Saturday, April 6, 2013

US Authors Claim 16% Increase in 5 States in the US in Congenital Hypothyroidism in Infants Born After #Fukushima Accident

Authors Dr. Joseph J. Mangano and Dr. Janette D. Sherman also said in June 2011 that there was a 35% spike in infant mortality in the US northwest after Fukushima (and refuted by Scientific American). Later that year, they published a paper that said about 14,000 babies died because of radiation from Fukushima (again countered by Scientific American).

This time, they compared the cases of congenital hypothyroid cases in infants in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington from March 17 to December 31, 2011 with those for the same period in 2010, and found the number of cases in 2011 was "16% greater", with the largest divergence of 28% occurring in the period between March 17 and June 30.

From Scientific Research Publishing, March 2013:

Elevated airborne beta levels in Pacific/West Coast US States and trends in hypothyroidism among newborns after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown


Joseph J. Mangano, Janette D. Sherman


Various reports indicate that the incidence of congenital hypothyroidism is increasing in developed nations, and that improved detection and more inclusive criteria for the disease do not explain this trend entirely. One risk factor documented in numerous studies is exposure to radioactive iodine found in nuclear weapons test fallout and nuclear reactor emissions. Large amounts of fallout disseminated worldwide from the meltdowns in four reactors at the Fukushima-Dai-ichi plant in Japan beginning March 11, 2011 included radioiodine isotopes. Just days after the meltdowns, I-131 concentrations in US precipitation was measured up to 211 times above normal. Highest levels of I-131 and airborne gross beta were documented in the five US States on the Pacific Ocean. The number of congenital hypothyroid cases in these five states from March 17-December 31, 2011 was 16% greater than for the same period in 2010, compared to a 3% decline in 36 other US States (p < 0.03). The greatest divergence in these two groups (+28%) occurred in the period March 17-June 30 (p < 0.04). Further analysis, in the US and in other nations, is needed to better understand any association between iodine exposure from Fukushima-Dai-ichi and congenital hypothyroidism risk. Link to the full paper (PDF):

The authors say that "All US newborns diagnosed with primary CH [Congenital Hypothyroidism] born March 17-December 31, 2011 were exposed in utero to radioactive fallout from the Fukushima meltdowns" (page 5 of the paper).

I don't know if it is scientifically valid to compare only two years, and to exclude the period from January 1 to March 16, particularly when the number of babies born with Congenital Hypothyroidism is not that large. In their previous study of infant mortality rate (which is volatile to begin with), the authors only used 4-week period prior to the accident. If the period prior to that period were used, the authors would have found out that what looked like a huge "increase" after the Fukushima accident was totally within the range for the year. In their current study on Congenital Hypothyroidism, the five states also happen to have large Hispanic and Asian populations who tend to have much higher incidence of Congenital Hypothyroidism, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From the paper (click to enlarge), "Table 4. Confirmed primary congenital hypothyroid cases March 17-December 31 (2010 and 2011), 41 US States":

In Japan, the rumor of the study (as most non-scientists don't bother to or cannot read an English paper, it remains a "rumor") have already morphed into "One-third of babies born on the west coast of the United states after Fukushima have thyroid abnormalities!"

In the US, a vague headline like this, "Study: 28% Increase In Thyroid Problems In Babies Born After Fukushima in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington", spreads widely. It is even quoted by some on Japanese Twitter. Thyroid problems.

About Congenital Hypothyroidism for non-experts, from wiki:

Congenital hypothyroidism (CH) is a condition of thyroid hormone deficiency present at birth. Approximately 1 in 4000 newborn infants has a severe deficiency of thyroid function, while even more have mild or partial degrees. If untreated for several months after birth, severe congenital hypothyroidism can lead to growth failure and permanent mental retardation. Treatment consists of a daily dose of thyroid hormone (thyroxine) by mouth. Because the treatment is simple, effective, and inexpensive, nearly all of the developed world practices newborn screening to detect and treat congenital hypothyroidism in the first weeks of life.

Around the world, the most common cause of congenital hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency, but in most of the developed world and areas of adequate environmental iodine, cases are due to a combination of known and unknown causes. Most commonly there is a defect of development of the thyroid gland itself, resulting in an absent (athyreosis) or underdeveloped (hypoplastic) gland. A hypoplastic gland may develop higher in the neck or even in the back of the tongue. A gland in the wrong place is referred to as ectopic, and an ectopic gland at the base or back of the tongue is a lingual thyroid. Some of these cases of developmentally abnormal glands result from genetic defects, and some are "sporadic," with no identifiable cause. One Japanese study found a statistical correlation between certain organochlorine insecticides and dioxin-like chemicals in the milk of mothers who had given birth to infants with congenital hypothyroidism.

Congenital hypothyroidism can also occur due to genetic defects of thyroxine or triiodothyronine synthesis within a structurally normal gland. Among specific defects are thyrotropin (TSH) resistance, iodine trapping defect, organification defect, thyroglobulin, and iodotyrosine deiodinase deficiency. In a small proportion of cases of congenital hypothyroidism, the defect is due to a deficiency of thyroid stimulating hormone, either isolated or as part of congenital hypopituitarism.

