Fukushima & Nuclear News Roundup April 28, 2012

US NUCLEAR NEWS

Inspector General Blasts Radnet Failure During Fukushima
The U.S. Office of the Inspector General to conclude that the EPA’s Radnet system is “vulnerable” and managed with less urgency and priority than it deserves. Broken monitors, parts shortages, “relaxed quality controls” and a lack of volunteer operators left 25 of the EPA’s 124 stationary monitors out of service for an average of 130 days at the beginning of the Fukushima disaster.”   “If RadNet is not managed as a high-priority program, EPA may not have the needed data before, during, and after a critical event such as the Japan nuclear incident. Such data are crucial to determine levels of airborne radioactivity that may negatively affect public health and the environment.”  Radnet had tons of problems during the early weeks of the disaster with many stations not working or having the beta readings abruptly shut off. Then the entire heightened monitoring was abruptly shut down only weeks after the disaster started. There were promises of going back to routine quarterly testing of milk, water and some other substances but those tests never materialized on EPA’s website. In looking we found huge gaps in routine reporting data where many mandated types of monitoring had not been done for months sometimes years. Radnet is currently being maintained by local volunteers and a small company that obtained a no bid contract to maintain the monitoring stations. We previously cited where the NRC stopped using EPA Radnet data and turned to the NEI (nuclear industry lobbyist group) and nuclear power plant owners for US radiation data. Of course that data was never shared with the public. Radnet is considered critical infrastructure by US Homeland Security.

Nuclear Watchdog Groups Take Legal Intervention On Lacking Post-Fukushima US Safety
Beyond Nuclear and Pilgrim Watch have taken legal action and requested a public hearing on the NRC’s post-Fukushima safety changes. Among the identified insufficiencies were the venting system changes and the spent fuel storage changes. Both issues failed to address the core problems at Mark I & II reactors.

A Survey Of The Civil Society Institute Shows Drastic Changes In US Energy Opinion
83% of American’s supported a move to renewable energy, across political lines. While the percentages varied by political party all were largely supportive of the concept.  67% want political leadership that steers the country towards cleaner energy sources. 8 of 10 want energy that doesn’t risk water resources. 82% want power plant construction risk to be shifted to the corporation and assurances projects benefit the public good. More on the Civil Society Institute

Former TVA Chairman Blasts TVA Nuclear Program
The former TVA chairman blasted the cost over runs and mismanagement of the TVA as it posted huge losses and admitted to billions in cost over runs at the construction of a new reactor at Watts Bar. Former chairman Freeman said this “”Nuclear power is not a religion, it’s a business. … It’s time for this board to take a look at your load growth … and really just recognize there is an influence here that is not businesslike.” Watts Bar’s currently operating reactor has been used to breed tritium for the US nuclear bomb arsenal. Rating agencies have concerns that the TVA does not have enough credit available to pay for completing the new reactor at Watts Bar.

Inadequate Steel Used In New AP1000 Reactor At Vogtle
The NRC has found Southern Company used a not approved steel rebar construction in the base mat steel of the first AP1000 reactor units being built in the US. The NRC will issue a decision on the unapproved rebar a some time in May. The rebar is already in parts of the basemat, Southern Co. has stopped work until the NRC issues a decision.

FUKUSHIMA NEWS

Fukushima plant device with inadequate quake resistance left for 30 yrs
Yet another piece of equipment was found at Fukushima Daiichi to have been left in a known insufficient status for years. A circuit breaker needed to bring in offsite electricity was cited 30 years ago as being insufficient to resist earthquakes.  There has been a string of these now found failures to maintain equipment. A battery cable for a back up power source for an emergency data system was left disconnected since 2010 because the cable was too short. Then there was the incoming power line to Fukushima Daiichi that was severed 4 month before the tsunami and quake. TEPCO didn’t bother to repair it, causing the incoming power line to be unavailable during the disaster.

NISA Failures During Fukushima Disaster Early Days
It has come out that NISA officials fled the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 14th after unit 3 exploded. This caused the national government to lose a channel to know what was going on at the plant and to be dependent on TEPCO for information. The head of NISA at the time spent most of the early days of the disaster hiding at NISA’s offices rather than coordinating with the prime minister’s office. His explanation was that he was not a technical person so he left it to someone more capable.

Soil Sample From Minamisoma Shows Stronium and Plutonium
A soil sample from Minamisoma was tested and it shows some considerable contamination.

0.038 Bq/Kg (2.47Bq/m2)  Plutonium 238
0.047 Bq/Kg ofPlutonium 239 and 240
0.73 Bq/Kg of Plutonium 241.
8.5 Bq/Kg of Strontium 89
50 Bq/Kg of Strontium 90
309,000 Bq/Kg of cesium (wet) *report doesn’t cite what forms of cesium
1,080,000 Bq/Kg cesium (dry)  *report doesn’t cite what forms of cesium
Pu238/Pu239+240 used to be 0.027 before 311. This result shows it’s 0.808

Fukushima Daiichi To Pump Groundwater Into Pacific
TEPCO plans to divert groundwater to the Pacific. The plan involves digging wells “upstream” of the plant in an uphill area then pumping the water directly into the Pacific. TEPCO says they have tested the wells but did not state any sort of ongoing plan to test the wells and assure the water is not contaminated. The groundwater flows from inland towards the Pacific. If TEPCO can catch the water before it runs into the plant areas near the reactors it could drastically cut down on contaminated water requiring handling. The question is, will there be monitoring, contamination standards or any oversight to assure TEPCO isn’t dumping contaminated water into the sea?

TEPCO Will Be Nationalized By July 
TEPCO will be fully nationalized by July of this year. The selected government chairman, Kazuhiko Shimokobe has no experience running a corporation. He will be working with junior and mid level employees to attempt to manage the company.

NISA To Draw Up New Tsunami Plans
new guidelines estimate the maximum scale of tsunami for each plant by calculating the pressure of surging waves and flood areas at the facilities.”  The current guidelines being used in nuclear stress tests only look at the height of the tsunami, not the pressure of waves or the areas that would be flooded by the wave. The research into new standards will also look at the cycle of large tsunami to include that into plant safety. Professor of earthquake engineering, Tsuyoshi Takada at the University of Tokyo said such more extensive criteria should be included in the secondary stress tests currently being done on nuclear plants in Japan. This gap could allow a nuclear plant to pass the stress test yet still be at considerable risk for tsunami damage as was seen at Fukushima Daiichi.

 

 

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