Monday, November 24, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP: Plan C Also Failed in Plugging Reactor 2 Trench... Now What?


Plan D of Course!

But first, recall that Plan A was to install freezing pipes at the head of the trench leading from Reactor 2 turbine building to create an ice plug so that the extremely contaminated water that had been sitting in the trench since the very beginning of the nuclear accident could be pumped out. TEPCO started the work in April this year.

That failed. The ice plug didn't quite form.

Then recall that Plan B was to dump tons (literally) of ice and dry ice in the trench near the freezing pipes to lower the temperature of the water around the freezing pipes so that the ice plug would finally form. Workers dumped ice all day and all night, in the high ambient radiation right at the trench. That was in hot August. Try to freeze the trench with ice in hot August.


That also failed. Dry ice clogged the pipe, and the ice plug didn't quite form, and TEPCO admitted there was water still coming into the trench from the turbine building. The water sitting in the turbine building comes from the reactor building after it cools the molten core somewhere in the building, and it is warm.

So TEPCO came up with Plan C.

What was Plan C? It was to fill the gap between the incomplete ice plug and the turbine building wall with fillers. TEPCO chose the combination of grout and concrete. A plug of ice, grout and concrete was formed. Sort of.

From TEPCO's document uploaded at Nuclear Regulation Authority's site on 11/21/2014, the plug - pink and light green in the diagram is grout (different types), dark green is concrete:


That failed, just as I predicted.

TEPCO finally admitted on November 17 that it was a failure after pumping out some 200 tonnes of this highly contaminated water on November 17 and seeing that the water level in the trench didn't go down as much as they had calculated. The water was still coming in from the turbine building, and the groundwater was probably seeping in.

But not to worry. TEPCO has Plan D, and it has been already approved by Nuclear Regulation Authority.

So what is Plan D? To fill the trench with cement while pumping out the water that gets displaced (in theory) by the cement.

(Do you want to bet whether that is going to fail?)

From Mainichi English (11/18/2014), from the original Japanese article on 11/17/2014:

An effort to stop contaminated water from flowing into a trench at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant failed to completely halt the flow, announced Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant's operator, on Nov. 17.

A TEPCO representative said, "We believe we have not completely stopped the water. Groundwater may also be entering the trench. We will closely analyze the changes in water level in the trench."

TEPCO says that when around 200 tons of contaminated water was removed from the trench, the water level in the trench should have fallen by around 80 centimeters if the point of leakage between the plant's No. 2 reactor turbine building and the trench had been fully sealed. However, the water level only fell by 21 centimeters, so TEPCO determined that the leak must be continuing.

...While the water remains in the trench, TEPCO cannot create a planned underground wall of frozen soil around the No. 1 through 4 reactor buildings to stop water leakages.


And this image from Tokyo Shinbun (11/21/2014):


and reference to Plan D:

トンネルから汚染水を少しずつ抜きながら、水中で薄く広がる特殊なセメントを流し込んでトンネルをふさぐ方法への切り替えを提案する

(TEPCO) will propose (to Nuclear Regulation Authority) a new method of plugging the trench by pouring in the special cement that spread thin and wide in the water while removing the contaminated water in the trench gradually.


Special cement?

TEPCO says in the document (page 9) they submitted to NRA that it will be a mixture of cement, fly ash and underwater-inseparable admixtures (セメント、フライアッシュおよび水中不分離混和剤などの配合調整). They will use the tremie concrete placement method.

(Do you want to bet whether that is going to fail?)

The NRA meeting on November 21, 2014 was funny without participants intending to be funny, from what I read in the tweets by people watching the meeting.

At one point, Commissioner Fuketa exasperatedly asked TEPCO representatives, "So what was the point of trying to freeze the water? Was freezing even necessary at all?"

The answer was no. TEPCO's Shirai admitted (according to the tweet by @jaikoman on 11/21/2014) that there was a talk inside TEPCO that the ice plug was not necessary.

So why did they do it, and why did NRA approve it?

No one knows and no one is held accountable, while workers had to set up freezing pipes, then to pour ice, dry ice, grout, concrete, and to pump this highly contaminated water over the past 8 months in high radiation exposure. TEPCO hasn't disclosed the radiation exposure for the workers.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

(OT) To Readers of this Blog


It's not that there isn't any more news about the Fukushima I NPP accident or about the Japanese politics or about anything I want to write about. There are plenty.

But since this summer I have had to take care of my health problems (nothing major but nonetheless needing attention) while at the same time doing whatever I can to make ends meet, and I simply have not had a decent enough chunk of time to research and write a post. I'm a slow writer and it often takes several hours to write a single post.

A quick thank-you to people who have kindly donated to this blog since late last year and whom I have failed to thank in person. I'm not doing this for money, but it helps me keep going. Thank you.

Y.K. from Ithaca, New York
S.L. from Vienna, Austria
E.P. from Diemen, Netherlands
S.L. from Joseph, Oregon
J.F.K. from Victoria, Australia
M.L. from Levie, France
B.K. from Japan/Germany
A.T. from Severna Park, Maryland
J.K. from Chassell, Michigan

Special thanks to S.L. in Vienna, Austria, who has regularly donated a generous amount for over three and a half years now, from the very beginning of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

And thank you everyone who come to my blog to read my posts. I'll be back soon.


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For those who do Twitter, I manage to tweet (as it is short) articles, comments. But those are not limited to the nuclear accident, and most of them are in Japanese (I'm trying to tweet in both Japanese and English). My English-speaking followers must be very frustrated. You could follow me @exskf.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

(OT) Typhoon No.19 Expected Path


By @KitamotoAsanobu:


It is expected to land in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu in the morning of October 13, 2014, then zap through Shikoku, Kansai, Chubu, Kanto, southern Tohoku, in a pretty much straight line.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

(OT: Updated) Typhoon No.18 to Hit East Japan


(UPDATE) The landfall is likely to be Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture. JMA reports the current location of the typhoon to be SSW 70 kilometers from Hamamatsu City.

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From Japan Meteorological Agency website:


Direction and speed of movement: NE 45km/h(25kt)
Central pressure: 950hPa
Maximum wind speed near the center: 35m/s(70kt)
Maximum wind gust speed: 50m/s(100kt)

It is likely to be a "direct" hit in East Japan. Usually, a typhoon that hit East Japan and Kanto will have made a landfall earlier in West Japan, thereby its destructive wind and rain reduced by the time it hits East Japan. Not so this time. East Japan, particularly Kanto, is not well-prepared for a direct hit.

The US military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center seems to predict the location of the landfall to be Izu Peninsula:


Saturday, October 4, 2014

(OT) Mt. Ontake Eruption: God of the Foundation of the Land Decapited by a Volcanic Rock


The statue of the god, 国之常立神("god that always stands on the land"), on top of Mt. Ontake is still standing, but without the head. The photo was taken by Mainichi Shinbun, shared on Twitter by @Santou.

I thought this was rather symbolic.


So far, 51 people are (finally) confirmed dead. There are still 15 people missing. From what I have read in the newspapers, there may have been people who may have been alive if they had been rescued earlier. But it seems to be "safety first" and foremost for the rescue workers including fire fighters and Self Defense Force, from the start.

