A Radiological Dispersal Devise Exploded at a Train Station

Vibrant Response 13 - Radiation and nuclear threat responseThe unthinkable happened: A (simulated) 3,000 lb. radiological dispersal devise exploded at a train station in a major Midwestern city. Within hours, reports indicated two additional radiological devises, as well as a possible nuclear device, also detonated within the city.

Within minutes of the incident, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began the process of responding to the crisis; and soon after, an Army North defense coordinating element, or DCE, kicked into high gear as it prepared to help coordinate for Department of Defense assistance.

“Once an incident has happened, FEMA writes a mission assignment and sends it to the defense coordinating officer,” said Lt. Col. Charles Jackson, deputy defense coordinating officer for U.S. Army North’s Defense Coordinating Element Region VII out of Kansas City, Mo. ” The DCO will alert Army North of the help request, and then the defense coordinating element will be activated.”

“Once they have arrived on the scene, they will monitor situational awareness and determine if there are any military immediate responders on the scene. We are always the support element when we respond to situations in the United States,” said Jackson.

Defense coordinating elements serve as the Department of Defense’s first responders to a natural or man-made disaster. The DCEs are permanently assigned to all ten FEMA regions and serve as the DOD’s point of contact to the primary federal agencies responding to an event.

“We are the bridge between the state and federal government in coordinating resources to provide assistance to the American public,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Venable, emergency preparedness liaison officer for Defense Coordinating Element VII.

After a disaster, the state government(s) turns to FEMA to request help in providing resources to those affected. If FEMA cannot provide the needed resources directly, it sends a mission assignment to the assigned DCE requesting help.

Timeliness is paramount once called upon. The process is a quick one and the mission is vital — to aid their fellow Americans when called upon.

“When we get a mission assignment from FEMA, the first thing we do is determine if it meets regulatory criteria,” said Jackson. If it does, the DCE works to get the mission assigned.

Mission assignments fall under three categories: lifesaving, life-sustaining and all others. Once the mission assignment is approved, it is sent to a joint task force to be carried out.

To ensure the DCE is effective in times of national emergency, it is certified annually. DCE VII currently at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and is undergoing certification as part of Vibrant Response 13.

As part of the exercise, as soon as the members of DCE VII arrived on the scene, they quickly worked on gaining situational awareness and to kickoff the process of approving mission assignments that would ultimately go to Joint Task Force — Guardian, a command and control response element composed of National Guard members.

“One of the most difficult things in the initial hours after an incident is determining real information and separating it from inaccurate information,” said Jackson. “That is why it is important that we remain in contact with the responders on the ground.”

The training done at Army North’s Vibrant Response is realistic and beneficial to his team, said Col. Edward Manning, defense coordinating officer, DCE Region VII.

“This training is important because it prepares us to understand what is required in a real-world incident,” said Manning.

Just another day at Army.mil – Original article is posted here

More troop movement for this exercise can be seen in a video here

Chernobyl Plant Worker Shares Painful Memories

KYIV, Ukraine—Nikolai Vsisovich worked as a liquidator inside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the No. 4 reactor exploded 25 years ago. He is the last surviving work of 18 men. With the Fukushima crisis still not resolved, Vsisovich shares what he sees as too high a price to pay for nuclear power.

The Chernobyl disaster occurred about 75 miles from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and the accident was classified as level 7, the highest rating on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The International Atomic Energy Agency has rated some individual reactor accidents at Fukushima as level 5, but the Institute for Science and International Security, founded by a former IAEA inspector, says taking the plant as a whole, the level should be 6.

April 26, 1986, seemed like a normal Saturday. “Some men were drinking beer or sodas sitting near their home; children were playing in the yards. It was Saturday and a sunny day,” says Vsisovich.

The only surprising thing, he said, was that residents in the satellite town of Pripyat continued to behave as though nothing was happening after tanks and people wearing special uniforms entered the town to measure radioactivity levels.

The accident had occurred in the middle of the night, just before 1:30 a.m. During a systems test, there was a power surge, and everything went out of control, leading to a series of explosions at the No. 4 reactor. The explosions caused a fire, creating a highly radioactive plume of smoke. The amount of radioactivity released was roughly 400 times more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to the IAEA.

“Safety measures were ignored, the uranium fuel in the reactor overheated and melted through the protective barriers,” according to the IAEA.

Nikolai Vsisovich shows a picture of the protective face mask he wore during the working at the Chernobyl plant after the accident. (Vladimir Borodin/The epoch Times) Shortly after Pripyat was tested for radioactivity, and 36 hours after the accident, Soviet authorities began evacuating the town of nearly 50,000. Pripyat lay less than 2 miles from Chernobyl and had been established in 1970 to house workers when construction of the plant began.

In the ensuing weeks and months, some 200,0000 people were permanently relocated because of the accident.

