Water, Water Everywhere: Incentives and Options at Fukushima Daiichi and Beyond 水、水、どこも水 福島第一原発をはじめとしてのインセンティブとオプション Andrew DeWit , Japan Focus



The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 11, Issue 32, No. 6, August 12, 2013.
Water, Water Everywhere: Incentives and Options at Fukushima Daiichi and Beyond
水、水、どこも水 福島第一原発をはじめとしてのインセンティブとオプション

Andrew DeWit

Japan’s ruined and radioactive reactor plant at Fukushima Daiichi has been an abiding source of concern among knowledgeable observers. There are a host of good reasons for this reemergence. As this Mainichi survey observes (http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130808p2g00m0dm037000c.html ), it is now clear that several hundred tons of radiation-contaminated water is entering the ocean per day. Over the past week, it suddenly returned as an intense focus of concern in the Japanese1 and quality overseas press.2 There are a host of good reasons for this reemergence. As this useful summary of articles and expert statements reveals, ( http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/08/official-tepco-plan-could-cause-fukushima-reactor-buildings-to-topple.html )it is now clear that several hundred tons of radiation-contaminated water is entering the ocean.

The usual suspects, including Tepco as well as various talking heads, have been assuring anxious observers that nothing untoward is going on, that health risks are minimal, and so on. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0EP9f-EyWw ) But at the same time, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) was steadily ramping up its warnings to Tepco to be more pro-active and forthcoming on the crisis. And on top of that, Shinkawa Tatsuya, Director, Nuclear Accident Response Office at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry’s (METI) Agency for Natural Resources and Energy is on record warning that the leaks may have been going on for two years and that there is a risk of the reactor buildings toppling.

Along with many other shocked observers, Neils Bohmer, nuclear physicist and general manager of the international environmental group Bellona http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2013/fuku_leaks_quantified, points out that what is happening at Fukushima Daiichi shows the efforts underway are still largely improvised. He adds that the “setbacks that have troubled Tepco in its efforts to bring the plant to heel would be nearly comical were it not for the gravity of the situation”. Beyond Nuclear’s Paul Gunter, Director of the highly respected organization’s Reactor Oversight Project, argues in a very fact-packed and concise August 9 RT America broadcast http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYB1TTV-v3U that cesium 137, strontium 90 and “a full range of radioactive contaminants” is moving “which indicates that the damaged cores of these reactors…are now contributing to the contamination of the Pacific Ocean.” He describes in detail how Tepco’s installation of a temporary, “chemical” wall between Fukushima Daiichi and the ocean, in order to prevent leakage into the Pacific, became in effect a dam that has now been breached and overflowed.

Gunter describes the Japanese Government as “in chaos,” with a clear failure of command and control of Fukushima and a dangerous reluctance to turn to international assistance. If his depiction of the situation as chaotic seems overdone, consider the buck-passing going on among Tepco, the NRA, METI, and the Abe Government. And consider the incentives for it.

As to Tepco itself, it is far more interested in devoting its scarce financial and human resources to getting its reactors at Kashiwazaki Karuiwa, the world’s largest nuclear plant, restarted as soon as possible. The site was heavily damaged by the 2007 Chuuetsu offshore earthquake, and Tepco needs restarts there in order to have any prospect of remaining a viable business entity. That possibility of getting back into the black is, of course, predicated on the Fukushima Daiichi crisis being taken over by the government and dealt with via public funds. Tepco clearly cannot do the job on its own, and has repeatedly argued that point. Current estimates of the total cost of clean up within Fukushima Prefecture alone amount to YEN 5.13 trillion (USD 50 billion),3 with total costs of decommissioning and compensation assessed (perhaps conservatively) by the Japanese Government as roughly YEN 10 trillion (USD 100 billion) at present.4 Tepco knows that it cannot restart any of the assets at Fukushima Daiichi, even the 2 reactors (Fukushima Daiichi Numbers 5 and 6) that remain operable. The more resources it pours into Fukushima Daiichi, the less it has to deploy elsewhere on projects where it has the prospect of making money. So Fukushima Daiichi is a black hole so far as Tepco is concerned.

As for the NRA, it is a new organization, and strapped for staff. It already has about 40 of its scant personnel deployed up at Fukushima Daiichi. It has an additional 80 staff divided into three teams currently assessing reactor safety upgrades (those that have applied for restarts) throughout the country. As noted, the NRA has been very public in insisting that Tepco be more forthcoming and forthright with information and efforts up at Fukushima Daiichi. But the NRA cannot force Tepco to act as it deems necessary. This was made clear by the fact that Tepco took its time in revealing the leakage of radiation into the sea, even though the NRA had been insisting on action for weeks. As for independent action, the NRA is limited in what it can do because it is a regulatory agency and lacks the human and financial resources to cope with the enormity of what is unfolding at Fukushima Daiichi.

