April 3, 2011
16th Interview with My Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan
Posted by Evelyn Mervine
You can listen to all the interviews on the new vimeo channel Brandon and I created. You can also listen to most of the interviews on Brad Go’s YouTube channel.
Here’s the vimeo channel:
Brad Go’s YouTube channel:
This afternoon my dad and I recorded our 16th interview on the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Please see the rest of the blog (sidebar) for previous interviews. Please keep sending questions and comments to [email protected] You can also follow me on twitter @GeoEvelyn but please do not send questions via twitter.
Here is a website we refer to in today’s interview:
In today’s interview:
1. My dad gives his usual update
2.We address numerous questions from listeners:
(a.) What is going on with the resin they are spraying at Fukushima to lower radioactive particulate dispersal?
(b.) The rescue effort is now bringing some large barges with fresh water, and there is talk about re-purposing a gigantic floating platform as a radioactive water holding tank. Clearly, this has never been done before. How long would the highly radioactive water have to be stored in the floating platform before it could be dispersed into the ocean more safely?
(c.) What potential problems will there be because there is so much radioactive water being generated at Fukushima? What will happen with these large volumes of highly radioactive water?
(d.) Are they now planning concrete entombing of the reactors at Fukushima? What would this lead to? How wide would the exclusion zone be?
(e.) What is happening to the enormous volumes of water that are being pumped into the reactors and spent fuel pools? Where does all this water go?
The above are all of the questions we had time to answer today, but we will answer some more questions tomorrow. Please continue to send questions if you have them.
3. We address a concern from a listener: “Why do we sound so ‘trusting’ of TEPCO and the Japanese government regarding the nuclear disaster?”
To paraphrase our answer in the interview, just because we do not raise our voices and scream in anger does not mean that we are not deeply concerned and critical. We try to be calm and rational in these interviews as we believe this is the best way to provide clear information. We also want to avoid– to the best of our ability– conspiracy theories, misinformation, and unnecessary panic, which will only make the disaster worse. If you feel that we are too trusting, please listen again. From early on in the interviews we have actually been critical of TEPCO and the Japanese government in how they have handled (and not handled) the nuclear disaster.
In recent interviews, we have becoming increasingly critical of TEPCO and the Japanese government. For instance, we have been critical about the lack of clear, cohesive information from both TEPCO and the Japanese government, the unwillingness of TEPCO to communicate with and ask for help from the Japanese government and international community when they need it (for instance, asking for more radiation badges and suits), possible mistakes made by TEPCO (not checking the spent fuel pool water levels), and many other items. In the past two interviews, my dad has condemned both TEPCO and the Japanese government for not following the advice of the US Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) to retrofit the Mark I reactors with important safety modifications that likely would have prevented the steam explosions that severely damaged reactor buildings 1, 2, and 3.
In the interview today, my dad said that in his opinion we should seriously question if TEPCO should be allowed to run nuclear power plants. I’m not sure how much more critical he can be than that. I hope this clears up any confusion over how “trusting” we are of TEPCO and the Japanese government.
Hope to have an audio link soon. Here is the interview on vimeo:
Please see the announcement page for more information about these interviews:
Transcript for Interview 16:
Q: Hi, Dad!
Q: Sorry about that. They put me on hold! Are you ready for the interview today?
A: I’m ready!
Q: Ok, let’s go ahead and get started. I’ll edit out that first part. So, my name is Evelyn Mervine, and, this is an interview with my Dad, Mark Mervine, who is a nuclear engineer. This is,actually, I believe, the 16th interview that I have done with my Dad about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. And, it is currently 1:50 P. M. Eastern Daylight time. And, it is the 3d of April. And, I just want to quickly say, sorry there was such a gap between the interview we did on Tuesday and today. We had travel schedules and there was some weather, so it was difficult for us to do an interview. And, if you want to listen to any of the previous interviews, you can do so on my geology blog, georneys, which is G E O R N E Y S – georneys.blogspot.com. So, today, the interview is gonna be the usual format. My Dad is going to give an update, and, actually, I’ve received quite a number of questions from listeners, so we’re gonna try and answer as many of those as we can today. So…Why don’t you give us an update on what’s been happening at Fukushima over the past few days. I know there’s been quite a bit of news.
