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Posts Tagged ‘Japan’


Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

April 2, 2011 

Nuclear Townhall
When Patrick Moore is asked the inevitable question, “Would you live next to a nuclear reactor,” he replies, “I’d be happy to live inside a nuclear reactor. It’s safer than living outside.”  
Seventy-five miles north of Fukushima, 240 homeless victims of the earthquake and tsunami are finding out what Moore means. They have been offered shelter inside the Onagawa reactor complex and are finding it very comfortable. “Those sheltering at the plant live in relative luxury compared to many other survivors,” says this AP report. “Most of Onagawa is still covered in a thick layer of dust. There is no running water or cell phone service, and only a few neighborhoods have electricity. Nearly 1,100 of the 10,000 residents are dead or missing, and 5,500 more have moved into schools and civic centers. Within the nuclear plant, facilities are pristine, electricity flows directly from Japan’s national grid, and evacuees can use its dedicated phone network to make calls.”
The plant is normally closed to the public and reporters have still not been allowed onto the site. The band of displaced persons originally found shelter inside the outside visitor’s center, but electricity and running water weren’t functioning so plant officials moved them inside the gate. "We felt it was the right thing to do," company spokesman Yoshitake Kanda told AP. 
Just outside the reactor complex, protests groups have mounted a billboard proclaiming “Eliminate Nuclear Power!”  But inside the refugees are more favorable. "If we get too sensitive, it’ll bring us down," 84-year-old Masuo Takahashi told the AP. "So we just have to trust that there won’t be an accident like Fukushima here."
Read more here


Thursday, March 31st, 2011

March 31, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
Measures taken to protect U.S. nuclear reactors from terrorist attacks after September 11th have unwittingly made them much better prepared for natural disasters like the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, according to this report in National Review Online.
Lou Dolinar, a retired reporter and columnist for Newsday, takes an extensive look at the preparations and compares them favorably with Japanese technology, which has not created such extensive back-up systems. 
“Power operations are a good example of the difference between response here and in Japan,” write Dolinar. “The Fukushima Daiichi cooling systems apparently functioned for a time on battery backup power, but when that ran out, emergency generators failed, and the reactors began heating up, eventually leading to explosions and further damage that still has the plant on shaky footing. An early power-up could have prevented all that, but the Japanese took days to string new lines to the site.
”U.S. plants appear better able to maintain cooling and power ­ and to restore both fairly quickly if lost. A Tennessee Valley Authority facility recently displayed for the New York Times and several other outlets have portable backup batteries and some manual controls onsite to manage critical systems. As the Times’ Matthew Wald wrote, `One cart could power the instruments that measure the water level in the reactor vessel, an ability that Japanese operators lost a few hours after the tsunami hit. Another could operate critical valves that failed early at Fukushima.’
“`They’re like a backup to the backup,’ Keith J. Polson, the T.V.A.’s vice president for the Browns Ferry site told the Times. `That’s what we think the Japanese didn’t have.’”
Although he is critical of negative press coverage, Dolinar notes that one reason the word has not gotten out is that much of the preparation has been kept quiet for security purposes. Dolinar notes that the chain-of command in U.S. reactors is also better and that decisions can be reached quicker. He cites the delay among Tokyo Electric officials in flooding the reactors with seawater and the resulting charges that they were hesitant to ruin the facility. But he also says that the confusion and disarray resulting from the earthquake probably played a part as well.
Dolinar points to several other steps that have been taken to strengthen American reactors over their Japanese counterparts. He also notes that the Japanese have crowded their nuclear parks with twice as many reactors as is normal for the U.S. But he says the one place where American reactors are more vulnerable than their Japanese counterparts is in the volume of spent fuel at the sites. “[T]here’s one guy to blame,” he says, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”  Still, blame won’t do if spent fuel becomes the focus of a nuclear accident. It’s good that other Senate Democrats are already discussing serious steps to revive Yucca Mountain or even begin a reprocessing effort in the United States.
Read more at the National Review.


Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

March 22, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

Levels of iodine-131 were 126.7 times higher than the limit set by the government and cesium-134 was 24.8 times higher, while cesium-137 was 16.5 times higher, according to a study conducted Monday by Tokyo Electric Power Co. on seawater collected about 100 meters from the crippled plant’s drainage pipes.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said there was no immediate cause for alarm but that a future ban on seafood from the area was a possibility. “It is not necessary at the moment," Edano told a news conference Tuesday morning. "But it is necessary to collect data from a wider range and firmly continue to have experts analyze them."

Japan has already put a ban on spinach and milk from the immediate area around Fukushima after elevated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium were discovered over the weekend. Government officials have been anxious to avoid public panic over food supplies and export commodities.
Ingestion through the food chain proved to be the principle form of damaging exposure to radiation at Chernobyl. Iodine-131 that landed on fields in the region was ingested by cows, which passed it through as milk that was ingested by people in the region. Iodine-131 migrates to the thyroid gland where gives heavy doses of radiation, especially in children whose thyroids are particularly active. Four thousand cases of thyroid cancer resulted, mostly among children, leading to 10 fatalities. All these events took place behind the Iron Curtain, however, and Soviet officials were completely unprepared. There was no distribution of iodine pills and no effort to monitor ingestion. Iodine-131 has a half-life of only eight days and disappeared entirely after two months, so the danger is short-lived.
Cesium 137 and 134 are bigger problems because they have longer half-lives and because they mimic sodium and potassium and can take up long-term residence in the body. Cs-134’s half-life is 3-1/4 years and Cs-137 is considered the worst danger, with a half-life of about 30 years. Strontium-90, which mimics calcium and has a half-life of 29 years, is the other fission by-product that is considered the worst long-term danger.
At this point the levels of all these elements are not a cause for alarm. But Japanese officials said they would be monitoring the dangers. "As part of our country’s nuclear power policy, it has been necessary to be able to monitor the level of radiation to ensure it was all right,” said Edano. "The public may have anxiety over the fact that the level has exceeded the standards . . . but I would like them to understand that these numbers are extremely conservative."

Read more about it at the Japan Times


Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Nuclear Energy Institute Post


Fukushima Daiichi

Workers were making progress Monday to bring off-site power to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. External electricity has been connected to reactor 2, and work continued to energize the reactor’s cooling systems. Reactors 5 and 6, and the used fuel pools at those reactors, were switched from backup diesel generators to the off-site power supply. Work also continued to establish electric service to reactors 3 and 4. 

Spraying seawater into the spent fuel pools of reactors 3 and 4 and providing additional cooling water to fuel pool at reactor 2 continue to be a priority for TEPCO’s recovery workers. Water spraying at the Daiichi site’s common used fuel pool began Monday morning, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Briefing

Bill Borchardt, the executive director for operations at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, briefed the agency’s commissioners Monday on the NRC’s response to the Fukushima accident in Japan. Borchardt’s slides and NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko’s prepared remarks are available on the NRC website.

"We have a responsibility to the American people to undertake a systematic and methodical review of the safety of our own domestic nuclear facilities, in light of the natural disaster and the resulting nuclear emergency in Japan," Jaczko said at the briefing. "Beginning to examine all available information is an essential part of our effort to analyze the event and understand its impact on Japan and the implications for the United States."




Fukushima Daiichi

Tokyo Electric Power Co. continued efforts on Monday to restore power to its reactors at Fukushima Daiichi as well as stabilize cooling in the used fuel pools of some reactors. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 are in stable condition and reactors 5 and 6 are stable and being cooled by systems powered by electricity that was restored over the weekend. 

The Tokyo Fire Department sprayed cooling water into the reactor 3 used fuel pool for about 4.5 hours, ending early Monday morning. At reactor 4, Japan’s Self-Defense Force sprayed water into the pool for about two hours. Overall, 13 fire engines have been used in the spraying. Efforts to spray water into the used fuel pools at reactors 3 and 4 reactor buildings and used fuel pools was stopped on Monday while TEPCO assessed the effectiveness of these efforts. 

Workers were evacuated from the area around reactors 2 and 3 Monday when smoke was observed coming from the secondary containment buildings.

Electricity is expected to be restored to both reactors 3 and 4 by March 23.

Radiation dose rates at monitoring posts are slightly higher than on past days. Rates at the plant site boundary range from 1 to 3 millirem per hour. Radiation dose rates in the area where fire trucks have been located are reported to be 2 to 3 rem per hour, with some isolated areas as high as 30 rem per hour.

Fukushima Daini

All reactors are in cold shutdown and are stable.




A two-part operation to spray water into the used fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4 ended just before 7 A.M. EDT. Japan’s defense ministry announced that the Self Defense Force discharged more than 100 tons of water at the pool, and concluded that much of it reached inside the reactor building.

This was the first time since the March 11 quake that reactor 4 has been doused. Yesterday the Tokyo elite fire services used a high-pressure fire truck to spray water for more than 13 hours into the fuel pool of reactor 3.

The ministry also reported conducting surface temperature measurements of reactors 1 through 4 from a helicopter to evaluate the effect of the water discharge operations. The surface temperature of each unit is below 100 degrees Celsius.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said this morning that pressure within the reactor containment vessel from reactor 3 has begun to stabilize and has decided against an operation to vent gases to reduce pressure inside the containment vessel. 

TEPCO is continuing work to restore electricity to reactor 2. A power cable has been connected from a nearby transmission line. TEPCO hopes to have power restored to the reactor’s control room sometime today. Connections to reactors 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are to follow.





Powered by an emergency diesel generator, pumps are circulating cooling water in the spent fuel pools of reactors 5 and 6 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, according to reports. The company also added water to the used fuel pool at reactor 3 after elite firefighters from Tokyo spent 13 hours operating a high-pressure spray truck that pumped seawater into the pool.

The company and response workers were planning to spray water into the used fuel pool at reactor 4 on Sunday.

Electric power lines are connected to reactors 1 and 2, and engineers expected to bring power to the remaining reactors on Sunday, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum. "We do not know if the water pumps [at Fukushima Daiichi] have been damaged and if they will work when power is restored," the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported that holes have been drilled into the ceilings of the buildings that house reactors 5 and 6 to prevent the buildup of hydrogen in the buildings.

Fukushima Daini

All four reactors at Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant have reached cold shutdown conditions with normal cooling.






Radiation doses at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue to decrease. Radiation dose rates at the site boundary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant ranged from 1 millirem to 3 millirem per hour on March 18. Eighteen locations were monitored in a 30-kilometer to 60-kilometer radius of the plant. The highest radiation dose rate at any of those locations was 14 millirem per hour.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is installing high voltage cables from a nearby transmission line to reactors 1 and 2 at Fukushima Daiichi. Power is expected to be restored to reactors 1 and 2 later today (Saturday, March 19, Japan time). Priority is being given to restoring power to residual heat removal and cooling water pumps at the reactors. Plans are being made to extend high voltage cables to reactors 3 and 4 by March 21. 

TEPCO also is stepping up efforts today to add water to the used fuel pool at reactor 4. 

Two diesel generators are running and supplying electrical power to Reactors 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi. A residual heat removal pump, powered by a diesel generator, is providing cooling to the spent fuel pool at reactor 5. Temperature in the spent fuel pool at reactor 5 is "high, but decreasing," according to Japan nuclear industry sources. 

There has been no change in the primary reactor containment structures at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Crews are still pumping seawater into the reactors 1, 2 and 3 to cool the fuel. 

All four reactors at Fukushima Daini have reached cold shutdown conditions with normal cooling being maintained using residual heat removal systems.






At a March 19 news conference, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that sea water injection is continuing at reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. 

Preparations were being made to spray water into the used fuel pool at reactor 4, and an unmanned vehicle sprayed more than 1,500 gallons of water over seven hours into the used fuel pool at reactor 3, Edano said. He also said he believed that the situation at the reactor 3 fuel pool is stabilizing.

Some reactor cooling capacity has been restored at reactors 5 and 6 after the installation of generators at those reactors, Edano added. 

Edano said that progress had been made on "a fundamental solution" to restore power at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, with electricity expected to be restored at reactors 1 and 2 today and reactor 3 as early as Sunday.

Edano said that additional equipment was being transported to the site and that other means of providing cooling water to the pool is be examined. 

