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Leading nuclear worker says space is running out for contaminated water cooling the Fukushima plant.


Yuichi Okamura warned contaminated water may already be getting into the underground water system [AP]

Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tonnes of highly contaminated water used to cool the broken reactors, the manager of the water treatment team has said.

About 200,000 tonnes of radioactive water, enough to fill more than 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools, are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Company has already chopped down trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume of water will be more than triple within three years.

“It’s a time-pressing issue because the storage of contaminated water has its limits, there is only limited storage space” the water-treatment manager, Yuichi Okamura, told the AP news agency in an exclusive interview this week.

Dumping massive amounts of water into the melting reactors was the only way to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.

Okamura remembers frantically trying to find a way to get water to spent fuel pools located on the highest floor of the 50m high reactor buildings.

Without water, the spent fuel is likely to have overheated and melted, sending radioactive smoke for miles and affecting possibly millions of people.

The measures to keep the plant under control itself created another major problem for the utility: What to do with all that radioactive water that leaked out of the damaged reactors and collected in the basements of reactor buildings and nearby facilities.

“At that time, we never expected high-level [radiation] contaminated water to turn up in the turbine building” Okamura said.

Okamura was tasked with setting up a treatment system that would make the water clean enough for reuse as a coolant, and was also aimed at reducing health risks for workers and environmental damage.

At first, the utility shunted the tainted water into existing storage tanks near the reactors.

Contaminated water

Meanwhile, Okamura’s 55-member team scrambled to get a treatment unit up and running within three months of the accident, a project that would normally take about two years, he said.

Using that equipment, TEPCO was able to circulate reprocessed water back into the reactor cores.

But even though the reactors now are being cooled exclusively with recycled water, the volume of contaminated water is still increasing, mostly because ground water is seeping through cracks into the reactor and turbine basements.

Next month, Okamura’s group plans to flip the switch on new purifying equipment using Toshiba Corp technology.

“By purifying the water using the ALPS system, theoretically, all radioactive products can be purified to below detection levels” he said.

But in the meantime its tanks are filling up, mostly because leaks in reactor facilities are allowing ground water pour in.

Masashi Goto, nuclear engineer and college lecturer, said the contaminated water build-up posed a big, long-term health and environmental threat.

He worried that the radioactive water in the basements may already be getting into the underground water system, where it could reach far beyond the plant via underground water channels, possibly in the ocean or public water supplies.

“There are pools of some 10,000 or 20,000 tonnes of contaminated water in each plant, and there are many of these, and to bring all these to one place would mean you would have to treat hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated water which is mind-blowing in itself,” Goto said.

“It’s an outrageous amount, truly outrageous” Goto added.

The plant also would have to deal with contaminated water until all the melted fuel and other debris is removed from the reactor, a process that will easily take more than a decade.

Author: Agencies
Source: Al Jazeera
Original: http://goo.gl/osABd


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As piores consequências da radiação liberada durante o acidente da usina nuclear de Fukushima em março de 2011, no Japão, devem ainda estar para aparecer, afirma um estudo da Universidade de Stanford.

De acordo com os pesquisadores, o número de casos de câncer não letais relacionados ao acidente pode chegar a 2,5 mil, e levar a até 1,3 mil mortes. “Não vai haver zero mortes. Não vai haver dezenas de milhares de mortes também, mas não é uma coisa trivial”, afirmou Mark Z. Jacobson, coautor do estudo.

Segundo ele, a maior parte dos atingidos deve ser de idosos e crianças. “Não vão ser apenas os idosos ficando doentes. Os menores são mais suscetíveis a alguns desses cânceres – há a preocupação de que muitos desses casos possam ser em crianças.”

Outras estimativas, no entanto, sugerem que possa haver muitos milhares de mortes, e Jacobson admite que ainda é necessário avaliar os efeitos sob outros aspectos. “Essa incerteza é principalmente em função de três coisas: a dose de radiação recebida, onde a população estava concentrada, e descobrir exatamente a que a população estava exposta. Temos que fazer muitas estimativas diferentes para isso”, declarou.

Porém, a maior probabilidade é de que a doença atinja 180 pessoas, uma vez que é estimado que 81% da radiação teria sido dispersada no oceano. O acidente já teria provocado cerca de 600 mortes.