The maximum density of hydrogen sulfide deemed safe by the government law (Industrial Safety and Health Law) is 10 ppm. Not so for the fire fighters, who decided to be very safe and use 5 ppm as the max they would tolerate. Not so for the Self Defense Force, who decided to be even safer than the fire fighters and use the ridiculously low 1 ppm. So, they evacuated from the mountain when their finely tuned instrument showed the density to be slightly over 2 ppm.

There is something that doesn't make sense about the rescue effort by the national government and the local municipalities.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

(OT: UPDATED) Mt. Ontake in Nagano Prefecture Erupts, 250 Climbers Trapped Near the Top, More Than 30 "Dead"


(UPDATE-4) Another word that the government agencies and mainstream news outlets are at great pains, for some unknown reason, to avoid is "pyroclastic flow". Government officials are busy denying that's what happened in Mt. Ontake. Volcanologists on Japanese Twitter are laughing at them, though.

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(UPDATE-3) Asahi (9/28/2014) special alert quotes Nagano Prefectural Police saying there are over 30 people on the summit who are "in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest" (i.e. most likely dead).

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(UPDATE-2) NHK today (9/28/2014) is saying there are more than 10 people on the summit who are "not moving" and "in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest". Not moving, not breathing, heart not beating, but NHK and other mass media are so afraid for some reason to say the word "dead", so as not to hurt the feeling of the family members of the "not moving, not breathing, heart not beating" climbers lying in the volcanic ashes, supposedly.

(I'd call it "TEPCOization" of news reporting. Remember those unfortunate workers who dropped dead for whatever reason within the Fukushima I NPP compound, and declared by TEPCO later that they suffered cardiopulmonary arrest and were taken to the hospital several hours later, where the doctors pronounced the patient dead. As far as TEPCO is concerned, the workers died at the hospital, not at the plant.)

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(UPDATE) Kyodo News quotes Nagano Prefectural Police saying 8 people have been seriously injured, and 7 of them are unconscious. There may be deaths.

==================================

Still shot of the video taken by Asahi Shinbun; eruption is from multiple locations:


The mountain lodge is marked by the red circle:


Video taken by one of the climbers near the top of the mountain, from RT:



Jiji Tsushin (9/27/2014) reports that 8 people were injured with one person severely injured, and that there are about 250 people trapped near the mountain top. Jiji also mentions an unconfirmed report that 4 people are buried in the ashes, and one has been rescued.

There has been a series of small earthquakes in Nagano Prefecture in the past week.

I find it interesting that Jiji's news is under the "Great Eastern Japan Disaster" (March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami) section. No doubt in relation to Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kyushu, which has been cleared to resume operation despite a huge volcanic eruption risk nearby.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

(OT) Reuters Column: War Without End


The one who started it (who also happens to be one of the Nobel Peace Prize winners) didn't even have a courtesy to inform us first, but now, according to Reuters columnist Jack Shafer, it is "our war" now.

I happened on this column as translated into Japanese at Reuters' Japanese site, and looked for the English original at Reuters. I have no idea whether the column has been read widely or how many retweets it has gotten. My guess is not widely read and few retweets, as it is a depressing read (except for those with ties to the defense industry, I suppose).

From Reuters (9/24/2014; emphasis is mine):

War without end: The U.S. may still be fighting in Syria in 2024, 2034, 2044 . . .

This must be what perpetual war looks like.

In a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Army Lieutenant General Bill Mayville called the cruise missiles and bombs flung at targets in Syria “the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign.” How long will the campaign last? “I would think of it in terms of years,” Mayville responded.

Although the bombs exploded on Syrian soil, they didn’t target Bashar al-Assad’s battered, murderous regime. The bombs were addressed to Syria’s enemy, the Islamic State, a nascent nation that has pledged to topple both Iraq and Syria, as well as Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, and parts of southern Turkey, and erect a caliphate on the parcel.

But in attacking Syria’s enemy, the United States wasn’t looking to make friends with Syria. President Barack Obama called for Assad to step down in 2011, and it was only last year that the United States was prepared to bomb Syria for having crossed the chemical-weapons “red line” to kill its own citizens. Not that the United States is remarkably choosey about which nations it counts among its allies. Among the Middle East nations joining with the United States to strike Syria is Qatar, which has allowed one of its sheikhs to raise funds for an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. As you know, the United States is at war with Al Qaeda in all of its flavors, including the Syria-based Khorasan Group, upon which U.S. bombs fell this week. The Khorasan Group is said to be plotting attacks on the United States and Europe.

Our perpetual war is complicated, however, by the fact that the Islamic State is the sworn enemy of Al Qaeda, from which it split earlier this year because it couldn’t play nice with Al Qaeda’s other affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is also fighting the Assad regime. Or, to look at it another way, the enemies of America’s enemies are not automatically America’s friends; and even America’s friends, which can be permissive about the flow of money to Al Qaeda, aren’t necessarily America’s friends either.

America has allies in Syria’s civil war, of course, including Harakat Hazm, part of the Free Syrian Army. Harakat Hazm is fighting Assad, but it has also fought alongside America’s enemy Jabhat al-Nusra, which has not disqualified it from receiving U.S. weapons and training. Harakat Hazm took exception to the American-led bombing of Syria in a statement, calling it an “external intervention” and “an attack on the revolution,” according to a Los Angeles Times report. So Harakat Hazm, America’s friend, which fought with America’s enemy against Syria—which is neither friend nor enemy—objects to the fact that America bombed Syria in pursuit of the Islamic State, which is also Harakat Hazm’s enemy. Meanwhile, the militant Shiite group Hezbollah is drone-bombing Jabat al-Nusrat along the Lebanon-Syria border at the same time Israel is downing Syrian jets.

Confused yet? You’ll have plenty of time to catch up. As Mayville promised, this conflict will likely go on for years.

It’s a wild card war in which allies and enemies seem arbitrary and ever-shifting. Will the American attacks strengthen the Assad regime by weakening the Islamic State, as some speculate? Or will it drive Jabhat al-Nusra closer to the Islamic State, at least in the interim? Or will the American-funded “moderates” shake off their masters and place Assad in their gun sights instead of the Islamic State? National security reporter Thomas E. Ricks, a man not subject to confusion, can’t decide whether to call the latest hostilities a new installment of a new Thirty Years’ War (1991-2021?) or another chapter in the War of the End of the Ottoman Empire (1914-2040?).

A war with a conclusion that its participants can’t see or can’t imagine is a war without end. None of the dig-in parties in Syria and Iraq look like pushovers, but neither do any of them look like sure bets. Without American intervention, the current war will likely rage on. With regard to American intervention, not even the Pentagon dares to predict an end.

For Americans, at least so far, this war is rumbling on like background noise. The usual markers of military victory—body-counts tabulated, territories seized and banked, no-fly zones established, governments-in-waiting imposed, and elections supervised—don’t apply to the Syria war. The borders, combatants, allegiances, and military objectives in the Syrian war are too fluid to conform to our usual expectations. Nor do the usual markers of peace seem to exist. There are no peace talks taking shape, no shuttle diplomacy, no evidence of a dominant power about to exert its might to create a lasting peace by flattening everybody.

