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):


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


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.


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):


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.


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.)


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):


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.


(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.


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 So much for "no boots on the ground".

From (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.

Russia's Fast Breeder Reactor BN-800 at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station Reaches Criticality, "Closed Nuclear Fuel Cycle"

If that's the case, Japan's Monju should be learning from Russians, not from French.

What reads like an official PR piece, from RT (6/27/2014):

Fast reactor starts clean nuclear energy era in Russia

Controlled nuclear fission has been started in Russia’s newest fast breeder reactor in the Urals, heralding a closed nuclear fuel cycle and a future without nuclear waste. Russia is the only country that operates fast neutron reactors industrially.

The next generation BN-800 breeder reactor (880 megawatts) assembled at Russia’s Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant has been put in the so-called critical state on Friday, a week after all necessary nuclear fuel was loaded into the active zone.

The press service of Rosenergoatom, the electric energy generation branch of Russia’s nuclear monopoly, Rosatom, has confirmed to the RIA news agency that nuclear reaction in the BN-800 reactor has been initiated.

“Starting from that moment the reactor started to ‘live’,” RIA said, quoting the source in Rosenergoatom.

This means that controlled nuclear fission in the reactor is self-sustaining and ongoing at a constant speed. Once this most important stage of the start-up work is done, the reactor will be gradually prepared to achieve the desired 880 megawatts output expected to be reached in October, when the reactor will be commissioned for industrial use.

The BN-800 uses liquid metal sodium (Na) as a coolant heat transfer agent. The start of commercial operation of the new reactor is planned for early 2015.

Service life of the BN-800 breeder reactor is expected to be 45 years. Every month it will produce 475 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to ensure constant supply to 3.15 million families (considering that the average monthly consumption of a family of three is 150 kilowatt hours).

Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant is situated in Zarechny, some 45 kilometers from the regional center of Yekaterinburg, in the Urals region.

The fast-neutron nuclear reactors use so-called breeder reactor technology that enables the use of a wider range of radioactive elements as fuel, thus considerably enlarging the potential stock of nuclear fuel for electricity generation.

Fast fission reactors close the question of potentially ending uranium nuclear fuel as they could ‘burn’ even nuclear waste.

Besides producing electric energy, it generates more fissile material that can be used as nuclear fuel. This brings us to the closed nuclear fuel cycle, a long-lasting dream of the nuclear energy industry that appears to have come true.

Unlike ‘traditional’ nuclear reactors that use assemblies of uranium-235 as the principal fuel, breeder reactors use specially designed MOX (Mixed Oxide) fuel based on plutonium-239.

Russia’s nuclear monopoly, Rosatom, is finishing a plant in Krasnoyarsk region that will produce MOX fuel for the BN-800 reactor. The production line is assembled in a mine 200 meters underground. This will be operable by the end of 2014, and, starting from 2016, it will be running at full capacity.

Russia has unique experience of operating fast reactors, although the first one, CLEMENTINE, was constructed in the US in 1946 at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Over the decades, the USSR, then Russia, introduced a number of industrial and research fast neutron reactors. One of them, the BN-600 (600 megawatt), since 1980 running at the same Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant, is the only fast neutron reactor in the world that generates electricity on industrial scales. The BN-600 is also the most powerful operable fast neutron reactor in the world.

After decades of research, practically all breeder reactor projects around the world, including in the US, France, Japan and several other countries possessing nuclear energy technologies are now closed down. The only country that currently possesses operating breeder reactor power generation is Russia.

Russian physicists have already elaborated the next step for the revolutionary technology: a BN-1200 breeder reactor that is set to be assembled at the same Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant by 2020.

Overall, eight BN-1200 breeder reactors are expected to be constructed by 2030, which means that Russia is the only nation that is entering a new era of nuclear energy power generation – a truly clean and ecologically secure closed nuclear fuel cycle.

BN-800 on wiki:

The BN-800 reactor will be a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor, under construction now at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station, in Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. Designed to generate electrical power of 880 MW in total, the plant will be the final step to the commercial plutonium cycle breeder. It is assumed to start by the end of 2014. By now (2014 June) reactor start-up is in progress.