“De certa forma, foi um incidente de sorte por causa de onde estava a locação – apenas 19% da [radiação] ficou na terra. Poderia ter sido muito pior se os ventos tivessem soprado diferentemente. Os casos de câncer seriam até dez vezes mais frequentes se a radiação não tivesse sido absorvida pelo mar. Vários fatores meteorológicos ajudaram a evitar uma tragédia ainda maior”, disse o cientista.

Jacobson e o outro coautor, Jon Tem Hoeve, usaram dados climáticos e atmosféricos, assim como estimativas de emissões nucleares do Tratado de Interdição Completa de Ensaios Nucleares (CTBTO), para criar o modelo.

Embora quase todas as vítimas devam ser do Japão, o coautor da pesquisa reconheceu que pode haver alguns casos isolados de câncer em outros países próximos. O evento é considerado o pior desastre atômico desde Chernobyl em 1986, e Jacobson lembrou que nenhum cálculo pode expressar a extensão do acidente nuclear.

“Há muito mais sobre esse assunto do que sobre o que examinamos, que foram os efeitos na saúde relacionados ao câncer. Fukushima foi um desastre muito grande em termos de contaminação do solo e da água, de deslocamento de vidas”, concluiu.

Autor: Fabiano Ávila e Jéssica Lipinski
Fonte: Instituto CarbonoBrasil
Original: http://goo.gl/O2s4C


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Investigação sobre a tragédia de Fukushima concluiu que o acidente na central nuclear não foi apenas causado pelo tsunami que assolou o Japão.


Radiações da central de Fukushima Daiichi chegaram a atingir níveis alarmantes. (Getty)

O acidente da central nuclear de Fukushima foi “causado pelo homem” e não só pelo tsunami de 11 de março de 2011, conclui uma comissão de inquérito mandatada pelo Parlamento japonês no seu relatório final sobre a catástrofe.

“É claro que este acidente foi um desastre causado pelo homem. O Governo, autoridades reguladoras e a Tokyo Electric Power Company falharam no seu dever de proteger a vida das pessoas e a sociedade”, refere o documento hoje divulgado.

De acordo com os resultados da investigação levada a cabo pela comissão mandatada pelo Parlamento japonês, “a central nuclear de Fukushima Daiichi encontrava-se numa situação vulnerável a 11 de março [de 2011], sem garantias de que pudesse resistir a sismos e a tsunamis”.

“Apesar de terem tido uma série de oportunidades para adotar medidas, as agências reguladoras e a TEPCO adiaram decisões deliberadamente, não agiram ou tomaram decisões que eram convenientes para si próprios”, acrescenta o relatório sobre a catástrofe.

Fonte: Expresso
Original: http://goo.gl/NADxH


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A woman takes part in an anti-nuclear demonstration to demand a stop to the resumption of nuclear power operations in Tokyo, Japan on July 1, 2012. (YURIKO NAKAO / REUTERS)

This weekend, Japan re-entered the nuclear age. A reactor at the Ohi nuclear power plant was reactivated on Sunday, the first power plant to go back online since the nation closed all its reactors in the wake of the Fukushima crisis over a year ago.

The reactivation didn’t pass without controversy, or — unusual in an infamously orderly nation — without protest. According to the Associated Press, tens of thousands of people clamored outside Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s home last Friday, chanting “No to nuclear restarts.” Noda, who ordered the Ohi reactor be switched on, said that it was needed to sustain Japan’s energy supplies. Before the tsunami, nuclear energy powered approximately 30% of Japan’s power.

At the plant itself, located on Japan’s western coast near the city of Kyoto, police were called in to rein in hundreds of demonstrators. Taisuke Kohno, a 41-year-old musician, planned to stay at the plant day and night. “It’s a lie that nuclear energy is clean,” he told the Associated Press. “After experiencing the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how can Japan possibly want nuclear power?”

However, without the reactors, the country faces a serious power shortage the very real possibility of blackouts in some regions. Since the Fukushima plant forced the evacuation of thousands of people last year, the government has started looking for more reliable energy options, including renewable sources.

The Ohi plant, has not been operating since it was shut down last year and is expected to help power the region’s cities. All of Japan’s active reactors have been offline since May 5, when the government decided to institute safety checks.

Kansai Electric Power Company, which operates Ohi, has not made a public statement other than the message on its website explaining that a nuclear reaction was restarted Sunday afternoon. From the AFP’s latest accounts, the reactor finally managed to reach a self-sustaining reaction, and is expected to start delivering electricity Wednesday.