In hypothesizing a 30-year-long war, I fear that Tom Ricks was off by a factor of two or three. In bombing Syria, President Obama, who inherited this war, has made this war his war, the next president’s war, and our war. Today, tomorrow, and for as far as the eye can see. Perpetual war for perpetual peace.


Combine this perpetual war for perpetual peace with Ebola scare (the disease is supposedly now out of control, thanks to oh-so-competent (not) WHO and UN), and we have FEAR hanging over us perpetually.

Enter Hermann Goering, who supposedly said the following in Nuremberg:

"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Video Showing #Fukushima I NPP Reactor 3 Operating Floor's Heavily Damaged Northwest Section


I happened on this 25-minute video in TEPCO's video archive (Japanese), instead of the usual Photos and Videos Library. There is no document explaining the purpose of the video or the findings from the video.

It focuses on the heavily-damaged northwest corner of the Reactor 3 operating floor, as you have seen in this aerial view (from TEPCO's photos and videos library, 2/14/2014, red circle added, click to enlarge):


The video camera dips below the shredded metal bars and concrete of the operating floor:



In the video, the section that is covered with metal sheets is where the Spent Fuel Pool is. TEPCO plans to construct a structure over the Reactor 3 building to install the crane and the fuel handling machine to remove the spent fuel assemblies. This video survey is probably related to the plan, to assess the structural integrity of the section in order to build the structure around the building.

Or so I thought at first, until I remembered a togetter I read in August.


What was beneath the operating floor in the northwest section?

One of the people who have diligently followed the news and press conference on the Fukushima I NPP accident, @mtx8mg "koajisashi", has the answer in his/her togetter from 8/10/2014: PLR-MG, or Primary Loop Recirculation System Motor Generator, which occupied almost the entire length of the west side of the Reactor 3's 4th floor:

(H/T @pluedro)


(H/T @mtx8mg)


And what happened there?

"koajisashi" reminds us in the togetter of the March 23, 2011 fire in the Reactor 3 building, with black smoke seen rising vigorously (see my post on 3/23/2011; TEPCO called it "gray smoke"). At that time, the exact location of the fire was not reported, and the time and date when the fire started was not known (or reported) either. Black smoke was seen rising from the Reactor 3 building on and off until the evening of March 23, 2011.

But in the meeting on March 24, 2011, the location of the fire was identified as PLR-MG in Reactor 3's 4th floor. It was never reported by the media, as far as I know. Reading what was reported in the meeting now, I can see why it was not reported back then. According to the meeting report on March 24, 2011 in the NISA archive (translation is mine),

・昨夜23:00過ぎ、目視及びサーモグラフィー測定により、燃焼は収まったものと判断した。

・黒煙の原因と考えられているオペフロ下の MG セットから隣接している SFP の壁まで2m程度。黒煙発生時の熱によって壁の強度の劣化が懸念されるため検討を行った。SFP 壁は厚さが185cm、RC 造で、鉄筋は壁表面にもっとも近いもので8cmの深さにある。鉄筋は300-400℃で影響を受け始めるが、学会の耐火試験データに基づき評価したところ、350℃に達するのは4時間程度の時間が必要であり、壁の強度に大きな影響はないものと評価した。

At 11PM last night [3/23/2011], conducted visual survey and thermography measurement and concluded that the burning had subsided.

The cause of the black smoke is considered to be the MG set [PLR-MG] beneath the operating floor. SFP is about 2 meters away from [part of] the MG set. As there was a worry about deterioration of the SFP wall strength due to the heat generated when the black smoke was rising, we evaluated the data. The SFP wall is 185cm (about 6 feet) in thickness, made of reinforced concrete. The reinforcing bars closest to the surface of the wall are at 8 centimeters from the surface. The reinforcing bars start to be affected by heat at 300 to 400 degrees Celsius. According to the fire-resistance data by the [relevant] scientific society [no mention of which one], it would take about 4 hours [of burning] for the temperature to reach 350 degrees Celsius, and we concluded there would be no major effect on the strength of the SFP wall.


As I wrote above, no one knows exactly how long the MG was burning. In fact, the same NISA meeting report, on March 23, 2011, says the black smoke started to gush out at 4:20PM on March 23, 2011, and as of 9:30 the black smoke was still rising. So the fire may have been burning for at least 5 hours on March 23, 2011.

The news, if the details like these had been reported by the media at that time, should have made people very nervous. And this is probably why TEPCO video-surveyed the area in detail, and also why TEPCO seems very eager to remove the spent fuel assemblies from the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool, despite the mess and damage of the Reactor 3 building.

The structural integrity, not of the northwest section per se, but of the Spent Fuel Pool itself, may be the issue that concerns TEPCO.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP Reactor 3 SFP Debris Removal: Crane Dropped Fuel Handling Machine Console into the Pool


Or rather, workers employed by the general contractor Kajima, manipulating the crane from a remote location using cameras, dropped the console into the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool.

TEPCO started removing debris from the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool in December 2013, and the removal of the Fuel Handling Machine started in May 2014.

The object (FHM console) drops at about 11 seconds into the video:



I sure hope there are more cameras that are available to the workers to better control the crane and awkward attachments to cut and grab debris.

Inside the pool, the spent fuel assemblies are now covered with sheets to protect them from accidental or unintended dropping of debris. TEPCO says there was no change observed in radiation monitoring.


Removal of the Fuel Handling Machine, weighing about 35 tonnes, is clearly behind schedule. According to the updated Roadmap (4/24/2014), it was scheduled to be finished by the end of June. (For more about the Fuel Handling Machine removal, see my post on 5/10/2014.)

40-Year-Old Minister of Economy Declares "Contaminated Water Is Under Control", and "Effect of Radioactive Materials Is Completely Blocked" at #Fukushima I NPP


dutifully parroting her boss, PM Shinzo Abe.

Thanks to the recent cabinet reshuffle by PM Shinzo Abe, Ms. Yuko Obuchi (link in Japanese) became the Minister of one of the most powerful ministries in Japan, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), at an extremely young age (for the Japanese politics) of 40. She is the daughter of the former LDP Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi who died in 2000. Right after his death, Ms. Obuchi "inherited" her father's constituency and was elected to the Lower House at the age of 26.


So far, she has already pledged to restart nuclear power plants in Japan by "making safety our priority." She visited Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on September 7, and gave us her expert assessment of the situation.

From Reuters Japan (9/7/2014):

小渕経産相、福島第1原発の汚染水問題「コントロールされている」

Minister of Economy Obuchi says contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuke Plant "is under control"

小渕優子経済産業相は7日、東京電力福島第1原発を就任後初めて視察した。視察後、記者団に対し、汚染水問題がコントロール下にあるかとの質問に対して「全体として状況はコントロールされているものと考えている」と述べた。

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yuko Obuchi visited Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant for the first time since her appointment. She spoke with the reporters after the visit, and answered the question of whether the problem of contaminated water was under control. She said, "Overall, I think the situation is controlled."

小渕経産相は「個別の事象は発生しているが、モニタリングの結果、発電所の港湾内で放射性物質の影響は完全にブロックされている」と話した。

Minister Obuchi said "individual incidents continue to happen, but looking at the result of the monitoring, the effect of radioactive materials inside the plant harbor is completely blocked."

