JAPAN is battling a widening nuclear crisis, with presumed partial meltdowns at two crippled reactors and serious cooling problems at three more, while the death toll from Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami continued to soar.
Sydney Morning Herald 14th March 2011 more >>
1456: Radiation levels at the Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi prefecture are about 700 times higher than normal but are still low, the Tohoku Electric Power Company has said, according to the Maichi Shinbum website. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency dismissed the possibility that the Onagawa plant was to blame, saying it was likely caused by the radioactive substances that scattered when a hydrogen explosion hit the troubled Fukushima plant on Saturday.
1358: The Onagawa nuclear power plant is located near the town of Onagawa and the city of Ishinomaki city, in Miyagi prefecture, which was the region hardest hit by the earthquake. A fire broke out in the turbine building of one the reactors at Onagawa on Friday, but was put out. A water leak was also reported at another reactor on the site.
1353: A state of emergency has been declared at a second nuclear power plant in Japan, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said. “Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that the first, or lowest, state of emergency at the Onagawa nuclear power plant has been reported by Tohoku Electric Power Company,” a statement said, according to the AFP news agency. The alert was declared “as a consequence of radioactivity readings exceeding allowed levels in the area surrounding the plant”. “Japanese authorities are investigating the source of radiation,” it added.
1349: British regulators will be studying closely the nuclear crisis in Japan to “learn any lessons” for power stations in the UK, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has said.
1309: Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) is preparing to put sea water into the No 2 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, or Fukushima 1, power station, Reuters reports. It has already been pouring water into reactors No 1 and 3 to try to cool them.
1105: Yukio Edano, the government spokesman, is speaking now. He says authorities have begun injecting seawater at the No 3 reactor at Fukushima 1 power station. He said the water level is thought to be rising, but the gauge, which seems to be broken, is not showing this.
BBC 13th March 2011 more >>
See John Large disagreeing with official line on the impact of the explosion. (First video clip)
Channel 4 News 12th March 2011 more >>
Karl Grossman: The explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is being described as caused by a “hydrogen build-up” The situation harks back to the “hydrogen bubble” that was feared would explode when the Three Mile Island plant in 1979 underwent a partial meltdown. A highly volatile substance called zirconium was chosen back in the 1940’s and 50’s, when plans were first developed to build nuclear power plants, as the material to be used to make the rods into which radioactive fuel would be loaded. There are 30,000 to 40,000 rods composed of twenty tons of zirconium in an average nuclear power plant. Many other substances were tried, particularly stainless steel, but only zirconium worked well. That’s because zirconium, it was found, allows neutrons from the fuel pellets in the rods to pass freely between the rods and thus a nuclear chain reaction to be sustained.
Common Dreams 12th March 2011 more >>
Huffington Post 11th March 2011 more >>
And with the major malfunction at the Fukushima nuclear power plant comes the lies That’s the way it’s always been when it comes to nuclear technology: deception has always been a central element in the push for it. As desperate efforts were made Friday to keep coolant flowing to prevent a nuclear meltdown “radioactive vapor” was being released from the plant, reported the Associated Press. It quoted Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano as saying the amount of radioactivity was “very small.” And it “would not affect the environment or human health,” added AP. Really.
Counter Punch 13th March 2011 more >>
While the government orders a mass evacuation from the area around the nuclear explosion, there are fears the tsunami toll may exceed 10,000 Japan was fighting to stop a nuclear meltdown last night at two reactors crippled by a giant earthquake and tsunami that are thought to have killed thousands of people. A huge explosion blew apart the containment building walls around one of the reactors at the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant yesterday afternoon, panicking local people and raising the alarm around the world. It was triggered by an aftershock from Fridays 8.9-magnitude earthquake. Last night the cooling system of a second reactor at the Fukushima 1 plant failed and there were fears about the safety of a second plant nearby. The blast occurred as engineers tried to cool the hot core of the 40-year-old reactor after auto matic coolant systems failed. It could have been caused only by a partial meltdown of the reactors core, said Japans Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Initially, four workers were injured and three people were exposed to radioactive material but, by early today, 160 people were reported to have been contaminated. About 200,000 residents have been moved from the area around the two nuclear plants in the Fukushima prefecture amid fears of a large-scale release of radiation. The Japanese government was reported to be distributing potassium iodide tablets to prevent radiation sickness a highly sensitive subject in the only nation ever to have come under nuclear attack. An unprecedented operation began to pump seawater into the reactor container in an attempt to avert a meltdown. A turbine made by Hitachi will be brought in to speed the process. Boric acid will also be added to stop the atomic chain reaction, according to Yukio Edano, Japans chief cabinet secretary, who predicted that the shutdown could be completed within a week. He claimed that the explosion had not damaged the reactor itself and said overall radiation leakage would be low. However, Walt Patterson, a nuclear physicist at the Chatham House think tank in London, warned that the operation was not guaranteed to succeed and the risk of a meltdown remained. Too little was known about the status of the fuel in the reactor core, warned Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The issue is whether the core is uncovered, whether the fuel is breaking up or being damaged, or whether the fuel is melting, he said. John Large, a British nuclear consultant, disputed the authorities claims that the reactor was undamaged. This plant has been devastated by an explosion, its lost all its containment and I would expect to see a significant amount of radioactive release, he said.