Author: Erica Ho
Source: Time
Original: http://goo.gl/rCixE


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About 12 tonnes of radioactive water is believed to have leaked from the Fukushima plant into the ocean. (TEPCO)

Plant operator TEPCO believes most of the water flowed into the Pacific Ocean. It says the contaminated water leaked from a treatment pipe.

The water contained radioactive strontium which tends to accumulate in bones and can cause leukaemia.

It is the second time in two weeks there has been a leak of contaminated water from the nuclear plant, prompting yet another apology from TEPCO.

About 120 tonnes of radioactive water leaked at the plant’s water decontamination system last month and about 80 litres seeped into the ocean, according to TEPCO.

The water, once it has been used to cool the reactors, contains massive amounts of radioactive substances and is put into the water-processing facility so it can be recycled for use as a coolant.

“Our officials confirmed that cooling water leaked at a joint in the pipes,” a TEPCO spokesman said, adding that “it is possible that part of the water may have flowed outside the facility and poured into the ocean”.

The leak has since been plugged, the spokesman added, saying the utility was probing the cause of the accident and how much, if any, water flowed into the Pacific.

The plant, about 220 kilometres north-east of Tokyo was crippled by meltdowns and explosions caused by Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

Radiation was scattered over a large area and made its way into the sea, air and food chain in the weeks and months after the disaster.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes around the plant and swathes of the zone remain badly polluted.

The clean-up is proceeding slowly, amid warnings that some towns could be uninhabitable for three decades.

Author: Mark Willacy
SourcE: ABC/AFP
Original: http://bit.ly/HZmMRt


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Hoje, completa um ano do grande terremoto e tsunami, seguidos de uma crise nuclear, que atingiram o Japão; enquanto ainda se recupera, país teme novo abalo


Sem destino: ao menos 300 mil pessoas – que perderam suas casas nas tragédias – ainda vivem em moradias temporárias ou apartamentos alugados. (Fotografia: Getty Images)

O dia 11 de março nunca mais será o mesmo para o povo japonês. Este domingo marca um ano do terremoto e tsunami que devastaram o nordeste do país, detonando uma emergência atômica que transformaria Fukushima numa cidade fantasma e mudaria os rumos da energia nuclear no mundo.

Em meio às cerimônias de homenagem aos cerca de 20 mil mortos e desaparecidos, os japoneses ainda lutam para reconstruir cidades inteiras e tratar outras feridas que ainda não cicatrizaram. Ao menos 300 mil pessoas – que perderam suas casas no tsunami ou tiveram de abandoná-las em função do acidente nuclear – ainda vivem em moradias temporárias ou apartamentos alugados, sem destino certo.

Muitos gostariam de retornar às cidades de origem, afetadas por algum dos desastres, mas suas respectivas prefeituras ainda não chegaram a um consenso sobre se é seguro ou não permitir esse retorno. O desafio da reconstrução, que se aplica aos 59 municípios diretamente afetados pelas catástrofes, é intensificado por problemas financeiros.

A construção de novas moradias em regiões mais altas e, por consequência, mais seguras, está sendo cogitada, embora não desperte simpatia dos governos locais, que alegam que tais projetos têm custo elevado demais devido à complexa geografia da região.

Além das residências, o país também precisa reerguer hospitais, escolas e outras estruturas públicas. Estima-se que a reconstrução custará cerca de 400 bilhões de reais, o equivalente ao PIB de Portugal.

Entulho no caminho

A tragédia japonesa também deixou um rastro de toneladas de lixo que, pelo ritmo de remoção, vai demorar para desaparecer. Segundo o governo, três das cidades mais afetadas – Iwate, Miyagi e Fukushima – geraram sozinhas 23 milhões de toneladas de entulho, sendo que apenas 5% desse total recolhido foi processado até agora.

Não significa que as ruas vivem abarrotadas de resíduos e escombros da destruição. Ao realizar a varredura, as autoridades cuidaram de juntar o entulho em áreas específicas. Calcula-se que serão necessários o equivalente a 16 bilhões de reais para dar conta por processamento ou incineração de todo esse entulho.

Um novo modelo energético

Além de recuperar estruturas urbanas e amenizar as feridas sociais, o Japão enfrenta o dilema de encontrar um novo modelo energético. A emergência nuclear que se abateu sobre Fukushima obrigou o país a rever o uso da energia atômica, responsável então por um terço do suprimento energético do país.

Hoje, apenas dois dos 54 reatores japoneses estão em atividade, enquanto o restante passa por revisões. O abalo energético inevitavelmente afetou a terceira maior economia do mundo, bastante dependente da exportação. Não à toa, o Japão registrou no primeiro mês de 2012 seu maior déficit comercial nas últimas três décadas.

