Three and a half years after the most devastating nuclear accident in a generation, Fukushima Daiichi is still in crisis. Some 6,000 workers, somehow going about their jobs despite the suffocating gear they must wear for hours at a time, struggle to contain the damage. So much radiation still pulses inside the crippled reactor cores that no one has been able to get close enough to survey the full extent of the destruction.
Ever wonder what happened to Fukushima Storage Unit #4? You remember, the one filled with 1,500 wet stored and combustible fuel rods that threaten a total of ~134 million curies of radioactive cesium137 and, at least as of last April, seemed to be in maybe not such great shape? (PREVIOUSLY) This August, TEPCO released a comprehensive and easily understandable report on the condition of the structure as well as measures being done to both reinforce it against likely earthquakes and ultimately remove the fuel rods, which are still hot enough to require wet storage elsewhere (PDF). On the other hand, Kohei Murata, the former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland who had the attention of the world during the crisis, remains both unimpressed and eschatological.
"This study is important and overwhelming in its implications for both the human and biological communities living in Fukushima." . . . "These observations of mutations and morphological abnormalities can only be explained as having resulted from exposure to radioactive contaminants." Severe abnormalities found in Fukushima butterflies. Full report here.
Yesterday, July 29, 2012, saw a massive antinuclear protest, attended by young and old alike, in Tokyo. This video, and this one, too, (both well-edited and featuring English subtitles) bring you right into the center of the action, to get a feel for the energy that the movement is steadily gaining.
In the year and a half since the earthquake and tsunami caused an industry-wide Japanese nuclear shutdown , Japanese consumers and businesses have been urged to conserve energy whenever possible. Although a few reactors are being brought back online temporarily, the Japanese government has pledged to move away from nuclear power sources. Yesterday the Japanese government announced what may be the world's highest solar photovolatic feed-in tariff at 53 cents per kWh generated. [more inside]
A month ago, the Japanese TV show "Morning Bird" discussed the current state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and specifically Unit 4, which is in terrible condition. During an interview with Dr. Hiroaki Koide, Research Associate at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University, who explains the immense difficulty in moving the radioactive fuel rods - a process that will not even start until 2013 - the presenter asks what would happen if even a moderate earthquake struck near the plant before the fuel rods can be moved. Koide replies:
That will be the end.
On the one year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, the Economist magazine now considers Nuclear energy to be "the dream that failed", in an issue with articles covering the history, safety issues, handling of nuclear waste, and costs (with emphasis on China) of nuclear power. [more inside]
Fukushima: Inside the Reactor 2 Containment Vessel, 1/19/2012. Here are Mainichi Daily News and Japan Times reports.
Fukushima Robot Operator Writes Tell-All Blog. "An anonymous worker at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has written dozens of blog posts describing his experience as a lead robot operator at the crippled facility." [Via]
On July 9, the Japanese public broadcaster NHK aired a documentary on the earliest days of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis. There appears to be precisely one place on the internet where it can currently be viewed: here.
Tepco, the Japanese nuclear power company, is still battling multiple core meltdowns including one complete "melt-through" (breach of containment). The news gets worse, except for one hopeful story of two dogs. [more inside]
Alabama's Browns Ferry Plant nuclear plant has received red finding from the NRC for an emergency coolant valve failure that wasn't detected for over a year. [more inside]
Reactor shutdowns nine months away: Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced Sunday that it will take six to nine months to complete a cold shutdown of the damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, while the United States proposed a daring plan to use a remote-controlled helicopter and cranes to pluck out their spent fuel rods... If all goes well, displaced residents from the evacuation zone should know within six to nine months whether they will be able to go home, trade minister Banri Kaieda said. [Previously] [Open MeFi pro vs. con nuclear policy thread] [more inside]
The German weekly newspaper Die Zeit shows Americans (and a few Canadians) what a Fukushima-sized evacuation zone might mean to them.
The long running "eyeball" series from noted cryptography and information freedom site Cryptome [many previously] hosts hi-res photos of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear site taken from a UAV and inside the stricken plant. Also eyeball shots of other Japanese nuclear reactors.
Fukushima Dai-ichi status and potential outcomes The Oil Drum has begun posting daily threads about the Japanese nuclear plant event. As during the last energy crisis, the comments there tend to have a good signal-to-noise ratio.
Preliminary magnitude 7.9 off Honshu at 05:46 UTC The Pacific Ring of Fire has been living up to its name lately. BBC flash reporting a Tsunami Alert has been issued.