1年前にブエノスアイレスで行われた国際オリンピック委員会(ICO)総会での2020年東京五輪誘致スピーチで安倍晋三首相は、福島第1原発の汚染水問題について「アンダー・コントロール」と発言した経緯がある。今月3日に経産相に就任したばかりの小渕氏だが、最重要課題のひとつである汚染水問題で従来の政府見解を踏襲した形だ。

One year ago at the International Olympics Committee in Buenos Aires, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a speech for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and said the contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was "under control." Ms. Obuchi, who became the Minister of Economy on September 3, thus follows the official view on one of the top priorities for the Abe administration.


The effect of radioactive materials is blocked, not radioactive materials themselves. Whatever that means.

The approval rating of the Abe administration jumped as much as 10 points after the cabinet reshuttle. Ostensible reasons include a number of female ministers, including Ms. Obuchi, as if it is a good thing.

Taro Yamamoto, who won the seat in the Upper House on his appeal to anti-nuclear, anti-contamination voters, has an astute observation (link in Japanese) about the Abe administration doing something to boost popularlity and the possibility of Abe dissolving the Lower House and calling a snap election in fall. Yamamoto thinks that may be the only way that the Abe administration can gloss over the failure of "Abenomics" and survive. He says LDP and Komei may be the only parties with enough organization and money to prepare for an election with very short notice.

I think he may be right. I for one just cannot imagine Ms. Obuchi controlling (or pretending to control) the bureaucrats in the most powerful ministry, or overseeing (and pretending to control) TEPCO in the decommissioning of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. I think she (and other female ministers) are for show, to boost the popularity of the Abe administration in preparation for a snap election soon.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP Progress Report on Ice Plug in Reactor 2 Trench: Time for Plan C (and Diaper Polymer May Be Back...)


Plan A, if you recall, was to freeze the highly contaminated water at the head of the trench right outside the Reactor 2 turbine building (Shaft A, on the northeast corner of the turbine building) to create an ice plug by placing several freezing pipes in the trench. Why is a plug needed? Because TEPCO wants to drain the highly contaminated water from the trench.

What TEPCO did not say was the existence of many obstacles at the trench head - i.e. numerous pipes for electrical wires and water transport. So the freezing pipes couldn't be placed in part of the duct where these pipes go through, and after two months of trying TEPCO admitted to the problem that the water remained unfrozen. Also, TEPCO admitted that there was a constant flow of water from the turbine building into the trench through many openings (pipes go through the building walls into the trench after all) that prevented the water from freezing. (Duh.)

(A red-shaded rectangle in the bottom right in the slide below is the intended ice plug)


So, on to Plan B.

Plan B, if you recall, was to dump crushed ice and dry ice to lower the temperature of the water in the trench to 5 degrees Celsius so that (in TEPCO's mind) the water would freeze even if there was a flow of water:


Plan B ran into trouble almost as soon as it started in late July, when crushed dry ice clogged the pipe in early August and crushed ice was seen floating around on the water surface (see photo). In the end, laws of physics prevailed and the contaminated water did not completely freeze, as TEPCO finally admitted, albeit in a very convoluted way in their report to Nuclear Regulation Authority on August 19, 2014 (Japanese only, PDF).

The report by TEPCO claims that 92% of the ice plug was formed in the Reactor 2 Shaft A. Well, a failure is a failure, as TEPCO admits the water continues to flow from the turbine building into the trench even at a faster speed now that the opening is narrower.

What's worse, in the open duct that TEPCO dug at a different location (southwest corner of the Reactor 2 turbine building), the water hasn't frozen at all despite 2 months of effort using the freezing pipes.

The water temperature remains mostly above 8 degrees Celsius:


and no sign of ice:


So now, time for Plan C.

So what is Plan C? Use some (yet to be determined) type(s) of filler to completely fill the trench head, while the water is still running.

So, what are the materials TEPCO says they are considering? According to TEPCO's report on August 19, 2014 (page 24),
  • sand (drawback: can't stop water, can't be dumped in large amount)

  • iron sand (can't stop water, can't be dumped in large amount)

  • sodium polyacrylate, aka "diaper polymer" (has to be used in combination with other methods)

  • grout (depending on the types, may not fill small/large gaps)

  • solidifying material (mixture of powder and liquid; powder may clog up the pipe)

  • waterglass (cannot fill openings)



Hmmm, diaper polymer, waterglass... where did I see this before?

April 2011, at the water intake for Reactor 2, where pouring diaper polymer and concrete in the pit didn't stop the extremely contaminated water from pouring into the plant harbor. That water did not stop until waterglass was injected into the base rock UNDERNEATH the trench.

I have a feeling they will soon need Plan D.

But why fight running water? Why can't they just pump out the water right there at the shaft?

Or as one of the long-time readers of this blog "netudiant" suggested before, why not build a mobile ALPS on a barge inside the harbor?

I think I know the reason: It simply doesn't occur to them. Just like it didn't occur to them to transport batteries for controlling the reactors without the required government permit, on March 12, 2011. (See my post from October 6, 2012.)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Three and a Half Years After the #Fukushima Nuclear Accident, Nature Slowly Taking Over Deserted Futaba-Machi


Futaba-machi is located just outside Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Almost entire town is designated as "areas difficult for the residents to return" ("within 5 years", according to the national government's euphemism - oh wait, solid plan?) because of the high levels of radioactive contamination from the nuclear accident. Part of Futaba-machi was exposed to radiation levels as high as 1,590 microsieverts/hour on March 12, 2011, before the hydrogen explosion of Reactor 1.

Even though over 3,000 workers continue to work on any given day at the plant right outside the town, Futaba-machi is deserted, and the mother nature is slowly taking over.

Photographs of Futaba-machi taken in front of the arch at the town entrance that says "Nuclear Energy Is the Energy for the Bright Future":

April 25, 2011, from Asahi Shinbun. The street still looked neat and clean, as if nothing had happened.


July 2012, from the blog of Mineyuki Fukuda, LDP politician from Kanagawa:


About the same time period as the photo above, this photo was taken with a man holding the sign "Destruction" over the word "Bright" in "Bright Future" on the arch. It was his slogan he created when he was in the 6th grade:


July 2013, from Google Street View:


A differen part of Futaba-machi in July 2012, from Collabo Corp OB blog. The words on the arch says "Nuclear Energy Creates Rich Society and Rich Town":


The same arch, in 2014, from the 8/20/2014 tweet by @akauntok:


Railroad, from Google Street View (as of July 2013):


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP Progress Report on Ice Plug in Reactor 2 Trench: Dry Ice Clogged the Freezing Pipe, No Discernible Effect on Freezing the Contaminated Water


The latest on the progress (or lack thereof) of TEPCO's tragi-comical effort to freeze highly contaminated water in the trench leading from the Reactor 2 turbine building (see my post on 7/28/2014 for details) is that the pipe they've been using to dump ice and dry ice got clogged with dry ice. TEPCO admits there has been no discernible effect of ice/dry ice on freezing the water.

So what's your Plan C?

