Tag Archives: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster

TEPCO: Fukushima Fuel Cooling System Stops Again Leaking Radioactive Water


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear are taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6. (Photo:  AP)
Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6. (Photo: AP)

At every nuclear electrical power plant, spent nuclear fuel is kept cool to avoid it from overheating that may trigger a self-sustaining atomic reaction leading to a meltdown.

At the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant there are seven vast clay-lined storage pits each measuring 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and 6 meters deep. Three layers of protective waterproof lining cover each pit.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said last Friday that one of the systems, pool #2 that keeps spent atomic fuel cool, failed temporarily at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. On Saturday, TEPCO said that around 120 tons of contaminated water with an estimated 710 billion becquerel of radioactivity probably leaked into the ground under the power plant. The process of pumping the remaining 13,000 tons of the water in the pool #2 into other tanks would take days. How the water escaped will remain a mystery until they drain and check the faulty pits. TEPCO did not give any explanation about where the leaked contaminated water might have ended up.

On late Sunday, TEPCO confirmed that a second underground storage pool #3, has leaked three liters of radioactive water at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant. However, the water level inside pool #3, has not gone down, indicating the leak is not that large. According to TEPCO, since this second leak is small, there are no plans to drain pool #3 into another storage area.

TEPCO is transferring the remaining water in pool #2 to two other pits. However, the water leaking from pool #3 is raising questions about the trustworthiness of all the pools and the risk to the environment.

Aside from the pools, the power plant has another headache. TEPCO stores tainted seawater perpetually needed to cool the melted fuel rods of the damaged reactors, in makeshift storage tanks. Unfortunately, the holding capacity of these makeshift tanks is running out quickly. On Sunday, Masayuki Ono, a senior TEPCO official said at a news conference that it is difficult for the plant to store all the tainted radioactive seawater in the temporary tanks.

At Fukushima, the site of the worst nuclear crisis in a generation, reactors went into meltdown and spewed radiation over a wide area polluting farmland and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes.

Although the natural disaster claimed around 19,000 lives, no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the atomic catastrophe. However, activist groups such as Greenpeace say that the long-term health effects for people in the area are being vastly underestimated by a government pledged to a powerful nuclear industry. Although many voters in Japan distrust the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly said Japan must consider continued use of nuclear as a less-expensive energy source to power the world’s third-largest economy.

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Benefits of Nuclear Power or Wings of Death à la Fukushima?


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Fukushima *

During a flight from Chennai to New Delhi, a flight attendant ushered a former Indian dignitary to a seat next to a little girl about 12 years of age.

The girl was reading a book. He thought she was reading a fairy tale book suited for her age. The girl was so engrossed in the book that she did not even look at him.

After a while, he turned to her and asked, “Hey little one, where are you from?”

The girl looked up and seemed surprised at the familiar face. She smiled faintly. The dignitary was sure that the little girl had recognized him.

She closed the book she was reading and looked at him questioningly.

“Baby, what’s your name?” he asked.

“Bhanu Sir, ” she replied.

“Where are you from?”

“Kaayal Pattinam, Sir.”

“Oh, oh. So, you are from the coastal area like me?”

She nodded her head to mean “Yes.”

“Would you like to talk with me? Flights can be pleasant if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger,” he said.

“What would you want to talk about?” she asked.

“I see you are reading a book. Is it a fairy tale?”

“No. Sir,” she replied.

“Baby, then what is it?”

“Sir, it’s a book on a subject you are familiar with,” she replied.

“May I see the book?”

The girl gave him the book.

The elderly dignitary read the title – “Fukushima Meltdown” by Takashi Hirose. After his initial shock and a bit disconcerted, he smiled quizzically at the girl.

“Do you understand what is written in this book?” he asked her.

“Yes, Sir,” the girl said. “The author of this book makes clear the absurdity of putting nuclear power plants anywhere in the world, especially on the earthquake and volcano prone Japanese archipelago. “

The old dignitary looked thoughtful.

“Now, what would you want to talk about?” the girl asked innocently.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he blurted. “Now that you read high brow stuff like this, how about we talk about ‘the benefits of nuclear power for Tamilnadu’?”

