« Shots from Shinjuku | Main | Ganbare Nippon »

March 15, 2011

Comments

Ryan

Thanks for your well-written article.

Anyone have more insight regarding the spent fuel pools being on fire and what that could mean for Tokyo residents?
The NY Times cited a Brookhaven Laboratories Study showing radiation having ill-effects much farther than a 30 or 50km zone.

MattAlt

As of right now, Tokyo metro radiation levels are stable. You can keep clicking the datafeeds linked in the post to observe them yourself.

While this is an ongoing ecological disaster, and the prospect of the rods burning/melting and releasing radioactive particles into the air a possibility, most scientific voices I am reading are saying that Tokyo is not in major danger as of yet. (Of course, there are always other experts who claim the dangers are being understated. But based on the data we have now, Tokyo is safe for the moment.)

From what I can tell, the people most panicked seem to be foreign residents. I haven't even heard a peep about evacuation from my Japanese friends/neighbors.

Tim

Another side to the radiation readings from Arnold Gundersen:

"It’s very difficult to determine that right now. You have to remember, with the explosions, most of the radiation detectors have been destroyed. So, the New York Times is reporting that workers are picking up in seven minutes their yearly exposure in certain areas within the plant. I studied Three Mile Island extensively, and it’s very difficult to chase one of these radioactive clouds to determine exactly where it’s touching down. So, numbers in the vicinity of the plant are probably too low. It’s very difficult to be right at the spot where the worst exposures are occurring. So, I take with almost no credence any of the numbers in the vicinity of the plant. But my experience shows that they’re probably too low."

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/15/this_could_become_chernobyl_on_steroids

"Arnold Gundersen of Goshen was a senior vice president with Danbury-based Nuclear Energy Services, a card-carrying member of the nuclear industry. Since then, he has become a dedicated whistleblower, taking on the industry that once supplied him in his family with a comfortable lifestyle and a bright future"

http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/news2000/nn10410.htm

And what about the strong incentive to give low readings to avoid panic?

Palmiro/ Zavorka

Matt, that's right,
milli sieverts are happening at an order of units, not thousands, however there was a withdrawal of th 50 workers due to safety reasons, it means that they have stayed there too much long time for them.
this is from the UK ambassy, for people needing to leave in the next days
http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/japan/

Nick Holder

Nice right up, thank you.

Palmiro/ Zavorka

This is a chart of the exposures, keeping in mind that 1 mSi/hour when the situation goes bad, makes you calculate 100 hours are 100 mSi
http://aishiterutsukuba.jp/Aishiteru_Tsukuba/Emergency_Info/Entries/2011/3/15_Radiation_Chart.html
and here a blog on Tsukuba residents and the websites where montoring are available
http://tsukubanews.wordpress.com/

Palmiro/ Zavorka

CBS News reports that the 50, TEPCO workers were back in the plant on the job. They said the workers had, in fact, never left.
A company representative said that earlier in the morning, when radiation emissions went up around the plant, workers outside were ordered to come into a building inside the plant complex and halt their work. Then, once emissions dropped about an hour later, the workers returned to their posts.
Attempts to use helicopters failed, a firemen unit from land is going to arrive to drop water on the reactors and the waste material disposal buildings.

Rena

@ Vince - I wanted to do the same - from Germany to Osaka, 22nd - cancelled now - my goals won't work out and I would just be one more person to be evacuated if......better STAY at HOME Vince! And you people there, I pray for you. Cannot give any data nor be any help.

concerned

Common sense has to prevail. sesationalised or not. the reality is there is a problem. Nuclear cells were built to withstand tsunami's/earthquakes/combo. they didnt. there is a definite risk to tokyo.
Common sense dictates while there is a risk leave if you can. dont wait for evacuation orders coz at that time you will not be able to evacuate.

Claipin

Thank you for the clear and easy to understand post.
Everyone is literally freaking out here in France, your post reassured me, really.
Keep on the updates!
Thank you, and everyone who helped you gathering the data for this.

Alex

check out this geiger-counter in tokyo:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/geiger-counter-tokyo

Jeff Lippold

Matt - in Shanghai right now and really appreciate the effort you're making right now in getting the right information out there. The abandonment of Japan by all major news agencies over the past few years has made blogs and efforts like yours indispensable.
Keep up the good work!

me

Good info however with some contradictory information.