Vsisovich and other members of plant staff were asked to stay behind because nobody knew the facility better than they did. “Even the leaders of the country came to ask us to stay, although we were supposed to be taken away from the plant because we already received the maximum exposure,” he says.

Plant staff worked together with soldiers who had the most dangerous job of clearing the exploded roof of the reactor.

“For that job soldiers were taken out of the army and paid 1,000 rubles as a bonus, and were allowed to leave military service for good. I don’t know, they might have already died a few years after the explosion,” said Vsisovich.

The 31-year-old Vsisovich went back and forth at a distance of about 500 feet from the exploded reactor, wearing a simple uniform and a facemask

In the first days of the cleanup, many staff members experienced a strange condition that kept them awake. “We had such euphoria that did not allow us to sleep—that excited us very much.”

However, he said then he learned that his body temperature had dropped to 35 degrees. “I felt like a boiled crayfish,” he recalled, adding that when he came home for a vacation after a month of work, he slept for about 20 days without getting out of bed.

Vsisovich, now 56, describes the litany of chronic ailments he suffers, about 20 in all. Most of his fellow workers suffered from heart problems and cancer—some suddenly died years after the disaster.

“I am the only one from my team of 18 people who is still alive,” he says.

Vsisovich thinks workers at the Fukushima plant will also likely suffer health problems. “There are no doubts,” he said.

The Chernobyl disaster and the crisis in Japan have changed his views on the safety of using nuclear power. He thinks the costs are too high and now stands for developing other sources of energy.

Vsisovich doesn’t agree with opening the Chernobyl power plant and the ghost town of Pripyat as a tourist destination. He believes the radiation levels are still too high and that the sarcophagus under the fourth reactor is weak, fragile, and full of highly radioactive dust.

Tours to Chernobyl started in February. The website says it is safe, if you follow the guide’s instructions, and do not “make contact with objects that easily adsorb radiation.” They also advise visitors to wear closed shoes and clothes that fully cover the body.

In the 1990s Vsisovich started helping the victims of Chernobyl by organizing philanthropic events and is working on creating an international fund in case of another Chernobyl, or indeed Fukushima.

‘No Safe Levels’ of Radiation in Japan – Danger for Fukushima 50 grows

Fukushima 50 working on cooling problem(TOKYO-IPS/Al Jazeera) – In a nuclear crisis that is becoming increasingly serious, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Agency confirmed that radioactive iodine-131 in seawater samples taken near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex that was seriously damaged by the recent tsunami off the coast of Japan is 4,385 times the level permitted by law.

Airborne radiation near the plant has been measured at 4-times government limits.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, the company that operates the crippled plant, has begun releasing more than 11,000 tons of radioactive water that was used to cool the fuel rods into the ocean while it attempts to find the source of radioactive leaks. The water being released is about 100 times more radioactive than legal limits.

Meanwhile, water that is vastly more radioactive continues to gush into the ocean through a large crack in a six-foot deep pit at the nuclear plant. Over the weekend, workers at the plant used sawdust, shredded newspaper and diaper chemicals in a desperate attempt to plug the area, which failed. Water leaking from the pit is about 10,000 times more radioactive than water normally found at a nuclear plant

Thus, radiation from a meltdown in the reactor core of reactor No. 2 is leaking out into the water and soil, with other reactors continuing to experience problems.

Yet scientists and activists question these government and nuclear industry “safe” limits of radiation exposure.

“The U.S. Department of Energy has testified that there is no level of radiation that is so low that it is without health risks,” Jacqueline Cabasso, the Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation, told Al Jazeera.

Her foundation monitors and analyses U.S. nuclear weapons programs and policies and related high technology energy, with a focus on the national nuclear weapons laboratories.

Cabasso explained that natural background radiation exists, “But more than 2,000 nuclear tests have enhanced this background radiation level, so we are already living in an artificially radiated environment due to all the nuclear tests.”

“Karl Morgan, who worked on the Manhattan project, later came out against the nuclear industry when he understood the danger of low levels of ionising radiation-and he said there is no safe dose of radiation exposure,” Cabasso continued, “That means all this talk about what a worker or the public can withstand on a yearly basis is bogus. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. These so-called safe levels are coming from within the nuclear establishment.”

Risk at low doses

Karl Morgan was an American physicist who was a founder of the field of radiation health physics. After a long career in the Manhattan Project and at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he became a critic of nuclear power and weapons. Morgan, who died in 1999, began to offer court testimony for people who said they had been harmed by the nuclear power industry.

“Nobody is talking about the fact that there is no safe dose of radiation,” Cabasso added, “One of the reasons Morgan said this is because doses are cumulative in the body.”

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a report in 2006 titled Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report, VII Phase 2. NAS BEIR VII was an expert panel who reviewed available peer reviewed literature and wrote, “the committee concludes that the preponderance of information indicates that there will be some risk, even at low doses.”