Sunday Times 13th March 2011 more >>
The country renowned for its preparedness for natural disasters has exposed how vulnerable we have all become to the power of Mother Nature
Japan was probably the nation best prepared for one of the worst natural events. Or was it? The combination of circumstances which knocked even the standby generators out of action at the Fukushima nuclear reactors, leading to an explosion and the danger of a meltdown, have reminded us of the possibility of a new, as yet unplayed-out environmental catastrophe triggered by a natural event. Ironically, it is the very sophistication of the Japanese economy, with its 50 nuclear power plants, which made it vulnerable to a consequential event of this kind. The explosion at Fukushima will provoke much thought around the world now that building nuclear power stations i s back in fashion. Questions will be asked about the practice of siting such power stations on coasts. Did anyone explore the possibility that a tsunami would make it uniquely difficult to prevent the biggest problem with the present generation of nuclear reactors that if cooling systems pack up, hot liquids can vaporise and cause a release of radioactive materials? It is not clear how much if any radiation has escaped from Fukushima so we need a sense of proportion. For all the fuss that surrounded the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, Americas most significant nuclear accident, the release of radiation was relatively small and the health risks low. Japans situation is different and serious but nothing yet on the scale of the catastrophe that has already been inflicted by nature. Could any of what has happened in Japan happen in Britain? It has long been foreseen that damage to reactors or nuclear waste facilities could result in a release of radioactivity in the event of enemy action, terrorist attack or as a result of natural events such as earthquakes. These words are taken almost verbatim from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollutions 1976 report on nuclear power, which is the more poignant since that independent body is to be abolished at the end of this month. There is no doubt that Japans accident will boost fears about nuclear power at an inconvenient time for our government. It has identified eight sites where new nuclear power stations could be built by 2025. All are near the coast.
Sunday Times 13th March 2011 more >>
An expert warned Japan four years ago that it faced catastrophe because of flaws in its safety guidelines, then stood down when they did not listen A Japanese expert on nuclear safety warned more than three years ago that the policy of building large numbers of reactors in the middle of a volatile earthquake zone could lead to catastrophe. As the authorities battled to avert a meltdown at the Fukushima plant, it emerged that a senior figure in Japans nuclear community resigned in protest from a safety panel saying guidelines to protect atomic power plants from earthquake damage were too lax. Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a professor at Kobe university, said seismic guidelines brought in to protect Japans 55 reactors in 2006 were still seriously flawed.
Sunday Times 13th March 2011 more >>
Areva, the French nuclear giant, has joined forces with the British government to rebuild the industrial base needed to construct new nuclear power stations in Britain. The plan comes as the nuclear industry takes stock of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Fridays huge earthquake led to an explosion, a release of radiation and the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents from the surrounding area as engineers frantically worked to prevent a meltdown. Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, said: It is much too early to say what the impact and implications are. We will be working closely with the (International Atomic Energy Agency and Japan to carefully establish what lessons can be learned. The accident will revive the debate just as Britain pushes ahead with one of the worlds most ambitious nuclear programmes.