I suppose the authors want to point to the possibility of genetic defects due to radiation from Fukushima.

Here's US ABC News San Diego Station's reporter Michael Chen quoting the authors and claiming that 39% of infants in California "were more likely to develop congenital hypothyroidism".

Never mind that it is not "likely to develop", because babies are born with it ("congenital"), and promptly treated in the first weeks of their lives. Mr. Chen doesn't ask a silly question like "What if the entire year was taken into account?" or "What is the long-term trend, not just two years?"

The authors Mangano and Sherman say in the paper that "annual data is made easily available on the internet", but I can't seem to find it so far. If readers can post links to such data, I'd much appreciate.


(Update 4/7/2013) Oh great. ABC San Diego news is being spread wide to the Twitter followers of Kouta Kinoshita...

(Weekend Movie) The Area: A Journey through the Hanford Nuclear Reservation

From the official Youtube channel by Department of Energy Richland Operations Office, uploaded on October 17, 2011. (So don't expect details of the plutonium sludge, leaks, or tanks that may blow up...)

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: At Least 120 Tonnes of Contaminated Water with 710 Billion Bq of Beta Nuclides Leaked from One of In-The-Ground Water Storage Locations

(4/9/2013 The latest on the leak in the new post)


That's according to TEPCO as of April 6, 2013.

The latest is that there may be additional 47 tonnes of the water leaked (Kyodo News 4/6/2013), and that may be from the in-the-ground storage No.3 (TEPCO, latest email to the press (No.12) on 4/7/2013).

And there is a possibility that instead of 710 billion becquerels of all beta in the water there may be 35 trillion becquerels of all beta.

But first thing first, here's my best effort of summarizing the leak incident.

Yesterday, I watched part of the press conference, I read articles, I read tweets, togetters, and I still didn't clearly get what exactly happened and how - why the water was leaking, how much was leaking, when they found out about it, what was their plan, why the water was stored there in the first place.

At least I sort of figured out the last question. The in-the-ground storage, where the leakage occurred, was not supposed to be used for storing the waste water after the Reverse Osmosis (desalination) treatment with high salt content and high beta nuclides. But the multi-nuclide removal system ALPS couldn't start as planned (September last year; TEPCO is now doing the hot trial run), the water treated by SARRY or Kurion's system (cesium removal) had to be stored somewhere to wait for the treatment by ALPS. So, this water is stored in the tanks made for the post-RO waste water. So, for the post-RO waste water, they started to use in-the-ground storage (there are 7 of them) in early February this year, which was originally meant for post-ALPS treatment water.

For the leak of contaminated water, this is what I have gathered from Jiji, Asahi, NHK, and TEPCO:

  • TEPCO dug up 7 locations in the Fukushima I Nuke Plant compound to create in-the-ground water storage, and has started to use them on February 1, 2013. Total capacity of these 7 storage locations is 58,000 cubic meters (tonnes).

  • Construction was carried out by Maeda Construction. They dug up the ground, installed layers of liners, poured concrete to protect and secure the liners, and put in the plastic water storage devices (see the photos below).

  • The storage location 2 holds 13,000 tonnes of the waste water, with max capacity of 14,000 tonnes. This is where they noticed the leak.

  • They measured beta nuclides (35 Bq/cm3) during the routine sampling test of water on April 3 in the drain hole on the northeast corner, and on April 5, 5,838 Bq/cm3 of all beta from the leak detection hole on the northeast corner between the bentonite sheet and unwoven fabric sheet/HDPE sheet. That's when TEPCO determined that the water was leaking into the ground.

  • The storage location 2 is 60 x 52 x 6 meters. TEPCO had confirmed the strength of the protective sheets, but the company did not do a leak test prior to actual use.

  • TEPCO estimated the amount of leak using the data from the water gauge in the storage, and came up with the number of about 120 tonnes, or slightly under 1 percent of the waste water stored. Calculating from the all beta from the detection hole (5,838 Bq/cm3), TEPCO says 710 billion becquerels of radioactive materials may have leaked.

There is also confusing information as to how full these in-the-ground storage locations already are.


Why? Because the number TEPCO used to calculate the amount of radioactive materials in the leaked water was from the water taken from the leak detection hole in the bottom protection layer, and NOT the waste water in the storage.

So, how many becquerels of all beta does the waste water in the storage have?

  • Asahi Shinbun article which I consulted did say "290,000 Bq/cm3 strontium" in the water in the storage, and that's the number reported by TEPCO on March 6, 2013 as the amount of all beta in the waste water after the Reverse Osmosis treatment. Again, that is the waste water being stored in the holes in the ground with several layers of sheets...

  • Using that number, 290,000 Bq/cm3, instead of 5,838 Bq/cm3, there could be nearly 35 trillion becquerels of all beta in 120 tonnes of the leaked waste water.