O medo de um tremor pior

Um ano depois do terremoto, os japoneses temem um novo e mais violento tremor, dessa vez em Tóquio. Pesquisadores nipônicos anunciaram uma pesquisa preocupante que aponta probabilidade de 50% da megalópole ser atingida por um novo terremoto de grande intensidade nos próximos quatro anos.


Iwate, Miyagi e Fukushima geraram 23 milhões de toneladas de entulho. (Fotografia: Getty Images)

Segundo os cientistas, desde o sismo de 9 graus na escala Ritcher de 2011, a atividade telúrica terrestre tem se intensificado no arquipélago, que se situa sobre quatro placas tectônicas.

Para se ter uma ideia, no último ano, Tóquio registra por dia uma média de 1,48 sismos de magnitude superior a 3, cinco vezes mais do que antes do terremoto de março passado.

Autor: Vanessa Barbosa
Fonte: Exame
Original: http://bit.ly/wS5TZk


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After the Fukushima disaster, residents fled from the village of Katsurao, located just outside the 20-kilometer exclusion zone. Now living in temporary emergency housing, many exist in an overwhelming state of doubt. But one man hopes to help them return to more normal lives by freeing them of their radiation anxieties.


Hangai, too, considers slightly elevated radiation levels in Katsurao to be less damaging than the emotional and economic damages that the refugees have brought with them. Katsurao was once known for its wild azaleas, pheasants, and red pines, as this tourist sign at the entrance to the village shows. (Photography: SPIEGEL ONLINE)

“Saury pike bones are dangerous,” says 50-year-old Terumi Hangai, as he rummages for a colored pencil drawing showing an illustration of a blue and white fish smiling sweetly. “Radioactive Strontium has accumulated in its bones.” That’s unfortunate for Hangai and his fellow compatriots, for whom the fish is a popular dish. Spinach, on the other hand, no longer poses a problem. Hangai says it’s also okay to drink milk in the Fukushima prefecture without second thoughts. His claims are supported by both government data and independent experts.

Terumi Hangai, who studied chemistry, is a teacher. Before the earthquake he coached Japanese schoolchildren at his private tutoring school to help them achieve top grades. But since the March 11, 2011 catastrophe, the young people in the city of Tamura don’t seem to be in the mood for studying anymore. When asked if he thinks this is related to the nuclear accident, he responds, with a sigh, “I don’t know.”
The city of Tamura is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The radiation levels there are about the same as in some places in the state of Bavaria, in southeastern Germany — in other words, not high enough to pose an immediate health risk. Still, Hangai’s students have recently stayed away from his tutoring school, leaving him with a lot of extra time on his hands. Far from bored, though, Hangai is hard at work — he’s a man with a mission.

Kilos of Fukushima Peaches

Hangai has set out to free the people in his hometown of their fear of radiation. All that is required for his task is some data, his self-accumulated expertise and an infectious laugh.

On this particular day, he is targeting the people from the village of Katsurao, which is located directly at the edge of the 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the destroyed nuclear power plant. A few of the homes in the village are also located just on the other side of the roadblocks leading into the exclusion zone. Almost all of the villagers fled after the disaster in order to protect themselves against increased radiation. But Hangai says that while the radiation levels may be higher than they were in the past, they still aren’t dangerous.


This barn belonging to a prosperous farmer once housed hundreds of cows. Now sparrows have nested in the pickup. (Photography: SPIEGEL ONLINE)

“No politician or scientist wants to take responsibility, so I have decided to!” he says. When asked why, he drones, “Because I love Katsurao and I want the people there to get their lives back together and to be happy again.”

Hangai whizzes along the snow-covered road to Katsurao in his heavily heated car. “I believe the government figures,” he says. After all, the data has been collected by scientists using high-quality instruments. “One of them costs 15 million yen (€139,000).” Hangai turns his head enthusiastically to the passenger seat and the car briefly veers off course. He recalls how, last summer, his wife bought kilos of peaches from the area around Fukushima at incredibly low prices. Nobody wanted them, although they weren’t contaminated at all.

Beware of Wild Boars!

In the village of Katsurao all is quiet, except for the sound of a few crows cawing. Icicles hang from the roof of a large barn that used to be home to a few hundred cattle. Sparrows flutter out the window of a pickup truck. Hangai trudges through the snow in his expensive leather shoes. Although he prefers to spend his time frequenting fine restaurants, he doesn’t complain. He believes what he’s doing here is important. He wants his German visitor to understand what the fear of radiation has done to this village.


