Thursday Night in Japan: Water Spraying Fails, Radiation High at Reactor Buildings

7:32 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Satellite image of damage to Fukushima Daiichi reactors numbers 1 through 4 (from right to left). (Photo: DigitalGlobe)

As of Thursday night Japan time, it appears that delivery of water from helicopters and the ground has been ineffective, radiation rates are still high around the reactor buildings, installation of an electric supply to run coolant pumps is delayed until Friday at the earliest, the US is organizing evacuation flights and China is calling for more information from the Japanese government.

The Guardian reports on the ineffective aerial and ground water delivery:

Attempts to cool down a stricken reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan have suffered a further setback with radiation levels rising rather than falling after attempts to douse it with high-pressure hoses.

Six fire engines and a police water cannon were sent in on Thursday evening to spray the plant’s No 3 reactor. But afterwards radiation emissions rose from 3,700 microsieverts per hour to 4,000 per hour, the Kyodo news agency quoted Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) as saying.

Part of the futility of this approach was explained a bit later in the article:

Each helicopter can carry 7.5 tonnes of water per load but the pools each hold 2,000 tonnes, an expert has told public broadcaster NHK.

In addition, NHK is reporting that 30 tonnes of water were sprayed in the aborted attempt, so it is clear that this route provides an insignificant amount of water compared to what is required for the spent fuel storage pools alone, not to mention what is needed for the reactors, as well.

Forbes reports on how the extremely high radiation levels around the reactor buildings has forced TEPCO to bring in additional workers as many of the current workers have reached the maximum permissible radiation dose for a year:

More workers were drafted for the frontline of Japan’s biggest nuclear disaster as radiation limits forced Tokyo Electric Power Co. to replace members of its original team trying to avert a nuclear meltdown.

The utility increased its workforce at the Fukushima Dai- Ichi plant to 322 today from 180 yesterday as it tried to douse water over exposed nuclear fuel rods to prevent melting and leaking lethal radiation. Levels beside the exposed rods would deliver a fatal dose in 16 seconds, said David Lochbaum, a nuclear physicist for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety instructor.

As mentioned in the water story above, these extremely high exposure rates around the reactor buildings are what forced the aerial water drop and ground spraying attempts to be aborted.   These same rates are now responsible for TEPCO having to rotate through plant workers very quickly.

Multiple sources have been reporting that TEPCO also is attempting to provide a high voltage electrical line to the Fukushima Daiichi plant from the outside power grid, but NHK television now is reporting that those connections will not be complete before Friday at the earliest. Also, multiple sources point out that there will be some time required for the coolant pumps to be put back into service before they can be effective in supplying cooling water to the reactor cores and spent fuel pools.

Meanwhile, the US, while not advocating that US citizens leave Japan, is making arrangements for those who wish to leave Japan to do so:

After reports that some spent fuel rods at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may now be completely dry, the US embassy on Thursday urged American citizens within 50 miles of the threatened plant to relocate and announced it would help US citizens evacuate the country by plane.

“The Department of State has authorized the voluntary departure, including relocation to safe areas within Japan, for family members and dependents of US Government officials who wish to leave northeast Japan. The US Government is also working to facilitate the departure of private American citizens from the affected areas – that is a 50-mile radius of the reactor,” announced US Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy.

The poor quality of information coming from TEPCO and the Japanese government has frustrated China:

China on Thursday urged Japan to provide prompt, precise information about its nuclear crisis in a bid to control a flurry of rumors sweeping the region about possible dangers

/snip/

The Foreign Ministry called on Japan to provide information swiftly.

“We hope the Japanese side will release information to the public in a timely and precise manner as well as its evaluation and prediction of the situation,” ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular briefing, when asked about the panic buying. She added, “I do not see any necessity to panic.”

For those who wish to monitor NHK’s English broadcast, it can be seen here.

The poor quality of information is leading to rumors swirling in China, with panic-buying of iodized salt stripping supplies in Bejing and other parts of China.

We will continue to monitor developments and provide updates as events dictate.