April 3rd, 2011

Update: Japanese Turn to Paper and Sawdust to Plug Fukushima Nuclear Leak [???]

Via: Guardian:

Where concrete has failed to prevent highly radioactive water pouring into the sea, workers at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have shifted hope of plugging the leaks to an absorbent polymer mixed with sawdust and shredded newspaper that expands 50-fold when in contact with water.

Although officials conceded the polymer had made little impact so far, they will wait until Monday before deciding whether to abandon it. “We were hoping the polymers would function like diapers, but we have yet to see a visible effect,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for Japan’s nuclear safety agency.

Officials separately has warned that the nuclear crisis could drag on for months, the first time that they have offered a timescale. Goshi Hosono, an aide to the prime minister, Naoto Kan, said everything possible was being done to contain leaks, which have contaminated the environment and food and water supplies, necessitated mass evacuations, and fomented fear as far away as Tokyo, 150 miles to the south.

—End Update—

I’ve become very hesitant to post any information that originates from the criminals at TEPCO, but this number (1,000 mSv/hour) has remained standing for over a day now.

According to the IAEA, the limit for public radiation exposure is 1 mSv per year:

The dose limits for practices are intended to ensure that no individual is committed to unacceptable risk due to radiation exposure. For the public the limit is 1 mSv in a year, or in special circumstances up to 5 mSv in a single year provided that the average does over five consecutive years does not exceed 1 mSv per year.

At Fukushima, they’re dealing with 1,000 mSv/hour.

Via: Reuters:

Japanese officials grappling on Sunday to end the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl were focussing on a crack in a concrete pit that was leaking radiation into the ocean from a crippled reactor.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it had found a crack in the pit at its No.2 reactor in Fukushima, generating readings 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour in the air inside the pit.

“With radiation levels rising in the seawater near the plant, we have been trying to confirm the reason why, and in that context, this could be one source,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said on Saturday.

He cautioned, however: “We can’t really say for certain until we’ve studied the results.”

Leakage did not stop even after concrete was poured into the pit, and Tokyo Electric is now planning to use water-absorbent polymer to prevent contaminated water from leaking out into the sea.


  1. JWSmythe Says:

    [In my best Professor Farnsworth voice] Good news everybody, we’re all going to die!

    I hate how the contrast goes compared to the initial statement of “there’s nothing to worry about”, to the reality that has been shown. I understand not wanting to panic the public who are already in shock from a big earthquake *AND* tsunami, but really. Someone at the plant (with executive permission to talk to the press/public) should have said “We have a catastrophic emergency at the plant. Please get as far away as possible, at least 50km away”.

    It does no one any good to assure the public that everything is ok, and please don’t come with 10km of the plant.

    I hope this helps to show the world that nuclear power is not as safe as some like to make it appear. Once this is over, they’ll end up with an exclusion zone, similar to the Chernobyl/Pripyat area. We’ve had enough incidents at nuclear power plants, we don’t need more.


  2. tochigi Says:

    well, in the instances when i have been watching these goons spout crap on tv, whenever they get a reading of 1,000 mSv/h, the alway prefix it by saying “over”. what they don’t say, but i think we can guess is implied by this consistent bit of disinformation is, “our measuring equipment needles hit maximum at 1,000 and so we don’t really have a f***ing clue how much radiation is coming out of that water, but it’s at least 1,000 mSv/h.”

  3. tochigi Says:

    btw, did you see this, Kevin?

    i looked at regional and national govt. web sites as well as TEPCO’s site (in Japanese), but i could not find the original documents the WSJ examined for this article. there were various summaries, but the actual documents were MIA.

  4. Larry Glick Says:

    Nuclear power plants are designed to an engineering standard called a Design Basis Accident or Worst Case Scenario. That is, designed to automatically shut down and remain stable and safe after the worst imaginable disaster. What we have here is WORSE than the Worst Case Scenario. The current situation in Japan is way over the heads of even our best nuclear engineers and operators. Japanese pride and culture will cause their technical people to minimize the seriousness of this situation. Make no mistake about it. With possibly billions of gallons of seawater contaminated with radioactive isotopes of a wide range of intensities, radiation types, and half lives as well as ground and air contamination, the affected part of Japan is in trouble of Biblical proportions.

