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Japanese Reactor(s) Update(d) Yet Again

See updates and comments below for a lot of good information, important updates, and discussion.  And big thanks to Instapundit for the Installanche

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This post is continuing to be updated (and bumped) as needed, and I strongly urge readers to go down into the comments, as there is a lot of very good information there.  I can't say thank you enough to Subsunk and and grtflmark for their extensive and authoritative contributions to this thread.  Thanks to Old Nuke for also joining in.  I hope that they will continue to do so.  I am going to add more updates below the fold.  Please scroll down, there is a lot there. Also doing some clean-up and organizing to make it easier to read/find info in the post itself. 

3 April:  Have bumped because of the cracked storage pit and the recovery of two bodies from the plant.  See below for details.

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This is a follow-up to my earthquake/missing person post of this morning, and the updates there. 

UPDATE:  Bumping this up from the comments as it is the best and most intelligent discussion I've seen on the situation, and on nuke plants in general.  And it comes from someone who knows their stuff:  Subsunk. 

Good comments LW. Pressurized and Boiling Water Reactors are cooled by pure water. After a Reactor SCRAM (Emergency shutdown, caused by automatic protective action, loss of electrical power, or by operator action once something like an earthquake might happen), the reactor contains fission products that continue to decay away. There are several groups of these fission products all with different half lives (decay away to insignificance) periods. Some have very short half lives and decay away in seconds or minutes. Some in hours, and some in months or years. The heat produced from these decaying fission products has to be carried away by water, or the fuel elements will get too hot and melt and release the really BAD fission products to the atmosphere or the coolant.

Usually, assuming the integrity of the reactor vessel containing the water, and the loops of cooling water remains intact, all you should have to do is turn the cooling pumps on and keep the fluid circulating through the core to remove that "decay heat". The problem is that the backup power generator (usually a diesel engine with a DC or AC power generator on it) or the electrical equipment necessary to power these pumps for this Japanese plant appears to have suffered sufficient damage to keep electricity from being generated or the pumps from being turned on. The solution is to truck in emergency generators, or repair systems at all costs to get these pumps running. Once they can be run again, even if they are pumping steam initially, you have to get fluid moving to remove the reactor decay heat.

Batteries, or battery banks, no matter how big they are, will never have enough power to keep these huge pumps running for a significant length of time. The backup systems if you can never get these pumps running is to "feed and bleed", or allow the plants natural circulation capabilities to handle the heat rejection. Natural circulation is usually not very effective in huge reactors like commercial reactors because the water has so many twists and turns to make the flow happen. So "feed and bleed is a last resort. You pump fresh water in while you bleed off steam from the reactor pressurizer (a pressure vessel that maintains a high pressure in the reactor vessel so the water doesn't boil and make large volumes of steam inside the core, which is, of course, the hottest part of the system, and therefore prevents flow through the core if you get steam into it) and keep feeding and bleeding to remove this heat.

Now this isn't as bad as it might sound because you don't have to bleed a lot of steam off to remove a lot of heat. To make steam from water removes a large heat of vaporization which removes a lot of heat from the water around it. So you only need to bleed off a little steam to remove lots of heat, and add only a little bit of water to make up for that. When you bleed the steam, however, you are bleeding some of the radioactivity (probably not the fission products right away until the core actually starts to melt, but things in water and the corrosion resistant chemicals we use inside these plants which get activated and become radioactive for short periods of time). So the reports of radiation being 1000x the normal level may or may not be serious. The reports of no backup power are very serious though. You have to have power to push the fresh water into the reactor and they may not have it.

It depends on where you take the readings, and what the normal radiation levels are to determine how serious this is. For instance, on my ships, the normal background radiation was less than 1 millirem per hour. About the best we could detect with our low range instruments, and anything less is probably not detectable without serious instrumentation and you'll find every rock and fire extinguisher and bunch of bananas is radioactive then. 1000x that background level is 1 Rem per hour. That is a serious dose and will kill you if you stay there in that radiation field for just over 200-300 hours. If the Japs are venting the vessel to remove heat and putting out this level of radiation while they are doing that, it is a serious issue, but we need to remember the wind would carry most of this away, it disperses or decays away relatively rapidly, and it would also decay completely away in a few days or months. Plus that means they are only experiencing those levels while they are venting. Then the level might return to near normal.

Until we see whether they get the pumps running again, or emergency power becomes available, lets not panic about this. It sounds like they are doing all the right things I would expect in such an emergency. The situation is serious. But so is a tsunami that wipes out a couple of towns with over 77,000 people gone in just one of those towns. The radiation isn't a problem in this yet. Let the Japanese military and civil defense folks do their jobs, and help them out wherever we can. That is all we can hope to do anyway.

God bless the Nips. They are the best prepared in the world for this. I hope they pull it all off and rescue as many folks as possible. They need our prayers and assistance and love and admiration. And they have mine.

I am going to continue to monitor as I can, and will try to get some solid info.  Or, as much as I can given that Cooking with the Troops has basically an all-day event at Kohl's Court in the Tippecanoe Mall. As to the reports this morning of an explosion, it may or may not be a real problem.  Power plants have lots of things that can, and will, go boom.  It may or may not be related to the reactors themselves.  It may or may not be related to efforts to restore emergency power.  The one thing that can be said is that they need our thoughts and prayers.  Kick it up to high please. 

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The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that there are problems at two Japanese nuclear power plants in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.  The problem from my perspective is that there is a strong lack of good information.  I will go so far as to say that some of the news coverage is flat out hysterical and more interested in hysteria (and creating same) than in getting out good information.  Some coverage is honest in admitting that there isn't a lot of hard information coming out. 

So far, both the media and some backchannel seem to agree that there are problems; that backup power systems are not online; and, that efforts to deal with the situation are underway.  Beyond that, well, there just isn't a lot of good information. 

I've reached out to someone I know who spent a good deal of time working on backup power systems for nuclear plants with questions and an offer of/request for a guest post.  Meantime, the least hysterical info in the major media I've found is here at CNN

Some food for thought:  Western reactors (unlike Chernobyl, which is an entirely different type/style of reactor) have active cooling in multiple loops, redundant backup systems, and -- most importantly -- containment vessels.  What is causing the majority of the problems with these reactors is that the emergency generators used to cool when the reactor is scrammed are not working.  Many plant designs have a massive amount of battery backup both to start the backup generators even as they keep controls and cooling online for an extended period of time while the generators and such come online.  The questions I have right now revolve around the backup generators and the apparent lack of battery backup (or working backup). 

So long as the containment vessels are intact (a large question given the apparent extent of damage), then things may be bad but not too bad.  It will be a mess, and a bad one, but one largely contained to the plant if the worst happens.  If the backup power systems can be repaired, or the military can get emergency power systems in and operating, then things can be brought under control fairly rapidly. 

The key is power.  If they get power restored, then they can deal with all the current confirmed problems.  If not, things come down to the third-level emergency cooling systems and the containment. 

Only time will tell, and the one thing I am sure of is that people are working on this and working hard.  May they have luck and blessing on their side, along with a heck of a lot of good solid tech.  Stay tuned, and more if and as I can. 

LW

UPDATE AM 14 March:  Yes, there is some radiation coming out, most likely from the steam releases (relieving pressure in the reactors). It is very low level, but reports are not indicating what elements/compounds are involved.  When we say low level, it is not that much above background.  That said, it is prudent to move Navy people and assets out of the way, done, and they can continue on in support. 

