Thursday 29 March 2012

Stress Tests

Prime Minister Noda joined Obama and the others at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit but he didn't stay long. Arrived in time for dinner and left after lunch. Two speeches. With Japan the only country to have had atomic bombs dropped on it and having experienced the nuclear accident here in Fukushima, you'd think he'd take more of a  lead in backing Obama's bid to make nuclear safer. But he's too busy trying to get his party to agree on the sales tax (VAT) hike and negotiating when to call a general election.

And maybe he's not got that much good to report. All Tepco's nuclear reactors are now closed. In fact only one of Japan's 54 reactors is in operation and that's in Hokkaido. 

Kansai Electric (Osaka) is trying to reopen a couple of reactors at the Oi plant in Fukui.  They've passed the first round of 'Stress tests' and can withstand a tsunami of 11 metres (original plan was for 9 metres) but the IAEA and local governors all say that tests should reflect the lessons learnt from Fukushima. A second round of Stress Tests is supposed to do just that but these standards will be set by a new 'Nuclear Regulation Agency' (原子力規制庁). Trouble is it doesn't even open until 1st April. You have to ask why it's taken so long. The PM says he's going to make a 'political decision' as to whether the Oi plant should be opened.  Can't see why it should be a political decision. Should be based on hard facts discussed out in the open.

Things are not good at Fukushima either. A camera inserted into the containment vessel of Unit 2 found only 60 cm of water where they had been hoping for 4 meters. As 9 tons of water a day are being pumped in, that means it's leaking. Next they inserted a dosimeter and it measured  30 to 70 sieverts. We're talking sieverts here. Not mili or micro but full blown sieverts. Seven seiverts would kill you in a month. Twenty within a few days. The plan is to use robots to do the clearance but this may not work as such high levels might interfere with the controls.

There's also been a leak into the sea of 80 litres of water contaminated with radioactive strontium. That's the stuff that accumulates in your bones like calcium. (And fish bones too I guess.) Talking of fish, fishers in Miyagi north of Fukushima have been told they can't fish for suzuki, a luscious big fish,  as levels of caesium are higher than the new stricter regulations to be brought in on April 1st.

And then this. It's part of a television program (with English subtitles) shown in Tokyo drawing attention to the dangers in Unit 4 which houses the spent fuel rods. Pretty scary. I picked it up off Fukushima Info which is a Facebook site for us foreigners here. Interesting comment by one member: "You don't see this kind of stuff on the TV up here" ....
TV Asahi 8 March 2012

I'm sorry. This really has turned into a catalogue of disasters. I'm OK, Mum, honest! It's just that every day seems to bring more and more news underlining the scale, severity - and expense of this nuclear accident.
Love to you all

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