From December 2011, reposting it today so that people won’t think that the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is behind us.
“After 280 days of decaying, the 257 tons of lost corium from three of Fukushima’s reactors, which one assumes to have a burn rate of 14GWJ/t (14 kg fissioned per tonne), have produced a probable level of radioactivity of 180.37 million Curies, or 6.674E18 Becquerels (6673.6 PBq). […]
92.17% of this radioactivity is being emitted by fission products, and constitutes 28.07% of overall radiotoxicity. 7.83% of this radioactivity is made by activation products, and constitutes 71.93% of overall radiotoxicity. That is to say that here the radiotoxicity, which according to the eminently official ICRP’s dose factors equals 73.47 Billion potential lethal doses via inhalation and 15.53 Billion lethal doses via ingestion, results chiefly from the activation products, which by and large are alpha emitters.
On the other hand, the radioactivity in this case is produced primarily by fission products, which most often are beta (β− ) emitters. At the end of these 280 days of decaying, the radiation arises primarily from the following elements: Strontium 89 at 2.265%, Strontium 90 at 4.713%, Yttrium 90 at 4.713%, Yttrium 91 at 4.852%, …
…Yttrium 91 at 4.852%, Zirconium 95 at 8.067%, Ruthenium 106 at 9.297%, Caesium 134 at 4.737%, Cesium 137 at 6.209%, Barium 137 at 6.209%, Cerium 144 at 23.744%, Promethium 147 at 13.728%, Plutonium 241 at 5.505%, Cobalt 60 at 1.410%.
Consistent with the rate of decay of these 280 days, in 15 years the fuel will have lost 80.20% of its radioactivity, bringing it to 35.71 Curies – but its long-lived toxicity will be elevated by 13.35%, contrarily, to 83.28 Billion lethal doses. Without question, the overall radioactivity falls but the persistent radiotoxicity increases until 60 years or so later, it commences to decline ever-so slowly after 350 years! (This irrefutable augmentation of toxicity over time is largely due to the increase of Americium-241 – alpha – a daughter product far more toxic than its beta-emitting parent, Plutonium-241. Ultimately, it will take around 350 years for the radiotoxicity to return to its original level…”
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the completion of the remaining parts of the Fukushima nuclear power plant’s “ice wall” ground freeze beneath the station in order to prevent groundwater from entering the damaged reactor’s facilities, local media reported Tuesday.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The plan stipulates creating a 0.9 mile long barrier by circulating coolant of 30 degrees below zero in pipes buried around the building. The “ice wall” is expected to keep groundwater from entering the station and therefore prevent an increase in amounts of water contaminated by radioactive substances. Initially, the Nuclear Regulation Authority was concerned with the fact that if the whole wall was created, it would probably lead to a drastic decrease in water in the area around the station and cause leakages of contaminated water outside the damaged reactor’s building. Experts thus previously ruled to leave a 23-foot section of the wall unfrozen.
According to the NHK broadcaster, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), responsible for the project, claimed that the completion of the wall would not result in a sudden decrease of water levels, and even if it would, the company promised to take immediate measures. After considering the company’s position, experts allowed to complete the “ice wall.”
The broadcaster said that TEPCO will begin the remaining work on August 22, completing the soil freeze that first began in March 2016. It was also reported that after the works are completed, the Nuclear Regulation Authority would carefully assess the results and examine whether there have been any positive improvements in water contamination.
In 2011, a major earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Japan’s Fukushima NPP and led to the leakage of radioactive materials and the shutdown of the plant. Following the incident, Tokyo shut down all the NPPs in Japan and began to restart them after introducing new security standards.
Mainichi Shimbun reporters visited the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on July 27. While the working environment at the station has improved, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) still has a mountain of problems to tackle, such as removing melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors and treating contaminated water.
On the eve of his appearance at a Victoria University event in Wellington, comic book author Fumio Obata talks to Guy Somerset about his ongoing project chronicling the aftermath of the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster.