The plant will be a pool-type reactor, where the reactor, coolant pumps, intermediate heat exchangers and associated piping are all located in a common liquid sodium pool. The design of this plant was started in 1983 and was totally revised after the Chernobyl Disaster in 1987 and for somewhat lower degree in 1993 according to the new safety guidelines. After the second revision the electric output power was increased by 10% to 880 MW.

The reactor core is very much like in size and mechanical properties to the BN-600 reactor core, but differs very much in the fuel composition. While BN-600 uses medium-enriched uranium dioxide, the new plant will burn mixed uranium-plutonium fuel, helping to reduce the weapon-grade plutonium stockpile and provide information about the functioning of the closed uranium-plutonium fuel cycle. It was specially mentioned that the closed cycle will not require plutonium separation and other chemical processing.

The unit employs a three-circuit coolant arrangement; sodium coolant circulates in both the primary and secondary circuits. Water and steam flow in the third circuit. This heat is transferred from the reactor core via several independent circulation loops. Each comprises a primary sodium pump, two intermediate heat exchangers, a secondary sodium pump with an expansion tank located upstream, and an emergency pressure discharge tank. These feed a steam generator, which in turn supplies a condensing turbine that turns the generator.[1]

Thursday, June 26, 2014

US Westinghouse Is Asking NRC for Approval for 'Specialized Seismic Option' for Its AP1000 Nuclear Reactors, Eyeing Earthquake-Prone Markets

The news is from Reuters (6/26/2014; emphasis is mine):

Westinghouse eyes nuclear reactor technology for higher seismic locations

Westinghouse Electric Co on Thursday announced it has begun the process of attaining regulatory approval for developing technology that would enable its AP1000 nuclear reactors to be used in locations with higher seismic activity.

The company said it started the process of obtaining approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its 'Specialized Seismic Option' at a meeting on Wednesday.

The 'Specialized Seismic Option' being worked on by the company and its majority owner, Toshiba Corp will allow new units to be built in areas with a higher seismic spectrum seen in some portions of the western United States and other countries.

Eight units of its AP1000 reactors are being constructed worldwide, including in China and the U.S., the company said.

I guess Toshiba wants to be the one-stop total nuclear solution company - from building reactors (AP1000) to soaking up radioactive materials (SARRY, ALPS) after reactors get damaged.

Westinghouse's press release (6/26/2014) doesn't discuss the detail of this "Option", other than saying:

"...In addition, customers in more active seismic environments have expressed a strong interest in incorporating this Westinghouse technology into their energy portfolios,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president, Nuclear Power Plants.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the non-proprietary information package submitted by Westinghouse/Toshiba on May 29, 2014, but the critical part of it (what the "Specialized Seismic Option" is) is blank (whiteout). The slide presentation says:

Target sites are select hard-rock sites west of the Mississippi River. Range also envelopes certain sites in other countries

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

(UPDATED) #Fukushima I NPP: 4700 Bq/L of Tritium Detected from Groundwater Taken from 20-Meter Deep Near Reactor 1/2 Turbine Building

(Updated with information of the depth of the frozen soil wall holes, which is 30 meters)

The water was drawn from the lower permeable layer 20-meter deep, according to Kyodo News (6/24/2014) from an observation hole newly dug in preparation for monitoring the frozen soil impermeable wall that is to surround the reactor/turbine buildings of Reactors 1-4.

Cesium and all-beta (that includes strontium) are below detection levels, but tritium in 4-digit Bq per liter is apparently not what TEPCO has expected (or so they claim).

TEPCO's handout for the press on 6/24/2014 is about the observation hole No.H25J7 between the Reactor 3 turbine building and the Reactor 4 turbine building, whose water sample taken on June 10 was found with 140 Bq/L of tritium:

However, the handout also shows the test results for the sample water drawn from the observation holes for future monitoring of the frozen soil impermeable wall (whose construction has just started around the corner of the Reactor 1 building), Fz-4, Fz-5, and Fz-8.