“Alright Sir,” she said. “That is an interesting topic. Can I ask you a question first? I hope you won’t take it amiss?” she inquired.

“No. Certainly not,” he said smiling benevolently at her. “You know, I like to talk to young persons like you because ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful resource on the earth, above the earth and under the earth,” he replied.

“I know that you come from a rural area .”

He said, “Yes.”

“Sir, my question is this. You know that cows, horses, and goats all eat mainly the same stuff such as grass and leaves isn’t it?”

He nodded his head to mean “Yes.”

“Yet, cows excrete dung like a flat patty, horses produces clumps, and goats excrete little pellets. Why the difference?”

The dignitary was taken aback. He appeared visibly shocked and traumatized by the little girl’s intelligence, and all he could say was, “Hmmm, I have no idea.”

The little girl asked with an impish smile, “Are you really qualified to discuss the benefits of nuclear power for Tamilnadu when you don’t know shit?”

Then she went back to reading her book.

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Author’s note:

Fukushima Melt down
Takashi Hirose wrote this book “Fukushima Meltdown” in a heat of passion mixed with terrible sadness in the weeks after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But he is far from a newcomer to this field; he has written books and articles warning of the terrible dangers of nuclear power since the early 1980s.

In this book, which was a best seller in Japan, he not only describes the comic-if-not-so-tragic series of fumbling errors that lead to the meltdown at Fukushima, but also makes clear the absurdity of putting nuclear power plants anywhere on the earthquake and volcano prone Japanese archipelago – and by extension, anywhere in the world. This is the first translation into English of any book by this authoritative critic of nuclear power.

This renaissance is just a fairy tale


English: Internationally recognized symbol. De... Nuclear power plant symbol Fukushima *

Reproduced from 

Author: Nityanand Jayaraman

June 15, 2012

The unpredictable financial implications of constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling risks are causing a global rethink on nuclear energy

For a professed proponent of liberalisation and free trade, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s penchant for a technology that cannot float without subsidies is telling. Nuclear power’s unfavourable economics are not lost on Dr. Singh.

Recently, Westinghouse Electric and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to negotiate the setting up of AP1000 reactors in Gujarat, ending a slump in interest from the Toshiba subsidiary in India’s nuclear market. For Toshiba’s Westinghouse and other nuclear equipment suppliers, the Civil Nuclear Liability Act’s clause on supplier liability was the key hurdle to investing in India. The companies wanted the Indian government to insulate them from the financial fallouts of any potential disaster caused by their technology by spreading that liability among taxpayers. The recent MoU suggests some progress in moving towards this goal.

More obstacles remain, though. Nuclear projects are un-bankable. The government may deploy mental health specialists to deal with the fears of Kudankulam protestors. But those shrinks are unlikely to be able to allay the fears of financiers or nuclear equipment suppliers.

According to nuclear energy expert Peter Bradford, “The most implacable enemy of nuclear power in the past 30 years has been the risk not to public health but to investors’ wallets. No nuclear power project has ever bid successfully in a competitive energy market anywhere in the world.” Mr. Bradford was member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and chair of the New York and Maine electricity regulatory commissions. He teaches a course on nuclear power at the Vermont Law School.

Second thoughts

Unpredictable financial implications associated with constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling nuclear risks are causing a rethink on nuclear energy worldwide. But these developments seem to slip by India without so much as causing a ripple.

Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out nuclear power, despite their substantial dependence on it. Israel abandoned its year-old civilian nuclear programme after Fukushima. Belgium revived a pre-Fukushima decision to phase out nuclear power, using the Japanese disaster as a reminder. Italy and Kuwait gave up their nuclear debut by abandoning plans for 10 and four plants respectively. Mexico dropped plans for constructing 10 plants. All of Japan’s 54 reactors are now closed, and plans for 14 new reactors killed.

The story of nuclear energy’s unviability is told not just by the actions of naysayers, but also by the experiences of those — like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa — pursuing nuclear programmes. All of them want the nuclear option, but have no idea how they will finance it.