The METI and the Abe Government are the public sector and thus have the resources to deal with the crisis. But they are both wary of the political risks inherent in stepping right up to the plate. One of the games being played in the wake of Fukushima – and the root cause of why this new crisis has erupted – is that the central government is wary of getting stuck in a tar pit of multiplying costs and responsibility. The approach hitherto has been to dribble in assistance (such as last year’s YEN 1 trillion nationalization of Tepco)5 without taking command of the situation and imposing stringent conditions on Tepco and the other utilities.

Even the current commitment by PM Abe Shinzo to “take action” has been marked by ambiguity over how much assistance will be devoted to the crisis and in what form. At present, METI and the Abe Cabinet are mooting the construction of a 1.4 kilometre system of pipes filled with coolant to freeze the soil around the damaged plant. Whether the state will foot only a portion of the cost or most of it is unclear. This very expensive6 and novel idea was first raised by the construction firm Kajima, and found its way into a May 30, 2013 report METI produced on dealing with the crisis. The METI Minister, Motegi Toshimitsu, in fact insisted to Tepco President Hirose Naomi that the firm implement the report’s recommendations. But evidently, ( http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/05/31/national/ground-freeze-urged-to-curb-seepage-into-fukushima-no-1-radioactive-basements/#.UgtR5c5R4vQ ) the great expense of the measure put Tepco off. Tepco stuck to its chemical wall approach, injecting materials into the ground, and here we are.

And even if the “frozen ground” approach gets budgeted and underway, it will only work for a short time. In the interim, among a host of other problems, there is roughly 400,000 tons of contaminated water in a massive tank farm on site, with plans to add an additional 300,000 tons of capacity over the next three years. But the annual increase in water storage is 150,000 tons, so Tepco is due to run out of space and has no plan for what to do.7 Moreover, the tanks are “built from parts of disassembled old containers brought from defunct factories and put together with new parts, workers from the plant told Reuters. They say steel bolts in the tanks will corrode in a few years.” Tepco has said it does not know how long the tanks will stand up to the elements and chemistry, and apparently has no plan for what to do when nature takes its toll here as well.8

Back to the Future of Failed Banks and Toxic Assets?

What is unfolding at Fukushima and in Tokyo bears much resemblance to the post-bubble financial crisis that crippled the Japanese economy in the 1990s and into the 2000s.9 Just as in the 1990s, almost all the actors are dithering and pointing fingers. The public coffers are likely to dribble in just as much as PM Abe thinks the taxpayers will stomach. But just as with the bank bailouts of the past, which eventually cost at least YEN 100 trillion, the public is going to have to pick up the cost of this crisis as well, whether through higher power costs or taxation.

The public finances have already been deployed in a number of initiatives, including the injection of YEN 1 trillion into Tepco on July 25 of last year.10 They will apparently be used again to freeze the ground around the site. In all likelihood, public money will have to be used to cope with soon-to-be insufficient and corroding tank storage. And that is just on-site. Look beyond the plant itself, and there is the huge burden of clean-up and compensation in the region. Further beyond that, there is the prospect that the nuclear-holding utilities are going to find themselves with very stranded and toxic assets, due to the increasingly fraught political economy of restarts.11

The Abenomics people certainly did not have this crisis on the radar when they were conferring with advisors on how to revive the Japanese economy. As with cabinets during the 1990s post-bubble years, the Abe Government may be inclined to do the least and hope that nothing more serious happens on their watch. This “kick the can down the road” is what most governments do, as we saw in the most recent global financial crisis and other massive public-policy challenges. It is what the entire world is doing in the face of climate change, due to the power of vested energy interests as well as the mistaken perception that action will be enormously expensive and economically debilitating.12

The Abe Government are perhaps yet to grasp that they need to move quickly and decisively. It is clear that post-Fukushima Tepco and its Fukushima Daiichi plant is going to continue delivering economically and politically costly surprises. To use the language of risk analysis, business as usual at Fukushima Daiichi has become a very fat and increasingly short-tailed risk.

