Japan nuclear crisis update: "Frantic" efforts continue, "Chernobyl solution" not ruled out

An update on the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan, damaged after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit, and now leaking radiation with no power and no clear way to cool down fuel rods and spent fuel:

• Above, partial screengrab from a chart showing radiation readings for Japan by prefecture. Spotted in the Twitter stream of VOA correspondent Steve Herman, who adds, "[Note that there are] NO readings posted any longer from here in Fukushima-ken."

• The official death toll from the tsunami and earthquake in Japan: 6,405. Approximatelyl 16,000 are believed missing or unaccounted for.

• In a press briefing, Japan's nuclear safety agency stated that it was aware of the so-called "Chernobyl solution" -- covering it in sand and encasing it in concrete. But for now, the government is focusing on efforts to restore power and cool down the reactors. In the same briefing, the agency acknowleged that there is either smoke or steam rising from the No. 2 reactor; could be either the spent fuel pool or an explosion in the suppression chamber, nobody knows yet.

• In a separate press conference, a government spokesman said that work at Fukushima today was focused on restoring electrical power needed to cool the crippled plant. (As I understand it, this would involve an electrical cable about a half a mile long.--XJ) Without power, emergency efforts over the past 24 hours included the extraordinary and unprecedented attempt to re-fill cooling pools by dropping water from helicopters and spraying it from water cannon trucks. More on the effort to restore power in this Reuters item.

• The New York Times describes repair efforts as "frantic": "The first readings from American data-collection flights over the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan show that the worst contamination has not spread beyond the 19-mile range of highest concern established by Japanese authorities. But another day of frantic efforts to cool nuclear fuel in the stricken reactors and the plant's spent-fuel pools resulted in little or no progress, according to United States government officials." See also this excellent infographic feature at the Times with current status of each of the reactors, and this very detailed map of the evacuation zone, with corresponding radiation levels.

• The head of the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, will meet on this afternoon with Japan's Prime Minister Kan to discuss the nuclear crisis. (Kyodo)

• During a press conference held by Yukio Edano, the Japan government spokesperson says the nation has not turned down offers of assistance in the nuclear crisis from the US, and that they've been requesting help.

• Edano also said that general radiation levels are still not at a level that poses a threat to human health. With regard to the operations over the past two days: water levels at the cooling pool at Reactor No. 3, which has been of great concern, have risen after aerial drops and water cannon sprays--but they are not sure how much.

The commander of US military forces in the Pacific gave a briefing today on efforts to help Japan.

• TEPCO, the company that operates the Fukushima plant, also gave a press conference today. They hope to get power to reactors No. 1 and 2 today; 3 and 4 by Saturday March 20. TEPCO has 50 workers at the plant, working in shifts to keep radiation exposure to each individual down as much as possible.


  1. “at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan, damaged after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit”

    Fukushima is 50km from the coast, how can a Tsunami hit reactors there?

    1. That confused me at first too. The city of Fukushima is inland, but the Fukushima I and II plants are so named because they are in Fukushima Prefecture, not the city. The reactors are right on the ocean. The tsunami actually washed away the diesel tanks that fuel some of the pumps and generators.

  2. Ah, the art of sensational headlines.

    Just wanted to add that the graphs shown in the screenshot are in µSv/hr. Units are always important in graphs.

    1. I find the apparent lack of raw data from the facility confounding. No temperature readings? No water level readings? Not sure if a meltdown has occurred? Is the containment system intact?

      How can they even be arguing about these things? Even if power is cut to the plant, these things still need to be monitored.

      ‘Clearly’ (non-nuclear-engineer speaking), these things should get fixed. I would have thought it would be relatively simple to retroactively add some redundant monitoring systems to other nuclear power plants, so lets hope that is a good lesson learned here.

      And while they are doing that, they should also run some big fat hoses up to that fuel pond so they can fill it even if all the power is out and the pumps have failed. Oh, and whose bright idea was it to put it 15 stories up in the air? How about putting it at ground level.

      1. Correction, they are dropping water on buildings without good data on wether or not the containment vessels are intact.

        Sounds like trying to cool your coffee by pouring a thimble of room temperature water on your thermos.