At art school, Fumio Obata was taught the importance of “the theme, having something of your own, something only you can do”. The theme that has preoccupied Obata for the past five years is one he has truly made his own. He has been chronicling, through striking comic book reportage, the devastating consequences of the magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck off the northeast Pacific coast of Japan in March 2011, causing a tsunami and meltdowns and radioactive contamination at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Published in Italian magazine Internazionale and on his website, Obata’s comic strips capture the long-term effects of Fukushima and explore some of the knotty social, political and environmental issues raised by the disaster and its aftermath. The strips are destined to become his second book, his first being 2014’s internationally successful graphic novel Just So Happens, for which The Observer reviewer Rachel Cooke praised his “crazily accomplished” storytelling and described him as “a talent to watch”.
Reviews like that – and there were plenty more where it came from – can bring a writer a lot of opportunities and Obata was no exception, but he laughs: “I haven’t used them very well. Terrible, isn’t it? The good guys who had their debuts the same time as me, they are already on to their third or fourth book. Whereas me, I’m just caught up in this massive theme. Strategy-wise, I’m not very good!”
Obata is at Victoria University of Wellington this week as a visiting scholar in its School of Design. While he’s there, he’s taking part in a four-day international symposium on cultural sustainability, including a free public event with fellow writers Australian Ellen van Neerven and New Zealander Pip Adam.
His trip from the UK, where he has lived since 1991, when his Anglophile parents sent him to boarding school there from Japan, was broken with a stop-off in Tokyo and more reporting from the region around Fukushima, where 19,416 people died as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. There are still 2553 people listed as missing and 123,000 evacuees scattered around the country.
A YouTube video on Obata’s website gives a sense of what such reporting can entail. In it, dressed in a white protective suit, he walks through an eerily desolate ghost town that is about two kilometres from Fukushima and part of the designated exclusion zone.
“If you become friends with a resident, they have a pass and you can go there with them,” he says. He and his friend wore protective suits, but clear-up and other workers don’t. “They don’t become ill. They say it is fine. Even in the exclusion zone, it’s not all equally radioactive. Because particles are not going to be evenly dispersed. When you walk around with the Geiger counter, you notice that sometimes the figure is very low, then you go several feet away from that spot and the figure jumps up. Even outside the exclusion zone, if you go to the bits closest to the zone you find the figures are very high.”
Obata’s reporting, which he describes as “a kind of journalism, but I’m more doing my philosophical take on it”, begins with him taking photographs and recording interviews.
“Because I’m trying to structure a narrative, usually it’s the words I start with. I listen to the interviews I did and write down as much as I can. Then I take out the key words, the phrases I think are important, simplifying it. It’s very important simplifying the information. Because what I’m making is a comic strip. It’s not an article, which allows you to have I don’t know how many words: 2000, 3000. I need the space for pictures so I can’t have 3000 words.
“After that, I look at the photographs. Again, I may have about 200 photographs. I have to go through them and use about 10 out of 200. Those photographs are going to be my visual sources. Then I start sketching. All those sketches and rough pictures, they are like pieces of the puzzle. I’ve got a dozen pieces of puzzle with words and phrases and I’ve got the other side of the puzzle with the photographs, and I basically put them together.”
One of the most affecting stories Obata tells is that of Norio Kimura, whose father, wife and seven-year-old youngest daughter Yūna were lost in the tsunami. While the bodies of his father and wife were found in April 2011, Yūna’s remained missing. After the official search for her ended, Kimura continued looking, taking 1000km round trips to do so. After five years and nine months, a piece of bone was discovered that DNA testing proved was one of Yūna’s.
“Yūna was torn apart into small pieces, taken away with contaminated debris, now stored around anonymously,” reads one of the story’s panels. “Had they done the search longer and more carefully from the start, she could have been found a lot earlier, with her body almost intact too.”
The story ends with a panel reading: “A child has been left out alone in the shadow of the reconstruction. And her presence now poses a lot of questions to us.”
This is emotionally momentous material, very different to some of Obata’s other work, be it his 2004 anime of Duran Duran’s song Careless Memories for their then stage show or the short comic about the art of pencil sharpening you’ll find on his website.
Getting it right must weigh upon him, one imagines: these are hugely significant events and he’s almost certainly the only person who’s going to approach them in this form.