The water sample drawn from the frozen soil wall observation hole Fz-5 between the Reactor 1 turbine building and the Reactor 2 turbine building on June 4 was found with 4,700 Bq/L of tritium (in red rectangle below):

TEPCO's simplified cross-section drawing:

English labels are by me, but I don't pretend that I understand what they mean by "groundwater pressure for the lower impermeable layer" (green line in the diagram).

Kyodo News says this will likely delay the construction of the frozen soil impermeable wall because an added work of preventing the spread of contamination is necessary when drilling holes for the frozen soil wall. The holes for the frozen soil wall are to be 30-meter deep.

The construction of frozen soil wall is already a challenge of dodging the underground structures (trenches, pipes, and other facilities) that TEPCO doesn't quite know about. No one apparently knows what's underneath the surface, after 40-plus years of plant operation and continuous construction and maintenance of the site. I suppose that problem would be the same whether it is Kajima's frozen soil wall or more traditional wall of sheet piles, as proposed by Kajima's competitors. (Not that it is any consolation.)

But this is hardly a piece of news, hardly anyone cares, as Japan's politicians, mainstream media and alternative media and social media are abuzz and obssessed with "sexist heckling" by a fifty-something LDP male politician in Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly against a 35-year-old assemblywoman whose former life was a pin-up girl for men's magazine and a minor TV "talento (talent, or personality)".

Friday, June 20, 2014

(OT) Albanian Family of Four Wanted to Steal a Passage to UK, Ended Up in La Hague Nuclear Fuel Recycling Plant in France

Parents and their two young children hid in a truck that ended up at AREVA's fuel reprocessing plant, 100-200 meters from the nuclear zone. The plant security is being questioned.

From Le Monde (6/13/2014):

Des clandestins découverts sur le site radioactif de la Hague

La famille albanaise espérait rejoindre l'Angleterre à bord d'un ferry. Elle s'est finalement retrouvée à son insu sur le site le plus radioactif d'Europe. Vendredi 13 juin au matin, quatre clandestins ont été découverts cachés dans la remorque d'un camion lors de son déchargement à l'usine Areva de Beaumont-Hague (Manche).

Le couple et ses deux enfants de moins de 10 ans, découverts dans une « zone non nucléaire », « se trouvai(en)t à 100 à 200 mètres de la clôture de la zone nucléaire », a indiqué la directrice de la communication du site, Catherine Argant, dans un communiqué. Le camion, qui venait du port d'Ouistreham (Calvados), livrait du matériel non nucléaire.

Selon une source judiciaire, la famille s'est vu délivrer par l'Etat une obligation de quitter le territoire d'ici un à deux mois.


Selon Yannick Rousselet, chargé des questions nucléaires à Greenpeace France, cette intrusion est « une première » sur le site. « C'est catastrophique. Le magasin est situé à l'autre bout de la porte principale, sur une zone classée “installation nucléaire de base”, à une centaine de mètres environ du bâtiment BST1 où est stocké une partie du plutonium de La Hague », a déclaré à l'AFP le militant antinucléaire. Selon Greenpeace, l'intrusion d'une famille de clandestins sur un site nucléaire s'est déjà produit à une ou deux reprises dans des centrales françaises.

Philippe Launay, syndicaliste FO du site, a lui aussi fait part de sa surprise. « C'est incroyable. Là, c'est une famille d'Albanais avec deux enfants. Manifestement, c'est une situation [qui n'est] pas dangereuse. Mais il y a quand même eu quatre personnes qui ont pu entrer sur le site », a-t-il dit.

L'union départementale de FO a réagi dans un communiqué « soulagée que ces intrus ne soient qu'une paisible famille étrangère cherchant refuge. Car cela aurait pu être quelque bande d'énergumènes antinucléaires en mal de sensationnel. Ou pire : des individus décidés à commettre un acte malveillant ».