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UPDATE:  Radiation and Reaction

I've tried to find my class notes from when I taught basic science at a small university, but seem to have put them in a good safe place.  So, off the cuff, here is a bit of information.

I used to take great delight into walking into class waving a "detector" and calling out that I had detected radiation.  Yep, would wind them up and get them going.  The fact is, we are surrounded by radiation all the time, in various intensities and frequencies.  Radiation is not bad, because if it were not for it life as we know it would not be possible. 

Short version is that there are two basic types of radiation:  non-ionizing and ionizing.  Non-ionizing is mostly benign, but certain types and frequencies can cause problems and may (or may not) be as benign as assumed.  Discussion for another day.  Ionizing radiation is what most people think of as (bad) radiation, as it causes damage to the structure of both organic and inorganic materials.  That said, not all ionizing radiation is bad, as some is used in medicine and other areas to the good.  There is also a very good argument that ionizing radiation has resulted in a number of positive changes to various life forms, and that life as we know it would not have been possible if not for it. Again, discussion for another day.

Ionizing radiation comes in three basic types (flavors, if you will):  Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.  Getting very simple and short, Alpha won't pentrate your skin and can do little damage from outside the body; Beta particles need more sheilding but not a huge amount; and, Gamma needs serious shielding and can and will do bad things from outside your body. 

Some reactor basics that are not getting clearly discussed in the craptastic coverage in most media.  First, most designs in use today use fuel rods that create heat, which creates steam, that creates more steam, that drives turbines to create power.  This heat is generated by raising the rods outside of a core material that absorbs the ionizing radiation produced.  When raised, the particles interact and create a nuclear fission reaction which is the splitting apart of non-organic compounds. 

If you look at a periodic chart of the elements, it starts with the smallest and simplest elements, hydrogen and helium, and works its way up to the heavier and more complex elements.  The periodic chart represents the "ideal" state of elements, in that all the components are essentially in balance.  Radioactive compounds are heavier elements, that is they have more electrons (and related) particles in them.  With fission, they split apart and create other "smaller" elements below them on the periodic chart.  Because they are created by fission, these elements don't have a complete set of particles, which means they either have to gain those particles or lose them.  That need to gain or lose particles is what makes them radioactive.  (yes, this is very over simplified but bear with me).

The nuclear fission creates compounds, both within the fuel rods themselves, and within the reactor as all materials, from the coolant to the moderator (the material used to absorb the ionizing particles).  Reactors can be used to create a number of important and vital radioactive materials, such as a wide variety of products for medical use, but that is also a discussion for another day. 

Because these elements (and some compounds) are not "ideal" they emit particles, which means they are radioactive.  All radioactive compounds decay over time, and will eventually become inert, or as close to "ideal" as exists in the real world.  This decay is measured in terms of "half-life" and you are going to hear a lot of discussion about that.  You are already hearing in media reports about contamination lasting thousands of years (or more, am surprised no one has yet trotted out "billions and billions").

There are indeed some elements and compounds that are going to have half-lifes measured in centuries or more.  There are a lot more elements and compounds that have half-lifes measured in months, days, weeks, and even seconds (or much, much, less).  When looking at such discussions, and in looking at the radiation released, look at:

•  What is the amount of the long half-life compounds as a percentage of the total products produced, and especially the total percentage of that element or compound being produced.  Not all of the given element or compound are necessarily going to be the longest-lived. 

•  What elements or compounds are easily and readily absorbed by the human body?

•  What type emitter are the majority of the released:  alpha, beta, or gamma?

•  Are the elements released heavier or lighter than air?

These are crucial both to rational discussion and nuclear survival.  A number of products (hydrogen being much discussed right now) are lighter than air and are going to rise above most human habitation.  Depending on the half-lifes involved, and the radiation those elements/compounds are exposed to at higher elevation (you really may not want to know how much ionizing radiation you get flying in a commercial airliner), it may not be a long-term problem.  Heavier can be washed off of you in a decontamination shower.  You can easily sheild against alpha and beta particles with clothing. 

Where the real problem comes in is with gamma radiation and with taking any ionizing element/compound into your body.  We all have some already in us, but when we take more in it increases the chance that those ionizing particles are going to do significant damage (damange our bodies can't handle with our automatic damage control systems).  In lethal doses, it literally can destroy the tissues.  In lower doses, it creates mutations that overwhelm our immune (damage control) systems and can cause cancers (and other delights).  See the excellent discussions below on LD50 and radiation exposures by Subsunk and grtflmark for more information.

Good news is that two layers of tightly woven t-shirt can and will protect you against a heck of a lot by preventing entry into the body.  As with certain CB attacks, a gas mask or full-head covering with filtration is better, but in an emergency keep that t-shirt in mind.  Good news also is that some of the nastiest radioactive elements/compounds are not readily absorbed by the body and will pass through (quickly one hopes) if they get in.  Bad news is, some radioactive compounds are readily absorbed by the body and are hard to get out as a result.  Good news, see first part. 

So, screams about radiation, or the lie that radiation from an event like this is somehow worse than any other, are to be taken with a grain of salt.  Everything depends on the elements/compounds involved, their average half-life, and how easily they can get into your body. 

To quickly touch on another point asked in the comments: the primary generation of heat in a nuclear reactor comes from raising the rods out of the moderator.  Lower the rods back in, and that reaction essentially stops so the main source of heat goes away.  However, because of the fusion products created during normal operation, those smaller compounds created that are not necessarily in the fuel rods, heat is still being generated.  That heat must be removed, and that is where the problems currently lie. 

More soon, read the comments and again my thanks to Subsunk and grtflmark for their generosity and expertise!

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And thanks to the reader who let me know I had slipped into using fusion (I wish we had reliable and safe fusion power) part way through the above.  Fixed now.  :)

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Also, the radiation map that is spreading virally is not accurate.  Australian Radiation Services is repudiating it, and pointing out it is not accurate and did not come from them.  Hat tip to Marcus at You Served for the heads-up.

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As noted yesterday, we are surrounded by radiation of various types and intensities at all times.  When people start hyperventilating about exposure, some facts and solid information come in handy. Read the update above about the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, types of ionizing radiation, and more above.  Then, consider:

Fact:  We are surrounded by radiation at all times
Fact:  We are exposed to ionizing radiation at all times

Yes, you are exposed to ionizing radiation at all times.  There is cosmic radiation that hits the Earth constantly.  Some is stopped or re-directed by the Earth's magnetic fields and related structures (Van Allen Belt), some goes right through the Earth without interaction, the atmosphere protects us from a great deal, and some gets through. 

The fact is, the higher you go in altitude the more exposure you get.  If you live at a higher elevation (less dense atmosphere), you have a higher background radiation level than you would at sea level (giving a shout-out here to a science friend living in Sunspot, NM).  If you fly on a commercial airliner, your exposure goes up as well.  A cross-country flight can be the equivalent of half the exposure of a normal chest X-ray.  Trans-oceanic and longer, can be as much as a chest X-ray or more. 

To be precise, a typical cross-country flight can get you 2-5 millirem of radiation according to the EPA.  Wait a minute, what's a millirem?  Glad you asked, as we really need to talk about how radiation exposure is measured before we get into the fun stuff.

You are going to hear a number of units used, but standard units are REM and Sieverts (Sv).  You are also going to hear about absorbed dose, equivalent dose, and committed dose. 

