Cold Shutdown, leaky reactors, changed ground water flow and leaky tanks.

It has always been the case that the Fukushima plain drained via aquifer and surface streams to the Fukushima coast.

The flow rate appears to vary seasonally in response to rainfall.

The surface flow in the following photograph can be gauged via the lines of green vegetation. The photograph shows the site of the Fukushima NPP prior to construction. The photograph is dated circa 1966.

The following photograph is an overhead shot the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant as it is today:

The following photograph is taken from Tepco’s publication which describes the groundwater flow through the facility (see next post)

In the days following the earthquake and reactor failures, it was reported that workers had received beta burns to legs due to flooding in the reactor basements. One such report follows:

“Shinichi, 46, described a harrowing scene of darkness and fear, wading with headlamps into a flooded basement through steaming radioactive water that felt warm even through workers’ boots. “It was outrageous. We shouldn’t even have been there,” he said.

He said his six-member team was sent to lay electric cables in the basement of the Unit 3 turbine on March 24, 10 days after its reactor building exploded, spewing massive amounts of radiation into the environment. Their mission was to restore power to pumps to inject cooling water into its overheating spent fuel pool.

Shinichi said TEPCO and its primary subcontractor never warned them even though water leaks had been found elsewhere at the plant.

Asked about Shinichi’s allegations, TEPCO spokesman Yoshimi Hitosugi said the plant was aware of water leaks elsewhere but couldn’t anticipate the water problem in Unit 3’s basement.

Shinichi’s radiation exposure that day alone exceeded half the government’s annual exposure limit, and he had to stop working on plant jobs soon afterward.

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Out of fear of harassment of his family due to the tendency of some Japanese to stigmatize those perceived as different or as troublemakers, Shinichi agreed to speak with the AP and several Japanese reporters on condition his face not be photographed.

On Tuesday, he filed a complaint with a labor standards office in Fukushima, asking authorities to confirm TEPCO’s safety violations and issue improvement orders. He also is seeking penalties — up to six months in jail or fines of up to 500,000 yen ($6,250) under the Industrial Safety and Health Act — against the company that supervised him.

‘Unjust treatment’
Shinichi’s direct employer — the subcontractor for TEPCO — stopped calling him for jobs in March, just telling him to stand by. He now works on radiation decontamination of “hot spots” in Fukushima prefecture.

“So I decided I’ve had enough of this unjust treatment. That’s why I decided to come forward,” he said. On the morning of March 24, 2011, Shinichi’s team gathered at Fukushima Dai-ichi’s emergency command center to be briefed about the day’s work. They donned double-layer coveralls underneath waterproof hazmat suits, charcoal-filtered, full-face masks and double-layered rubber gloves.

Decline in white blood cells
Each picked up a pocket dosimeter, with an alarm set to 40 times the dose detected the day before, expecting only a moderate increase of radioactivity. The actual reading was 400 millisieverts that day — high enough to cause a temporary, but not life-threatening, decline in white blood cells. ….”Just sending the workers into the harsh environment and putting them at risk of exposure to dangerously high radiation is a labor safety violation,” said Taku Yamazoe, a lawyer representing Shinichi. “Even if TEPCO didn’t anticipate the consequences of all that water it had pumped in, it clearly lacked consideration for the workers’ safety.”
NBC World News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

It is plain from the description of the heat of the water and the information given in the above article that on the occasion in 2011 of this exposure event, the water in the basement of reactor 3 was not ground water. It was reactor water which had leaked from containment.

It is hard to determine where in the reactor the leaks came from, though the article in full confirms that the other afflicted reactors suffered similar leaks which flooded their basements. It is very difficult to find at what date after the start of the disaster, which is still ongoing, ground water started to flow into the basements.

However, today, press reports from the Japanese government, Tepco and other sources all state that ground water is a major cause of flooding in the reactors. Whereas at the start, the basements were flooded to a depth sufficient to fill the workers’ wellington boots with radioactive hot water and cause beta burns and sufficient dose to produce transient leucopenia.