L'usine Areva de Beaumont-Hague est une usine de retraitement de combustibles nucléaires irradiés pour la plupart dans les centrales nucléaires françaises. C'est le site qui concentre le plus de matière radioactive en Europe.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fukushima I NPP Telephone Game (Nth Time): "Ice Plug for Trench Water Not Working" Morphed into "Frozen Soil Wall Around Reactor Buildings Not Working"

It involves both the Japanese media and the foreign media, both in Japanese and in English, following the usual pattern of:

  1. Original Japanese article appears in the Japanese media;

  2. Original Japanese article is then translated into English incorrectly;

  3. English article freaks out the foreign readers;

  4. English article is then translated back into Japanese;

  5. Japanese readers freak out reading the translated Japanese article.

In this telephone game still being played out as of June 18, 2014, the original article was by NHK Japan (6/17/2014), which was correctly translated (except for the paragraph order) by NHK World into English.

The news is about the frozen water barrier, or ice plug, that TEPCO is trying to form in the trench from the Reactor 2 turbine building to the plant harbor near the water intake for the reactors. The trench contains extremely contaminated water that has been sitting there since April 2011 when a worker found it pouring from the crack into the open culvert in the plant harbor. The dosimeter went overscale at 1,000 millisievert/hour over the water.

It is NOT about the frozen soil impermeable wall that TEPCO/Kajima have started constructing around the reactor/turbine buildings.

From NHK World (6/16/2014 UTC; emphasis is mine):

TEPCO finds water in tunnels not yet frozen

Workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant say their effort to freeze radioactive water in underground tunnels hasn't gone as planned.

In April, they began pouring chemical solutions into tunnels at the No.2 reactor. They hoped to freeze the water to stop it flowing out to the sea.

But tests show the water remains above freezing temperature.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Company believes objects in the tunnels are preventing the coolant from spreading evenly. They also said running wastewater is slowing the process.

They say they are planning to find ways to control the water currents and add pipes to pour in more coolant.

They say they may not be able to complete the frozen barrier by the end of the month, and dry up the tunnel next month, as scheduled.

They are trying the same process in a tunnel around the No.3 reactor. About 11,000 tons of wastewater is believed to be in tunnels at the two reactors.

TEPCO hopes to remove wastewater from tunnels around all reactors in fiscal 2014.

The utility also has to deal with groundwater flowing into the plant from nearby hillsides and mixing with contaminated materials. Workers have been creating a 1.5-kilometer underground wall of frozen soil surrounding all four damaged reactors.

The problem lies, I think, in the paragraph order in the original Japanese news article by NHK. The bit about the frozen soil wall, which is placed at the end of the news piece in the English NHK article above, is in the middle of the news in the Japanese NHK news.

So, the focus of the writers who wrote up the articles on the topic based on the NHK Japan's Japanese report may have been diverted away from the ice plug by freezing the trench water to the different topic of the frozen soil wall to stop groundwater. Or the writers simply did not follow enough on the on-going work on the plant.

(Of all people) Japan's English-language paper Japan Times wrote an article (6/18/2014) supposedly quoting AFP, Jiji and Reuters and confusing the ice plug for trench water with the frozen soil wall for groundwater. The writer clearly does not understand what "trench" TEPCO was talking about:

[My comments in square brackets in italic]

Tepco’s ice wall runs into glitch at Fukushima No. 1

Tokyo Electric Power Co. says the refrigerated ice wall being built to slow the movement of water beneath damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant isn’t working as expected. [No, TEPCO didn't say that.]

Tepco said the project, which remains in its early stages, is experiencing a problem with an inner ice wall designed to contain highly radioactive water that is draining from the basements of the wrecked reactors.

“We have yet to form an ice plug because we can’t get the temperature low enough to freeze the water,” a Tepco spokesman said Tuesday.

Trenches are being dug for a huge network of pipes under the plant that will have refrigerant pumped through them. If successful, it would freeze the soil and form a physical barrier, significantly slowing the rate at which uncontaminated groundwater flows into the reactor basements and becomes contaminated. [Japan Times is talking about frozen soil wall, not the ice plug that TEPCO's spokesman was talking about.]

