Japanese Officials Admit They Are Making No Progress

Chernobyl disaster: will it happen again?

The Guardian reports that radiation levels are rising in the ocean near the Fukushima nuclear plant, and Japanese officials admit they basically have no real solution for the apparent meltdown and/or meltdowns of the four damaged nuclear reactors.

The country’s nuclear and industrial safety agency, Nisa, said radioactive iodine-131 at 3,355 times the legal limit had been identified in the sea about 300 yards south of the plant, although officials have yet to determine how it got there.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nisa spokesman, said fishing had stopped in the area, adding that the contamination posed no immediate threat to humans. “We will find out how it happened and do our utmost to prevent it from rising,” he said.

Good luck with that. The battle to control the reactors could go on for years.

The battle to control the slow-motion meldowns could take years, according to this Reuters article.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

“Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over),” TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.

Back to the Guardian piece:

Robert Peter Gale, a US medical researcher who was brought in by Soviet authorities after the Chernobyl disaster, said recent higher readings of radioactive iodine-131 and caesium-137 should be of greater concern than reports earlier this week of tiny quantities of plutonium found in soil samples.

But he added: “It’s obviously alarming when you talk about radiation, but if you have radiation in non-gas form I would say dump it in the ocean.”

Wonderful. The Japanese eat a lot of fish, don’t they?

From ABC News

Radiation measured at a village 40 kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear plant now exceeds a criterion for evacuation, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

And a Japanese nuclear expert has warned crews may have to keep pouring cooling water onto the stricken reactors for years.

Years. That is what multiple sources are now saying. It could take years. So how does it end? We hope for new discoveries that will solve the problem, while the reactors continue to melt down and release radioactive elements into the groundwater and the ocean? Or there is a catastrophic explosion?

Yes, I know the “experts” say that won’t happen, but if workers are going to be struggling with these plants for years, there is inevitably going to be human error. Besides, the “experts” have tried to minimize the dangers all along. Only now is the real truth beginning to come out.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists All Things Nuclear blog:

Today the IAEA has finally confirmed what some analysts have suspected for days: that the concentration per area of long-lived cesium-137 (Cs-137) is extremely high as far as tens of kilometers from the release site at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, and in fact would trigger compulsory evacuation under IAEA guidelines.

The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition, and comparable to the total beta-gamma measurements reported previously by IAEA and mentioned on this blog.

This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m.

Thus, it is now abundantly clear that Japanese authorities were negligent in restricting the emergency evacuation zone to only 20 kilometers from the release site.

This is bad, folks. Here is a summary of the health effects of cesium-137:

Like all radionuclides, exposure to radiation from cesium-137 results in increased risk of cancer.

Everyone is exposed to very small amounts of cesium-137 in soil and water as a result of atmospheric fallout. Exposure to waste materials, from contaminated sites, or from nuclear accidents can result in cancer risks much higher than typical environmental exposures.

If exposures are very high, serious burns, and even death, can result. Instances of such exposure are very rare. One example of a high-exposure situation would be the mishandling a strong industrial cesium-137 source. The magnitude of the health risk depends on exposure conditions. These include such factors as strength of the source, length of exposure, distance from the source, and whether there was shielding between you and the source (such as metal plating).

Please note that cesium-137, like plutonium doesn’t occur naturally in the environment. When officials and “experts” talk about “background” radiation, they are talking about elements that have been introduced through nuclear tests and nuclear reactor accidents and bi-products. This “background” radiation wasn’t around before the nuclear age, and I personally don’t believe that it has no effect on us.

From NPR: More radioactive material has been found in foods in Japan.

Yesterday, I asked in a comment what is being done with all the contaminated water that is being removed from the Fukushima reactors. Scarecrow addressed this question today at FDL.

They’ve got hundreds of tons of contaminated water preventing workers from getting close enough to pumps, valves, monitors needed to stabilize conditions. So they have to pump this water out and put it somewhere, but where? There are tanks at/near some units that can hold some of it, but not all, and external temporary storage may allow exposure to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, they must keep pumping more fresh water into the reactors and spent fuel storage pools, while more leaks out.

