Fukushima Update: A Very Bad Situation

Well, it now turns out that many of my worst fears about Fukushima have been confirmed with the news that TEPCO has finally admitted that Reactor #1 has experienced a meltdown event that may have breached the primary containment vessel. Further, truly alarming levels of radiation are now being reported in and around Tokyo.

The prospects for containing the situation at Reactor #1 are now much dimmer than previously admitted. A melted core is far more difficult to cool because the geometry of the slag heap at the bottom is not nearly as favorable as long thin tubes around which water can be relatively easily circulated.

Worse, if the slag has either melted through the primary containment vessel or somehow leaked out through a fitting that has failed, then the ability to circulate water is even more compromised.

Partial meltdown hits Fukushima nuclear plant

Friday, 13 May 2011

Uranium fuel in at least one of the six reactors at Fukushima has melted, the operator of the crippled nuclear plant has said. The admission effectively torpedoes a plan to flood the overheating fuel with water and bring a quick end to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said water levels have fallen at least one metre below fuel rods inside Reactor 1 and that melted fuel has dropped to the bottom of the reactor's containment vessel. Engineers are working inside the reactor building for the first time since the crisis began when a hydrogen explosion blew off its roof following the huge quake and tsunami on 11 March.

Tepco general manager Junichi Matsumoto told reporters in Tokyo that the discovery means its timetable to entomb the containment reactor vessel in water may have to be scrapped. "We can't deny the possibility that a hole in the pressure vessel caused water to leak," Mr Matsumoto said.

Observers fear that Reactor 3, which contains MOX plutonium fuel, may have also suffered a meltdown, and the situation inside Reactor 2 is still shrouded in mystery.

The idea that fuel rods have melted (a process that begins at around 2,600 degrees F but requires 3,400 degrees F in order to melt the zircaloy cladding) coupled with the admission that the roughly 5-inch-thick steel containment vessel have been breached (presumably by being melted through) is completely, utterly, and inexcusably at odds with the temperature data TEPCO has released to date for the core.

At no time has TEPCO ever reported a temperature higher than ~750 degrees F (400C), and it has more typically reported primary containment temperatures barely one third that high.

With steel being an excellent conductor of heat, it is just simply not possible for melting to occur and for the reported temperatures to have been that low. Either something as basic as temperature monitoring is out of the realm of the possible for TEPCO's engineers (with troubling implications for where we really are in this unfolding disaster), or TEPCO has been falsifying the temperature data that it has been releasing.

This, too, has troubling implications, for it means that the rest of the data - including the radiation readings and isotopes discovered - are all suspect, too. Neither bodes well, so pick your poison.

I am now very suspicious of the water level data, as well, because TEPCO is now admitting (sort of) that that they can't deny the possibility that there's a hole in the primary containment vessel. Unless that hole is magically at the same level as the water readings, there's something wrong with their water level data. The process I am imagining is that the core melted down and somehow punctured or penetrated the bottom of the vessel. If true, then the water level in there is essentially zero, not "one meter below the fuel rods," as claimed.

Sadly, the news that the reactor melted down simply confirms a piece of analysis I performed in a special report for enrolled members back on March 21, 2011.

Worrying Images From Helicopter 'Over Flight' Video

Last week we analyzed a few stills from the helicopter fly-over. This morning I came across this next video, which at first I thought was the same, but I quickly realized it had additional footage taken from the beginning of the fly-over that I had not yet seen. It also seems to have slightly different views than the prior one, so it may be a different video shot with a different camera taken during the same flight (the final images of Reactor #4's smoke line up). It has an enormously interesting but troubling feature in it that I only discovered by crawling through the video frame by frame (that's how desperate I am for any hard information about the reactors).

Here's what I found. Between seconds 30 and 31 in the video, as it scans across the rubble of Reactor #1 (presumably; orientation is not easy at this part of the video), we see a fissure that appears to be emanating a bright white-orange light. The link is here (better hurry, I bet this one gets pulled too), and I've arranged some stills from the video below. They are presented in series, meaning the top one is from second 30 of the video progressing to the bottom one from second 31.

In all, we have numerous frames taken from quite different angles, some in and some out of focus, indicating that what we are looking at is not a video anomaly caused by light reflecting off of some bent metal or other such artifact.

(Watch the video here while you still can.  Again, these come from the 30 and 31 second mark.)

Okay folks, that looks very much like a hot spot. A very hot spot. If we knew what it was made out of, we could probably identify it to within a few degrees of its actual heat value, but we don't know what it is (besides a fissure that is glowing at an orange-white temperature).

But I am disinclined to believe it is a normal fire burning up normal materials, because there have been no reports or videos or photos showing smoke emanating from this reactor. Still, it remains one possibility.

