Tag Archives: fukushima power plant

Japan to create wall of ice around Fukushima water leaks

Somebody in Tokyo is reading Game of Thrones: the Japanese government has announced plans to create a wall of ice underneath the contaminated area to contain the water leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his administration will provide the money for this.

fukushima oil

“The government needs to resolve the problem by standing at the forefront,” he told a meeting of his nuclear disaster response team. “Discarding the current, impromptu response, we will set up our basic policies for a fundamental resolution of the contaminated water problem. “The government will do its best and take the necessary fiscal action,” he said, referring to tapping taxpayer funds.

Some thousands of tonnes of radioactive water are being stored currently in temporary tanks at the site, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of the Japanese capital.

Power reactors work by splitting atoms, typically uranium, in a chain reaction. The reactor continues to generate heat after the chain reaction is stopped because of the radioactive decay of unstable isotopes, fission products, created by this process. This decay of unstable isotopes, and the decay heat that results, cannot be stopped. In the aftermath of the 03.11.2011 earthquake, 18.000 lives were claimed, though none of them officially due to radiation leaks.

Still, the oceans, and consequently, humans, are still under heavy stress from the leakage. So far, despite valliant efforts and several proposed solutions, the problem is still very acute. Hopefully, this will put an end to it, and the Fukushima situation will cool down.

Ocean still suffering from Fukushima fallout

Radioactivity is still persisting in the ocean waters near the Fukushima nuclear plant, despite researchers expectation to drop.

Researchers published new data showing that radioactivity levels near the plant remain stable, instead of falling as expected; they believe this is mostly caused by run-off from the river and continued leaks from the plant. The levels are not big enough to cause significant human worries, but it is likely to cause damage to the local ecosystem, posing a long term economic threat to the area.

The Fukushima contamination was the result of one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded, the 9.1 event that struck Japan and caused a huge tsunami. After the spill, most of the radiation dispersed into the ocean, until it reached extremely low levels which basically pose no threat. However, the surrounding area remained radioactive.

But nobody was expecting the levels to remain at these levels.

“There must be a source,” says Scott Fowler, an oceanographer at Stony Brook University in New York.

A new model created by oceanographer Jota Kanda at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology suggest that not one, but three sources are causing this remanent radioactivity. The first is radioactivity from the land is being washed by rainfall into rivers, which carry it to the sea; second, the plant itself continuously leaks.

But the third source is the most important, he says. Marine sediments, he explains, are responsible for over 90 percent of the continuous contamination. Analysis showed a large quantity of radioactive caesium in sandy ocean floor near the plant. It may be that the sediment itself absorbed the caesium, or perhaps microorganisms such as plankton fed on it, and then excreted it to the bottom of the ocean.

Whether originating from plankton or sediment, the contamination is finding its way into the food chain. Bottom dwelling fish show levels above the level considered ‘safe’; other species are only sometimes contaminated, while squid and octopuses are contamination free. The implications are extremely serious for the fishing industries, who estimate a loss of about $2 billion.

Scientific source

People, planet, profit or politics? Japan’s energy debate hots up

While the world is absorbed in the raging solar storm between America and China, with Europe deciding whether or not to join in the fray, a quiet revolution is happening. It has the potential for real positive impact on the planet and the struggling solar industry at large.

In the last few months, Japan has been proving it really is the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. Against a backdrop of post-Fukushima energy shortages and debates, it introduced a FiT scheme in July that could see it become the world’s no.2 solar market after Germany. In a dynamic shift away from atomic dependence, the government aims to generate 35% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Bright Start

Even at this early stage, figures show the country has made impressive steps towards meeting its goal. Sales of solar cells rose 72.2% in the year up to April 2012 – and that was before the FiT scheme was introduced.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that only China will exceed Japan in terms of solar capacity growth. It predicts the country will see at least $9.6 billion in new solar installations, creating 3.2 gigawatts of capacity (equal to the output of three atomic reactors).

About 90% of Japan’s solar panel installation is residential – compared with the US and elsewhere, where capacity is predominantly commercial and utility-scale. To meet growing need since the FiT scheme, panel imports have doubled, while domestic production has also ramped up to meet demand. Large-scale solar parks have opened, or are due to open, all over the country, with new projects announced every day.

