Thursday, June 16, 2011

Continuing and emerging issues pertaining to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi

Up-to-date radiological surveillance information about accident radiation releases is becoming more difficult to obtain. Individuals willing and able to assist us with compiling information about the following issues, please contact

  • Real time data about radiation releases from all seven accident locations (3 reactor vessels and 4 spent fuel pools) expressed in becquerels per hour has never been made available to the general public. While extremely high ambient radiation levels expressed in microsieverts per hour characterize the early stages of the accident (the first ten days) and have been available online, accurate information about the hourly release rates as measured in becquerels per hour and/or becquerels per cubic meter air contamination have not been made public. The technology for taking these measurements has been available for over 50 years. Important ongoing lingering questions include:

  • Why is a day-to-day summary of total gaseous, steam, and particulate emissions of the second stage of this accident not available now that manual cooling efforts have partially controlled the fission chain reaction that define criticality?

  • Why is the media not asking why this information has not been released?

  • Is there any possibility that the United States government will make public its now classified satellite-derived aerial radiological surveillance data pertaining to hourly gross gamma/beta emissions?

The accumulation of radioactive water from manual cooling efforts is also a source of accident radiation releases.

  • Why is there no publicly available information about the actual quantities of radioactive water produced by manual cooling efforts, their storage location and capacity, and the radioactivity of stored water as measured in becquerels per liter?

  • What is the daily water release rate excluding steam emissions?

  • Once the new water filtration system is set up by the French company, Areva, will the amount of cesium and other isotopes recovered from the radioactive water be available to the general public? (See below for water in-water out suggested synopsis.)

  • Why is there an information blackout about ground deposition of Cs-137 within the evacuation zone as well as within important agricultural areas within Japan?

  • Will TEPCO/NISA release accurate information about ground deposition of Cs-137 and other radioactive isotopes in all areas of Japan as measured in becquerels per square meter similar to that compiled by many countries after the Chernobyl accident? See the Nuclear Information Handbook for an extensive summary of Chernobyl fallout data.

  • To what extent are rainy season rainfall events and changing wind directions now spreading radiation in mainland Japan, especially in previously relatively un-impacted areas?

  • To what extent is remobilized ground deposition spreading radiation outside of the accident site and its immediate environs and what steps are being taken to avoid remobilization by human activities such as worker and equipment movement?

  • Why were surveillance reports of high levels of I-131 and Cs-137 deposited in "weeds" (see section I of the Nuclear Information Handbook) not accompanied by more extensive documentation of contamination levels in other agricultural products, including vegetables, milk, and tea?

  • Why are updated estimates of total accident emissions not available now that accident releases have been mitigated (but not ended) and the extent of fuel melting has been more fully evaluated?

Several other issues are emerging with respect to the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

  • Fuel cladding failure in aging US reactors has long been a safety concern. To what extent did fuel cladding failure, steam tube deformation, and accumulated sludge deposits impact the effectiveness of the post-earthquake emergency "scrams" (reactor shutdowns) at Fukushima Daiichi, when complete control rod insertion was essential for a rapid return to cold shutdown status? Was there any lingering criticality due to incomplete control rod insertion before the tsunami destroyed the backup generators that would have been a factor in the rapid evolution of the fuel meltdown events?

  • To what extent are ongoing fuel cladding failures at US reactors a threat to public safety, especially at vulnerable US boiling water reactors? See section IX of the Nuclear Information Handbook for a description of fuel assembly aging issues.

  • With respect to liability for the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, to what extent do the gross deficiencies in boiling water reactor designs, such as those at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, render the General Electric company liable for compensating the tens of thousands of Japanese residents who are permanently displaced? How does the 20 billion dollars paid by BP into a compensation fund following the Gulf oil spill compare to the obligations of GE for compensating Japan accident victims, which could conceivably be in the 20 to 100 billion dollar range?

  • Will the General Electric company set up an escrow fund to compensate future victims of a boiling water reactor accident in the United States, an increasingly likely possibility given the existence of 35 aging, subprime-GE-design boiling water reactors?

Water in - water filtered - water out synopsis

What is the water storage capacity of each reactor vessel and each spent fuel pool involved in the accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi complex?

  • What are the hourly and daily rates of the use of the water for manual cooling as measured in gallons for A) water sprayed onto the reactor vessels and spent fuel pools to cool them and B) water piped into the reactor vessels and spent fuel pools to cool them?

  • What is the total amount of water in reactor building basements, tunnels, and other areas?

  • What is the total amount of water in other storage areas such as barges, tanks, and trucks?

  • How many gallons of this water has been filtered to remove radiocesium and other source term contaminants?

  • What is the daily leak rate of radioactive water escaping into the ocean from these water storage areas, if any?

  • How does the total amount of water pumped or piped in for cooling purposes compare with the total amount of water within the reactor vessels, spent fuel pools, and all other radioactive water storage areas?

  • Will TEPCO make public the amount of the indicator isotope Cs-137 recovered by filtering the radioactive water at the accident site?