“Yeah, big pressure,” he says. “It’s very difficult to do. I appreciate people allow me to talk to them. Some say no, of course. I’ve heard tragic stories but they’ve asked me not to write about it. It’s interesting because they wanted to share that with somebody, somebody who’s not shared the same experience they have.
“The father I met is very vocal because he’s angry. He’s just full of anger. He’s trying to change something about the law, for the love of his daughter. It’s very moving. That’s why he basically opened up to me. His story is still developing and he’s still searching for the remains of his daughter.”
Another panel in the same story is of a city skyline at night and reads: “The nuclear plant was built to provide electricity to the capital region. By knowing Fukushima today, Tokyo could look arrogant, with all the excess of lights and luxury.”
It’s a point elegantly distilled – even poetically so.
But Obata is not one to cast simplistic blame. “It is something I have to tell people, especially my students [at the University of Gloucester and other universities around the UK where he teaches as a guest lecturer] when they try to do something about the world. They are angry young men, angry young people, but there are layers to things. There’s no right or wrong; the people are goodies and the people are baddies as well.
“When a tragedy happens, we tend to think there’s a victim and there’s an offender. There’s going to be people who get accused and there are victims who get all the sympathy from the public. But sometimes it’s not like that. Sometimes you can’t make things black and white.
“What’s happening with nuclear is one of these things. If you start reading just a short history of the nuclear industry, or nuclear technology, you see a lot of people believe in the technology and I can’t blame them, because I can’t prove them wrong. They get accused and the people who accuse them have right things to say and I can’t blame them either.
“So basically there are no answers to it and it’s very uncomfortable for the human mind not to have answers. You need a bit of patience and courage to accept that. This is one of the things I am going to say at the end, I think: it’s difficult to accept an open ending but you’ve got to have the courage.”
As for Tokyo: “The consumption of energy really helped to establish today’s Japan’s reputation. And I’m part of it. I can’t really criticise it. I just have to take in the contradiction and try to respond.”
Responding to this and the other contradictions he’s encountered in the past five years still has a way to run for Obata. Asked if he’s going to make the 2018 publication date his website gives for his book, he laughs: “Nah, of course not. I just have to put a lot of energy into it and hope the pictures can deliver the intensity of what I’ve seen.”
Excessive radiation detected in vehicles removed from Fukushima nuke plant
Some of the cars were sold on the used-car market while two others remain unaccounted for, according to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Radiation topping the government-set limit has been detected in about 190 vehicles removed from the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, it has been learned.
Some of the cars were sold on the used-car market while two others remain unaccounted for, according to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).
Approximately 1,700 vehicles were parked on the premises of the power station when the nuclear crisis broke out after it was hit by the powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, TEPCO officials said. Of those, about 600 were owned by employees of TEPCO or companies contracted by the utility. Over a 12-day period until radiation screenings began on March 23 of that year, people could drive the vehicles out of the premises of the plant without checks.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry instructed TEPCO in February 2012 to conduct a follow-up probe into the use of these vehicles for fear that next owners of those cars could be exposed to radiation without knowing that the vehicles were contaminated.
The power company conducted a survey on employees and contracted companies that parked their cars on the plant’s premises at the time of the accident, and confirmed that about 460 vehicles were brought out of the plant by April 2015. It was learned that radiation levels for around 190 of the vehicles exceeded government-set safety standards, and some of them were found contaminated with radiation nearly 10 times over the limit. All the vehicles whose radiation levels exceeded the limit were collected from their owners and are now stored on TEPCO’s premises situated in a Fukushima Prefecture area designated as a highly contaminated “difficult-to-return zone.”
TEPCO is considering how to dispose of these heavily contaminated vehicles, with an official saying, “We’d like to continue searching for two vehicles that remain unaccounted for and respond to the situation in an appropriate manner.”
Tainted cars left Fukushima compound unchecked
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says hundreds of vehicles contaminated with radioactive substances left the compound unchecked in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 accident.
Tokyo Electric Power Company says that in 2012 it began investigating what had happened to privately owned vehicles at the plant, and found that about 460 had left the compound.