Radiation dose at the west gate of the Fukushima Daiichi was 83 millirem per hour on March 18 at 7:10 p.m. EDT and dropped to 36 millirem per hour by 8 p.m. EDT, Edano said. Radiation levels have decreased since March 16. Although they are higher than normal, radiation levels near the reactors are within the range that allows workers to continue onsite recovery measures, the International Atomic Energy Agency said. 

According to the IAEA, radiation dose rates in Tokyo and other areas outside the 30-kilometer zone remain far below levels which would require any protective action by the public. 

All reactors at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant are in cold shutdown (See the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum website). 

Radiation levels have increased above the federal government’s level in some food products from the Fukushima Prefecture and nearby areas. These levels were detected in samples of milk in Fukushima Prefecture and six samples of spinach in neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum. Edano said that if these products are consumed for a year, the total radiation dose would be equivalent to one CT scan. 

Additional monitoring of food products is continuing in those regions.






A World Health Organization spokesman said that radiation levels outside the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan are not harmful for human health. He said the WHO finds no public health reason to avoid travel to unaffected areas in Japan or to recommend that foreign nationals leave the country. He also said there is no risk that exported Japanese foods are contaminated with radiation.

The Japanese government issued an advisory on Tuesday for people to evacuate from a 12-mile zone around the plant, and also told people living within an 18-mile radius to stay indoors. Radiation levels at the plant boundary have been declining in the last day or so.




Tokyo Electric Power Co. continued spraying water into the reactor 3 used fuel pool that began early Friday morning. Another water spraying operation into the pool was conducted around noon EDT. The company did not provide any updates on the status of the reactor 4 used fuel pool on Friday. 

Operations to connect external power to reactors 1 and 2 are expected to continue through the weekend. TEPCO confirmed that electricity can be supplied to the reactors now that a new line has been connected from the off-site power system near the facility. Additional cabling and switchgear are being prepared to provide electricity to reactors 3, 4, 5 and 6.

TEPCO said it "planned to supply electricity for recovery efforts to reactor 2 first, followed by reactors 1, 3 and 4 because reactor 2 is expected to be less damaged." TEPCO plans to check pumps and other equipment and restore those items most vital to the cooling function.

No Radiation Levels of Concern in Western U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency on Friday issued a joint statement to confirm that the nationwide network of sensitive radiation monitoring equipment has detected no radiation levels of concern to U.S. citizens.

The EPA’s RadNet system notifies scientists in near real-time of elevated levels of radiation to enable them to determine whether protective actions are required. DOE’s IMS (International Monitoring System) operates as part of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and detects tiny quantities of radiation that may indicate an underground nuclear explosion anywhere in the world. 

One of the DOE monitors in Sacramento, Calif., detected tiny quantities of a radioisotope (xenon-133). The level of the isotope detected would result in one-millionth of the dose rate that a person would normally receive from natural background sources. 

More information is available at






Reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are in stable condition, with workers continuing to provide seawater cooling into the reactors. Containment integrity is believed to be intact on reactors 1, 2 and 3, and containment building pressures are elevated but are within design limits.

Site radiation doses have been decreasing since March 16. Radiation dose rates are fluctuating based on some of the relief operations, such as adding cooling water to the used fuel pools. Recent readings at the plant boundary are about 2 millirem per hour. Radiation dose rates at reactor 3 range between 2,500 and 5,000 millirem per hour.

The Japanese Self-Defense Force restarted cooling water spray into the Unit 3 reactor building and spent fuel pool at around 1 a.m. EDT on March 18. Plans are to spray 50 tons of water on the reactor 3 reactor building/spent fuel pool using seven fire-fighting trucks. 

A diesel generator is supplying power to reactors 5 and 6. TEPCO is installing high voltage cables from a nearby transmission line to reactors 1 and 2. Once electricity supply is re-established, priority will be given to restoring power to reactor heat removal systems and cooling water pumps. Workers are seeking to install electrical cables to reactors 3 and 4 components in about two days.

Fukushima Daini

All four reactors at Fukushima Daini remain shut down with normal cooling being maintained using residual heat removal systems. 

Daiichi Accident Rated 5 on International Event Scale

New International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) ratings have been issued for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants, the International Atomic Energy Agency said. 