  • In the press conference on April 6, TEPCO didn't disclose the radioactivity of the stored waste water, and none of the reporters at the press conference seems to have asked about it.

Here's the link to a togetter in Japanese discussing the above points.

From TEPCO's handout for the press, here's what a in-the-ground water storage facility looks like:

The quality of information coming out of TEPCO's press conference has markedly gone downhill in the past few months.

In the first few weeks of the nuclear accident in 2011 when one of TEPCO's managers who gave press conference was Vice President Muto, very few reporters understood what Mr. Muto was saying. Not because Mr. Muto, who is a nuclear engineer, was obfuscating but because reporters didn't know much about nuclear reactors/plants at all. They didn't know what to ask, they didn't comprehend the answers they got. Mr. Muto himself didn't seem to understand that the (mostly) young reporters didn't have a clue of what he was talking about.

Then came Mr. Matsumoto, TEPCO's PR spokesman, sometime in late March-early April time frame. The reporters were getting up to speed, and Mr. Matsumoto, after initial bureaucratic awkwardness, turned out to be OK, giving out technical information in more or less straight-forward manner. I was impressed when he explained with a straight face, no pretense, in the press conference how his company was trying to stop the leak of highly contaminated water (probably from Reactor 2 turbine building) in early April of 2011 with baby diaper polymers and shredded newspaper, using onsen bath salts as tracer.

Then came Mr. Ono, new spokesman, starting this year. Suddenly, TEPCO's press conference has become muddled again. Mr. Ono, whose manner of speech is not clear to begin with, has a convoluted and confusing way of explaining things to the reporters who are by now quite knowledgeable about things nuclear and particularly about Fukushima I Nuke Plant. I've seen them often lose patience with Mr. Ono, who often becomes defensive. He does not seem to know well enough of the subject matter (nuclear, and this plant in particular) to be able to speak clearly. The reporters, in turn, reacting to this muddled-through way of communication, have reverted back to the initial state of not knowing what to ask.

People say "It's the company, TEPCO". I'm inclined to say it's this particular spokesman who is wiping out what credibility TEPCO had accumulated in the past 2 years by trying to be straight-forward in disclosing information.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Just in: #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool Cooling System Has Stopped (Now Resumed)

(UPDATE 4) Cooling of the Reactor 3 SFP resumed at 5:20PM (TEPCO's press conference).


(UPDATE 3) TEPCO says they were setting up a fence around the power board in question to prevent "small animals" from entering, and a ground fault may have occurred, triggering the alarm and stopping the Reactor 3 SFP cooling. So it was the fear of a mouse, not a mouse itself, that may have caused the stoppage.


(UPDATE 2) Alarm was sounded inside the Anti-seismic Building (headquarters at the plant), says Jiji, quoting Nuclear Regulatory Authority. That's rather odd.

(UPDATE) Jiji Tsushin reports TEPCO is expecting to resume cooling within today.


Again, it seems to be from an electrical problem. Details not yet known. (Another mouse, I wonder?)

TEPCO's email to the press (4/5/2013):


Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool alternative cooling system stopped


At 2:27PM today, April 5, there was an alarm indicating failure of a power board, and we confirmed that the alternative cooling system for the Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool had stopped.


We are investigating the situation at the location right now.


The temperature of the Reactor 3 SFP as of 2PM today (April 5) is 15.1 degrees Celsius.


There is no change in radiation at monitoring posts.


As soon as we find out more, we will let you know.

Japan's Debt Problem Visualized

(UPDATE on JGB yield) After hitting the all-time low of 0.315% in the morning market, the yield on JGB 10 years reversed violently in the afternoon market, hitting as high as 0.65% when the bond futures started to collapse. Nikkei Shinbun quotes a bond strategist who spoke the truth:


In the low-yield environment, BOJ is the only buyer [of JGB]. When investors start to sell, investment banks (who cannot buy and hold bonds) has to sell futures to avoid losses, resulting in the sharp drop in the JGB futures.

That's what you get, when the central bank corners the market. Japan's central bank is 55% owned by the national government.


A very good vid from Addogram:

Rise of the interest rate on the government bond to 4% and it's game over, the video says. Right now, in the broken bond market that from now on only front-runs Bank of Japan who will purchase 70% of issues each month, the yield of 10-year JGB is 0.315%, the historical new low. According to Nikkei Shinbun, the market thinks it will breach 0.3% soon.

In the meantime, the Japanese stock market seems to be broken, thanks to the crazy central bankers working hard for the LDP administration. While the rest of Asia falls due to the growth and job concerns in the US, one of their chief export destinations, worries over the new strain of bird flu and worries over North Korea, Nikkei's on a crack, breaching 13,000 for the first time since the so-called "Lehman crisis" as the Japanese call the global financial crisis triggered by a host of financial meltdowns in the prominent US financial institutions including Lehman Brothers and AIG.

