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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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Photo: Kiyoshi Kurokawa, head of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, reacts during presentation of the panel’s report at the Japanese Diet on Thursday. The report blamed the government, regulators and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. for willful disregard of necessary safety improvements. Credit: Everett Kennedy Brown / European Pressphoto Agency.

An independent parliamentary commission accused the Japanese government and the nation’s leading utility of “collusion” in avoiding vital nuclear safety improvements that would have prevented the reactor meltdowns last year at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima complex.

In its report based on 900 hours of testimony, the Japanese Diet’s 10-member investigative panel accused government and industry leaders of having “betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents.”

The report, seven months in the making and at odds with government and industry accounts of culpability, coincided with the first nuclear power plant going back on line since all 50 of Japan’s working reactors were shut down for inspection and safety upgrades. The first electrical energy from the No. 3 reactor at Ohi, in central Fukui prefecture, flowed into the national power grid Thursday, the Kansai Electric Power Co. reported Thursday.

Politicians called it “outrageous” that the government decided to restart two reactors at Ohi before the commission’s report was issued and without completing all recommended safety improvements, including building a seawall around the reactor complex to protect it from the kind of tsunami that devastated the Fukushima plant.

The earthquake-triggered inundation of March 11, 2011, that led to meltdowns at three of Fukushima’s four reactors “cannot be regarded as a natural disaster,” Tokyo University professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa wrote in the commission’s 600-page report. “It is an obviously man-made disaster … that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”

Japanese nuclear regulators with the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency colluded with Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. in willfully ignoring necessary safety upgrades, the report stated.

“Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with nuclear power,” the report said.

The commission recommended that the Diet establish a permanent oversight panel to ensure that the government and utilities carry out the necessary measures to prevent any recurrence of the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Ukraine.

The Diet commission report was likely to fuel already strong anti-nuclear sentiments in Japan, where 20,000 besieged the offices of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda last week to protest the planned resumption of nuclear power generation. All 50 operable nuclear reactors in the country had been shut down in a phased inspection program after the Fukushima disaster that saw the final plant go off-line in May, leaving Japan without nuclear energy-generating capacity for the first time in 42 years.

Recent opinion polls in Japan have shown at least 70% of the population want nuclear energy reduced or eliminated. Japan relied on nuclear power for about a third of its energy needs before last year’s disasters.

In announcing the first flow of nuclear energy on Thursday, Kansai Electric said it expected the power from the two Ohi plants to avert as much as a 15% power shortfall in the populous Osaka and Kyodo areas this summer.

Author: Carol J. Williams
Source: Los Angeles
Original: http://goo.gl/Kk75X


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O Japão planeia construir centrais de energia solar e eólica que nos próximos quatro anos vão acrescentar mais de dois milhões de kilowatts à capacidade de geração do país, o equivalente à eletricidade produzida por dois reatores nucleares.

De acordo com o diário económico “Nikkei”, o Japão tem em construção mais de 110 centrais solares com uma capacidade de pelo menos 1.000 kilowatts cada uma, que contribuirão para gerar no total mais de 1,3 milhões de kilowatts.

Está ainda prevista a construção de outras 20 centrais eólicas com uma capacidade total de cerca de 750 mil kilowatts.

Fonte: Expresso
Original: http://goo.gl/0IWxX


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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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Japan’s prime minister has ordered two nuclear reactors to be switched back online, marking the first time a reactor will be restarted since the Fukushima disaster last year.


PHOTO: Yoshihiko Noda has ordered Japan’s nuclear reactors back online (file photo)(Yoshikazu Tsuno)

The move, defying public sentiment against atomic power following last year’s meltdowns at Fukushima sparked by a huge quake-tsunami disaster, comes as Japan faces power outages because all of the country’s reactors are offline.

Prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has received approval for the restarts from Issei Nishikawa, the pro-nuclear power governor of central Fukui prefecture, which hosts the plant.

The premier then met three ministers – the minister of economy, trade and industry, the minister in charge of the nuclear accident and the chief cabinet secretary.

“Now that we have the approval from the autonomous body where the reactors are relocated, the four ministers (including Mr Noda) concerned made the decision to restart the reactors,” Mr Noda told the meeting on camera.

Mr Nishikawa told the prime minister he was happy with the restarts after he received safety assurances on Friday from the operator.

“We reached the agreement to help stabilise livelihoods and industry in Kansai (western Japan),” Mr Nishikawa said.

The controversial move comes amid fears that electricity demand will outstrip supply as temperatures soar and air-conditioners get cranked up, further crimping Japan’s wobbly economic recovery.

About 500 hundred people rallied outside Mr Noda’s official residence in central Tokyo to protest against his approach to nuclear power generation despite the on-going nuclear accident.

“Don’t activate dangerous nuclear reactors any more,” their banners read.

But Mr Noda, seeking to head off a summer energy crunch, told Kansai Electric Power (KEPCO) to re-fire two idled reactors at its Oi plant serving the industrial heartland of western Japan.

According to an opinion poll conducted by public broadcaster NHK and released on Monday, 25 per cent of 1,079 respondents supported the restart of the Oi reactors while 32 per cent opposed it and 38 per cent had no opinion.The nod from Mr Nishikawa was the final link in the chain for Mr Noda, who has become a vocal advocate of nuclear power being brought back into the energy mix for resource-poor but electricity-hungry Japan.

The country’s 50 working reactors – which along with the four crippled units at Fukushima contributed around a third of Japan’s electricity before the disaster – have been offline since the last one was shuttered in early May.

Public opposition in the aftermath of the tsunami-sparked meltdowns at Fukushima in March 2011 left Japan’s political classes tip-toeing around the issue of restarts.

Radiation was spread over homes and farmland in a large swathe of northern Japan when the massive tsunami swamped cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi.

No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the meltdowns, but tens of thousands of people were evacuated and many remain so, with warnings some areas will be uninhabitable for decades.

Anti-nuclear sentiment among the public has run into increasingly apocalyptic warnings of power shortfalls, the most dire of which predicted Kansai’s manufacturing base could see a one-fifth gap.

KEPCO has cautioned this will mean blackouts, which are expected to wallop producers already struggling against a tide of economic uncertainty and export markets stumbling under the pressure of Europe’s debt crisis.

However, Noda’s conviction that Japan could not do without nuclear power was not enough, forcing him to seek cover from international bodies and local politicians.

On Friday, Japan’s Nobel literature prize laureate Kenzaburo Oe visited the prime minister’s office and handed the signatures of 6.5 million opposed to the continued use of nuclear reactors.

ABC/AFP

Author: By North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy
Source: ABC News
Original: http://goo.gl/5cRBt


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