Another less-desirable but not dismissible possibility is that it is coming from some sort of nuclear reaction, be it residual decay heat or even a meltdown-driven process. We just don't have enough information to tell, and the authorities have been less than forthcoming with this bit of information.

A seat-of-the-pants analysis, which borders on the irresponsible because we don't know anything about the camera, its settings, or what is emitting the light, allows us to speculate that the temperature of the hot spot is well over 1,000 degrees Celsius. If it were metal, say iron, glowing that color, our guess would be in the vicinity of 5,000 degrees Celsius.

Here are several views of the glowing spot against a black-body temperature chart (note that a Kelvin is the same thing as a Celsius but they start at different place…zero for Celsius is freezing water and for Kelvin it is absolute zero. To convert, just subtract -273 from the Kelvin scale and you've got Celsius).

Of course, we have no idea about what is glowing down there, so it is impossible to say anything for sure, besides, "That's a very hot spot."

It is not yet time to turn our attention off of this situation. Yes, it is good news that nothing else seems to have exploded or gone much worse in a few days, and for that I am grateful and hopeful. But the utter lack of information leaves me concerned that something is being hidden from our view.

No Chance of Hooking Up All The Pumps

One stated goal of the authorities is to hook up the pumps in Reactors #1, 3, and 4. A power line has been brought in, and this is supposed to provide hope.

Also in that helicopter fly-over was a nice stable view of Reactor #3 from the air. Please look at this and decide for yourself how likely it is that the pumps and wiring and plumbing are all in place to allow for the pumps to be turned on any time soon.

It was only yesterday that functions were fully checked out and restored in the control room - a building that didn't get turned to rubble. Therefore, we might question just how quickly the systems might be restored at the decimated reactor structures, especially if the repair crews are operating out of a Type 74 main battle tank.


My conclusion from this line of thinking is that while we should still hope for speedy restoration of systems, we should plan as if weeks and months might be involved.

As it turns out, we now have a reasonable understanding of what the 'crack of doom' probably was: the heat signature from a melting core.  The title of the piece quoted above is "Japanese Reactor Situation Far Worse Than Admitted," and I guess we can now say that the admissions are finally catching up with what we already knew.

As always, trusting our own abilities to know what we are looking at and make reasonable guesses turns out to be the right course of action, especially during times when official sources have conflicts of interest in being truly open and honest.

I use the term "official sources" loosely because it is also true that it was not just TEPCO that had access to the heat signature data detected above. It must also be true that the US, which conducted numerous fly-overs with sophisticated detection packages, had this information as well.

We had clues about this when the NRC official made an at-the-time shocking statement that a partial meltdown had 'probably' occurred.

Japanese officials detect radioactive incinerator ashes in Tokyo, other prefectures

TOKYO, May 13 (Xinhua) -- A radioactive substance of up to 170,000 becquerels per kilogram was detected in incinerator ashes at a sewage plant in Koto Ward, east Tokyo, in late March, the Kyodo News Agency quoted government sources as saying Friday.

The highly-contaminated ashes were discovered following the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant which escalated through March as a hydrogen explosion exacerbated the disaster and highly radioactive water was both discharged and found to be freely flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

The ashes have since been recycled into materials used for construction, such as cement, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

In addition, the sources revealed that also in late March a radioactive substance, which may or may not have been cesium, measuring 100,000-140,000 becquerels per kg, was found in two other separate sewage facilities in the Itabashi and Ota areas of Tokyo.

Separately on Friday, the local government of Maebashi, the capital city of Gunma Prefecture, said radioactive cesium of 41,000 becquerels per kg was detected in incinerator ashes collected Monday at a water sanitation facility.

This is outrageous and shocking news.  First, because of the levels, and second, because these things were detected in "late March" and then hidden from the public to such an extent that the screaming hot ashes were allowed to be recycled into and used for construction materials.  Now that's a cover-up.

A becquerel is one decay per second. So if you had a Geiger counter up against a radiation source that was emitting just two becquerels, you'd hear a reasonably steady tick-tick-tick-tick sound. By one hundred becquerels, you would be hard-pressed to hear the ticks as separate events - the sound would be a blurred staccato. By one thousand becquerels, it's just a squeal, and there's no point in listening anymore, as your ears are not helpful in trying to gauge the level of radiation.

Now look back at those radiation readings in the hundreds of thousands per kg. They are incredibly hot. An average brick is in the vicinity of a kilogram, so think of holding one in your hands while it emits 170,000 radioactive decays per second.

Okay, so this is a very, very hot reading.

And here's where those readings were detected:

These readings are all within a ten-mile radius of Tokyo.