If the U.S. is Dr. Singh’s inspiration, then the so-called nuclear renaissance’s trajectory in that country gives even more cause for despair. In 2009, the U.S. declared a nuclear revival with promises of more than 30 new reactors. Today, most of these projects are doomed. Even candidates for federal loan guarantees such as the South Texas project, and the Calvert Cliffs-3 project in Maryland, have been mothballed.

State governments in the U.S. do not seem to share the Federal Government‘s enthusiasm for nukes. Bills to reverse moratoria on nuclear plants in Minnesota, Kentucky and Wisconsin failed last year. In Missouri, North Carolina and Iowa, legislators defeated bills to charge electricity consumers in advance to finance reactors.

“At the time of Fukushima, only four countries — China, Russia, India and South Korea — were building more than two reactors. In these four nations, citizens pay for the new reactors the government chooses to build through direct subsidies or energy price hikes,” Bradford notes.

Finland was among the few that reiterated its commitment to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. The 1,600 MW Olkiluoto nuclear plant uses French company Areva‘s technology. Areva’s modular design was expected to make it faster and cheaper to build. But 11 years later, the project is behind schedule and its $4.2 billion budget is up now by 50 per cent. After Fukushima, Areva admits that the same plant would cost $8 billion. Even Areva’s home project, in Flamanville, France, has suffered a $4 billion cost overrun and a four year delay. Indeed, 31 out of 45 reactors that were being constructed globally around 2009 were either delayed or did not have official dates for commissioning, says a report for the German Government by consultant Mycle Schneider.

In India

In Kalpakkam, meanwhile, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor was slotted to contribute to the grid in March 2012. In 2005, Baldev Raj, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, boasted that the 500 MW unit will be completed in 2010, 18 months before schedule. Till date, there is no sign of this happening. The Kudankulam plant, which is now 23 years old since conception, lost only eight months due to protestors.

In Jaitapur too, the government has more to worry about than local protestors. Areva, the technology supplier, is in trouble. Last year, it announced losses of €1.6 billion, and the sacking of 1,200 workers in Germany. Last June, it decided to suspend production at a Virginia reactor component plant due to declining market prospects. Its expansion plans in France, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. may never materialise. Areva expected to sell 50 nuclear reactors this decade. It has not received a single order since 2007.

Now, with a socialist president at the helm in France, Areva’s future looks even more uncertain. French President François Hollande had promised voters a reduction in nuclear dependence from 75 to 50 per cent, and shutdown of an aging reactor in Fessenheim. Whether or not he carries through with these promises, it appears certain that no new plants will be built or planned during his term. Both conservative-led Germany and socialist France will make up the shortfall from the nuclear phase-out, by investing in renewables for electricity and new jobs. In replacing nuclear with renewables, these nations are declaring that despite its carbon dividend, nuclear is too risky — financially, politically and environmentally — to pursue.

(Nityanand Jayaraman is an independent writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle.)

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Open letter to Kalam on Koodunkulam Nuclear Plant shutdown response time


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Impressed by the article posted by Sasi Kumar on December 22, 2011 titled “Open letter to Kalam on Koodunkulam Nuclear Plant shutdown response time” in truthdive.com, I have re-posted it here. An engineer by profession, Sasi Kumar holds double masters degree in Engineering from India and Business Administration from USA.

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Open letter to Kalam on Koodunkulam Nuclear Plant shutdown response time

By Sasi Kumar

December 22, 2011

Honorable Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
Former President of India
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Scores of Indians have admired your contribution to the growth of India. Your tireless efforts in the past to raise the Indian security apparatus has earned an esteemed position in the hearts and minds of thousands of Keralites /Tamils /Indians who are proud to cite your name in all walks of their life from entertainment to education. Your dedication and work ethics are unparalleled and monumental for the next generation to energize and focus to expand their engineering acumen. Above all, many of our younger generations are your students and loyal followers who desire to replicate your success for developing stronger India.

Recently in the media conference on Koodunkulam Nuclear Power Plant, You have declared “Koodunkulam reactor will be shutdown in three minutes flat  in case of natural disasters like Earthquakes or Tsunamis”. Though we are excited to hear such a strong soothing statement from you, yet as Engineers we are baffled. Many of us are raised from the school of thought “Even Einstein asked questions?” So some of us Engineers have questions too.