For one thing, Abe’s desire to restart nuclear assets elsewhere has likely been set even further back by this new crisis, as the NRA is now even more distracted from safety checks. Japan will be without nuclear power again from September, when the two reactors at Ohi go into their scheduled maintenance. And it may be ten months from that, to July of 2014, before any restarts are possible.13 At the same time, the Abe government is just about to initiate a 3-stage deregulation of the power sector that is to be protracted over several years between 2015 to perhaps as late as 2020.14 This agenda may have to be accelerated, as the monopolies are already fighting fiercely in the face of a steadily rising number of new entrants – including Mitsui in September – into the power market.

The Abe regime’s first two arrows of monetary and fiscal activism were followed by a third arrow of structural reforms that was roundly denounced. Observers rightly wanted to see a focus on initiatives that had some credible prospect of reviving the Japanese economy, lifting it over the hump of shrinking population, declining productivity and other sobering structural challenges. They ignored the fact that much of the third arrow centred on energy and efficiency. Perhaps the virtual certainty of further costly mishaps at Fukushima Daiichi (and indeed elsewhere) moves the option of nationalizing the nuclear plant as well as the power grid a little more into view as serious and very promising structural reform.15

Make no mistake: this option would involve considerable short-term pain. But it would enhance public safety16 as well as do in one fell swoop what is being instead done in dribbles, and dangerously. It would also potentially create a vast ecosystem for innovation and deployment of new business models as well as the ICT, renewables and efficiency gear that are already part of the national agenda.

Some Elements of the Emerging Post-Fukushima Reality

A full-on drive in the energy sphere was beyond the pale pre-Fukushima. But now the Japanese bureaucratic-political elite is very much in support of renewables and efficiency. For example, METI’s Natural Resources and Energy Agency Manager Kimura Youichi is calling for accelerated deployment of renewables via the FIT and other policies.17 This statement from Kimura follows a previous call for more renewables and efficiency from Yamamoto Taku, Chair of the LDP’s Natural Resources and Energy Commission.18 Arguments that pre-Fukushima – and even a year or so ago – were iffy or even beyond the pale are now becoming common sense. And the opposite is true as well: recall that on February 19 of 2009, the METI Vice-Minister declared the smart grid is not necessary in Japan.19 That statement was made only four years ago, and reflected conventional wisdom in his ministry at the time, due to the dominance of the monopoly utilities. But were the same argument to be enunciated now, the bureaucrat would be laughed off the stage.

And this is all accelerating. Consider the implications of Toyota, Mitsui and other huge, blue chip Japanese firms entering the country’s power markets, as competitors with the monopolies. Think of what that and other rapid and significant change means for bureaucrats drafting policy options, politicians looking to make good as policy entrepreneurs, and other players in a business with YEN 18 trillion in annual power sales.

Yet this huge power market, the world’s third largest, is just one segment of what is a rapidly expanding and proliferating sector. Consider the implications of ICT-enabled diffusion of efficiency and renewables, something that only a few specialists were discussing 4 years ago. The multi-functionality of ICT is already being deployed, in places like Austin Texas.20

Just like Austin and elsewhere, Japan is flush with innovation in this strategic area. The August 10 edition of the Nikkei newspaper describes, for example, Toshiba’s “building energy management system” (BEMS) that is able to measure and aggregate power consumption in multiple buildings. From October, Toshiba will begin testing this BEMS in the vicinity of Kawasaki station.

Toshiba’s Lazona Kawasaki Toshiba Building, centring the BEMS in that building and linking the Kawasaki Municipal Office as well as multiple private business buildings. The systems measure their power consumption as well as monitor whether any of the individual buildings have gone into unusual circumstances. It is expected that the system will result in power conservation of roughly 20%. Among the players participating in this test are NREG Toshiba Properties, the Kawasaki Chamber of Commerce, Kawasaki Azeria, Tokyo Gas, Kawasaki City and others. Toshiba is also participating in other projects within Kanagawa Prefecture. In Yokohama city, for example, Toshiba is a partner in the district energy supply and demand management system under the auspices of the “Yokohama Smart City Project.”21

The August 8 edition of the Nikkei newspaper also reports that Japanese private capital is centring its R&D on efficiency and renewables. The newspaper notes that R&D spending at Japanese firms has increased by 24%. The Nikkei 2013 survey of R&D expenditures shows that of the top 261 firms, 63 (or 24%) plan on increasing their R&D by double digit figures. The overall increase in R&D expenditure plans is 5.4%, which compares to the 4.3% level of 2012. Not surprisingly, the top three firms are automakers, with next generation fuel-cell and battery-powered eco-cars as their focus. The overall total for the 261 firms is slated to be YEN 11.38 trillion, the fourth consecutive year of increases. Toyota’s expenditures were up 11.4% to a total of YEN 900 billion. The second rank was Honda, with an increase of 12.4% to a total of YEN 630 billion. Like Mitsui, these firms are both players in the power markets as well.

Along with the automakers, high levels of R&D increase were seen in machinery makers as well as energy efficiency equipment. Mitsubishi Heavy recorded a 23.8% increase in R&D expenditures to a total of YEN 70 billion with a focus on high-efficiency gas turbines, fuel cells, offshore wind power and other energy related projects. Among electronics and IT makers, the top performers included Hitachi, with a 6.3% increase to a total of YEN 363 billion and Toshiba with an increase of 12.7% to a total of YEN 345 billion. Though Hitachi and Toshiba are often associated with nuclear power, Hitachi’s R&D investments focus on water management systems, railways, battery storage as well as a cooperative effort with Toshiba on developing flash memory and next-generation power grids as well as other ICT-oriented projects.

The survey also asked for information on which areas firms are focusing, with multiple replies allowed. The top area of focus was energy efficiency at 50.2%, with renewable energy technology at 44.4%.

As to power markets and the number of new players, the August 7 Nikkei reveals there are 91 firms at present. In 2012, the number of firms with a record of power sales totaled 33 firms, and their share of the total deregulated power market (including that of the 10 monopolized utilities) was a mere 3.5%. In most cases, these firms have to use the power grid that is controlled by the monopolized utilities. But as noted, the public sector is planning on separating generation from transmission of power, and it is expected that the new power producers (or PPS) will have more opportunity to grow. In the wake of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku disaster, and the deficiencies in power supply as well as the power-price increases by the monopoly utilities, circumstances changed for the PPS’s. The PPS power prices are generally 5 to 15% lower than the monopolized utilities. Their customers among business firms as well as local governments are increasing dramatically. This is especially true in the catchment area for the largest of the monopolies, Tepco, where the PPS share is roughly 10% at present. Within this year, including the entry of Mitsui in September, the number of PPS firms nationwide is expected to exceed 100 firms.

The Japanese in favour of fast action know they can compete if they rapidly diffuse the demand-response, renewables and other efficiency and new energy equipment and business models their firms are innovating and in which “smart city” projects have developed and deployed in Kitakyushu, Keihanna, and elsewhere throughout the country. But they also know that with the monopoly utilities in place and owning the grid, progress will be glacial. However, were Japanese state managers to opt for disruptive change in the face of burgeoning costs from Fukushima, Japan may be able to leapfrog as it were.

So if the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is as bad as some of the expert comment suggests, then fast and massive action might be unavoidable. Perhaps PM Abe will act this time rather than neglect the economy as he did 6 years ago. One big question is whether Abe’s LDP can find the wisdom and political traction to nationalize the nuclear capacity and grid, putting both in competent, well-funded hands. If so, we might see Japan rocket ahead on smartening the grid, deploying radical efficiency, and diffusing renewables. That kind of disruptive change would not be alien to an Abenomics that is already generally aimed at ICT-centred growth and smart-energy deregulation. Perhaps the Fukushima meltdowns and lingering crisis can provide the needed impetus.

Andrew DeWit is Professor in the School of Policy Studies at Rikkyo University and an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator. With Iida Tetsunari and Kaneko Masaru, he is coauthor of “Fukushima and the Political Economy of Power Policy in Japan,” in Jeff Kingston (ed.) Natural Disaster and Nuclear Crisis in Japan.

Recommended citation: Andrew DeWit, Water, Water Everywhere: Incentives and Options at Fukushima Daiichi and Beyond,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 11, Issue 32, No. 6, August 12, 2013.

1A useful compilation of recent NHK English-language broadcasts on the incident is available here.

2One of the best articles on this crisis and its implications is Patrick J Kiger, “Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Leak: What You Should Know,” National Geographic, August 7, 2013.

3On this, see The Sankei Shimbun (in Japanese) “Clean-Up Costs in Fukushima Prefecture as Much as YEN 5 trillion,” July 24, 2013.

4On this, see (in Japanese) “Whither Japan? Energy and Nuclear Restarts in the Wake of Abe’s Electoral Triumph,” Mainichi Shimbun, July 26, 2013.

5On the scale and implications of the nationalization, see “Tepco’s nationalization: State power,” The Economist, May 11, 2012.

6Some estimates suggest it will be about YEN 30 to 40 billion (about USD 350 million). See (in Japanese) “(the flow of contaminated water) Hoping for a quick response from the central government,” Fukushima Minpo, August 10, 2013.

7Patrick J Kiger, “Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Leak: What You Should Know,” National Geographic, August 7, 2013.

8See the very good work on this by Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito, “Fukushima clean-up turns toxic for Japan’s Tepco,” Reuters, July 30, 2013.

9On the 1990s crisis and the policy response, in comparison with Sweden, see Sven Steinmo, Emre Bayram and Andrew DeWit “Bailing out the Bankers or the Banking System: Comparing Sweden’s Response to Financial Crisis,” February 14, 2014 (under review).

10For the details, see “Tepco to be nationalized on July 25 with YEN 1 trillion transaction,” Japan Times, May 22, 2013.

11The most thorough treatment of this comes (in Japanese) from Keio University Professor, and former member of the National Commission on Nuclear and Other Power Costs, Kaneko Masaru, in “Nuclear is More Expensive than Thermal Generation,” Iwanami Booklet No 880, August 3, 2013. Kaneko’s work deploys the modeling used to calculate power costs, and determines that the vast majority of the nuclear reactors are uncompetitive, especially when one adds in the costs of new safety measures, new costs for decommissioning, and other expenses that keep mounting up.

12In fact, fast action reduces the far more expensive costs of adaptation as well as has the potential for first-mover advantage. That’s one reason the core agencies of the Obama Administration are collaborating with the US military to get around Congress and test-bed as well as deploy the world’s most advanced renewable and efficiency-related equipment.

13Even experts at Japan’s nuclear-friendly Institute of Energy Economics suggest the first restarts may be as late as July 2014. See Osamu Tsukimori, “Two years on from meltdowns, experts predict July 2014 restart for some reactors,” Reuters, August 6, 2013.

14A nice summary of the deregulation and its context can be found at Daniel P Aldrich, James E. Platte, and Jennifer F. Sklarew “What’s Ahead for Abe’s Energy Agenda?” Asia Unbound Blog, Council on Foreign Relations, July 30, 2013.

15This option is already being discussed in political and bureaucratic (not to mention business) circles. For one exponent’s arguments, see (in Japanese) LDP Diet Member Kohno Taro’s comments in “Before Restarts, Decide a Cap on Nuclear Waste,” Toyo Keizai, July 18, 2013.

16As noted in the first paragraph, even the METI authorities are warning that the facilities could topple. That risk implies that the fuel pools are in danger as well.

17The interview with Kimura is in the August 5 edition of the Japanese weekly Distributed Generation, and is titled “Aiming at a Further Expansion of Renewables Via Stable Management of New Energy Policy.”

18See the interview with Yamamoto (in Japanese) in the June 5 edition of the weekly newspaper, Decentralized Energy.

19See the Vice-Minister’s February 19, 2009 comments here.

20See for example Jeff St. John, “AutoGrid, Austin Energy and the ARPA-E Home Challenge,” GreenTech Media, February 26, 2013.

21On the Yokohama Project, see here.

end quote. Please visit original linked site for full article and hyperlinks.

Much of the information and a number of themes covered in the above paper by Dr De Wit were anticipated, observed and presaged by a US Nuclear Decontamination Expert based in New Mexico. David Chanin of Chanin Consulting (http://chaninconsulting.com/index.php) emailed me via my blog to express a number of pieces of information. I replied and an exchange of emails began in April 2011 and ended in July 2011.

Mr. Channin foresaw the economic imperatives, as discussed De Wit above, as being (in my words) a potential nightmare. A nightmare which (again in my words) was preventing a proper and open response to the nuclear disaster. The economic impacts, I surmise, of this nuclear disaster had to be diluted over time in order to prevent a more immediate financial meltdown resultant from the nuclear meltdowns. This dilution involved, in my opinion, a wholesale with holding of the truth about Fukushima from the people of Japan and the world.

Two and half years on, the issue of financial threat posed by the nuclear disaster is hidden under the cloak of Abenomics. The suppression of the facts regarding the constant leakage of contamination into water and air over the past 2.5 years aided the perceived credit worthiness of Japan. In my rudimentary view.

Mr Chanin also considered the civil defence response (my words) – the evacuation limits and areas – to be risky. He considered that the Japanese authorities were reacting in a manner that indicated a distinct lack of radiological safety training and knowledge. The result, Mr Chanin considered, was an official unestimation of the risk of inhalation dose to the close in populations. He considered that crops grown in the affected areas would have to be destroyed. As it was, many foodstuffs from the affected areas were sold and much time passed before some sort of planned monitoring of food was introduced.

Agriculture in affected areas of Japan has indeed taken a king hit and one major academic paper on the impact of the nuclear disaster on agriculture is not optimistic. The Fishermen of the Fukushima region have been devastated.

Mr Chanin also expressed the view that the reported readings of emissions of certain substances did not accord to the very precise predictive formulae with which US nuclear authorities are equipped. Basically, briefly, in lay terms, Mr Chanin was deeply perplexed (my perception) as to the Iodine : Cesium ratio for specific isotopes. The radio Iodine was way too high, way passed the time of shut down, compared to the amount of cesium (in relation to specific isotopes of Iodine and Cesium.) Mr Chanin asked if I had any idea of why this should be so. Of course, I had no idea apart from faulty readings or fractionalisation – the separation of the emissions into distinct fractions – as happens with bomb fallout. The idea that fission was ongoing – resulting in fresh creation of radio iodine – had no basis in the released public material and Mr Chanin asked me to pass his question about this matter onto technical experts I might know. I do not have a relationship with any such nuclear experts, though over the years I have conversed with a few. I passed the question on as best I could.

Now, this question was posed in April and related to Iodine and Cesium emissions measured in seawater. To be clear about this matter I am posting Mr Chanin’s actual words on the matter :

” Received: Friday, 22 April, 2011, 1:45 AM


What’s amazing to me is that I seem to be the only one who thinks that I-131 levels should be decreasing with 8-day halflife because its only parents in the “standard NRC 60-nuclide list for reactors” are Te-131and Te-131m, both with shorter halflives, so they can’t be causing any I-131 buildup and certainly can’t cause the high levels of I-131 being reported in the flood of measurements that were published by TEPCO all on April 19, with measurements of seawater as far away as 15 km showing I:Cs rations of over 2:1 and as high as 3:1, but sometimes they’re equal, with few to none where I-131 is measured at levels less than Cs-134 and Cs-137 on a Bq/gram-water basis with 1000-second counting time of 1-liter sample, which matches up with usage of a gamma spectrometry machine like the GAM-AN1 by Canberra: http://www.canberra.com/literature/994.asp

Can you do me a favor and ask one of your nuclear engineer contacts how and why I-131 can be over double the reported levels of Cs-134 and Cs-137, after five halflives of I-131?

I’m not a nuclear engineer who can try to run the Origen code for their reactors and the SNF pools to see what could be making the I-131. I’m the consequence analyst who developed the MACCS2 code and have used it and its predecessor MACCS since the 1980s for nuclear accident analysis.

All I know is that when people use the MACCS2 code, which is the NRC-approved code for reactor PRA consequence calculations, and is used worldwide for well over 500 nuclear facilities and operations since its release in 1997, the MACCS2 code shows ZERO consequences from I-131 from reactor accidents after 40 days of decay. It’s not just the direct exposure doses from groundshine and inhalation, it’s also the food doses calculated by the code with both of the “food models” that are available to the code user. Milk from cows grazing during a large release shows very low levels of I-131 after 40 days according to the MACCS2 calculations.

And it’s also my understanding that “normal levels” of I-131 in SNF pools should be practically zero, with the million-year, weak emitter, I-129 being the only iodine that should be detected to any significant degree in SNF water from an intact pool under normal operation. So, if my MACCS2 code is wrong about I-131, then all the safety analyses that use to MACCS2 to calculate nuclear accident impacts are also wrong. That’s why this is an important question.

Even if criticalities are ongoing, it’s impossible for me to imagine that they could be creating so much I-131. I’ve used “standard decay tables” that all derive from ICRP 38 and were calculated by Keith Eckerman, at ORNL, who calculates the internal and external DCFs for US and international agencies which all rely on the ICRP 38 decay chains, where decay-chain calcs are necessary because of the decay and buildup of progeny after an intake both on the ground for deposited material and in the human body from inhlaed or ingested material.

I have not tried to use this database from KfK to solve the puzzle.: http://www.nucleonica.net/unc.aspx

So my question, which you can forward around with all the above ane below is: Why are the I-131 levels of April 19 in “plant-water” and seawater from http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html so high after 5 halflives? The NRC says that the MACCS2 code is essentially error-free. I’m curious if that’s true because I learned way back in school that there is no such thing a bug-free large-scale software such as MACCS2, which has received little-to-none verification and validation for complex scenarios.

I have no qualms whatsoever being known as the source of this request. I’ve never pretended to know everything.