REM stands for Roentgen Equivalent Man, and relates the absorbed dose of radiation to the biological damaged caused.  It is an equivalent dose, that is, it is adjusted for the relative effect of the specific type of radiation being measured.  Sounds complex?  Well, the different types of ionizing radiation have different effects on biological systems, and REM uses averages and other adjustments to come up with a standard unit that relates these different effects into a standard unit.  This cuts down on the complexity so that instead of having to determine type, level, and then look up effects, calculate, and such on the fly, you get a standard unit that is supposed to be a fairly good measure of exposure and effect. 

A Sievert is the international standard unit for radiation measure, and is also based on the effect of the radiation on biological tissues.  Think of it as the metric unit, and it does attempt to measure the combined effects of the various types of radiation, quality and distribution of same, and other related factors.  Again based off averages and known effects.  It is going to be the unit most seen in serious discussions for a number of reasons, some of which are best discussed in another post.

You may also see curie, roentgen, and rad; but, if you do, ignore whatever is said and make a note of that site so as to never use it again for serious radiological news.  If you see the terms Gray (Gy) and Becquerel (Bq), it is most likely a scientific site, should get the benefit of the doubt in reading it, and should also have a discussion of Sieverts.  The becquerel is a measure of activity (simple:  rate and energy of decay), and the gray is the measure of absorbed dose.  An absorbed dose is simply the amount of energy a radioactive particle puts into its target, be it organic or inorganic.  Think energy transmitted into a target by a bullet hitting/passing through.  A committed dose is the amount of radiation received by a specific organ from exposure over time. 

If you are looking for precise information, always go with Sieverts.  REM is still in wide use, but most scientists, particularly those in the nuclear or medical field, are going to be using Sv, Gy, and Bq.  When looking at ALL numbers given, pay particular attention to prefixes and related qualifiers.  Some news reports seem to be missing those, resulting in very bad information.  Check for m for milli, M for giga, and the u/micro symbol.  These make one heck of a difference.  Also keep in mind that exposure limits are based on the very conservative concept that there is no safe level of exposure, and that therefore exposure needs to be as low as possible.

Okay, let's get back to exposure.  Before we get back to our high flying ways, consider that you are always exposed to ionizing radiation from cosmic radiation, natural radiation from the ground (radon anyone?), and life in general as your body even emits radiation.  This is called background radiation, and the average person is going to be exposed to 2-4 millisieverts a year at ground level.  The range changes as a result of elevation, area soil type, and other factors.  According to NOAA, this works out to an average daily exposure of 6-12 microsieverts (uSv) a day, and a two hour flight at conventional altitudes (20-40k) doubles this.  So, worst case, you are picking up 12 microsieverts every two hours of flight.  A good discussion of exposures and limits for aircrews and such is here. An interesting site for calculating exposure from flight is here.

As of the latest release from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of Japan, radiation detection ranges from 231.1 microsieverts per hour (uSv) to 6.1 microsieverts (uSv) per hour at the boundaries of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.  At the Fukushima Dai-ni Nuclear Power Plant, monitoring is showing a range of 0.038 microsieverts (uSv) to 0.042 microsieverts (uSv) at the boundaries.  The high reading is indeed cause for concern, but not (yet) a cause for panic.  Keep in mind that the radiation levels are dropping, and are down from a dangerous high (for local) and seem to continue to be dropping.

Keep checking the NISA site for information.  If you want to have a good academic exercise, look at the numbers there versus what is given in MSM and blogs as most are pulling their info from that site.  The comparison can be quite interesting.  It can be equally interesting to see which gates are used by the MSM for the measurements given. 

So far, CNN seems to have been giving some of the best (accurate) coverage of the issue (see here).  Not impressed with a lot of the other coverage, online or broadcast.  Am I concerned (and curious):  Yes.  Do I think there is a cause for panic.  No.  Will things change?  Yes, but which way is what we need to wait and see. 

NOTE:  Some good radiological dictionaries are here here and here.  Good basic overview of radiation safety is here.

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Reagan CBN Countermeasures

Stole this nifty photo of the U.S.S. Reagan using its countermeasure wash system from here, based off a link from my friend at Sunspot's Facebook page.  Now, try saying that five times fast...

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A hydrogen explosion has been reported at Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant, occurring at 1101 local time.  According to NISA, the containment vessel appears to be functioning, and while a pressure fluctuation was observed but that has stabilized.  Eleven workers were injured in the blast.  According to the English language version of the press releases issued, it appears that residents within 20 kilometers of the plant are being evacuated and urged to stay inside until evacuation.  This may have been a translation issue, as a later release indicates that people are only being urged to stay inside within 20 km.  The latest release also indicates that only one person was injured. 

NOTE:  Update to the update, they are or have evacuated everyone within 20 km of the plant.  

It also appears that the roof of the Unit 4 reactor building is damaged as the result of a previous explosion.  This is the source of the stories about the spent nuclear fuel rods, as the location of the pool in question is on that top floor.  There is little hard information available that I can find on the condition of the roof or the fuel rod pool. 

Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Keep checking the NISA site for information as well.

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The fun joys of both translation issues and the international date line make it interesting to keep up.  Word is that all within 20 km are evacuated.  Beyond that, not a lot of hard data that can be counted on. 

To answer something said/asked:  No, I am not saying that all is sweetness and light.  I am saying that there is indeed cause for concern.  What I (and I think the others) are saying is that there is no cause (yet) for panic. 

A lot of the so-called information (and speculation) out there is bad, as in innacurate, as in hyped into being unrecognizable and even a lie.  Such sensationalism and efforts to make political points do no one any good and in fact deserve a good root in the stones.  So, grab your towel, sit back, and don't panic.  We will do what we can go get solid information and solid analysis to you. 

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As of this Wednesday morning here in the U.S., there are some rumors that need to be laid to rest.

•  The second fire reported yesterday at Unit 4 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant either was a flare or never happened.  TEPCO release

•  The fuel rods in that facility ARE NOT ON FIRE! There may indeed be a problem there, possibly even a bad problem, but the rods burning is NOT one of them.  Please see comments from Old Nuke (and thanks for joining in!) and grtflmark below. 

•  There is an unconfirmed report that one containment structure may be breached, but given that the story seems to vary between container of material and containment structure, it can't be taken seriously either way until it is confirmed.

•  Despite anything you have heard from any network, the IAEA has not raised the incident level.  Please skip the hysteria (and bad reporting) and go straight to the source here.

NISA has a timeline summary up as the first release for the 16th, that gives a lot of good information.  TEPCO also has up a summary sheet this morning that is well worth a read.

Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here.

Also, a link and shout-out to one of the best radiological survival books out there (and something I highly recommend for disaster preparedness preparations) from a good author and an even better person:  Pulling Through by Dean Ing.  Dean was doing preparedness long before it was cool, and his fiction is well worth checking out too. 

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As of 0600 Eastern on St. Patrick's Day, the situation is as follows:

•  The Japanese have air dropped water on the Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit #3 in an attempt to get water into the spent fuel rod pool.  Radiation levels did not drop, which could mean that the water did not get in the pool or that other factors are in play.

•  External power has been run to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, and the effort to restore power to control systems should be underway.  Because of seawater contamination to some of the equipment, external pumps will have to be used at first while existing systems are restored. 

•  Massive blackouts could hit the Tokyo area as a result of the loss of the generating capacity from all the effected plants combines with cold weather that is driving up electrical use. 

•  The head of the IAEA is in Japan to do an independent assessment of the situation and to determine what else the IAEA can do to help. 

