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Robotic snake set to examine innards of melted Fukushima reactor


Feb 7, 2015

A snakelike robot designed to examine the interior of one of the three meltdown-hit reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is ready to begin its expedition.

Assessing the damage in the reactors is a crucial step in decommissioning the poorly protected plant, which was crippled by core meltdowns triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Remote-controlled robots are essential for the job because the radiation in the reactors chambers is so high it would kill any person who got close.

Using information gathered by the robot, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, plans to repair the damaged chambers enough so they can be filled with water in preparation to remove the melted radioactive debris, an operation planned to begin in about a decade.

The 60-cm-long robot, developed by electronics giant Hitachi and its nuclear affiliate Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, was demonstrated this week at a Hitachi-GE facility northeast of Tokyo. It is expected to enter the No. 1 reactor as early as April, officials said.

It has a lamp at the front and is designed to crawl like a snake through a 10-cm-wide pipe into the containment vessel. From there it must dangle and descend onto a platform just below the reactor core’s bottom, an area known as the pedestal.

There, the robot is to transform into a U-shaped crawler and capture live images and temperature and radiation levels and transmit them to a control station outside the building.

Expectations for the robot probe are high after earlier efforts at assessment met with limited success.

“Depending on how much data we can collect from this area, I believe (the probe) will give us a clearer vision for future decommissioning,” Hitachi-GE engineer Yoshitomo Takahashi said.

After its exploratory trip, which will make the robot extremely radioactive, technicians plan to store it in a shielded box. They have no plans to reuse it.

Different robots must be designed for each reactor, since each is slightly different.

According to computer simulations, all of the fuel rods in unit 1 probably melted and pooled at the bottom of the containment chamber, but there had been no way of confirming that until now.

A brief fiberscope observation conducted in 2012 produced images that were scratchy and of limited use.

To assess the debris at the bottom of the damaged reactor chambers, which are usually filled with water, an amphibious robot is being developed for deployment next year.

The damage from the melted fuel burned holes in the reactors, thwarting efforts to fill them with cooling water. As a result, water must be pumped into them continuously, producing an endless stream of radiation-contaminated water that is hampering the plant’s cleanup process.

Source: Japan Times

February 8, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Skeptical Fukushima residents monitoring radiation levels in their communities

jan 8 2015Members of Fukushima Saisei no Kai (Resurrection of Fukushima) drive through Iitate village to measure radiation levels on Jan. 28.

February 08, 2015

On a recent day in late January, a minicar departed from the Iitate village office in Fukushima Prefecture with stickers attached that said, “We are driving slowly because we are measuring radiation levels.”

The vehicle, operated by Fukushima Saisei no Kai (Resurrection of Fukushima), a local residents’ nonprofit organization, is equipped with GPS and radiation measurement equipment, allowing it to record locations and airborne radiation levels.

“Although the level has decreased considerably from immediately after the Fukushima nuclear accident, it is still high,” said Mitsukazu Sugiura, 65, the driver of the vehicle, on Jan. 28.

Distrust of the central government, a need to know to make future plans and a desire to maintain ties with neighbors have led to groups of residents around Fukushima Prefecture taking the initiative to monitor radiation levels on their own.

All of Iitate village, which is divided into 20 districts, has been designated as an evacuation zone.

While the village government measures radiation levels at two locations in each district, it has also commissioned Fukushima Saisei no Kai to conduct more detailed measurements.

The organization’s vehicle is driven by village residents who commute from where they have evacuated to, such as Minami-Soma or Fukushima cities.

Twice a month in each district, group members conduct measurements along almost all areas along roads where residents lived.

Average radiation levels for each 100-meter-square area have been posted on the group’s website.

The near-term goal of the Iitate village government is to encourage residents to return with the planned lifting in March 2016 of the evacuation order. However, residents cannot erase concerns about radiation effects on their health as well as questions about the possibility of resuming agriculture.

Local farmer Muneo Kanno, 64, established Fukushima Saisei no Kai three months after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant along with scientists and friends. Kanno felt that scientific data would be needed to decide whether to return to Iitate and resume farming.

“In order to tie it with the resurrection of the community, it will be important to have local residents directly involved,” he said.

Residents of the Okubo-Yosouchi district in central Iitate began measuring radiation levels near their homes and in the farm fields from 2013. The catalyst was the monthly meetings that were held for the 14 households in the hamlet that had gone their separate ways after the evacuation order was issued.

At those meetings, residents were curious about the radiation levels. However, some said the central government could not be trusted, so they decided they had to check for themselves what the radiation levels were.

Immediately after the nuclear accident, the residents were slow to evacuate because they were not informed by the central government about the estimated spread of radioactive materials.

Masuo Nagasho, 67, a former village government employee, suggested residents conduct their own measurements.

“The attraction of the village was the people,” he said. “What I most regretted was the destruction of ties between people and the life of the community that had led before to working together for festivals and rice planting.”