The picture chart, in point 1, shows that the legal limit of radiation exposure is 1 milli Sieverts (1 m Sv) per year, which is equal to 1000 micro Sieverts (1000 u Sv). That is to say, per hour, one should receive at most (1000 u Sv)/(365*24) = 0.114 u Sv per hour to be in the legal limit.

Point 2, however, states that the levels of radiation in Tokyo raised from normal 0.2uSv/hour - 0.3uSv/hour up to 0.89uSv/hour, and then came back to normal again. Now, I wonder if these values are really normal. Why they are above 0.114uSv/hour, which is the legal limit calculated above?

I believe 0.2uSv/hour - 0.3uSv/hour is not a normal radiation level. It is above the normal level. Otherwise Tokyo is, by nature, a city which expose its inhabitants to levels of radiation above the legal limit.

etmcneal

Thanks for this, Matt. It has been a great resource for me, as I have some friends in Todoroki.Keep it up and stay safe

james

Hey Matt - james here - we have talked on the phone before. I am gathering the latest info from govt + nuclr industry sources. I don't think you will have seen it. Can you give me your mail so i can share?

*

hi -

*if* the cores melt through the container, there is the chance of an explosion, maybe a few hundred meters up. this should be contained within the 20km evac area.

but what is the chance of a more serious explosion? like a steam explosion, or all that matter sitting around going critical again?

http://130.226.56.153/rispubl/NKS/NKS-84.pdf
The Possibility and the Effects of a
Steam Explosion in the BWR Lower
Head on Recriticality of a BWR Core

Alexandrina

You have to factor in the potential for the worst case scenario rather than simply stating an hour by hour/day by day scenario.

Most importantly- No.3 @Fukushima Dai Ichi is a Plutonium MOX based reactor as you know..that is deadly..far moreso than 1,2,5,6 @ Fukushima No 1.

The half life for this material is 2,400 years! Do you know what that means?

As No.3 is now in grave danger, although apparently cooling temporarily at present- the danger imminently is from No 4 of course and the spent fuel rods there that are fully exposed to the atmosphere and have definitely caught fire as you also know.

Those spent fuel rods were NOT fully enclosed by three levels of containment as are the others, but are instead stored ABOVE the encased core. Those spend rods potentially contain some of the deadly Plutonium MOX material- which has a much lower meltdown rate.

The potential result if this meltdown cannot be reversed is simply CATASTROPHIC!

Toyko, also Ibarakai, Gunma , Toshigi, Saitama Ken,Chiba, Narita also; all areas south are at huge risk immediately if the wind is blowing Southerly at the time of the next explosion or fire. Either from Reactor 3- or possibly 4 due to the Plutionium MOX.

Please factor in the risk as it currently stands. What if the workers CANNOT contain the six problematic core materials. Don't forget that the reactor is directly on the ocean front. Also factor in that Fukushima Dai Ni holds another 4 reactors....so 10 in total!

It may be too late if you hang around to wait and see awaiting dribbles of info from the Govt or news media...by then it might simply be too late.

My advice would be to immediately look into the possibility of temporary evacuation via Shinkansen South to Kyushu- Fukuoka is a lovely city... You could wait over the next 24 hours and see how the water bombing is going however you must know by now that this is a measure of desperation....there is no container @ No4 to hold the water by the way...no-one mentions that little detail! So the bombing has to go on ad finitum??

Make plans NOW otherwise you won't get a seat south on any train later if you leave it too late. The roads will simply be at a stand-still.

Start planning NOW...that is my best advice.

Alexandrina

You have to factor in the potential for the worst case scenario rather than simply stating an hour by hour/day by day scenario.

Most importantly- No.3 @Fukushima Dai Ichi is a Plutonium MOX based reactor as you know..that is deadly..far moreso than 1,2,5,6 @ Fukushima No 1.

The half life for this material is 2,400 years! Do you know what that means?

As No.3 is now in grave danger, although apparently cooling temporarily at present- the danger imminently is from No 4 of course and the spent fuel rods there that are fully exposed to the atmosphere and have definitely caught fire as you also know.

Those spent fuel rods were NOT fully enclosed by three levels of containment as are the others, but are instead stored ABOVE the encased core. Those spend rods potentially contain some of the deadly Plutonium MOX material- which has a much lower meltdown rate.