It expects up to a dozen reactors to be built over the next 15 years. British expertise in the sector is a shadow of what it once was, yet this is just one of the many obstacles that threaten to derail the industrys renaissance here. Cost is another of the stumbling blocks in the way of Britains nuclear regeneration. Horizon Nuclear Power, the joint venture set up by RWE Npower and Eon, the German utility groups, is understood to be looking for a ne w partner to help share the financial pain. Each reactor is expected to cost at least 4 billion. EDF Energy, which has gone into partnership with Centrica, the owner of British Gas, is also heavily indebted. NuGeneration, the third consortium that consists of GDF Suez, Scottish and Southern Energy and Iberdrola, has the least advanced plans. The timetable, meanwhile, is slipping. The government and EDF set 2017 as the target date for the first new station to begin producing electricity. Sharma at Ultra Electronics said that given the numerous problems that still have to be overcome, the more likely target is 2020 or 2021. The size of the financial carrot the government will offer to entice the industry to push ahead with its plans is key. Late last year, the department of energy published its proposal for electricity market reform, a new regulatory regime that will introduce a floor to the wholesale price of electricity, which developers said was indispensable befo re they agree to build.
Some fear that events in Japan could derail plans here. An analyst drew parallels to the meltdowns at Three Mile Island and the Chernobyl disaster. He said: Chernobyl set the industry back for decades.
Sunday Times 13th March 2011 more >>
Engineer Sheffield Forgemasters has launched a review over whether to resurrect plans to build a 15,000-ton steel press, a project axed in the early days of the coalition government. The firm had been promised an 80m loan by Labour, which believed that the project was vital to help Britain take a leading share of the burgeoning market for nuclear forgings. The loan was said to be vital to bridge a huge funding gap for the 140m press as Forgemasters argued that private-sector finance was not readily available. The news that the press could still be built will be a boon to the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, whose party’s spring conference is in Sheffield this weekend. There is unrest among members over the party’s role in the coalition, as they believe their ministers have been weak over banker bonuses and student tuition fees. Mr Clegg suffered from the original decision last year as his constituency is in Sheffield.
Independent 13th March 2011 more >>
Electricity Market Reform
Plans to meet tough reduction targets are met with fears of soaring bills, damage to UK manufacturing and expensive low-carbon technologies. A Government scheme to rid Britain of carbon emissions will send household bills soaring, hasten the closure of old power stations and accelerate the introduction of electric cars. Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, published the coalitions Carbon Plan last week. The 83-page document sets out hard targets for a number of initiatives, such as the fast-track formation of a green investment bank, which experts say are critical to hitting pollution reduction targets that are among the toughest in the world. In the Carbon Plan, Huhne commits the government to create by next month a law to set a carbon floor a minimum price for emissions permits. Under the European emissions trading scheme, power companies have to buy carbon permits for each tonne of pollution they emit beyond a pre-determined limit. However, prices are volatile and generally too low to motivate firms to develop new energy sources, such as wind, that are more expensive to build but cheaper to run because they emit virtually no greenhouse gases. The carbon floor, which is expected to come into effect by 2013, would be a hammer blow to coal-fired power producers. The switch to low-carbon power will be felt by households too. Ofgem, the gas and electricity regulator, said that annual energy bills could hit 2,000 by 2017, up from 1,100 today, as the costs of expensive low-carbon technologies are passed on.
Sunday Times 13th March 2011 more >>
Britains organised crime squad has been brought in to tackle gangs who are mounting Mission Impossible-style heists to steal carbon credits and crippling Europes chief weapon against global warming. So many credits have been stolen and resold that it threatens a meltdown of the European Unions carbon trading system.
Sun Times 13th March 2011 more >>
Wikipedia seems to have a pretty good description of what has been going on. In March 2011, in the immediate wake of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government declared an “atomic power emergency” and evacuated thousands of residents living close to Fukushima I. Ryohei Shiomi of Japan’s nuclear safety commission said that officials were concerned about the possibility of a meltdown.
Wikipedia 12th March 2011 more >>
Wikipedia 13th March 2011 more >>
Green Action Blog
Green Action 13th March 2011 more >>
A hydrogen explosion could occur at Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. That would follow a blast that took place Saturday at the same power plant as operators attempted to prevent a nuclear meltdown of another unit by injecting sea water into it.