TEPCO officials located most of them by 2015. About 190 registered radiation levels that were higher than the government standards. They managed to track down all 190, but some of them had been sold to new owners.
Some of the cars were so contaminated that the radiation couldn’t be measured by equipment capable of detecting levels nearly 10 times greater than the official limits.
Two vehicles remain unaccounted for.
TEPCO says it did not conduct radiation checks of cars leaving the compound for 12 days after the accident started on March 11th, 2011.
The company has apologized for causing concern and says it will keep trying to locate the 2 vehicles.
From Majia ‘s Blog:
Life on earth is becoming “tritiated” as the stable hydrogen in our water is replaced by an unstable isotope of hydrogen called Tritium:
Biello, David. (2014, February 7). Is Radioactive Hydrogen in Drinking Water a Cancer Threat? The EPA plans to reevaluate standards for tritium in water. Scientific American,
Such leaks have prompted the EPA to announce on February 4 plans to revisit standards for tritium that has found its way into water—so-called tritiated water, or HTO—along with risk limits for individual exposure to radiation and nuclear waste storage, among other issues surrounding nuclear power.
The agency’s recent announcement in the Federal Register notes that tritium levels as high as 3.2 million picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in ground water have been reported to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at some nuclear facilities. (A curie is a unit of radiation emission; a picocurie is one trillionth of a curie.) That is 160 times higher than the standard set back in 1977 by the fledgling EPA—and the NRC has made measurements even higher at some nuclear facilities. “Because of these releases to groundwater at these sites, and related investigations, the agency considers it prudent to reexamine its initial assumption in 1977 that the water pathway is not a pathway of concern,” the EPA stated in its filing.
Tritium bioaccumulates in phytoplankton (which is composed of algae, protists and cyanobacteria) and has been consequently evaluated as posing a persistent and toxic contaminant with intergenerational effects. See the following source:
Jaeschke, B. C., & Bradshaw, C. (2013). Bioaccumulation of tritiated water in phytoplankton and trophic transfer of organically bound tritium to the blue mussel, mytilus edulis. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 115, 28-33.
TEPCO is going to dump into the ocean 770,000 tons or so of highly tritiated water stored at Fukushima because the site has reached storage limits and yet still cannot filter tritium, among other elusive radionuclides, contaminating the 400 tons or so of radioactive water that is produced anew at the site every single day.
Tepco has been struggling to de-contaminating the water it captures from injections and ground water influx. A wastewater treatment facility was built early in the disaster, but the various decontamination systems implemented have been unable to eliminate all radionuclides, especially tritium.[i]
In 2013, TEPCO reported that filtered water measured 710 million Becquerels per liter while unfiltered water was reported as twice as radioactive.[ii] Tritium was believed to the major source of residual contamination in the filtered water.[iii] The filtration system has also accidentally dumped unfiltered water, contaminated with Cesium-134, Cesium-137, and Iodine-131, into the sea.[iv]
TEPCO admits it cannot manage the tritiated water stored at the site. No one talks at all about the tritiated fog produced every single night at Fukushima Daiichi:
Japan and US nuclear “authorities” are saying there is no alternative to dumping tritiated water in the ocean:
Nagata, Kazuaki (2015, March 31) Ex-U.S. nuclear chief says tritium water at Fukushima No. 1 can be dumped safely. Japan Times, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/31/national/former-u-s-nuclear-chief-says-tritium-water-at-fukushima-no-1-can-safely-be-dumped-in-sea/#.VRqyleHWyDk
A former chief U.S. nuclear regulator asserted Tuesday that the massive volumes of tritium-tainted water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant can be “safely” dumped into the sea after it is diluted to reduce the levels of radioactive tritium below the legal limit…. Tepco has said the level of tritium in the water is between 1 million and 5 million becquerels per liter. The legal limit for release to the sea is 60,000 becquerels.
Tritium has a half life of 12.3 years, so it would take decades to die down to permitted levels if left undiluted. The element is about one-thousandth as radioactive as the isotopes cesium-134 and cesium-137, according to Tepco.