Further south of Tokyo, in the Kanagawa prefecture seen to the lower left of the above image, tea was recalled:

Radiation Detected in Tea Leaves in Japan

TOKYO—A prefecture just south of Tokyo said it had detected higher-than-permissible amounts of radioactive material in tea leaves, in a reminder that Japan's radioactive-contamination problems are far from over.

The contamination—the first case in nearly a month that an agricultural product has been found tainted outside Fukushima Daiichi's home prefecture—is also the first time that any agricultural item from Kanagawa Prefecture, which includes Yokohama, was found to contain an excessive level of radioactivity.

According to Kanagawa officials, a sample of tea leaves collected May 9 from the city of Minamiashigara, in the western part of the prefecture, was found to contain 550 becquerels of cesium per kilogram in the first test; the second test of the same sample detected 570 becquerels. The difference between the two readings is within the margin of error in such tests, the officials said.

While it is a bit disturbing to have that much radiation be found that far from the Fukushima site, here we note that a Becquerel count in the 550 range is at least a number we can get out minds around. It is still far too high a reading - and I wish we knew the isotopes involved, as they are crucial to determining whether there isn't possibly a greater concern from the type of contamination vs. the radioactivity itself. By this I mean that if the contaminants involved are iodine or strontium, the greater concern is one of bioaccumulation and deposition, which can enormously magnify the health risks for a given level of radioactivity.

What the Japanese people, as well as the rest of the world, need very badly right now is one of the most comprehensive radiation and contamination mapping projects ever conducted.

If I lived over there, I would get myself a sensitive radiation/dosimeter and I would be personally scanning all of the food and water my family consumed, and my immediate surroundings as I lived, worked and played. If levels beyond what I considered safe were detected, I would then leave.

The 170,000 becquerel reading is just so far off the charts, and is so far beyond my personal safety limit, that there's a nearly 100% chance that if I were living in the Tokyo area my family and I would have left as soon as I heard the readings.

Similarly, frighteningly high levels of radiactive cesium were found in the soils around Tokyo, in amounts that are higher than  those TEPCO or the Japanese government have released for most of the Fukushima prefecture itself:

Highly Radioactive Substances Detected in Tokyo

Moving on to the latest developments in Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis highly radioactive substances were detected in parts of Tokyo.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun reports about 3,200 and nearly 2-thousand becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram were found in the soil of Tokyo districts of Koto and Chiyoda, respectively, from testing conducted between April 10th and the 20th.

This amount is higher than what was found in the prefectures near the Fukushima plant and experts warn that other areas may be subject to radiation contamination as clusters of clouds containing radioactive material remain in the atmosphere.

One could reasonably ask how such a finding is possible this many miles away from Fukushima, given the prevailing wind patterns and the (allegedly) lower findings far closer to the plant itself. At least these tests are only a month old...perhaps someday real-time results will become available to the people of Japan.

My faith in TEPCO and the Japanese government (which blocked Greenpeace from conducting its own radiaiton sampling in Japanese territorial waters) is very close to zero.

Fairewinds Associates Has The Best Coverage

The very best ongoing coverage of the Fukushima disaster is coming from Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates. He is experienced and very, very clear about when he knows, what he suspects, and what he doesn't know. I really appreciate that approach, as you almost certainly already know.

He recently postulated that the explosion seen in the Reactor #3 complex was initiated in the spent fuel pool and was much more than a simple hydrogen explosion (which is quite obvious, really, from the video of the explosion), and was an example of what he calls a 'prompt moderated criticality'. 

Without going into all the details, it is a form of what we might call a nuclear, rather than a chemical, explosion.

Significant differences exist between this type of event and what we might call a true nuclear explosion.  But all the same, it was a very exothermic, high-energy release that most likely drew its power from a briefly-sustained fast neutron reaction.

As Mr. Gundersen reported, pieces of the spent fuel pool rods were found up to 2 kilometers away, implying an initial ejection speed in the vicinity of 1,000 miles per hour. But we already knew that the Reactor #3 explosion was something far more energetic than a simple hydrogen explosion, and it's good to know that there's a reasonable explanation even if it is rather frightening to know that such a thing can happen in a spent fuel pool.

By the way, this would be another example of something that many of the nuclear apologists said could 'never happen' - and yet which happened. Other examples would be breach of the primary containment, breach of the secondary containment, and large-scale release of radiation into the environment.

Also it should be noted here that a private food firm in Japan tested its own rice fields 50 km from Fukushima and detected in plutonium on far higher concentrations than any TEPCO or government tests had yet revealed (link: need to translate to English.)

The Remaining Fears

The good news is that nothing has blown up lately at the Fukushima complex, indicating some sort of stability as well as the likelihood that the reactors, while a complete mess, are not going to do anything more dramatic than they've already done.

