Archive for December, 2013

The peril of MOX nuclear fuel in Fukushima reactor 4’s cooling pond

December 29, 2013

The un-irradiated rods inside the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool are, in all probability, made of a new type of MOX fuel containing highly enriched plutonium. 

Why TEPCO is Risking the Removal of Fukushima Fuel Rods. The Dangers of Uncontrolled Global Nuclear Radiation, Global Research, 24 Nov 13  By Yoichi Shimatsu 

“…….Mystery of MOX super-fuel  A Mainichi Shimbun editorial mentions in passing that the Reactor 4 pool contains 202 fresh fuel assemblies.(3) The presence of new fuel rods was confirmed in the TEPCO press release, which described the first assembly lifted into the transfer cask as an “un-irradiated fuel rod.” Why were new rods being stored inside a spent-fuel pool, which is designed to hold expended rods? What threat of criticality do these fresh rods pose if the steel frame collapses or if crane operators drop one by accident onto other assemblies, as opposed to a spent rod?

Against the official silence and disinformation, a few whistleblowers have come forward with clues to answer these questions. Former GE nuclear worker Kei Sugaoka disclosed in a video interview that a joint team from Hitachi and General Electric was inside Reactor 4 at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake. By that fateful afternoon, the GE contractors were finishing the job of installing a new shroud, the heat-resistant metal shield lining the reactor interior.(4)

TEPCO inadvertently admitted to the presence of foreign contractors at Fukushima No.1 up until March 12, 2012, when the management ordered their evacuation in event of a massive explosion during the rapid meltdown of Reactor 2. So far, leaks indicate the presence of the GE team and of a Israeli nuclear security team with Magna BSP, a company based in Dimona.(5)

Another break came in April 2012, when a Japanese humor magazine published a brief interview of a Fukushima worker who disclosed that radioactive pieces of a broken shroud were left inside a device-storage pool at rooftop level behind the Reactor 4 spent-fuel pool.(6) This undoubtedly is the used shroud removed by the GE-H workers in February-March 2011.

A curious point here is that the previous shroud had been in use for only 15 months. Why would TEPCO and the Japanese government expend an enormous sum on a new lining when the existing one was still good for many years of service?

Obviously, the installation of a new shroud was not a mere replacement of a worn predecessor. It was an upgrade. The refit of Reactor 4 was, therefore, similar to the 2010 conversion of Reactor 3 to pluthermal or MOX fuel. The same model of GE Mark 1 reactor was being revamped to burn MOX fuel (mixed oxide of uranium and plutonium).

The un-irradiated rods inside the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool are, in all probability, made of a new type of MOX fuel containing highly enriched plutonium. If the frame collapses, triggering fire or explosion inside the spent-fuel pool, the plutonium would pulse powerful neutron bursts that may well possibly ignite distant nuclear power plants, starting with the Fukushima No.2 plant, 10 kilometers to the south…..

The upgrade of the Reactor 4 shroud may well have involved the test-fitting of some MOX rods, which abandoned on the floor next to the reactor when the tsunami reached shore. In other words, in early March 2011 crane operators completely filled  space inside the spent-fuel pool with new MOX rods and then simply left casks of assemblies on the roof and lowered more into the basement. That is the simplest explanation for the damage to the structural integrity of the reactor building. GE is not about to disclose its role in this disaster………. http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-tepco-is-risking-the-removal-of-fukushima-fuel-rods-the-dangers-of-uncontrolled-global-nuclear-radiation/5359188…..http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-tepco-is-risking-the-removal-of-fukushima-fuel-rods-the-dangers-of-uncontrolled-global-nuclear-radiation/535918

It IS legal for Iran to enrich uranium

December 29, 2013

Legal right to enrich uranium  for Iran http://www.tehrantimes.com/politics/112302-uranium-enrichment-is-a-right-hans-blix 23 Nov 13, TEHRAN — Hans Blix, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says his interpretation of Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is that uranium enrichment is a “right”.

The remarks by Blix come as Iran and the six major powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, known as the 5+1 group) are negotiating in Geneva.

Iran says its right to enrichment, as a signatory to the NPT, must be recognized by the West.
 Blix said definition of enrichment is a matter of difference between Iran and the six powers.
 The former IAEA chief said Iran says according to the NPT uranium enrichment is its right but certain countries among the 5+1 group have another interpretation and argue that there is not something as the “right to enrichment”.
The Article IV of the NPT says:
1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.
2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.