A: Well, there has quite a bit of news, but not much of a change in the actual status of the plants. So, as a recap, there are six nuclear power plants at the Fukushima site. Units 5 and 6 were least impacted, and, both of those units are in cold shut-down and would be considered safe, as long as they can maintain power and cooling to them. There are seven spent fuel pools. One at each reactor, and a common one and, the common one also has electrical power for cooling, and, that one is considered to be in a safe condition. And, units 1 through 4 have been the reactors we’ve been concerned about during this accident. Units 1 through 3 were operating at the time of the earthquake, and shut down automatically. And, unit 4 was completely defueled for maintenance and its entire core load along with a lot of other spent fuel was in the spent fuel pool. And…we’ve had explosions at each of these reactors that we think came from hydrogen that was generated from fuel damage. So we know that we have fuel damage in each of the three reactors that were operating, and, the spent fuel pool from Number 4, and, that’s at a minimum. We may also have fuel damage from some of the other spent fuel pools, but, until we’re able to actually get some close-up visuals, we won’t be able to tell for sure. In terms of changes in the past few days, the conditions of the plant haven’t really changed. The big thing that happened in the last week was getting fresh water to the site, and, pumping fresh water into the reactors instead of sea water. And, also fresh water is being used for most of the spent fuel pools, although I saw something today that surprised me, that said that they were still using sea water for the spent fuel pool at Number 4, and, so, I’m not sure if that report is correct or not, because previously . We had seem reports that they were using fresh water for all. But…from a public concern standpoint, as long as they’re getting water in there, that’s the most important thing. Fresh water, obviously, is preferable, and, I would be surprised since they have now the large amount of fresh water from the Navy barges, that they would still be using sea water. But, it may be a kind of equipment situation.
Q: So, basically, what you’re saying is that there is no change in that, at those four reactors, I guess one is shut down, so is not as big a concern, but, the three that we’re concerned about, they’re still using this temporary cooling system and, they’re not using their normal cooling, and, we have no idea when the normal cooling is going to be restored. This is sort of the same situation we were at Tuesday?
Q: Ok. And, there’s been no report…I mean, I just said this…but there’s been no report as to how long it’s going to take to restore normal cooling?
A: There’s no indication, which we commented on last time as to what is the timeline. Now the news that I do want to talk about, that has been – I don’t know if you would call it front page news, but, it has been on some front pages, is the leak of radioactive water into the ocean. They believe they’ve found the cause of that, which is a pipe trench from unit 2, that has got a big crack in it. And they’ve made a couple of different attempts to patch that crack, once with concrete, and, another time with resin mixture. And, so far, they haven’t been able to stop the leak. So, we have this leak of highly radioactive water from the lower levels of unit 2, which is getting into the ocean, and, they believe that is what’s causing a majority of the radioactivity in the ocean water.
Q: That’s sort of good news and bad news. It’s good news that they have figured out where the leak is coming from, but it’s bad news that they can’t seem to stop it.
A: Correct. Again, they’re trying some different techniques, with resin with some fillers – Sawdust, newspaper – The reason for that is that it will expand and hopefully will expand enough to seal up this crack. Which, it’s not a little crack, it’s a big crack, which is why it’s leaking so much. The other thing, in terms of updates, is, in looking at the IAEA website, they’ve got a little bit more information on the restoration of power. And, for units 1, 2 and 4, they’ve indicated they now have power to the instrumentation.
A: But, not for unit 3. They just indicate lighting for the control room only. So, they have made some progress then in electrical power restoration and getting instrumentation back to three of the four units.