Current reports regarding the water crisis at Fukushima give varying amounts of ground water flowing through the Fukushima site and flooding its basements. Over 1,000 water storage containers have been erected on site and each store up to 1,000 tons.

The following extract from New Scientist magazine describes the use to which Tepco has put the ground water:

” Every day, 400 tonnes of groundwater flows down from peaks overlooking the complex, invades the stricken reactor halls and is contaminated. At present, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the plant, redirects the water over the reactor cores to keep them cool. After filtering to remove radioactive caesium, the water is stored in tanks. Huge volumes are being placed in 1060 tanks, each holding up to 1000 tonnes.” New Scientist, Should Fukushima’s radioactive water be dumped at sea? Updated 10:17 27 August 2013 by Andy Coghlan.

Water has always flowed out to sea from the Fukushima plains through numerous outlets, both as surface water and as ground water through aquifer. The flow rate varying, in all probability, with the seasons. The layout of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant must surely have been designed with the local hydrology in mind. There are no media reports I know of which describe basement flooding due to ground water invasion prior to the disaster of March 2011.

According to New Scientist, as quoted above, Tepco deliberately use the ground water to cool the reactor cores. Other sources give 1,000 tons a day as the flow rate of the ground water through the plant.

Portions of the Japanese coast subsided to various degrees as a result of the earthquake. Wikipedia reports : “A 400 km (250 mi) stretch of coastline dropped vertically by 0.6 m (2.0 ft) (citing Chang, Kenneth (13 March 2011). “Quake Moves Japan Closer to U.S. and Alters Earth’s Spin”. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 March 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011.) and “The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan reported land subsidence based on the height of triangulation stations in the area measured by GPS as compared to their previous values from 14 April 2011.[162]

Miyako, Iwate – 0.50 m (1.64 ft)
Yamada, Iwate – 0.53 m (1.73 ft)
Ōtsuchi, Iwate – 0.35 m (1.14 ft)[163]
Kamaishi, Iwate – 0.66 m (2.16 ft)
Ōfunato, Iwate – 0.73 m (2.39 ft)
Rikuzentakata, Iwate – 0.84 m (2.75 ft)
Kesennuma, Miyagi – 0.74 m (2.42 ft)
Minamisanriku, Miyagi – 0.69 m (2.26 ft)
Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi – 1.2 m (3.93 ft)[163]
Ishinomaki, Miyagi – 0.78 m (2.55 ft)
Higashimatsushima, Miyagi – 0.43 m (1.41 ft)
Iwanuma, Miyagi – 0.47 m (1.54 ft)
Sōma, Fukushima – 0.29 m (0.95 ft)

Scientists say that the subsidence is permanent. As a result, the communities in question are now more susceptible to flooding during high tides.[164]” (citing: ^ “平成23年(2011年)東北地方太平洋沖地震に伴う地盤沈下調査” [Land subsidence caused by 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami] (in Japanese). Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. 14 April 2011. Archived from the original on 18 April 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
^ a b Values announced from Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, news report by Yomiuri Shimbun 2011-04-15 ver. 13S page 33
^ Alabaster, Jay (9 May 2011). “Quake Shifted Japan; Towns Now Flood at High Tide”, Associated Press, ABC News. Retrieved 13 March 2012.)

Clearly the hydrology of the area of the Nuclear Power Plant has changed since the quake. New Scientist quotes 400 tons a day as the amount of water flowing under the reactors. Other media outlets quote a figure of 1,000 tons per day. 400 tons would equate to something around half a mega litre per day.

Fukushima Diary reports on the varying flow rates given by TEPCO at

states the following: “n early August, Tepco announced 1,000 m3 of groundwater flow to the plant every single day.

On 8/23/2013, Tepco revised their own estimate. They state it’s only 800 m3 based on their new simulation model.

However, their own record reports 1,388 m3 of groundwater (average) used to flow to the plant buildings everyday before 311.

