Tuesday, August 27, 2013

RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Says the Leak May Have Started A Month Ago after Examining Beta-Radiation Exposure of a Worker

I see. TEPCO may not have a water gauge in every 1,000-tonne tank assembled from metal sheets, rivets and rubber packing, but TEPCO has workers as a radiation gauge.

I first learned of this information via the tweets (here's one from @macomelo) from people who either regularly attend TEPCO's press conference or watch the live cast of the press conference.

They said:

  • TEPCO knew that the beta radiation exposure of workers had started to rise in July.

  • So, TEPCO now thinks the contaminated RO waste water may have been leaking since July.

I found Asahi Shinbun article (8/27/2013) which has more details:

  • The information was disclosed by TEPCO at a meeting of NRA's Working Group to deal with contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant held in the evening of August 27, 2013.

  • TEPCO examined the level of beta radiation exposure of a worker who was working at a radio relay station located at about 20 meters from the RO waste tank that leaked, and found that the beta radiation exposure had started to increase in mid July.

  • The worker worked at the radio relay station for about 2.5 hours per day.

  • TEPCO will examine the data for the previous months.

  • TEPCO speculates that it was initially a minute leak but the amount gradually increased. There have been occasional rainfalls since mid July with 30 milliliter per day precipitation, and the leaked waste water was spread and absorbed in the soil with the rainfalls.

  • NRA instructed TEPCO to conduct survey to determine the cause of the leak, and to dig observation wells in the areas around the leak to determine the spread of radioactive materials.

Many say "TEPCO lied again". I'm more inclined to say TEPCO couldn't connect the dots, as I do not believe any more that TEPCO is smart enough to come up with a lie.

(Or TEPCO dared not connect the dots because it didn't want to know.)

At Nuclear Regulatory Authority's site, there is a TEPCO document that contains charts that plot beta radiation exposure of workers who do the tank patrol, and of the worker who worked at the radio relay station (English labels are by me):

Location of the radio relay station (in red square) and the tank that leaked (No.5 in red circle, notation is mine):

The area where the relay station is located has been found with high beta radiation, up to 95.55 millisieverts/hour at 70-micrometer equivalent dose (to express the effect on skin and the crystalline lens (of the eye)).

TEPCO is being heavily criticized for "skimping" on the tank patrol by not assigning enough workers for the patrol and not doing the patrol long enough. After looking at the spikes August 19 in beta radiation exposure for workers who were doing the "hasty" patrol, I'm not inclined to blame TEPCO that much.

Maybe Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry and his subordinates can make themselves useful and show TEPCO a proper way by example to carefully examine the tanks daily that contain highly radioactive waste water.

Monday, August 26, 2013

METI Blames TEPCO and Workers for Contaminated Water Leak at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant, Says They Are Not Working Hard Enough

According to Minister Toshmitsu Motegi, former McKinsey consultant who doesn't look the part, leaks of contaminated water happening recently at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant are not caused by faulty engineering or lack of money, but by TEPCO and the workers at the plant not working hard enough.

I guess lazy workers caused the land to sink, then.

Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is sustained (barely, but nonetheless) by workers from TEPCO and affiliate companies, some of whom are paid as little as $100 a day to work in a highly contaminated environment.

In addition to radiation exposure, they get the blame.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (8/26/2013):


Minister of Economy to order TEPCO to set up a team dedicated to contaminated water issues


As problems of contaminated water happen one after another at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is set to demand TEPCO on August 26 to set up a team dedicated to devising countermeasures against contaminated water.


Minister Motegi will visit Fukushima I Nuke Plant in the afternoon on August 26 and give instructions to TEPCO.


About the leak of 300 tonnes of contaminated water from a storage tank at the plant, Ministry of Economy thinks it was caused more by human errors on the part of TEPCO, such as insufficient daily inspections. The Ministry points out, "It's a matter of ability [of the workers] to respond at the plant, rather than technology or money." The Ministry plans to strengthen the oversight on TEPCO.


It is said that experts in contaminated water have little say within TEPCO. The Ministry is considering having general contractors with deep knowledge of how to deal with contaminated water in the team.

What kind of joke is this? General contractors with deep knowledge of how to deal with contaminated water?

It was one of those knowledgeable general contractors or two who drove down the sheet piles in the artificial soil and in the port, destabilizing the underground trenches and probably causing the release of contaminated water in the surrounding soil. It was one of those knowledgeable general contractors who built the concrete platform for the RO waste tanks that weigh 1,000 tonnes a piece when full. The platform cracked and sank.

Yet another general contractor did the injection of waterglass along the embankment made of artificial soil, which caused the groundwater to rise and flow over the underground waterglass wall.

And "oversight" from the very ministry whose lack of knowledge and initiative as the nuclear regulatory authority (NISA was under this ministry) after the accident contributed greatly to the haphazard, patchwork countermeasures at the plant? (Approving TEPCO's plan to store the RO waste water in the in-the-ground ponds comes to mind.)

Motegi also says the national government (i.e. his Ministry, in particular Agency of Natural Resources and Energy whose official talked about his "assumption" of "300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater" leak) will be in charge.

As if it's a good thing.

(OT) Russia's Foreign Minister: Syria Is Headed for Western Strike, "US and Allies on a Slippery Slope"

(UPDATE) UK's Guardian says warplanes are gathering in the UK base in Cyprus, and the UN inspection team was attacked in Syria.


From Bloomberg News (8/26/2013):

The U.S. and its allies are on a “slippery slope” to military intervention in Syria that will have “extremely dangerous” consequences for the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Any military intervention without UN Security Council approval would be “a gross violation of international law,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow today. He ruled out a Russian military response.

World leaders from Washington to Istanbul called for action to punish Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for what they said was his use of chemical weapons as United Nations inspectors attempted to probe the allegations. Some Syrian opposition groups say 1,300 people were killed in the Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

“Western leaders are making statements that indicate that they won’t wait for the results of this commission, they have already decided everything,” Lavrov said. “It’s a very dangerous slippery slope that our Western partners have gone on before. I hope common sense prevails.”

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain is convinced Assad was behind the Aug. 21 attack and that there was agreement with the U.S. and France on the need to respond. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country will join a “coalition” against Syria if the UN fails to act.

The accusations are “nonsense,” Assad said in an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia published today.

“First they make an accusation and only then search for evidence,” he said.

‘Past Mistakes’

Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council which has blocked all resolutions condemning its Soviet-era ally Syria, yesterday urged the U.S. not to “repeat past mistakes” like the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq. The U.S. and its allies attacked Iraq without UN approval after Russia, France and Germany refused to endorse the military operation to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Syria with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron by telephone today, according to a statement on the Kremlin’s website.

U.S. statements expressing readiness for involvement in Syria’s more than two-year conflict have set off “deep alarm” in Russia, Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation yesterday, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on its website.

There are “multiple indications” that the Syrian opposition staged the attack to incriminate Assad’s government, Lavrov said.

(Full article at the link)

Back in the days right before the US-led attack on Iraq after a group of mostly Saudi nationals slammed highjacked jets into the World Trade Center buildings, the Bush administration sent Colin Powell to the UN ("weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq) and Condoleezza Rice to the media (you don't want to see "mushroom cloud") to flat-out lie. Those were the good old days when enough people bought their lies.

Meanwhile, the US stock market ended near the day's low, rapidly (in about 8 minutes) reversing a modest gain after Secretary of State John Kerry stopped speaking:

What jumped was gold, without waiting for the drop in the stock market:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Russia Offers Help to TEPCO to Clean Up #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

I remember Russia invited fishermen in Fukushima to relocate to Russian Siberia right after the start of the nuclear accident in March 2011 and to fish there, instead of trying (in vain) to make a living off the water being contaminated with radioactive materials from the plant. I don't think anyone took up the offer.

According to Bloomberg News article, Russia reiterated the offer to help, just as they had been ready in 2011 if asked by the Japanese government. The request for help never went to Russia under the DPJ administrations under Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda.

For that matter, they never requested any help from any country, and they (practically) declined help when offered. TEPCO privately asked the US military for help in the first weeks of the accident, and was reportedly severely scolded by the Kan administration. The only incident I know of in which a foreign help (the US military) was accepted was to extinguish fire that broke out in Reactor 4 in March 2011.

(I said "practically" above, as what they did was to do the Sir Humphrey - "Thank you, we will be planning to form a committee to study whether it is feasible to consider accepting your offer, and we will get back to you as soon as reasonably possible, under the circumstance, if you know what we mean.".)

Russian officials say things have started to change under the new LDP administration.

From Bloomberg News (8/25/2013; emphasis is mine):

Russia Offers to Help Clean Up Fukushima as Tepco Calls for Help
By Yuriy Humber & Jacob Adelman - Aug 25, 2013 3:33 PM PT

Russia repeated an offer first made two years ago to help Japan clean-up its accident-ravaged Fukushima nuclear station, welcoming Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s decision to seek outside help.