The concluding statement of the report reads, “The committee concludes that the current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no-threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionising radiation and the development of cancer in humans.”

This means that the sum of several very small exposures to radiation has the same effect as one large exposure, since the effects of radiation are cumulative.

For weeks engineers from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) have been working to restore power to the plant and have resorted to having seawater sprayed on radioactive fuel rods that have been at risk of meltdown.

Despite this, Japanese officials conceded to the public on Mar. 31 that the battle to save four crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been lost. On Mar. 29 a U.S. engineer who helped install the reactors at the plant said he believed the radioactive core in unit No. 2 may have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor.

Tepco’s chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, said they had “no choice” but to scrap the No’s 1-4 reactors, but held out hope that the remaining two could continue to operate, despite the fact that he admitted the nuclear disaster could last several months. It is the first time the company has admitted that at least part of the plant will have to be decommissioned.

But the government’s chief spokesman, Yukio Edano, repeated an earlier call for all six reactors at the 40-year-old plant to be decommissioned. “It is very clear looking at the social circumstances,” he said.

Even after a cold shutdown, scrapping the plant will likely take decades, and the site will become a no-man’s land.

Tonnes of nuclear waste sit at the site of the nuclear reactors, and enclosing the reactors by injecting lead and encasing them in concrete would make it safe to work and live a few kilometers away from the site, but is not a long-term solution for the disposal of spent fuel, which will decay and emit fission fragments over tens of thousands of years.

Near the plant, the radiation levels dangerously escalated to 400 milliseiverts/hour. Considering background radiation is on the order of 1 milliseivert per year, this means a yearly background dose every nine seconds, based on industry and governmental “allowable” radiation exposure limits.

That compares with a national “safety standard” in the U.S. of 250 millisieverts over a year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says a single dose of 1,000 millisieverts is enough to cause internal hemorrhaging.

Meanwhile, more than 168 citizens organisations in Japan submitted a petition to their government on Mar. 28 calling for an expanded evacuation zone near the Fukushima nuclear disaster site. The groups are also calling for other urgent measures to protect the public health and safety.

Residents of evacuated areas near the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant have been warned that they may not be able to return to their homes for months as Japan’s nuclear crisis stretched into a third week.

The neighbourhoods near the plant will remain empty “for the long term,” Yukio Edano, the country’s chief cabinet secretary, said on Apr. 1.

Though he did not set a timetable, he said residents would not be able to return permanently “in a matter of days or weeks. It will be longer than that.”

The official evacuation zone remains only 20 kilometers, while the government has encouraged people within 30 kilometers to evacuate.

Yet levels of cesium-137 in the village of Iitate, for example, have been measured at more than twice the levels that prompted the Soviet Union to evacuate people near Chernobyl. Iitate is 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima.

Radioactive Iodine has already been found in the tap water in all of Tokyo’s 23 wards.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had already recommended an 80-kilometer evacuation zone for U.S. citizens in Japan.

Fukushima as Chernobyl

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

“There are still no-go areas there, and the workers town has long since been abandoned, and we are seeing radioactive refugees from there, like we are now seeing generated in Japan,” Dr Kathleen Sullivan, a disarmament educator and activist who has been engaged in the nuclear issue for over 20 years told Al Jazeera.

“Tepco is trying to cover their ass, and the Japanese government is being cagey about it, and I believe people don’t understand that radiation is a major problem and issue.”

Dr Sullivan cited Albert Einstein, who said, “The splitting of the atom changed everything, save man’s mode of thinking; thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

“So we don’t understand this mistake because of the timeless invisible nature of the problem that radiation is,” Sullivan, who has been an education consultant to the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, added.

Some experts have warned of a nightmare scenario where clouds of radioactive material could spread lethal toxins across the planet for months on end if the spent fuel rods catch fire due to lack of coolant.

The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics of Vienna told New Scientist on Mar. 24: “Japan’s damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

“Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl.”

The same group of scientists stated, “The Fukushima plant has around 1760 tonnes of fresh and used nuclear fuel on site,” while, “the Chernobyl reactor had only 180 tonnes.”

According to a report from the New York Academy of Sciences, due to the Chernobyl disaster, 985,000 people have died, mainly from cancer, between 1986-2004.

Monitors have detected tiny radioactive particles which have spread from the reactor site across the Pacific to North America, the Atlantic and even Europe.

Andrea Stahl, a senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, told Reuters, “It’s only a matter of days before it disperses in the entire northern hemisphere.”

Tens of thousands of people living near the plant have been evacuated or ordered to stay indoors, while radioactive materials have leaked into the sea, soil and air.

Last week also marked the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in Middletown, Pennsylvania, in the United States.

250,000 years of radiation

Sullivan explained that when dealing with long-lived radioactive materials, in addition to carcinogens there are inter-generational effects that include the mutation of the genetic structure of life.

“This is permanent and irreversible,” she added.