Depleted uranium weapons: cover-up of health effects on soldiers and Iraquis

December 29, 2013

A factor rarely mentioned is the potential effects of DU on children yet to be born to U.S. Iraq war veterans, who served in places like Fallujah, Basra and Najaf.

HORRIFIC EFFECTS OF DEPLETED URANIUM STILL CENSORED BY U.S. MILITARY, MEDIA HTTPS://AMERICANFREEPRESS.NET/?P=13599 NOVEMBER 03, 2013 BY RICHARD WALKER In a move seen by medical experts worldwide as an effort to suppress the truth about the horrors of depleted uranium (DU) munitions, the United Nations (UN) health arm, the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Ministry of Health of Iraq (MoH) on September 13, 2013, produced a report that was not even authored, meaning no experts attached their names to it, on birth defects among Iraqi babies in which DU was not even considered a factor.

The report was published on the WHO website at a time when birth defects among Iraqi babies have been rising steadily, especially in areas like Najaf and Fallujah, where DU shells were used indiscriminately, killing and injuring large numbers of civilians. Some estimates for the 2003 death toll in Iraq put the civilian casualties in Fallujah as high as 75% to 80%.

DU is a byproduct of the nuclear industry. It is added to munitions to increase penetration, as DU is significantly denser than steel. The side effect, though, is that, where DU is used, it pollutes everything in the area. While no exact figures exist for the amount of exploded DU in Iraq, it is believed to have been in the metric tons. It would not be the first time WHO has suppressed he truth about the use of DU weapons in Iraq. In 2004, a study co-authored by Dr. Keith Baverstock, a radiation expert hired by the WHO, was not published. According to Baverstock, it was censored because WHO was pressured by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was trying to promote nuclear power. Baverstock warned there was a danger in the dry atmosphere of Iraq that particles from exploding DU shells and missiles could be carried on the air and inhaled by people for years to come.

Baverstock pointed to the fact the United States and UK governments had consistently refused to provide data on the location where DU weapons were used during the Iraq war.

The Lancet, the renowned British medical journal, was confounded by the WHO failure to consider a linkage between toxic munitions and rising birth defects. Instead, the WHO report concluded the percentage of birth defects was either in keeping with, or even lower than international figures. That statement contradicted all previous evidence, including evidence the WHO had previously accepted from medical experts, who had studied the effects of DU in Iraq.

The Lancet pointed to Iraqi experts like Samira Alaani, a Fallujah pediatrician, whose 2011 report  found 15% of all babies born in the city since 2003 had “congenital malformations.” A similar study in Basra by another expert put the figure there at 17%.

A factor rarely mentioned is the potential effects of DU on children yet to be born to U.S. Iraq war veterans, who served in places like Fallujah, Basra and Najaf.

There is nothing new about the suppression of information on this topic. Serbians still press the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to disclose how many DU weapons were used in the 1999 79-day air campaign against the former Yugoslavia. According to Serbians, the weapons used have since resulted in birth defects.

Palestinians also have cause to ask the world why no one has condemned Israel for using DU weapons in the heavily populated Gaza strip. There is also the question of why Israel ignores evidence its Dimona nuclear weapons plant threatens the health of the surrounding population. Israel has so far been able to convince the locals that unusual medical issues are the result of Bedouin livestock.

Fukushima nuclear plant’s protective ice wall: a science fiction fantasy

December 29, 2013

TV: Work at Fukushima plant to go on for 10,000 years? Nuclear Expert: “It’s longer than human history” (VIDEO) http://enenews.com/tv-work-at-fukushima-plant-could-go-on-for-next-10000-years-nuclear-expert-its-longer-than-human-history-video

Arirang’s ‘Prime Talk’,, August 30, 2013 (at 1:45 in):

Dr. Suh Kune-yull, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Seoul National University: [Freezing the soil around Fukushima reactors] sounds more like a sci-fi story, science fiction. We call this permafrost — frosting the soil — for 50 years and as long as 10,000 years. It’s longer than human history, it’s just unrealistic.
Watch the broadcast here

Arirang’s ‘Prime Talk’, ’, August 30, 2013 (at 1:30 in):

Dr. Suh Kune-yull, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Seoul National University: I call this permafrost which [is] really freezing the soil but to me sounds more like a science fiction because they have to be doing this for work at least 50 years and as long as 10,000 years. So I think they were probably going to give this up one of these months. […]