      2. Various definitions of frantic: excessively agitated; distraught with fear or other violent emotion; insane, mentally unstable; in a state of panic, worry, frenzy or rush. Frantic is a loaded term. Its use may help draw in readers, sell newspapers, etc., but it certainly isn’t responsible journalism.

        1. Its common ussage doesn’t always mean insane or excessive.

          Also, in America, we sometimes use the word crazy in a context that does not mean “mentally ill”, we use sick in a way that doesn’t mean “in bad health” and we use cool in a way that doesn’t mean “cold.”

          Welcome to America!

    1. It’s the NYTimes. The US press has been pumping up the adjectives for quite a few days. I think it would be interesting to guess what they’re going to use tomorrow. “Absomanic?”

  3. “NO readings posted any longer from here in Fukushima-ken.”

    Can we please start calling this thing the “Fukenstien Reactor”

  4. I am not 100% sure that there is a suspicious reason for having no data from Fukushima.

    According to this site: http://www.bousai.ne.jp/eng/ the only radiation “Monitoring Object Installations” in Fukushima are the stricken nuclear plants themselves which do not have power.

    Check the link, mouseover Fukushima and see for yoruself.

    Even if power is cut to the plant, these things still need to be monitored.
    …that is the problem. No on-site or off-site power.

      1. The final 50 were evacuated Wednesday.

        Radiation levels are high enough now that the police can’t get close enough for their water cannons to reach the reactors. The helicopters dropping the water have installed lead shielding to protect the pilots, and even then they are rotating crews to minimize exposure.

        1. Those final 50 workers don’t have a geiger counter?
          Not one that’s connected to the automated systems everyone is linking to. What do you want them to do? Concentrate on the problem at hand or worry about updating the general population with figures? Trust me.. the people who need figures, have them.

          The final 50 were evacuated Wednesday.
          And then sent back several hours later, after the Japanese government had upped the legal limit that nuclear workers could be exposed to. This dude’s blog post covers it pretty clearly.

          “the Japanese Health Ministry increased the maximum radiation dose the workers can experience, from 100 to 250 millisieverts.”

          Please be careful with what you state as fact. Misinformation is driving most of the panic. People are jumping up and down about the new limit being “5 times higher than US workers” which, I might add, is bullshit. In emergency situations the legal limit for US workers is also a 25 rem (250 millisieverts) dose:

          Dose limits
          * 5 rem total dose is the annual limit for occupational radiation workers doing their normal jobs. This is cumulative dose over time (up to a year). If actual dosimeters are not used, cumulative dose can be estimated based on physical measurements of dose rate by environmental survey meters.
          * Higher dose limits are permissible for Emergency Response Workers in certain specific circumstances (Table A6) 25 rem is the guideline limit with only a few exceptions. Above that dose, informed consent is required.

          1. >What do you want them to do? Concentrate on the problem at hand or worry about updating the general population with figures? Trust me.. the people who need figures, have them.

            I have never been part of an emergency response team, but know those who have and I have been part of a number of logistical operations. Pretty much all that I know of have a system to move the data of the situation up to a war room that monitors status, suggests ideas and adjustments. Unless they are entering that data on to a white board, rather than a database, it would seem the communications staff putting out info should be able to share it.

            So there likely isn’t some trade off where either the 50 work on solving the problem or sit around writing press releases to inform the public.

  5. I hate to jump to conclusions, but I’m afraid pretty soon people are going to start pronouncing Tepco “bee pee,” and Fukushima seems as if it should rhyme with “Deepwater Horizon.”

    BTW, one of the Captcha words for this entry is “problem.”

  6. Xeni, that map of the evacuation zone shows potential radiation levels, “depending on whether the containment vessels remain intact, weather patterns, and other factors,” not current levels. Important difference!