Q: And, the instrumentation,that’s useful because that can be used to monitor the condition of the reactors. Is that extremely helpful in this situation? Is that what they mean by instrumentation?
A: It is extremely helpful, also, it would be needed in order to restore any of the cooling systems.
Q: Ok, so, that’s really a first task before they can even think about restoring cooling.
A: It’s a very important step; and, up until now we were not really sure how much progress they had made, but, they have made a little bit of progress. But, again, to your question, and to the comment we made last time, Can somebody give us an estimate when we can expect to see some type of normal cooling system restored at any of these plants?
Q: I have a simple question – I realize you may not be able to answer this. The crack in the piping…is that a result of the earthquake, the tsunami, the explosions? Do they have any idea how that crack occurred?
A: You broke up a little bit, but, I believe you asked about what caused the crack in the piping?
Q: Yea, was it the earthquake, was it the tsunami, was it the explosions? Do they have any idea?
A: So, I can’t say for sure. I did see a news report that said they believe this may have occurred during the earthquake. It’s possible that this trench may have had a flaw in it from…for some period of time, and, the movement of the earth may have caused the crack to expand. There normally isn’t any water in there, so it would not have been a problem in normal operations,.
Q: What is…what is this pipe used for normally?
A: They said it was a trench that carried electrical cables.
Q: And, it’s just filled up with water because they’ve been pouring so much water onto the reactors?
A: It’s filled up with water that has come from the basement of the turbine halls. And, I actually sent you a link that you can post on your website, of a very good article on Wikipedia. And, they have a drawing – a very simple drawing – that shows the elevations of the plant, and an explanation of how the water would get into this trench.
Q: Excellent. I’ll post that.
A: So, that does a better job of explaining it than we can do over the phone.
Q: Ok. Sorry to interrupt you, I just wanted clarification…
A: No, it’s ok..
Q: Do you want to go on with your update?
A: I can give a little more of an update, again, from the IAEA website, in terms of how they’re getting water into these plants, the… for units 1, 2 and 3. They’re all being done by electric pumps now, and, they have diesel backup power in the event that they were to lose electric power. And for the spent fuel pools, they’ve been using a concrete pump for unit 1. For unit 2, they’ve actually got it going through one of the normal cooling lines. That doesn’t mean they’re getting cooling, but, they are able to hook up the pipes and get the water in through one of the normal lines. The same thing for unit 3 and 4. But, they continue. Also, to spray water from the top for some of these pools as well. And, the United States is actually sending over a much larger and…much larger concrete pump, that has the capability of being remotely controlled, so they’ll have that available to them, as well…
Q: But, they’ll be using that to provide water, not concrete. I think there’s been some misunderstanding about that, right?
A: Right. That’s not for concrete. They’re using that to pump water into the spent fuel pools. Correct.
Q: Right. But, they can be further from their radiation.
A: Right. And, in particular, this one is capable of being remotely controlled, so, they are able to get closer and be more precise, because you don’t need a human to be there.
A: Alright, so, that’s the update for today.
Q: Ok. I have one quick question of my own, then, I will ask you the listener questions. I just want you to comment on…I know you mentioned to me a couple of days ago that there a situation about the the radiation badges, and TEPCO not dealing properly with that? Can you comment briefly on that, and, then, I will ask you some listener questions.
A: So, what they were doing was that they would send a group of, say, three people to work in an area, and, since they didn’t have enough radiation badges, they would just give one to the group. And, my point was, again, in all these nuclear power plants you have all these resources – you have resources available to you from the international community. If you were short on radiation badges, either get some there from the other plants, or, ask the international community for them. I’m quite confident that the United States would have flown some in if they were asked, and, I’m sure the same is true for France or other countries that have a lot of nuclear power plants. And, certainly would be willing to help. So, again, you know, it goes back to this whole thread, that, not just us, but other people have talked about which is the lack of communication and lack of transparency from TEPCO.
Q: And…it’s important for every person to have their own radiation badge, because, you can have different levels of exposure, even in the same area, correct?
A Yes, you could and, there’s…and there’s…correct, and people aren’t going actually to be standing in exactly the same spot. The other thing that has been reported is that they have run out of radiation suits and other types of equipment. And, again, it’s just hard for me to believe that with as many nuclear power plants as they have in Japan that they can’t borrow some equipment from other places. And, if indeed there’s a shortage in Japan, then ask the international community!
Q: I’m sure that there would be support for that.
A: I don’t think there’s any question.
Q: Ok. Well, we’ll maybe talk more about TEPCO in a minute. But, let me go ahead and go through some of these emails. I’ve actually gotten several emails that have many, many questions, I guess there’s been a a bit of a gap between interviews, so, let me go ahead and start with the first email. This actually comes from someone who’s in Japan, and, has sent me a couple of nice emails and is actually at ???? Ogama Dartmouth, which is the university where I went to for undergrad . So, it’s nice to hear from a Dartmouth alum…So, I’ll read through these questions and we’ll try to answer as many as we can. The first one, I think you talked about a little bit. He was asking about the rescue effort, now spraying a resin to lowerradioactive particle disbursal. I think this may be specifically for the pipe we just talked about. And, he was wondering if you had talked about this before, and, if this method has ever been used before?
A: No, it’s a different thing, actually, that he is talking about.
Q: Oh, is that different? Ok!
A: They were actually talking about spraying a resin over some surfaces and the ground, to lock any radioactive particles in place, and, keep them from spreading. And, that’s really all I can say. I really can’t comment on it, because I really don’t know what they’re using, how their applying it, but, the concept was, that in some areas where they may have significant amounts of particulate contamination, either on the ground or on a building or whatever, they could spray this resin over it and that would lock it in place, and, it’s not gonna be picked up by the wind, or washed away with rain or something like that.
Q: but this is, sort of, not a technique that is put into practice often, because we don’t often have a nuclear disaster, so, this is sort of…They’re trying to see how this works, but, they don’t know much about it.
A: Right, I mean, I’ve just told you what I know….
Q: OK…Let’s move on.
A: I don’t know what kind of resin it is, where they’re applying it, how they’re applying it, but, apparently in some cases, they’re trying to take some steps to minimize the spread.
Q: Ok. So, the second question from the same person, is about the large barges with fresh water. And…I’ll just ask the question. The rescue effort is now bringing in some large barges with fresh water, and, there is talk about re-purposing a giant, floating platform as a radioactive water holding tank. Clearly, this has never been done before, and, he wanted to know how long the highly radioactive water be stored in the floating platform before it could be disbursed into the ocean or somewhere where it can be stored more safely?
A: Ok. So, I saw something in the news about that. What’s going on at the plant, I mean, we didn’t include this in our update, is that they’ve been trying to take water that’s in the condensers and pump them into other storage tanks…pump them…pump the water from the condensers into other storage tanks so, they can then pump the highly radioactive water from the basement of the turbine halls into the condenser. Eventually they’re going need to do something with that water, and, they may, depending on how long this continues…they may need some additional storage space. They are apparently bringing in a barge where they can pump the radioactive water into this barge as a holding tank. To my knowledge, they were gonna just hold it in this tank until they were able to transfer and have it processed. I don’t think the intent was to tow it out in the ocean and just dump it.
Q: Ok. So this relates to his next question, which is…I guess he’s very concerned about there being a great amount of highly radioactive water produced Now, normally, the cooling system is sort of a closed loop, and, you’re recycling, and, you’re not producing large amounts of highly radioactive water so his question and concern is what do they do with that? You’re sort of producing large quantities of radioactive waste that you’re going to have to store and do something with. And, he wants to know how long do you store it? And, what do you do with it? You talked just now about reprocessing Is there something you can do that, at least, minimize the volume of radioactive material you’re storing? Can you talk a little bit about that?
