Japan’s continuing problems (new tsunami video)

Japan-tsunami-FloatingCars

Japan-tsunami-FloatingCars

A misread of radiation levels sent plant workers scrambling for safety when a worker said the radioactivity in some puddles of cooling water was ten million times higher than normal. While it has been admitted that there is radioactivity in the water, it turns out the proper reading is far less. Two workers who stepped in this water were hospitalized for burns. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano was reported as saying that the radioactive water is “almost certainly” seeping from a reactor core.

However, this isn’t to say the radiation isn’t dangerous. The Kyodo news agency reports that Tokyo Electric Power Co. said early Monday the concentration of radioactive substances of the puddle was 100,000 times higher than that usually measured in water in a reactor core, correcting its earlier analysis of 10 million times higher. They then add that exposure to such an environment for four hours would raise the risk of dying in 30 days. Maybe a hundred thousand is only one hundredth of ten million but dying is dying.

Progress in restoring power and getting the plants cooling systems back on-line is being hampered by the discovery of these radioactive pools of water found at reactors 1, 2, 3, and 4. On top of this, it is now thought that the initial use of seawater for cooling has had a corrosive and damaging effect on the systems workers are trying to restore.

The Australian said new figures over the weekend showed spikes in levels of radiation beyond the plant itself. Levels of radioactive iodine-131 were found to be 1850 times above the legal limit for seawater 330m offshore from the plant. There are fears about contamination in fish, but a government spokesman said that the relatively short-lived potency of iodine-131 and the dispersing effect of the sea ensured that there was no chance of damage to human health. He explained that ocean currents will disperse radiation particles and so it will be very diluted by the time it gets consumed by fish and seaweed.

Kyodo conducted a nationwide telephone survey over this weekend. They report that 58.2 percent of respondents do not approve of the government’s handling of the nuclear crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, while 39.3 percent expressed approval. On the other hand, 57.9 percent said they approve of the way the state has dealt with disaster victim support in northeastern and eastern Japan hit by the catastrophic earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11.

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CNN has just published a reactor by reactor status report on the Fukushima nuclear plant. It is difficult to say just how much trouble TEPCO Japan’s power company is in as there seem to be many unknowns in anybody’s assessment of the situation. This report points to the suspicion that the containment vessel for reactor #2 may be damaged and probably its core; nobody knows for sure as nobody can really get close enough for long enough to find out. Reactor #3 where the workers stepped in radioactive puddles is also suspected of having leaks as this seems to be the only plausible explanation for how radioactive water ended up in the basement of the building. #3 is of special concern as it is using a combination of uranium and plutonium fuel, called MOX, considered more dangerous than the pure uranium fuel used in other reactors.

Reading over CNN’s report clearly indicates Fukushima is not yet out of the woods. A great deal is not known at this point and various readings in and around the plant would seem to indicate that radiation is leaking into the environment but the question is, just how much. With scares cropping up in Tokyo and elsewhere, a distance away from the plant and authorities handing out bottled water to be given to infants, there is certainly an apprehension about just what unseen problems may be in the air and water beyond the problems of dealing with an earthquake and a tsunami.

Reuters has published an article describing Japan’s disaster in numbers.

A total of 10,804 people were confirmed dead by Japan’s National Police Agency as of 1200 GMT on Sunday, while 16,244 were missing.

242,881 people are living in shelters.

177,500 residents have left the 20-km (12 mile) evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The government has also said people living within 30 km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, but outside the 20-km radius, should also consider leaving.

192,339 households in the north are without electricity

530,000 households in 10 prefectures were without running water.

18,649 buildings have been completely destroyed, the National Police Agency of Japan said on Sunday.

The government said last week it estimated damage from the earthquake and tsunami at 16 trillion to 25 trillion yen ($198 billion-$309 billion). The top estimate would make it the world’s costliest natural disaster.

Russia Today – Mar 27/2011

10,000,000 times normal radiation spike at Fukushima ‘mistake’ – officials

UPDATE: Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. claims that an earlier measurement showing a huge spike in radiation levels at the stricken Japanese nuclear complex was ‘a mistake’. According to TEPCO spokesman, water testing showing 10 million times higher in radioactivity than normal was ‘not credible’.

Meanwhile, three workers have already been exposed to dangerous materials in the continuing battle to avert catastrophe in the wake of the earthquake tragedy which destroyed large parts of the country. The official number of those killed by the quake and tsunami stands at over 10,000, with many more homeless or missing. But Fukushima remains the biggest concern – with the ongoing possibility of nuclear meltdown.

New Japan tsunami video

[This video footage is absolutely incredible. Even as I watch it, I still find it hard to believe that this much water came pouring into the coastal areas. Having never personally experienced anything remotely close to this, I keep thinking of this as a movie special effect. No wonder the estimates for the eventual number of people are so high. Nobody would stand a chance against this force of nature. Wow!]

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