  7. Thanks man…. a useful link. Here is a copypaste of data from today, hours 12midnight – 12midday. The only question is where is “MP-4”? It’s dropped 1 μSv/h in 12 hours…. this has to be a sign of progress, no?

    source: http://www.tepco.co.jp/cc/press/betu11_j/images/110318e.pdf

    Measurement: March 18
    午後0時00分 12:00 noon
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    13.7 μSv/h 13.7 μSv / h
    – –
    午前11時50分 At 11:50 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    13.7 μSv/h 13.7 μSv / h
    − –
    午前11時40分 11 at 11:40 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    13.8 μSv/h 13.8 μSv / h
    − –
    午前11時30分 11:30 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    13.8 μSv/h 13.8 μSv / h
    − –
    午前11時20分 Minutes 20:11 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    13.7 μSv/h 13.7 μSv / h
    − –
    午前11時10分 Minutes 10:11 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    13.8 μSv/h 13.8 μSv / h
    − –
    午前9時00分 9:00 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.0 μSv/h 14.0 μSv / h
    − –
    午前8時50分 At 8:50 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.1 μSv/h 14.1 μSv / h
    – –
    午前8時40分 40 minutes at 8:00 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.1 μSv/h 14.1 μSv / h
    − –
    午前8時30分 8:30 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.1 μSv/h 14.1 μSv / h
    − –
    午前8時20分 20 minutes at 8:00 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.2 μSv/h 14.2 μSv / h
    − –
    午前8時10分 Minutes 10:08 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.1 μSv/h 14.1 μSv / h
    − –
    午前6時00分 6:00 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.3 μSv/h 14.3 μSv / h
    − –
    午前5時50分 At 5:50 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.3 μSv/h 14.3 μSv / h
    − –
    午前5時40分 5 at 1:40 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.4 μSv/h 14.4 μSv / h
    − –
    午前5時30分 5:30 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.5 μSv/h 14.5 μSv / h
    − –
    午前5時20分 5:20 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.4 μSv/h 14.4 μSv / h
    − –
    午前5時10分 Minutes 10:05 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.5 μSv/h 14.5 μSv / h
    − –
    午前3時00分 3:00 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.6 μSv/h 14.6 μSv / h
    − –
    午前2時50分 50 minutes at 2:00 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.6 μSv/h 14.6 μSv / h
    − –
    午前2時40分 2 at 1:40 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.6 μSv/h 14.6 μSv / h
    − –
    午前2時30分 2:30 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.6 μSv/h 14.6 μSv / h
    − –
    午前2時20分 Minutes 20:02 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.6 μSv/h 14.6 μSv / h
    − –
    午前2時10分 Minutes 10:02 am
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.6 μSv/h 14.6 μSv / h
    − –
    午前0時00分 12:00 midnight
    MP−4付近 MP-4 near
    14.8 μSv/h 14.8 μSv / h

  8. I’m a little disturbed by the focus being paid to a potential disaster in the face of an actual disaster.

    1. Aliosius! Thank you for that!!

      It has been driving me nuts. I think it’s largely driven by the media who know that they can get viewers in their countries to stayed glued to the story if they can convince them that it might soon come to affect them as well. So they hype it all up. Get people running out buying pills the don’t need. And get my poor mother crying and pleading on the phone for no reason whatsoever. ARGH!!

      1. Back in the ’50s, we set off hundreds of very dirty nukes in Nevada, pretty much letting the fallout blow where it would, following the prevailing west to east winds.

        Nevertheless, I failed to notice any radioactive mutants shambling about post-apocalyptic streets in the Midwestern city where I grew up. In addition, I and all my friends’ kids have the tradtional number of heads, eyes, and limbs.

        The US media has neglected to note this as far as I have seen. Not surprising, as their control panel seems to have only two settings, “Nothing to see here” and “Run in circles, scream and shout”.

        1. Nevertheless, I failed to notice any radioactive mutants shambling about post-apocalyptic streets in the Midwestern city where I grew up. In addition, I and all my friends’ kids have the tradtional number of heads, eyes, and limbs.

          The US media has neglected to note this as far as I have seen.

          Well, you may have failed to note thousands of cases of cancer, but luckily you are not a public health professional:

          In a report by the National Cancer Institute, released in 1997, it was determined that the nearly ninety atmospheric tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) left high levels of radioactive iodine-131 (5.5 exabecquerels) across a large area of the continental United States, especially in the years 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957. The National Cancer Institute report estimates that doses received in these years are estimated to be large enough to produce 10,000 to 75,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S.[7] Another report, published by the Scientific Research Society, estimates that about 22,000 additional radiation-related cancers and 2,000 additional deaths from radiation-related leukemia are expected to occur in the United States because of external and internal radiation from both NTS and global fallout.[5]

          The threat of downwind exposure to radioactivity remaining at the Nevada Test Site from nuclear weapons tests was still an issue as late as 2007.

        2. People get fairly confused about radiation dangers. Fuel and the type of reaction are very important when determent the dangers of radiation.

          For example Uranium Oxide (used in Chernobyl) is particularly bad because it’s easily absorbed by the lungs. So what you got were particles in the air that get stuck in the body and constantly irradiate the person from the inside.

          So as long as the people aren’t showered with radioactive particles there isn’t that bad of a threat.

          In the case of Bombs the fuel is burned out almost instantly so there is really not much of a threat after that. In fact the last resort plan for Chernobyl, should all else have failed, would have been to nuke the plant with a powerful bomb in order to destroy all fuel.

  9. @Aloisius & Taj

    finally some reasoned voices – I don’t know how many times I’ve posted over the last few days to correct some “OMFG WEEER AAAAAALLLL DOOOOOMED!!!!!!! type posts, mostly fuelled by commercial media sexing up by lines

    Which is sexier?

    “Workers evacuated from cursed place of potential raining death”


    “Workers evacuated for 45 minutes but left pumps running”

    If you want radiation data go to NHK live

    The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told reporters on Friday that the radiation level at the plant’s west gate was 271 microsieverts per hour at 7:30 AM.

    The figure is 38 points lower than before the water injection, and 21 points lower than immediately after the operation.


    NHK live is currently running a story about the installation of power lines being hampered by levels of 20 millisieverts per hour.

    In short if that’s the information you want it’s there.

    To Boingboing commentators: please stop linking to articles in the NYT, they are mostly full of vague embellishments and not enough factual information. Things are bad enough without furthering the propagation of borderline lies. And please take the time to read the comments to your own submissions as they will often be full of corrections to the factual inaccuracies or missing data.

    Disclaimer of interest: I am in Japan now.

    1. BBC live has reported the spent fuels rods in reactor 3 storage pool as containing plutonium

      That is to be expected, isn’t it? I don’t know much about nuclear fuel cycles, but isn’t plutonium one of the expected reaction products in low-enriched uranium fuel reactors? The spent fuel rods containing the plutonium can be processed to remove the plutonium and uranium which can then be used as inputs to produce mixed oxide fuel rods, which can then be put back into reactors designed for low-enriched uranium operation.

      1. there was some debate on another thread as to if the reactor 4 spent fuel rods were MOX or not.

      1. TEPCO has said the upgraded the INES because

        more than 3 percent of the nuclear fuel has been damaged and radioactive material is leaking from the plant

        watch the press conference

        The radioactive material referred to is basically the steam/hygrogen btw.

        1. agreed that this isn’t a Chernobyl type of event, and that what’s being released is radioactive hydrogen with a half-life measured in seconds.

          however, my point is merely that ANY release of radiation is not good

          1. Well it certainly isn’t a plus, but this plant WAS hit by that tsunami. I’m still impressed that it came through it as well as it did, difficult though the situation yet remains.

  10. #
    0933: Despite news of a slight drop in radiation, officials say it is still too early to evaluate the result and effectiveness of the cooling operation, NHK reports.

    NE monitoring point: 3,339uSv/h at 1450 from 3,484uSV/h at 1350 – TEPCO via NHK

    BBC live

    time stamp 18:33 Japan time

  11. The NYT infographic of evacuation zones and potential exposure to radiation doesn’t mention any sort of time scale. Is this rate of potential exposure worked out per hour, per second, per lifetime? How long would it take to reach this exposure level?

    The wikipedia page on radiation poisoning suggests (assuming I haven’t fudged the unit conversion) that those exposed to the radiation level within half a mile of the reactors will die within 48 hours with or without medical attention.


    That list of symptoms is horrible.

  12. #
    1113: News just in: Electricity could be restored on Saturday morning at the Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power says, according to the Reuters news agency.