“We are behind schedule, but have already taken additional measures, including putting in more pipes, so that we can remove contaminated water from the trench starting next month,” a spokesman said.

The coolant used in the operation is an aqueous solution of calcium chloride, which is cooled to minus 30 degrees. The ice wall employs the same technology as the trench project and involves the same contractor, Kajima Corp.

The idea of freezing a section of the ground was proposed last year. Engineers have used the technique to build tunnels near watercourses. But scientists point out it has never been used on such a large scale, or for the length of time Tepco is proposing.

Coping with the huge amount of water at the plant is proving to be a major challenge for Tepco, as it tries to clean up the mess after the worst nuclear disaster in a generation.

As well as having to collect vast quantities of water used to cool the melted down reactors, Tepco has been pumping up and storing water that drains down from inland mountains to the sea.

Full decommissioning of the plant is expected to take several decades. An exclusion zone remains in place, and experts warn that some former residential areas may have to be abandoned as settlements because of persistently high levels of radiation.

Foreign media outlets that also have the Japanese web presence then wrote articles in Japanese, saying "NHK said frozen soil wall is not working." Voice of Russia's Japanese article (6/17/2014) and Huffington Post Japan's article are two such examples. There are English sites and blogs that quoted the erroneous Japan Times article.

After three-plus years of confused information and confused information dissemination regarding the Fukushima nuclear accident, an increasing number of people seem to be resorting to the "devil's proof" - can you prove that the news (as per Japan Times and others) is 100% wrong?

In this case in fact it is 100% wrong, as the news is not about the frozen soil wall but about the extremely contaminated trench water which is apparently running, or flowing, and which remains above freezing temperature.

That's much scarier to me than the groundwater (target of the frozen soil wall), as it means this extremely contaminated trench water may not be standing water but may be constantly flowing and constantly leaking, possibly into the surrounding soil and into the plant harbor. I haven't read anyone paying attention to that possibility. (Certainly not NHK.)

But no matter. An increasing number of people have also started to speak like Hillary Clinton (over Benghazi): What difference does it make?

Apparently, confusion in reporting in English is such that TEPCO issued an English press release (6/18/2014) to try to set the record straight. I think it will likely fall on deaf ears, but here it is (emphasis is mine):

Fukushima - June 18, 2014, TEPCO has started freezing the water at intersections of turbine buildings inside the trenches (tunnel) from April 28, 2014, which contain contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi NPS. This operation is one of the first steps to remove contaminated water from the trenches which is a major mile stone for TEPCO's decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi NPS.

On June 16, TEPCO has announced some difficulties that were encountered with an effort to freeze standing water inside the tunnel which TEPCO has been implemented countermeasures since early June. However, this has nothing to do with the "ice wall (Land-side impermeable wall with frozen soil)" which is constructed by freezing the soil surrounding pipes that carry circulating refrigerant. Unfortunately, there are some miss understandings as relating to the ice wall that is being built around the perimeter of the four reactor units for the purpose of blocking groundwater.

This freezing the standing water inside the trenches are entirely different from the ice wall, which the technology is used to freeze soil, creating a frozen wall - not really an "ice wall" but in fact a wall of frozen soil - was tested and demonstrated to be effective before construction on the wall began in May. Instead of freezing the soil, TEPCO has to freeze standing water inside the trenches.

The difficulties encountered in freezing the contaminated water does not in any way represent a "setback" in development of the "ice wall," for which construction is proceeding as planned.

TEPCO will continue the decommissioning operation and contaminated water management safely and diligently with a support and the knowledge gain from our domestic and other international partners.

Monday, June 16, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP on Google Maps

Google Maps finally updated the satellite photograph of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. It shows the more-or-less current plant condition in great details.

(Click to enlarge the screenshots; Google Map at the bottom of the post.)