Telegraph 13th March 2011 more >>
Sunday Sun 13th March 2011 more >>
Guardian 13th March 2011 more >>
London Evening Standard 13th March 2011 more >>
Scotland on Sunday 13th March 2011 more >>
Japan’s authorities scrambled Sunday to control an overheating reactor of the problem-prone Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, injecting fresh water into it and reducing pressure inside, top government spokesman Yukio Edano said. The chief Cabinet secretary told a press conference ‘‘a very small amount’’ of radioactive substances had leaked from the No. 3 reactor of the plant, dismissing concerns that the radioactivity level would affect human health. The government and the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., took the measures to deal with a problem that the top of MOX fuel rods was 3 meters above water in the reactor following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northeastern and eastern Japan on Friday. Radiation measured 1,024 micro sievert at 8:33 a.m. on the rim of the plant’s premises, Edano said. The allowable level in one hour is 500 micro sievert. But the figure went down to 70 an hour later, he said.
Kyodo News 13th March 2011 more >>
Malcolm Grimston: The Fukushima facility was immediately shut down after the earthquake – but the nuclear fuel would still have been giving off a huge amount of heat. Water provided by back-up diesel generators should cool it down, but it looks like they failed when the tsunami hit the power station, which is right on the coast. The water in the reactor then started to boil. There was a build-up of steam, which increased the pressure in the reactor, and hydrogen and radioactive caesium and iodine would also have been in that mix, because of fuel failure. The pressure had to be dealt with to prevent the risk of meltdown or an explosion, so the operators vented steam and other gases into the outer container. That move explains reports before yesterday’s explosion of slightly increased levels of radiation from the plant.
Sunday Mirror 13th March 2011 more >>
A quake-hit Japanese nuclear plant reeling from an explosion at one of its reactors has also lost its emergency cooling system at another reactor, Japan’s nuclear power safety agency said on Sunday.
Reuters 12th March 2011 more >>
Authorities in Japan are scanning thousands of people for radiation exposure after an explosion at a nuclear power plant forced mass evacuations from surrounding areas.
ABC News 12th March 2011 more >>
Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that the explosion at Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant occurred outside the primary containment vessel (PCV), not inside. The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has confirmed that the integrity of the primary containment vessel remains intact.
IAEA 12th March 2011 more >>
As the evening turned to night, the world’s second-largest metropolis was still waiting to know whether it had been exposed to what would be perhaps the world’s worst nuclear disaster. “A Chernobyl-type leak here would be far worse than in Russia,” said Lee Uranaka, a passer-by in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping and nightlife district. “That was a relatively-lightly populated area. There are 30 million people in range of this nuclear power station.”
Telegraph 12th March 2011 more >>
The timing of the near nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi could not have been more appropriate. In only a few weeks the world will mark the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear plant disaster ever to affect our planet – at Chernobyl in Ukraine. A major core meltdown released a deadly cloud of radioactive material over Europe and gave the name Chernobyl a terrible resonance. This weekend it is clear that the name Fukushima came perilously close to achieving a similar notoriety. However, the real embarrassment for the Japanese government is not so much the nature of the accident but the fact it was warned long ago about the risks it faced in building nuclear plants in areas of intense seismic activity. Several years ago, the seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko stated, specifically, that such an accident was highly likely to occur. Nuclear power plants in Japan have a “fundamental vulnerability” to major earthquakes, Katsuhiko said in 2007. The government, the power industry and the academic community had seriously underestimated the potential risks posed by major quakes.
Observer 13th March 2011 more >>
For a few unnerving hours, Japan faced a bleak and unsettling prospect. The devastation wreaked by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami seemed set to be followed by a nuclear meltdown that could have spread radioactive waste over large parts of the country. The nation was one short step away from enduring genpatsu-shinsai – an atomic disaster triggered by the shock of an earthquake that leading Japanese seismologists had been predicting for several years. Fears of a nuclear fallout were raised when a massive explosion rocked the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant following damage to one of its reactors in Friday’s earthquake. A pall of grey-white smoke rose over the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power, and it was reported that four workers had been injured.
Guardian 12th March 2011 more >>
Attention is focused on the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants as Japan struggles to cope in the aftermath of its worst earthquake in recorded history. An explosion on site did not damage containment. Sea water injection continues after a tsunami warning. Without enough power for cooling systems, decay heat from the reactor cores of units 1, 2 and 3 has gradually reduced coolant water levels through evaporation. The consequent increase in pressure in the coolant circuit can be managed via pressure release valves. However, this leads to an increase in pressure within the reactor building containment. Tepco has said that the pressure within the containment of Fukushima Daiichi 1 has reached around 840 kPa, compared to reference levels of 400 kPa. Meanwhile at adjacent Fukushima Daini, where four reactors have been shut down safely since the earthquake hit, Tepco has notified government of another emergency status.
