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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fukushima reports lethal radiation levels *outside* reactor building

It's hard to know what the heck is really going at the triple meltdown site in Fukushima, Japan as it approaches the five-month mark since the earthquake-precipitated nuclear disaster. The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric, the private company that runs the plant, give out scandalously little information, and what does come out, comes out in Japanese, which often loses something in the translation into English.

But here's a report that the plant operator released yesterday that's got many observers' hair standing on end:

At 2:30 pm on August 1, as radiation level of surface of connection of emergency gas treatment system piping arrangement at the bottom of main exhaust stuck of unit 1 and 2 was detected over 10 Sv/h, keep the area out for restricted area with signature. We will consider countermeasure such as shilding.

The "exhaust stuck" they're talking about is the tall exhaust stack that Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1 and 2 share. You can see the tower pretty well at the top center of this photo, taken from the ocean. There's a more recent photo of the base of the stack here. They say they're measuring more than 10 sieverts an hour at that spot. Ten sieverts is a 100% fatal dose, and so if you stood there for an hour you'd be dead within weeks. Moreover, we're not told how much higher than 10 sieverts the radiation is -- some folks in the know are saying that the meters don't go up any higher than that. If the level is 40 sieverts an hour, you'd be dead if you stood there for 15 minutes.

You've got to wonder how long the photographer stood there taking that photo. And what the heck is going on inside that pipe to throw off that much radiation? Maybe the readings are mistaken, but something monumentally wrong continues to go on over there, day after depressing day.

Comments (4)

Thanks for the info, Jack. It's sad that the main stream media has placed this on the back page, if you can find anything about it at all, yet it will affect us more than debt ceilings and creepy sex scandals in the years to come.

Any thoughts on U.S. fisherman's claims against the Japanese government for this mismanagement once the radiation starts affecting the Pacific seafood supply?

Five months! Really, it's been that long and they still haven't made any more progress? It seems to me that engineers and nuclear experts must have given considerable thought and study to nuclear disasters since Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. And Japan is robot headquarters. They should be able to fix Fukushima at least so it stops emitting radiation. What is holding them back?

Fixing Fukushima is important not only for the people who live there and for those "downstream." It's an imperative for the nuclear energy industry.

Unfortunate typo for July 31:

"Operation for cooling the Spent Fuel Pools
- At 5:21 pm on May 31, we started cyclic cooling of Spent Fuel Pool of
Unit 2 by using alternative cooling system of the Pool's cooling and
filtering system.
- At 7:47 pm on June 30, we started cyclic cooling of Spent Fuel Pool of
Unit 3 by using alternative cooling system of the Pool's cooling and
filtering system.
- At 0:44 am on July 31, we started cyclic cooking of Spent Fuel Pool of
Unit 4 by using alternative cooling system of the Pool's cooling and
filtering system."

It's all about the details whether in engineering or PR.

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