Reactor core damage at the Daiichi reactors 2 and 3 caused by a loss of cooling function has resulted in a rating of 5 on the seven-point scale. 

The loss of cooling and water supply functions in the spent fuel pool of reactor 4 was rated a 3, or "serious" incident. The loss of cooling functions in the reactors 1, 2 and 4 of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant has led to a rating of 3.

The rating for the Chernobyl accident was 7, or a "major accident" on the INES scale. The Three Mile Island accident was 5, or an "accident with wider consequences." For more information on INES, see the IAEA’s website and this IAEA leaflet. 






Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it hopes to activate the cooling system for Fukushima Daiichi reactor 2 "as early as Friday night" (Japan time). The company said it could restore power from the electric grid to reactor 2 by Thursday night (U.S. time).

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that TEPCO completed connecting electrical cable from a makeshift transformer to reactor 2 at 4:30 A.M. EDT. Engineers were waiting to complete spraying sea water into the reactor 3 fuel pool before they restore power through the cable to the reactor 2 cooling system. 

TEPCO says that if it can provide power supply to the other reactors, it could begin restoring some cooling functions. The company said that after fire trucks injected water into reactor 3’s fuel pool, radiation levels at the plant’s west gate dropped from 31 millirem per hour to 29 millirem per hour at 10:00 A.M. EDT.






It is unlikely that radiation released from the nuclear reactors in Japan will harm anyone in the United States, President Obama said in a press briefing this afternoon.

"We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific," Obama said. He added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "does not recommend that people in the U.S. take precautionary measures other than staying informed."

Obama said "our nuclear plants have undergone exhaustive study and have been declared safe for any number of contingencies." However, he said that when there is an event such as the Fukushima accident, "we should learn from that. That’s why I have asked the NRC to do a comprehensive review of our nuclear plants" in light of the natural disaster that has happened in Japan.

In a briefing earlier on Thursday, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said, "There can’t be any harm to anyone in the United States" from the Japanese nuclear power plant.

Dan Poneman, the deputy secretary of energy, said today that two U.S. flights to Japan collected information on radiation levels. These readings informed the decision to recommend that Americans evacuate an area 50 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility.

Poneman expressed confidence in the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants, saying they’re evaluated on a "minute by minute" basis. Taking safety precautions "goes back decades," he said. Tough safety standards have been in effect and upgraded since 1979, he said.

Status of Fukushima plants

In Japan, engineers have laid a power line that can connect reactor 2 of the Daiichi facility to the off-site power grid, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported. Workers are working to reconnect the power to reactor 2 after they complete spraying water into the reactor 3 complex to provide additional cooling to the used fuel pool. Reconnecting to the power grid is expected to enhance efforts to prevent further damage at the plant.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported on Thursday that the backup diesel generator for reactor 6 is working and supplying electricity to reactors 5 and 6. TEPCO is preparing to add water to the storage pools that house used nuclear fuel rods at those two reactors.






Crews began aerial water spraying operations from helicopters to cool reactor 3 at Fukushima Daiichi shortly before 9 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, March 16. The operation was planned for the previous day, but was postponed because of high radiation levels at the plant. News sources said temperatures at the reactor 3 were rising. Each helicopter is capable of releasing 7.5 tons of water. 

Spokesmen for TEPCO and Japan’s regulatory agency, Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency, on March 17 Japan time refuted reports that there was a complete loss of cooling water in the used fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4. 

The spokesmen said the situation at reactor 4 has changed little during the day today and water remained in the fuel pool. However, both officials said that the reactor had not been inspected in recent hours. 

"We can’t get inside to check, but we’ve been carefully watching the building’s environs, and there has not been any particular problem," said TEPCO spokesman Hajime Motojuku. 

At about 7 p.m. EDT, NISA spokesman Takumi Koyamada said the temperature reading from the used fuel pool on Wednesday was 84 degrees Celsius and that no change had been reported since then. Typically, used uranium fuel rods are stored in deep water pools at temperatures of about 30 degrees Celsius.

Recent radiation levels measured at the boundary of the Fukushima Daiichi plant have been dropping steadily over the past 12 hours, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Wednesday night (U.S. time).