TEPCO may have to dump because the tritiated water isn’t simply taking up space. Its also producing Bremsstrahlung Radiation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bremsstrahlung
Here is what the US Dept. of Health and Human Services has to say about this type of electro-magnetic radiation, which according to nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, among others, is being produced in Fukushima’s water tanks (see here http://podcast.gcnlive.com/podcast/power_hr/0116143.mp3:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Public Health Service Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (1999, September). TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR IONIZING RADIATION U.S. Division of Toxicology/Toxicology Information Branch 1600 Clifton Road NE, E-29 Atlanta, Georgia 30333
Gamma radiation and x rays are types of electromagnetic radiations that behave identically but differ in their origin; gamma emissions originate in the nucleus while x rays originate in the orbital electron structure, or from the slowing down or stopping of highly energetic beta particles or electrons. The x rays that originate in the orbital structure are called characteristic x rays, and are useful in chemical analysis while those due to stopping high speed electrons are called bremsstrahlung. Page 41.
GLOSSARY P. 337: Bremsstrahlung—Electromagnetic radiation (photons) produced by the acceleration that a fast charged particle (usually an electron) undergoes from the effect of an electric or magnetic field, for instance, from the field of another charged particle (usually a nucleus). Bremsstrahlung is emitted when beta particles or electrons are stopped by a shield.
Tritium is a beta emitter. The highly tritiated water stored at Fukushima Daiichi is decaying high energy electrons, or beta particles, whose interactions with shielding is producing a form of X-rays known as “breaking radiation” when translated from the German Bremsstrahlung.
The ocean and the atmosphere are becoming increasingly tritiated. Tritium was rare on earth before the atomic age according to Wikipedia, although found in the upper atmosphere.
What does it mean for the earth’s lower atmosphere and hydrology to become tritiated?
Tritium is entering the earth’s hydrological cycle according to this report by Canada’s Nuclear Regulator:
Source: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada (2009, December). Investigation of the Environmental Fate of Tritium in the Atmosphere: Part of the Tritium Studies Project INFO-0792. Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). ISBN 978-1-100-13928-9
LET US LEARN ABOUT TRITIUM FROM THE US Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/tritium.html
How are people exposed to tritium?
People are exposed to small amounts of tritium every day, since it is widely dispersed in the environment and in the food chain. People who live near or work in federal weapons facilities or nuclear fuel cycle facilities may have increased exposure. People working in research laboratories may also come in contact with tritium.
How does tritium get into the body?
Tritium primarily enters the body when people swallow tritiated water. People may also inhale tritium as a gas in the air, and absorb it through their skin.
What does tritium do once it gets into the body?
Tritium is almost always found as water, or “tritiated” water. Once tritium enters the body, it disperses quickly and is uniformly distributed throughout the body. Tritium is excreted through the urine within a month or so after ingestion. Organically bound tritium (tritium that is incorporated in organic compounds) can remain in the body for a longer period.
Tritium atoms can exchange with any hydrogen atoms. If the hydrogen atom is part of an organic molecule, the tritium becomes ‘organically bound’ and is transported with the molecule rather than moving freely like water.
Health Effects of Tritium
As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer. However, because it emits very low energy radiation and leaves the body relatively quickly, for a given amount of activity ingested, tritium is one of the least dangerous radionuclides. Since tritium is almost always found as water, it goes directly into soft tissues and organs. The associated dose to these tissues are generally uniform and dependent on the tissues’ water content.
Tritium in us all….
[i] Yoshida ‘Fukushima No. 1 Can’t Keep its Head Above Tainted Water.’ Japan Times, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/05/21/reference/fukushima-no-1-cant-keep-its-head-above-tainted-water/#.UZpke8oQNX9, date accessed 21 May 2013
[ii] S. Kimura (6 April 2013) ‘120 Tons of Contaminated Water Leaks at Fukushima Nuclear Plant’, The Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201304060038, date accessed 7 April 2013.
[iii] Yoshida ‘Fukushima No. 1 Can’t Keep its Head Above Tainted Water.’
[iv] R. Mackey and R. Somaiya (1 November 2011) ‘Japanese Official Drinks Water From Fukushima Reactor Buildings’, The New York Times, http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/japanese-official-drinks-water-from-fukushima-reactor-buildings/, date accessed 3 November 2011.