Watch the broadcast here
See also: Japan Professor: 1,000 years from now contaminated water from Fukushima may still be entering Pacific Ocean — It’s necessary to keep monitoring during that time

More: UC Berkeley Nuclear Professor: May be impossible to get Fukushima melted fuel — Work at site to go on for ‘thousands of years’ if not removed (AUDIO)

USA: a procession of nuclear plant shutdowns will accentuate the wastes problem

December 29, 2013

The NRC believes the fuel can be safely stored for at least 100 in casks. But the radioactive half life is 16 million years, with a defined hazardous life of 160 million years. The world will soon be dotted with these ad-hoc radioactive dumps. 

For aging nuclear reactors, a coming surge of shutdowns How safe will these ad-hoc radioactive dumps be?, Kevin Gray, SmartPlanet, 20 Nov 13

When it first fired up its twin reactors in 1973, the Zion nuclear power plant in Illinois — roughly 40 miles north of Chicago — was the largest in the world. It was a stunning work of technology that supplied electricity to some two million homes. And it could have easily lived on into the new century. But in 1998, its parent company, the energy giant Exelon Corp, turned off its lights and shuttered the facility rather than face some costly upgrades.For 12 years, Zion sat dormant on prime Lake Michigan shorefront as Exelon shelled out $10 million a year to maintain it and protect it with round-the-clock patrols of armed guards. By 2010, the facility had become home to drifting weeds and nesting falcons.

But that year, the federal government — in an arrangement never tried before — agreed to allow Exelon to transfer custody of the plant to EnergySolutions, a nuclear-waste storage outfit. The deal was worth a potential $1 billion in clean-up fees to EnergySolutions. It would be the largest nuclear power plant decommissioning ever undertaken in the United States. And it pledged to return the 375-acre site back to Exelon as grass and local shrubbery at the end of 10 years……..

 Ripping and shipping

Rows of ominous-looking concrete casks now rise on the gravel site. They stand 18 feet, 9 inches high, measure more than 11 feet in diameter and, when loaded, will weigh 157 tons each. They can withstand a tornado with winds up to 360 miles per hour, 4,000-pound wind-blown projectiles hurtling at speeds of 126 miles per hour, flooding, fire and even accidental tipping over. And they will soon house all 2.2 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel — and another 80,000 pounds of radioactive material — from the site.In a process known as “rip and ship,” the company will next tear down sections of the plant and move them by rail to its radioactive waste facility in Clive, Utah, where they will be dumped wholesale and entombed beneath rock and clay. EnergySolutions expects to ship some 500,000 cubic feet of material — enough to fill 80 rail cars — everything from concrete walls, pipes, wiring, machinery, desks and chairs, much of it contaminated with low-level radiation. But the hottest stuff — the spent fuel — will remain right where it is. 

EnergySolutions has spent the past year removing Zion’s fuel rods from a cooling pool and putting them into the canisters and casks for dry storage. The fuel, which is still about 400 degrees, can now be air cooled. Christian expects the company to begin moving the casks, via a heavy-haul rail, 100 yards south of the reactors by mid-October.

They will remain there until the feds come up with an alternative to Yucca Mountain. “Until we have a national repository open, this spent fuel has to stay where it is,” says Lawrence Boing, a nuclear decommissioning specialist at Argonne National Laboratory’s nuclear engineering division. “The big question now is what do we do with this stuff?”

That question comes at a time when the entire global decommissioning market is about to expand like at no other time during our nuclear era. In the past three years since the tsunami wreaked havoc on the Fukushima plants, more than 20 reactors have been ordered closed at a potential cost of $26 billion to the industry. That’s a boon to businesses like EnergySolutions that can lead to decades-long contracts for tear-downs.

“A lot of plants are approaching 40 years old, and at some point the owners are going to look around and either build a new one or say ‘This no longer makes economic sense,’” says Margaret Harding, a nuclear industry consultant based in Wilmington, Del……

While Entergy said it could take decades to decommission 41-year-old Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, which it plans to shut down next year, other nuclear sites are moving to decommission at a faster pace. The global trends publisherResearch and Markets reported last year that it expects the decommissioning market to surge as more than half the world’s reactors are expected to shut down by 2030, including 150 reactors across Europe, accounting for the bulk of them.