There are large pools of dangerously contaminated water in the turbine buildings adjacent to each reactor buidling, with more leaking in from somewhere, and few places to put it. Just outside the turbine buildings, there are long, deep trenches nearer the ocean and likely filled with water from the tsunami. But they’re now contaminated with radiation and water leaks from the turbine building.

Where can they put all this water? And given varying degrees of contamination, which water should they put where? For example, should they just pump out the least radioactive water in the trenches/pools and dump it in the ocean?

Believe it or not, some people are suggesting putting the water in large ships and letting them float around in the ocean. And what happens if there is a huge storm and the ships are damaged? Honestly, this gets scarier and scarier every day.

Even worse, today smoke was seen at another nuclear plant owned by Tepco!

The company said smoke was detected in the turbine building of reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant around 6 p.m. (5 a.m. ET).

Smoke could no longer be seen by around 7 p.m. (6 a.m. ET), a company spokesman told reporters.

The Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where workers have been scrambling to stave off a meltdown since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems there….

After the dual disasters, Japanese authorities also detected cooling-system problems at the Fukushima Daini plant, and those living within a 10-kilometer radius (6 miles) of Fukushima Daini were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

What next? Something tells me whatever happens next won’t be good.

Gaddafi must go? Breaking News in Libya and MENA and Japan

"President Barack Obama said on Monday the United States expects to transfer the lead military role in Libya to other allies in a matter of days." Photo: Reuters

This is a breaking news post, Obama just held a press conference in Chile in which he actually answered a question about Libya. During this press conference new explosions have been heard in Tripoli.  So please see the updates below and look for any new updates in the Comment Section.

Obama says will transfer Libya power to allies in days | Reuters

Obama defends Libya mission in Chile – The Oval: Tracking the Obama presidency

President Obama said today that the goal of United Nations-sanctioned military action in Libya is to protect citizens, not regime change — but goal of U.S. policy is that Moammar Gadhafi “has to go.”

Speaking to reporters in Chile, Obama also said that the U.S. will soon hand responsibility over to allies who will maintain a no-fly zone over Libya.


2:40 p.m.The Associated Press asks Obama why deposing Gadhafi is not a specific goal of the Libyan operation, and if he regrets launching the attack while on South American soil.

Obama cites the United Nations “mandate” behind the military mission, which focuses on protecting citizens from Gadhafi attacks (and does not mention regime change); says it is “U.S. policy” that Gadhafi “needs to go,” and that is the goal of the sanctions that the U.S. and allies put in place weeks ago.

Also notes there will be a transition in which the U.S. is one of many partners in the military action.

As for starting the action over the weekend in Brazil, Obama says he acted on short time frames; on Friday at the White House, he warned Gadhafi to follow through on a proclaimed cease fire; within hours, it became evident he would not, and so Obama says he and allies decided to move forward with establishing a no-fly zone.

Obama adds that “I could not be prouder” of the way the U.S. military performed, noting how “stretched” they are in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Shepard Smith is reporting that reporters from Reuters and CNN were used as human shields by Gaddafi…

EXCLUSIVE: Libyans Use Journalists as Human Shields – FoxNews.com

EXCLUSIVE: An attack on the compound of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi on Sunday had to be curtailed because of journalists nearby, Fox News has learned.

British sources confirmed that seven Storm Shadow missiles were ready to be fired from a British aircraft, but the strikes had to be curtailed due to crews from CNN, Reuters and other organizations nearby. Officials from Libya’s Ministry of Information brought those journalists to the area to show them damage from the initial attack and to effectively use them as human shields.

The curtailment of this mission led to a great deal of consternation by coalition commanders, sources told Fox News, but they opted to call off the mission to avoid civilian casualties.

