Monday, April 4, 2011

Damage to reactor called severe

US says worst of Japan’s nuclear crisis is receding

An evacuation center in Onagawa, northeastern Japan, housed displaced victims yesterday, three weeks after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. About 16,000 remain missing.
An evacuation center in Onagawa, northeastern Japan, housed displaced victims yesterday, three weeks after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. About 16,000 remain missing. (Atsushi Taketazu/Yomiuri Shimbun via Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Steven Chu said yesterday that roughly 70 percent of the core of one reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had sustained severe damage.

His assessment of the damage to Reactor No. 1 was the most specific yet from a US official on how close the plant came to a full meltdown after it was hit by a severe earthquake and massive tsunami March 11.

Japanese officials have spoken of a “partial meltdown’’ at some of the stricken reactors. But they have been less than specific, especially on the question of how close No. 1 — the most badly damaged reactor — came to a full meltdown.

Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, suggested that the worst moments of the crisis appeared to be receding, saying that the best information the United States had received from the Japanese authorities indicated that water was once again covering the cores of the stricken reactors and that pools of spent fuel atop the reactor buildings were “now under control.’’

In addition to the severe damage at Reactor No. 1, the Energy Department said that Reactor No. 2 had experienced a 33 percent meltdown. Chu cautioned that the figures were “more of a calculation’’ because radiation levels inside the plant had been too high for workers to get inside.

He called the nuclear crisis in Japan “a cascade of events’’ that led to multiple failures of backup systems. He told reporters at a breakfast that while officials were reviewing the accident to see if US nuclear plants needed significant changes, he did not want to overreact or rush into changes whose effects might not be fully understood.

Questioned about the long-term effects of Japan’s effort to “feed and bleed’’ the reactors — pouring in cooling water, then releasing it as steam into the atmosphere — he said there was an effort now underway to minimize the release of radioactivity into the air.

Meanwhile, Japan and the United States combined efforts yesterday in a final search for thousands of people still missing after the earthquake and tsunami. The three-day effort will be the last big sweep before officials in Tokyo shift focus to a daunting national reconstruction effort.

In the largest rescue mission ever carried out in Japan, 18,000 Japanese searchers have been joined by 7,000 US military personnel in an operation using 120 helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft and 65 ships to scour a coastal area from the northern tip of Iwate Prefecture to the southern end of Fukushima Prefecture.

The Japanese remain concerned by the drama at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 140 miles north of Tokyo. Since the quake and tsunami hit, the plant has sustained fires and explosions at several reactor buildings. Radiation leaks have included some into the sea near the plant.

Attempts to cool the reactors and spent-fuel pools, and efforts to answer the critical question of where the radiation leaks are coming from, are being hindered by highly radioactive water in turbine buildings attached to Reactors 1, 2, 3, and 4.

A Tokyo Electric Power spokesman said that the pumping of the contaminated water was continuing successfully.

Greenpeace: Japan Nuclear Disaster Is THREE Separate Chernobyl Level 7 incidents

A recent Greenpeace study based on data from the French and Austrian governments showed that by March 23 so much radiation had already been released from Fukushima that the crisis already equates to 3 Chernobyl INES level 7 incidents.

Here we are over a week after the study.

How bad is it now?

From Greenpeace:

Greenpeace study ranks Fukushima as Chernobyl Level 7 incident

amburg — As new reports emerge of highly radioactive water leaks at Fukushima’s reactor 3, a new analysis prepared for Greenpeace Germany by nuclear safety expert Dr Helmut Hirsch shows that Japan’s nuclear crisis has already released enough radioactivity to be ranked at Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). This is the scale’s highest level, and equal to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.Dr. Hirsch’s assessment, based on data published by the French government’s radiation protection agency (IRSN) and the Austrian governments Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) found that the total amount of radionuclides iodine-131 and caesium-137 released between March 11 and March 23 has been so high that the Fukushima crisis already equates to three INES 7 incidents.

“What is happening at Fukushima is just as serious as Chernobyl. It’s crucial that Japan’s authorities, the nuclear industry and the IAEA immediately stop their downplaying of the threat of radioactive contamination, and instead provide clear and honest communication about the risks to public health in order to protect people”, said Greenpeace energy campaigner Dr Rianne Teule.

”The events of the last two weeks are a wake up call for governments around the world to bring the nuclear age to a close, by shifting investments towards energy efficiency, and redoubling efforts to harness safe and secure renewable energy sources.”

The report can be downloaded from:–INES-scale-rating/

From the study

Fukushima – INES scale rating

23 March 2011
Helmut Hirsch


Aim and structure of the INES scale

In 1990 the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) was developed through international experts, summoned via the IAEA and the nuclear agency of the OECD (OECD / NEA). The aim of the INES scale is to provide prompt and consistent information covering the relevance of an event connected to radioactive material.