•  Based on the latest information, it does not appear that the containment structure of Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 3 has been breached. 

Cause for concern, yes.  Cause for panic, no.  The key for now seems to remain the spent rod pools, and the Japanese are also using water cannons to try to get water in to them even as the power restoration efforts continue.  If they can't air drop water directly onto the pools in Dai-ichi Units 3 and 4, the cannons could let them arc water in.  Also, keep in mind that the white "smoke" being reported could also be steam and not smoke.  Steam could mean that water is being lost from the pools, and it can also mean that water is getting to hot areas. 

The fact that things have not deteriorated further over the last 24-hours is a very good sign, IMO.  Things are bad, but are still capable of being worked.  As Old Nuke has noted in the comments below, the amazing thing is that the systems have worked as well as they have given the events that were well beyond their design specifications.  I have asked permission of someone who has worked in the nuclear industry to post what they wrote about this, and about how far above design these systems have worked.  The radiation released is not good, but it truly is not into the really bad yet.  Let's all keep a thought and prayer going that it stays that way. 

Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here and the MIT NSE Hub is here.

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Some interesting developments from overnight. 

•  The Japanese have changed the levels of the incidents at various reactors.  Raising the level indicates that things were worse than first thought in some of the individual units.  Rather than speculate, here is the information provided by the IAEA:

Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that new INES ratings have been issued for some of the events relating to the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants.

Japanese authorities have assessed that the core damage at the Fukushima Daiichi 2 and 3 reactor units caused by loss of all cooling function has been rated as 5 on the INES scale.

Japanese authorities have assessed that the loss of cooling and water supplying functions in the spent fuel pool of the unit 4 reactor has been rated as 3.

Japanese authorities have assessed that the loss of cooling functions in the reactor units 1, 2 and 4 of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant has also been rated as 3. All reactor units at Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant are now in a cold shut down condition.

Serious, though not a cause for panic.  First up, see the IAEA information on the nuclear event scale.  Then, go check out this excellent piece on "worst case scenarios" at the MIT NSE Hub

•  There was some confusion yesterday about getting outside power to various units within the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.  To be honest, the information coming out is still rather contradictory so until there is more definitive word all that can be said is that such efforts are underway.  These efforts are critical to dealing with both the reactor problems and the issues with the spent fuel rod pools. 

•  While there were issues and damage, the reactors at Fukushima Dai-ini are reported to be in full shut down and cool. 

•  U.S. Government officials are being reported as saying that (at least) one of the spent fuel rod pools has been breached.  Sad to say, I'm less trusting of the U.S. Government officials (political heads of agencies) in this case than I am of Japanese government and corporate officials, who have a history of "understating" problems.  That said, it is not unlikely and is even likely, though the size of the hole/crack makes a huge difference.  Anything that lets out large amounts of water, or will prevent the pool from being refilled easily, is a real problem.  Pools are located outside the containment structure, and therefore anything happening there will cause real and immediate problems.  Such problems can also prevent a quick and easy fix, as working on it in such a situation would expose workers to significant radiation.  Note that this is in the event of a catastrophic failure.  Right now, there is not a lot of good data out there on the situation in the fuel pools, and that is where the real and immediate problems seem to be.

I also noted with delight yesterday a discussion on a major news network that actually examined if the hysterical coverage in U.S. media was causing problems and panic in Japan.  The people involved all agreed that yes, it was. 

It should also be noted that a lack of timely and complete information from TEPCO, NISA, and others is causing a great deal of distrust and concern within Japan, and overseas. 

Personally, I would be unsurprised (given past history) if they weren't holding back a bit but I also hope that this is not the case.  In a situation like this, frankly, they are going to have a hard time getting good information on the conditions within the individual units.  That has to do with not being able to get people in to eyeball the situation quickly and easily, and with not having sensors that can get the data easily. It also has to do with good information getting forward from the line to the suits, a situation many here will find familiar. 

We also need to be keeping the workers in our thoughts and prayers.  What are being called the Fukishima 50 are literally stepping forward knowing that it could well cost them their lives.  What they are doing is critical on so many levels, so keep those thoughts and prayers going. 

Based on the information available right now, the fuel pools (specifically the pool at Unit 3) still appear to be the most dangerous and serious immediate threat.  If the water sprays and such can keep things stable and allow power to be restored so that cooling can be restored to the units and the pools, things should damp down fairly quickly in terms of radiation/radiation release.  This is provided that none of the pools has sustained significant damage.  If one or more have sustained such damage, then it is going to take a serious effort to repair and prevent a significant problem -- and most likely some significant sacrifice.

On a better note, allow me to quote from the latest English-language release from TEPCO this about Unit 4:

* On March 18th, regarding the spent fuel in the common spent fuel pool, 
we have confirmed that the water level of the pool is secured. A
detailed inspection is under preparation.
* common spent fuel pool: a spent fuel pool for common use set in a
separate building in a plant site in order to preserve spent fuel
which are transferred from the spent fuel pool in each Unit building.

* On March 17th, we patrolled buildings for dry casks and found no signs
of abnormal situation for the casks by visual observation. A detailed
inspection is under preparation.
* dry cask: a measure to store spent fuel in a dry storage casks in
storages. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station started to utilize
the measure from August 1995.

Things remain serious, but not so serious as to call for panic or the hysteria (and bad information/reporting) seen to date.  I hope to have more later. 

Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here and the MIT NSE Hub is here.

*****

Okay, the single best thing said to date about the media coverage of this:

Dear news media:

Remember back in '50s and early '60s, when we set off something like 900 atomic bombs in Nevada? And how we just let the fallout blow wherever and it landed all over the eastern US? And how it wiped out life as we know it and all that was left from Colorado to the Atlantic were six-legged rats battling two-headed cockroaches in the glowing ruins?

Yeah. Exactly. So shut up with the panic already.

(And Lester Holt of Today? Stop being such a big girl's blouse.)

If I didn't think she was married, this fat old wolf would be driving down to Indy right now. :) Hat Tip Insty

*****

Saturday 19 March:

To borrow from the IAEA briefing yesterday afternooon (Japan time), the situation remains serious but stable.  Yes, there has been radiation found in some food in the area around the plant, but that amount remains extremely low.  As in all agenecies and such around the world say it is not a threat to health and to get the amount you would get in one CT scan you would have to eat it for a year.  Is it good to find it, no.  Surprising, no.  Worrisome, yes.  But only worrisome to date. 

Efforts to bring in external power continue, and the areas of major concern continue to be the spent fuel pools, particularly the pool at Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 3.  Progress on power, cooling, and such continue to be made.  Holes have been cut into the roofs of two reactor units to prevent a buildup of hydrogen gas, which is the likely cause for explosions/damage at some of the other reactor units. 

Follow the links below to some solid and confirmed data on the situation.  It is serious, have no doubt about that, but it is not a cause for panic, and for some of the horridly panicky reporting going on.  The spent fuel pools remain the thing to watch for now, as they have the greatest potential to release radiation (provided containment is still good on all reactors).  They are outside the containment structure, so whatever comes from them goes straight out. 

Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here and the MIT NSE Hub is here.

