U.N. Atomic Chief Addresses Japan Crisis

nuclear radiationNYT-PARIS by MATTHEW SALTMARSH — Emergency workers have made “positive developments” in attempts to tackle the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but the situation in Japan has highlighted the shortcomings of international coordination of such disasters, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.

“The crisis has still not been resolved and the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious,” the director general, Yukiya Amano, told an emergency board meeting of the agency in Vienna. He noted that “high levels” of radiation contamination had been measured around the plant.

But he added, “We are starting to see some positive developments.” He cited in particular Sunday’s restoration of electrical power to the second unit at the power station and a reduction in pressure levels in containment vessels in the plant’s third unit.

Mr. Amano, a Japanese citizen, just ended an inspection visit to Japan, during which he called on government officials to disclose more information on the state of the plant and pledged agency assistance for the authorities, especially in monitoring. “I have no doubt that this crisis will be effectively overcome,” he said.

The grave situation at the power plant shows that the international emergency response framework needs to be “reassessed,” he said.

“It was designed largely in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, before the information revolution,” he said at the meeting. “It reflects the realities of the 1980s, not of the 21st century.”

Such an examination should involve a thorough review of the accident to improve safeguards for all producers of nuclear power. The first opportunity to consider the lessons learned would come next month at a meeting of the countries that adhere to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, he said.

“The agency’s role in nuclear safety may need to be re-examined, along with the role of our safety standards,” Mr. Amano said. “It is already clear that arrangements for putting international nuclear experts in touch with each other quickly during a crisis need to be improved.”

The crisis, which has grown since the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 crippled the plant, has been marked by often contradictory news reports and updates from social media sites about the actual levels of danger and the amount of radiation that has leaked from the site in northeastern Japan.

While it is the responsibility of the agency is to provide information to the world as quickly as possible, “doing this under the current arrangements inevitably takes time and has limitations,” Mr. Amano said.

The agency’s governing board has 35 members. The agency was established in 1957 under the United Nations umbrella, and its secretariat now employs 2,200 professional and support staff. Its mission includes enhancing safety, security and enacting verification in the sector as well as supporting research and technological advances.

Mr. Amano’s statement seemed more like a bow to Japanese sensitivities than a technical assessment. From the start of the crisis, the agency has struggled to get timely information from Japan about its failing reactors and has been criticized for technical misstatements.

Mr. Amano’s trip to Japan was meant to heal the communications rift, and his public comments Monday to a special meeting of the agency’s board read like an expression of condolence and praise for Japanese heroism.

However, the technical presentations to the board, which were private, went beyond diplomacy to give a detailed evaluation of the reactor crisis.

Mr. Amano emphasized that the agency was not a “nuclear safety watchdog” and that responsibility for nuclear safety lay with individual governments.

“The I.A.E.A. acts as a hub for international cooperation, helping to establish safety standards and providing expert advice on best practice,” he said in the speech. “But in contrast to the agency’s role in nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear safety measures are applied voluntarily by each individual country and our role is supportive.”

The agency has a senior official in Japan coordinating its assistance and has liaison officers working with the authorities. It also has a radiation-monitoring team in the country that has started sending measurements to Vienna, including from locations close to the Fukushima site. More specialists are on the way to strengthen the team.

Mr. Amano said that despite recent events, nuclear power would remain an “important and viable option for many countries as a stable and clean source of energy.”

Read the original at the NYT

More smoke at Fukushima plant forces workers to evacuate

Overnight, more grey radioactive smoke was spotted over a reactor, confirming the fear that the disaster is far from over.  The Fukushima few had to pull out of the Fukushima plant.  This is a major setback for TEPCO as well as the Japanese people.  As the plumes of radioactive material grow larger, the impact to the world intensifies.  The new radioactive clouds are expected to show higher radiation levels that previously measured the earlier clouds.

The alarming setback brought efforts to restore electricity to the plant and restart cooling pumps to a standstill.

The smoke came from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant’s Unit 3 reactor, but officials said they did not think it was linked to overheating fuel rods

The disheartening turn of events came after officials had reported making headway over the weekend in restoring electricity to two of the six reactors.

Despite signs of progress, officials continued to warn that the situation was not fully stabilized. On Sunday, they reported an unexpected surge in pressure in the reactor core at Unit 3 and contemplated venting radioactive steam.