This is stated 3 page before they mention 800 m3 of groundwater on the same report.

Now Tepco is struggling with the increasing groundwater on the seaside of reactor2, but reactor2 received the least groundwater according to Tepco’s report before 311, which is 80 m3/day.

This is only 27% of the groundwater to flow to reactor4.

There is a possibility that Tepco was having the press focus on the least serious problem among other risks.”

Lori gives the link to the TEPCO document : although this document is in the Japanese language, the diagrams and other information is plain in some respects. I will convert it to jpg and post it.

One wonders, given Tepco’s higher figures, where New Scientist gets it’s low figure of 400 ton per day groundwater flow from.

I conclude that Tepco has creatively used the errant ground water flow under the reactors to cool the cores of its reactors. The flow of water presents a risk to the stability of the buildings however. The constant flooding of the basements and halls (New Scientist) impedes the workers and the work, and is in fact a vector for environmental contamination via direct and deliberate contact with the reactor cores. Tepco has attempted to minimize by erecting over 1,000 1,000 ton water containers on its site, some of which are leaking, some of which are leaking due to land subsidence.

The declaration of cold shutdown

The Guardian newspaper gives the following definition of “Cold Shut Down” as provided by the Japanese Government: “The prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, is expected to announce later on Friday that the plant has been brought to a state known as “cold shutdown”. That occurs when the temperature of water used to cool nuclear fuel rods remains below boiling point and radiation emitted by the reactors is no higher than the government-set limit for the public of one millisievert [mSv] a year.” (The Guardian, Japan set to declare Fukushima in ‘cold shutdown’, Justin McCurry in Tokyo, Friday 16 December 2011 18.03 AEST

The declaration of Cold Shutdown was a landmark anticipated with eagerness by the global nuclear industry. At the time, some Japanese and international nuclear experts questioned how appropriate the concept of cold shutdown could be when applied to reactors which had suffered the severe damage the units at Fukushima had suffered. The units were unsealed, and as is now known, have been contaminating ground water and the sea since the accident occurred. How is one to assess the dose rate or the appropriateness of the temperature measurements when not all the fuel was in containment, its disposition, including temperature unknown, when steam and smoke had been seen by millions world wide issuing from the reactors over the many months via the TEPCO internet streamed Live Cam, which 24/7 streams vision of the reactors to the net. Vision the mass media has ignored until its very recent and singular report of mysterious steam issuing from the reactors.

TEPCO live cam still of steam and smoke event. June 14th, 011. This event began around June 7th and went until around July 10th….. everynight…..Totally ignored by paid media. There are two basic audiences: those who use net resources, including the tepco live cam plus the mass media, and those who use the mass media only. Each group gains a very different narrative and view of the Fukushima event.

Tepco Live Cam still Ray says “By June 26th 011 it was really cookin. I’m still unsure if the left stream came from #3 or #4? The right stream is the #4 fuel pool.”

The fact is Tepco and other authorities have been quite unsuccessful at pin pointing the fuel, learning of its state and reporting the facts to the world. Los Alamos Labs have suggested some cutting edge methods of glimpsing the fuel:

The Japanese don’t know where the reactor fuel is in those vessels,” said Chris Morris, a Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist who is working with an international team that is trying to answer that question. “People have done models of the meltdown, and they get answers that range from a little bit to all of the core has melted down through the bottom of the pressure vessel.”

To solve this problem, LANL physicists and their American and Japanese partners are reaching into their bag of tricks and pulling out a cosmic ray.

LANL has devised a technique for seeing inside things that is a distant cousin to X-rays but much more specialized, in order to see not only through surfaces but also to detect the shapes of heavy materials like uranium and plutonium that would be in the nuclear debris at Fukushima.

For this purpose, they have refined a form of radiography that uses an elementary atomic particle called a muon, a decay product created when cosmic rays emitted by galactic supernovas pass through the Earth’s atmosphere. Muons only live 2.2 microseconds (.0000022 seconds), but travel at relativistic speeds long enough to get down to Earth and penetrate just about anything in their way. Muons are all around us at a constant rate of one per square centimeter per minute, so an expensive accelerator is not necessary to produce them.” Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, Posted: Monday, August 26, 2013 7:00 am.