The bad news is that Reactors #1, #2, and #3 are all really badly damaged and leaking contamination to the outside world. Pouring water on them only creates more radioactive water that will find its way into the groundwater and/or the ocean.

The fear is that the molten cores are still cooking along, slowly working their way out of first the primary containment vessels and that they might slowly eat their way out of the secondary containment vessels, too. If this happens, there will be a very real chance of extremely large-scale release of radioactive contamination -possibly in a rather vigorous manner - should some sort of re-criticality be established or just a good-old-fashioned steam explosion occur if/when the molted cores encounter water.

Can we rule out another, possibly larger, 'prompt criticality' event? No, not at this stage.

Another fear centers on the fact that we've not yet been treated to full disclosure on the amount and types of radiation released. Is there still significant iodine-131 being released more than 60 days after the beginning of this event? If so, that will mean that criticality is still going on or has recently happened? Because by this stage, more than 99% of the initial 1-131 has decayed away.

The difference between fighting the leftover decay heat and trying to deal with re-critical fuel is like night and day. The former is slowly cooling off naturally; the latter is generating heat.

So, yes, we need and deserve to know exactly what the isotopes are that are being found, in what proportions, and whether there are pockets of criticality in any of the damaged reactors.

As Predicted...

Just based on the evidence we had and the amount of damage we could see, it was obvious early on that this event would drag on for months. Now it looks like 'years' is a better guess.  Certainly it is already well past the point of relevance to most news organizations, and it is hard to get good information from major news organizations outside of Japan these days.

The primary worry right now is that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is not yet stabilized. Every time I think they have turned the corner, more news is released that indicates that there are still surprises emerging from the site.

Water escapes, unexpected isotopes are detected (I-131 in the Reactor #4 fuel pool), and meltdowns and reactor breaches are finally admitted.

Given that this is still something of a two-steps-forwards/one-step-backwards situation, we should now consider what will happen if/when a typhoon comes and blows all the contamination inland in far greater quantities than have yet occurred.

Even without renewed criticality generating fresh isotopes, the amount of material that is highly dangerous is immense.

We can hope and pray that they manage to get things under far better control before too much longer, but so far the scale of the disaster has proven a formidable foe.


The Fukushima situation is still not what we might call stabilized, and it may not be for some months yet, especially if re-criticality has occurred.

The amounts of radiation detected all the way south of and in and around Tokyo is alarming, especially the sludge findings in the hundreds of thousands of becquerels.

Anybody living there should invest in radiation detection equipment and begin practicing basic decontamination procedures as a matter of routine if unsafe levels are detected.  Obtaining food from sources as far south and west as possible is prudent practice.

The problem is not the levels of radiation; the danger lurks in the ingestion of contamination, especially of isotopes that tend to concentrate in the body. Strontium, iodine, and cesium all have that tendency.

I wish there were better news to report, but this is the situation as it stands: Fukushima is not over, not by a long shot.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/fukushima-update-a-very-bad-situation-2/

Great follow up report, Thanks, Chris…

We can hope and pray that they manage to get things under far better control before too much longer, but so far the scale of the disaster has proven a formidable foe.
What are the options to "manage things"?

This seems to be important point going forward…
and it seems that transparency would help alot…

What about getting the smart minds / universities from around the world
to collaborate on the best way to manage this “predicament”.

-Bob O

Bob -
Fukushima is now largely a localized event.  The Japanese aren’t quite to the point of “managing things” yet as they are still reacting to events.  Fortunately (so far) the big events are no longer happening - the steam explosions, spent fuel fires, localized criticality.  The Japanese are still very much in a discovery mode and don’t have things stabilized to the point that they can begine cleaning up.  As debris is being cleared away, pools of highly radioactive water/material are being uncovered and leaking resulting in a very dynamic situation of high radiation areas.  When that happens, everything comes to a stop, surveys are conducted and then an updated response plan needs to be developed and implemented.  And then repeated when the next event happens.
I don’t think we are completely out of the woods yet as far as the possibility of another significant event - pressure vessel breach, occurrence of localized criticality, etc. - but we are now 60 days plus past the original casualty and every day that passes is another day less of decay heat generation.  As each day passes, the likelihood of another big event becomes less and less, but we are probably just coming to the clubhouse turn.  We are coming to a point where the damaged fuel matrices are a mixed blessing.  Because of the damage, melting, deformation, whatever, the likelihood of a large scale critical event (prompt neutron or otherwise) while still possible is unlikely.  The fuel geometry just doesn’t exist to support such a reaction - for long.  The flip side is that what is left of the fuel assemblies in both the spent fuel pools and the core(s) is still a huge technical challenge from an exposure control and clean-up effort.  Contamination release and spread and localized high radiation areas are going to be a concern for many months.
I offer all of this couched in the disclaimer that Chris and I have been making since about Day 1 - we are hostage to the accuracy of the information that is available.  Whether or not the information is or isn’t there as a function of an act of omission or commission is huge.  As you point out, more transparency would be nice - until then we can only go with what is available.  And accept the risk of overly conservative speculation on what is going on - at both ends of the good/bad spectrum.

Honestly, if I lived within 200 kilometers of Fukushima, me and my family would be gone by now if we could do it.
However, does anyone have any reasoned, grounded words as to the implications for the rest of the world? I’m especially concerned about Alaska, Hawai’i, and the continental United States (especially the West Coast). I’m sure Canadians, Europeans and Asians - being in the jet stream path - heck everyone in the world, is concerned.

What specifically are the implications regarding the air we breathe, water we drink, and local food supplies (milk, vegetables with broad leaves like spinach, etc.) We all have ourselves and our families - especially those with ongoing pregnancies and children - to worry about.

I’d love to hear from respected and trusted sources like Dr. Martenson, Gunderson, Dogs_in_a_Pile, etc.



Thanks for your great detective work, Chris!!
You are the best “Information Scout” on the planet!

Jeff and family

Since we’re operating in the twilight, I am going to make a guess. . .
The fact of contamination cannot be concealed indefinitely.  Lies, distortions, and obfuscation will yield to the inevitable discovery of widespread and worsening contamination.  Especially in light of the lack of restriction placed on free travel in Japan, and the possibility of shifting winds, rainstorms, etc.  Soon enough, contamination will spread far and wide and will be widely acknowledged.

When the truth finally comes out, and big chunks of Japan (Tokyo?) are partially evacuated, other nations will put in place import bans, or a scheme of scanning every product that arrives from Japan.  The supply chain will be further interrupted, and even more pressure will be felt across a range of industries.  This will dovetail nicely with the end of many existing inventories that have bought us time thus far.  This pressure will dovetail with the other converging catastrophes of 2011 and will accelerate the collapse of the international monetary system.  Etc., etc.

I derive this hypothesis from simple observation of the continuing spread of contamination and the lack of improvement in the situation, the fact that winter is coming and prevailing winds will shift, the lack of implemented controls or enforced evacuation, and the simple self interest of worried governments and corporations.

I cannot see who will want to lend money to the Japanese under these conditions; can you?


Take it a step further. Citizens figure out their gov’t is lying to them. People start getting sick and developing diseases that are contamination related. At some point the public panics not knowing who to believe and how far the contamination has spread. The % of population that can start leaving does with no regard for anything but safety. The govt is useless because no one believes what they say anyway. It just spirals down to complete ghost towns and/or chaos. How close are we to the point of this happening? I think once people start showing sicknesses outside the controlled area the jig is up.Scary, scary times. Meanwhile Japan has been put on the very back burner.

Gunderson has pointed out repeatedly that our EPA has cut back on radiation monitoring following the Fukushima disaster.  In his most recent video he implied that the diffusion effect from the wind effects (blowing contamination over the ocean instead of land)  will make it very hard to accurately monitor cancer rates. As such, I think a cover-up will be easier than it should be, unless the populace of Japan does as Chris suggests and arms itself with geiger counters. Ironically, they have been very hard to get…another interesting coincidence.  If I lived in Japan I would be pretty concerned. I hope they can get radiation detection devices for themselves.
In the US we have seen cover-ups of public health disasters in the past decades,  like illnesses from agent orange exposure and WTC dust related illnesses like sarcoidosis and esophagitis.  The common maneuver that I observe by the PTB in these situations is to DELAY, DELAY, DELAY.  Delay admitting there is a problem, delay admitting that people get sick from the problem, and delay making reparations.  This apparently saves much money and many headaches for those in charge. I guess we can expect many more delays in the release of accurate information related to this event.

Buzz -
Governments have been lying to their citizens since Og charged Korg 1.2 flint rocks when Korg wanted 1 piece of flint to knap an axe back in year 3.
The problem with Fukushima is with the exception of those who have already died from radiation exposure and those with clinically accepted symptoms of Acute Radiation Sickness (ARS) it will be very difficult to conclusively link downstream cancers with exposure received from radioactive contamination from the accident.  Anyone with half a brain will not be surprised to see an increase in the rate of leukemia, thyroid cancer, bone cancer, etc. within the next 10-20 years for those living within the Fukushima Prefecture.  While it is true that one can’t conclusively prove that these cancers were caused by the Fukushima accident, it is also true that you can’t conclusively prove they weren’t.
Denise hits on some very good points about delays with the release of complete and/or accurate information.  But given the way information flows out of dynamic casualties on this scale, and the tremendous challenge in balancing the need for information against the possibility of triggering widespread panic as a result of rapidly released, but incorrect information, I would stop well short of a deliberate coverup and instead attribute it to delays because of the nature of complex casualty evolution. 
Will there be equal outrage concerning the media when it turns out that more people will have died worldwide from iodine poisoning than radiation exposure?
Just my opinion, but I think we are a long way from your ghost town scenario on a large scale.  No doubt certain areas close to Fukushima Daiichi will need to be permanently evacuated, but I doubt you will see the vast barren wastes some are predicting.

the other day I someone posted this link in zerohedge.com:


The animated maps that (at least when I checked) can be downloaded, show ugly colours especially over North America. I don’t know if the concentrations shown are really dangerous, but I’d say it is worth a check.

Apparently they come from the NILO (Norwegian Institute for Air Research).

Well, as always, truth is the first victim in such important events. Unless the truth incidentally happens to be convenient for the powers that be.

Thanks for putting this update out Chris.  The near media blackout on the Fukushima situation has been alarming for me, especially when combined with the cutback in EPA radiation monitoring.  Perhaps I’m just paranoid, but quite frankly I give my government ZERO benefit of the doubt. 
Poet -

I’m in southcentral Alaska and have similar concerns, especially with a 2 year old and a pregnant wife.  I have no special knowledge or insider info, so I’m just acting on the assumption that ‘some’ contamination is in our area and taking what precautions I can, which pretty much boils down to reducing potential radioactive iodine exposure.  We’ve been freezing our milk and have been stocking extra cheese and other moderately-to-long-lasting dairy products and trying to rotate them properly.  I can’t keep enough milk to freeze each one for a full 40 days (its closer to 4 weeks for us so far) and I can’t do anything about cesium or strontium with their longer half-lives, but it gives me a little more peace of mind for little additional effort and adds to our short-term food resiliency (the latter being how I’m ‘sold’ my wife on the idea of freezing our milk ). 
On a side note we had our prenatal visit today, and during the nurse practitioner’s listing of foods to stay away from, I briefly put on my “nutjob hat” and asked her if she’s heard anything or had any thoughts about potential contamination from Japan’s meltdown and individuals at potentially high risk (small children, pregnant women, etc).  She admitted she hasn’t paid much attention to the Fukushima news, but did say there has been no health warnings or recommendations in the U.S. regarding radioactive contamination from Japan.  For whatever that’s worth.  As for myself I’m still treating it as a Very-Low-Risk / High-Impact situation, worth taking reasonable precautions but not drastic changes at this point.  I still haven’t decided yet how this may change what fish I’ll be fishing for and stocking the freezer with this season.

  • Nickbert

Chris, Since you have been studying this and  watching it so closely, I wonder if you and your family have changed your lives/consumption patterns at all in response to the radiation or possible contamination in your neck of the woods?

[quote=nickbert]I’m in southcentral Alaska and have similar concerns, especially with a 2 year old and a pregnant wife.
Congratulations on your upcoming bundle of joy!
I agree, there’s not much that can be done about milk. I originally bought ultrapastureurized organic milk with expiration dates around early May (or earlier when it was possible) to avoid packaging dates after March 11. But now that’s pretty much done and my wife is not interested in canned or powdered milk from longer ago. Just plain organic for the wife again… Can’t really do much about the longer-lasting fission byproducts now. At least we are not in Tokyo. C’est la vie!
By the way - totally unsolicited - we swear by Nordic Naturals for our twins’ primary prenatal DHA source, and continue to do so for their nursing, since we don’t have as easy access to that delicious Alaska wild salmon and anyway are concerned about mercury and pesticides in unprocessed fish oils. What I particularly like (post-Fukushima) is that their prenatal DHA is from the Southern Hemisphere:
Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil products are made from 100% Arctic cod livers, from wild Arctic cod (Skrei) that are sustainably harvested from northern Norwegian waters. Nordic Naturals Kenai Wild™ Alaskan Salmon Oil is made from pink and sockeye salmon, sustainably harvested wild from the Cook Inlet in the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. All other Nordic Naturals products are made from wild, sustainably harvested sardines and anchovies from the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru.
"Molecular distillation removes impurities (heavy metals, dioxides, etc.), saturated fats, and other undesirable organic compounds. Molecular distillation is gentle with exceptionally low heat residence time and is performed in a vacuum to further reduce heat requirement. All time and temperature specifications are proprietary, but we can assure you that no trans fats are created during any of our distillation processes. Any potential impurities and saturated fats are distilled out of the oil, leaving only the key beneficial components of the fish oil."http://www.nordicnaturals.com/en/FAQ’s/FAQs/389
We buy our Nordic Naturals prenatal DHA at Sprouts, but I know it’s sold at various health food stores and on-line.
As for prenatal vitamins, we swear by Rainbow Light (sometimes the 6-a-day one, sometimes the 1-a-day one). Still in use since the babies are still nursing).