  5. mangrove Says:

    Larry Glick, not to be argumentatitive because I do agree with your posting, but the Fukushima plant was not designed for the worst case — i.e. it was supposed to withstand a 6.9 earthquake, despite Japan having a history of much larger quakes. That fact alone is enough to tell me that building these ticking time bombs should never have been even contemplated in Japan. Period.

  6. williamspd Says:

    Why these nuke stations were built to rely on active water cooling with no other type of backup, is beyond me. Given the seismic history of the region, wouldn’t you add some passive cooling backup, just to be safe?

  7. JWSmythe Says:


    I suspect parts of their government work just as efficiently as the US Gov’t. 🙂 Who cares if there might be a 9.0, they did their best (6.9).

    From what I’ve read, they would have been fine, shut everything down safely, and no one would have noticed except for a single news blurb. Instead, during the earthquake emergency, they got the tsunami.

    I grew up near a nuclear power plant, and I always wondered when the shit would hit the fan. At the time, they typically only managed to be online about one month a year. Still, there could have been a worst case. What if a tornado hit the cooling towers, and one fell onto the reactor. They were far enough apart that it wouldn’t seem to be an immediate threat, but close enough where it could have happened.

    Now I live close to a few coal and oil fueled plants. Despite our vast coastline, plenty of sunny days, sea breezes almost constantly, and natural wave motion, we don’t have solar, wind or buoy based power generation. There were a couple hydroelectric plants, but those were retired decades ago in favor of the coal, oil, and nuclear plants.

    The better options are not advantageous to the companies. Well, advantageous in the fact that coal and oil generate more jobs, but not necessarily in the US. All they care about their bottom line, which they do seriously consider incentives (i.e., kickbacks).

  8. tochigi Says:

    yeah, the other large TEPCO nuke, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, suffered all sorts of problems after the Niigata earthquake several years ago. this was not an earthquake on the scale of this year’s one and there was no tsunami. but it did not shut down safely, there were leaks and other problems. if the “worst imaginable disaster” can be dealt with using the plans reported by the WSJ above, it shows a paucity of imagination and proves that these plants are too dangerous now let alone when the spent fuel has to be protected for centuries in the futue.

  9. Eileen Says:

    I am hoping someone knows how to evacuate 12.5 million people. The earthquakes off of Honshu have been persistent for the last month. Many over 6.5. Maybe that’s normal earthquake activity for Japan, but I am worried for the people of Japan. Don’t know what I would do in a similar situation, if told I had to evacuate, for an unknown period of time. I probably wouldn’t leave. I’d rather go down with the ship I guess.

  10. Changewave Says:

    To me, the original design specs are one thing.

    The other is that the historically corrupt nuclear power industry is what runs these plants, in every county. Whether they are run for profit or by the state, there is no inherent motivation for the operators to abide by safe practices, and every motivation to keep things running as is. (Unless those who make the policy decisions live next to the plants. How often does that happen?)

    So even if they have been built to withstand a 9.0, TEPCO would still have been falsifying reports and delaying or faking essential structural upkeep on these reactors. Which means that in a worst or even pretty damn bad event, nothing functions according to original specs.

  11. steve holmes Says:

    Eileen et al-

    Excellent point about evacuating 12.5 million people. I don’t know how many actually live in what SHOULD already be a permanent exclusion zone, but it is clear that nobody alive today should ever live there ever again.

    As far as going down with the ship, why? There’s no need for ANY of those people to sit there and wait to become ill from radiation or toxic fallout. They just have to use their heads and demand that their government stop lying to them.