So the major milestone of “Cold Shutdown” was declared even though the authorities could not see inside the reactors, measured a water temp at an unknown distance from the fuel, for the disposition of all the fuel was unknown. Further, the water used to cool the reactors was, according to New Scientist, groundwater moving at the rate of 400 tons per day (800 tons per day: Tepco, 1,300 tons per day, Tepco (earlier) through the plant site, flooding its basements and being diverted by Tepco to the cores. Not knowing where the fuel was, I suppose flooding the joint enabled cooling and ‘cold shutdown”. Cold shutdown being implicit code for “we are in control”.

So how much water does it normally take to maintain cold shutdown? Well less than Tepco uses if your reactors don’t have holes in them and the fuel is intact and in place.

The other definition of cold shutdown is the limited dose delivered to the public by the reactors. one millisievert [mSv] a year. How many millisieverts is the water stored at Fukushima in its leaky tanks capable of delivering? Has any water moved off site in a manner which has supplied a contravening dose to a member of the public ? Either directly or via the food chain? Who the hells knows? Where did the recently reported errant steam deliver its dose? Who knows?

Nuclear industry relies upon public health principles which do not involve individual tracking of each emission event. Tepco has recently admitted that the plant has been leaking radioactive water into the Pacific since the accident.

The Japanese government has recently declared a new state of emergency at the plant.

Yet Cold Shutdown has not been revoked. The reactors are apparently stable, even though the reactors leak, even though the disposition of the fuel is unknown.

I would submit that the very demand to declare Cold Shutdown – a declaration of the end of the immediate reactor emergency – caused the current radioactive water crisis. A crisis which would not have occurred if a proper process involving water supply, recovery, filtering, transport, storage for decay, dilution, and either conversion to slurry for further processing into solid waste or further cleansing and release into the sea had been designed from the outside. A process which could only occur with public openness in a manner in which the public were fully informed that the shattered and displaced cores were still very hot, were not fully comprehended by authorities and which still required intensive measures to cool to prevent further radiation releases.

There is a profound lack of trust in any of the authorities involved in this disaster. For 2.5 they have all denied any environmental contamination from coolant or core. Those who knew or questioned the assertions of nuclear authorities were treated to the usual labelling by the experts.

Now the question has to be asked: When did the reactors themselves stop atmospheric and water contamination? If it hasn’t stopped, are the reactors under control? The answer is no.

If Tepco had planned its cooling procedures and waste handling properly, it would not have 1,000 leaky tanks on site. It would be well on the way to converting or cleansing the contaminated water off site, perhaps at one of Japan’s fuel reprocessing plants.

Tepco would be admitting that the ground water flow under its reactors is the cause of land subsidence on in its property. This subsidence being one reason why the tanks leaked.

Instead a dubious and dangerous procedure of creating an “ice dam” around the reactors, Tepco would have constructed appropriate civil engineering works in order to redirect ground and surface away from the reactors. Drainage is not an alien art, it is a basic science any local council is adept at. One wonders whether the flooding of the reactors by ground water was in fact a total accident of the quake or where or to what degree Tepco created this movement of water, which for decades, has flowed to the sides of the plant, but never before under it to the degree that flooded basements and land subsidence has occurred on the Tepco site.

This water crisis at Fukushima is indeed a man made crisis. It has a solution via basic engineering, appropriate expenditure and the use of proper process design in order to supply water, remove water, cleanse water, convert water and store high level waste and return cleansed water to the environment.

Many will be skeptical of my optimism. I am myself a bit. Howwever, if the Japanese public demand a solution, there is no reason why the liquid waste cannot be converted to solid, and the cleansed water released.