Sullivan uses Fukushima reactor No. 3 as an example, because it is fueled with Mox fuel uranium and plutonium. Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years, which means it is carcinogenic and mutagenic for up to 250,000 years, or 12,000 human generations.

A radioactive half-life means that in this case, in 24,000 years, half of the ionising radiation will have decayed, then in another 24,000 years half of that radiation will decay, etc.

“That’s not really understandable or explainable in a conventional sense of knowing,” Sullivan said, “We have to apply our moral imagination to 12,000 generations to even begin to understand what we are doing in this moment.”

read the original here

Fukushima nuclear power plant remains serious

Japanese evacuation's due to Fukushima DaiichiThe director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency says the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant remains serious.

Yukiya Amano, IAEA Director General, said, “The difficult situation has not been overcome and takes some time to stabilize the reactors. Radioactivities in the environment, food stuff and water is a matter of concern in the vicinity of Fukushima plant and beyond. Some positive notes are: electrical power has been restored to unit number one, two and three, and fresh water is now available on the site.”

Amano will convene a high-level conference, possibly in late June, to examine safety procedures at nuclear plants worldwide in the wake of the disaster.

The meeting will focus on assessments of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster. The summit will also look at lessons that need to be learned and ways of strengthening the international response to such accidents.

He also adds that beyond experts, the IAEA’s members will be sending government representatives, saying presence at a “political level” is necessary due to the seriousness of the crisis.

Radiation in USA, Japan and the World: All levels of radiation kill

Japan has given us Radiation in our rainThe media can be your friend but sometimes they are just the messenger of the moment. Today they are telling you, “the levels of radiation are ‘safe’ and you should not be concerned”. This is hardly the case, for the same reason you would not want to go get an x-ray everyday, it all adds up. Our bodies not built to deal with it as it passes through our body, thus it kills us, even at low levels. On that topic, I read this article below and found it to be a interesting read. enjoy

“Safe” Radiation is a Lethal Three Mile Island Lie

by Harvey Wasserman

There is no safe dose of radiation.
We do not x-ray pregnant women.
Any detectable fallout can kill.

With erratic radiation spikes, major air and water emissions and at least three reactors and waste pools in serious danger at Fukushima, we must prepare for the worst.

When you hear the terms “safe” and “insignificant” in reference to radioactive fallout, ask yourself: “Safe for whom?” “Insignificant to which of us?”

Despite the corporate media, what has and will continue to come here from Fukushima is deadly to Americans. At very least it threatens countless embryos and fetuses in utero, the infants, the elderly, the unborn who will come to future mothers now being exposed.

No matter how small the dose, the human egg in waiting, or embryo or fetus in utero, or newborn infant, or weakened elder, has no defense against even the tiniest radioactive assault.

Science has never found such a “safe” threshold, and never will.

In the 1950s Dr. Alice Stewart showed a definitive link between medical x-rays administered to pregnant women and the curse of childhood leukemia among their offspring.

After a fierce 30-year debate, the medical profession agreed. Today, administering an x-ray to a pregnant woman is universally understood to be a serious health hazard.

Those who pioneered the health physics profession—towering greats like Dr. Karl Z. Morgan and Dr. John Gofman—set a definitive, impenetrable standard. A safe dose of radiation does not exist. All doses, “insignificant” or otherwise, can harm the human organism.

That has been repeatedly shown in major studies—done most notably by Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano, Arnie Gundersen, Dr. Steven Wing and others—showing that among human populations near commercial reactors, infant death rates plummet once the reactors shut down.

In 1979, 32 years ago this March 28, the owners of Three Mile Island said there was no meltdown, no serious radiation release and no need for evacuation.

All were lies.

To this day no one knows how much radiation was released or where it went or who it killed.

TMI’s owners ran ads dismissing the emissions as the equivalent of a single chest x-ray given to everyone within a ten mile radius.

But that included all the pregnant women.

Soon infant death rates soared in nearby Harrisburg. Some 2400 central Pennsylvania families sued based on the health impacts.

In 1980 I interviewed dozens of these people. Cancer, leukemia, birth defects, stillbirths, sterility, malformations, open lesions, hair loss, a metallic taste and much more were among the symptoms.

The death and mutation rate among farm and wild animals was also thoroughly documented by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and a team of investigators from the Baltimore News-American.

We were again told there were “no health dangers” from radiation that hit California from Chernobyl ten days after that 1986 explosion. But bird births at the Point Reyes National Seashore quickly dropped 60% from the levels that had been carefully monitored and recorded through the previous decade.

The cloud then crossed the northern tier of the United States. Heightened radiation levels were found in milk in New England—as they were throughout Europe from clouds that had blown from Chernobyl in the other direction.

The doses were neither “insignificant” nor “safe” to those far or near.

In Russia ten years later, I interviewed dozens of downwind victims, and many of the 800,000 “liquidators” who ran into Chernobyl’s seething corpse to help clean it up. After TMI, it was déjà vu all over again.

