Tag Archive for nuclear crisis

POTW 11 March 2013: Targata Fertility Festival & Nuclear Spring

I know today is significant (the second anniversary of the 11th March 2011, earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster), and so today is a double dose of Photo of the Week (POTW). One photo is a cultural event that is something to now especially look forward to and enjoy, and the other is commemorative.

The Tagata Fertility Festival photo below was taken just days after the actual disaster, and it shows people determined to try and enjoy life, despite the horror witnessed days before. Also on the day the photo was taken one of the nuclear reactors exploded. I didn’t know at the time, so I hoped that the wind was blowing away, and I really did have the feeling that being outside, photographing this event, might have been dangerous. I think I only learnt about the reactor explosion when I got home. I now have Reuters and other news outlets in my Twitter feed.

The Tagata Fertility Festival (or ‘Tagata Penis Festival’) attracts a small gathering of about 100,000 people (the old and the young alike), most of whom hope for good fertile fortunes (they are indeed hoping for children or grandchildren for themselves or on the behalf of friends). I have written a fairly detailed summary of the event including cultural comparison, see the Tagata blog tags for the 15th March 2011 blog post, video, and more. More photos are available at my PhotoShelter portfolio, Tagata Fertility Festival Gallery, and at my agents website, Asian Photo Connection.

For information about the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis, nuclear disaster (15th Mar), Fukushima, contaminated food, and nuclear disaster, click on each of those words for a review of blog posts beginning on the 11th March 2011.

Below is a photo from the Nuclear Spring Collection I made just weeks after the actual disaster, see the Nuclear Spring blog search for previous posts. The title “Nuclear Spring” is significant, in that it amalgamates the concepts of Nuclear Winter, Silent Spring, and the time of year the Fukushima disaster occurred. Nuclear Winter is the supposed effect on the weather systems of the world after a nuclear war. Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson in 1962 that describes the effect on the environment after farmers sprayed and killed all the insects. This book is regarded as the birth of the modern environmental movement. Still today, thousands of people are protesting against the continuance of nuclear power in Japan (Japan TodayReuters), and there is a wonderful blog that aims to provide information that the media does not, the Fukushima Diary.

Radiation in Tokyo

It’s the last 25 minutes of September for 2011, and the only thing on my mind is radiation in Japan. The last week on the newly opened Google+ has been amazing. On it I’ve come across people who’ve posted bilingually articles about the on-going radiation crisis happening in Tohoku (special thanks to sai, ありがとう). Here in central Japan the nuclear accident feels like a distant memory, something that happened far, far away, and whilst concerning, isn’t going to drive us nuts. The opposite should be true. Articles posted by people on Google+ suggest that the Japanese government is doing everything possible to avoid hysteria in Tokyo and other places (ABC). The British nuclear expert, Professor Christopher Busby, describes the Fukushima situation as, “…probably the greatest catastrophe in the whole of human history” (ZDF). Within weeks of the crisis beginning, mustard spinach grown in Tokyo was found to have been contaminated with radiation (Apr 2011). There are areas outside of the 30km exclusion zone that have been contaminated with plutonium (NHK 29 Sep 2011). Apparently, after Chernobyl, the north sea saw a radiation contamination peak at 1,000 Becquerels, but off Fukushima was over 100,000 (NYTimes). In addition to this, at the height of the crisis, a lot of people were ready and waiting to be told to take iodine pills to protect us against radiated iodine exposure. These pills saturate the thyroid so that any ingestion of radioactive iodine cannot accumulate and is immediately flushed out of the body. However, despite the advice, the national government never ordered the administration of these (Wall Street Journal), which also would have triggered embassies in Tokyo to distribute them to their nationals, too. Furthermore, local governments did not have the nous to act in the absence of direction. The oceans have been massively contaminated (ScienceBlogs.Com), affecting fish, a staple of Japanese diet.