    BBC live

    time stamp 20:13 Japan time

  13. #
    1135: Kensuke Tadano, a member of the local assembly in Minami-Soma tweets: “There are still people who have not left the exclusion zone in Kashima ward, Minami-soma City. I tried to persuade two people who cried and refused to leave their home. They live just the edge of the 30km exclusion zone.”

    BBC live

  14. “They hope to get power to reactors No. 1 and 2 today; 3 and 4 by Saturday March 20.”

    Troubling, considering March 20 is Sunday. Does he mean the year 2021? That’s the next time we’ll have a Saturday, March 20.

  15. TEPCO has updated it’s progress at restarting pumps at Fukushima via NHK

    It has so far installed a distributor panel at an office next to the No. 1 reactor. It is now trying to connect the power line to a transformer at the No. 2 reactor via the No. 1 reactor.

    The workers are carefully watching radiation levels, which remain high — up to 20 millisieverts per hour at some points.


  16. If they encase the reactors, and the containment pool dries out inside the casing, then there’s another quake breaking open the casing, wouldn’t that be a hellish scenario?

  17. Yeah, really the level of concern is dropping daily. The sensationalism on BoingBoing has been nothing less than ridiculous; I had come to expect better from the people here, but the editors seem to be engaging in the same kind of sensationalism as the nerds on CNN and Fox. For Shame.

    Which is not to say that everything is rosy and light in the land of the beleagured nuke plants. Things are still dangerous, things could still go very very wrong. However, the reactors are all pretty much ok. The spent fuel ponds are the issue now (and could end up being very bad indeed) but the 180 people that are now working on site are working away at that and radiation levels are apparently dropping, which is a good thing. Again, there is still extreme danger to the people on the site, and things could still go very wrong, but things seem to be getting better, not worse.

    The 250 millisieverts number is not just a case of moving goalposts as far as I can tell either. The guidelines seem to say that you can get 100/year, so the workers would get a years vacation, but with 250, that’s a lifetime limit for workers, so they’re going to have to retire after this.

      1. Thank you.

        It’s also important to remember that in the same amount of time that nobody has lost their lives in the Japanese nuclear disaster, over 200 people have died in the United States alone from the effects of perfectly normal as designed functioning of coal fired power plants.

        1. I beg to differ.

          Two nuclear workers at the site are officially missing (the reason would be the reactor #4 hydrogen explosion as far as I know).

          That would pretty much mean they’re dead.

          Considering they were at the site because they were ordered to stay in order to save the plant, it means that they effectively sacrificed their lives.

    1. I think I mentioned NHK news has been broadcasting a guy called Noriyuki Mizuno. His job title is actually “senior NHK commentator” and he’s basically their attack dog – yesterday for example he was remonstrating loudly about TEPCO not being forthcoming about the sudden switch from reactor 4 to reactor 3. Given that the usual technique is through oblique allusion, rather than direct aggressive questioning, it suggests a deniable form of Editorial expression.

      I’ve also heard anecdotal stories of the Japan PM chewing out the TEPCO execs for not being forthcoming with data.

      But I think the reaction of the foreign press and the evacuations being carried out are actually very damaging in terms of the trust people put in Japanese government press releases. So while I could see certain aspects of the article’s premiss ringing true, the Japanese government already sent a strong message to TEPCO and the Japanese people of it’s faith in TEPCO by asking the IAEA to manage the crisis.

  18. doses received in these years are estimated to be large enough to produce

    estimates … additional radiation-related cancers … are expected to occur

    Apparently the public health professionals are not able to find a control group which can be compared to those who lived downwind from the Cold War nuke tests, so they are going strictly by “estimates”. OK, be that as it may.

    The question still remains: “What danger does radiation from Fukushima pose to those living in the United States?”. I see no reason to believe, even for Alaska and Hawaii, that the answer to that question is not “effectively none”.

    Which is not to minimize its danger those to living in proximity to Fukushima of course.

    1. The question still remains: “What danger does radiation from Fukushima pose to those living in the United States?”. I see no reason to believe, even for Alaska and Hawaii, that the answer to that question is not “effectively none”.