From TV Asahi News (8/12/2014; part):

“切り札”投入したら「詰まった」東電・福島第一

Fukushima I NPP: TEPCO plays its "ace", which ends up clogging the pipe

福島第一原発の汚染水対策として、地下の坑道を凍らせて水を止める工事で、凍結の“切り札”として投入されたドライアイスの効果が表れていないことが分かりました。

It has been revealed that dry ice, which is being poured [into the freezing pipe] as the surest bet to freeze the water in the underground trench as part of the measures to deal with contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, has had no effect.

国と東電は、高い濃度の汚染水がたまる地下の坑道に金属性の管を設置し、冷却液を流して汚染水ごと凍らせる作業を続けてきました。しかし効果が表れないため、先月30日からは氷の投入を始め、今月11日朝までの間に、合わせて222tの氷を投入しました。東電は11日の会見で、凍結の効果について「分からない」としていて、目に見える成果が出ていないことを認めました。さらに、凍結の“切り札”として7日にドライアイス1tを投入しようとしたところ配管が詰まってしまい、それ以降はドライアイスの投入を見合わせているということです。

The national government and TEPCO have been trying to freeze the highly contaminated water in the underground trench by installing a metal pipe and pouring liquid coolant through the pipe [since April this year]. But as the effort has failed to freeze the water, TEPCO has started to pour ice since July 30. Total 222 tonnes of ice have been poured into the pipe as of the morning of August 11. In the press conference on August 11, TEPCO said the effect [of ice] in freezing the contaminated water was "unknown", admitting that there was no discernible effect. Further, when they tried to pour in 1 tonne of dry ice on August 7 as the "surest bet" to freeze the water, it clogged up the pipe. TEPCO has halted the pouring of dry ice.

The pipe through which workers have been dumping ice and dry ice (from TEPCO's photos and videos library 7/24/2014):


The pipe (in purple color) in the diagram:


I am grateful for the news, because it gave me the first laughter of the day. Laughing is good for one's health, I hear (regardless of the topic, I hope).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

(OT) Japanese Prime Minister Copies and Pastes Speech for Hiroshima AND Nagasaki Memorial Ceremonies for Atomic Bomb Victims


Somehow quite fitting for Mr. Shinzo Abe, who, along with his Minister of Education and Science, remains staunch supporter of Ms. Haruko Obokata, who copied and pasted and photoshopped her way to a very brief scientific fame (turned infamy) as a "Nature" author on STAP cells.

Unlike Ms. Obokata, who copied and pasted other people's work (among many other misconducts) without citation, Prime Minister Abe claims his is no misconduct, because the speeches he lifted for this year's ceremonies were his own speeches for the same occasions last year.

Tokyo Shinbun (8/8/2014) says the opening few paragraphs of Mr. Abe's speech in Hiroshima on August 6, 2014 were almost identical to his speech in 2013.

2013 speech on the left, 2014 speech on the right. Only the parts highlighted in blue are different:


It apparently got better (I know I should say "worse") in Nagasaki. Mr. Abe's speech on August 9, 2014 was identical except for the number of years since the atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki:


The Prime Minister's Office has the temerity to say this after the Hiroshima ceremony, according to Kyodo News (via Nikkan Sports):

首相のあいさつは、犠牲者を悼み、平和に力を尽くす決意を述べたものだ。その姿勢は昨年も本年も全く変わりはない

Prime Minister's speech is to mourn for the victims and to express his determination to do his utmost for peace. This attitude is the same as the last year.

平和への祈りや追悼の気持ちは、政府も被爆者やその遺族、地元の人たちと変わりはない。そういう部分はどうしても同じようになってしまう

Praying for peace and mourning [for the victims] are shared by the government, atomic bomb victims and their families, and local residents. The part [that expresses such feeling] ends up being similar, no matter what.


Similar? How about "identical"?

I was amused by the reaction in Japan on Twitter, where people were rightfully angry and upset that the prime minister didn't bother to change this year's speech from the last year's, and that it was such an insult to the victims, Japanese citizens, and foreign dignitaries who attended the ceremonies. Many of them seem to think a prime minister, or any politician, is supposed to write his/her own speech, and that the more world-class he/she is the better speech he/she writes and gives.

'Tatemae' hurts.

To me, the ultimate insult is that the Japanese government hasn't owned up to its own culpability for the two atomic bombs dropped in Japan in August 1945, as 2011 NHK Special revealed, and that most Japanese refuse to face the possibility that their government was fully aware that those planes were carrying atomic bombs but let the bombing happen anyway, if the NHK documentary is correct. (For those who wants to know more about the NHK documentary, see my posts from last year, here and here.)

Meanwhile, Mr. Abe's comrade in copying and pasting, Ms. Obokata, is still with Riken drawing nice salary no doubt while she gets ready for delicate lab work and preparing tea, thanks to the strong pressure Mr. Abe and his Education Minister exerted on Riken, a research institution funded by public money, not to fire her.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

(UPDATED) #Fukushima I NPP: Source of Neutron Detected on March 13-15, 2011 May Be Plutonium and Uranium Released by Core Melt


(UPDATED with clarification on the neutron dose rates in the translation, and information on the monitoring car at the bottom.)

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that then somehow escaped from the Reactor Pressure Vessel, Containment Vessel, and finally Reactor Building, according to TEPCO.

TEPCO just released the latest reports of its on-going data analysis and simulation of the nuclear accident at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant that they've been doing since 2011. I'm reading the report, but for now I quickly share a short snippet that piqued my interest.

In sum, TEPCO now thinks the source of neutrons detected right after the start of the accident in March 2011 was the actinide species including plutonium and uranium that somehow escaped the reactors as the reactor core melted (which more or less coincided with the rise in pressure inside the reactors), and neutrons were emitted by spontaneous fission of plutonium and curium.

Neutron detection on March 13 is attributed to the core melt of Reactor 3, and detection on March 14/15 to the core melt of Reactor 2.

Just how did those actinide species escape the pressure vessels and containment vessels? TEPCO only says continued investigation is needed to understand the mechanism and to secure the safety of workers at the plant.

From one of TEPCO's reports titled "Relationship between the neutrons detected at the time of the accident and the core melt" (original in Japanese, quick translation is by me, subject to change later; part):

(Background)

モニタリングカーは、3 月 13 日早朝、及び、3 月 14 日夜から 3 月 15 日未明にかけての二つの期間に中性子を検出した。検出された中性子の線量率は、中性子検出器の検出限度の 0.01μSv/h、および、その 2 倍の 0.02μSv/h と非常に小さい値である。測定場所は正門近辺であり原子炉建屋からかなり距離が離れた場所であることから、原子炉から直接飛来した中性子を検出したものではないと考えられるが、放射性物質が放出され発電所内のガンマ線の線量率が上昇したタイミングで中性子が検知されたという状況でもないため、これまで中性子の検出の原因については不明としてきた。また、発電所内の土壌から、ウランやプルトニウム等が検出されているが、その漏えいタイミング、経路についても不明としてきている。 ここでは、これまでに明らかになった福島第一原子力発電所 1~3 号機の事故進展挙動から、中性子検出についての説明を試みる。

Our monitoring car detected neutrons in two periods - in the early morning of March 13, and from the evening of March 14 to the early hours of March 15. The dose rates measured were extremely low: 0.01μSv/h (detection limit of the neutron detector) and 0.02μSv/h. The location where neutrons were detected was near the main gate of the plant, far away from the reactor building; thus it is considered that the neutrons detected did not come directly from the reactors. At the same time, the neutron detection didn't coincide with the rise in gamma ray dose rates as radioactive materials were released. So far, the reason why neutrons were detected has been deemed unknown. Uranium and plutonium have been detected in the soil inside the plant, but the timing of the leak and the leak process have also been undetermined. In this paper, we will attempt to explain the detection of neutrons based on the accident development behavior of Reactors 1 through 3 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant which has been revealed so far.