The Nikkei Average is currently up 475 points to 13,109, with the firm (almost religious) belief that the financial maneuvering will result in the prosperous real economy and that the higher stock market means the better real economy.

In a country where the Marxian economics is still taught and researched in universities, many Japanese don't have a clue how these central bankers worldwide think and behave. They clearly think the bankers have the best interest of average citizens in mind.

Just like in matters nuclear and radiation, "Well I don't know much about it but the government and those experts say it is safe, so who am I to argue?"

#Fukushima Prefecture Installs Fixed Radiation Monitoring Posts, Radiation Levels Drop by Half

Talk about retarded. Fukushima Prefecture replaces portable radiation monitoring posts with fixed ones on April Fool's Day, and one of the local newspaper dutifully reports the results of the new measurement.

Surprise! Radiation levels dropped by half, using the fixed monitoring posts! The radiation level in Koriyama City went from 0.51 microsievert/hour on March 31 to 0.26 on April 1!

Even the Fukushima local residents thought the numbers were suspicious. It turns out that the fixed monitoring posts were installed at locations that had been just "decontaminated", and the measuring unit was changed from sievert to gray.

First, the local newspaper Fukushima Minyu on April 2, 2013, whose article gives an impression that it was because of the "portable" (temporary) nature of the monitoring posts that were giving elevated radiation numbers, with no mention of decontamination or change of measuring unit:


Major "monitoring posts" in 6 regions replaced to fixed type


On April 1, the prefectural government replaced the portable radiation monitoring posts in 6 regions out of 7 regions in the prefecture with the fixed ones.


As the result, the air radiation levels measured in these 6 regions generally dropped lower. In some cities the radiation dropped almost by half; the radiation level in Koriyama City went from 0.51 microsievert/hour on March 31 before the replacement to 0.27 microsievert/hour, and the radiation level in Minamisoma City went from 0.3 microsievert/hour to 0.14 microsievert/hour.


Koriyama City, which saw the radiation level drop significantly, moved the location of the monitoring post by 80 meters [from the original location]. Minamisoma City also moved the location by 45 meters. According to the prefectural government, the new locations were selected so that the power supply for the monitoring posts was secure and that the access to public facilities wouldn't be hindered. The new locations are also close to the roads so that the monitoring posts can be easily seen by residents.

Residents, many of whom have been using their personal survey meters since the accident, are skeptical. FNN Local News reported on April 2, 2013 that radiation levels as measured in Koriyama City got significantly lower in one day. Its reporter spoke with the government official, and found out that, in addition to installing the fixed monitoring posts in locations that just got decontaminated, they also changed the unit of measurement from microsievert/hour to microgray/hour, shaving off 20% in numbers:


Fukushima Prefecture publishes the air radiation levels in 7 locations inside the prefecture on its website. The chart that plots the radiation level in Mid Prefecture District from March 26 shows 0.5 microsievert/hour at 3PM, until April 1, when it dropped by half to 0.27. Many residents are asking the prefectural government about this change.


Fukushima Prefecture measures the radiation level for Mid Prefecture District at Koriyama Common Government Building in Hayama district of Koriyama City.


The air radiation level of Koriyama City as published [by the prefectural government] had been measured by a portable monitoring post [before April 1]. When we checked with our survey meter, the radiation level was over 0.4 microsievert/hour.


Up until March 31 this year, the number at this portable monitoring post was published as the radiation level for Mid Prefecture District.


However, starting April 1, the number at the fixed monitoring post installed at a location 80 meters away from the portable monitoring post has been used.

県中振興局の鈴木 仁副部長は「(低くなっている一番の理由は?)これは、舗装面で風がずいぶん当たって­いた場所だし、せっかくの施設(設備)なので、設置する前に、ここの一角だけは除染し­た」と話した。

(When we asked what contributed most to the lower number,) Hitoshi Suzuki, Deputy General Manager of Mid Prefecture District Development Bureau, said "This location [new location] is on a paved surface exposed to wind. Since we were installing brand-new monitoring post, we decontaminated the corner on which the monitoring post was to be installed."


So, the fixed monitoring post was installed on a spot that had been decontaminated.


Mr. Suzuki also said, "Gray measures physical quantity of radiation, and sievert measures the effect of radiation on human bodies". (We asked, "Is the lower number from measuring in gray?") "Well, that difference is shown this time, [with measuring unit going from] sievert to gray."


So, changing the unit in which the number is published has contributed to the lower number. By changing from "microsievert" to "microgray" starting April 1, the number is estimated to get lower by 20%.


Mr. Suzuki said, "We thought it was the best location in the Government Building compound, as residents can see easily and it is a facility to be used for a long time."


At the Minamisoma Common Government Building, the radiation level has dropped from 0.30 microsievert/hour to 0.14 microsievert/hour.


Fukushima Prefecture says the government will respond to residents' queries properly and sincerely.