      That’s a far cry from your previous assertion that open-air nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s didn’t cause any adverse health effects; they most certainly did. (Control groups include cancer data for the same location in prior decades, populations in other areas, and measurements of actual radioactive contamination cross-referenced with lab/epidemiology data about radiation-induced cancers).

      The US has a compensation fund for victims which has paid out nearly $1.5 billion (at $50,000 a head for downwinders; more for nuclear workers and U miners).

      I happen to agree with your assertion that there’s no/negligible danger to the US, but that’s not at all what you were saying earlier. Radioactive fallout is nasty, nasty stuff.

      I’m strongly in favor of nuclear power as basically the only medium-term solution to global climate change, but the BWR/PWR designs are inherently unsafe, and we need to transition to pebble bed/CANDU/thorium/etc. technology as quickly and safely as possible.

      Unfortunately this accident will most likely put those efforts even further on the back burner.

      1. Agree with you 100% on all points.

        Nuclear fallout from any source is nasty. Nuclear weapons tests have done and will continue to do nasty things to people.

        Other nuclear plant options are much much safer, and we should be moving to them.

        However, what we have here is a 40 year old version of a plant design that isn’t as safe as many others, without levels of safeguards that were built elsewhere on similar plants, without safety upgrades that other plants of the same age and design have had, run by a company that has cut corners and not performed the correct disaster planning, hit by an earthquake 5 times stronger than what it was designed to withstand and that will more than likely cause no or very little lasting damage to either people or the environment.

        A modern CANDU reactor, a modern reactor of the same design, or hell, even the same reactor with the safety standards existent in the installations currently running in the U.S. would have come through without even these problems.

        If anything, this disaster should reassure people that since even when an old, crappy, poorly run reactor goes through one of the 5 worst earthquakes in all of recorded history, things mostly come out ok, Nuclear Power is probably pretty damn safe. Certainly, as I mentioned above, far far safer than fossil fuel power.

        All this, by the way, in a country that has been hit by a disaster that has killed over ten thousand people. The nuclear power plant is now and will likely continue to be an insignificant blip in the overall disaster.

        The fact that people over here are obsessing over the nuclear plant is really nasty. Really what it says to me is that people in North America are more concerned about the miniscule chance of some extemely minor effects to themselves than they are about tens of thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands of homeless and hurt people that actually do really truly exist in Japan.

        1. I read somewhere, but have no cite, that one or more of these very reactors were due for decommissioning starting later this year.

  19. Another reason to be interested is that Japan is currently
    playing that “shoot the water pistol in the clown’s mouth”
    carnival game with firetrucks and multiple reactors’ worth
    of cores.

    And running a kilometer extension cable may simply reveal
    that your pumps are toast. Or your pipes cracked.

    You’re playing FMEA Roulette and the Failure Modes are winning.

    Enjoy your new National Park by Monday! Though you won’t be
    allowed to visit it.

      1. Chernobyl was only a single reactor’s worth of stuff.
        2 MegaCuries of Cs137 for instance.

        There are multiple reactor cores worth of spent fuel uncovered
        by water, steel, or concrete. If they leak, how are you
        going to prevent them from “uncladding”?

        Just curious.

        They should have airdropped dropped pink water, that always works in SoCal.

        1. Lack of a transport mechanism: at Chernobyl, burning graphite carried the fallout products aloft in a column of smoke reaching 9300 meters.

          Here, by contrast, there is no graphite to burn and carry fallout aloft with it: only water vapor out the pools.

  20. my apologies it was NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency – Japanese gov watchdog) that changed the INES.

  21. #
    1524: The IAEA says the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant is very serious but there is no significant worsening since Thursday, Reuters reports.

    BBC live

    time stamp 00:24 Japan time

  22. #
    1533: Graham Andrew, a senior official at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says the situation at the Fukushima reactors at units 1, 2 and 3 “appears to remain fairly stable”.