World Nuclear News 12th March 2011 more >>
At least three residents evacuated from a Japanese town near a quake-hit nuclear plant have been exposed to radiation, media reports say.
The three were randomly chosen for examination out of about 90 bedridden patients moved from a hospital in the town of Futaba-machi, public broadcaster NHK reported on Saturday. The patients had waited for rescuers on a school ground, spending a long time outside and then being moved by helicopter at the time when an explosion hit the ageing Fukushima No 1 plant, NHK said, citing the Fukushima local government.
Sydney Morning Herald 13th March 2011 more >>
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency held a news conference, where a spokesperson said they are cooperating with affiliated organizations to monitor radiation levels, following an explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Reuters 12th March 2011 more >>
The Japanese nuclear safety agency rated the damage at a nuclear power plant at Fukushima at a four on a scale of one to seven, which is not quite as bad as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979, which registered a five. But what does that mean? The International Atomic Energy Agency – an inter-governmental organization for scientific co-operation in the nuclear field – said it uses the scale to communicate to the public in a consistent way the safety significance of nuclear and radiological events.
FT 12th March 2011 more >>
The word “meltdown” goes to the heart of the big nuclear question – is nuclear power safe? The term is associated in the public mind with the two most notorious accidents in recent memory – Three Mile Island, in the US, in 1979, and Chernobyl, in Ukraine, seven years later.
BBC 12th March 2011 more >>
An explosion at a nuclear power station today destroyed a building housing the reactor, but a radiation leak was decreasing despite fears of a meltdown from damage caused by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, officials said.
Independent 12th March 2011 more >>
Radiation was leaking from an unstable nuclear reactor north of Tokyo on Saturday, the Japanese government said, after an explosion blew the roof off the facility following a massive earthquake. The development has led to fears of a disastrous meltdown. Here are comments from experts about what might have happened.
Reuters 12th March 2011 more >>
AN explosion at a nuclear power station this morning destroyed a building housing the reactor – but a radiation leak was decreasing despite fears of a meltdown from damage caused by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, officials said.
Nothern Echo 12th March 2011 more >>
NW Evening Mail 12th March 2011 more >>
New Statesman 12th March 2011 more >>
Huddersfield Examiner 12th March 2011 more >>
Japanese authorities have told the U.N.’s atomic watchdog they are making preparations to distribute iodine to people living near nuclear power plants affected by Friday’s earthquake, the Vienna-based agency said
Yahoo 12th March 2011 more >>
A SECOND quake has hit the nuclear power station that has been leaking radiation following the first earthquake. A reactor exploded in the first 8.9 magnitude quake. It’s uncertain yet if the second magnitude 6 quake has further damaged the unstable plant. Billowing clouds of smoke could be seen pouring from the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the explosion, which happened in the early hours of today.
Express 12th March 2011 more >>
0650: Despite that risk of a second explosion, the government spokesman says reactor No 3 could withstand a blast in the same way that reactor No 1 did.
0638: The Japanese government is warning of the risk of another reactor explosion at the Fukushima plant at the No.3 reactor.
0545: The situation at the damaged Fukushima plant is still developing but Malcolm Grimston, an expert on the nuclear industry from Imperial College London, argues that the Japanese authorities should be proud of their foresight. “Given the circumstances, I think this is an extraordinary tribute to those scientists and engineers and designers who built these plants in the 1960s. I’m enormously impressed at the way in which these reactors have withstood the largest earthquake ever in Japan and one of the 10 largest that we’ve ever recorded on earth”.
0448: No change has been detected in radiation levels in the Russian far east, which borders Japan, the country’s top health inspector, Gennady Onishchenko, tells Interfax news agency. The situation is being monitored around the clock, with experts who tracked the Chernobyl disaster on stand-by if the situation deteriorates.
0421: The problem centres on one of two nuclear power plants in Fukushima prefecture, which stand 11.5km (7.1 miles) apart. The plant, Fukushima 1, has six reactors. On Saturday afternoon local time, a hydrogen explosion reportedly hit the building housing the No 1 reactor but the container of the reactor remained intact. Early today local time, it was reported that the emergency cooling system of Reactor 3 had failed. The reactor’s fuel rods were reportedly exposed and a partial meltdown was believed to be under way.