David Chanin


Re NYT article of April 5, 2011, “U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant”:

“Even so, the engineers who prepared the document do not believe that a resumption of criticality is an immediate likelihood, Neil Wilmshurst, vice president of the nuclear sector at the Electric Power Research Institute, said when contacted about the document. “I have seen no data to suggest that there is criticality ongoing,” said Mr. Wilmshurst, who was involved in the assessment.”

David Chanin. End quote.

As I said, I passed the question around to a small number of people – a reactor specialised known to me at Oak Ridge, an academic with contacts to relevant people in Japan, and one other.

It must be understood that my blog was started with the aim of advocating for nuclear veterans. And nuclear veterans have a broad range of views, and as ex service personnel such people have certainly the right to their own views. And those views have no import when it comes to advocacy for their just claims as nuclear veterans. The fact is some nuclear veterans are not anti nuclear power. Some are, some are not. Regardless of the stance, the individual nuclear veteran remains a nuclear veteran. It is quite possible for a pro nuke nuclear veteran to lodge a claim for damages and compensation due to radiation exposure in military service. One case in point is the late Ric Johnstone. Absolutely pro nuclear power, absolutely anti nuclear exposure bullshit. A few years back we worked together for some time preparing a nuclear fallout display for the South Australian Museum.

I have my views and Ric had his. We both agreed that nuclear is endemic. Mr Chanin and I had major points of disagreement and there was some testiness between us on the issue of hot particles. Breath in, Breath out – each particle in one view is a transitory dose. The famous photo of a plutonium fleck in lung tissue being the result of the death of the animal. According to this view, but for one more exhalation, the fleck would not be there.

Inadequate death rattle David? So Mr Channin and disagreed on the term hot particle. Mr Chanin referred me to the text mentioned in the following quote from his email of 22 April 2011:

“Paul, “you are misusing the term “hot particles.” Inhaled material is called simply inhaled material. Doses from inhalation are calculated using Inhalation Dose Conversion Factors such as from the 1970s ICRP 30 or the 1990 ICRP 60, et seq.

You can download the MACCS2 User’s Guide from my website from my Resume page. I can’t spend any more time on your questions unless you at least read the sections of SAND96-0957 delineated to you. But now it seems you need a very basic education in nuclear safety which i cannot do by email.

David” Well, I referred to Gofman and Hamilton. And the reply came back that I would gain more respect be more widely read if I pulled my knowledge base out of the 1950s and entered the 21st century. I didnt raise the concept of the myth of progress within the emails. We were not going to change each other.

The end result was a parting of the ways really, though Mr Chanin remained appalled (my perception) at the goings on in Japan and the Japanese official and technical response to the crisis. He considered the result an unsupervised “experiment” on the people of Japan.

The bottom line in all of this involves the physical, mental, economic, social, cultural well being of the people of Japan.

And it seems to me that the totally inadequate response, enabled by a vast expenditure of skill, talent and media time, not in seeking and applying technical fixes and appropriate responses, but by the well rehearsed routine of social engineering, perfected in the era of the bomb tests. This social engineering was forced upon the world and largely accepted by the world. And it seems to me two sets of people rankle at it. The anti nuclear movement, and that group of nuclear experts who expected far better from the authorities involved.

And to that I say, such is Standard Operating Procedure for Nuclear Industry. Mr Chanin has his point of view, and no doubt he has expressed it, as Americans can and do, to whoever he chooses.

The basic message is this I think: Don’t use the concept of black hats and white hats. Don’t under estimate the power and ability of discourse at significant levels within the establishment. Expect technical disagreement, focus on the points of agreement.

None the less, throughout the exchange I had a problem of trust.

Mr Chanin entitled one of his emails “Its omission, not conflict between 2 views. I conclude”. Regardless of our disagreement over the inhalation pathway (a hazard under estimated in Japan in Mr Chanin’s April 2011 view, a hazard vastly under estimated in my view) we could both agree that significant knowledge, facts, findings, events, truth, were all being omitted from public discourse and probably from Japanese technical discourse.

We could agree on that much.

Not much has changed in 2.5 years. There is now an acknowledgement that substantial leakage has been occurring from the Fukushima NPP the whole time.

And the people picked that up and reported it publically and consistently have been, in the main, the lay bloggers.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Despite the main stream omissions, people found the official TEPCO knowledge base repository and photographic collection.

One person to use those resources to compare the public statements of omission with the observable facts – as recorded by TEPCO itself – is person in Canada by the name of Ray Masalas. https://www.facebook.com/rmasalas?fref=ts&ref=br_tf The bloggers and the facebookers, largely as laypersons, do have resources the main stream media has overlooked for two and half years. TEPCO photographs showing full pits being pumped by hose to the sea in 2011, reports of the disturbed underground stream flowing into the reactor basements on its way to the sea, the actual level of detail of destruction revealed in close up interior photographs, the stills from the TEPCO live cam, the discussion from Japanese experts who disagree with the official line – and who, as a result, are excluded from secure positions – were and are all reported by Ray and many, many, many ordinary people who have gained access to some of the information “omitted” from the main stream media.

There is, as a result, a disturbing dissonance between the social groups who confine their information sources to conventional ones and those who do not. The less confined one is, the wider the data sources are, the more questions one has, the more attention one devotes to the subject. For it is, without doubt, a valid source of concern, not just for Japan, but the for the world.

If part of the social engineering regime, in place in lieu of a proper and open response, involves an induced public debate based on two entirely different repositories of narrative and reporting, then the plan has succeeded.

I point out though that it is a phony debate, not a real debate. It is an argument between those who see omission, serious omission, and those, by virtue of their conventional new sources, do not. If one wants to convince people they live in an open society with access to information, start a debate, start a public argument, divide the voters, inject uncertainty about the facts. The appearance is one of open democracy, the reality is one of controlled information. Such social engineering is not a technical fix, it is a method of control. There is an old Russian saying, which roughly goes like this: “Before every crack down, there is a period of sponsored openness.” The point being, the elites use the period of openness to identify those who will be most targeted with constraints during the period of clamp down. The West has always been much more subtle in its methods than the USSR ever needed to be. It is a duty to question and explore. Being called names and falsely diagnosed is not much of a threat to me. If I were a nuclear engineer or a genetic researcher in Japan, of course, things would be very different. In March 2011, BHP was in the midst of a campaign to soften up the South Australian public for the pending expansion of its uranium mines. The local universities were fully engaged in this undertaking. And this commitment explains many of the ludicrous and dishonest statements issued by authorities down here. Ziggy’s statements (previous post) are actually quite mild in comparison. In the event, Fukushima killed the mine expansion – it will spring back to life sooner or later. There are local agendas and global ones.

It may well be that US nuclear enterprise is substantially different and vastly more open and honest than its Japanese counterpart. If it were though, the Fukushima reactors first constructed at that site would never have been approved for export and erection in Japan. The inherent weakness and dangers were first foreseen in the 1960s, when the problem inherent in nuclear plumbing was described by the AEC. Which spent the following decade denying its very conclusion and concern. The problem of meltdown occurs when multi megawatt reactors are constructed. The failure paths and consequences have been long described. The consequence analysis, while open to argument, does, in any case, rate the failure of cooling, the failure of containment, the unsealing of radioactive sources, the bulk emission of nuclear poisons, as a most serious event. Certainly one which has to be re contained with all speed and by all means. It has always been denied in the West that a reactor could leak for 30 months. The West, we were and are told, is not the USSR. Fukushima is, we are told, superior to Chernobyl. Is Chernobyl still leaking? Probably. Is it stable? Probably not very. Compare that to Fukushima. Is Chernobyl leaking 300 tons of radioactive water into the local aquatic environment per day? Probably not.

Wonder when the experts will come clean on the actual ongoing atmospheric leakage at Fukushima. As demonstrated by the current TEPCO web streamed live cam.

Dissonance is the name of the game. Oh well, here’s to the crazy ones who ask questions and draw conclusions on the communal universal wall called the net. Nothing means much really. It wont stop the leaks or cool the fuel. If it were in the claimed cold shut down, would it need tons of cooling water per day? How do you divert an aquifer that will find its way to the sea by any means?

It has taken 2.5 years for the bulk of the dominant press to begin to report some of the significant, long standing and serious consequences and events which predicate the need for a massive and global response to the nuclear disaster.

Fukushima is not Chernobyl. It is Fukushima. How much worse does one want it to get? In its way, and certainly for the people close in, for the people of Japan, it certainly is far worse than Chernobyl. It has been unsecured and emitting, unstable and vulnerable, for 30 months.

Spending billions on freezing the soil is as much social engineering as it is technical fix. If it were going to work, it would have been implemented 30 months ago. It has always been known by the average Joe on the net that Fukushima was and is emitting like an old clunker. It has not stopped. The narrative of dilution as a fix does not wash in the context of the North Pacific current. Harvey Wasserman has more to say on the matter, so its over to him, next post.

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