*****

The situation remains much the same as yesterday, with it being serious but apparently stable and recovery work proceeding.  Press reports that power had been restored to all units at Fukushima Dai-ichi were not correct, that work continues as of the latest reliable information this morning.  The water spray into the spent fuel pool at Unit 3 has stopped for now and work is underway to start spraying water into the spent fuel pool at Unit 4.  Generators have been installed at Units 5 & 6 and that has allowed cooling to resume there, including to the common spent fuel pool.  According to multiple reports, the radiation level continues to drop and the IAEA reports that the ability to monitor those levels realtime is now available to them (and apparently to other outside agencies).  There are indeed questions on if the pumps and systems in Units 1 and 2 will work when power is restored; but, no one seems to have any reliable data (hence the concerns).  There are also reliable reports of additional equipment arriving at site to help with recovery efforts.  As with the last few days, it is the spent fuel pools that seem to be the most critical issues. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here and the MIT NSE Hub is here.

*****

Status 21 March

Graphic from IAEA

Update as of 0600 Monday 21 March 2011

Bumping today per requests, may not be bumping everyday unless there are significant developments to report.

No major updates at this time.  The recovery work discussed above continues, with efforts underway to bring outside power to the reactor units at the Fukashima Dai-ichi power plant.  External power has been connected to Units 5 & 6, allowing cooling to be provided to the spent fuel pools and to bring pools and reactors into cold shutdown status.  External power has been provided to an auxillary transformer and distribution panel at Unit 2.  Efforts are underway to bring power to both Units 1 & 2 from this, and reports are that seawater is being pumped into the reactor at Unit 2 and to put 40 tons of seawater into the spent fuel pool for the unit.  Water spray onto the Unit 4 spent fuel pool has begun.  The spent fuel pools at the facility remain a critical concern.  Recovery work is proceeding, and from reports -- including reliable reports of decreases in radiation -- things are stabilizing and should continue to do so provided nothing else happens.  There is a lot of work left to do, and things are still serious, but it is worth noting the last paragraph of this report from World Nuclear News:

"Despite contradictory comments by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to US politicians and media, most observers in nuclear industry and regulation consider the measures taken by Japanese authorities to be prudent and appropriate."

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.

UPDATE:  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share. 

*****

No bump today.  Things remain pretty much as they were.  Efforts to restore outside power to the the Fukashima Dai-ichi facility continue.  Workers were temporarily evacuated yesterday after smoke was seek coming from two of the units.  Radiation in the area had been trending downwards for several days, but is reported to have come up some as a result of rain.  An effort to monitor radiation in the sea around the facility is now underway, to determine how much radiation may (or may not) be being washed out to sea.  I have seen an MSM report claiming that water in one of the spent fuel pools is boiling, but there is no confirmation from a reliable source that this is true.  Meantime, here are some graphics that lay out basic information and where things stand at Fukashima Dai-ichi according to NISA:

Picture 1
Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 6

Keep in mind that what is happening right now is a lot of hard and tedious work.  It is not work that lends itself to great sound bites, showy visuals, or major announcements.  Damage recovery is a thing of increments and often what seems like minutae to those outside.  It is a series of small steps that build towards big things.  As a result, there is not a lot of "news" to be had, so anything that can be seized on and/or sensationalized can and will be done so as "news" pretty much demands it, accuracy be damned.  When you see such, step back, check a reliable source, and then evaluate.  The situation remains serious, but no more than that as things currently stand and based on reliable data. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.

*****

No bump again today.  I will only bump this post if there is significant news to share. 

The good news is that external power has been restored to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 3 control room, and work is underway to restore power to the Unit 4 control room.  Having power to the control rooms will help engineers and technicians get a better idea of actual conditions, determine problems, and deal with problems. 

Expect to see a good bit on radiation in the sea, which between rain and other runoff, is not surprising.  To get good data, check out Download 110322e2 this PDF that outlines what has been found.  More sampling is underway.  For more data on actual readings at and around the plant, check out Download En20110323-2-3 this pdf.  There are reports of radiation being detected in Tokyo in the water, but the reports indicate a very low level and from radioactive iodine.  Again, rain is the likely cause of the increase and the good news is that iodine has a half life of 8 days.  Keep in mind that rain is going to bring a lot of stuff down, and that it has caused the fairly constant decrease in radiation to rise somewhat.  

Also, there are media reports this morning that workers were evacuted after smoke was spotted.  Remember that this has happened before, and that the evacuations are temporary. 

I will repeat what I said yesterday:

Keep in mind that what is happening right now is a lot of hard and tedious work.  It is not work that lends itself to great sound bites, showy visuals, or major announcements.  Damage recovery is a thing of increments and often what seems like minutae to those outside.  It is a series of small steps that build towards big things.  As a result, there is not a lot of "news" to be had, so anything that can be seized on and/or sensationalized can and will be done so as "news" pretty much demands it, accuracy be damned.  When you see such, step back, check a reliable source, and then evaluate.  The situation remains serious, but no more than that as things currently stand and based on reliable data.

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.

*****

Update 24 March 2011

Know we are off the main page for now, but no bump today either.  If nothing major happens, I will bump it up next Monday for those requesting just to bring it back up. 

The overall status is unchanged:  work proceeds and of note this morning is the restoration of lighting in the control room of Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 1 and the pumping of seawater into the spent fuel pool at Unit 3. Temporary evacuations as smoke is seen continue, but the smoke appears to increase/decrease and/or stop/start.  Keep in mind that these are temporary evacuations, not permanent.

As noted above, what is going on right now is important, but it is incremental and not given to making good soundbites or strong visuals. Net result is a lot of breathless/sensationalized/shoddy reporting to try to make up for the boring.  Panic sells. 

To combat that a bit, and to give yourself a better knowledge of what is really happening -- particularly in regards radiation, radioactive compounds, and such, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Far too many in old and new media seem to be ignoring education to go with trying to induce panic.  Easier to get viewers/readers if you pander to ignorance and encourage same.  Help spread these links and induce a little knowledge into the marketplace of ideas.  Isotopes and contamination are going to be hot topics, but are going to get short shrift in terms of factual discussion in the days ahead. 

As safety is discussed and reviewed, keep in mind that the plant in question faced a 14-meter tsunami on top of an earthquake well above design levels.  Yet, despite that and a number of other issues, this has so far not been the meltdown/crisis that so many seem to have desperately wanted.  Part is good design, part is luck, and part appears to be some good people on the ground who continue to do all they can to get things ramped down.  Keep those engineers, technicians, and others in your thoughts and prayers .

A graphic representation of the situation at each unit Download En20110324-2-2 (pdf file)

Radiological monitoring data Download En20110324-2-3 (pdf file)

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.

*****

No Bump Today

Update 25 March 2011

Work continues and progress is being made, but expect to see a lot of coverage of the three workers who were exposed to radiation and the detection of iodine 131 at another nuclear power plant. 

The workers apparently stepped into a puddle/pool of contaiminated water in the basement of Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 3 while laying cable in support of efforts to restore power.  It apparently got into their boots, and they did take an exposure of 170 milliseverts (mSv).  Report that includes breakdown of the puddle and exposure from TEPCO is here

According to TEPCO, the iodine 131 detected at the other plant apparently came from Fukushima Dai-ichi.  You can read their report here

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.

*****

Update 26 March 2011

An analysis of the water that the workers stepped in appears to indicate that the contamination may have came from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 3 reactor and not from the spent fuel pool.  However, the reactor pressure and drywell pressure are holding steady.  If it was indeed contamination from the reactor, any damage to the reactor pressure vessel is minor.  Despite hysterical headlines and breathless reporting, it does not mean that containment is lost, a meltdown immenent, and that we are all going to die, die, die horrible deaths screaming in agony and mutations.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the workers exposed, and to their comrades who are continuing to make significant progress in dealing with the damage.