Instead of mangled steel beams and trusses completely covering the Reactor 3 operating floor, you actually see the Spent Fuel Pool, with water, with the half-submerged fuel handling machine:

Contrary to a belief still popular with people around the world (including Mr. Koide of Kyoto University) that the Reactor 4 building is still a smoking wreckage about to collapse at any moment, it now actually looks like this:

Removal of fuel assemblies from the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool is now 70% finished, as of 6/16/2014. You can still see a lot of debris on the east side (ocean side) of the Reactor 4 building. Debris immediately around the reactor buildings has extremely high radiation contamination, according to the survey by TEPCO (I'll try to locate the document later).

Probably to suppress radiation and to prep for the frozen soil impermeable wall construction, the roads around the reactor buildings and the turbine buildings look to be paved with metal plates. Right where the trailer with Hitachi logo on top is where the frozen soil impermeable wall is being constructed near Reactor 1:

Almost all trees have been cut to reduce radiation levels inside the plant. It's particularly apparent around the wells to draw groundwater for the groundwater bypass scheme. This location used to be covered with ever-green trees.

A pile of what looks to be low-radiation waste and debris, near the groundwater bypass wells:

There are two barges inside the plant harbor; you can see the silt screen that somewhat separates the water in the open channel in front of the water intakes for the reactors:

At the southern end of the plant harbor, you can see the wall of steel pipe sheet piles in the water in an attempt to stop groundwater from flowing into the harbor and flowing out of harbor:

The high-radiation strip between the turbine building and the plant harbor seems to have been cleared of debris enough for various works. Here again, you can see the metal plates on the ground to lower the radiation for the workers:

Fukushima I NPP on Google Maps:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

(OT) FIFA World Cup Soccer Opens, Japanese Ref Effectively Gives Brazil an Opening Victory While Japan Loses to Ivory Coast

FIFA World Cup has started, and many sports fans in Japan seem to be losing sleep trying to catch the games.

Japan's all-star team lost today (6/14/2014) to Ivory Coast 1 to 2, in a match that had little to write home about.

But what floored me was not the Japanese team but the Japanese referee who presided over the opening game on June 12, 2014 between the host country Brazil and Croatia.

In that game, Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura

- yellow-carded Brazilian player for elbowing a Croatian player in the face, instead of red-carded - a collective sigh of relief from the stadium;
- allowed a penalty kick on what looks to be a blatant dive (aka "simulation") by a Brazilian player;
- disallowed a legitimate goal by Croatia

In doing all these, Mr. Nishimura was aided by two sub-referees, who were also Japanese.

From UK's Daily Mail (6/12/2014; part):

Neymar escapes red card in World Cup 2014 opener as referee Yuichi Nishimura hands Brazil soft penalty after Fred appeared to dive

Brazil's poster boy clashed with Luka Modric in Sao Paulo opener

The Barcelona player appeared to elbow the Real Madrid man in first-half

Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura brandished yellow to relief of host nation

Fred earned Brazil a soft penalty which Neymar scored to give Brazil lead

Nishimura ruled out a late Croatia goal for a foul on Julio Cesar by Ivica Olic

Croatia manager Niko Kovac blasted referee Yuichi Nishimura for his poor performance during the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.

The Japanese official had a night to forget, allowing Neymar to stay on the pitch following a cynical elbow on Luka Modric in the first-half, before awarding the tournament hosts a soft penalty and disallowing what looked like a legitimate equaliser by Croatia.

Kovac said Nishimura was out of his depth and that someone else should have been appointed to officiate if he wasn't up to the job.

Kovac said: 'I must say the referee was completely out of his depth.

'If someone's not up to scratch to referee the first game then find someone else. Two and a half billion people saw this wasn't a penalty.'

Yup. I saw it. But clearly not Japanese soccer fans in Japan, vast majority of whom tweeted how they supported the Japanese referee's decisions in the match and how proud they were of him for setting the standard for refereeing in this World Cup. At least in the world of Twitter, dissenting from that position doesn't seem to be allowed.

According to Yomiuri Shinbun's report, a major Brazilian newspaper (Folha de S. Paulo) is thanking the referee Nishimura for being part of the team.