Properly and sincerely. Here's very bureaucratic-sounding Mr. Suzuki, in FNN News, explaining how they decontaminated the site before installing the monitoring posts:

The entire FNN news clip:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

(UPDATED) Bank of Japan to Buy 7 Trillion Yen JGBs Per Month, Double Monetary Base in 2 Years to Cause 2% Inflation

(UPDATE) Bank of Japan's English press release on their money-printing exercise:


Which they, and the politicians and economists in Japan (as in elsewhere), call "price stabilization". (Newspeak, anyone?)

Bank of Japan goes full retard, as Zero Hedge would say. BOJ under Mr. Kuroda, former career bureaucrat at the powerful Ministry of Finance, will:

  • Buy 7 trillion yen (US$75 billion) worth of long-dated Japanese government bonds (JGBs) every month; and

  • Double the monetary base in two years.

The Nikkei goes full retard, too:

An article earlier today at CNBC asked, "How closely is Kuroda emulating Bernanke?" Now you know. Extremely close.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

US Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board: Hanford Nuclear Waste Tanks Could Explode Because of Hydrogen Buildup

Hanford tanks are not only leaking but they could also explode. That would be spectacular, wouldn't it? (Defense in Depth, anyone? NRC commissioners?)

But the Board's comment came during the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, which will hold confirmation hearing next week for the new Energy Secretary nominee. As AP's article indicates, it's part political jockeying among Senators, although the danger is real.

From Huffington Post quoting AP in its entirety, it seems (4/2/2013; emphasis is mine):

Hanford Nuclear Waste Tanks Could Explode, Agency Warns


YAKIMA, Wash. -- Underground tanks that hold a stew of toxic, radioactive waste at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site pose a possible risk of explosion, a nuclear safety board said in advance of confirmation hearings for the next leader of the Energy Department.

State and federal officials have long known that hydrogen gas could build up inside the tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, leading to an explosion that would release radioactive material. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recommended additional monitoring and ventilation of the tanks last fall, and federal officials were working to develop a plan to implement the recommendation.

The board expressed those concerns again Monday to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and had sought the board's perspective about cleanup at Hanford.

The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. It spends billions of dollars to clean up the 586-square-mile site neighboring the Columbia River, the southern border between Washington and Oregon and the Pacific Northwest's largest waterway.

Federal officials have said six underground tanks at the site are leaking into the soil, threatening the groundwater, and technical problems have delayed construction of a plant to treat the waste for long-term safe disposal.

Those issues are likely to come up during confirmation hearings next week for Energy Secretary-nominee Ernest J. Moniz. The fears of explosion and contamination could give Washington and Oregon officials more clout as they push for cleanup of the World War II-era site.

Central to the cleanup are the removal of 56 million gallons of highly radioactive, toxic waste left from plutonium production from underground tanks. Many of the site's single-shell tanks, which have just one wall, have leaked in the past, and state and federal officials announced in February that six such tanks are leaking anew.

"The next Secretary of Energy - Dr. Moniz - needs to understand that a major part of his job is going to be to get the Hanford cleanup back on track, and I plan to stress that at his confirmation hearing next week," Wyden said in a statement Tuesday.

The nuclear safety board warned about the risk of explosion to Wyden, who wanted comment on the safety and operation of Hanford's tanks, technical issues that have been raised about the design of a plant to treat the waste in those tanks, and Hanford's overall safety culture.

In addition to the leaks, the board noted concerns about the potential for hydrogen gas buildup within a tank, in particular those with a double wall, which contain deadly waste that was previously pumped out of the leaking single-shell tanks.

"All the double-shell tanks contain waste that continuously generates some flammable gas," the board said. "This gas will eventually reach flammable conditions if adequate ventilation is not provided."

It also noted technical challenges with the waste treatment plant, which is being built to encase the waste in glasslike logs for long-term disposal. Those challenges must be resolved before parts of the plant can be completed, the board said.

The federal government spends about $2 billion annually on Hanford cleanup – roughly one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. About $690 million of that goes toward design and construction of the plant. Design of the plant, last estimated at more than $12.3 billion, is 85 percent complete, while construction is more than 50 percent complete.

The problems identified by the board show that the plant schedule will be delayed further and the cost will keep rising, Wyden said, adding: "There is a real question as to whether the plant, as currently designed, will work at all."

Dr. Ernest J. Moniz, President Obama's Energy Secretary nominee, is a nuclear physicist at MIT. He is a founding member of The Cyprus Institute, based in Nicosia, Cyprus, a private, "non-profit research and education institution with a scientific and technological orientation" according to Wikipedia.

Whatever this institution is, I wonder if they managed to move their money out of Cyprus in a timely manner.

(OT) UN Goes For Guns

Drudge Report page image (4/2/2013)

Mr. Obama wants to use more executive orders, bypass the Congress and create sweeping gun-control legislation. Mr. Obama's supporters urge him to do so.

I guess there is nothing better to do for these people.

Meanwhile, town of Nelson in Georgia passed the law requiring the head of each household to own a gun to keep crime down.

It is very interesting that in the both sides of the Pacific Ocean (the US and Japan) the current administrations are eager to trash their respective Constitutions.

