Nuke: Bits and pieces


TOKYO (majirox news)
Worker dies at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
A contract worker died on his second day working at Daiichi plant today, but there were not any harmful levels of radiation detected in his body, said the Tokyo Electric Company, TEPCO. The man, who was in his 60s, was the first person to die at the Daiichi plant since the March 11 quake and tsunami damaged the facility.

The worker was carrying equipment when he collapsed and died later in hospital, said Naoyuki Matsumoto, spokesman for TEPCO. The company does not know the cause of his death, he said.

The man had been wearing a radiation protection suit, mask and gloves while working at the plant’s waste disposal building, which stores radioactive-contaminated water that has leaked from the reactors.

Radioactive material detected in grass, vegetables
Radioactive materials exceeding the safety legal limit was detected in pasture grass and vegetables in Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures, which is next to Fukushima prefecture.

About 3,480 becquerels of radioactive cesium was detected in one kilogram of pasture grass collected on May 5 in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture. It exceeded the safety limit of 300 becquerels.

Also, at two different locations in Nasushiobara City, 3,600 becquerels and 860 becquerels of radioactive cesium was discovered in one kilogram of pasture grass also collected in Tochigi prefecture. The government urged farmers in the area where the radioactive substance was found not to feed the grass to livestock.

Furthermore, about 1,110 becquerels of radioactive cesium were detected in one kilogram of parsley grown in Ibaraki prefecture. The figure was more than double the safety limit. The parsley had been shipped to a fresh food market in Niigata Prefecture, west of Fukushima. Niigata prefectural government told wholesale distributors to stop selling the parsley.

Automotive summer energy saving measures set
The Japan Automobile Association (JAMA) has agreed to summer energy saving measures for company members of JAMA. Workers will take their holidays on Thursday and Friday, the peak days of energy demand, instead of Saturday and Sunday, from July to September. The measure will be implemented nationwide and include the Japan Auto Parts Industries Association.

JAMA will be calling for non-holiday weekends to include other industries as well.

Giant tents will be used to cover damaged nuclear reactors
Giant polyester covers will be used around the damaged reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to help contain the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere, said Tokyo Electric Company, TEPCO, on Friday. TEPCO will install the first cover at the No. 1 reactor starting next month.

Workers will build a steel framework and place a giant polyester tent-like cover around the reactor building. Similar covers will be placed around reactors No. 3 and 4. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

A series of hydrogen explosions blew off the roofs and upper walls of the three reactors days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and also knocked out their cooling systems, triggering the overheating of the reactors. The explosions scattered a large amount of radioactive debris in the area around the reactors. Workers will have to clear the debris near reactor No. 1 so that cranes and other heavy equipment can reach the reactor. TEPCO said it began moving debris from the area around the reactor May 13.

Government agrees to livestock euthanasia in the 20 km evacuation zone
Kan’s administration said that with the consent of the farmers within the 20 km evacuation zone, their livestock would be euthanized next week by national and county veterinarians.

This is allowed according to the Nuclear Disaster Special Measures Law. The government said many livestock were starving to death or roaming freely since the area was totally sealed off April 22. The animals that are currently roaming free will be captured and put together with the other animals. The cost will be picked up by the government.

According to the ministry, there were approximately 1,300 cattle and about 200 head of swine that were found alive within the 20 km zone. Before the earthquake there were 3,500 cattle, 30,000 pigs, about 680,000 chickens and birds and 100 horses. Most were believed to have starved to death because there wasn’t food or water.

The process will be carried out after the animals are given a sedative. They will then be covered with a blue sheet over slaked lime. Workers will wear protective clothing, masks and a radiation dosimeter, measuring the amount of radiation.

Poster contest for nuclear energy postponed
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy decided yesterday to “postpone” its traditional children’s poster campaign on May 11 plugging the nuclear power industry.

It was assumed the decision was because of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant operated and owned by TEPCO.

Doubt on credibility of TEPCO
Melted nuclear fuel inside of reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been found at the bottom of the reactor’s pressure vessel, which means there is likely a hole up to several centimeters in it, according to TEPCO.

Many fuel rods at the reactor are under water and in stable condition. However, TEPCO failed to find the leak of the water and correctly measure water levels. The utility company will probably be forced to review the blueprint that calls for bringing the plant’s damaged reactors to a stable condition, referred to as “cold shutdown” in about six to nine months.

Initially TEPCO said that the water level was about 1.6 to 1.7 meters from the top of the fuel rods. The water level was at a point more than 5 meters below the top of the fuel rods.

The temperature at the lower section of the pressure vessel is at a safe 100 to 120 degrees, which means the large portion of the fuel rods had previously melted, sank to the bottom of the vessel and were cooled, announced TEPCO.

However, serious questions about when the fuel melted and sank to the bottom remain unanswered. Nuclear fuel begins melting at 2,800 degrees Celsius.

“It was not surprising because we predicted a melting of fuel rods at an early stage,” said Haruki Mandarame, chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, at a news conference May 12.” We don’t think all of the fuel rods are under water judging from temperatures inside the pressure vessel. We want to do more analysis.”

Taiwan promoting tourism to Japan
Taipei’s Assembly Speaker Yuab Ou Kinpei will lead a group of about 300 tourists to visit Hokkaido.

“This will help bring back the tourists,” he said.

The Governor of Hokkaido Takahashi Harumi said tourism has decreased significantly after the earthquake and he had to play a role to promote tourism for it to recover. According to the Japan National Tourist Organization, the number of Taiwanese who visited Hokkaido were 180,000 which is one-fourth the total of foreign visitors to the area in 2009.

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