A: Yea. What you would do is that you would take that water, and process it through a series of filters, to remove particles and radioactive particles, and, hopefully, produce water that was not radioactive at the output. Obviously, there would still be some water and some sludge that would be highly radioactive, but, the goal would be to significantly reduce the amount of radioactive water. And, then that concentrated water, or… They could be running that through charcoal filters So, the filters themselves that would have to be disposed of as radioactive waste, but, the goal would be to filter this water and try to remove as much radioactivity as possible so that then, it would be less radioactive, to the point where it would be local levels, where it could be disposed of as just water.
Q: But, it’s still a problem that they are producing so much radioactive water, because at some time, they are going to have to process that, and, it’s going to be extra work down the line. It’s obviously not ideal to produce this water, correct?
A: Correct. And, right now, we’re pumping water in, and the question is “where’s the water going?”
A: Well, if the primary containment is intact, and, we don’t know for sure if the primary containment is intact for all three of these units, or whether there are some leaks, because we don’t know exactly how all this radioactive water got into the basement of the turbine halls. We’ve speculated in a couple of our interviews. We’ve said MAYBE there could be a leak in containment. Maybe it’s coming from the spent fuel; Maybe it’s condensation from the steam we’ve vented, but we don’t know for sure.
Q: And it could be all three!
A: It could be all three…Correct. So..normally, if the containment was intact this water would be going into the reactor vessel. It would be flashing to steam, and, the steam would be vented to the bottom of the containment, into the torus, as we discussed. Eventually that torus would fill up with water. The water would come up those down comer tubes and the water would start to fill up the containment itself. Obviously, eventually, the containment would completely fill up with water, if it’s not leaking. What you want to do is get some normal cooling systems restored, so that we’re not just pumping water in, and, once we get normal cooling we would flood the reactor full of water and, now you’re in a cooling loop and you’re not adding any more water.
Q: but, as we just talked about in our interview, we’re not there yet for reactors 1 and 2…
A: We’re not there yet, and, we’ve got no time line from TEPCO or the Japanese government as to when they could possibly expect to be there.
Q: In the mean while, it’s still a very precarious situation, so it’s frustrating.
A: So, yea, Let me…Let me…be clear. And, we can repeat it again in a minute. We are still in a extremely serious situation at all four of these nuclear power plants. Not just for reactors 1, 2 and 3 for the core damage, but, also we know, at a minimum, we have fuel damage from the spent fuel pool at unit 4 and probably from some of the other units as well. So, this situation is not under control, we are not out of the woods, it’s a very serious situation and, you know, we’ve indicated at least it hasn’t gotten any worse, as opposed to how it was going in the first week, but, there hasn’t been as much progress as we would hope, in…in…the past couple of weeks. It’s an extremely serious situation we are in.
Q: Ok. Let me move on. The last question that came from this Dartmouth alum is about concrete entombing. I think we may have touched on this a little bit before, when talking about Chernoybl. But…the question was, basically, it seems that discussions about concrete entombing are now on the table, whereas they weren’t during the first few weeks of the nuclear disaster, and, he wanted to know if these four reactors are entombed or abandoned, what does that mean, long-term? How wide does the exclusion zone need to be? How long do they have to be entombed? That sort of thing.
A: I don’t think we’re there yet. I haven’t seen any discussion about that. I don’t know if that was confusion caused by sending this concrete pump over…
A: Which is actually going to be used to pump water. So, I haven’t seen anything about that. Now, to answer the question; if that was something that was decided to be done, I wouldn’t see the exclusion area probably being much more than the site boundary, given that they would entomb these, and, concrete is a vary good shield of radiation. And, I think it would drive the radiation levels down to the point that the exclusion area wouldn’t be much more than the site boundary. Now,with that being said, what we don’t know is what the long term situation is for the current exclusion zone, which is 20 kilometers, In terms of how contaminated the soil is, and, when, either through natural decay or remediation efforts people would be able to that zone.
