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Archive for the ‘Japan Atomic Energy Agency’ Category

Japan Nuclear Emergency – Update 28 March

Posted by feww on March 28, 2011

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Japan’s nuclear watchdog has reported that the level of radiation detected  near reactor 2 was 1,000 millisieverts an hour (100,000 millirems per hour).

Japan’s nuclear safety officials have since confirmed that the radiation inside Reactor 2 was caused by a partial meltdown of fuel rods.

TEPCO says the radiation in Reactor 2, which was earlier reported at 10 million times the normal, was actually 100,000 the operating level.

Meanwhile, Japan’s nuclear safety agency has dismissed as unreliable a report by Greenpeace that radiation levels of up to 10 microsieverts per hour had been detected 40 km (25 miles) NW of the nuclear plant.

Fukushima NPP. Workers are seen outside the heavily damaged Reactor 4 on March 22, 2011. Photo by TEPCO, via Reuters.

What is a lethal dose of radiation from a single Exposure?

Studies of the 1945 atomic bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki show that 100 percent of victims whose bodies were exposed to 600,000 millirems (6,000 mSv) died from radiation. About 50 percent of victims who received  450,000 millirems (4,500 mSv) of radiation also died.

(Note: Rem is a unit of ionizing radiation equal to the amount that produces the same damage to humans as one roentgen of high-voltage x-rays.  Source: MIT)

1 rem = 10 mSv  (1 Sv = 100 rem)

Background Radiation in millirems per year (mrem/yr)

  • Average background radiation (US):  300
  • Higher altitudes (eg. Denver): 400

“Safe Levels” of Radiation (U.S.)

Limits above natural background radiation levels (average 300 millirems per year) and medical radiation:

  • Occupation Limit: Maximum of 5,000  (the limit for a worker using radiation)
  • Average Natural Background: 300

[Note: Lifetime cumulative exposure should be limited to a person’s age multiplied by 1,000 millirems, e.g., a 70-year-old person, 70,000 millirems.]


  • Max single dose for an adult: 3,000
  • Annual total dose: 5,000

Under 18

  • Max single dose for a person aged under 18 years: 300 millirems (whole body equivalent)
  • Annual total exposure: 500

Fetal Exposure

  • Maximum limit for fetal exposure during gestation period:  50 millirems per month above background levels


  • Single Chest X-ray (the whole body equivalent): 2 millirem

Air Travel

  • Coast-to-coast US round trip flight: 12 millirems

Megaquake and Tsunami Death Toll

The latest figures released by the authorities put the number of dead at just over 11,000, with about 17,400 people still listed as missing.

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Japan’s Nuclear Crisis: Worst of its Triple Disasters

Posted by feww on March 27, 2011

Submitted by a reader, with additional materials added by FIRE-EARTH

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the Third of Japan’s Triple Disasters, Could Prove to Be its Worst

Potentially deadly levels of radiation have been detected in water at the earthquake-and-tsunami-stricken Fukushima NPP.

Fukushima NPP 1. (L-R) Reactors 1 to 4. Image dated March 18, 2011. Credit: Digital Globe.

The amount of radioactive iodine detected in water at Reactor 2 was more than 1,000 millisieverts an hour, or 10 million times higher than when reactor operates normally, said the plant operator TEPCO.

The IAEA boss, Yukiya Amano, has warned that the nuclear crisis could continue for many weeks, even months. “This is a very serious accident by all standards,” NY Times quoted him as saying.

Radioactivity in seawater near the plant jumped to 1,850 times the normal up from 1,250 on Saturday, said Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Fukushima Disaster: Will it Become Much Worse than Chernobyl?

The Chernobyl nuclear plant reactor was destroyed when two explosions blew away its roof exposing the core on April 26, 1986. A large plume of radioactive materials escaped into the atmosphere covering large regions in the former Soviet Union, Europe and across much of the Northern Hemisphere.

Ukrainian city of Chernobyl had managed to live for 793 years… that is until the Chernobyl nuclear power plant underwent a core meltdown on April 26, 1986 at about 1:00am local time. This image was taken by authorities in the former Soviet Union

Birth defects and cancer were the norm for many years following the Chernobyl disaster.  By the time  residents of Pripyat, a town located near the plant, were ordered to evacuate, about two days after the Chernobyl core meltdown had occurred, many had already been exposed to varying doses of radiation poisoning.

Fukushima NPP is said to contain about 4,277 tons of nuclear fuel, about 24 times as much as Chernobyl (~ 180 tons).

“The Fukushima Dai-ichi site has a considerable number of fuel rods on hand, according to information provided Thursday by Toyko Electric Power Co., which owns the atomic complex: There are 3,400 tons of fuel in seven spent fuel pools within the six-reactor plant, including one joint pool storing very old fuel from units 3 and 4. There are 877 tons in five of the reactor cores. Officials have said that the fuel in Unit 4’s reactor vessel was transferred to its spent fuel pool when the unit was temporarily shut in November.” AP reported.