The most recently published findings, from a compendium of more than 5,000 studies, indicate a global Chernobyl death toll in excess of 985,000, and still counting.

Today we are assaulted by yet another radioactive death cloud from yet another “perfectly safe” nuclear plant.

Fukushima’s radiation is pouring into the air and water. The operators have reported radiation levels a million times normal, then retracted the estimate. Workers are being exposed to doses that are certain to be lethal. At least three of the reactors, and one or more of the spent fuel pools, hover at the brink of catastrophe.

Fukushima’s radiation has now been detected in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and has blown east across North America. It has also been detected in Sweden, which means its blowing across Europe as well.

Radiation is not being released as a single puff. Rather it’s a steady stream that could yet turn into a tsunami.

Fukushima’s worst may be yet to come. Its collective emissions are virtually certain to exceed Chernobyl’s.

And yet we continue to hear smug, misinformed “experts,” TV meteorologists and industry talking heads saying these are “safe” doses.

The response of the Obama Administration has been beyond derelict. As the accident began, the President went on national television to assure us there was nothing to worry about, and that he would continue to demand $36 billion in loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants.

Since then, even as the Fukushima crisis mounts, President Obama has remained silent.

Millions of Americans have heard about potassium iodide (KI), which can be used to block the uptake of radioactive iodine and perhaps protect the thyroid.

But KI can have potential medical side-effects for some individuals. And timing can be critical. To say the least, we need to know when the radioactive fallout is present.

Yet the administration has not provided us with a national supply of KI, or guidance for using it.

At very least we need reliable real-time mapping of the radioactive clouds as they cross the nation. Every American should be issued a mask, and sufficient KI pills with directions on how to use them, if necessary.

Above all, we need national leadership that puts the health of our people first and foremost.

Americans who are of reproductive age—and their unborn, our babies, the elderly, those of us who may be specially sensitive—we all deserve better.

As we have learned so tragically from Drs. Stewart, Morgan, Gofman and Sternglass, from Gundersen and Mangano and so many other researchers, from TMI and Chernobyl, and from the on-going operation of nuclear plants where infant death rates continue to be affected—a “perfectly safe” dose of radiation does not exist.

No truly informed or responsible scientist, medical doctor, health researcher, TV weatherman, bloviating “expert” or on-the scene reporter would ever tell you otherwise.

Whenever you hear the term “insignificant” fallout, ask yourself: “insignificant to whom?”

“Acceptable” to which expectant mother. To whose child? To how many mourning parents? For which dying elder?

Nuclear reactors make global warming worse and prolong our addiction to fossil fuels. They stand in the way of our transition to a totally green-powered Earth.

As we continue to learn at such a huge cost, there can never be a “perfectly safe” nuclear reactor, any more than there can be a “perfectly harmless” dose of radiation.

“Impossible” accidents continue to happen, one after the other, each of them successively worse.

What we fear most about TMI, then Chernobyl and now Fukushima, is not what has happened—but what is yet to come, there, and at the next inevitable reactor disaster.

We are a pro-life movement.

_______________________________

read the original here

Traces of Japan radioactivity in US rain

Tests around the plant are showing increasing radiation(AFP) WASHINGTON — Traces of radioactivity from damaged nuclear power facilities in Japan have been detected in rainwater in the northeast United States, but pose no health risks, officials said.

The Environmental Protection Agency, in an update Sunday, said it had received reports of “elevated levels of radiation in recent precipitation events” in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and that it was “reviewing this data.”

The EPA has been monitoring radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, and had previously detected “very low levels of radioactive material” in the United States, while saying that these “were expected” and that “the levels detected are far below levels of public health concern.”

“Elevated levels of radioactive material in rainwater have been expected as a result of the nuclear incident after the events in Japan since radiation is known to travel in the atmosphere,” the EPA added.

The agency has stepped up its monitoring of precipitation, drinking water, and other potential exposure routes for radiation as a precaution.

Last week, EPA cited “minuscule levels of an isotope that were consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident,” that also posed no “concern for human health.”

IMPACT: Nuclear plant owner TEPCO downplayed tsunami risk

The aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown starts with the people it affectsTOKYO — In planning their defense against a killer tsunami, the people running Japan’s now-hobbled nuclear power plant dismissed important scientific evidence and all but disregarded 3,000 years of geological history, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The misplaced confidence displayed by Tokyo Electric Power Co. was prompted by a series of overly optimistic assumptions that concluded the Earth couldn’t possibly release the level of fury it did two weeks ago, pushing the six-reactor Fukushima Dai-ichi complex to the brink of multiple meltdowns.

Instead of the reactors staying dry, as contemplated under the power company’s worst-case scenario, the plant was overrun by a torrent of water much higher and stronger than the utility argued could occur, according to an AP analysis of records, documents and statements from researchers, the utility and the Japan’s national nuclear safety agency.

And while TEPCO and government officials have said no one could have anticipated such a massive tsunami, there is ample evidence that such waves have struck the northeast coast of Japan before – and that it could happen again along the culprit fault line, which runs roughly north to south, offshore, about 220 miles (350 kilometers) east of the plant.

TEPCO officials say they had a good system for projecting tsunamis. They declined to provide more detailed explanations, saying they were focused on the ongoing nuclear crisis.

What is clear: TEPCO officials discounted important readings from a network of GPS units that showed that the two tectonic plates that create the fault were strongly “coupled,” or stuck together, thus storing up extra stress along a line hundreds of miles long. The greater the distance and stickiness of such coupling, experts say, the higher the stress buildup – pressure that can be violently released in an earthquake.

That evidence, published in scientific journals starting a decade ago, represented the kind of telltale characteristics of a fault being able to produce the truly overwhelming quake – and therefore tsunami – that it did.

On top of that, TEPCO modeled the worst-case tsunami using its own computer program instead of an internationally accepted prediction method.

It matters how Japanese calculate risk. In short, they rely heavily on what has happened to figure out what might happen, even if the probability is extremely low. If the view of what has happened isn’t accurate, the risk assessment can be faulty.

That approach led to TEPCO’s disregard of much of Japan’s tsunami history.

In postulating the maximum-sized earthquake and tsunami that the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex might face, TEPCO’s engineers decided not to factor in quakes earlier than 1896. That meant the experts excluded a major quake that occurred more than 1,000 years ago – a tremor followed by a powerful tsunami that hit many of the same locations as the recent disaster.

A TEPCO reassessment presented only four months ago concluded that tsunami-driven water would push no higher than 18 feet (5.7 meters) once it hit the shore at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex. The reactors sit up a small bluff, between 14 and 23 feet (4.3 and 6.3 meters) above TEPCO’s projected high-water mark, according to a presentation at a November seismic safety conference in Japan by TEPCO civil engineer Makoto Takao.

“We assessed and confirmed the safety of the nuclear plants,” Takao asserted.

However, the wall of water that thundered ashore two weeks ago reached about 27 feet (8.2 meters) above TEPCO’s prediction. The flooding disabled backup power generators, located in basements or on first floors, imperiling the nuclear reactors and their nearby spent fuel pools.

The story leading up to the Tsunami of 2011 goes back many, many years – several millennia, in fact.

The Jogan tsunami of 869 displayed striking similarities to the events in and around the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors. The importance of that disaster, experts told the AP, is that the most accurate planning for worst-case scenarios is to study the largest events over the longest period of time. In other words, use the most data possible.

The evidence shows that plant operators should have known of the dangers – or, if they did know, disregarded them.

As early as 2001, a group of scientists published a paper documenting the Jogan tsunami. They estimated waves of nearly 26 feet (8 meters) at Soma, about 25 miles north of the plant. North of there, they concluded that a surge from the sea swept sand more than 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) inland across the Sendai plain. The latest tsunami pushed water at least about 1 1/2 miles (2 kilometers) inland.

The scientists also found two additional layers of sand and concluded that two additional “gigantic tsunamis” had hit the region during the past 3,000 years, both presumably comparable to Jogan. Carbon dating couldn’t pinpoint exactly when the other two hit, but the study’s authors put the range of those layers of sand at between 140 B.C. and A.D. 150, and between 670 B.C. and 910 B.C.

In a 2007 paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Pure and Applied Geophysics, two TEPCO employees and three outside researchers explained their approach to assessing the tsunami threat to Japan’s nuclear reactors, all 54 of which sit near the sea or ocean.

To ensure the safety of Japan’s coastal power plants, they recommended that facilities be designed to withstand the highest tsunami “at the site among all historical and possible future tsunamis that can be estimated,” based on local seismic characteristics.

But the authors went on to write that tsunami records before 1896 could be less reliable because of “misreading, misrecording and the low technology available for the measurement itself.” The TEPCO employees and their colleagues concluded, “Records that appear unreliable should be excluded.”

Two years later, in 2009, another set of researchers concluded that the Jogan tsunami had reached 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) inland at Namie, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

The warning from the 2001 report about the 3,000-year history would prove to be most telling: “The recurrence interval for a large-scale tsunami is 800 to 1,100 years. More than 1,100 years have passed since the Jogan tsunami, and, given the reoccurrence interval, the possibility of a large tsunami striking the Sendai plain is high.”

The fault involved in the Fukushima Dai-ichi tsunami is part of what is known as a subduction zone. In subduction zones, one tectonic plate dives under another. When the fault ruptures, the sea floor snaps upward, pushing up the water above it and potentially creating a tsunami. Subduction zones are common around Japan and throughout the Pacific Ocean region.