(Detection of neutrons on March 13, 2011)

表1に 3 月 13 日に中性子が検出された時刻を示す。図 5 は正門付近での線量率(ガンマ線)の時間変化を示したものに、中性子の線量率が 0.01μSv/h となった時刻のプロットを青、中性子の線量率が 0.02μSv/h となった時刻のプロットを赤としたものである。中性子が検出された 3 月 13 日の午前は、9 時頃の原子炉減圧とそれに伴う S/C からのベントの影響で線量が上昇しているが、中性子検出とガンマ線線量率の変化に相関関係は見られない。すなわち、中性子検出は、ガンマ線線量率の上昇の原因となった放射性物質放出とは、関係しない現象によって引き起こされたものと考えられる。

Table 1 shows the time when neutrons were detected on March 13. Chart 5 shows the change of the dose rate (gamma ray) at different times near the main gate, with times when the neutron dose rate was 0.01μSv/h marked in blue and with times when the neutron dose rate was 0.02μSv/h marked in red. In the morning of March 13, the dose rate rose due to reduction of pressure in the reactor and vent from the suppression chamber. However, no correlation can be observed between the detection of neutrons and the change in gamma-ray dose rate. In other words, the phenomenon that caused the neutron detection was not related to the release of radioactive materials that caused the rise in the gamma-ray dose rate.

(Table 1)


(Chart 5)


一方で、厳密には一致しないが、原子炉水位の変化から予想される、3 号機で燃料溶融が発生したと推定される時間帯を考慮すると、中性子検出と燃料溶融の関連が示唆される。すなわち、燃料溶融により一部気中に放出されたウランやプルトニウムなどのアクチニド核種が、ガンマ線線量率の上昇を引き起こした放射性物質放出とは異なる経路で原子炉建屋外に漏えいし、これらに含まれるプルトニウムやキュリウム等の自発核分裂により放出された中性子が検出された可能性がある。実際、過去の核実験時のフォールアウトによって蓄積したプルトニウムと同程度ではあるものの、プルトニウムの同位体組成から、明らかに福島第一原子力発電所での事故起因と考えられるプルトニウムが、発電所構内の土壌中から 検出されている。

On the other hand, although it is not an exact match, when we consider the time period when the core melt started in Reactor 3, as estimated from the change in water levels in the reactor, there may be a relationship between the detection of neutrons and the core melt. In other words, some actinide species such as uranium and plutonium were generated because of the core melt, and leaked outside the reactor building through a different route than the one in which the release of radioactive materials that resulted in the rise in the gamma-ray dose rate took place. In fact, plutonium has been detected in the soil inside the plant; even though it is about the same level as plutonium accumulated in the soil from the past atmospheric nuclear testing, it is clearly originated in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident as determined by the isotopic composition.

なお、中性子が検出された正門付近は、図 6 に示すとおり約 1km 距離が離れていることから、原子炉からの中性子を検出したものである可能性は小さい。

The main gate where neutrons were detected is about 1 kilometer away from the reactors as shown in the Chart 6, and the possibility is small that neutrons from the reactor were detected.

(Chart 6)


(Detection of neutrons on March 14/15, 2011)

一方で、図 7 に中性子の検出時間と 2 号機の原子炉・格納容器圧力の関係を示すが、中性子は原子炉圧力の上昇が始まった後に検出されている。前述の通り、この原子炉圧力上昇は、消防車による注水が炉心部に到達し蒸気が発生したことによると考えられ、また、この際には水-ジルコニウム反応が発生して大量にエネルギーが放出され燃料が溶融したと考えられる。すなわち、原子炉圧力の上昇のあった時間帯に発生した燃料溶融によりウランやプルトニウムなどのアクチニド原子が一部気中に放出され、ガンマ線線量率の上昇を引き起こした放射性物質放出とは異なる経路で原子炉建屋外に漏えいし、これらに含まれるプルトニウムやキュリウム等の自発核分裂により放出された中性子が検出された可能性がある。

Chart 7 shows the time when neutrons were detected and the pressure inside Reactor 2's reactor/containment vessel. Neutrons were detected after the pressure inside the reactor started to rise. As we said before, this rise in pressure in the reactor is considered to have occurred when the water injected from the fire engine reached the reactor core and generated steam. This also caused the water-zirconium reaction which released a large amount of energy, causing the fuel to melt. In other words, our hypothesis is that core melt took place during the time period when the reactor pressure rose, releasing part of the actinide atoms such as uranium and plutonium. These actinide atoms then leaked outside the reactor building through a different route than the one in which the release of radioactive materials that resulted in the rise in the gamma-ray dose rate took place. Then the spontaneous fission of plutonium and curium released neutrons, which were detected.

(Chart 7)


I'll try a separate post on the mechanism of Reactor 2's core melt, which was accelerated, or so TEPCO thinks, by water injection by the fire engines.

-----------------------------

As far as I remember, there was one monitoring car at the time of the accident at Fukushima I NPP. I'll try to verify, but I do recall wondering aloud why there wasn't any more monitoring car at the plant. There was no electricity at the plant during the time period this TEPCO's paper covers, and the plant's regular monitoring stations were not working (as they operate on electricity). Power to the plant wasn't restored until early April, 2011.

Monday, July 28, 2014

(UPDATED) #Fukushima I NPP: TEPCO Defies Laws of Physics Claiming Water Freezes at 5 Degrees Celsius as Workers Dump Ice into Reactor 2 Turbine Bldg Trench


(UPDATE 8/12/2013) Plan B (ice/dry ice) seems to have failed. See my latest post.

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(UPDATE) According to @jaikoman who follows and tweets on every single TEPCO and NRA press conferences, TEPCO poured ice and dry ice, thinking ice would float, cooling the top layer of water, and dry ice would sink, cooling the bottom layer of water.

Well they need a Plan C. Dry ice pieces they pour were apparently too small, and they all floated. Water remain unfrozen, and TEPCO says they will know by mid August whether the operation will work.

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TEPCO says by dumping ice and dry ice they can lower the temperature of the contaminated water in the trench to about 5 degrees Celsius, then they will be able to form a continuous ice plug.

Here I thought that water freezes at zero degree Celsius. As the whole world is seemingly going crazy afresh this July, maybe TEPCO is correct that water does freeze at 5 degrees Celsius.

From TEPCO's photos and videos library, 7/24/2014:

On July 24, 2014, TEPCO started the experiment of dumping ice into the Reactor 2 turbine building trench, trying to freeze highly contaminated water which has refused to freeze despite 3 months of freezing effort. Workers dumped only 2 tonnes of ice, or 4 bags with 500 kilograms of ice each.