In front of the farm is a sign, meant to scare off looters, that reads: “Video camera in use!”. (Photography: SPIEGEL ONLINE)

Three women are sitting in a construction site container in the middle of the village. “Radiation is our biggest concern,” says Yukimi Yoshida. The 57-year-old used to sell rice cakes in a nearby store. Now she’s wearing a blue waistcoat and a cap emblazoned with the words, “We’ll never give up.” She belongs to a local citizens’ crime watch group that is working to protect Katsurao from looters.

It’s warm inside the construction container. Yoshida sewed the cloth owls on the shelf herself and there’s a teapot sitting on the heater. Outside a car drives by and the women turn their heads. They take note in a book of the color, model, license plate number and passengers. What one doesn’t notice, the others do. And if there are thefts of televisions or other kinds of equipment from one of the yards, they might be able to help solve the case.

Up to 10 Microsieverts Is No Problem, Says Hangai

The women are happy that they have this job. They get on well together, better than before the earthquake. They also have good relations with the police from Tokyo who do patrols here, sometimes warning drivers about large wild boars. Their work is the only ray of hope they have in this bleak time.

Hangai tells them that in certain areas of the world — in Iran, for example — the natural level of radiation is permanently 10 microsieverts an hour. At one brook nearby his radiation counter peaked at only five microsieverts. Personally, he doesn’t think that a measurement of under 10 is anything to worry about. The women’s eyes light up.

Hangai also tells them about his mother, who had to flee the exclusion zone. “Towards the end, all she was doing was eating and sleeping,” he says, “and in November she died.” Yoshida nods, visibly moved. Her 84-year-old mother also died after the stress of having to flee from her home. “The spiritual and economic effects of the catastrophe are the biggest problem,” says Hangai, as he glides across the smooth roads.


Hangai measures the radioactivity at one of the barricades. The measurement is 2.18 microsieverts per hour. (Photography: SPIEGEL ONLINE)

About 1,000 Katsurao villagers now live at 10 different provisional settlements, all of which are about a one-hour drive from their former homes. Hisayoshi Matsumoto is being housed in one such settlement. In the middle of the shelter, he has opened a store for the many elderly people who can’t walk far. He sells tobacco, alcohol, rice cakes and propane cylinders.

“My shop in Katsurao was ten times as large and it’s terribly cramped here,” he complains. Yet he doesn’t want to return, because of the radiation. It might not be that high, but it’s still at least 20 times higher than before. “That can’t be good!” he says.

Many in the settlement agree. Hangai flutters between them like a bird, bringing messages full of hope. Tomoko Matsumoto, a 36-year-old nurse, hangs on his every word. Until now, she had been unable to shake her unease about radiation. She no longer buys any vegetables from Fukushima because of her four children, the youngest of whom is a one-year-old. She listens carefully to Hangai’s practical advice: beware of saury fish, trout, mushrooms and wild boar.

Underground Radiation Refuge

Many people here feel they have been abandoned by the government. Hangai complains that the politicians in Tokyo are aiming to keep food entirely free of radiation and keep issuing stricter regulations. But that, according to Hangai, is nonsense. The human body is loaded with radioactive substances, with or without a nuclear accident. According to scientists, one is constantly eating natural radionuclides such as potassium-40. The average radiation level in an adult human body is about 8,000 becquerel.


Hangai realized last April, he says, that, when it comes to radiation, Fukushima escaped with little more than a black eye. Since then he has been working non-stop to help repair the damaged image of the prefecture. (Photography: SPIEGEL ONLINE)

“They’ve only left Katsurao because they don’t have any knowledge of radioactivity,” says Hangai. His aim is to bring government ministers, experts and regional administrators together to solve Fukushima’s problems. The teacher likes to see himself in the role of community savior. “I’m famous here,” he murmurs contentedly.

Hangai’s own fear of radiation must have once been considerable. About 12 years ago, he built a radiation-proof room in the basement of his house. “I was scared of missile attacks from North Korea,” he says. “At that time I hadn’t even considered a tsunami.” Luckily, he says, Fukushima escaped this time with little more than a black eye. Now it’s time for the rest of the world to acknowledge that and to stop demonizing everything that comes from the region.

Author: Heike Sonnberger
Source: Der Spiegel Online
Original: http://bit.ly/AcdG9E


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