TEPCO’s latest calculations were started after a magnitude-8.8 subduction zone earthquake off the coast of Chile in February 2010.

In such zones over the past 50 years, earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater have occurred in Alaska, Chile and Indonesia. All produced large tsunamis.

When two plates are locked across a large area of a subduction zone, the potential for a giant earthquake increases. And those are the exact characteristics of where the most recent quake occurred.

TEPCO “absolutely should have known better,” said Dr. Costas Synolakis, a leading American expert on tsunami modeling and an engineering professor at the University of Southern California. “Common sense,” he said, should have produced a larger predicted maximum water level at the plant.

TEPCO’s tsunami modelers did not judge that, in a worst-case scenario, the strong subduction and coupling conditions present off the coast of Fukushima Dai-ichi could produce the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred. Instead, it figured the maximum at 8.6 magnitude, meaning the March 11 quake was four times as powerful as the presumed maximum.

Shogo Fukuda, a TEPCO spokesman, said that 8.6 was the maximum magnitude entered into the TEPCO internal computer modeling for Fukushima Dai-ichi.

Another TEPCO spokesman, Motoyasu Tamaki, used a new buzzword, “sotegai,” or “outside our imagination,” to describe what actually occurred.

U.S. tsunami experts said that one reason the estimates for Fukushima Dai-ichi were so low was the way Japan calculates risk. Because of the island nation’s long history of killer waves, Japanese experts often will look at what has happened – then project forward what is likely to happen again.

Under longstanding U.S. standards that are gaining popularity around the world, risk assessments typically scheme up a worst-case scenario based on what could happen, then design a facility like a nuclear power plant to withstand such a collection of conditions – factoring in just about everything short of an extremely unlikely cataclysm, like a large meteor hitting the ocean and creating a massive wave that kills hundreds of thousands.

In the early 1990s, Harry Yeh, now a tsunami expert and engineering professor at Oregon State University, was helping assess potential threats to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant on the central California coast in the United States. During that exercise, he said, researchers considered a worst-case scenario involving a significantly larger earthquake than had ever been recorded there.

And then a tsunami was added. And in that Diablo Canyon model, the quake hit during a monster storm that was already pushing onto the shore higher waves than had ever been measured at the site.

In contrast, when TEPCO calculated its high-water mark at 18 feet (5.7 meters), the anticipated maximum earthquake was in the same range as others recorded off the coast of Fukushima Dai-ichi – and the only assumption about the water level was that the tsunami arrived at high tide.

Which, as is abundantly clear now, could not have been more wrong.

This AP story was written by YURI KAGEYAMA AND JUSTIN PRITCHARD
Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. AP writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles and AP researcher Barbara Sambrinski in New York contributed to this report.

Tepco Worker’s Email Reveals Personal Struggles

TEPCO workers struggle to keep up with the disaster amongst all the debrisWall Street Journal – By PETER LANDERS And NORIHIKO SHIROUZU- TOKYO  An email from a Tokyo Electric Power Co. employee working at one of the Fukushima nuclear power plants gives a rare look at how employees are grappling with personal loss even while working around the clock to respond to the March 11 quake.

“My parents were washed away by the tsunami and I still don’t know where they are. Normally I would rush to their house as soon as I could. But I can’t even enter the area because it is under an evacuation order,” says the email signed by the author, who works for the plant manager at the Fukushima Daini plant near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi reactors.

Tokyo Electric Power spokesman Hiro Hasegawa said the email, sent last Wednesday to a private email list and viewed by The Wall Street Journal, is “authentic.” The worker didn’t return emails seeking comment and couldn’t be reached.

“Most of the people working at 1F and 2F [Daiichi and Daini] live in this area, and they are all victims of the disaster,” the email said. The author said that where her parents lived, “the whole town was washed away by the tsunami.”

The worker said that people in her plant were working “without sleep or rest,” in part because they were helping Fukushima Daiichi’s recovery efforts. “The scene is completely like a war zone,” she said.

She said the tsunami was an “act of heaven” and the people who work in nuclear power weren’t at fault. Nonetheless, she said Tepco executives should recognize that people who live near the plant, especially those forced to evacuate from a 20-kilometer zone around it, were suffering greatly.

“Local children will have to transfer to schools in their places of refuge. Everyone has lost everything—their home, their job, their school, their friends, their families,” she wrote.

Contacted by email, Tepco officials at the Fukushima plants declined to comment on the email but offered apologies for causing the release of radiation and other problems.

The author expressed loyalty to Tepco, saying: “We are all working hard to complete our tasks as Tepco employees, before thinking of ourselves as disaster victims.” She concluded, “We will fight to the end!”

Read the original here

Fukushima 50 told they walked in water with 10,000 times the expected level of radiation

A japanese person showing us the geiger counter they use to test people at the evacuation shelter(Peter Alford and Rick Wallace, Tokyo) – HIGHLY irradiated water that injured two emergency service workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant probably leaked from the No 3 reactor core, Japan’s nuclear safety regulator says.  It was likely the No 3 reactor’s containment vessel had been breached and the water into which three workers stepped on Thursday came from the core, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency’s Hidehiko Nishiyama said yesterday.