As Tokyo Electric pumps thousands of metric tons of water through the wrecked Fukushima station to cool its melted cores, the tainted run-off was found to be leaking into groundwater and the ocean. The approach to cooling and decommissioning the station will need to change and include technologies developed outside of Japan if the clean-up is to succeed, said Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom, the state-owned Russian nuclear utility.

“In our globalized nuclear industry we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Asmolov said. Since Japan’s new government took over in December, talks on cooperating between the two countries on the Fukushima clean-up have turned “positive” and Russia is ready to offer its assistance, he said by phone from Moscow last week.

After 29 months of trying to contain radiation from Fukushima’s molten atomic cores, Tokyo Electric said last week it will reach out for international expertise in handling the crisis. The water leaks alone have so far sent more than 100 times the annual norms of radioactive elements into the ocean, raising concern it will enter the food chain through fish.

‘Last to Realize’

The latest leak of 300 metric tons of irradiated water prompted Japan’s nuclear regulator to label the incident “serious” and question Tokyo Electric’s ability to deal with the crisis, echoing comments made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier this month. Zengo Aizawa, a vice president at Tepco, as the Tokyo-based utility is known, made the call for help at a press briefing in Japan’s capital on Aug. 21.

“It was clear for a long time that Tepco was not adequately coping with the situation,” Asmolov said. “It looks like Tepco management were the last to realize this,” he said. “Japan has the technologies to do this, but they lacked a system to deal with this kind of situation.”

The Fukushima accident of March 2011 is the world’s biggest nuclear disaster since the Soviet Union faced the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986.

So far, Tokyo’s solution to cooling melted nuclear rods at Fukushima that otherwise could overheat into criticality, or a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction, has been to pour water over them. That’s left more than 330,000 tons of irradiated water in storage tanks at the site so far. The water is treated to remove some of the cesium particles in it, which in turn leaves behind contaminated filters.

...The idea of pumping water for cooling was never going to be anything but a “machine for generating radioactive water,” Asmolov said. Other more complex methods such as the use of special absorbents like thermoxide to clean contaminated water and the introduction of air cooling should be used, he said.

Russia’s nuclear company, Rosatom, of which Rosenergoatom is a unit, sent Japan a 5 kilogram (11 pound) sample of an absorbent that could be used at Fukushima almost three years ago, Asmolov said. It also formed working groups ready to help Japan on health effect assessment, decontamination, and fuel management, among others, Asmolov said. The assistance was never used, he said.

“Since the arrival of the new Japanese government, the attitude’s changed,” he said. “So far the talks have been on a diplomatic level, but they are much more positive. And we remain open to working together on this issue. To follow developments I monitor Fukushima news every morning.”

Tap Experts

Japan can tap experts in France and the U.S. as well as Russia to help it tackle the situation at Fukushima, he said.

The U.S.’s long history with atomic research, including the nuclear weapons site at the Hanford Engineer Works in Washington state, has provided expertise in cleaning up contaminated sites, said Kathryn Higley, who heads the nuclear engineering and radiation health physics department at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“We have individuals that are working on groundwater contamination and using technology and developing new technologies to clean up strontium in groundwater, for example, at the Hanford site,” she said. “So there are individuals around the world that have been doing this and certainly they would be more than willing to help in this process.”

France’s Areva SA (AREVA) had designed a radiation filtration system that was used for several months at the Fukushima site as temporary cover before Tepco installed its own facilities. Japanese delegations have also visited U.S. nuclear waste sites together with CH2M Hill Cos., an engineering company based in Englewood, Colorado.

This month a group of 17 Japanese companies including Toshiba Corp. (6502) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) formed an association, called International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, to support Tepco’s clean-up efforts.

(Full article at the link)

I don't think much at all about the industry association mentioned in the last paragraph above. It has been set up by the administrative guidance from Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (the one who "assumed" 300-tonne groundwater "leak"), with nuclear and radiation scientists and experts on the panel, which includes scientists like Professor Sekimoto of Tokyo University.

I remember Professor Sekimoto very well, who appeared on NHK non-stop right after it was apparent that there was something wrong at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. To the jittery nation, he spoke calmly and nonchalantly that the whole thing was no big deal, even after the explosion that blew off the top floor of Reactor 1.

The METI consortium looks like an effort to defend the turf, so to speak, and probably to prevent, in an unofficial way, TEPCO from directly seeking help.

Big money at stake in decommissioning the plant, although I doubt that the motive is all about money. It may be a smart move for Prime Minister Abe if he accepts the offer.