    BBC live

  23. Hmmm. I’d like to say that I am grateful to BB for its excellent coverage of the events at Fukushima. I would not characterize the coverage as fear-mongering at all. The coverage is of interest to me for the following reasons. 1. The web has evolved into a near real-time source of news. Even if in this case there is no broad threat to the world, someday there will be such a threat, and it is good to know that media is evolving to be able to cover the threat. To the extent that it is working, information tells us that we need to keep track of the situation, but not do things like stock up on pills. 2. I think the interest is not really about whether or not the American west coast will be affected. While that is an important question in theory, the real interest here is what kind of warning the average person can expect to get in case of impending catastrophe. From a media consumer perspective, I can now safely say that the first round of “expert opinions” can be safely discarded as being mostly incompetent. While it may be said that today the media have over-responded a bit, it is pretty clear that in the first 48 hours much of the media and expert opinion was fundamentally disconnected from reality. You know who you are. I don’t think it is overly paranoid to be very concerned about possible terrorist attack with nuclear devices. . . and based on mass-media performance to Fukushima. . . it is safe to say that best way to gather information is to cast a wide net for information, not rely on any single source, and completely disregard information that does not seem scientifically plausible (absence of threat of nuclear rods without coolant). 3. Coverage of Fukushima is fundamentally empathetic. It is concern for people who have not yet died or who have not yet become sick. They matter too. Japan and Korea matter.. . especially to the U.S. 4. The drama and its media portrayal has high cultural relevance to electronic media/culture a la Takayuki Tatsumi. In what way is this not Gojira. . .and in what way are the technicians not the first epic heroes of the 21st century. . .

    1. Your point 2 is well taken, as that period is when interest is apt to be highest, while information is apt to be partial and fragmentary at best, or in fact entirely non-existent.

      I grieve for Japan’s losses; and hope that all efforts undertaken to help them overcome these difficult and distressing times will help.

  24. Here’s Dr. Helen Caldicott’s two cents:

    My heart goes out to the people of Japan who are of course suffering under the double blow of the effects of the earthquake and tsunami, as well as the threat from the Fukushima reactors.
    They are dealing stoically and with great dignity with conditions that are severely challenging. And I want to pay special tribute to the incredibly brave band of TEPCO workers who are fighting to bring the situation at the plant under control. Their efforts are heroic, their courage beyond measure.
    The world is now paying – and will pay however severe Fukushima turns out to be – a grave price for the nuclear industry’s hubris and the arrogance and greed that fueled their drive to build more and more reactors. What’s more, having bamboozled gullible politicians, the media, and much of the public into believing that it is a “clean and green” solution to the problem of global warming, the nuclear industry has operated facilities improperly, with little or no regard for safety regulations, and they have often done this with the connivance of government authorities.
    Nuclear power is not the answer to global warming; it is not clean, it is not green; it is not safe; and it is not renewable. It is instead “a destroyer of worlds.” It is time the global community repudiated it – however economically painful in the short term that taking such a step would be. There is no other choice for the sake of future generations.

  25. #
    1950: Statement from the station operator (Tepco): “Tepco has connected the external transmission line with the receiving point of the plant and confirmed that electricity can be supplied.”

    BBC live

    time stamp 04:50 Japan time

  26. Remote control blimps to the rescue of Fukushima Daiichi reactor

    Fast and safe solution for bringing water to cool down reactor and spent fuel storage pools. Blimps that currently exist in Japan can quickly and easily be retrofitted with remote control servos and video cameras, using off the shelf components that are available in Akihabara and many other places. Some blimps can be used as observation platforms, others can be used to precisely deliver hoses with magnetic or clamping devices to fix and point towards the areas that require the water. These blimps can stay aloft for days and will operate without any risk to humans.

    If necessary heavy lift helicopters could reel kilometers of fire hoses in the general area where they will be needed, leaving the blimps the job of picking up and manipulating the nozzles in the necessary directions. From the blimps it is possible to reel down small tracked miniature robots (like bomb disposal robots) with robotic arms that can be used to help in other ways. Long distance fiber optic lines can also be laid out to help in the mission.

    Unmanned tethered balloons can be attached around the reactor site with video cameras to provide long term around the clock observation platforms. Refueling the blimps can also be accomplished by remote control from tanker trucks. An improvised coupling system or onboard fuel pump in the blimp to suck the fuel into the tanks can be fitted with easily available parts.


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