0411: Shaun Burnie, from lobby group Greenpeace, tells the BBC that using plutonium as fuel increases the risk that something could go wrong because plutonium-fuelled plants operate at a higher temperature. He also says plutonium is far more dangerous if it’s released into the environment.
0406: More on the specific dangers of Fukushima 1 plant’s reactor 3: The BBC’s Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the reactor is fuelled with uranium and plutonium, meaning the consequences of a meltdown are much more severe than at the other uranium-fuelled reactors.
0317: Tepco statement: “In order to fully secure safety, we operated the vent valve to reduce the pressure of the reactor containment vessels (partial release of air containing radioactive materials) and completed the procedure at 8:41AM.”
0225: The unsafe level of radioactivity at the Fukushima plant is being created by the plant’s No 3 reactor, AFP says, quoting the Japanese government.
0202: More on the higher radioactivity level at the nuclear plant. The Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has informed the government of an “emergency situation” but this does not mean an immediate threat to human health, the company adds. A similar rise in radiation levels occurred after the company released radioactive steam from another reactor to let go of pressure. On that occasion too, the company was obliged to inform the government of an “em
0147: The legal limit for radioactivity has been passed at the Fukushima plant, AFP says, quoting Japan’s Kyodo news agency.
2224: A recap: Fukushima has two nuclear plants; Fukushima No. 1, which has six reactors (three of which were offline at the time of the quake) and Fukushima No. 2, which has four reactors.
2212: Some clarification: It is the number three reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 plant where officials have just announced that the cooling system has failed. This morning’s blast took place at the number one reactor at the same plant. “All the functions to keep cooling water levels in No. 3 reactor have failed at the Fukushima No. 1 plant,” a spokesman for the operator said.
2145: Reuters: The number of people exposed to radiation near Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could reach 160, an official from the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has said. Nine people have shown signs of possible exposure.
2123: Reuters: The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the Fukushima No. 3 reactor, an official from Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has told journalists.
2055: More on evacuations: According to an IAEA statement, 110,000 people have been moved away from Fukushima No. 1 plant. Another 30,000 have been evacuated from a 10km radius around Fukushima No. 2 plant. But full evacuation measures had not been completed.
1928: Japanese workers in masks and protective clothing are scanning evacuees from the Fukushima area for radiation exposure, Reuters reports. Seventeen-year-old Masanori Ono says: “There is radiation leaking out, and since the possibility (of exposure) is high, it’s quite scary.”
1705: A quick recap: There is continuing concern over the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 reactor after a powerful explosion there early this morning. Japanese officials say the container housing the reactor was not damaged and that radiation levels have now fallen. But experts say it is not clear whether the situation is under control.
1602: US nuclear expert Joseph Cirincione tells CNN the full picture of what it happening at the Fukushima No. 1 reactor has yet to emerge: “The big unanswered question here is whether there’s structural damage to this facility now. We saw the explosion early this morning. Are there other structural damages that may make a meltdown all but inevitable? We don’t have any information from the power company on that.”
1459: At least three residents evacuated from a town near quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 plant have been exposed to radiation, both Kyodo and NHK report
1443: Kyodo News: The four workers injured in the blast at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are conscious and their injuries are not life-threatening
1349: A team from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences has been despatched to Fukushima as a precaution, reports NHK. It is reportedly made up of doctors, nurses and other individuals with expertise in dealing with radiation exposure, and has been taken by helicopter to a base 5km from the nuclear plant.
1316: Noriyuki Shikata, deputy cabinet secretary for public relations for the Japanese prime minister tweets: “Blast was caused by accumulated hydrogen combined with oxygen in the space between container and outer structure. No damage to container.”
1305: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Japanese authorities are making preparations to distribute iodine to residents in the area of both the Fukushima nuclear plants. The IAEA has reiterated its offer of technical assistance to Japan, should the government request this.
TEPCO considering using sea water to cool the reactor further – Walt Patterson – using sea water a drastic measure; basically an admission that the reactor is a right off.
1227: So, attention has focussed over the last few hours on the risk to two nuclear plants in north-eastern Japan, one of which was the site of a spectacular explosion that sent a cloud of dust and debris into the air. But officials say damage from the blast appears to be limited.
1218: It seems clear now from Mr Edano’s comments that the nuclear plant building that was blown apart earlier did house a reactor, but the reactor was protected by its metal casing.