The Need for a Nuclear Alternative

One such project has particular poignancy. Minamisoma City has teamed up with Toshiba to build the country’s biggest solar park. As parts of the city are situated 10 kilometres from the site of 2011’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, areas have been contaminated by radiation. This project offers a stark reminder as to why Japan’s solar eclipse is so important.

After the disaster, all 50 of Japan’s reactors went offline. The first two re-opened in the summer, to prevent potential power shortages, but were met with widespread protest demonstrations. The Nuclear Regulation Authority, set up last month, is compiling new nuclear standards that will underpin the re-opening of more reactors next year. It won’t be clear until then how many plants will meet the new regulations and be allowed to re-start.
Political Hot Potato
The government has legislated for nuclear power to be phased out by 2030. This generous schedule allows companies to recoup their money; in fact, by that date most reactors would be over 40 years old and facing decommissioning anyway. It has made some anti-nuclear campaigners cynical about the move.

The government’s actions are certainly not without subtext; next year’s general election will be weighing heavily on policymakers’ minds. Public opinion polls demonstrate overwhelming consensus for nuclear phase-out, with many ministers supporting the ‘zero option’. But dissenting voices from business and commerce will also shape the direction of the renewables dream.

Solar Resistance
Utility companies, who have the most to lose from a nuclear reduction programme, are resisting the government’s renewable plans. The power companies would be financially devastated by immediate plant closures – if all 50 reactors were closed, losses would total 4.4 trillion yen and make at least four companies insolvent.

But there’s another way in which these companies will suffer. Since Fukushima, private insurance providers will no longer insure the utilities, meaning the government (or rather, the taxpayer) has to foot the bill. In short, utility companies stand to get all the benefits, with none of the risk.

The Keidanren (Japan’s most influential business lobby) warns that the thousands of job losses would not be worth what it sees as problematic, expensive and unreliable energy alternatives. It believes there will be a negative impact on Japan’s economic growth without a stable, affordable alternative to nuclear.

Future’s Bright?
The balance of Japan’s energy portfolio hangs in the political and economic balance, with the government caught between a rock and a hot place – public opinion vs business and economic pressures. Renewable supporters will be celebrating the pictures of busy solar power installers putting up panels all over the country; images of the Fukushima disaster will surely haunt ministers as they closely monitor the progress of the FiT scheme. With elections around the corner and an uncertain world economy all around them – who will they side with?


Wild monkeys to monitor radiation levels in Japan

How do you measure the radiation level at the Fukushima power plant, without endangering people in the process? Researchers found quite a creative way of doing this: they tagged wild monkeys which hang around the place anyway with radiation sensors.

Takayuki Takahashi explained that he and his team are planning to put radiation-measuring collars on three such monkeys, as well as GPS devices that also measure the distance from the ground. The information will help scientists understand how grave the radiation is and how it may affect the environment (humans, plants and animals).

This idea is extremely creative and interesting especially because monkeys walk on the ground and climb trees as well, and can measure radiation at ground level and higher above it. The next step in the work is to also employ the help of wild boars, which have the advantage of moving around quite a lot and being very resistant.

Via 80 beats

Humanity at its finest: Japan elderly offer to clean up nuclear waste

Yasuteru Yamada is a man just like any other, except he isn’t just like any other. “Let the young rebuild Japan, and let old clean up the most difficult mess”, he says. Argueing that the elders have a smaller chance of developing cancer in their lifetime, the 72-year-old former engineer is recruiting other retirees to replace the younger workers who are currently handling the radiation exposure at the Japan affected nuclear plants.

“I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live,” he says. “Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer.”

I have to say, this is hands down one of the most impressive gestures I have seen; it’s humanity at its finest ! Also, Yamada isn’t alone in his quest to spare the younger of potential cancer – he has already rallied 200 other retired Japanese, mostly engineers, but also singers, cooks, school teachers, etc. They will face the long and difficult road ahead of them, and will try to clean up the mess that the massive earthquake and the tsunamis caused.

Defy nuclear war with the doomsday survival suit [photos]

Doomsday suit

For the 2012 panicked or just the doomsday memorabilia  collectors, Kacey Wong‘s doomsday survival suit will definitely spark interest. The Hong Kong artist has designed the robot-shaped suit inspiring herself after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, with the idea of protecting people from radiation leaking from nuclear power stations.

Mobile and equipped with glowing red alarm lights for eyes, the doomsday suit is entirely made out of led plates and can be unfolded to create a bed so you can have some well deserved rest after a nuclear war night. It also features solar panels to power electrical devices the inhabitant may need during radiation alerts.It only generates about 15 volts of electricity, which is just maybe enough to power an iPod and soundtrack the apocalypse.

Previous robot-like mobile homes by Wong include this one designed for rich people made homeless by the credit crunch and another that doubles as an office for homeless people.

Here’s how Wong describes her doomsday suit.

Natural and man-made disasters killed tens of thousands of people and many more lost their home, Hong Kong being much closer to the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station than to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, maybe it is about time to reflect and address the potential risk and hazard produced by nuclear energy.

Unfortunately for now, the suit is not available for sale and has been designed only for illustrative purposes – or art. If you want to snag a look at it, though, you’ll be able to find it at the 30 x 30 exhibition in Hong Kong from July 7 to August 9.

Doomsday suit


Monitoring radioactivity levels near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Photograph: Christian Slund/Reuters

Japan raises nuclear crisis level to that of Chernobyl

Japan’s nuclear crisis level has been regulated from level 5 to 7  by the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the top of the nuclear hazard scale and right on par with the 1986 Chernobyl incident, according to the level of radiation released in the accident. The new ranking signifies a “major accident” with “wider consequences” than the previous level, according to the Vienna-based IAEA.

“We have upgraded the severity level to 7 as the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread from the air, vegetables, tap water and the ocean,” said Minoru Oogoda of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The decision was made after assessments of data on leaks of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137 showed critical levels of radiation.

“We have refrained from making announcements until we have reliable data,” NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

“The announcement is being made now because it became possible to look at and check the accumulated data assessed in two different ways,” he said, referring to measurements from NISA and the Nuclear Security Council.

As opposed to the Chernobyl crisis, however, the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant hasn’t experienced any reactor core explosions, despite hydrogen explosions occurred during the first waves of tsunami which hit Japan after the deadly 9.0 earthquake. Actually, the amount of radiation leaking from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is around only 10 percent of the Chernobyl accident.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that caused the tsunami immediately stopped Fukushima’s three reactors, but overheated cores and a lack of cooling functions led to further damage. Engineers have been able to drop water into the damaged reactors to cool them down, but leaks have resulted in the pooling of tons of contaminated, radioactive water that has prevented workers from conducting further repairs – and if it wasn’t enough, aftershocks on Monday briefly cut power to backup pumps, halting the injection of cooling water for about 50 minutes before power was restored.

It could take weeks or months to stabilize the reactors. And containing and cleaning up the radioactive material could take at least 10 years, at a cost of more than $10 billion.

Leaks send radioactivity into the ocean at the Fukushima power plant

The situation at the Fukushima power plant, albeit not being as catastrophic as it was broadcasted on main news channels, is far from being calm. The workers in the Japan nuclear plant are now trying to limit the environmental contamination, and this time, they are facing a break that allowed contaminated water to reach the ocean.

TEPCO, which runs the reactors, announced just a few hours ago that the leak has been stopped, and fortunately, we are talking about short-lived isotope of iodine that will decay and become harmless in a matter of months. The ability of the Pacific to dilute the contaminated water will also help this problem; there were worries that a serious contamination would cover a massive area, but it is now believe that we are talking about acceptable levels.

As a matter of fact, this has encouraged workers to think about dumping water with low level contamination directly into the ocean, for the sole purpose of diluting the radioactivity levels quickly.

There are still some questions regarding the state of the reactors themselves, and there is still uncertainty floating around the whole thing, because of the lack of information; however, a manager at the utility has been quoted as saying, “I don’t know if we can ever enter the No. 3 reactor building again”. Restoring and reusing the nuclear power plant was never on the table, but how we can handle large scale dangers such as this one, is still an ongoing debate – and the answers given by the Japanese are not bad at all.

Picture source

Shorties: what happens during a nuclear meltdown

The media has significantly distorted (or even misinformed) the image of the nuclear situation in Japan at the Fukushima powerplant. The situation is dire, the dangers are real, and major, but a comparison to Chernobyl is far fetched to say the least. Here is a good explanation and a video of what’s going on during a meltdown, as well as adiitional information and a video regarding the whole situation in Japan.