EPA having issues with monitoring radioactive clouds passing west coast

I guess they did not think anyone would notice if they took the west coast monitors that were showing higher numbers offline.

EPA officials, however, refused to answer questions or make staff members available to explain the exact location and number of monitors, or the levels of radiation, if any, being recorded at existing monitors in California. Margot Perez-Sullivan, a spokeswoman at the EPA’s regional headquarters in San Francisco, said the agency’s written statement would stand on its own.

Critics said the public needs more information.

“It’s disappointing,” said Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California. “I have a strong suspicion that EPA is being silenced by those in the federal government who don’t want anything to stand in the way of a nuclear power expansion in this country, heavily subsidized by taxpayer money.”

That being said, go to this site and look for yourself, they are monkeying with the data and that makes me sad. Is this my tax money at work or is this private interest in the nuclear industry? (please don’t turn off my power if it is nuclear)

EPA Radiation Monitoring Project

Japan Cites Radiation in Tap Water, Milk, Spinach Near Nuclear Plant

Radioactive milk found near the Fukushima reator.(AP/Foxnews)FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Japan has reported trace amounts of radiation in tap water, spinach and milk in several areas amid concerns about leaks from a damaged nuclear power plant.

A government ministry reported Saturday that small amounts of the iodine was found in tap water in Tokyo and five other prefectures. The ministry says the amounts did not exceed government safety limits but usual tests show no iodine.

Earlier Saturday, Japan reported elevated radiation levels in spinach and milk from farms near its tsunami-crippled nuclear complex, as emergency teams scrambled Saturday to restore power to the plant so it could cool dangerously overheated fuel.

Firefighters also pumped tons of water directly from the ocean into one of the most troubled areas of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, the cooling pool for used fuel rods at the plant’s Unit 3, which are at risk of burning up and sending a broad release of radioactive material into the environment.

The first word on contaminated food in the crisis came as Japan continued to grapple with overwhelming consequences of the cascade of disasters unleashed by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11. The quake spawned a tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeast coast, killing more than 7,200 people, and knocked out backup cooling systems at the nuclear plant.
Just outside the bustling disaster response center in the city of Fukushima, 40 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of the plant, government nuclear specialist Kazuya Konno was able to take only a three-minute break for his first meeting with his wife Junko and their children since the quake.

“It’s very nerve-wracking. We really don’t know what is going to become of our city,” said Junko Konno, 35. “Like most other people we have been staying indoors unless we have to go out.”
She brought her husband a small backpack with a change of clothes and snacks. The girls — aged 4 and 6 and wearing pink surgical masks decorated with Mickey Mouse — gave their father hugs.

The tainted milk was found 20 miles from the plant while the spinach was collected between 50 miles and 65 miles to the south, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo.

While the radiation levels exceeded the limits allowed by the government, Edano said the products “pose no immediate health risk” and that more testing was being done on other foods. If tests show further contamination, Edano said food shipments would be halted from the area.
“It’s not like if you ate it right away you would be harmed,” Edano said. “It would not be good to continue to eat it for some time.”

Edano said the amount of radiation detected in the milk would as much as one CT scan if consumed continually for a year while for spinatch it would be a fifth of one CT scan. A CT scan is a compressed series of X-rays used for medical tests.

Low levels of radiation have been detected well beyond Tokyo, which is 140 miles (220 kilometers) south of the plant, but hazardous levels have been limited to the plant itself.

Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant began overheating and leaking radiation into the atmosphere in the days after the March 11 quake and the subsequent tsunami overwhelmed its cooling systems. The government admitted it was slow to respond to the nuclear troubles, which added another crisis on top of natural disasters which left an estimated more than 10,000 dead and displaced more than 400,000 others.

USA in Path of Radiation Clouds Leaving Japan-Official Forecast

USA in path of Japan's radiation cloudA forecast by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization shows how weather patterns this week might disperse radiation from a continuous source in Fukushima, Japan. The forecast does not show actual levels of radiation, but it does allow the organization to estimate when different monitoring stations, marked with small dots, might be able to detect extremely low levels of radiation. Health and nuclear experts emphasize that any plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States.

This is the forecast for March 18, 2011 of the radiation clouds coming from Japan.
Radiation cloud exposure key