As Engineers know to kick start the shutdown procedure of nuclear reactor chain reaction a signal must be initiated as a first step. It is imperative to drill down the sequence of events that should be followed during those flat three minutes. The focus will be on how those signals will be created in case there is an Earthquake or Tsunami. Any Technocrat will agree to the fact that Earthquake severity can be measured in the Koodunkulam region and if and when those measurements are beyond the design basis, a signal can be created to activate the emergency shutdown system. However many are puzzled about  how Koodunkulam plant will initiate a signal when there is a Tsunami?

According to plate tectonic theory, Earth’s surface is divided into various mosaic of moving plates. Boundaries between the plates are actively spreading submarine ridges in the middle of the oceans, sub-duction zones in ocean trenches in which the plates slide past one another. Though most of the world’s earth quake happens at plate boundaries there were some precedence that it had happened in other locations without plate boundaries like in the United States – New Madrid, Missouri, Charleston, South Carolina and elsewhere. Apart from the circum-Pacific seismic belt, the second important earthquake belt is Alpide that extends from Java and Sumatra via the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and extend into the Atlantic. The attached image show the plate boundaries.

Classically Tsunami is generated due to large earthquakes in the ocean bed or due to the movement of the Earth plates under the ocean. Geographical location of Koodunkulam power plant makes it open to the vast stretch of water – the large Indian Ocean that stretches all the way to Australia.

Earthquake can happen in any place in the wide Indian Ocean bed. Interestingly all the Earthquakes are not generating Tsunami. Thus based on Earthquake occurring in a remote location one can’t initiate the shutdown procedure of nuclear power plant. Koodunkulam needs to have the foolproof Tsunami measurement system that will accurately measure the intensity of the Tsunami and feed signals to the Reactor control system to initiate the Emergency shutdown of nuclear chain reaction. This system should work every time when there is a possibility of Tsunami in Koodunkulam region. As location of the Koodunkulam plant is at intersection of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal one has to handle complex scenario of protocol and broad area of Tsunami measurement and monitoring system. The feedback mechanism must be designed to intercept such a way that plant should undergo safe shutdown before waves reaches the plant premises.

In recent times, in 2004 Southern India was swept with the huge Tsunami triggered due to underwater earthquake which happened near Indonesia (more than 1000 miles away). Several observers are wondering why no warning system had been issued to alert the public during that Tsunami?

In Japan Fukushima nuclear disaster, again no such Tsunami detection signal has been generated to start the reactor shutdown? Sadly there were some reports that claim reactor fuel rods have been melted within few hours of the impact of Tsunami waves and uncontrolled chain reaction has been unleashed in one of the reactor.

It is nevertheless to say Japan is one of the top technology country in the world with abundant men, materials and superior army in its disposal. Yet they were not able to alter the path of destruction and radiation exposure of its citizen.

Some of the questions in the minds of Engineers are; Dr. Kalam,

  • What made you to believe Koodunkulam plant posses superior Technology and Techniques to mitigate the risks associated with the Tsunami? If so what are they?
  • In Koodunkulam plant is there any backup system in case Tsunami monitoring signal fails to kick in?
  • How Koodunkulam plant will maintain the quality of Tsunami measurement system over the years?
  • Lastly have you “watched and verified” the successful Tsunami warning measurement and shutdown process demonstrations yourself?

When you reiterate during the press conference, “the reactor will automatically shut down in three minutes flat in case of natural disasters like Earthquakes or Tsunamis” it is the expectation of general public that you have to certify only after verification of  facts but alas did that happen?

We love India the same way you love it too. The people of Koodunkulam love their birthplace the same way you love yours. Dr. Kalam – Keralites and Tamils will continue to admire your talent, competence, sacrifice and will groom next generation by quoting you as a role model.

Engineers will not believe the words rather will convince themselves through experiment and demonstrations of actual performance. We are pleased to hear from you specifics regarding the three minutes flat shutdown time to Tsunami.

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