Workers seem to be wearing vests, probably to shield ambient radiation. The location is the oceanside (east side) of the turbine building, where, according to the latest survey map by TEPCO as of July 8, 2014 (which I had a very hard time locating in TEPCO's updated site) the radiation level looks to be about 0.20 millisieverts (or 200 microsieverts) per hour. According to TEPCO, workers spent two and a half hours dumping 2 tonnes of ice using shovels.

Locations of the trenches filled with highly contaminated water (most likely from April/May 2011), and the locations in blue squares TEPCO wants to create ice plugs so that no water from the turbine buildings enters the trenches, from TEPCO's presentation to Nuclear Regulation Authority on 7/7/2014, when TEPCO disclosed that after three months of attempt, the water was still not frozen (English labels are by me):


Part of TEPCO's survey map (7/8/2014) showing ambient radiation levels, with "Shaft A" marked (by me) in red square:


So why isn't the water freezing? According to TEPCO's convoluted explanation to NRA on 7/7/2014, it is because of the fluctuation of water levels in the turbine building which creates water flow through the gaps created by the pipes that go through the turbine building walls. The flow was strong enough to disturb the freezing process, which TEPCO hadn't anticipated from the mock-up.

I do remember from January, I believe, a meeting at Nuclear Regulation Authority in which TEPCO and NRA commissioners discussed these ice plugs. Commissioner Fuketa openly questioned the efficacy of the scheme, asking TEPCO why they were planning to create a plug right outside the turbine building where lots of pipes are going through in a narrow space, as you can see even in TEPCO's simplified presentation to NRA on 7/7/2014 (English labels are by me) below.

The red rectangle right outside the turbine building is the ice plug to be created. The purple pipe in the diagram going down to the red rectangle is where workers were dumping ice.


Commissioner Fuketa also expressed doubt that it would ever freeze. I think he even asked what TEPCO's "Plan B" was, in case it would not freeze. TEPCO's answer was that it would freeze. (Watching this futile exchange live, I kept thinking, "Why can't they just pour concrete?")

Well the water didn't freeze. Nowhere close. TEPCO's measurement shows the temperature of part of the water which should have frozen is as high as 15 degrees Celsius, after 3 months of freezing.

So dumping ice and dry ice, then, is TEPCO's "Plan B". And ask the god of physics to look the other way and make water freeze at 5 degrees Celsius at sea level.

Ahhh good (bad) old days are back... when TEPCO used diaper polymers, saw dusts, shredded newspaper to try to stop the same highly contaminated water in the same set of trenches from pouring into the plant harbor.

It feels it was only yesterday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Iraq Government Tells UN That ISIS Seized 40 Kg of Uranium in Mosul


Whatever the origin of this group is, it surely is blessed with good finds - Humvees, ammunition courtesy of the United States. Now, 40 kilograms of uranium compounds from Mosul University that were kept for research purposes.

According to Reuters, "a U.S. government source" says these uranium compounds are "not believed to be enriched uranium".

From Reuters (7/9/2014; emphasis is mine):

Exclusive: Iraq tells U.N. that 'terrorist groups' seized nuclear materials

(Reuters) - Insurgents in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the country's north, Iraq told the United Nations in a letter appealing for help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad."

Nearly 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of uranium compounds were kept at Mosul University, Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the July 8 letter obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

"Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state," Alhakim wrote, adding that such materials "can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction."

"These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts," said Alhakim.

He warned that they could also be smuggled out of Iraq.

A U.S. government source familiar with the matter said the materials were not believed to be enriched uranium and therefore would be difficult to use to manufacture into a weapon. Another U.S. official familiar with security matters said he was unaware of this development raising any alarm among U.S. authorities.

A Sunni Muslim group known as the Islamic State is spearheading a patchwork of insurgents who have taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq. The al Qaeda offshoot until recently called itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"The Republic of Iraq is notifying the international community of these dangerous developments and asking for help and the needed support to stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad," Alhakim wrote.

Iraq acceded to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material on Monday, said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The convention requires states to protect nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, storage and transport.

"It also provides for expanded cooperation between and among states regarding rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage, and prevent and combat related offences," according to the IAEA.


Meanwhile, the US has sent nearly 1,000 troops to Iraq already, and more are coming, according to Antiwar.com. So much for "no boots on the ground".

From Antiwar.com (7/4/2014; part, emphasis is mine):

...Last week saw deployments of growing numbers of ground troops, with claims Obama’s promises of no boots on the ground only covered “combat troops.” Monday of this week, the first combat troops came, with the promise now shifting to a “no combat missions” one.

Even that seems absurd, as the Pentagon sends Apache attack helicopters into Iraq for the combat troops to use in these “non-combat” missions. The administration appears to recognize the unpopularity of a new Iraq War, but seems determined to escalate quietly until it is no longer a potential move to warn against, but a simple reality.

...Promises of no more than 300 US troops have now led to nearly 1,000 troops on the ground, with more coming in all the time, and no signs that the escalation is stopping.


No longer a potential move but a simple reality. That's got to be the exact template for Japan's Prime Minister Abe, who is now ready to introduce a boatload of legislation after the cabinet decision on the cabinet's right and authority to change the interpretation of the Japanese Constitution. Keep doing, and keep telling the public that it is just a preparation, potential move, until it isn't.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Category-4 Equivalent Typhoon No.8 (Neoguri) Moving Toward Okinawa, Kyushu


According to the Bloomberg article (7/7/2014), the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, says it may become a Cat-5 equivalent by Tuesday though others disagree:

High winds, crashing waves and a dangerous storm surge are threatening Okinawa, including its capital Naha, as Super Typhoon Neoguri nears Japan.

Neoguri carried maximum sustained winds of about 150 miles (241 kilometers) per hour, making it the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale used in the U.S., according to the Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was about 283 miles south-southwest of Okinawa.

Japan has issued emergency warnings for Okinawa calling for high waves, gale-force winds, strong storm surge and thunderstorms. Heavy rain warnings are in effect for portions of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island, and for southwestern portions of Honshu, Japan’s main island. There are two idled nuclear plants on Kyushu.

The storm was moving north at 12 mph, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency. The U.S. Navy predicts the storm may reach 160 mph by tomorrow, however Jeff Masters, a founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan, thinks it may have peaked in intensity.

“The official Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast calls for Neoguri to complete its eyewall replacement cycle and intensify into a Category 5 typhoon with 160 mph winds by Tuesday,” Masters said in an e-mail. “While this is certainly possible, I think it is more likely that Neoguri has peaked in intensity, given the level of disruption to the storm apparent on satellite images.”

(Full article at the link)


Image from NOAA:


The US military has reasons to worry, as Okinawa is home to numerous US military bases, as you can see in the map below (by Regional Security Policy Division, Executive Office of the Governor Okinawa Prefecture):


Typhoon 8's potential path, from the US Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center:


Kyushu Island has two nuclear power plants, Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture in the north and Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture in the south. Sendai Nuclear Power plant is facing the South China Sea (i.e. facing the coming typhoon). If the prediction by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is correct, the typhoon will make a landfall in between, in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Sendai Nuclear Power Plant is all set to be given the approval from Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority that it has cleared the examination under the new nuclear regulatory standards and is ready for the restart, as soon as the local municipalities approve the restart (which is a given).