    Meanwhile, it pisses me off that the EPA intends to drastically raise threshold levels for the US. That is a dead giveaway that they fully expect levels that are at least half of that amount to end up here and they have NO plan to deal with it. So everyone needs to bone up on how to deal with radiation. It’s not a big deal to do that, and I think Nuclear War Survival Skills by Kresson Kearny is an EXCELLENT place to start. It’s what SHOULD be drilled into everyone’s heads as long as nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants exist.

    There doesn’t need to be a war for there to be a problem, and clearly, there is a problem that neither government has any intention of dealing with as they SHOULD. IM<HO, they should have already laid an enormous foundation around the 4 buildings and started pouring a permanent concrete and steel containment structure that could be filled with sand and capped with concrete.

    Lastly, I've seen a few blurbs about the cracked cooling pond (or whatever) that they tried to plug with concrete. Well as long as there is water pouring through it, it's going to be damned tough to seal. Now they are resorting to stuffing the cracks with what, newspaper (according to a drudge headline). So what I fail to understand is why they aren't stuffing bentonite clay into it. That stuff expands when it gets wet and it's used to seal wells and ponds.

    Either there is some reason for not using it or that mess is being managed by people that can't manage their sock drawer when someone throws a pair of skivvies into it. My fear is that the latter is obvious answer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bentonite

    Lastly (part 2): The "don't say anything negative because we don't want to scare the people" is about the most childish statement I've ever heard. Anyone who says something like that to me is in for a fight they are going to lose: My career is Quality Assurance/Quality Engineering in Aerospace and I'm quite accustomed to the lives of MILLIONS of people per day being dependent on my decisions- for the 50 year lifespan of EACH of the thousands of aircraft I've been involved with.

    Lastly (part 3): What I'm seeing in US and Japanese government is a total lack of understanding of what "leadership" is and it disgusts me to the core of my being. Leadership is a responsibility and high calling to SERVE, not to BE served, and certainly not to manipulate. If the masses don't want you in office, fine- leave- and let them suffer, but for God's sake, don't leave them in harm's way and feed them bullshit so you can maintain bureaucratic superiority, market share or share value because without focusing on the REAL needs of people, the end result is that pseudo leaders only hurt innocent people.

    Ok, FINALLY, I'll end my rant by saying that radiation carelessness and disinformation to cover people's asses really pisses me off because there is simply NO excuse for it in a world that is accountable- and one would think that there has been enough money lost to liability claims that people would have learned by now that there's no such thing as getting away with being a liar or a fucking idiot in charge.

  12. prov6yahoo Says:

    Apparently, not NEARLY enough money has been lost to liability claims. Of course, the big mistake being made here, is we are all mistaking these people for somebody that gives a damn.

  13. Eileen Says:

    @steve Holmes – Priceless comment:
    “Either there is some reason for not using it or that mess is being managed by people that can’t manage their sock drawer when someone throws a pair of skivvies into it. My fear is that the latter is obvious answer.”
    I read that comment and had a good belly laugh.
    While this event today is NOTHING compared to what the people in Japan are going through – it is an example of how the events in Japan trickles down to the rest of us. One of my mechanics, a non-Toyota person, who does great work for the most part, screwed up royally last week. In replacing the wheel bearing on my Prius (which he had to cut off (I think its all due to the inordanant amount of salt used on highways this year) he hit the sensor on my axle and now I must have the whole axle replaced. Had to leave it at the shop. Not safe to drive.
    The Toyota dealership doesn’t know if the part is available in the U.S., and if not, I guess I’m screwed and will have to find another car.
    I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m saying this is all about me. It is not meant that way at all. I write to say that Japan is definitely an important part of this interconnected one-world. I want so very much for their country to return from this adversity. And I pray for it.

  14. tochigi Says:

    i’m guessing that the 12.5 million people reference is to the population of metropolitan Tokyo. you need to remember though that greater Tokyo+Yokohama and their suburbs in Chiba, Saitama, Gunma, Kanagawa, Tochigi and Yamanashi are about 33 million people all up. then if you took the population between there and Sendai you’re definitely looking at upward of 40 million people.

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