In case of Japan, members of LDP want to ditch "inalienable fundamental human right" in their Constitution, and replace it with certain rights as long as citizens fulfill their obligations. They want to ditch the Article 9, so that they can send the Self Defense Force to wars being fought by Japan's allies (i.e. the US).

After LDP and its coalition partners win majority in the Upper House election in July (it's a given, because of the disarray of the remaining opposition), "amending" the Constitution will be the first thing they will do. Shintaro Ishihara, who says he's recovered from a minor stroke, and his sidekick boy-wonder mayor of Osaka who looks increasingly tired and petulant will be more than happy to cooperate.

US NRC Will Delay Filtered Vent Plan and Study Options, Final Rulemaking by March 2017

Let's kick the can...

It looks the cost-benefit ("performance-based") analysis argument by the Congressional Republicans in the House Energy and Commerce Committee won.

To recap the Committee's letter to the NRC chairwoman:

"With respect to these [safety] enhancements, we have particular concern about the potential requirement to install "filtered vents" for certain boiling water reactors which we understand to be significant, capital-intensive structures. As instructed by the Commission, the NRC staff has proposed four potential options but urged the Commission to choose "Option 3." Under this option, the Commission would issue an order requiring the installation of fintered vents rather than pursuing a performance-based process."

Now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will "study options" and won't make the final rule till March 2017. The Commission's thinking as you can read in the article below take the House Energy and Commerce Committee's thinking extremely seriously.

From Power News (3/21/2013; links are in the original, emphasis is mine):

NRC Delays Action on Vent Plan, Directs Staff to Study Options

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Tuesday delayed approving a recommendation made by technical staff that calls for upgrades or replacements of "hardened" venting systems at the nation's 31 Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors (BWRs), giving staff a year instead to assess other options and produce a "technical evaluation" on the proposal.

The NRC commissioners directed staff to follow a two-track approach for further improvements to systems for safely venting pressure during potential accidents at the reactors, in response to the Fukushima accident in March 2011. It gave the staff 60 days to finalize a March 2012 order, which will require vents to handle elevated pressures, temperatures, and radiation from a damaged reactor. The order will also ensure plant personnel can operate vents safely under these accident conditions.

It also gave the staff a year to produce a technical evaluation to support rulemaking on filtering, gathering more public input as it completes its analysis. Directing the staff to consider both the use of a filter to be placed on the vent, as well as a more performance-based approach using existing systems to achieve a similar reduction in radioactive release during an accident, the commission said the draft rule and final rule must be ready by March 2017.

A vent generally refers to a pipe connected to the primary containment of a nuclear power plant and leading to the plant’s exhaust stack. It is designed to allow gases inside the containment to be removed. “The major problem at Fukushima was getting the containment vents open,” said Doug True, president of ERIN Engineering and Research told Nuclear Insight last fall. “Significant delays in the decision to open the vents, combined with the Japanese decision-making process and difficulties in opening the vent valves, delayed the venting action, which in turn led to hydrogen explosions.”

The NRC's decision was widely viewed as a victory for the nuclear industry. The NRC has estimated that filtered vents could cost up to $15 million, but other estimates put costs of equipment at $30 million or more.

But media reports accusing the nuclear energy industry of opposing the installation of filtered vents on Mark I and II BWRs are incorrect, say Jason Zorn, assistant general counsel, and Steven Kraft, senior technical advisor at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI ). The issue is a technical one. "In the extremely unlikely event that an accident progresses to the point of the fuel melting through the reactor vessel onto the containment floor, it is imperative that water be injected into containment to cool the fuel debris on the floor," they say. "If not, radiation releases will occur from numerous locations in the containment building and bypass the vent. If the vent is bypassed, it doesn’t help if there is a filter on the vent, because it, too, will be bypassed."

Filtering strategies based on the individual plant evaluations could result in the installation of a vent filter, "if that’s what makes sense for a given plant," they said.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, Nuclear Insight, NEI

“Significant delays in the decision to open the vents, combined with the Japanese decision-making process and difficulties in opening the vent valves, delayed the venting action, which in turn led to hydrogen explosions"?

The vents couldn't be opened for a long time because there was no power. There are experts and engineers who have proposed that instead of delay in venting leading to hydrogen explosion, venting may actually have caused hydrogen explosions in Reactors 1 and 3 because of the peculiar structure of the exhausts stacks and power loss. Instead of leaving via the exhaust stack, vented hydrogen gas came back inside the reactor building, they say.

Water under the bridge at this point, except that inaccurate understanding of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident is being used as excuse.

"Performance-based" cost saving instead of "Defense in Depth", without properly defining "cost".


Defense in depth, in NRC's own words:

An approach to designing and operating nuclear facilities that prevents and mitigates accidents that release radiation or hazardous materials. The key is creating multiple independent and redundant layers of defense to compensate for potential human and mechanical failures so that no single layer, no matter how robust, is exclusively relied upon. Defense-in-depth includes the use of access controls, physical barriers, redundant and diverse key safety functions, and emergency response measures. For further information, see Speech No. S-04-009 (PDF), "The Very Best-Laid Plans (the NRC's Defense-in Depth Philosophy)."