A financial challenge

In the United States, the people paying for these tear-downs are usually the electric utility’s ratepayers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires each power plant operator to set aside a fund to dismantle or permanently encase its reactors. When Zion powered up, ratepayers began paying pennies on every bill to go into its fund. It stands at $1 billion.

The Zion project has been a financial challenge for EnergySolutions. In March 2012, it revealed it had underestimated the costs by about $100 million — an enormous amount considering the size of the decommissioning fund. A month later, it replaced its CEO for the second time in two years. The company’s new president, David Lockwood, told analysts it had intentionally underbid the project, hoping the publicity would help it land other teardowns around the world, including in Germany, which hopes to shutter all of its plants by 2022. “We undertook Zion for strategic, not financial, reasons,” Lockwood said.This past January, in a sign of its financial struggles, a $7 billion private equity firm, Energy Capital Partners, bought the company for $1.1 billion and took it private, paying a 20-percent premium at $3.75 per share, over the company’s average closing share price. “For our company, this transaction enables us to continue to execute on our strategic plan by providing the investment capital to expand and to grow our business,” said Lockwood, indicating a desire to see the company grow into the expanding market here and overseas.

The fate of Zion’s dry storage casks is less certain. EnergySolutions will turn the casks and the Zion site as greenfield back to Exelon once it has completed decommissioning. Exelon could turn the area into a park. The casks are licensed for 20 years, with up to four year extensions. The NRC believes the fuel can be safely stored for at least 100 in casks. But the radioactive half life is 16 million years, with a defined hazardous life of 160 million years. The world will soon be dotted with these ad-hoc radioactive dumps. http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/the-big-story/for-aging-nuclear-reactors-a-coming-surge-of-shutdowns/

Pyroprocessing -Integral Fast Nuclear Reactors (IFRs) – the dishonest hype

December 29, 2013

Other Department of Energy studies showed that pyroprocessing, by generating large quantities of low-level nuclear waste and contaminated uranium, greatly increases the volume of nuclear waste requiring disposal, contradicting “Pandora’s Promise’s” claim it would reduce the amount of waste.

Scientist: Film hypes the promise of advanced nuclear technology By Edwin Lyman,  CNN November 7, 2013  In his zeal to promote nuclear power, filmmaker Robert Stone inserted numerous half-truths and less-than-half-truths in his new documentary “Pandora’s Promise,”  One of Stone’s more misleading allegations was that scientists at a U.S. research facility, the Argonne National Laboratory, were on the verge of developing a breakthrough technology that could solve nuclear power’s numerous problems when the Clinton administration and its allies in Congress shut the program in 1994 for purely political reasons.

Like the story of Pandora itself, the tale of the integral fast reactor (IFR) — or at least the version presented in the movie — is more myth than reality. In the final assessment, the concept’s drawbacks greatly outweighed its advantages. The government had sound reasons to stanch the flow of taxpayer dollars to a costly, flawed project that also was undermining U.S. efforts to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism and proliferation around the world…….

What did “Pandora’s Promise” leave out? First, it does not clearly explain what a “fast reactor” is and how it differs from the water-cooled reactors in use today. Most operating reactors use a type of fuel called “low-enriched” uranium, which cannot be used directly to make a nuclear weapon and poses a low security risk. The spent fuel from these water-cooled reactors contains weapon-usable plutonium as a byproduct, but it is very hard to make into a bomb because it is mixed with uranium and highly radioactive fission products.

Fast reactors, on the other hand, are far more dangerous because they typically require fuels made from plutonium or “highly enriched” uranium that can be used to make nuclear weapons.

 

In fact, fast reactors can be operated as “breeders” that produce more plutonium than they consume. To produce the large quantities of plutonium needed to fuel fast reactors, spent fuel from conventional reactors has to be reprocessed — chemically processed to separate plutonium from the other constituents. Facilities that produce plutonium fuel must have strong protections against diversion and theft. All too often, however, security at such facilities is inadequate.

In the IFR concept, which was never actually realized in practice, reactor-spent fuel would be reprocessed using a technology called pyroprocessing, and the extracted plutonium would be fabricated into new fuel. IFR advocates have long asserted that pyroprocessing is not a proliferation risk because the plutonium it separates is not completely purified.

But a 2008 U.S. Department of Energy review — which confirmed many previous studies — concluded that pyroprocessing and similar technologies would “greatly reduce barriers to theft, misuse or further processing, even without separation of pure plutonium.”