The other major news to note this morning is that seawater injection into Units 1, 2, & 3 have cease according to TEPCO.  Units 1 & 3 now have freshwater being injected for cooling, and Unit 2 has fresh water with boric acid added being injected.  Water spraying into spent fuel pools continues as needed.  Seawater contamination continues to be monitored, with reports indicating that the iodine-131 (half life 8 days) concentration are at or near Japanese regulatory limits and the concentrations of cesium-137 (half life 30 years) were well below it.  To quote from the MIT site:

Note that longer half-lives do not necessarily mean more danger. Some fission products have extremely long half-lives but emit very little radiation at any given time, so they are not dangerous. Other fission products emit huge amounts of radiation but exist for such a short period of time that they are not dangerous. How harmful a given fission product is to humans is a complicated function of half-life, radiation intensity, and various human biology factors.

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.

*****

There is a great deal of hysterical reporting this morning, and, yes, there is contamination.  Based on reliable reports, there appear to be two separate issues. 

The first, is pools of contaminated water within the units, specifically within the turbine building for Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 2 which is at 1,000 milliseverts (mSv).  The question remains, however, where did it come from?  Did it come from the reactor itself (remember, as noted above, critical pressure indicators are holding steady, indicating no major leak in the reactor system) or from the spent fuel pool? 

One of the larger issues that will be facing damage control is damage to pipes and valves, both from the events immediately after the quake and tsunami and from the use of seawater in the system.  Seawater is extremely corrosive.  There are literally miles of pipe involved here, with a variety of valves, check valves, etc.  Even a small leak could result in the release of radiation. 

The spent fuel pools are also another potential source.  Between damage and the water sprays, it is possible that contamination from them is literally being washed down to the lower levels.

The water sprays are also going to tend to wash any contamination from any source down to the lower levels.  This will also have a tendency to skew readings and make finding any and all leaks, seeps, or such much harder. 

The second radiation issue is the contamination in sea water near the plant, which has gone up.  I will even admit that the rise can be called dramatic.  However, keep in mind that there has been a fair bit of rain at the site.  A commenter asked earlier about seeding clouds to prevent the spread of radiation, and one of the things I forgot to mention was runoff.  Rain will not only pull contamination out of the air, but it is going to literally wash the area.  Net result is that the contamination is literally channeled into the normal rain runoff system, concentrated, and sent out to sea.  Yet another reason I really wish the weather had stayed dry longer. 

The situation is and remains serious.  I do wish more reporters (and those with idiological axes to grind) would treat it seriously -- and do some real reporting.  One huge story being ignored by the hysterics is that it is not worse than it is.  The fact that the units faced an earthquake well over design specs, then a tsunami well over design specs, and a cascade of related problems, and have done as well as they have is amazing. 

It doesn't mean that it can't still go south; but, if good damage control is done/continues to be done, it won't.  Frankly, I suspect strongly that we will find out that the situation inside the units is worse than reported, which will also be a bit of a testament to that good story, in that things are not worse than they are.  The fact that the radiation levels are dramatic (though not necessarily unexpected to those in the field and with half a brain), but that is no excuse for so many to be drama queens.  Stop, think, research, then react. 

UPDATING THE UPDATE:  A very good article on radiation and related.  Hat tip, Insty.

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.

****

Update 28 March 2011

According to multiple sources, including the Japan Times, the huge spike breathlessly reported yesterday was a false reading.  There are any number of reasons that false readings occur, but fact is they do happen.  It is why for most places and forces (have you done your nuclear training recently?) the SOP is to immediately double check when you get a spike. 

That said, the water in the bottom of the turbine buildings (and related facilities) is heavily contaminated and work is reported to be underway to drain and contain.  Getting rid of this contaminated water is needed to continue damage control work. 

The tedious (to outsiders) work of recovery continues and it is reported that lighting is now available in the control rooms of Units 1, 2, & 3 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.  Fresh water is now being injected into the reactor pressure vessels of all three units, rather than sea water.  Fresh is much better as sea water is extremely corrosive, and it is worth noting that the U.S. Navy is sending barges with fresh water to help with this process.  Pressure in the Reactor Pressure Vessels continues to indicate that no serious breach of the RPVs exists. 

It is extremely important to note that the radiation levels (dose rates) at the site and in surrounding areas continues to decline.  Repeat, decline.  IAEA briefing is here and details quite a bit including external (non-TEPCO) monitoring efforts and some good info on seawater contamination (which is also decreasing).  Keep in mind as noted above, rain and water spraying are adding to the seawater doses by washing contamination at the plant out to sea. 

Take a deep breath:  it is serious, and there is much to be done.  It is not the end of the world.  Not by a long shot.  Can things still go south?  Yes.  If good damage control and recovery continues, will they?  No. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.

*****

Update 29 March 2011

No bump today, as nothing warrants a bump.  Yes, that includes finding trace amounts of plutonium (*APshriek* the main element of nuclear weapons!!!OMG*APshriek* /sarc) in two of five soil samples taken at the plant.  While plutonium can be found world-wide because of atmospheric nuclear testing (yes, quite possibly in your backyard), the isotopic analysis indicates that it did come from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.  The extremely small amount (hint, less than background levels) indicates that it's not the end of the world (OMG we're all going to die! *media shriek* /sarc) though finding it is not a happy-making thing.  As this article notes, it is not a major area for concern either rather the much larger amounts of some other items are. 

What it does mean is that efforts to stabilize the reactors and the situation need to move forward as quickly as possible.  There is already a lot of finger pointing starting, and while understandable it needs to wait as such efforts tend to slow down damage control efforts.  Frankly, they can't afford that right now.  Get it stable, then get into the blame game.  I'm sure there's going to be plenty to go around. 

Please remind us:  we need to do a good radiological survival post here soon, and get into the real dangers of radiation and how to avoid them.  The real problems come from getting emitters inside you, with inhaling or open wounds being very bad, and with injestion falling behind that.  If outside the body, it is relatively easy to shield alpha- and beta-emmitters.  Gamma (and X-rays and such) are much harder to sheild against.  Again, see this very good article on radiation and related.

Getting contaminated water safely removed from the lower levels of the turbine (and other) buildings seems to be progressing, and other efforts to restore operations continue.  Remember, to the rest of the world what is happening is tedious and slow (and hard for media to grasp) but is crucial to recovery.  Dealing with contamination, damage from quake and tsunami, and all that goes with what has happened slows the pace from what everyone (most especially those doing the work) would like.  Again, media is missing some good stories because they are looking for sensationalism rather than some good human and tech stories on what is involved in such efforts, and looking at how to overcome and deal with things. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 30 March 2011

No bump today.  While on some levels I feel for the head of TEPCO who has been hospitalized, I have much more sympathy and concern for the workers doing the actual damage control.  They are the ones who are important right now, and are the ones who will make or break things on the ground, not him. 

There have also been reports -- from an outside source -- speculating that the Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 2 reactor has melted down, burned through various layers, etc.  So far, there is no indication from a reliable source that this has indeed happened. 