I thought venting is an emergency response measure...

North Korea to Restart Yongbyon Nuclear Power Plant

From Wall Street Journal (4/2/2013):

Pyongyang to Restart Nuclear Plant

SEOUL—North Korea said on Tuesday it would restart its Yongbyon nuclear plant to provide material for its weapons program and electricity, a move that will add to tensions driven by Pyongyang's recent war rhetoric.

The reactor at the plant, 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of Pyongyang, was shuttered in 2007 as part of an aid-for-disarmament deal. North Korea revealed a uranium-enrichment facility at the plant in 2010.

In a statement issued from its state news agency, North Korea said work to restart all facilities at Yongbyon will be "put into practice without delay."

North Korea has said its nuclear-weapons program is now non-negotiable and will be built up in order to provide security from what it sees as threats from the U.S. On Feb. 12, North Korea staged its third test of a nuclear weapon, a move that triggered an escalation in tensions on the Korean peninsula and a series of provocative war-like threats from Pyongyang.

North Korea also has frequent power shortages because of its weak energy infrastructure.

Nikkei Shinbun reports that plutonium extraction may resume.

In the meantime, the U.S. Navy is shifting a guided-missile destroyer, USS McCain, in the Pacific to waters off the Korean peninsula, as reported by NBC News.

Monday, April 1, 2013

City of Stockton, CA Is Declared Bankrupt by Federal Judge, Despite Protest from Creditors

Who are the creditors? Wells Fargo Bank, Franklin California High Yield Municipal Fund, Franklin High Yield Tax-Free Income Fund.

Wells Fargo has been seizing Stockton's public properties for lack of payment to the bondholders. It has already taken the new City Hall and three parking garages.

As often is the case for troubled US municipalities, Stockton has lost big in the interest rate swaps with Wall Street banks. Here's the city's document on bond deals and multiple interest rate swaps with Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch over the municipal wastewater treatment system, entered on June 5, 2007.

That was about the height of the real estate bubble. Slightly over one year later, the entire financial system was on the verge of collapse, and Ben "Blackhawk" Bernank cut the rate to near zero. Stockton, as with many other cities across the US, have been stuck with paying interest to the banks at a high, fixed rate while receiving peanuts from the banks at a variable rate which remains near zero.

From Reuters (4/1/2013):

Stockton eligible for bankruptcy protection: judge

(Reuters) - The city of Stockton, California, is eligible for bankruptcy protection, a federal judge ruled on Monday, turning aside creditors' arguments that the city was not truly insolvent when it sought protection and had improperly failed to seek concessions.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Christopher Klein's ruling permits Stockton to proceed with its Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection filing from last June in a case with precedent-setting potential for other cash-strapped U.S. cities.

In a lengthy preamble to his ruling, Klein said Stockton's bondholders had failed to negotiate in good faith with the city prior to its filing for protection. He added the city was "by any measure insolvent" prior to its filing.

Stockton is the largest U.S. city to have ever filed for bankruptcy. Its case is being closely watched in the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market as it is likely to have key implications for other struggling municipal and county governments, their employees and their bondholders.

The city's capital market creditors had argued the city could have done more to cut costs and raise revenues.

Since at least the 1930s, bondholders in most major municipal bankruptcies consistently have been repaid their entire principal. But Stockton is expected - along with Jefferson County in Alabama and San Bernardino in California - to break with that tradition.

Bond insurers Assured Guaranty Corp, Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp and National Public Finance Guarantee Corp were joined by Wells Fargo Bank, the Franklin California High Yield Municipal Fund and Franklin High Yield Tax-Free Income Fund in contesting Stockton's bid for bankruptcy eligibility.

(Now They Tell Us) Only 10% of Water Was Reaching #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 1 Between March 20 and 22, 2011, As Newly Disclosed TEPCO's Teleconference Video Reveals

It took TEPCO and the national government who owns and regulates TEPCO more than 2 years to come clean.

It was just a few weeks ago that we finally learned that less than half the water being injected into Reactor 3 was reaching the reactor before the reactor building blew up on March 14, 2011, because the pump to the condenser was dead when the power went out. Water was filling up the condenser.

Huge spikes in radiation levels in wide areas in Tohoku and Kanto between March 20 and 23, 2011 (as seen in the chart from Asahi Shinbun, 8/8/2011) have been a mystery. TEPCO has so far said it doesn't know what was causing these spikes. Fumiya Tanabe, former researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and the current head of the Research Institute on Safety of Technology Systems, has proposed that Reactor 3 had a second meltdown, so to speak, when the water being injected into the Reactor Pressure Vessel dropped significantly starting March 20, 2011, and that the melted core dropped from the RPV to the Containment Vessel, releasing a large amount of radioactive materials from the Containment Vessel breach somewhere.