See the Department of Energy review here (PDF)

Other Department of Energy studies showed that pyroprocessing, by generating large quantities of low-level nuclear waste and contaminated uranium, greatly increases the volume of nuclear waste requiring disposal, contradicting “Pandora’s Promise’s” claim it would reduce the amount of waste.

See Union of Concerned Scientists fact sheet (PDF)

And what about Till’s claim that the IFR can’t melt down? It’s false.

“Pandora’s Promise” referenced two successful safety tests conducted in 1986 at a small demonstration fast reactor in Idaho called the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II). But EBR-II operators scripted these tests to ensure the desired outcome, a luxury not available in the real world. Meanwhile, the EBR-II’s predecessor, the EBR-I, had a partial fuel meltdown in 1955, and a similar reactor, Fermi 1 near Detroit, had a partial fuel meltdown in 1966.

See U.S. Department of Energy information posted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (PDF)

Moreover, fast reactors have inherent instabilities that make them far more dangerous than light-water reactors under certain accident conditions, conditions that were studiously avoided in the 1986 dog-and-pony show at EBR-II.

Perhaps the biggest myth in the film is the notion that all U.S. research on fast reactors was terminated.

In fact, the IFR program’s demise was a shutdown in name only. The Department of Energy has continued to fund research and development on fast reactor technology to the tune of tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The IFR Fuel Reprocessing Facility in Idaho shown in the film — in reality, a plant called the Fuel Conditioning Facility — has been operating for decades, essentially as a jobs program, to reprocess spent fuel from the now-defunct EBR-II, despite the system’s serious problems. In 2000, the Department of Energy promised that all the fuel would be processed by around 2007. Three years later, it delayed the projected completion date to 2030.

Till’s assertion in “Pandora’s Promise” that “we know how to do these things” does not square with the difficulties the Department of Energy has encountered in trying to operate this troubled plant.

But if CNN viewers are persuaded by the “Pandora’s Promise” IFR sales pitch and think the federal government should throw even more good taxpayer money after bad, I have two words of advice: Caveat emptor. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/07/opinion/lyman-nuclear-pandora/

The very serious drawbacks of Integral Fast Nuclear Reactors

December 29, 2013

Nuclear energy film overstates positives, underplays negatives By Ralph Cavanagh and Tom Cochran,   CNN November 6, 2013 – ”………The still-unrealized Integral Fast Reactor is the real star of the film, along with the nation of France, whose nuclear generation program is extolled as “one of the most inspiring stories ever” (“the trains are electric powered, they have clean air, and they have the cheapest electricity in Europe”). Nuclear power debates are the only places where you will ever see those at the conservative edge of the political spectrum argue that the United States should reorganize its economy to be more like France.

The Clinton administration killed the Integral Fast Reactor in 1994 because of concern over the potential diversion of the plutonium fuel by terrorists and non-nuclear weapon states of concern. Yet the film’s closing argument is that a “fourth-generation” reactor modeled on the Integral Fast Reactor will sweep the globe, burning waste created by the first three generations and “solving” the nagging problem of long-term disposal of nuclear waste. The film fails to mention that this would take hundreds to thousands of plutonium-fueled reactors operating over hundreds of years, resulting most likely in an increase in the releases of radioactivity to the environment as a consequence of operations by the Integral Fast Reactor’s fuel processing and fabricating facilities.

The film invokes Bill Gates as one of many forward-thinking new investors in nuclear innovation, but surely even Gates would recoil from the Integral Fast Reactor’s poor economic outlook compared to conventional reactors and the financial risks associated with building just one Integral Fast Reactor, let alone a global fleet of them. The film fails to acknowledge that the flagship fast reactor development efforts in the United States, France, Germany, Japan and Italy all failed, and that fast reactors were abandoned by both the U.S. and Soviet navies, hardly a strong selling point for resurrecting the Integral Fast Reactor program………..http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/06/opinion/pandora-nuclear-energy-opinion-cavanagh-cochran/

Fukushima reactor 4’s dangerous stock of nuclear fuel rods

December 29, 2013

Unit 4 presented particular dangers because its entire stock of fuel rods was in the pool at the time of the accident.

If the operation goes as planned, attention will then focus on the massive challenges posed by Units 1, 2 and 3.

Tepco will not confirm the precise timing of the fuel rod operation but after so much public outrage at the company’s handling of the crisis so far, scrutiny of this latest episode will be intense.

Fukushima nuclear plant set for risky operation http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24843657 7 Nov 13  David Shukman A task of extraordinary delicacy and danger is about to begin at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station.