AP reports that Croatian players claim Nishimura was speaking Japanese to them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

(OT) STAP Cell Researcher Says, "I Want to Be Reunited with My Sons from Whom I've Been Separated"

So, the so-called "STAP cells" have undergone gender reassignment - from "princess" cells as Ms. Obokata (lead author of the two Nature papers) once wanted to name them, to "my sons".

There's got to be a better profession for this so-called researcher than being a researcher. A comedienne or a politician comes to mind.

According to Mainichi Shinbun (6/11/2014), Ms. Obokata, who has been staying at a hospital, has been in fact "advising" Riken researchers how to create the so-called STAP cells since last month.

Mainichi also quotes the lead attorney employed by Ms. Obokata (she has four attorneys), who told the press that his client says she wants to look for her sons (STAP cells) whom she has been separated from.

One prominent Japanese scientist (and a mother) who heads a laboratory in a US research institution is furious, and she tweeted, "You have already made a mockery of biology. Stop insulting women and female researchers further. I'm ashamed."

Other net citizens wonder aloud how Ms. Obokata could look for her "sons" when the "sons" may not have been born to begin with.

Nikkei Science and NHK reported today (6/11/2014) that her "sons" may not be STAP cells but ES cells (embryonic stem cells) with a particular genetic defect. That particular defect, "trisomy" (having three copies) of chromosome 8, has been found in almost all cells that were presented as STAP cells which was supposedly made from one-week-old mice.

Trisomy of chromosome 8 results in death of an embryo. In other words, there cannot be any mouse born with trisomy of chromosome 8, and STAP cells cannot be made from cells taken from a mouse with trisomy of chromosome 8.

On the other hand, 20 to 30 percent of cultured ES cells are known to have trisomy of chromosome 8, according to Nikkei Science and NHK who quote both Riken researchers and Tokyo University researchers who analyzed DNA of the STAP cells.

Oh well, minor details for non-scientists or people with little to no interest in science who are the majority of people in Japan and probably elsewhere. Post-Fukushima Japan (and perhaps elsewhere) seems to think that if you cannot 100% prove certain things do not exist - be they STAP cells or acute effect of long-term low-dose radiation exposure - then it is possible, or even highly probable that these things do exist.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Aerial Photo by Asahi Shows Desolation Around #Fukushima I NPP

While I do not think much at all of the initial editorialization of the confidential testimony given by Plant Manager Masao Yoshida to the government investigation of the accident and which Asahi somehow obtained, the special webpage dedicated to reporting on the testimony has some good photographs.

Here's one for the "epilogue" (so their reporting is ending already) about the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool.

According to the credit of the photo, it was taken from Asahi's helicopter on December 15, 2013. Unlike photographs of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant which mostly show the plant only, this one shows Okuma-machi (south of the plant) and Futaba-machi and toward Namie-machi (north of the plant).

No one (officially) lives in Okuma or Futaba. The coastal area of Futaba and Namie (above Fukushima I NPP in the photo) looks to have been wiped out by the March 11, 2011 tsunami. There are houses hugging the hills in Okuma, but the abandoned fields look overgrown. No one there to till the land.

No one is returning anytime soon to the area right below (south) of the plant. The area is called Ottozawa. The highest ambient air dose level in Ottozawa at present is 28 microsieverts/hour as measured on June 5, 2014.

Ottozawa has had one of the highest ambient air dose levels inside the former evacuation zone, located right up against Fukushima I NPP. In February 2012, contract workers "decontaminated" the area in 70 to 130 microsieverts/hour radiation (see my post on 2/9/2012).

Using the formula to calculate additional annual radiation exposure even with using the coefficient of 0.2 (instead of 0.4 for wooden structure; see my 6/8/2014 post), it would be additional 114 millisieverts in one year at the current ambient radiation level.

But then, there are many scholars and researchers around the world who would say that level would be safe enough for residents to return and live a life they can enjoy, instead of living in a crowded temporary housing. (See my posts here for some of the researchers over the past three years.)

Image from Asahi Shinbun "Yoshida Testimony - Epilogue" page:

(Click to see the entire image)