Posts Tagged Fukushima

Famed Sanriku Railway resumes service, partly thanks to Kuwaiti aid

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This was all over the news this cold Saturday morning (temp was down to 13 degrees C inside!). Buried in a few obscure news sources was the fact that part of this remarkable resurrection was due to a massive donation by the government of Kuwait about a year ago (details below).

MIYAKO, Iwate Prefecture–A railway that was thrown out of action by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster will be back to full strength this spring.

Sanriku Railway Co. is to reopen the last two sections of the two lines that have remained out of service. These are the 15-kilometer section between Kamaishi and Yoshihama stations on the South-Rias Line, and the 10.5-km section between Tanohata and Omoto stations on the North-Rias Line. They will reopen on April 5 and 6, respectively.

The Sanriku Railway has 107.6 km of track that traverses scenic coastal routes in Iwate Prefecture.

The lines were badly damaged in the disaster. Station buildings and [5.8 km] sections of [the 108 km] rail track were swept out to sea by the tsunami. The railway was forced to suspend all its train services immediately after the March 11 disaster, but five days later it resumed partial operations free of charge to help lift the spirits of survivors.

via Famed Sanriku Railway soon back to pre-disaster operations – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.

map of Japan showing Sanriku area (from Wikipedia's Sanriku page)

(from Wikipedia’s Sanriku page)

Nothing in there about Kuwait’s donation, but on the same day, the Japan Times had a article about Fukushima titled “Expressing thanks in Paris, Fukushima officials vow disaster reconstruction” and tucked away right at the end was this:

Sanriku Railway has also purchased five new train cars with financial aid from the government of Kuwait.

How much aid? From a 27 Feb. 2013 article: Read the rest of this entry »


Update on Fuel Removal from Fukushima Unit 4



移送燃料の種類(使用済:528体/1331体、新燃料:22体/202体) キャスクの輸送回数 25回更新日:2014年3月31日

via 福島第一原子力発電所4号機からの燃料取り出しの進捗状況|東京電力.


Report on Fuel Removal from Fukushima Unit 4

No news is good news. I used to think that meant “nothing that is news can be good”, but here I’m using it to mean, “There’s no news. And that’s a good sign!”

The tricky process of emptying No 4 Spent Fuel Pool (SFP) of its fuel rods and transferring them to a safer storage place continues without fanfare. Now up to 528/1533 (=34.4%). Every week that passes with no hitch in this operation is a win.



移送燃料の種類(使用済:506体/1331体、新燃料:22体/202体) キャスクの輸送回数 24回更新日:2014年3月24日

via 福島第一原子力発電所4号機からの燃料取り出しの進捗状況|東京電力.


Report on Fuel Removal from Fukushima Unit 4, and on reactor 2


移送燃料の種類(使用済:484体/1331体、新燃料:22体/202体) キャスクの輸送回数 23回更新日:2014年3月17日毎週月曜日に更新します(祝日の場合は翌営業日に更新します)

via 福島第一原子力発電所4号機からの燃料取り出しの進捗状況|東京電力.

TEPCO’s removal of fuel from the Spent Fuel Pool of reactor #4 soldiers on. 506/1533 = 33%.

Last night (Monday, March 17th) I caught the tail-end of a sobering NHK documentary on the Fukushima crisis. It was a reconstruction (dramatization) of what happened on March 11, 2011 and the days and weeks that followed. It focused (at least the part I watched) on Reactor #2, and why they weren’t able to open the vent, like they did for Reactors #1 and #3.

It was clear from the documentary that, contrary to what Abe told everyone, Reactor #2 and indeed the whole No. 1 Fukushima NPP, is not yet completely contained.

As well as dramatic reconstruction of some key events, they followed TEPCO engineers and other nuclear power plant experts as they tried various simulations to figure out a) why a key vent didn’t open, and b) why there was and is such high radiation leaking from the reactor.

The CG reconstruction of the meltdown showed the core melting down to the concrete floor of the containment vessel, but halting a short distance from the side wall.

After various experiments, it was concluded that the extreme heat inside the containment vessel had caused a section of the concrete side wall to warp at a weak point, thus allowing radioactive elements to escape.

Image of molten fuel in containment vessel

Image from the Asahi Evening News website. Click the image to see more.

Another route for radioactive leakage was found in the suppression pool. This contains cold water. The idea is that radioactive steam escaping from the containment vessel (via the “legs” you can see forking down into the water of the suppression pool in the diagram above) drops its radioactive particles in the water before bubbling up above the water level. However, an experiment carried out in Italy showed that the unusually high temperatures of the escaping steam meant that the gas did not stay in the water long enough to drop its load of particles. This radioactive steam then leaked out at other weak points which are normally secure, but which were breached due to the combination of extremely high temperatures and extremely high pressures.

The most frightening part of the reconstruction scenes was showing the team in the control room hearing that the vent was not opening (despite sending a team of workers to check it), and watching in helpless horror as the instruments show that the pressure in the containment vessel is rising uncontrollably while the radioactive readings rise inexorably higher, AND THERE IS NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT.

Blogger EXSKF who writes regularly and cognetly about the Fukushima accident, posted this about REactor 2 back in 2012:

#Fukushima Reactor 3 Explosion, Reactor 2 Core Melt, Possibly Because TEPCO Couldn’t Break the Rules to Bring Batteries to the Plant

(During WWI in Britain, the highest levels of stress and the highest rate of breakdown (PTSD) occurred amongst those manning the observation balloons (before they were issued with parachutes): there was very little they could do when under fire from enemy aircraft. Being caught in a very dangerous position and being powerless to do anything about it is a highly stressful situation (no shit, Sherlock)!

The documentary also showed data from a radioation monitoring post near the reactor, data that revealed spikes of radiation emissions hours and days after the tsunami; data that had remained UNREAD FOR THREE YEARS! When this data was given to various experts, they were able to plug in the numbers to their computer programs and understand in more detail exactly what had happened inside Reactor #2 on March 11 and after.

It was a sobering (read “terrifying”) documentary. It did not end with a comforting “but that was 3 years ago, and the situation is now under control”.  Exactly what happened to #2 reactor, and exactly what the present sitauation is there remains a mystery as the high levels of radiation prevent workers approaching. One by one, critical temperature sensors have been failing. These are key to helping TEPCO monitor the situation. See the Wikipedia entry for more details, although little has been updated since 2012. A January 2014 update can be found here. This is pretty much where the NHK documentary ended.

Chilling commentary:

“Let’s assume that the situation worsens to the point that it becomes impossible to pour water in order to cool off the reactor. For reactors #1, #3 and #4, a specialized squad prepared to bear the risks of radiation exposure can always enter the building and do the work required. But in the case of reactor #2, radioactive emissions inside most buildings are extremely high that a prepared squad is likely to perish before it accomplishes its mission.”

via ENews.


Meanwhile, the rest of us in Japan blithely go about our business. Yes, there have been grave mistakes made. Yes, there continue to be cockups and incompetencies. But the fact remains that the safety of a great many people lies in the hands of those men and women at Fukushima and many others around the country working on this huge problem. There are no doubt the usual quota of idiots, cowards and those with few principles or backbone working for TEPCO and their myriad subcontractors. Let us hope, however, there are enough people with integrity, intelligence and courage to see this disaster through to a safe conclusion.


2011.03.11 – 3rd anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake 東北大震災

Three years ago today, at 2:46 p.m, the northeast of Japan suffered a 9.0-magnitude earthquake — one of the most powerful temblors on record — forcing the evacuation of up to about 470,000 people. The earthquake triggered a huge tsunami which in turn shut off power to Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant which suffered 3 core meltdowns as a result. This disaster is called in Japanese the Tohoku Daishinsai 東北大震災.

I was visiting the Turner exhibition at the Kobe City museum (last day – April 6th) today, and at 2:46 the museum PA announced a 1-minute silence 黙とう (literally “silent prayer”) in memory of the tragedy and those who perished in it.

I know I will never forget the images I saw on the TV that day as the tsunami surged in while people tried desperately to escape in cars or on foot. (Click here for YouTube search results for “Touhoku Daishinsai 東北大震災.)

It seems just the other day Japan was remembering the Great Hanshin Earthquake (阪神神戸大震災 Hanshin Kobe Daishinsai), a 6.8 Richter-scale earthquake (7.2 on the Japanese scale) which struck at 05:46 JST on the morning of January 17, 1995, killing about 6,434 people, many by the fires which raged shortly afterwards (there was no tsunami). Five of my friends by great good fortune survived; their houses were ruined.