At 4 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, a radiation level of 75 millirem per hour was recorded at the plant’s main gate. At 4 p.m. EDT, the reading at one plant site gate was 34 millirem per hour. By comparison, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s annual radiation dose limit for the public is 100 millirem. Radiation readings are being taken every 30 minutes. 

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, said earlier today a radiation level of 33 millirem per hour was measured about 20 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi plant earlier this morning. He said that level does not pose an immediate health risk.

Edano said that TEPCO has resumed efforts to spray water into the used fuel pool at the damaged reactor 4. 

TEPCO also continues efforts to restore offsite power to the plant, with up to 40 workers seeking to restore electricity to essential plant systems by Thursday morning, March 17.






At 5:45 am, March 16, Japan Standard Time (4:45 pm EDT, March 15), a fire reignited at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi 4 reactor. The fire was extinguished after about two hours, TEPCO said. 

TEPCO was planning to battle the fire and provide additional water to cool used nuclear fuel with water dumped from helicopters, but abandoned the plan because a hole in the building’s roof is not in close proximity of the used fuel pool.

The company may remove some panels from the top of the reactor containment buildings at reactors 5 and 6 in order to avert a possible buildup of hydrogen in the reactors. Hydrogen buildup caused explosions at reactors 1 and 3. 

All of the fuel rods had been moved from reactor 4 to the spent fuel pool due to the maintenance work. About one-third of the fuel rods in reactors 5 and 6 had been removed as part of maintenance and refueling activities. 

Seventy percent of the fuel rods Unit 1 and one-third in Unit 2 have been damaged, TEPCO said. The cooling water level in both units is being maintained.

Weather reports indicate that the wind at the Fukushima plant has shifted and is now blowing out to the Pacific.

An earthquake registering 6.1 on the Richter scale struck the Eastern Honshu region of Japan. Hamaoka nuclear plant, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the epicenter, continues to operate normally.





An explosion at Unit 2 of the Fukushima Daiichi plant earlier today has damaged the suppression chamber, which holds water and steam released from the reactor core. Personnel not directly supporting recovery efforts have been evacuated from the plant, with about 50 employees remaining, principally to restore cooling water in the reactors.
Later in the day, water level inside the Unit 2 reactor was measured at 1.7 meters below the top of the fuel rods, but it was rising as workers pumped sea water into the reactor, reports said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that an oil leak in a cooling water pump at Unit 4 was the cause of a fire that burned for approximately 140 minutes. The fire was not in the spent fuel pool, as reported by several media outlets. Unit 4 was in a 105-day-long maintenance outage at the time of the earthquake and there is no fuel in the reactor.
All four reactors at the Fukushima Daini power plant are shutdown and reactor coolant systems are keeping the reactors safe.
Residents have been evacuated from the area surrounding the facility and they have been given potassium iodide tablets as a preventive measure. The ingestion of the tablets can help prevent the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent 11 experts to Tokyo to provide assistance requested by the Japanese government. Two reactor experts were dispatched Saturday; others began departing Monday.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said today that nuclear energy is safe and important to the country’s energy portfolio. Americans should have full confidence that the United States has rigorous safety regulations in place to ensure that our nuclear power is generated safely and responsibly.
In testimony before the House of Representatives, Chu said: Safety remains at the forefront of our effort to responsibly develop America’s energy resources, and we will continue to incorporate best practices and lessons learned into that process. He said the country must rely on several energy sources, including nuclear.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement, I think undoubtedly they’ll (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) be taking a fresh look at the safety precautions and provisions that are in place, in light of whatever is learned from the Japanese. I hope that the Commission will quickly reach some conclusions about whether the safety precautions and provisions that it has insisted on are adequate for the future.


Friday, March 11th, 2011

Nuclear Townhall is following breaking news of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake about 80 miles off the shore of Japan. Updates below focus on the earthquake’s impact on the nuclear industry. 

How To Help Japan Earthquake Relief


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Friday, February 25th, 2011

February 25, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

The international nuclear chess game of nuclear power witnessed another bold gambit this week when Japan entered talks with Lithuania over the possibility of building the Lithuanians a new nuclear reactor.