1216: Government spokesman Yukio Edano says the pressure as well as the radiation at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant has fallen following this afternoon’s explosion.
1202: Government spokesman says the nuclear reactor container at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant has not been damaged, and the level of radiation has dropped following the explosion earlier on Saturday, AFP reports.
1147: Naoto Kan: Safety of people around the Fukushima nuclear plant is our number one priority – first we need to save lives, then we need to make it easier for people in shelters, based on experience from Kobe, he says. After that, reconstruction efforts.
1125: Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano also said that the current level of radioactivity at the power plant was “within the range that was anticipated” when it was decided that steam would be vented from the reactor to release pressure.
1122: A full quote from Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano’s press conference: “As reported, we have been informed that there was some kind of an explosive phenomenon at Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant, although it has yet to be confirmed whether [the explosion] was that of a nuclear reactor itself. At present, after the talks among political party heads held a while ago, government officials including the prime minister and the minister of economy, trade, and industry, along with experts, are making all-out efforts to get hold of and analyse the situation, and to take measures.”
1110: An attempt to explain the risk to the Fukushima nuclear plants following the earthquake: The plants are designed to shut down automatically, which halts the main nuclear fission reaction, but there is a residual amount of intense heat within the system. Back-up generators should kick in to power the cooling mechanisms needed to dissipate that heat – but if they fail, as appears to have happened here, temperatures rise. If this isn’t stopped, the reactor vessel itself could eventually melt and leak.
1103: Japan’s Kyodo news is also reporting that the four people injured in the nuclear plant explosion are conscious and their injuries are not life-threatening.
1057: Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says serious damage to the nuclear reactor container is unlikely despite the explosion at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant – Kyodo news.
1052: Neil McKeown in Nakameguro, Tokyo writes: “The evacuation zone has been extended to 20km by the government. However TepCo [the Tokyo Electric Power Company] appeared in a news conference and promised to release new radioactivity readings after 6pm. It is now 7.30pm and they have not done so. People are getting extremely frustrated at the lack of news coming from TepCo and the government – they have yet to confirm if the building that suffered an explosion housed a reactor, and we have no indication how much radiation has been released or in what direction winds are blowing.”
1045: BBC environment correspondent Roger Harrabin says local officials believe the release of radiation following the nuclear plant explosion is likely to be small. He adds that nuclear incidents aren’t always as serious as they may sound or appear, and actually, in terms of loss of life and destruction, accidents at hydroelectric plants are far more dangerous.
1023: Japanese authorities are extending the evacuation zone around the two Fukushima nuclear plants from 10km to 20km, according to local media.
1016: The BBC’s environment correspondent Roger Harrabin says he understands the blast at the nuclear plant may have been caused by a hydrogen explosion – also one of the possibilities laid out by Walt Patterson of Chatham House. “If nuclear fuel rods overheat and then come into contact with water, this produces a large amount of highly-flammable hydrogen gas which can then ignite,” our correspondent says.
1011: More from Walt Patterson of Chatham House. He says the presence of the radioactive caesium in the surrounding area does not pose a huge threat to public health in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. “What would be serious is if there was an explosion or fire that lifted this stuff high in the air, meaning it could get carried over a wide area.”
1009: “This is starting to look a lot like Chernobyl” Walt Patterson, an associate fellow with Chatham House, has told the BBC after seeing pictures of the explosion at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant. “The nuclear agency says that they have detected caesium and iodine outside the unit, which certainly indicates fuel melting at the very least,” he says. “Once you have melting fuel coming into contact with water, that would almost certainly be the cause of the explosion.”
0957: From Richard Black, BBC environment correspondent: “Although Japan has a long and largely successful nuclear power programme, officials have been less than honest about some incidents in the past, meaning that official re-assurances are unlikely to convince everyone this time round.”
BBC 12th March 2011 more >>
Timeline: Japan power plant explosion
BBC 12th March 2011 more >>
Latest TEPCO Press Releases in English
Tepco 12th March 2011 more >>
Radiation Readings “Higher Than Normal” at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, Japan Sea water and boric acid is being injected into the primary containment vessel at unit 1 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan to try and cool the reactor following a failure of the pumping systems.