The major English-language news outlets of course cover the anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake and its aftermath . Here are some extracts I have selected from the Nikkei Asian Review, the Japan Times, the Mainichi Daily News and the Asahi Shimbun (English).


Robert J. Geller: Back to the future: Restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants- Nikkei Asian Review

Robert J. Geller is professor of geophysics in the Graduate School of Science of the University of Tokyo.

In the Nikkei Asian Review, he makes 5 interesting suggestions for the future of nuclear power in Japan.

via Robert J. Geller: Back to the future: Restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants- Nikkei Asian Review.

Here’s a brief summary of his points。I agree with all except #4: I want to see more evidence that nationalizing TEPCO will improve the company’s “safety culture”.

  1. First, in the three years since the Fukushima Daiichi accident we still haven’t fully learned what went wrong or how to avoid the recurrence of similar problems. Tohoku Electric Power allowed full access to an international team of engineers who conducted a walkdown (a detailed inspection) of its Onagawa plant and agreed in advance to allow publication of the conclusions, whether positive or negative (in fact they were positive). In contrast, Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco, hasn’t provided outside experts with enough access to its plants.
  2. [T]here’s no such thing as a “maximum earthquake” or “maximum tsunami” — that’s just not how the Earth works. Each plant must be built to withstand specified levels of earthquakes and tsunamis, which we call the “design basis.” As the design basis is increased, the probability of an earthquake (or tsunami) in excess of it decreases (and the costs to the plant operator, and ultimately to the consumer, increase) but no matter how large we set the design basis there will always be some non-zero probability of an event in excess of it. The ultimate decision on what risks are acceptable and what risks are not is inherently political and should not be tasked to regulators.
  3. Japan’s regulators are placing too much emphasis on the issue of so-called “active faults” near nuclear power plants, while at the same time they are not paying nearly sufficient attention to the tsunami issue, especially on the Sea of Japan coast.
  4. it seems highly desirable for the government to fully nationalize Tepco and bring in new management, as was done successfully with JAL several years ago. After breaking up the company into a sustainable part and a Fukushima clean-up part, the former could eventually be reprivatized.
  5. if the government does decide to approve the restart of one or more nuclear power plants, this should and must be done with the understanding that there is some non-zero risk of an accident. It should prepare now for emergency countermeasures, including evacuations, information release, and compensation for those affected. It should also announce these preparations now.

via Robert J. Geller: Back to the future: Restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants- Nikkei Asian Review.



TEPCO’s English page informing the public about progress on the transfer of fuel from Reactor 4’s Spent Fuel Pool (SPF) to a safer location has not been updated since Feb. 10th, but the Japanese page has (that’s 27.3%). This is a very tricky procedure fraught with risk, so I cheer every additional successfully relocated fuel-rod. Of course, that still leaves 72.7% PLUS 3 other reactors, but hey! Let’s take a “glass half full” view of this, I say.


移送燃料の種類(使用済:396体/1331体、新燃料:22体/202体) キャスクの輸送回数 19回更新日:2014年3月3日毎週月曜日に更新します(祝日の場合は翌営業日に更新します)

via 福島第一原子力発電所4号機からの燃料取り出しの進捗状況|東京電力.


#Fukushima I NPP Reactor 4 SFP Fuel Assembly Removal: 10% Done | EXSKF

Good news, so far. Ex-SKF has been keeping an eye on TEPCO’s page which reports on its most tricky operation of emptying the Spent Fuel Pool (SFP) of reactor #4 and transferring the contents to a safer location.

  • Breakdown of transferred assemblies: Spent fuel: 132 assemblies/1,331 assemblies
  • Unirradiated New fuel: 22 assemblies/ 202 assemblies

So far, no news of major or minor hiccups whatsoever, and the world hasn’t ended yet.

via #Fukushima I NPP Reactor 4 SFP Fuel Assembly Removal: 10% Done | EXSKF.

10% still leaves a long way to go, and there are of course the SFPs of the other reactors as well which will need to be emptied.