From a 5 minuit expert. I found this snippet.

Oxidation of zirconium by water is accompanied by release of hydrogen gas. This oxidation is accelerated at high temperatures, e.g. inside a reactor core if the fuel assemblies are no longer completely covered by liquid water and insufficiently cooled.[8] Metallic zirconium is then oxidized by the protons of water to form hydrogen gas according to the following redox reaction:

Zr + 2 H2O → ZrO2 + 2 H2

Perhaps that is where the hydrogen came from.


Well, now the admission has finally come out that it was the entire core, and it happened within hours of the quake/tsunami:

TEPCO admits nuclear meltdown occurred at Fukushima reactor 16 hours after quake

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) admitted for the first time on May 15 that most of the fuel in one of its nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant had melted only about 16 hours after the March 11 earthquake struck a wide swath of northeastern Japan and triggered a devastating tsunami.

According to TEPCO, the operator of the crippled nuclear power plant, the emergency condenser designed to cool the steam inside the pressure vessel of the No. 1 reactor was working properly shortly after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake, but it lost its functions around 3:30 p.m. on March 11 when tsunami waves hit the reactor.

Based on provisional analysis of data on the reactor, the utility concluded that the water level in the pressure vessel began to drop rapidly immediately after the tsunami, and the top of the fuel began to be exposed above the water around 6 p.m. Around 7:30 p.m., the fuel was fully exposed above the water surface and overheated for more than 10 hours. At about 9 p.m., the temperature in the reactor core rose to 2,800 degrees Celsius, the melting point for fuel. At approximately 7:50 p.m., the upper part of the fuel started melting, and at around 6:50 a.m. on March 12, a meltdown occurred.

On the reason why it took over two months after the earthquake to reveal the information, TEPCO said it had only been able to start obtaining detailed data on the temperature and pressure in the reactor for analysis in early May.

Junichiro Matsumoto, a senior TEPCO official, said, “Because there is similar damage to the fuel rods at the No. 2 and 3 reactors, the bottoms of their pressure vessels could also have been damaged.” He said the utility would carry out similar analysis on the two reactors.

Hiroaki Koide, professor of nuclear safety engineering at Kyoto University, was critical of TEPCO.

“They could have assumed that when the loss of power made it impossible to cool down the reactor, it would soon lead to a meltdown of the core. TEPCO’s persistent explanation that the damage to the fuel had been limited turned out to be wrong,” he said.

I had someone email me with a relatively hostile assessment that the main post above is utterly wrong because "zircaloy does not 'melt' it undergoes a chemical reaction with water that leads to hydrogen formation and oxidized zirconium (and that therefore the entire post was bunk.

Note that in the above article we find that a temperature of 2,800 celcius is cited, which pencils out to just over 5,000 °F.  

Zircaloy does indeed melt, but only if the temperature is over 3,410 °F.  

Debris bed formation. "When the temperature in the core reaches about 1,700 K (2,600 °F), molten control materials [1,6] will flow to and solidify in the space between the lower parts of the fuel rods where the temperature is comparatively low. Above 1,700 K (2,600 °F), the core temperature may escalate in a few minutes to the melting point of zircaloy [2,150 K (3,410 °F)] due to increased oxidation rate.

When the oxidized cladding breaks, the molten zircaloy, along with dissolved UO2 [1,7] would flow downward and freeze in the cooler, lower region of the core. Together with solidified control materials from earlier down-flows, the relocated zircaloy and UO2 would form the lower crust of a developing cohesive debris bed."[6]

(Wiki - source)

I think it's safe to say that both oxidization and melting were part of the process, and that it really doesn't matter at all what we call it.  The core is now in a pile at the bottom.  But is it the bottom of the RPV or the concrete containment vessel?  That's the main question right now.

Interestingly, TEPCO was persistent in describing a state of partial meltdown when they really had no idea at all what was going on in there or what had happened.  All the way along they were describing a partial meltdown, and above atmospheric pressure in the RPV, and low-ish temperatures, all without really being sure about any of those readings.

Now we have to wonder about those readings…if the core went to 5,000 °F we might reasonably wonder just how many instruments could survive or remain accurate after being exposed to even half that abuse.

TEPCO was certain, as were we, when at the +18 hour point they began pumping seawater into the system. 
Yet, for all the problems and missteps, TEPCO has rewritten the book on accident response - they were up against a near Design Basis Accident, and while there is no doubt a lot of bad has come out of this accident (and will continue for some time), there will also be invaluable lessons learned going forward for the rest of the nuclear power industry.
The challenge will be whether or not we choose to learn the lessons.