That may be, and now we are told that only 10% of the water being injected from the fire hydrant was reaching Reactor 1's Pressure Vessel, and the Pressure Vessel was near empty. Where did the remaining 90% of water go? No one knows.

This release of radioactive materials that happened between March 20 to 23, 2011 is what contaminated the wide areas in Tohoku and Kanto, because the release was met with the rain.

One of the local papers in Fukushima picked up the scene from the teleconference videos that TEPCO recently made available which covers the period from March 16 to April 11, 2011. I don't think anyone else did. Another set of videos covers the period from March 11 to 15, 2011.

From Kahoku Shinpo (3/31/2013; emphasis is mine):

福島第1原発 1号機注水9割漏出か 現場、水圧で認識

90% of water injected into Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 1 may have leaked, the plant management knew by water pressure


TEPCO's teleconference video during the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident has revealed that there is a possibility that after the power was lost, about 90% of the coolant (water) injected into Reactor 1's Pressure Vessel leaked before it reached the reactor. The plant personnel seem to have known about the leak from the discharge pressure of a fire hydrant. As not enough water was entering the reactor, the reactor core was further damaged during the period from March 20 to 22, 2011, resulting in the release of radioactive materials.


Since March 12, 2011, TEPCO had been injecting water into the reactor via the line of the fire extinguishing system (see the diagram).


According to the teleconference video, Masao Yoshida, then-plant manager, reported at about 1:30PM on March 22, 2011 to the TEPCO headquarters [in Tokyo], "We checked the water injection line to Reactor 1, and at a fire hydrant on the line, the discharge pressure is only 0.1 megapascal." He continued, "We are injecting the water at 1 megapascal, and it is 0.1 megapascal on the way to Reactor 1. The water must be leaking."


TEPCO published the amount of water injected into the reactors by calculating the amount based on the water supply pressure from the fire engine [in this case, 1 megapascal]. However, Yoshida's remark means almost all of water from the fire engine leaked before it reached the reactor.


Based on the temperature and pressure data of the reactor, Professor Shigenao Maruyama of Tohoku University Institute of Fluid Science (his specialty in thermal engineering) says, "There was hardly any water entering Reactor 1 from March 20 to March 22, and Reactor 3 from March 21 to 23. The reactors were being heated without water in them. What water that went in evaporated right away." He points out that a large amount of radioactive materials and steam were leaking from the breach in the Containment Vessels.


According to the calculation by the National Institute of Environmental Studies, radioactive materials released on March 20 were carried by the wind and reached northern Miyagi and southern Iwate, where they met the rain that fell on the ground. TEPCO describes the amount of radioactive materials released after March 20, 2011 and the cause of the release as "unexplained".


In the afternoon of March 20, 2011, the temperature around the Reactor 1 Pressure Vessel was found to be high near 400 degrees Celsius. The plant personnel determined that water was not reaching the reactor, and start examining the water injection line. In the morning of March 22, there was a report at the plant that "the core damage of Reactor 1 has been increasing in the past few days. It is highly possible that water is not reaching the reactor and the reactor is dry".


Takafumi Anegawa, TEPCO's manager in charge of nuclear facility management, says, "We are aware that there is an uncertainty in the amount of water injected. We would like to determine the condition of the reactor at that time and


It's TEPCO's responsibility to disclose all videos, keys to understanding how radioactive materials dispersed


A doubt has surfaced that water injection into Reactor 1's Pressure Vessel was not working. It may have been one of the causes for the wide-area dispersion of radioactive materials, and we need to examine very closely.


According to the data made public by TEPCO right after the accident, the amount of water injected dropped dramatically in Reactor 1 and Reactor 3, starting March 20, 2011. In September 2011, TEPCO recalculated the amount of water based on the data from the flowmeter of the fire engine that pumped the water, and announced a large amount of water had been injected.


The remark in the teleconference video by Masao Yoshida, then-plant manager, regarding the water pressure indicates the original amount was closer to the reality. There are also dialogs that indicate TEPCO had known about the damage to the Containment Vessels from early on. The teleconference video is a useful data to analyze the accident in detail.


TEPCO have disclosed only part of the video, citing protection of privacy of its employees. However, isn't it the responsibility of a company who caused this accident to make it widely available so that many people can examine, and to ask for such examination from all angles?


TEPCO lacks in taking initiative in researching and disclosing. "We reflect on the accident, and make a fresh start as an organization with the world-class safety culture", says President Naomi Hirose. I don't believe there will be a fresh start for the company unless it fundamentally changes its character.


(Commentary: Tomohiko Suenaga, News Department)

Well, remember the "Water Entombment" idea that was tried in April 2011? The idea was to fill the Containment Vessel of Reactor 1 with water to cool the RPV inside the Containment Vessel. If they knew early on that the Containment Vessel was broken, what was this farce of "water entombment"?

TEPCO finally came clean on the breach of the Containment Vessels (Reactor 1 and Reactor 2) on May 24, 2011.