Finally, still in Tokyo, there were elevated levels of radiation in Tokyo itself as late as July. The map below comes from SafeCast.Org. Also see the government map dated 29th Sept, 2011 (METI). The government announced the thirty kilometre exclusion zone, and declared everywhere else safe. The map plainly shows that this is not the case. Foreign governments have advised their residents within 80kms to move away, and this seems to be why. The final morbid fact I’ll pass on is that there are residents who believe they can return to their homes within a year or so, and there are politicians who say they are working towards that goal. The reality is that even after 30 years, there are no plans to re-populate the Chernobyl township.

Areas with radiation from Fukushima

Fukushima and Tokyo affected by the nuclear crisis.

Propaganda Land

Even if this is true, it’s either too much of a coincidence or they’re too optimistic.

Last night on NHK it was announced that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owners and operators of the troubled Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plants, had on 7th March 2011 submitted their first ever revisions to tsunami estimates to the appropriate government office. The same office that has been publicly accused of failing to fulfil their oversight safety duties of nuclear power plants. TEPCO admits that the Fukushima plants were designed to withstand a 5.7m wave (tidal, storm surge, or tsunami), but last year a revision to this estimate suggested that they should prepare for a 10 meter wave, so they claim to have submitted this revision four days before the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami struck. Thus, it is possible that both the government and TEPCO had not neglected their duties, just unfortunate timing… very suspicious to me.

Secondly, a German documentary was aired in Japan, which was about how a German contractor is dismantling the Russian unwanted nuclear powered submarines leftover from the cold war. Interestingly, the company had no immediate plans on dismantling the some 300 nuclear reactors, instead pulling apart the submarines, cleaning off any radioactive material, and selling the metal to scrap. The reactors are being stored in a sarcophagus (their own hulls with some extra lining added), and will be left for 100 years to when it is hoped that the next generation of nuclear-reactor disposal experts will know what to do. The reactor cores will still be dangerous, but less dangerous. In contrast, the Japanese government and TEPCO seem confident that they can solve the Fukushima problem in only a few decades. It should also be pointed out that the reactors are far bigger than a submarine reactor core. They seem very optimistic.

Typhoon Songda hits Japan

Typhoon Songda hit southern islands of Japan on Saturday affecting the Okinawa Prefecture. The typhoon sped up to more than 60km/h changing from a typhoon to a tropical depression with severe wind warnings when it struck the southern and central parts of the Japanese main island, Honshu. The typhoon is very unusual in that typhoons almost never venture further north than Taiwan until late July early August. Honshu usually is hit by one maybe two typhoons annually, but usually only in September or early October.

Given this history, the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant was apparently unprepared to be hit by the tropical storm raising fears that radioactive material from exposed parts of the plant could be spread widely across land and sea (BBC, NHK).

nuclear disaster at no.1 reactor

I’m not too clear on the details, but it was reported on NHK (now known for not being reliable and independent) that the nuclear material in the number 1 reactor at Fukushima had in fact gone through melt down within the first 16 hours of the disaster beginning on 11th March, and had indeed breached the floor of the reactor. It would seem that this may explain why there was an inexplicable amount of radioactive material released into the atmosphere, and why adding water for cooling to the reactor failed to see water levels rise sufficiently, and why there is highly radioactive water in the basement. It seems that TEPCO is unable to locate the precise location of the molten (or melted) nuclear material. If this is indeed the case, we’ve experienced a China Syndrome and didn’t even know it until today: sixty-six days after the start of the nuclear disaster. Of course, my understanding of NHK’s report could be wrong, so if there is a correction, or an update, I’ll do my best to publish it here as soon as possible. For the time being, this is the most up-to-date report published on the English section of NHK’s website: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/15_04.html.

UPDATE (16th May): No melt through, just a blob of molten mess, apparently: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/16_17.html

Nuclear Spring. A play on the words ‘Nuclear Winter‘ and ‘Silent Spring‘.