Engineers are preparing to extract the first of more than 1,000 nuclear fuel rods from one of the wrecked reactor buildings. This is seen as an essential but risky step on the long road towards stabilising the site.

The fuel rods are currently in a precarious state in a storage pool in Unit 4. This building was badly damaged by an explosion in March 2011 following the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Moving the rods to safety is a high priority but has only become possible after months of repair work and planning.

One senior official told me: “It’s going to be very difficult but it has to happen.”

The fuel rods are four-metre long tubes containing pellets of uranium fuel and the fear is that some may have been damaged during the disaster.

When the tsunami struck the Japanese coast, the flood swamped the diesel generators providing back up power to the reactors. Three of the reactors went into a state of partial meltdown.

By coincidence, Unit 4 was undergoing maintenance, so all of its fuel rods were being stored. But the meltdown of a neighbouring reactor led to a build-up of hydrogen which is believed to have led to the explosion in Unit 4.

In the days after the tsunami, there were fears that the blast had damaged Unit 4′s storage pool and, in desperation, the authorities used helicopters and fire hoses to keep it filled with water.

A guiding principle of nuclear safety is that the fuel is kept underwater at all times – contact with the air risks overheating and triggering a release that could spread contamination. So the operation to remove the rods will be painstaking.

A senior official in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) told me that the rods will be lifted out in batches of 22 and in casks filled with water.

This will be done with a new crane, recently installed in the wrecked building, after the original one was destroyed. So the operation to remove the rods will be painstaking.

A senior official in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) told me that the rods will be lifted out in batches of 22 and in casks filled with water.

This will be done with a new crane, recently installed in the wrecked building, after the original one was destroyed.A briefing document released by the site’s owners, Tepco, spells out a series of safety systems designed to minimize the dangers.

For example, the fuel pond itself has been strengthened while the new crane can handle loads of one tonne while the fuel cask only weighs 450kg.

Collision tests, it is said, have shown that even if the fuel cask is dropped, it may be deformed but its seals will not be broken.

The fuel rods will then be deposited into a new “common” pool with a cooling system.

According to the METI official, “the common pool is planned to be used over a long period, supposedly for 10 to 20 years, and will be reinforced against possible future earthquakes and tsunamis”.

The Tepco document says the rods will be checked for signs of damage – large amounts of debris fell into the pool during the disaster so the risks are real. It says that checks for corrosion have found only minor signs so far – with “no corrosion affecting fuel integrity”.

But only when the operation begins will engineers get a detailed look at the rods and a chance to assess their state.

One senior figure in Japan’s nuclear watchdog told me: “Inspections by camera show that the rods look OK but we’re not sure if they’re damaged – you never know.”

He said Unit 4 presented particular dangers because its entire stock of fuel rods was in the pool at the time of the accident.

If the operation goes as planned, attention will then focus on the massive challenges posed by Units 1, 2 and 3.

According to the METI official, the latest investigations have shown that despite the meltdowns experienced by each reactor, their temperatures have now stabilised.

In Units 1 and 2, readings show the presence of water in what’s called the primary containment vessel – suggesting that the melted fuel rods have not penetrated that safety barrier.

The radiation level is too high in Unit 3 for that kind of examination to be carried out but using data from the reactor pressure vessel the official assumes that water is also present in the primary containment.

Meanwhile, the site continues to be plagued by leaks of radioactive water flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

Tepco will not confirm the precise timing of the fuel rod operation but after so much public outrage at the company’s handling of the crisis so far, scrutiny of this latest episode will be intense.

It’s true- there’s no safe dose of ionising radiation

December 29, 2013

Experts debate ‘safe’ dose of radiation http://www.wnem.com/story/23813407/experts-debate-safe-dose-of-radiation  Nov 06, 2013  By Kimberly Wright – email (RNN) – Is there such a thing as a safe dose of radiation? Some experts say no. Research shows that any dose of radiation increases an individual’s risk for the development of cancer.

Decades of research show clearly that any dose of radiation increases an individual’s risk for the development of cancer, according to the Physicians for Social Responsibility. The primary risk of radiation is cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with the higher the radiation dose, the greater the chance of developing cancer.

The chance of developing cancer, not the seriousness of the cancer, increases as the radiation dose goes up. It can be difficult to discern what causes cancer when it is detected, as cancers caused by radiation do not appear until years after the radiation exposure.