Dogs you are probably right. It probably will be a slow, painful, long drawn out situation. I’ve read on your background in Nuclear arena and if you think it is going to be a slow drawn out affair you are probably right. I was reading into it that the levels of radiation and contamination were at such levels and were probably being hidden by the govt that once people started getting sick or dying fairly quick deaths that you had a real possibility of a mass escape and anger at those that could have warned but chose not to prevent panic.I guess my ? is the levels Chris is talking about seem so big. How long can the human body take it before it breaks down. Probably unknown at this point.
Thanks for thoughts.

[quote=BuzzTatom]Dogs you are probably right. It probably will be a slow, painful, long drawn out situation. I’ve read on your background in Nuclear arena and if you think it is going to be a slow drawn out affair you are probably right. I was reading into it that the levels of radiation and contamination were at such levels and were probably being hidden by the govt that once people started getting sick or dying fairly quick deaths that you had a real possibility of a mass escape and anger at those that could have warned but chose not to prevent panic.
I guess my ? is the levels Chris is talking about seem so big. How long can the human body take it before it breaks down. Probably unknown at this point.
Thanks for thoughts.
Buzz -
Actually, the effects associated with high levels of exposure are relatively well known and documented.  The table in the following link is pretty good.  I’m not sure which unit of exposure you are used to seeing (grays, Sievert, Rem) - the table is in Grays, I used Rem in my career.  The conversion of Grays to Rem or Sieverts is 1 Gray = 100 Rem = 1 Sievert.  It’s kind of in the weeds, but using Rem and Sieverts expresses the exposure from Grays in terms of equivalent biological damage.
Here’s the link:
I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in the “reports” that information is being deliberately hidden.  Regardless of what the government is/was reporting, if contamination and radiation levels were high enough, people would be dying of ARS whether or not the government was publishing information on such levels.  We know that somewhere between three and six people have died from ARS (almost certainly initial emergency response workers).  We are now about 10 weeks past the accident so anyone that received a large acute dose in the days immediately following the accident has either died from ARS or they aren’t going to.
The unknown here is the long-term affects of low level exposure.  There are any number of clinical studies that state that you can’t conclusively attribute certain cancers and illnesses with low level exposure, but as I have repeatedly said, the studies also can’t inconclusively prove that those cancers were NOT caused by low level exposure. 
You also have the added pleasantry of internally deposited radioactivity.  Outside of the immediate accident area, this is going to be the primary long term concern.  Internally deposited radioactivity is a particular problem because it is in such proximity to sensitive tissues and organs and it just sits there bombarding the surrounding tissues with high energy emissions.  Some cells flat out die, others repair themselves, but many replicate the damage they received and that’s where the downstream troubles can originate.  As long as the radionuclide is still within the body it will be a significant concern.  Children are particularly at risk since their cells are growing, dividing and replicating at a much higher rate than older people.  The Fukushima accident will be pretty nasty to the surrounding areas because some of the radionuclides released are preferentially deposited - I-131 in the thyroid, Sr-90 as a bone seeker and Cs-137 due to uptake in plants that get passed along to milk through ruminant grazing as well as edible plant uptake via their root system. 
As far as people getting sick and dying rapidly, for the general population in the Fukushima Prefecture, we are already past that point.  The risk of any of them developing ARS is pretty low - as long as we don’t have another large scale release from the stricken reactor complexes.  The only people at a significant risk of developing ARS are the emergency workers trying to stabilize the accident site.  So in short, if you aren’t an emergency worker at Fukushima Daiichi and you haven’t died from ARS, you probably won’t.
That’s what makes the next few decades such a terrible tragedy.  People are very likely going to die from cancers and other diseases caused by low level exposure from radioactive contamination spread from the accident site, but the medical community won’t be able to definitively state that these cancers were caused by this exposure.  Common sense would lead one to a different conclusion.

[quote=nestor_andreu]Hi,the other day I someone posted this link in zerohedge.com:
The animated maps that (at least when I checked) can be downloaded, show ugly colours especially over North America. I don’t know if the concentrations shown are really dangerous, but I’d say it is worth a check.
Apparently they come from the NILO (Norwegian Institute for Air Research).
Well, as always, truth is the first victim in such important events. Unless the truth incidentally happens to be convenient for the powers that be.[/quote]

rfischer -It’s hard to lend much creedence to a clip that leads with Sean Connery in a red spandex singlet…I will now pour bleach into my mind’s eye.
All that aside, without access to the source data we really don’t know what we are looking at.  I highly doubt the accuracy of the claims and the validity of the information being presented.