Lithuania has been at the mercy of Russia for the last year after the European Union forced the country to give up the close its Ignalina reactor as a condition of entering the Union. The EU bureaucrats argued that Ignalina had the same design as Chernobyl and was therefore dangerous. The Lithuanians argued that they had added safety features and modifications and that Chernobyl had been as much a human error as technical malfunction, but the Brussels bureaucrats refused to relent. Ignalina supplied Lithuania with 70 percent of its electricity. 

Since then the Lithuanians have been forced to buy gas from Russia at steep prices. The country put out a request for bids to build a new reactor last year and received proposals from Korea Electric Power and another unidentified rumored to be Electricite de France. The Lithuanians found the unidentified proposal unacceptable but were pleased with the Korean bid. Then the Koreans suddenly withdrew their offer. One story says the Russians pressured the Koreans because they did not want to give up the gas monopoly in their former satellite, but there has been nothing to substantiate this interpretation.

Japan’s entry into the discussions holds promise that Lithuania may once again be able to restore its energy independence. Energy Vice Minister Arvydas Darulis told Bloomberg that Japan “has very high standard of nuclear safety” that would meet EU requirements. “We need high technologies and those technologies are here in Japan,” Darulis said. Lithuania is hoping to complete the project by the end of the decade.

Read more about it at Bloomberg


Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

November 16, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors


Advocates of nuclear energy are always hoping the subject can be revived from the dark days of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, when the topic became almost verboten. But there’s another possibility. Maybe a younger generation that never heard of nuclear energy may rediscover its wonders.
That seems to be what has happened with Susanne Rust, an environmental reporter with California Watch, which is a project for the Center for Investigative Reporting. Visiting Japan she has made a remarkable discovery – the Fast Breeder Reactor!

“As part of my whirlwind "energy" trip across Japan," she writes, "I went to visit the crown jewel of the nation’s nuclear future: an experimental fast-breeder reactor called Monju.

“The remarkable thing about Monju is that it `breeds’ fuel, instead of just consuming it. So, in the end, the plant generates more fuel than it uses, theoretically allowing it to continuously recycle its own waste.”

Rust then goes into a rather garbled explanation of how the non-fissionable U-238 in the fuel assembly gets “smacked with sodium,” transforming it into plutonium. She also makes the obligatory statements of how the plutonium might get stolen and turned into countless terrorist bombs, not realizing that it’s a lot easier to produce bomb-grade plutonium with ordinary thermal reactors. But that’s OK, she’s got the right idea.

If Rust dug deep enough she might even discover that the U.S. once led the world in this technology. We had several breeder programs until the last one, the 62-megawatt EBR-II at Idaho National Laboratory, was closed down by the Clinton Administration in 1994. Tom Blees’ book, Prescription for the Planet, is a long lamentation about the closing of the Integral Fast Breeder program.

But none of this is essential. The important thing is that a new generation of environmental writers may be once again discovering how nuclear technology offers us potentially unlimited amounts of clean, pollution-free energy. That itself it a big success.

Read more about it at California Watch







Friday, November 5th, 2010

After sitting on the sidelines for months watching the rest of the world run up the score in the Nuclear Renaissance, the U.S. may be creeping back in the game.
An agreement signed between the U.S. and Japan this week will set up a "working group on international nuclear power cooperation,” according to this report in The Denki Shimbun (The Electric Daily News). The group will attempt to advise developing countries that are making plans to build their first nuclear reactors.
Japan, of course, is already established in the world market, with Toshiba’s Westinghouse and Mitsubishi as prime competitors. After losing to Korea in the bid to build four new reactors in the United Arab Emirates, the Japanese government encouraged all its nuclear competitors to join forces in making their next bids to developing countries. Hitachi and America’s General Electric have also joined forces in marketing GE’s ESBWR. As far as a general American effort to compete on the world market, however, there is none.
The new committee will concentrate on three areas: 1) infrastructural improvements to accommodate nuclear construction, 2) governmental support for U.S. and Japanese companies in these markets, and 3) international cooperation in nuclear fuel services.
The third concern – and the participation of the U.S. State Department in the talks – suggests that much of the emphasis will once again be on “non-proliferation,” which often translates as U.S. State Department officials telling other nations they can’t reprocess their spent fuel. The best way to handle spent fuel would be to set up reprocessing in this country and then volunteer to take spent fuel rods off other countries’ hands – as Russia is currently doing.