It was possible “similar things could have happened” with No 1 and No 2 reactor containment vessels, Mr Nishiyama said, but information was inconclusive.

The threat of water leakages directly from reactor cores raises the difficulty and risk for workers in cooling the damaged plant so that more safety work can begin.

Three men stepped into the water in the basement of the No 3 reactor while replacing cables. Two were taken to hospital with skin lesions and all three had further tests yesterday.

The water’s radiation level was 10,000 times the level experienced with cooling water in a normally operating reactor. NISA said yesterday it had ordered plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co to improve its safety measures.

The agency found TEPCO had not properly monitored water radioactivity in the No 3 unit, nor provided the workers adequate protective gear, and did not evacuate the area immediately after Thursday morning’s accident.

The No 3 building remained evacuated yesterday and Mr Nishiyama said he did not know when and how work could resume on reattaching permanent power to the reactor’s cooling system.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano called upon Fukushima prefecture residents living outside the 20km exclusion zone around the plant but within a 30km radius to voluntarily evacuate.

TEPCO officials braced the Japanese public for blackouts rolling into the northern summer, dousing earlier hopes the blackouts on Honshu, the main island, would end by April 30.

A fortnight after the March 11 triple disaster – earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency – Prime Minister Naoto Kan was due to address the nation last night. By midday yesterday, the likely death toll exceeded 27,450. Police said 10,035 people were confirmed dead and 17,443 were missing, presumed dead.

Contamination of water in some treatment plants in areas surrounding the stricken power station remained above the safe limit for infants of 100 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive iodine.

In Tokyo, where elevated iodine 131 readings earlier in the week sparked panic buying of bottled water, levels remained safe.

But plants supplying Chiba, a major residential area east of Tokyo, posted readings on Wednesday of up to 220 becquerels of iodine 131, well above the infant limit. The advice for infants not to drink the water remained.

Shipments of vegetables including spinach, cabbage, broccoli, radish and parsley, and milk from Fukushima and three surrounding prefectures (Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma), remain suspended.

The World Health Organisation said 17 countries and the European Union had stepped up monitoring of Japanese imports.

read original here

More U.S. states find traces of radiation from Japan

RadNet Radiation monitor station(CNN) — Colorado and Oregon have joined several other Western states in reporting trace amounts of radioactive particles that have likely drifted about 5,000 miles from a quake and tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant in Japan, officials say.

But, on a portion of its website dedicated to tracking such radiation, the Environmental Protection Agency noted Wednesday that these and other readings “show typical fluctuation in background radiation levels” and — thus far — “are far below levels of concern.”

Sampling from a monitor in Colorado — part of a national network of stations on the lookout for radioactivity — detected miniscule amounts of iodine-131, a radioactive form of iodine, the state’s public health and environmental department said Wednesday in a press release.

On the same day in Portland, Oregon, tiny quantities of iodine-131 were also detected by an Environmental Protection Agency air monitor, Oregon public health officials said.

Small amounts of radioactive material were detected Wednesday, too, in Hawaii — just as they had a day earlier, according to the EPA. But while they were above the historical and background norm, the levels weren’t considered harmful to human health.

Washington and California previously reported low levels of radioactive isotopes that likely came from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has been releasing radioactive particles into the air since its cooling and other systems were damaged by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami on March 11. Efforts continued Thursday to cool down the spent nuclear fuel rods, prevent a further meltdown of the plant’s six reactor cores and curb the release of additional radioactive material.

Sampling of these radioactive particles from these various monitors will be further analyzed at the EPA’s national lab.

Still, right now, U.S. health officials have emphasized that, at about 5,000 miles from the plant, the West Coast is unlikely to see any dangerous levels of radiation regardless of what happens in Japan. Radioactive particles disperse in the air, thus there is less of a hazard the farther away you are.

“Our finding is consistent with findings in Washington and California. We have expected to find trace amounts of the isotopes released from the Japanese plant. There is no health risk,” Gail Shibley, administrator of Oregon’s Office of Environmental Public Health, Oregon Public Health Division, said in a statement.

Besides the Hawaii readings, the Environmental Protection Agency has found trace amounts of radioactive iodine, cesium and tellurium at four RadNet air monitor filters on the West Coast — three in California and one in Washington. These levels are consistent with what a U.S. Department of Energy monitor found last week, the EPA said Monday.

Americans typically get exposure to radiation from natural sources such as the sun, bricks and rocks that are about 100,000 times higher than what has been detected in the United States.

There is no need for anyone as a precautionary measure to take potassium iodide, a medication that can counter the harmful effects of iodine-131, health officials say.