Global Herald 12th March 2011 more >>
Reacting to reports that radioactive materials including the isotope Cesium-137 have been released from the Fukushima power plant, and that increased levels of radiation have been detected in the immediate vicinity, Jan Beranek, Head of Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign said: “Our thoughts continue to be with the Japanese people as they face the threat of a nuclear disaster, following already devastating earthquake and tsunami. The authorities must focus on keeping people safe, and avoiding any further releases of radioactivity”. “The evolving situation at Fukushima remains far from clear, but what we do know is that contamination from the release of Cesium-137 poses a significant health risk to anyone exposed. Cesium-137 has been one if the isotopes causing the greatest health impacts following the Chernobyl disaster, because it can remain in the environment and food chain for 300 years.”
Greenpeace Press Release 12th March 2011 more >>
Greenpeace International Fukushima website
Greenpeace 12th March 2011 more >>
The unexpected nature of this week’s earthquake in Japan, plus the damage from the subsequent tsunami and fires, makes estimating insured losses from the disaster especially difficult, senior executives at two top catastrophe risk modelling firms said on Saturday.
Reuters 13th March 2011 more >>
More than 100,000 jobs will be created by Britain’s programme of building new nuclear power stations, according to Areva. The French giant, which is building four reactors for EDF – two in Hinkley Point, Somerset, and two in Sizewell, Suffolk – predicts British companies will be responsible for 80% of the work. A study by Areva into the implications of the new building programme for British jobs and communities seen by Financial Mail gives an upbeat assessment of job opportunities. Areva believes that each plant will create 20,000 construction jobs over six years – half directly related to the power station and half created indirectly.
This is Money 12th March 2011 more >>
Nuclear experts convened by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental campaign group, said they expected the explosion at the Fukushima plant to undermine public support for nuclear power, however serious the incident ultimately turned out to be. Peter Bradford, former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission now at Vermont Law School, said it was still too early to come to any conclusions about what had happened at Fukushima, in the wake of an explosion in the building surrounding one of six reactors at the Daiichi plant. “At this stage in the Three Mile Island accident, we knew about 10 per cent of what we eventually knew about it., and some of what we thought we knew turned out not to be correct,” he said.
However, he added that there was “no way this is a positive” for the nuclear industry
FT 13th March 2011 more >>
Today 4 million gallons of water were abstracted from Britain’s favourite view – Wastwater- to cool nuclear wastes at Sellafield.. the same amount of freshwater used by three cumbrian towns daily. The high level nuke waste in Cumbria includes spent fuel, sent (by boat with military escorts) from Japan and reprocessed at Sellafield. Reprocessing is banned in the USA as the dirty old process makes already dangerous high level wastes even more dangerous.
101 uses for nuclear power 12th March 2011 more >>
How many U.S. nuclear plants are vulnerable to a tsunami and/or 100-year flood? If the GOP has its way, their vulnerability will rise sharply as will that of all Americans in the path of any serious disaster.
Climate Progress 12th March 2011 more >>
Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor that had an explosion and radiation release was a General Electric Co Mark 1 boiling water reactor type. There are 23 GE Mark 1 reactors operating at U.S. nuclear power plants. GE has rolled out several versions of the Mark 1, and some of the U.S. reactors could be slightly different than the Daiichi Unit 1 reactor. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said all of the 104 reactors in the United States, including the Mark 1 reactors listed below, were operating safely.
Reuters 12th March 2011 more >>
French green groups renewed a call on Saturday for France to end its dependence on nuclear power, saying a radiation leak at a Japanese atomic power plant showed there were no safety guarantees in the industry.
Reuters 12th March 2011 more >>
Europe must drop nuclear energy after a radiation leak from Japan’s earthquake-damaged atomic reactor proved there are no safety guarantees, European green groups said on Saturday.
STV 12th March 2011 more >>
Tens of thousands of people have protested in Germany against the government’s plans to extend the life of its nuclear reactors. Demonstrators in Stuttgart formed a human chain reaching 45km (27 miles) for the protest, planned before the current nuclear crisis in Japan.
BBC 12th March 2011 more >>
Privately, many in government and the private energy sector in the UK are worried that the raising of the spectre of nuclear disaster will have implications for the coalition’s huge building programme for ten new power stations to replace the UK’s ageing reactors. Jan Beranek, head of Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign, asked for the construction project to be scrapped in the wake of the Japanese earthquake. “Governments should invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable,” he said.
Guardian 12th March 2011 more >>