Rosatom by the way is the one who's building a floating nuclear power plant.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: RO Waste Water Tank That Leaked Had Been Moved from Another Area After Ground Sank

(UPDATE 8/25/2013) The layer beneath the concrete platform turned out to be not the amended soil with cement mixed in but concrete bits. Maybe that's where the RO waste water that leaked are sitting, at least part of it. The H4 area is about 8,000 square meters.


That was what TEPCO's ad hoc press conference on August 24 was about, it seems.

Three tanks including the one that is leaking were originally in the H1 area, closer to the in-the-ground water storage ponds. But when TEPCO conducted the test of the tanks by filling them with water in July 2011, it caused the land subsidence of about 20 centimeters which cracked the concrete platform.

The tanks were then disassembled, moved to the H4 area, and reassembled in September 2011, tested and came online in October 2011.

These three tanks were of different height from other tanks used for RO waste water, and were made by a different manufacturer (unnamed).

TEPCO says it was unaware that the tank No.5 in H4 area, and two others in the same area, had been disassembled, moved and reassembled.

According to the handout at the press conference on August 24, 2013,

H1 No.3 tank became H4 No.10 tank.
H1 No.4 tank became H4 No.5 tank (that is leaking).
H1 No.8 tank became H4 No.3 tank.

H4 No.5 tank has been emptied, and TEPCO is moving water from the other two tanks as precaution.

Photos of the cracked and sunk concrete platform of the H1 area, from July 2011 right after the first Reverse Osmosis Apparatus went online on 6/17/2011 (higher-capacity RO Apparatus by Hitachi didn't come on line until 8/7/2013):

(From TEPCO's Photos and Videos Library, 8/24/2013)

After the crack happened, the tanks were disassembled, and moved to the H4 area and reassembled after the soil was amended in the H4 area.

As I showed the diagram of the tank in my previous post, the bottom panels are SS400 with 16-millimeter thickness, riveted together.

TEPCO didn't find any leak on the visible part of the tank, which leaves only one possible leak location: the bottom. TEPCO's handout for the press on August 23, 2013 admits as much (English labels and added explanation are by me):

Photos of the bottom of No.5 tank after the water was emptied (from TEPCO's Photos and Videos Library 8/24/2013):

Meanwhile, Mainichi Shinbun interviewed the chairman of a TEPCO subcontractor in Iwaki City in Fukushima who Mainichi claims is knowledgeable about how the contract for the tanks was made between TEPCO and the general contractor whom this chairman knows well.

According to the chairman, it was just as "Sunny" said in his tweet (see my previous post): "Bad but Cheap", and quick.

From Mainichi Shinbun (8/25/2013; part):


The chairman of a TEPCO affiliate company (in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture) which participate in the decommissioning work said to Mainichi Shinbun, "Tanks were made on short construction period and as economically as possible. They were not made to last a long time."


From what the chairman heard from TEPCO managers and the general contractor involved in the project, the tanks including the one that leaked this time had to be installed in a short time frame, and due to TEPCO's financial situation they were made as economically as possible. The tanks were assembled, and it was pointed out that hot summer heat may quicken the deterioration of bolts and packing [gasket] used to prevent leaks.


The chairman said, "They are out in the open in direct sunlight. I assume the temperature of the contaminated water inside the tanks are higher than the air temperature. Given how they were built, the leak is not surprising. As far as the site managers (workers) are concerned, the situation [leak] has been factored in. TEPCO's engineering staff at the plant were concerned."

Independent journalist Ryuichi Kino has repeatedly asked TEPCO in the press conference at every opportunity, "Are these tanks safe? Are you going to replace them with more secure, welded tanks?" He first asked the question when the first of these tanks (smaller, square tanks that were also assembled from steel sheets), which were to be used to store the water treated by Areva's co-precipitation system and Kurion's cesium absorption tower (and that was in June 2011). Kino kept asking the question for the next two-plus years, and TEPCO's answer at the press conference was always "We plan to continue to use them, we have countermeasures (like concrete platform and dam, sand bags, patrol by the workers) in place."

It is understandable that TEPCO needed something quick in the early months of the accident. But not to have replaced the quick fix with more permanent solution is no excuse. If money was really the (only) issue, the company should have made that abundantly clear to the largest shareholder (the national government) a long time ago and explored the ways to raise enough money.

But that's too much to ask from a company who couldn't speak up against the meddling Kan administration in the early days of the accident, couldn't transport the necessary batteries without proper permit on the highway, and put all the burden of dealing with the government on the plant manager who was in the middle of fighting triple core melts.