The potential result if this meltdown cannot be reversed is simply CATASTROPHIC!

Toyko, also Ibarakai, Gunma , Toshigi, Saitama Ken,Chiba, Narita also; all areas south are at huge risk immediately if the wind is blowing Southerly at the time of the next explosion or fire. Either from Reactor 3- or possibly 4 due to the Plutionium MOX.

Please factor in the risk as it currently stands. What if the workers CANNOT contain the six problematic core materials. Don't forget that the reactor is directly on the ocean front. Also factor in that Fukushima Dai Ni holds another 4 reactors....so 10 in total!

It may be too late if you hang around to wait and see awaiting dribbles of info from the Govt or news media...by then it might simply be too late.

My advice would be to immediately look into the possibility of temporary evacuation via Shinkansen South to Kyushu- Fukuoka is a lovely city... You could wait over the next 24 hours and see how the water bombing is going however you must know by now that this is a measure of desperation....there is no container @ No4 to hold the water by the way...no-one mentions that little detail! So the bombing has to go on ad finitum??

Make plans NOW otherwise you won't get a seat south on any train later if you leave it too late. The roads will simply be at a stand-still.

Start planning NOW...that is my best advice.

J.

The latest article in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18nuclear.html?_r=1&hp) says that a rate of 250 millisieverts (not micro) per hour were detected 100 feet above the plant. That is serious radiation -- one hour represents a lifetime exposure limit. (And even that is only because Japan raised the limit from 100 to 250 several days ago.)

I'd have to agree with the above poster that tracking the hour-by-hour radiation levels in Tokyo, while true and soothing, doesn't accurately capture the risk. The real question is not "What are radiation levels right now?" but rather "What is the probability that radiation levels will rise to an unsafe level before this crisis ends?". The probability seems to be climbing, although I have no intuition as to whether that probability currently stands at 0.01%, 1%, or 10%.

a

This was written by the UK government's chief scientific officer John Beddington, who pointed out yesterday on BBC that this is still a very serious situation:

"What a meltdown involves is the basic reactor core melts, and as it melts, nuclear material will fall through to the floor of the container. There it will react with concrete and other materials … that is likely… remember this is the reasonable worst case, we don’t think anything worse is going to happen. In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500 metres up into the air. Now, that’s really serious, but it’s serious again for the local area. It’s not serious for elsewhere even if you get a combination of that explosion it would only have nuclear material going in to the air up to about 500 metres. If you then couple that with the worst possible weather situation i.e. prevailing weather taking radioactive material in the direction of Greater Tokyo and you had maybe rainfall which would bring the radioactive material down do we have a problem? The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue. The problems are within 30 km of the reactor"

http://www.businessinsider.com/fukushima-worst-case-scenario-2011-3


Regarding the radiation, this was posted on BBC yesterday, where other experts claim that radiation *could* reach Tokyo in a worst case scenario but not in any dangerous amount:

"What risk does Fukushima pose currently?

The Japanese authorities have recorded a radiation level of up 400 millisieverts per hour at the nuclear plant itself.

Professor Richard Wakeford, an expert in radiation exposure at the University of Manchester, said exposure to a dose of 400 millisieverts was unlikely to cause radiation sickness - that would require a dose of around twice that level (one sievert/one gray).

However, it could start to depress the production of blood cells in the bone marrow, and was likely to raise the lifetime risk of fatal cancer by 2-4%. Typically, a Japanese person has a lifetime risk of fatal cancer of 20-25%.

A dose of 400 millisieverts is equivalent to the dose from 50 -100 CT scans.

Prof Wakeford stressed only emergency workers at the plant were at risk of exposure to such a dose - but it was likely that they would only be exposed for short periods of time to minimise their risk.

However, even a dose of 100 millisieverts over a year is enough to raise the risk of cancer, albeit it marginally.

The level of exposure for the general population, even those living close to the plant, was unlikely to be anywhere near as high. There should be no risk to people living further afield.

What if the situation deteriorates?

If there were to be a meltdown or a fire at the nuclear plant, and unfavourable winds, then experts say radioactive material could reach as far as Toyko, 150 miles (241km) away.

However, even in that situation, the level of radiation is likely to be such that simple measures, such as staying indoors with windows closed, should neutralise the risk."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12722435

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment