Japan will declare “cold shutdown” for Fukushima Daiichi today. They have re-stated it as “cold shutdown conditions” after much criticism in the media that you can’t have a cold shutdown in a reactor that has exploded and melted out fuel into the reactor building. Many have seen the cold shutdown declaration as a distraction and political theater.
Ahead of this announcement the government in Japan has been coming clean on some incredibly bad news. We have seen this kind of tactic before since March where bad news then good news comes out in an orchestrated fashion. There is also speculation that these admissions are coming out as people in Japan and elsewhere are distracted with winter holidays.
TEPCO’s story is still that the tsunami caused the meltdowns and that the reactors fuel is just barely within containment. Experts and government investigators are saying this is not so. There is clear evidence that at unit 1 there was a major cooling pipe break that caused a rapid meltdown. Workers witnessed this during the quake and reactor readings confirm this. This is a major blow to the nuclear industry in Japan and worldwide as it proves reactors are prone to quake damage, specifically the GE BWR units. This set of realities is at the root of the ongoing spat at the NRC that has now resulted in Congressional hearings and calls for the chairman to resign as industry tries to avoid discussion of this major news.
The Japanese government admitted that some areas will be “difficult to return” to, specifying areas with 50 mSv/year of radiation. This is a further admission that radiation levels in some areas are significant and won’t be habitable. Back in the summer the government was still assuring people they could all go home very soon.
Also released in recent days was the admission that the government has SPEEDI radiation data for Fukushima prefecture and has had it for 9 months and chose now to release it. They hid important radiation safety data from the public when it was desperately needed during the early weeks of the accident. The radiation levels in Fukushima prefecture were 145 million times the normal background level for the half month of March alone. Levels of radiation in Fukushima were 45 times that of all the other prefectures combined in the early months of the disaster. They still have not released radiation readings for Myagi prefecture, those are expected to be bad based on what is now admitted about Fukushima.
The proposal to expand evacuations around the Fukushima nuclear plant were shelved 11 days after the first blast. The NSC urged larger evacuations on March 23rd. The government didn’t bother to do evacuations, deciding it was “too late”. Some of these areas were eventually evacuated in April. They also didn’t inform the public of this in any manner leaving many to not understand the levels of radiation they were being exposed to. Japan Times also cites problems with SPEEDI monitoring equipment and the wind direction changes, leaving questions about how SPEEDI is implemented.
It was also admitted that some evacuees received larger radiation doses than others as they tried to evacuate without any clear instructions from the government. Many residents are angry that the government did not disclose what they knew about the radiation plumes as they would have evacuated differently had they known and it would have meant lower doses.
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