The Incident: A meltdown of the reactor’s core in the Chernobyl power plant killed thirty people in 1986. About 135,000 people were evacuated. It is believed that about one hundred times more radiation was released in the accident than by the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Legacy: More than 4000 cases of thyroid cancer were diagnosed among children and adolescents between 1992 to 2002 in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Victims under 14 years were most severely affected by the elevated concentrations of radioiodine found in milk.

Incidents of skin lesions, respiratory ailments, infertility and birth defects were readily found among the more than five million people who inhabit the affected areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine for many years following the accident.

The Poisoned land. Up to 5 million people continue to live on radioactive contaminated land. About 85% of the children who live in contaminated areas of Belarus today are ill, a near 6-fold increase compared to the time before the explosion (15%), according to The Belarusian National Academy of Sciences.

Disputed Facts: The above facts, however, have been disputed by a number of individuals including the author of a recent WHO report, and the retired “nukophile” British academic, James Lovelack. Local and international experts, however, have dismissed the WHO report findings. A UN report released in 2005 estimated the number of victims at just 4,000. Their figure is hotly disputed  by NGOs and independent experts.

“A report by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko which appeared in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science showed that by 2004, there were 985,000 additional deaths worldwide caused by the nuclear disaster, including 212,000 of them within Western Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.”

Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern Hemisphere

Consequences of the Catastrophe. Authors  Alexey Yablokov (Center for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow), Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko ( Institute of Radiation Safety, Minsk, Belarus) studies about 5,000 reports and scientific  papers mostly published in Slavic languages and compiled their finding in the  book “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,” which was published last year on the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl reactor core meltdown.

“For the past 23 years, it has been clear that there is a danger greater than nuclear weapons concealed within nuclear power. Emissions from this one reactor exceeded a hundred-fold the radioactive contamination of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” They wrote.

“No citizen of any country can be assured that he or she can be protected from radioactive contamination. One nuclear reactor can pollute half the globe,” the authors said. “Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern Hemisphere.”

According to the book, a total of about 830,000 people, referred to as the “liquidators,” were responsible for various emergency works at the Chernobyl site including fire extinguishing, decontamination and cleanup.

The authors say between 112,000 and 125,000 of the  liquidators had died by 2005.  The authors also estimate that between 1986 and 2004 some 985,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl fallout {2011 estimates are well over a million deaths.]

“Official discussions from the International Atomic Energy Agency and associated United Nations’ agencies (e.g. the Chernobyl Forum reports) have largely downplayed or ignored many of the findings reported in the Eastern European scientific literature and consequently have erred by not including these assessments.” The authors said last year.

Chernobyl and Other Nuclear Stats

  • More than 95% of the radioactive material (180 metric tons with a radioactivity of about 18 million curies) still remains inside the Chernobyl reactor.
  • The  core meltdown at Chernobyl was said to have released radiation estimated at 50 million curies. Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations said in 1995 that the meltdown had released about 140 million curies. [Researchers Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko say the radiation released from Chernobyl may have been up to 10 billion curies. In comparison, the Hiroshima bomb released about 3 million curies.]
  • Immediately after the accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness, and 31 died within the first 90 days of the disaster.
  • About 135,000 people were evacuated from the area surrounding the plant, including 50,000 from the town of Pripyat.
  • The Academy’s  estimate for the number of casualties  are more than 90,000 deaths and more than a quarter of a million cancer cases.
  • The Ukrainian National Commission for Radiation Protection calculates the number of radiation casualties at half a million  deaths so far.
  • In a book published by the New York Academy of Sciences last year on the 24th anniversary of the reactor core meltdown, the researchers maintain that about one million people have died from exposure to radiation released by the Chernobyl reactor so far [as of 2010.]
  • “In the former Soviet Union at least 9 million people have been effected by the accident; 2.5 million in Belarus; 3.5 million in Ukraine; and 3 million in Russia. In total over 160 000 Km2 are contaminated in the three republics.” source
  • Some 441 commercial nuclear power reactors are  operating in 31 countries ( total capacity of 376 gigawatts) each of which is potentially as lethal as Chernobyl, if not worse. [This item, updated here, was written before the Fukushima nuclear disaster began unfolding.]
  • An estimated 56 countries operate more than 250 research reactors.
  • At least 220 nuclear reactors power military ships and submarines.

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Meltdown Confirmed at Fukushima Nuke Power Reactors

Posted by feww on March 12, 2011



Massive Explosion at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, Core Meltdown Occurring: Scientists

The explosion tore down the walls of a unit within the Fukushima power plant Saturday as a large plume of smoke poured out.  Several workers were reported injured, and Japanese officials said a reactor core meltdown was likely to occur.

Independent scientists have since confirmed that, based on the available evidence, reactor core meltdown must be occurring.