Some are more likely to develop cancer than others from radiation. Less likely,radiation can also cause genetic mutations and birth defects to a developing embryo or fetus. Fetuses are most susceptible to radiation exposure, following by infants, children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetuses are most sensitive between about eight to 15 weeks after conception.

Americans get an average of 620 millirems (6.2 millisieverts) a year, 37 percent of which is background radiation from radon and thoron.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the decay of radium present in nearly all rocks and soils. Most of people’s exposure comes from indoor radon, which seep into buildings from the ground through cracks and other openings in floors or walls.

Radon causes an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year, and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. behind smoking, according to the EPA. A smoker living in a home with high radon has a higher lung cancer risk. One in 15 American homes has a radon level that should be reduced – 4 pCi/L or higher. The radon level can be tested via a do-it-yourself test or by a professional, and can be reduced via a venting system.

Nearly half of the exposure of the U.S. population to radiation comes from medical sources, according to the EPA. The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima reactor in Japan concerns Physicians for Social Responsibility. Toyko Electric Power Co., also known as Tepco, has experienced difficulty in taking control of the plant, stricken by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The partial meltdown at the plant caused the most serious nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, causing the release of radiation into the environment and the evacuation of the area around the plant.

“A dose of 100 mSv (10,000 millirems) creates a one in 100 risk of getting cancer, but a dose of 10 mSv (1,000 millirems) still gives a one in 1,000 chance of getting cancer, and a dose of 1 mSv (100 millirems) gives a one in 10,000 risk,” the group stated in a news release.

Even if the risk of getting cancer for one individual from a given level of food contamination is low, if thousands or millions of people are exposed, then some of those people will get cancer.

Fukushima has released more iodine-131 than cesium-137, Physicians for Social Responsibility noted. Iodine-131 accumulates in the thyroid, especially of children, with a half-life of more than eight days compared to cesium-137, which has a half-life of more than 30 years.

Doses of iodine-131 are considered extremely dangerous, “especially to pregnant women and children, and can lead to incidents of cancer, hypothyroidism, mental retardation and thyroid deficiency, among other conditions,” stated Physicians for Social Responsibility. A nuclear crisis like Fukushima can happen in the U.S., claimed a report bythe Union of Concerned Scientists. The report was presented as part of a National Academy of Sciences Lessons Learned from Fukushima study.

U.S. nuclear plants are not designed to survive large natural or manmade disasters, “not much better equipped than Japanese plants to control a severe accident before a meltdown occurs” and not designed to protect the public from such a crisis.

A concrete tomb eventually, for Fukushima nuclear plant?

December 29, 2013

Japan Nuclear Engineer: I don’t think they’ll ever get Fukushima’s melted cores; Will probably start covering reactors in concrete — German Expert: May encase areas in sarcophagus http://enenews.com/japan-nuclear-engineer-dont
November 4th, 2013 
Helmholtz Special, 2012: Dr Walter Tromm is Spokesperson of the […] Nuclear Energy and Safety at the Karlsruhe Insititue of Technology, collaborates on international expert committees on the safety of nuclear reactors: “Debris and scrap metal are to be removed from the plant bit by bit in order to finally dismantle it and/or encase the areas with the highest degree of radioactivity in a sarcophagus.”

Fukushima by Mark Willacy, book published July 1, 2013 (Excerpt): […] there was much -expert scepticism about whether the government’s 40-year road map would be achievable. ‘I also hope decommissioning can be completed in 40 years,’ said [nuclear-reactor engineer] Hiroaki Koide. ‘But I do not think it is possible.’ […] In an interview with me 20 months after the meltdowns, TEPCO also appeared to be backing away from its four-decade decommissioning road map, admitting that the task in front of the company was unprecedented. ‘We hope to accomplish it in 40 years as per our engineering schedule,’ said Junichi Matsumoto. ‘But we will need to develop manipulators and other jigs and containers to put the bits in.’ […] the gravest challenge would be locating and removing the melted cores inside reactors 1, 2 and 3. ‘I don’t think they can pick up the melted nuclear cores,’ said Koide.

‘Instead, they’ll probably start work to cover the reactors in a concrete sarcophagus. It will take them more than ten years to even begin this work. And then it will take decades to finish each sarcophagus.’

See also: UC Berkeley Nuclear Professor: May be impossible to get Fukushima melted fuel — Work at site to go on for ‘thousands of years’ if not removed (AUDIO)