Seals are more popular than Julian Gillard and nuclear crisis

The Australian Prime Minister gets an honourable mention, but the seals get pride of place. The nuclear crisis becomes more cryptic, and adds unstable fuel to the fire.

Julian Gillard is Australia’s Prime Minister. She is currently in Japan and is visiting the tsunami hit regions. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Japan’s NHK news service has neglected to inform its viewership the extent of international support provided to Japan following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. Australia’s Prime Minister is here, and it was not announced why. Consequently, I’m sure many Japanese people must be wondering ‘why?’. Obviously she is very well trained for the media. NHK showed a picture of her squatting before a Japanese child with a Koala toy held out for him to take. The face of the koala was plain to see for NHK viewers at home, but the child receiving the toy would have been looking at the back of the koala’s head. Gillard had perhaps one minute of news time dedicated to her posthumous visit. The very next news story was about children from the tsunami hit region visiting a zoo (one minute), and viewing a seal show (two minutes). Australia apparently provided support, according to Yahoo news, and Australia Helps.com.

Nuclear Crisis

Rumours about the true extent of the crisis don’t provide comfort. Apparently within a week of the crisis beginning, it was known to TEPCO that it was in fact a level seven (highest rating) of nuclear disaster, but perhaps not revealed the true extent of the crisis to the government, and so the public by the government that this was a level three event. This was later upgraded to five, and set to level seven about a week ago. Furthermore, it is being learnt that the TEPCO workers in Fukushima saw water spewing out of one of the reactors soon after the first M9.0 earthquake, before the tsunami hit. This is despite the nuclear disaster being blamed on the tsunami swamping the diesel generator that was providing electricity keeping the cooling systems running. Furthermore, the extent of radiation leak was not reported, and NHK did not do their own independent investigation. Consequently, it was only when people began to do their own measurements was their doubt being cast on the credibility and reliability of the governments and TEPCO’s reassurances. Admittedly now, there is now better modelling and understanding of radioactive particle drift that is occurring in the skies in Fukushima.

Nuclear Crisis: Fear for the worst?

NHK, citing government media releases, has stated that the mandatory evacuation zone has expanded from ten kilometre radius to twenty, and includes some up-wind regions thirty kilometres from the Fukushima plant. Though, this is not because of any immediate danger, but staying there for a prolonged length of time might prove detrimental. However, these reports have the added tag, “and in case of unforseen events” (imprecise paraphrasing). Essentially, if feels like the government and TEPCO know that there is a high risk of a disaster occurring, but they don’t want to alarm the public, though hedging their statements. The government has been criticised for not properly informing the public about what is occurring, what their risks are, and what to do about it. Tonight, NHK reports that the fuel storage tank in the number 4 reactor building has water at ninety degree Celsius, which is about 50 degrees higher than normal. Also, direct injection of water to the tank has caused damage to the storage vessel, and the addition of water in the future needs to be done carefully. Again, it feels like hedging statements. What if the vessel breaks? Will the public know what to do? Is this the chief concern and the reason for some towns being evacuated 30 kilometres away? Simply too many unanswered questions.

radioactive water released in the sea

According to the BBC and NHK, TEPCO has released radioactive water that is 100 times the legal limit into the Pacific Ocean. In previous nuclear incidents, TEPCO had deceived the public and safety regulators, and in the current crisis has been accused by the current Japanese Prime Minister for not being clear and upfront. TEPCO claims that this release is of low-level radioactive water. TEPCO also stresses that eating seafood caught or harvested from near the plant will result in very, very low levels of radioactive intake, barely above natural background-radiation levels. They make this claim presumably on the judgement that the water will be quickly dispersed and immediately diluted and without consequence to sea life. The release comes as TEPCO officials admitted that they have a lot of water in the basement of reactor number two, that has radiation levels many, many times higher than what is normally found inside a normal reactor core. Speculation from independent experts suggests that this highly radioactive water is as a result of melted rods from the core some weeks ago. View this and other sea-related pictures at my PhotoShelter portfolio.