The INES scale covers eight levels:

Level 7 major accident
Level 6 serious accident
Level 5 accident with wider consequences
Level 4 accident with local consequences
Level 3 serious incident
Level 2 incident
Level 1 anomaly
Level 0 no safety significance

Chernobyl in 1986 was rated an INES 7 event, Three Mile Island in 1979 an INES 5 event. The rating follows three main criteria areas: offsite radiological effects, onsite radiological effects, impairment of safety measures.

For accidents (level 4 – 7) the radiological effects outside the plant are primarily relevant.

Criteria for INES event rating
According to the INES handbook the radiological impacts outside a nuclear complex can be described through (a) the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere and (b) the radiation doses.

Following (a) will be applied. This is because releases can be estimated more precisely compared to received radiation doses. Besides this an INES rating of 6 is the maximum when based on radiation doses only.

For the rating the releases into the atmosphere are in J-131 equivalents. Specific factors for different nuclides are given to specify the J-131 equivalent. The factor for rare gases, for example, is 0, for Cs-137 it is 40 and for Pu-239 the factor is 10,000.

INES level 7 – more than a couple of 10,000 J-131 equivalents
INES level 6– some 1,000 to a couple of 10,000 TBq J-131 equivalents
INES level 5– some 100 to a couple of 1,000 TBq J-131 equivalents
INES level 4– some 10 to a couple of 100 TBq J-131 equivalents

The IAEA states it not being appropriate to use exact numbers to define ratings as early estimations are inevitably rough estimations only. To provide some orientation the IAEA suggests 50,000, 5,000 and 500 TBq.

Adaptability to a number of reactors

The handbook suggests the IAEA generally assuming that the INES scale of is applied to an event in one specific block of a nuclear power station. In general practical experience confirms this.

How to deal with a combination of evens (like in Fukushima) remains open in the handbook.

As mentioned above, the aim of the INES scale is to provide prompt and consistent information covering the relevance of an event. Without doubt the overall release during an event is the most important part of information for the public. The overall release is relevant for air, ground, water, foodstuff contamination. Therefore it reflects the idea of the INES scale to take into account all events in a nuclear complex (like Fukushima Daiichi) where releases of a number of reactors overlap within a short time period, and rate them together. Additionally the course of events interlink through contamination, explosions, fires, direct radiation.

Beside this an individual rating can also be reasonable approach to add transparency to the course of events.

Fukushima releases to date

There have been estimations on releases from Fukushima Daiichi reactors, two are known to the author.

On 22.03.2011 the French Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) ( published an estimation covering reactors 1 – 3 and the time period between 12.03.2011 and 22.03.2011: 90,000 TBq j-131, 10,000 TBq Cs-137 (plus specification covering other nuclides).

On 22.03.2011 the Austrian Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG) ( published estimations covering the total release of J-131 and Cs-137 in the first four days. This estimation has been specified on the 23.03.2011: 400,000 TBq J-131, 85,000 TBq Cs-137.

For J-131 the author did further estimations. Based on core inventory specifications and medium burn up (source: WNIH 2010) a J-131 inventory of 1,000,000 TBq for block 1 at the time of the shutdown due to the earthquake and for bocks 2 and 3 1,800,000 TBq each seems to be reasonable.

A release of 2.75% (equalling a non-filtered release during containment venting) results in an overall release of approx. 125,000 TBq J-131 (summing up the three blocks). These numbers closely represent IRSN numbers and will be used as the base for further estimations. It is not to be assumed that this results in any kind of overestimation. Radioactive decay is not taken into account by the author. It remains unclear whether it was taken into account by IRSN or ZAMG. Radioactive decay is – having the time period in mind – only relevant for J-131 (half life: eight days), not for Cs-137 (half life: 30 years).

The release of J-131 and Cs-137 alone (as stated through IRSN) corresponds to a 500,000 TBq J-131 equivalent. Taken all Fukushima Daiichi reactors into consideration this is obviously an INES 7 event. Each reactor considered individually results in more than 100.000 TBq per block (all releases divided by three and proportionally to the inventory) – three INES 7 events. If the release is not divided proportionally different ratings are possible.

As the Cs-137 release is the biggest share the above assessment remains unchanged, even when the radioactive decay is taken into consideration.

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Banks to AGs on Servicing Fraud: Drop Dead

Here's the banks' counterproposal for a servicing fraud settlement. I can sum it up in two words: drop dead. Or two letters: F.U. This proposals is so pathetically thin that it's not a good faith counterproposal. This document only deals with servicing standards--nothing in it whatsoever about penalties, modification quotas, etc. But even on servicing standards it is a bunch of empty promises to have internal controls and try harder.

The first point about this counterproposal is simply to note what's absent from it:

(1) nothing about principal reductions

(2) nothing about second liens and conflicts of interest

(3) nothing about MERS (reserved for later)

(4) nothing about in-sourced vendor fees or force-placed insurance to affiliates. This makes the fees and force-place insurance sections pretty meaningless.

(5) nothing about pyramiding of fees.

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch of important points that aren't addressed, but these seemed to be the most obvious ones.

Next, it's worth noting just how little it actually promises and how cagey the promises are. For many points it does not promise results. Instead, it promises "processes reasonably designed" or "procedures reasonably designed" to do something or another. Basically a lot of it boils down to promises to implement internal controls, reviews, and procedures to make sure things don't happen again.

Put differently, this is the servicers' saying "trust us." Ummm, that's the whole problem. No one trusts the servicers--not investors, not homeowners.

Let's look at some specific terms. Orwell couldn't have drafted these any better:

Read more:

Fukushima: Plutonium Leakage and Highly Radioactive Water

Take Back the Land- Rochester Eviction Defense March 28, 2011

Feds’ praise for medical pot goes up in smoke

For a brief time earlier this month, the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, had posted a webpage touting the possible benefits of marijuana in fighting cancer tumors. But less than two weeks after it went up, the webpage was altered and the approving words stricken.

The webpage, added to’s “alternative medicine” section this month, is still there, and still says marijuana has “potential benefits” for treating symptoms of cancer — a groundbreaking assertion for a government-affiliated organization.

But the updated page deletes this praise for marijuana’s ability to combat cancer.

“In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal cannabis not only for symptom management, but also for its possible direct anti-tumor effect,” the excised passage read.

The advice is now less supportive, and refers only to symptoms, not to cures: “Though no relevant surveys of practice patterns exist, it appears that physicians caring for cancer patients who prescribe medicinal cannabis predominantly do so for symptom management.”

**FILE** A marijuana plant flourishes under grow lights at a warehouse. (Associated Press)**FILE** A marijuana plant flourishes under grow lights at a warehouse. (Associated Press)

NCI officials initially referred questions to Dr. Donald Abrams, a member of the editorial team. But in an email exchange Tuesday and Wednesday, Dr. Abrams said he was busy and referred questions back to NCI, which then pointed to a webpage written Wednesday by the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) editorial team that said the changes tried to “add clarification.”

“The CAM Board lead reviewers realized that the previous wording could have been misinterpreted as being a recommendation for prescribing cannabis, which was not the intent of the board,” the posting said. “In addition, the current evidence for the anti-tumor properties of cannabis is discussed only in the context of laboratory studies and not in research involving human subjects.”

The posting said the work is independent of NCI and NIH.

Medical marijuana advocates said they suspected political pressure forced the change, but considered even the current website language a victory, since NCI still touts the “potential benefits” of cannabis for treatment of symptoms of people living with cancer, such as pain and sleep problems.

“We’re very pleased that NCI, and really NIH, have finally recognized marijuana as a complementary alternative medicine,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, which promotes medical marijuana use and research. “That is a significant step forward. But just as importantly, it points to a contradiction in the federal policy on medical marijuana, and it’s a contradiction that needs to be resolved.”

Story Continues →

The FDA and the Fukushima Fallout

The FDA is disingenuous in its attempt to compare the radiation from a major nuclear accident to radiation exposures in everyday life.

“Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day. For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round trip cross country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials,” said Patricia Hansen, an FDA senior scientist.

No matter how small the dose might be, it is disingenuous to compare an exposure to a specific radioisotope that is released by a major nuclear accident, with radiation exposures in every-day life. The FDA spokesperson should have informed the public that radioiodine provides a unique form of exposure in that it concentrates rapidly in dairy products and in the human thyroid. The dose received, based on official measurements, may be quite small, and pose an equally small risk. However, making a conclusion on the basis of one measurement is fragmentary at best and unscientific at worst. As the accident in Fukushima continues to unfold, the public should be provided with all measurements made of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima reactors to allow for independent analyses.

Moreover, the FDA has been asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting public health from medical radiation exposures. According to the National Council on Radiation Protection, radiation exposures to the American public from medical devices and source, which FDA regulates, has soared by nearly 600 percent since 1982. In 2002, the NCRP estimated that the public received an extra 53 millirem (0.53 mSv) per person per year from medical radiation sources.* In 2006, the NCRP estimates that this dose has jumped to 300 millirem(3mSv)--nearly three times the annual dose allowed by the U.S. EPA from nuclear facilities.

The single largest contributor responsible for half of this dose to the American public is from Computed Tomography or CT Scans, whose use has skyrocketed over the past several years. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, as many approximately 29,000 future cancers could be related to CT scans performed in 2007 alone.* FDA has yet to comment on how this may be affecting the health of the American public in every-day life.

*Registration required to see article.

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