
But one source of damage has been to the concrete serving as the walls of the turbine building basements and various cable trenches. These have been cracked and now we see water migration between units.
Recent pumping of water from the number 3 turbine building basement to the number 4 turbine building basement seems to have resulted in a rise in water levels in a number 3 building cable pit. When they stopped the pumping to number 4, the water in the pit stopped rising. So it appears that cracks in the concrete allow water to flow into the ground and from there, seep into other areas with cracked concrete.
Remember, this is likely the largest EQ this region has seen in the Holocene. It was huge. I also want to point out the inaccuracy in calling this an “accident” as it was not an operational accident, it is a natural disaster.
So currently the plan is this:
Pump the water from the waste water storage tanks and from unit 3 and unit 4 basements to the sea. This water has very low levels of contamination. This frees up space in the waste water storage tank to collect the water in the unit 2 basement that is more highly contaminated and prevent it leaking to the sea. The overall result is hoped to be a net reduction in contamination.
So far, some 40,000 tons of lightly contaminated water have been discharged in order to free up space to contain the more highly contaminated water. Most of these contaminants have fairly short half-lives (with the exception of cesium-137) and the overall radioactivity will be substantially reduced over just a few weeks time.
The “problem child” at this point seems to be unit 2. They need to find the source of the water leak there but they can’t do that until they get the basement pumped out and they can’t do THAT until they have a place to put that water.
I would only add that there are plans to move an old tanker to the dock near the reactors as a place to store the contaminated water they are creating / pumping around. The MSM has stressed over what would then be done with that water, where it would be dumped. They don’t seem to “get it” that the water can be filtered as needed and that dumping that water into the ocean, even unfiltered, is not going to do a thing to anyone. In the past we used to dump tons of radioactive waste into the ocean as a form of disposal. The ocean is a very big place.