Monday, June 30, 2014

AFP: Malware "Dragonfly" Aims at US, Europe Energy Sector


AFP news says:

The US security firm Symantec said it identified malware targeting industrial control systems which could sabotage electric grids, power generators and pipelines

This Stuxnet-like malware attack is likely to be government-sponsored, says Symantec. No word about nuclear power plants.

From Security Week quoting AFP (6/30/2014; emphasis is mine):

Malware Aims at US, Europe Energy Sector: Researchers

WASHINGTON - Cyberattackers, probably state sponsored, have been targeting energy operations in the United States and Europe since 2011 and were capable of causing significant damage, security researchers said Monday.

The US security firm Symantec said it identified malware targeting industrial control systems which could sabotage electric grids, power generators and pipelines.

"The attackers, known to Symantec as Dragonfly, managed to compromise a number of strategically important organizations for spying purposes," Symantec said in a blog post.

"If they had used the sabotage capabilities open to them, (they) could have caused damage or disruption to energy supplies in affected countries," it added.

The researchers said this malware is similar to Stuxnet, a virus believed to have been developed by the United States or Israel to contain threats from Iran.

"Dragonfly bears the hallmarks of a state-sponsored operation, displaying a high degree of technical capability," Symantec said.

"Its current main motive appears to be cyberespionage, with potential for sabotage a definite secondary capability."

Symantec said the Dragonfly, also known as Energetic Bear, appeared to be an operation based in Eastern Europe based on the hours of activity of those involved.

It said one of the tools was a Trojan that appeared to have originated in Russia.

Officials in the US and elsewhere in recent months have expressed growing concerns about cyberattacks which could cripple critical infrastructure systems such as power grids, dams or transportation systems.

The Dragonfly group has used several infection tactics including spam email with malicious attachments, and browser tools which can install malware.

Once installed on a victim's computer, the malware gathers system information and can extract data from the computer's address book and other directories.

"The Dragonfly group is technically adept and able to think strategically," Symantec said.

"Given the size of some of its targets, the group found a 'soft underbelly' by compromising their suppliers, which are invariably smaller, less protected companies."

Symantec said it had notified victims of the attacks as well as relevant national authorities, such as the US Computer Emergency Response Team.

The affected companies were not named, but Symantec said targets of Dragonfly included energy grid operators, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipeline operators, and energy industry industrial equipment providers.

Most targets were located in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and Poland.


And Security Week's own article with more details including the link to Symantec's report (6/30/2014; part, emphasis is mine):

...The report builds on information released earlier this year by security firms CrowdStrike - which publicized the attack in January - and F-Secure.

The attacks on the energy sector began with malware sent via phishing emails to targeted personnel. Symantec observed the spear phishing attempts hitting organizations in the form of PDF attachments between February 2013 and June 2013, mostly targeting the US and UK. They emails were disguised as messages about administration issues such as delivery problems or issues with an account.

Later on, the group added watering hole attacks into its repertoire by compromising websites likely to be visited by people working in the industry and redirecting them to sites hosting an exploit kit known as Lightsout. The Lightsout kit has been upgraded over time, and eventually became known as the Hello exploit kit.

The third phase of the campaign involved the Trojanizing of legitimate software bundles belonging to three different industrial control system (ICS) equipment manufacturers using malware detected as Backdoor.Oldrea (Havex), according to Symantec's report (PDF).

The researchers reported that the first piece of Trojanized software was a product used to provide VPN access to programmable logic controller (PLC) type devices. The vendor discovered the attack shortly after it began, but by then there had already been 250 unique downloads of the compromised software. In the second incident, a European manufacturer of specialist PLC devices was compromised and had a software package containing a driver for one of its devices was compromised. According to Symantec, the software was available for download for at least six weeks between June and July in 2013.

The third firm was a European company that designs systems for managing wind turbines, biogas plants and other technology. In that case, the compromised software is believed to have been available for download for roughly 10 days in April 2014.

"Oldrea appears to be custom malware, either written by the group itself or created for it," according to the researchers. "This provides some indication of the capabilities and resources behind the Dragonfly group. Once installed on a victim’s computer, Oldrea gathers system information, along with lists of files, programs installed, and root of available drives. It will also extract data from the computer’s Outlook address book and VPN configuration files. This data is then written to a temporary file in an encrypted format before being sent to a remote command-and-control (C&C) server controlled by the attackers."

The majority of the command and control servers appear to be hosted on compromised servers running content management systems. Oldrea was linked to the vast majority of the infections caused by the group.

A second piece of malware used by the group was a Russian remote access Trojan known as Karagany, which was found in about five percent of the infections. The Karagany Trojan is available on the underground market. The source code for the first version of the malware was leaked in 2010. Symantec researchers suspect the Dragonfly group may have taken this source code and modified it for the group's own use. The malware can upload stolen data, download new files and run executable files on an infected machine. It is also capable of running additional plugins such as tools for collecting passwords and taking screenshots, according to Symantec.

"The attacks do have the hallmarks of a state-sponsored operation," said Vikram Thakur, principal security response manager at Symantec. "The attackers are well resourced, with a high degree of technical capability and have a lot of tools at their disposal. Their targets are of strategic interest. Their motivations appear to be espionage rather than cybercrime. As an example, we see the threat not only targeting specific industries, but also stealing credentials to connect into networks with industrial equipment. Such activity maps to espionage. Coupled with the sophistication of the campaigns, this activity lends itself to being perceived as being state sponsored."

(Full article at the link)


Well, remember the hacking incident at Monju earlier this year? A night-shift worker there downloaded a free video playback software from a supposed South Korean site and managed to infect the PC in the central control room. The PC was hacked, and email information was stolen. I haven't seen the result of the follow-up investigation of the incident.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

(OT: Graphic Images) A Man Sets Himself on Fire in Protest Against Abe Administration's Collective Self-Defense Stance in Central Tokyo


It happened within the last hour on June 29, 2014 (Japan time). So far it is only on Twitter and Instagram.

A man set himself on fire after making a speech to the passers-by as he sat atop a pedestrian bridge over a busy street in Shinjuku, Tokyo. According to the eyewitness accounts on Twitter, he looked like a regular office worker in suits, and he was expressing his disapproval of the Abe administration and the administration's plan to allow collective self-defense without formally modifying the Constitution by national referendum.









I was very surprised that self-immolation like this happened in Japan (of all places) now (of all times) as a political protest (of all things).

But I was more surprised to see some tweets (like this, and this, and this) accusing this man of carrying out an act of "terrorism" - setting himself on fire and thus endangering others on a busy street, when freedom of speech and universal suffrage are guaranteed [by the Constitution].

Never mind that the Abe administration's ultimate goal is to gut that Constitution with such niceties. My tweet wondering about those people and their perception of "terrorism" is getting retweeted by people who then spit out "Of course this man is such a nuisance!"

People on the street apparently wasted no time in capturing the images with their smartphones.