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Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Look Back At The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Of 2011 - Part 5

We're on Part 5 today... so ya better read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this growing macro-series that delves into just how Japan was nearly irradiated in 2011 when the Dai-ichi (Big One) nuclear power generating station was swamped by a tsunami on March 11 of that year. You can read Part 1, HERE. Part 2 is HERE. Part 3 is HERE. Part 4 is HERE.

Even as I type this, I have no idea just how many parts there are going to be... this might be the last. We'll have to see.

After the 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011, the Dai-ichi facility automatically shutdown Reactors No. 1, 2, and 3. Emergency generators were now being used on Reactors No. 1, 2, and 3 to control the cooling and electronics about it.

Reactor No. 4 had its fuel rods removed (de-fueled) prior to March 11, and Reactors No. 5 and No. 6 were already in cold shutdown for a planned maintenance prior to March 11.

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How Was The Play?
It's now March 16, 2011, five days after the earthquake and tsunami.

Fukushima-ken's Dai-ichi nuclear power generating facility is in trouble.

And yet, believe it or not, on this date, nothing stupidly bad happens at the plant.

Yeah... the fire at Reactor No. 4 where the spent fuel storage pool is burning, might... I repeat, might have caused the release of radiation into the atmosphere yesterday.

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany - they own the Dai-ichi facility and other similar power generation facilities) officials taking radiation readings near the plant (not inside), note that radiation emissions are now at 400 millisieverts/hour.

That doesn't sound so bad... what might a person be exposed to on average?

Well... without being near a nuclear reactor, we are exposed to some radiation everyday. In fact, the average person will be exposed to 2.4 millisieverts/year.

You'll note that average exposure rate is based on one YEAR, while the rate of exposure outside Dai-ichi is per HOUR.

Holy radiation suits, Batman! What the heck is a sievert?

Well, 1 sievert of ionized radiation = 100 rems.
0.01 rem = an average exposure from a chest X-Ray.

1 sievert of exposure is supposed to mean a 5.5% chance of one's body developing cancer.

So how much radiation went up into the air after the fire at Reactor No. 4?

400 millisieverts/hour... hmmm... so if someone was outside for three hours, they would be exposed to an amount greater than 1 sievert. That seems excessive.

And that's just from Reactor No. 4.

Just in case, people residing within 30 kilometers ( miles) of the Dai-ichi reactor are asked to stay inside for the next little while until the radiation levels go down. Oh... and just in case, some Dai-ichi staff are told to leave as well.

Also, TEPCO officials think that some 70 percent of the fuel rods at Reactor No. 1 have suffered damage... oh, and maybe 33 percent of the fuel rods at Reactor No. 2, as well... and sure, Reactor No. 3's core is probably damaged...  but on March 16, nothing really bad happened.

Strangely... things are reasonably good on March 17-20, as well.

Sure, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (自衛隊, Jieitai) are using their helicopters to dump seawater into Reactor No. 3 to keep its core from over-heating and causing a third hydrogen gas explosion... but radiation levels in and around Dai-ichi seem to be no higher than 170 millisieverts/hour... which ain't great, but it seems better than it did one day earlier at Reactor No. 4.

By March 19, cooling seawater is continuing to be dumped on Reactors No. 1, 2, and 3, while a  replacement diesel generator provides power to pump water into Units 5 and 6.

So at least we're not going to have any trouble over at Reactor No. 5 or No. 6.

No... really.

On this day, tested water in Tokyo - 225 kilometers south of Dai-ichi - have higher levels of radiation, but not enough to cause too much worry... until people hear about it. Panic!!! Run!!! Where???

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain
On March 20, TEPCO is sure we're not going to have any problems with Reactors No. 5 and No. 6, as the pumps are doing their cooling work on the fuel rods... Really.

Reactor No. 2 is now getting power from the electrical grid outside... so, even though I wrote in Part 4 that TEPCO was (as of March 15, 2011) most worried about Reactor No. 2 because its coolant delivery system was damaged by the first explosion at Reactor No. 3, and it was not getting coolant into the reactor... well

... because its got power, TEPCO can now better monitor what's going on in Reactor No. 2.

Everything's coming up TEPCO.

On March 21, while off-site power has now been accessed by Reactors No. 1, 2, 5, and 6... uh... I think No. 4 is still on fire or smoldering... and No. 3... what's going on there?

Hmmm, when last we checked, the Japan Self-Defense Forces were using their military helicopters to dump seawater on Reactor No. 3...

Nope... that's not good... black smoke is seen rising up from the on-going collapse of the building housing Reactor No. 3... just to make sure, TEPCO tells everyone to evacuate the Dai-ichi facility... all of it.

Just for a little while.

Smoke rising up from the collapsed roof of Reactor No. 3. Worried that the core is on fire, TEPCO evacuates the building of people. Remember... you can NOT evacuate people... that causes them to die. You CAN evacuate a building (of people), however. That's one lesson we should all remember.
The Legal Amount
Another day, another day of playing with my hose... which is what I assume people are thinking but not saying at Dai-ichi.

March 22, people are still pumping seawater into Reactors No. 2, 3, and 4. In fact, if you look at the top-most photo, you can see water being pumped up and over into Reactor No. 4.

Oh... and TEPCO says that the wastewater samples taken in an area outside and to the south of Dai-ichi, it found that it contained radioactive iodine... at only 126.7x the legal amount.

Wait... there's more.

Cesium 134 exceeds the legal limits by 24.8x. Cesium has a radioactive half-life of two years.

There's still more... hold your radioactive horses... I mean dead horses.

Cesium 137 and its radioactive half-life of 30 years... well, that was found to exceed the legal limits by 16.5x.

On the plus side, electrical power is restored to all reactor control rooms in Reactors No. 1-6.

On the down side, with all that radiation around, people could probably provide their own power source.

The next day, March 23, 2011, ain't so bad for the facility, but it's terrible for Japanese economics... oh... and for babies, too.

Eleven types of vegetables from the Fukushima are are found to contain radiation levels far in excess of legal limits... which causes enough of a widespread panic amongst foreign consumers, that shipments are halted... even to other parts of Japan.

In Tokyo, the Tokyo Water Bureau says it has found that Tokyo tap water contains as much as 210 becquerels per liter of Iodine 131, which I admit I don't now exactly what it means... but the Bureau does, saying that that level is twice the recommended limit for infants.

Iodine 131 is a radioisotope with a very short half-life of 8.02 days - the shorter the half-life, the more radioactive it is, by the way.

While Iodine 131 is used in small doses as part of a thyroid cancer suppression, it is also one of the most-feared fission products when accidentally released into the environment.

So, baby... don't drink the Tokyo tap water.

Whose baby is that? What's your angle? I'll buy that bottled water.
What I would be very interested in, however, is what is the water quality like for the people living some 30 kilometers outside Dai-ichi, who have been forced to stay indoors lately... I would imagine it wouldn't be good.

Melancholy sigh...

Let's halt the blog for today... The previous day's news - as crappy as it sounds - isn't as bad as what we're going to be exposed to next, as things are about to get a whole lot hotter for the next little while.

Andrew Joseph
PS: On December 26, I happened to glance at the "drafts" I have semi-completed or just written a title for... and noted that I had 81 draft articles in there. As of December 27, 1:20AM, I have 80. While it's true that I always complete what I start--good news, ladies!--a lot of the one's I have as drafts are/were time-sensitive, or were simply ramblings (I don't drink anymore, so I don't have that excuse) that cast me in a light I care not to be cast in, or the topics just weren't that interesting to me, and thus I figured, not to you. Hey... I'm curious about almost everything, so if I can't generate interest myself... well... you know... bo-rrrrrr--innnnng.
PPS: I just have to find the time to delete them... but now I have work stuff I have to do... yes... I'm still on vacation... and that may be why I don't want some ramblings to be aired. That's also why I don't drink. I can. I just don't want to. Even though I probably should.

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