There thankfully having been few such events in the world, the statistical base is small; but, one thing that does appear to hold true is that in almost every nuclear incident we find that things were worse in some ways than believed (honestly) at the time.  I suspect that this will be no different, that when things are stabilized and examined by scientists and engineers over a period of time, that we will learn that things were not as believed.  Some things may be better, and some will be worse. I suspect that suits/REMFs will have been found to have lied (or mislead, if you prefer) and done some stupid things.  Frankly, I will be amazed if they haven't, but I'm a cynic.  I suspect we will find that indivduals and groups within the damage control effort (and maybe even a couple of suits aiding them) will have done heroic and amazing things.  Right now, the only thing I care about with the suits is that they get out of the way and make it possible for those doing the damage control on site to do their jobs as best and as fast as they can. 

What matters now is the damage control, and getting things stabilized before they can get any worse than they are.  This is underway, and that is where the focus needs to be.

Some of the hysteria reminds me of the early days of spaceflight, and stories of the Soviets killing multiple (and I do mean multiple) crews.  There was a particular source for many of these stories, which were proven to be false. 

People make up stories like that, and at times like this, for the simple reason that they want attention.  It may be a particular need for attention, or they may be doing it for idiological reasons (Nukes Evil!).  The reason really doesn't matter, and any good reporter or good intelligence person learns to look for such things, and discount until proven. 

Media, on the other hand, likes and needs the sensationalism.  The publishers and suits need readers/viewers and the more hysterical the better in some respects.  Responsible news outlets having pretty much gone the way of the dodo (IMO, along with good specialty reporting I might add), the push is to run with the stories no matter what.  In new media, there is not the formal (if somewhat innefectual) check between publisher/editorial/news and it is up to the site lead/founder or individual blogger.  Sadly, many in new seem to be choosing to go with sensationalism/hysteria for whatever reason, rather than doing some basic checking/vetting and analysis. Sorry for the rant, but this is really pissing me off, all the more so since there are a number of good solid science blogs and other reputable sources out there that are easy to find and easy to link to.

Radiation continues to hold steady or decrease in many cases, with discharge into the sea from runoff at/near Fukushima Dai-ichi being a prime concern for now.  The spent fuel pools are still a major issue and potential danger; pressures and temperatures appear from current data to be holding steady in the units; and, the indicators continue to be that containment is holding steady for the units.  Progress is being made, but it will not be showy/flashy progress. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 31 March 2011

Things are pretty much where they were yesterday.  Some key temperature and radiation readings continue to drop, though a thorough monitoring by the IAEA has mapped the "fallout" from the events and made the discovery that a village outside the evacuation zone should be evacuated.  The IAEA effort is now moving from monitoring to assisting with remediation.  The flooding in the cable trenches around the units at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant appears to be from the tsunami, and efforts to remove contaminated water from the trenches and the turbine buildings continues.  The MIT NSE hub has a very good article on the plutonium contamination found.

Which leads to a good point:  don't laugh when you hear about the idea of putting up fabric shrouds around the units.  Outside of doses from something like a nuclear blast, the most dangerous risk for people is inhaling and ingesting radiation.  Fabric, particularly moist tightly-woven fabric, can be a very effective filter and prevent quite a bit from being inhaled (remember the bit about double folded t-shirts mentioned in an earlier update).  High-thread-count sheets not only look good, but can be an important part of disaster preparedness planning...  Such panels could prevent a good bit of airborne contamination from leaving the plant area. 

One other point that has come up is that up to a thousand bodies are left in the evacuation zone of the plant.  There are a number of valid concerns about handling the bodies and the article is commended to you. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 1 April 2011

No bump today, and no April Fool's Jokes either.  The situation remains much the same as yesterday, with the following caveats:

•  The IAEA is reporting that pumping of contaminated water from one or more turbine buildings has been stopped temporarily as storage tanks are full and/or are having to be prepared. They are also reporting a temperature drop in Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 1 with corresponding drop in pressures (a very good sign); but, are also reporting a slight temperature increase at Unit 2 (bears watching). They also have rather extensive data on food and other contamination that is well worth reading. 

•  The Japan Times is reporting that the village noted in yesterday's update will not be evacuated despite the level of radiation detected there. 

The situation remains serious, but work continues.  The radioactive iodine found in the U.S. is roughly 5,000 time LESS than the lowest hazard level, so we really don't have much to fear right now.  Concentrate your thoughts and prayers on those working at Fukushima Dai-ichi to stabilize it and stop the things that could create or release more radiation. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 2 April 2011

Not much change to report, so no bump.  More data on contamination is coming out, but I strongly urge you to go to the sources below for good intel and take anything from the MSM with a huge grain of salt.  The news that not all workers have radiation badges is disgusting, deplorable, and a few other words.  TEPCO and NISA both deserve good swift kicks for messing up something that basic. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 3 April 2011

Mixed news this morning from Fukushima Dai-ichi. 

The cause of some of the radiation leakage has been found and efforts are underway to fix it.  A storage pit currently holding highly contaminated water cracked, apparently as a result of the earthquake, and has been leaking into the sea.  TEPCO is pouring concrete to try to seal the leak. The pit normally holds cable according to reports, but has filled with the highly contaminated water since the earthquake and tsunami.  The concern right now is that the highly contaminated water may have come from the Unit 2 reactor. Add to that the fact that TEPCO has "botched" some of the seawater readings, and people are understandably concerned.

TEPCO has also confirmed that the bodies of two contractor employees who have been missing since the earthquake and tsunami have been found in the basement of the Unit 4 turbine building, decontaminated, and recovered. It appears that they were killed as a result of the tsunami.

Progress continues in that lights are on in more of the plant as electricity is restored, fresh water is is now being injected into several units using systems powered by outside electricity, and other smaller steps are being completed.  The U.S. Navy has arrived with a second barge of fresh water for the effort.

The situation remains serious but with efforts to deal with it progressing.  I'm bumping this because of the cracked storage pit and the two bodies, and the possibility that both could be mis-reported.  The real story is not the cracked pit itself, but the source of the contaminated water.  If there were a major breach at Unit 2, the amount should be more; but, that there is any at all indicates that there is a problem that needs to be found and dealt with.  The restoration of outside electricity to the plant, and the other progress being made is good -- and likely to be ignored.  Remember, damage control is not flashy and fast, but made up of increments and often takes longer than anyone would like. What the workers are doing on site is hard, dangerous, and amazing.  Keep them in your thoughts and prayers, they need it.  My thoughts on TEPCO management and NISA are on hold for now.  What matters is that those doing the recovery work have what they need, when they need it, and how they need it.  I hope both TEPCO and NISA keep this firmly in mind. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 4 April 2011

No major updates.  TEPCO will do a low-level water dump to prevent more problems, and says any impact will be minimal.  Efforts to stem the high-level leak continue, as the concrete pour was not successful, and a polymer is being tried. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 5 April 2011

Again, no major news.  This is a period where there (hopefully) won't be anything flashy as they take the steps needed to start doing major work.  Clearing and storing the contaminated water isn't sexy or very visual, but is vital.  Old Nuke and Subsunk both make some very good points in the comments (133 and 134 I think), so check that out. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 6 April 2011

The leak from the cracked pit seems to have been stopped.  When initial efforts failed, tracer dye was injected that showed the leak may have been through a cracked pipe and into some gravel, so liquid glass was injected into the area and appears to have stopped the leak.  For all the headlines about contamination being millions of time higher than normal, it is worth noting that fish contamination remains relatively low by comparison.  While radioactive cesium has been found in fish at levels above the acceptable limit for the first time, it is just above that limit, which raises some interesting questions.  Improved and expanded monitoring may give some answers, but this is an area to watch. Meantime, cooling water continues to be injected into the reactors, the spent fuel pools are being sprayed as needed, and the long process of damage control continues. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 7 April 2011