The pressure in the reactor had built up to more than twice the normal level, after the shutdown of cooling systems caused by the Sendai Mega Quake and its ensuing Tsunami. The Plant is now venting “radioactive vapors,”  Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in a statement. Radioactive iodine and caesium has been detected outside the No. 1 one reactor of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 1 plant, the agency said, adding that the uranium fuel rods inside the reactor may have begun melting.

Radioactive steam has been allowed to escape from a number of the reactors at the two Fukushima plants  in order to relieve the huge pressure that has built up inside the cores.

Tens of thousands of people living within the 20-km radius of the No. 1 plant and 10-km radius of No.2 plant  have now been evacuated.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Prime Minister has declared a state of emergency at the two Fukushima nuclear power plants.

As many as 300 people have received varying degrees of radiation, including 60 students at high school in Fukushima located about 3.5km from Plant No. 1, who were waiting to be evacuated.

The reactor core meltdown is feared to be “much worse” than the Three-Mile Island incident.


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Japan’s Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor

Posted by feww on February 3, 2009

A pipe dream turned into a nightmare

The following Editorial by Japan’s Asahi Newspaper is about the fate of Monju, a prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor located in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, which remains idle for more than 13 years. Monju was shut down after dangerous sodium coolant leaked from its cooling system in December 1995.

There’s a false [often fatal] tendency among the pronuclear lot to assume that the nuclear industry is run by responsible people. According to the following Editorial and other reports, the now-defunct corporation that managed Monju prior to its 1995 leak had falsified reports and systematically concealed important information about the extent and seriousness of the problem.

Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which took over Donen’s operations has also been criticized by the IEA and “sharply rebuked” by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency for their failure to carry out maintenance and do repair work.

The cost of building and maintaing Monju will soon exceed ¥1trillion [about $11.2billion at the current exchange rate.]

The Editorial poses a pertinent question:

Is it really necessary to reactivate Monju despite all these concerns?

EDITORIAL: Monju test reactor

Monju, the prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, remains idle with little hope of resuming operations any time soon. It has been shut since dangerous sodium coolant leaked in December 1995.

Last autumn, holes caused by corrosion were found in an outdoor ventilation duct. This delayed a planned test to verify the safety of the plant, making it difficult for the operator, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), to achieve its target of reactivating the reactor in February. That’s the agency’s explanation for the fourth postponement of its plan to reopen the experimental reactor.

It is said that the agency aims to reactivate Monju in December, but the agency has yet to announce a timeframe. This is a good opportunity to take a fresh look at the worries and doubts that plague the Monju project.

What is most troubling is the agency’s poor track record concerning safety awareness and quality control.

After the sodium leak accident, the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (Donen), the now-defunct organization that managed Monju back then, was harshly criticized for falsifying reports and concealing information. The JAEA, which has taken over Donen’s operations, is supposed to have made an all-out effort to fix the problems that arose from the way Monju was previously managed.

When a sodium leak detector sounded a false alarm last spring, however, the agency failed to swiftly notify the local governments and other parties concerned. With regard to the exhaust duct, the agency neglected to carry out maintenance and repair work for so long that the corrosion went unchecked. After a special safety inspection into the JAEA last year, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, an arm of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, sharply rebuked the entity. It wouldn’t take much to torpedo what remains of public confidence in the Monju project. However, there is apparently no sense of crisis within the JAEA.

There have been few cases at home or abroad where a nuclear power facility has been reactivated after remaining dormant for so long. Naturally, there are concerns that new problems with the facility may have emerged during the prolonged suspension of operations.

Is it really necessary to reactivate Monju despite all these concerns? The wisdom of continuing the project is now being called into question. Fast-breeder reactors, which produce more nuclear fuel than they consume, have been presented by promoters as “dream reactors.” This is the core technology for the government’s plan to establish a nuclear fuel cycle that relies on reprocessed spent nuclear fuel. The government aims to build a demonstration reactor around 2025 and put commercial reactors into operation around 2050.

The construction of Monju, designed as a test facility to confirm the viability of the technology, began in 1985. In addition to the construction cost of 590 billion yen, an additional 17.9 billion yen has been spent on improving the prototype reactor since the 1995 accident. Even though it is out of operation, Monju still costs the government an average 9.8 billion yen a year. The annual operation cost after restarting operations has been estimated at between 15 billion and 18 billion yen.

It is not clear what specific benefits would be gained from such a huge expense outlay.

A new active fault has been discovered in areas around the Monju site, causing concern about the facility’s ability to withstand an earthquake. The government cannot win public support for the Monju project by merely claiming that this important nuclear policy must be promoted.

The government has argued that fast-breeder reactors, which convert non-fissionable uranium in the fuel to fissionable plutonium, are crucial for resource-poor Japan’s future energy needs. But it is far from clear whether the Monju project will really lead to a practical use of the technology. It is probably time for the government to reconsider its road map to developing fast-breeder reactors.

Copyright The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 2(IHT/Asahi: February 3,2009)

Posted in fissionable plutonium, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, non-fissionable uranium, nuclear industry, spent nuclear fuel | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »