Sunday, 27 March 2011

Denial Ain't Just a River In Egypt: Japan Seawater Radiation Threat

There is one reoccurring theme that few will fail to notice in this ongoing clusterfuck at Fukushima, and that is the inevitable backpeddling on just about every statement issued by every agency, and that includes the Japanese government, over the threat to, not just human safety, but to the marine environment as well.

Every statement, be it on the amount of radiation released, or regarding the integrity of the plant itself, has been followed, without exception, a day or two later by, eer well, things are just, perhaps maybe, a little worse than was initially reported. The latest being a possible maybe that there has been a breach of the containment vessels (reactors) themselves, just a possible maybe, mind you. One report touches on the problem of where plant officials are going to put all the water with radiation levels 10,000 times higher than usually found in a reactor. Would you care to hazard a guess as to where the final destination of that little lot might be? No, me neither.

Of the four reports below, all relative to sea water contamination, three of them specifically so, are we to expect these any difference from previously issued statements? Of course not, and particularly not when we see the likes of the ''Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency'' included in the equation. They must think we are all mad, or simple, or something, but what, I don't know? but whatever it is, it must make us worthy of utter contempt.

I have taken the liberty of highlighting a few of the more outrageous examples of the establishments total disregard for potential casualties. The greatest casualty of course, already having occurred, the truth being the first to succumb.

Radiation Levels Soar In The Sea Off Japan
March 26, 2011

Radiation levels are about 1,250 times the legal limit in the ocean near Japan's stricken Fukushima 1 nuclear plant.

The levels of of iodine-131 reported several hundred metres out into the Pacific Ocean had increased ten-fold in just a few days, said the Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), which operates the plant.

"This is a relatively high level," nuclear safety agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama said in a televised news conference.

Drinking 500ml of fresh water with the same concentration would expose a person to their annual safe dose, Mr Nishiyama said, but he ruled out an immediate threat to aquatic life and seafood safety.

"Generally speaking, radioactive material released into the sea will spread due to tides, so you need much more for seaweed and sea life to absorb it," Mr Nishiyama said.

He added that because iodine-131 has a half-life - the time in which half of it decays - of eight days, "by the time people eat the sea products, its amount is likely to have diminished significantly".

Tepco also reported levels of caesium-137 - which has a longer half life of about 30 years - almost 80 times the legal maximum. Scientists say both radioactive substances can cause cancer if absorbed by humans.

Officials said they would check the seawater about 20 miles (30km) off the coast for radiation and expect it to show there is no need to be concerned about any possible effect to fish.

The latest data has increased fears that one of the six reactor cores at the the site may have been cracked after a huge tsunami on March 11 knocked out the site's cooling systems.

Urgent efforts were under way to drain pools of highly radioactive water near the reactors, after several workers sustained radiation burns while installing cables as part of efforts to restore the critical cooling systems.

There have been suspected meltdowns at three of the reactors as well as hydrogen explosions and fires.

Japanese leaders defended their decision not to evacuate people from a wider area around the plant, insisting they are safe if they stay indoors, but officials said residents may want to voluntarily move to areas with better facilities.

Radioactive vapour from the plant has contaminated farm produce and dairy products in the region, leading to shipment halts in Japan as well as the United States, European Union, China and a host of other nations. Sky

Engineers toil to pump out Japan plant
TOKYO (Reuters)
Mar 26, 2011

Japanese engineers struggled on Sunday to pump radioactive water from a crippled nuclear power station after radiation levels soared in seawater near the plant more than two weeks after it was battered by a huge earthquake and a tsunami.

Tests on Friday showed iodine 131 levels in seawater 30 km (19 miles) from the coastal nuclear complex had spiked 1,250 times higher than normal but it was not considered a threat to marine life or food safety, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

"Ocean currents will disperse radiation particles and so it will be very diluted by the time it gets consumed by fish and seaweed," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a senior agency official.

Despite that reassurance, the disclosure is likely to heighten international concern over Japanese seafood exports. Several countries have already banned milk and produce from areas around the Fukushima Daiichi plant, while others have been monitoring Japanese seafood.

Prolonged efforts to prevent a catastrophic meltdown at the 40-year-old plant have also intensified concern around the world about nuclear power. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was time to reassess the international atomic safety regime.

The crisis at the plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, has overshadowed a big relief and recovery effort from the magnitude 9.0 quake and the huge tsunami it triggered on March 11 that left more than 27,100 people dead or missing in northeast Japan.

Engineers trying to stabilize the plant have to pump out radioactive water after it was found in buildings housing three of the six reactors.

On Thursday, three workers were taken to hospital from reactor No. 3 after stepping in water with radiation levels 10,000 times higher than usually found in a reactor. That raised fear the core's container could be damaged.

An official from plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) told a Sunday news conference experts still had to determine where to put some of the contaminated water while engineers were still trying to fully restore the plant's power.

TEPCO said it was using fresh water instead of seawater to cool down at least some of the reactors after concern arose that salt deposits might hamper the cooling process.

Two of the plant's reactors are now seen as safe but the other four are volatile, occasionally emitting steam and smoke. However, the nuclear safety agency said on Saturday that temperature and pressure in all reactors had stabilized.

The government has said the situation was nowhere near to being resolved, although it was not deteriorating.

"We are preventing the situation from worsening -- we've restored power and pumped in fresh water -- and making basic steps toward improvement but there is still no room for complacency," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference on Saturday.

More than 700 engineers have been toiling in shifts but there's no end in sight.

Aftershocks that have jolted the region since March 11 have been tailing off. One on Sunday of magnitude 4.2 hit near the stricken plant but there were no reports of further damage. source

Tsunami and radiation may sink Japanese fishermen
TOKYO (Reuters)
March 26, 2011

The tsunami that slammed Japan two weeks ago wiped out homes, businesses and a fishing industry that was the lifeblood for thousands of victims on the northeast coast.

The tsunami erased aquatic farms just offshore along with low-lying seaside areas that are home to fleets fishing along the coast, while a nuclear plant in Fukushima leaking radiation has raised concerns about marine life in the region over the longer term.

"Fishermen lost their gear, ships and just about everything. About half will probably get out of the business," said Yuko Sasaki, a fishmonger in the tsunami-hit city of Kamaishi.

Sasaki has been cleaning the family store, where a water line at about five meters high marks where the tsunami struck. She expects to be back in business well before most fishermen from the area.

"The question remains: what did the tsunami do to the sea?"

In Iwate, it probably destroyed aqua farms for abalone, sea urchins, oysters, scallops and seaweed that the local government says account for 80 percent of the revenue for local fisheries.

Yuichi Sato, 66, a retired civil servant, said the Iwate town of Yamada, with a population of 20,000, has no other industry but fishing and aquaculture.

"The main industry is raising scallops and all the beds were completely wiped out," he said as he prepared a dinner over a wood fire at a makeshift home some 800 meters from the coast.

"The only way to bring it back will be with huge subsidies and investment from the government," he said.

The coastal fishing industry provides tens of millions of dollars a year to Iwate fishermen, a paltry sum compared with the estimated $300 billion damage in what is probably the world's costliest natural disaster.

The tsunami obliterated centuries-old fishing ports along the northeast coast, sending ships adrift in the Pacific Ocean, to the bottom of the sea, or depositing them on land, where they now lie among the splintered remains of homes.

"Our tourism and fishing industries were picking up before the quake hit. Now they are completely destroyed," said Yuji Shirahata, who heads a disaster relief team on the island of Oshima in Kesennuma in the coastal prefecture of Miyagi.

Even if fishing returns, it may be difficult to find buyers due to radiation concerns.

In Fukushima prefecture, radioactivity levels are soaring in seawater near the Daiichi power plant that was crippled in the disaster, Japan's nuclear safety agency said on Saturday.

"After this kind of disaster, sea urchins and abalones could be contaminated. So we need to collect all of those and start all over again. We have to reset the sea," said Masashi Sasaki, 40, a fisherman in Iwate. source

TOKYO (Reuters)
March 26, 2011

At Three Mile Island, the worst nuclear power accident in the United States, workers took just four days to stabilize the reactor, which suffered a partial meltdown. No one was injured and there was no radiation release above the legal limit.

At Chernobyl in Ukraine, the worst nuclear accident in the world, it took weeks to "stabilize" what remained of the plant and months to clean up radioactive materials and cover the site with a concrete and steel sarcophagus.

So far, no significant levels of radiation have been detected beyond the vicinity of the plant in Fukushima.

The U.S. Department of Energy said on its website (here)

No significant quantities of radiological material had been deposited in the area around the plant since March 19, according to tests on Friday.

In Tokyo, a metropolis of 13 million people, a Reuters reading on Saturday morning showed ambient radiation of 0.22 microsieverts per hour, about six times normal for the city. That was well within the global average of naturally occurring background radiation of 0.17-0.39 microsieverts per hour, a range given by the World Nuclear Association.

The government has prodded tens of thousands of people living in a 20 km-30 km (12-18 mile) zone beyond the stricken complex to leave. Edano said the residents should move because it was difficult to get supplies to the area, and not because of elevated radiation.

Kazuo Suzuki, 56, who has moved from his house near the nuclear plant to an evacuation center, said neighbors he had talked to by telephone said delivery trucks were not going to the exclusion zone because of radiation worries.

"So goods are running out, meaning people have to drive to the next town to buy things. But there is a fuel shortage there too, so they have to wait in long queues for gasoline to use the car."

Radiation levels at the evacuation center were within a normal range of about 0.16 microsievert, according to a Reuters geiger counter reading.

In Japan's northeast, more than a quarter of a million people remain in shelters, and the impact on livelihoods is becoming clearer. The quake and tsunami not only wiped out homes and businesses but also a fishing industry that was the lifeblood of coastal communities.

"Fishermen lost their gear, ships and just about everything. About half will probably get out of the business," said Yuko Sasaki, a fishmonger in the tsunami-hit city of Kamaishi.

The double disaster probably destroyed aqua farms for abalone, sea urchins, oysters, scallops and seaweed that authorities say account for 80 percent of the revenue of the region's fisheries.

The tsunami obliterated centuries-old fishing ports along the northeast coast, sending ships adrift in the Pacific Ocean, to the bottom of the sea, or depositing them on land, where they now lie among the splintered remains of homes. source

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