Absent any reprocessing facilities here, the best U.S. officials can do is scold other countries about trying to recycle their wastes – as we are currently doing with Korea. Hopefully, participation in the Japan-U.S. committee will convince American officials that the U.S. no longer holds the lead in nuclear technology and that, if anything, we are the ones who need assistance in developing a nuclear program.


Read more at Reuters



Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Closing the nuclear fuel cycle has always made ultimate sense. When Lewis Strauss made his fateful remarks about “electricity too cheap to meter,” he was speaking with recycling in mind.
The promise turned out to be premature – and nuclear opponents have never let us forget it. But the possibility of extracting more than the 5 percent of the energy potential now consumed in commercial reactors still looms – not to mention clearing up the false problem of “nuclear waste.”
MOX fuel has always been an obvious starting point. France does it and now Japan and the United States are moving in that direction as well. MOX simply takes the plutonium and depleted uranium from a spent fuel rod and mixes them together to make a sustainable fuel mix. (It’s the presence of other isotopes that interfere with neutron capture that make a spent fuel rod useless.)
Plutonium, of course, is the bad actor of the bunch, relatively easy to convert to bomb material (although not that easy because it is contaminated with non-fissionable and too-fissionable plutonium isotopes). Recycle that plutonium as fuel and the whole problem is solved. We were on the right track back in the 1970s before nuclear opponents scared Jimmy Carter into giving up the whole process for fear that somebody might steal the plutonium and run off and make a bomb.
France has a MOX fabrication facility at Avignon and produces one-third of its fuel from recycling. “Our spent fuel rods are the new uranium mines,” says Jacques Besnainous, president of AREVA’s American operations. Over the last year, the French have also started recycling Japan’s spent fuel, which is sent back to burn in one of Japan’s four MOX-enabled reactors.
Now, as often happens, the Japanese are going to do the reprocessing for themselves. With an opening prayer ceremony, ground was broken for the new J-MOX facility in the Aomori Prefecture last week.
And things are happening in the United States as well. AREVA has contracted to build a MOX facility at Savanna River to reprocess plutonium left over from the weapons program. According to this report in World Nuclear News, AREVA will soon be sending 93 trainees to France to learn the technology.
Who knows?  After seeing all that weapons plutonium disappear transformed into useful energy, Americans may be persuaded that reprocessing commercial fuel might not be such a bad idea after all.

Read more at World Nuclear News



Friday, October 8th, 2010

The international dogfight to build new reactors for the emerging global Renaissance market continued yesterday as Toshiba said it would enter the bidding against Russia and Korea to sell its technology to Turkey.

The Japanese are still smarting over losing the $18.5 billion contract to Korea to build four reactors in the United Arab Emirates. Russia, on the other hand, is coming off a successful bidding in Vietnam – plus putting the final touches on a barge-loaded small modular reactor to be floated into a village in the Arctic Circle.

Toshiba’s bid comes just as Bloomberg News is reporting that the Turks are very close to signing a deal with the Kepco, the international arm of Korea’s nuclear effort. According to Kim Sang Su, CEO of Kepco, Korea would provide 70 percent of the financing for the Turkish but Istanbul would retain 60 percent ownership.

The Turks currently have only one TRIGA Mk2 research reactor operated by the Energy Institute at Istanbul Technical University. However they have announced plans to build 3,600 MW of nuclear generating capacity over the next 20 years in order to meet the rising demand for electricity.

The Koreans’ offer to provide the bulk of the financing is not unusual and may become the rule for such international ventures. Last week they made the same off to the Emirates, suggesting the Korean Development Bank may put up $10 billion to finance its own technology.  The Japan Bank for International Cooperation has also announced it might put up $4 billion for NRG Energy’s South Texas Project, which is waiting to see if it receives a federal loan guarantee. The two reactors will be Advanced Boiling Water Reactors, owned jointly by Toshiba, Hitachi and General Electric.

Read more at Hurriyet Daily News