Lesson: A damaged nuclear reactor is a danger forever. Is there any such thing as a nuclear reactor that’s NOT damages?
TOKYO — The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant stood ready Thursday to inject boric acid into one of its most heavily damaged reactors after it found steam emanating from the reactor building. The preventive measure would stave off criticality, or an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, in the reactor’s damaged core.
The incident has brought the Fukushima plant’s vulnerable state into sharp relief, more than two years after its reactors suffered multiple meltdowns when its cooling systems were overwhelmed by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.
via Steam Detected at Damaged Fukushima Reactor – NYTimes.com.
The birth on July 5 of the zoo’s first baby panda for 24 years and its progress during its first few days of life attracted broad news coverage in Japan.
National broadcaster NHK ran breaking news headlines over its normal programming to announce the birth, and death, of the cub, while newspapers gave daily updates on the cub’s milk intake and published front-page photos of Shin Shin cradling the pinkish newborn — weighing a mere 133 grams at birth.
Could it be that the Japanese, caught in the awful resonance of Fukushima, had pinned their hopes on this baby panda? Is the future that fragile?
via Tokyo’s Newborn Baby Panda Dies – Japan Real Time – WSJ.
Emperor Akihito expressed mild skepticism about nuclear power in a speech on the anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Evening TV news and newspaper accounts failed to mention these remarks. Many Japanese fear the fix is on.
While [the Emperor's] statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a “formidable task” yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government’s official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the “formidable task” is “overcome.” This, again, contradicts the government’s position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations.
via Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor’s Anti-Nuclear Speech – Michael McAteer – International – The Atlantic.
The Japanese government has been incompetent in response to Fukushima and the Japanese people have begun organizing and protesting,
…several community-based initiatives, protests and rallies have sprung up in the past year. Volunteers have set up a popular website where users crowd-source local radiation levels. Mothers are testing school lunches for radiation. And perhaps in a nod to the Occupy movement, antinuclear activists have camped out in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo for more than four months and refused orders to leave. Citizens are also becoming increasingly vocal toward public officials.
“You see people yelling and interrupting these bureaucrats, which I’ve never seen at public meetings,” said Aldrich. “What I’ve been seeing from Fukushima and elsewhere is ‘rituals of dissent’ — local people not willing to be talked down to, not willing to be ignored.”
via Activists challenge Japan’s “nuclear village” – Nuclear Power – Salon.com.
From inspectors who abandoned the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as it succumbed to disaster to a delay in disclosing radiation leaks, Japan’s response to the nuclear accident caused by the March tsunami fell tragically short, a government-appointed investigative panel said on Monday….
The panel attacked the use of the term “soteigai,” which translates to “unforeseen,” by plant and government officials to describe the unprecedented scale of the disaster and to explain why they were unable to stop it. Running a nuclear power plant required officials to foresee the unforeseen, said the panel’s chairman, Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus in engineering at the University of Tokyo.
“There was a lot of talk of soteigai, but that only bred perceptions among the public that officials were shirking their responsibilities,” Mr. Hatamura said.
via Report Condemns Japan’s Response to Nuclear Accident – NYTimes.com.
Governments regulate risky industrial systems such as nuclear power plants in hopes of making them less risky, and a variety of formal and informal warning systems can help society avoid catastrophe. Governments, businesses, and citizens respond when disaster occurs. But recent history is rife with major disasters accompanied by failed regulation, ignored warnings, inept disaster response, and commonplace human error. Furthermore, despite the best attempts to forestall them, “normal” accidents will inevitably occur in the complex, tightly coupled systems of modern society, resulting in the kind of unpredictable, cascading disaster seen at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Government and business can always do more to prevent serious accidents through regulation, design, training, and mindfulness. Even so, some complex systems with catastrophic potential are just too dangerous to exist, because they cannot be made safe, regardless of human effort.
via Fukushima and the inevitability of accidents | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
As we head into the holiday season remember nuclear radiation, the gift that keeps on giving:
While no one died in the nuclear accident, the environmental and human costs were clear during the drive to the plant through the 12-mile evacuation zone.
Untended plants outside an abandoned florist were withered, and dead. Crows had taken over a gas station. The dosimeters of the journalists on the bus buzzed constantly, recording levels that ticked up with each passing mile: 0.7 microsieverts in Naraha, at the edge of the evacuation zone, 1.5 at Tomioka, where Bavarian-style gingerbread houses had served as the welcome center for Fukushima Daiichi. It was there that Japanese visitors to the site were told a myth perpetuated over decades in Japan: that nuclear power is absolutely safe.
The level recorded just outside the center Saturday was 13 times the recommended maximum annual dosage for civilians.
At the plant, journalists, outfitted in full contamination suits, were kept aboard the bus in recognition of the much higher radiation levels there.
via Devastation at Japan Site, Seen Up Close – NYTimes.com.