But let’s breathe a sigh of relief that this much has been completed safely, and a round of applause to all those people involved in this.  This blogger has not forgotten them.

And while I’m at it, if you are concerned about high levels of radiation on California beaches, please read

(OT) No, #Fukushima I NPP Did Not Cause High Radiation Reading on California Beach, Experts and Officials Say


The real reason Fukushima uses such dangerous radioactive materials

 I personally believe that all nations using a Uranium/Plutonium fuel cycle (that would be all of the present ones) are doing so because they want to leave open at least the capability if not the immediate and present production of nuclear weapons.

This is hardly a secret, but you don’t often read about it.

Why?  Because there are alternatives in the nuclear realm that do not present the ridiculous waste problem that the uranium fuel cycle does, especially when combined with light-water civilian power use.  These reactors inherently produce insane amounts of high-level radioactive waste that is extremely difficult to contain and dispose of safely.  This is an inherent side effect of the technology.

So why do it when there are other alternatives?  Yes, part of it I’m sure is that humans love to defer to tomorrow (at higher cost — potentially catastrophic higher cost!) what we could deal with today.

But in addition these other fuel options make it very, very hard (but not impossible) to use the same infrastructure for both weapons production and military propulsion (specifically, submarines and ships) alongside civilian energy.

And that, my friends, is in my opinon why both the United States and every other nation today uses the uranium fuel cycle for nuclear energy

via Well, Here We Go (Iran)| The market-ticker

The oldest British nuclear power plant is Sellafield, renamed Windscale. Here is the Wikipedia entry for the history of Sellafield (my emphasis):

The Sellafield site was originally occupied by ROF Sellafield, a Second World War Royal Ordnance Factory, which, with its sister factory, ROF Drigg, at Drigg, produced TNT.[nb 1] After the war, the Ministry of Supply adapted the site to produce materials for nuclear weapons, principally plutonium, and construction of the nuclear facilities commenced in 1947. The site was renamed Windscale to avoid confusion with the Springfields uranium processing factory near Preston. The two air-cooled, graphite-moderated Windscale reactors constituted the first British weapons grade plutonium-239 production facility, built for the British nuclear weapons programme of the late 1940s and the 1950s.

I’ve heard thorium mentioned as an alternative, but I know nothing about it. The Wikipedia entry says that, contrary to Market Ticker’s statement,  India uses Thorium in its nuclear power program. But it may well be the only one in the world. So that includes Japan, that has, supposedly, formally rejected nuclear weaponry (which is understandable, considering Japan’s history). That’s right. Japan has a nuclear power program that uses ridiculously dangerous radioactive materials which is just as dangerous even AFTER its use for, like, a trillion years. But that’s ok, because, we need the plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Wait. What? Who? Ahem. Who needs the nuclear-weapons plutonium? I have no idea.


The First Cask from Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool Was Safely Lowered, Transported to the Common Pool | EXSKF


It has been dubbed, perhaps somewhat hysterically, the most dangerous situation since the Cuban Missile Crisis: the task of removing the fuel rods from the Spent Fuel Pool next to Reactor 4 at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. A mistake during this operation could result in a far worse release of radiation than any that has happened so far since the March 11th earthquake and subsequent meltdowns in 2011.

Blogger EX-SKF is keeping an eye on Japanese reporting of this delicate operation, which will take at least a year, and that is just for the SFP for one reactor ((#4)! And assuming all goes well.

NHK, who apparently had a live footage of the scene at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant according to people who were watching TV, says it took the truck carrying the cask 10 minutes to go from the Reactor 4 building to the Common Pool which is 100 meters away.

via The First Cask from Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool Was Safely Lowered, Transported to the Common Pool | EXSKF.

Tepco’s Photos and Videos Library has been updated with photos of Friday’s operation (Nov. 22nd).

All those who are working on this, as well as all those who have worked on this site since March 11th, 2011, should have their efforts recognized in some way. Not all of them will want their names recorded or publicized, perhaps, but some recognition of the country’s, and possibly the Pacific region’s, gratitude, for what these largely unsung heroes have done and continue to do, is due, IMHO.

So far, there have been no hitches, fortunately. But the operation has been doing the easy part: transferring the undamaged spent fuel rods. Removing the damaged ones will be the tricky part.

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