During a Pentagon briefing on Monday, coalition commanders said the huge compound was targeted due to its air defense systems on the perimeter and a military command and control center. It was not targeted to kill Qaddafi, commanders said.

U.S. jets strike Gaddafi’s forces; coalition continues hitting Libyan air defenses – The Washington Post

“The military attacks on Libya are, following on from the Afghan and Iraq wars, the third time that some countries have launched armed action against sovereign countries,” said a commentary in the Communist Party’s main newspaper, People’s Daily.

President Obama has declared that Gaddafi “must leave,” but Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the administration’s most visible spokesman Sunday, acknowledged that the outcome of the conflict remains uncertain.

Despite a plume of smoke around one of Gaddafi’s compounds in Tripoli, U.S. officials said that they were not aiming to kill the Libyan leader.

“At this point I can guarantee he is not on the target list,” Gortney told reporters at the Pentagon. “We are not targeting his residence.”

Gadhafi ouster not Libya mission’s goal: Obama – World – CBC News

A coalition air campaign over Libya is not aimed at removing Moammar Gadhafi from power, despite U.S. policy that the Libyan ruler “has to go,” U.S. President Barack Obama says.

Speaking to reporters on Monday during a visit to Chile, Obama insisted the purpose of the military mission is in response to the humanitarian threat Gadhafi poses to his people.

“There are a whole range of policies that we are putting in place that have created one of the most powerful international consensuses around the isolation of Mr. Gadhafi and we will continue to pursue those,” Obama said.

“But when it comes to the military action, we are doing so in support of UN Resolution 1973 that specifically talks about humanitarian efforts, and we are going to make sure we stick to that mandate.”

More news below:

U.S. official: Gadhafi’s momentum stopped – CNN.com

Libya crisis: Gaddafi uses civilians as human shields to prevent military targets | Mail Online

Action in Libya Could Last ‘Awhile,’ Official Says

In Japan:

Japan nuclear plant emergency effort delayed by worker evacuation – The Washington Post

Emergency workers lost precious hours Monday in their fight to prevent a full-scale meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after mysterious gray smoke seen emanating from the facility prompted a mass evacuation.

The smoke was spotted just before 4 p.m. coming out of the building that houses the No. 3 reactor, the most badly damaged of the plant’s half-dozen reactors. It tapered off after two hours, but more smoke was seen near reactor No. 2 about 20 minutes later, according to officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

Though authorities concluded the smoke was steam and not coming from the overheated spent fuel pool, they acknowledged that radiation spiked one kilometer west of the facility, rising from 494 microsieverts at 5:40 p.m. to 1,932 at 6:30 p.m.

FT.com / Asia-Pacific – Tepco to pay farmers for losses

Tokyo Electric Power will be made to compensate farmers near its radiation-leaking nuclear power station for losses related to a widening ban on the sale of agricultural products from the area, Japan’s government has said.

In the first direct reference by a high-ranking government official to reparations by Tepco for victims of the world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century, Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary, said the state would “have Tepco take responsibility”.

But he added that if the company is unable to compensate people adequately, “then by law the government will step in and guarantee the claims”.

The cost of cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, compensating victims and buying extra coal, gas and oil to make up for lost nuclear capacity is certain to be in the billions of dollars.

Japan needs to act quickly and ban food sales from areas around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant if food there has excessive levels of radiation, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

Tokyo widened a ban on shipments of leaf vegetables from areas around Fukushima on Monday after radiation in samples exceeded legal limits. The health and welfare ministry said: “The food is still safe to consume but we are taking a precaution because if the situation continues, [the consequences] would be undesirable.”

More on the Food Contamination and Japan’s decision to halt food exports:

Japan quake: Food contamination fears spread beyond Japan’s borders – latimes.com

Japan Halts Some Food Shipments – WSJ.com


News in Yemen:

Yemen showdown looms as army loyalties divide | World news | The Guardian

News in Syria:

Syria deploys troops after protests – Middle East – Al Jazeera English


This is an open live thread, feel free to post your own finds below!