For some interesting news on radiation and fallout, go check out the latest at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, which has a LOT of good information up there this morning.  This includes a link to a series of PDF charts that let you see trends in radiation/fallout.  Also, a lot of good information on known conditions inside the reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi.  Nitrogen is being injected into the Unit 1 reactor to prevent an explosion from hydrogen build-up.  The injection of nitrogen is standard at plants, and is used to replace oxygen and thus prevent issues.  Radiation trends being what they are, the Japanese are moving in to recover bodies within the exclusion zone, and families are being allowed (briefly) into their homes in the exclusion zone to recover property.  Keep in mind what was said in comments and in an earlier update:

There thankfully having been few such events in the world, the statistical base is small; but, one thing that does appear to hold true is that in almost every nuclear incident we find that things were worse in some ways than believed (honestly) at the time.  I suspect that this will be no different, that when things are stabilized and examined by scientists and engineers over a period of time, that we will learn that things were not as believed.  Some things may be better, and some will be worse. I suspect that suits/REMFs will have been found to have lied (or mislead, if you prefer) and done some stupid things.  Frankly, I will be amazed if they haven't, but I'm a cynic.  I suspect we will find that indivduals and groups within the damage control effort (and maybe even a couple of suits aiding them) will have done heroic and amazing things.  Right now, the only thing I care about with the suits is that they get out of the way and make it possible for those doing the damage control on site to do their jobs as best and as fast as they can.

This is going to be a slow and steady process, and there will be ups and downs.  There is going to be a strong tendency by media and others to hype the downs, as the ups are going to be boring by comparison.  Take it all with a grain of salt.

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 8 April 2011

Despite a 7.1 aftershock, things remain serious but stable at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant and word is that all other nuclear plants are okay as well.  There is a report that one plant (shut down since 11 March) is on emergency generators, but that info may be old.  Otherwise, recovery work progresses and will be mostly ignored as it is not flashy or visual.  The MIT site has an excellent article on radiation regulatory limits that is a must read for any wanting to understand limits and exposure. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 11 April 2011

A 6.6 earthqake has hit the area of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.  Workers evacuated to the seismic shelter, and external power was lost to the units for approximately 50 minutes.  No changes to readings or radiation were detected, and external power was restored.  It is worth noting that the Fukushima Dai-ini, Tokai Da-ini, and Onogawa NPP nuclear plants experienced no problems as a result of the new quake. 

It is exactly one month since the devastating quake and tsunami, and for much of the world the tragedy of that day has been overshadowed by hysteria over the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.  That situation is serious, but hardly more so than thousands of dead, towns and villages gone, and the widespread devastation caused by the quake and the tsunami. 

On this day, please remember those lost and injured, and include them and their friends and families in your prayers.  I also continue to urge you to keep those working to deal with the situation at Fukushima Dai-ichi in your thoughts and prayers too; but, do not forget the larger and more devastating situation that was the desctruction of that day. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

*****

Update 14 April 2011

This will continue to be updated, so bookmark the page as it will also not likely be bumped again unless something major happens. 

The big news is that the situation has been upgraded to the same level of incident as Chernobyl, with predictable bouts of hysteria (and some broken arms from idiots in media and elsewhere patting themselves on the back).  Previously, each reactor was being treated as a stand-alone problem, which while valid really wasn't precise.  When looking at Fukushima Dai-ichi as a whole, it was decided that it did rate the higher level. It is important to realize that the increased incident level was NOT the result of anything new, but a reassessment of previous conditions. 

That said, there really isn't a good comparison to Chernobyl.  As for why, check this out from MIT.  NEI also has a fact sheet that is well worth reading (scroll down for link) for those interested in facts and reality. 

There is a report of a radiation increase above the Unit 4 spent fuel pool, which has been a problematic area.  These pools remain a strong source of concern since they are outside containment, and problems with them can cause rather bad things for the area.  That said, the IAEA site lists the situation as serious but with early signs of recovery.  Keep in mind that things are going to appear to see-saw for a bit.  That comes from no one having really good data, and that good reliable data will not be available until all instrumentation is back on line and operating steadily.  That is a crucial step, and one in which progress seems to be being made. 

Keep in mind that focusing on the reactors is ignoring truly massive devastation and a huge loss of life from the earthquake and tsunami.  That devastation can't be understated, and it will affect the region far longer than the public is going to pay attention to the Fukushima reactors. That devastation deserves far more attention and assistance than the hysteria, deliberate and otherwise, about the reactors. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

Update 15 May 2011

It's been a month, and an update is due.  The death of a worker is going to have the panty-twist choir screeching to high heavens, despite it apparently being completely unrelated to radiation.  There is progress being made, and that is flying under the radar. 

The thing that continues to amaze me at this point is how well an outdated reactor system design has performed upon facing multiple events well beyond design specs.  It surivived the earthquake, which was above design specs, and if not for a tsunami that was much worse than any prediction (much less design spec) this series of posts might not have ever happened.  While things are serious, and there have been releases of radiation, it is a testament to the design and construction that things were not much, much worse. 

It now appears that the fuel in Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 1 was not merely damaged, but did indeed melt down into the bottom of the reactor.  It is worth noting that it did not melt through, did not destroy the reactor and containment, nor did it release Godzilla for another round of attacks on Japan and/or the world.  It also appears that the fuel has cooled.  What happens now remains to be seen, as this changes the plans in place for the reactor.  Work is now underway to shore up the structure around the spent fuel pool at Unit 4, and other work is underway. People are now moving into structures that could not enter before, and as eyes and instrumentation are restored, more information will come out and more detailed steps taken to deal with the issues.  It should also be noted that the death of the worker this week does not appear to be either from radiation or Karoshi.  Thoughts go out to his family and friends. 

This will continue to be a tedious process to the outside viewer.  Disaster recovery takes time, and is lots of small steps.  It is not going to make the news cycle unless some way can be found to make it sensational, but the emphasis here is on making it sensational. The situation remains serious, but baring something very unforseen, the worst is over and recovery is well underway.  The major concerns for release of more radiation remain with the spent fuel pools, and with leaks such as one recently during a transfer operation. 

Keep in mind that focusing on the reactors is ignoring truly massive devastation and a huge loss of life from the earthquake and tsunami.  That devastation can't be understated, and it will affect the region far longer than the public is going to pay attention to the Fukushima reactors. That devastation deserves far more attention and assistance than the hysteria, deliberate and otherwise, about the reactors. 

Remember:  Get your info from proven and reliable sources, such as those listed below.  Too much bad information is out there and there are those poping up who claim expertise but provide no validation of same.  We are incredibly lucky to have three proven nukes (Subsunk, grtflmark, Old Nuke) posting in the comments here.  Meantime: Link to TEPCO site in English is here. Link to the NISA site. IAEA site is here and the Japan summary page is here. Link to the Japan Times is here and a link to Nikkei.com is here. The last two get you reasonably good news from Japan that tends to be unfiltered.  The Nuclear Energy Institute is here, World Nuclear News is here, ANS Nuclear Cafe Fukushima coverage is here, and the MIT NSE Hub is here.  You really, really, really need to go read/see this outstanding radiation exposure guide from XKCD.  Multiple sources pointed to it, and you really do need to see and share.  Also, please see the excellent article on what is an isotope and the equally good article on fission products and radiation.  Also, check out this very good article on radiation and related.

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