In 2014, the monitoring effort spread to the entire district, which has about 70 households. The measurement has provided the perfect opportunity for residents to maintain their neighborly ties by having lunch together. The meals are provided by a local women’s group.


Another citizens’ group, Umilabo, has been monitoring radiation levels off the coast of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant since November 2013.

One member, Riken Komatsu, 35, works at a fishcake manufacturing plant in Iwaki. He was born and grew up in the area, but when customers asked about the safety of the fish being used, he could only pass along data collected by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima No. 1 plant operator, and the Fukushima prefectural government.

“I wanted to go out into the ocean and pass along data I was certain about,” Komatsu said.

He and other fishing enthusiasts began the project to collect soil from the seabed and fish, which were taken to the local aquarium for measurement of the amount of radioactive materials they contained.

In November 2014, 10 flatfish were caught about 1.5 kilometers off the coast from the nuclear power plant. Radioactive materials tend to accumulate in flatfish because it lives near the seabed. Although radioactive cesium was detected in five of the 10 flatfish, the concentration was less than half of the standard in the Food Sanitation Law of 100 becquerels or less per kilogram.

There has been no detection of radioactive materials for almost all of the fish born after the nuclear accident.

In the Oguni neighborhood of Date city’s Ryozenmachi district, a resident’s group began taking airborne radiation level measurements from six months after the nuclear accident. Data for each 100-meter-square area were listed on a map, and the information has been updated annually since.

“The radiation has no color or smell, but the map has enabled us to see it,” said Soyo Sato, 66, who heads the group.

The neighborhood has a mix of households that were designated for evacuation because of high radiation levels as well as those that were not so designated. Residents who were exempt from the designation used the data on the map to argue that there was very little difference in radiation levels with areas designated for evacuation.

That led to a settlement with TEPCO for compensation levels that were close to those offered to residents living in the designated areas.

Hideki Ishii, a project associate professor of landscape architecture at Fukushima University, has provided support for self-monitoring efforts.

“When residents see the actual data for their community that they collected, they will think more seriously about whether people can live there and if the compensation levels offered are appropriate,” Ishii said. “It also fosters the ability to not only think about the current situation, but also the future.”

Source: Asahi Shimbun

February 8, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

About the Evacuate-Fukushima-Now battle cry, from a chronological perspective.

body-0-1422975069695February 8, 2015

Someone somewhere commented:
“The Evacuate-Fukushima-Now battle cry hasn’t been thought out too well because it fails to recognize the moral questions that arise when non-victims speak for the victims—thinking that it is their job to rescue people who have decided to stay and haven’t asked for help.”
I wish to answer here to that partial judgment. Erroneous because that judgment was made much afterwards competely out of its historical chronological perspective:
The Evacuate Fukushima Now battle cry at the start of the Fukushima catastrophe was well justified and absolutely right in itself.
It was very soon countered by the Japanese government orchestrating a gigantic campaign about « decontamination » thru all the media, constructed and directed by government contracted big advertising-PR companies, playing very well on all the « furuisato » (hometown attachment) feelings of the Fukushima people ; their attachment to their lands, to their own history, to their own Fukushima dialect and cultural traditions, to their family ties etc., brainwashing the people that after a possible-to-be-made-decontamination program paid by government everyone everything would go back to the life of before, normal as before.
Due to that government huge mediatic campaign to control the situation, to keep the people to stay, promising them full decontamination, lying to them continuously that everything in Daiichi was under control, just a very local technical problem to resolve, they cut in the bud any possible evacuation idea.
The Government well-orchestrated mediatic campaign knew very well how to play on the Furuisato feelings of most the Fukushima people to manipulate them, resulting in the majority of people in Fukushima willingly participating in the brainwashing and PR campaign. The support Fukushima campaign came from the bottom up as much as from the government.
It is the same in every contaminated community: the deniers always outnumber those who understand the danger and want out. They get intimidated, bullied and silenced. All one can do is leave at one’s own expense.
To not forget that the majority of those Fukushima people did not have the financial means on their own to abandon everything behind to attempt to evacuate adventurously with their whole family in another prefecture, and that the government did all it could to deter them from evacuating, the people losing any possible damage claims if evacuating out of the prefecture, their properties devalued, their house credits still to be paid.
Due to all this the Evacuate Fukushima battle cry became very soon an empty battle cry, the Japanese anti-nuclear movement itself abandoned it very early to the benefit of the other battle-cries of « Kodomo wo Mamore » (protect the children), «Genpatsu Iranai » (we don’t need nuclear) and « Saikado hantai » (We are against the restart of nuclear plants).
The « Evacuate Fukushima Now » battle-cry was absolutely right, it was so damn right that the Japanese government spent millions on a mediatic campaign to cut it in the bud, to defeat that idea, to keep the people from evacuating, to make them stay by all means living with radiation, in contaminated environment. To after 4 years push now the evacuees of the 20kms evacuated zone to return to live in high radiation.




February 8, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment