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Nuclear danger very real – at Fukushima and at San Onofre

Nuclear Dread On Both Sides Of The Pacific IndyBay by Michael Steinberg Jul 14th, 2012  Nuclear problems are still growing on both sides of the Pacific, at Fukushima and San Onofre…….. Japan Ignored Ominous Signs

Nan wants another Ohi reactor to be fired up in mid July. In so doing, however, he is “ignoring safety lessons of last year’s Fukushima crisis,” Reuters reported on June 28.

In this report prominent Japanese seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi told reporters at Kobe University, “The stress tests new guidelines for restarting nuclear plants allow for accidents to occur. Instead of making standards more strict, they represent a setback in safety standards.”

Ishibashi also said that last year’s magnitude 9 quake made it more likely that “devastating ones would follow.”

Meanwhile, also days before Ohi reactor 3 went critical, an even more
frightening development occurred at Fukushima itself. This was also
ignored by not only Prime Minister Nan, but by most of the media in
the US.

Market Watch, to its credit, did report, also on June 28, that Tokyo
Electric Power Co. (TEPKO), Fukushima’s owner and operator, had found
lethal levels of radiation in basement water at Fukushima Unit 1.
The levels were as high as 10,300 millisieverts per hour, “ a dose
that will kill humans within a short time after making them sick
within a minute. The annual dose for workers at the site would be
reached within 20 seconds.”

TEPCO reported that these radioactive levels were ten times higher
than those at units 2 and 3.
TEPCO also stated, Workers cannot enter the site and we need to use
robots for the demolition.”
TEPCO also said that the demolition of Unit 1, as well as the other
ruined Fukushima units, would take 40 years, and “will need the use of
new technologies.”

In other words, there isn’t any way to do it now.
And if that wasn’t enough, on June 30 the cooling system at Fukushima
unit 4’s spent fuel pool, the one with the bulging walls, shut down
“for unknown reasons,” The Japanese Times reported on July 2.

Spent fuel pools typically hold large amounts of high level nuclear
waste. The waste needs constant cooling. If the water loses cooling it
will soon boil off and the waste will catch fire, potentially creating
the release of catastrophic amounts of radiation.

In this incident, the temperature in the pool rose to over 120
degrees—more than half way to the boiling point. Cooling power was
restored on July 1, the same day Ohi 3 went critical.
Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the Pacific

Not all the signs of nuclear degradation were in Japan. On the
Pacific’s eastern shores, specifically those of Southern California,
the San Onofre nuclear power plant continued to show disturbing
symptoms of premature aging.

Both of this nuke plant’s 1100 Megawatt reactors, comprising the
largest electrical plant in the Southland, have been shut down for
over five months. A third unit has been permanently shut down since
the early ‘90s.

The San Onofre nuke sits on cliffs above the beach between Los Angeles
and San Diego. The beach there is sung of in the Beach Boys classic
“Surfin’ USA.”

The current problems began when radiation leaked out of one of the
units into the environment, forcing its shutdown. The other unit was
already shutdown for maintenance and to change out some of its nuclear
fuel.

Subsequent investigations by Southern California Edison, its owner and
operator, revealed that hundreds of tubes in massive pieces of
equipment called steam generators were worn and damaged.

On July 14 The Los Angeles Times reported that the NRC found 3401 of
the 38908 tubes in San Onofre’s steam generators were worn. Of that
number, 387 are so worn they will have to be replaced.

Each unit has two steam generators. They had all been replaced just a
few years ago, to the tune of $680 million. The steam generators are
supposed to last decades.

Followup investigations by independent nuclear watchdog Arne Gundersen
(an industry veteran) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
strongly suggest that the damage to the tubes resulted from design
changes to the replacement steam generators that caused them to
vibrate and rub against one another, creating damage to a significant
number of thousands of such tubes in each generator.

Southern California Edison says it agrees this is the most plausible
explanation for the damage to date.

The company was supposed to inform the NRC of any design changes in
the replacement steam generators.

But it didn’t.

And by concealing this information, SC Ed s escaped NRC scrutiny of
the replacement process that otherwise would have been mandatory.
A June 19 Associated Press report revealed that the company admits
that the new steam generators each “weighed 24 tons more than the
originals” and that it “decided to add 400 tubes to each generator.”

At a public meeting in San Juan Capistrano, CA, the NRC’s Elmo Collins
“didn’t rule out that one or more generator might have to be replaced,
“ but said ‘it was too early to tell.”

Despite these incredible reports of malfeasance, and lack of
definitive answers as to what really happened at San Onofre, SCE wants
to file a proposal with the NRC as early as August to restart the two
shutdown San Onofre reactors.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth is fighting this move.

Seven million people live within 50 miles of San Onofre.

What might happen to them if San Onofre is allowed to start operating
again is contained in a report released earlier this year by the
Radiation and Public Health Project, indicating that almost 22,000
“excess” deaths occurred in the US after the Fukushima disaster. ….
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/07/14/18717532.php

July 16, 2012 - Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, USA

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