Tepco surely knew and knows it will have to cool the reactor cores until the 2020s. Over the last 2.5 years, it has used 1,000 storage tanks. 400 a year. A total of 3,600 1,000 ton tanks to 2020. What did they intend to do? Create so big a crisis that the government would at last relieve them of their duty as a now defunct corporate entity?

So far all Japanese Prime Ministers of Japan installed at the time of the disaster and since have declared, one way or another, the crisis to be over.

Yet now, in company with belated disclosures, a new emergency has been announced.

To what extent did Tepco lie to its government or, conversely, to what extent did the Japanese government government help engineer this current changing of the guard?

The Fukushma crisis is not over. It is still ongoing and dose vectors throughout the region are not fully understood nor individually tracked.

An accidental meal of a wayward fish is enough, for the individual, to contravene the dubious definition of Cold Shutdown. Whether in Japan or California.

The whole thing reminds me of the military procedure at Maralinga. Individuals were issued film badges at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day the film badges were chucked into a bucket, no names, no pack drill. Noone knew their individual exact dose.

No different in the woods, farms, fields, fishing boats and homes close in to the disaster site today. Noone knows. Noone knows precisely what they as individuals were exposed to on the day of the multiple nuclear disasters or since.

Everything is a construct. Life is not Lego. TEPCO is not a hospital, its affliction not a treatment. It has no patients, it has no consent, it creates medical needs, it does not fulfill them.

The extent and nature of the leaks from the reactor vessels is not disclosed. One potential route of water leakage is burnt out, melted and destroyed control rod seals, which lie at the base of each reactor. The rod entry points are shown here:

Closer photograph of controls rods: Thanks to Ray Masalas, Canada.

Diagram giving flow rate of 1,000 tons of water per day beneath the plant, with a figure of 400 tons per day into the plant. The implications for ground and plant stability are at the least very interesting this layperson to ponder. Would I build a house here? Would I declare the NPP safe here? I dont think so.

Japanese NHK depiction of flow of water into reactor buildings and flow under the buildings.

Anyone with a brain cell devoted to imagination would feel uneasy about such hydrodynamics given the nature of the facility both awash and apparently afloat. Though it is but a depiction. Of interest also is the 300 ton per day escape of contaminated water into the sea.

Tepco photograph showing ground subsidence on the NPP site occupied by the 1,000 ton containers. The subsidence is blamed for some of the leaks from the tanks. The leaks are highly radioactive.

Informed speculation as to the possible location of melted fuel has occurred. The site gives the following opinion and facts:

Below is a rough drawing to show the concrete thicknesses, potential corium flow paths and structures at Fukushima. The illustrated volume of corium in the drawing is not intended to be a visual estimate of volume, but is to aid seeing the potential areas corium could
flow. One structure of note is the small sand pit below the torus pipe where it meets the containment bulb. This creates a small dip in the floor of containment at the edge where the pipe connects and shows a thin spot in containment to the pipe. There is an estimated
10.3 meters of concrete directly below the reactor. The reactor itself is housed in a tube of concrete, the control rod mechanisims are inside so many penitration holes are likely. The concrete at the bottom of the supression chamber is about 2.7 meters and the side wall
of the supression chamber is about 1.5 meters thick. The sump hole in the bottom of the supression chamber leaves even less concrete below it.

March 20th, 011 #3 from the east side. A zoom clearly shows a huge chunk of R #3 gone.
Hmm yea, wonder where the fuel is. Nebraska? Photo thanks to Ray Masalas, Canada.

One wonders, if Tepco, the Japanese, the Russians, the Americans, or whatever section of the global nuclear village succeed in shutting off the flow of ground water through the plant and site, how they will then cool the errant cores. One wonders how handy the vast amount of ground water has been in concealing the actual enormity of the reactor leaks at the plant.

It is plain that the conditions of the self defined “cold shutdown” have never been fulfilled. That the emergency continues.

And apparently does the blindness imposed by nuclear authorities upon the people of Japan and the world.

None of this is good enough. But then, we have known that much since March 2011, when the announcer stated “This is perfectly normal” at the first explosion.

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