Q: Ok…Just to clarify something else. He talked about these reactors being entombed or abandoned. And, I don’t know if abandoned is the right word, but, we’ve talked about this many times, but, there is absolutely no way that reactors 1 through 4 can be re-opened. There has been just too much damage. There is a chance that reactors 5 and 6 might be reopened, but, you talked about other issues with that. But, these plants are going to have to be decomissioned, and, the effort is not going to be to get them to restore nuclear power, but, to basically try and keep them from being a danger to people by getting them into cold shut-down.
A: Correct. And it would be desirable to get these under control; to get these reactors cooled down; and not have to entomb them, because what the people of Japan should want should be for that to happen, and for these plants to be decomissioned properly, and the area there to be returned to its natural environment. And, if you entomb them, you’re basically saying “I’m going to have this big, concrete tomb around these four reactors forever” So, that should definitely be the last resort, and, as long as we continue to make progress and the situation doesn’t get any worse, I don’t think that option’s really on the table. But, again, we’re trying to make this judgment from a long way away, with very little information.
Q: Ok. Well, thank you for commenting on that. Let me move on to a second email. This email has only one question, and, maybe we have touched on this a little before. But, this person basically did not understand where all the water was going, and, sort of wondered what is happening to the water now? We talked about this a little bit before A lot of the water is just evaporating, right? A lot of the water is going in, but it is very hot, so it is just disappearing, but, he wants to know where it is going; what various parts is it going to; is it vaporizing to the atmosphere; is it flowing back to the sea? So if you could comment a little more on that; I know we have touched on that already.
A: Ok; Well; we actually just talked about it a minute ago. So..we pump the water in, it is flashing to steam, it is being condensed, or vented and being condensed. It is filling up that torus, eventually, it will come up those down comers, and start to fill up the containment, assuming that the containment isn’t leaking. The water that is being poured on the spent fuel pools is apparently ending up in the basement of these buildings and, in the case of unit 2, we’ve got this crack in this trench and some of that water is leaking out into the ocean. But, for the rest of them, they are gonna try to pump the water into the condensers and, then eventually, into this barge, and, then hopefully, they’ll be able to take that barge and hook it up to the reprocessing plant, and, clean up as much of the radioactivity as possible.
Q: Ok, thanks Dad. Let me move on to another Email. This email is actually a pretty long email. There are a lot of concerns and questions, so, I’m just going to summarize the main point in the email. So this person has ???? and seems frustrated that we seem to be having total faith in the government and industry officials, thinking that they can be trusted and expected to be forthcoming with information, and, this person’s sort of angry about that. Actually, I’m not sure…I’m not sure where exactly that was coming from because, particularly in our more recent interviews, but also from our earlier interviews, I think that we have actually been very frustrated both with TEPCO and the Japanese government. I don’t know if “trust” is the right word, but they are certainly not performing in a way that we find to be acceptable, and, I think we’ve commented again, and again, probably almost every interview, for the past few interviews that there is information that TEPCO is not communicating with the people. So…I’m not sure where this is coming from, but, if you could just comment on this. And, one thing that we have done is we have told people to listen to the government and trust them about environmental readings of radiation, and, listen to them to try and not create panic. Can you comment on this email we got, a little more, Dad?
A: Alright. Well. I try to remain calm and rational and not get too excited, so, just because we haven’t raised our voice and started yelling and screaming, doesn’t indicate at all that we don’t have concerns. I think from early on, if you go back and listen to some of the early interviews, the lack of transparency from TEPCO, I have been saying all along, I think before…definitely before the main stream press, and I remember in one of the interviews early on, I was really happy when finally Anderson Cooper was beginning to take them to task for their lack of transparency. We’ve been saying since day 1 that TEPCO has not been forthcoming, and, in the last interview, and it’s really only been three days, we talked about – Hey, 2.5 weeks into this; now, 3 weeks into this, How come you can’t get two or three reactor operators or engineers together from some of your other plants, determine, for the public, what is going on, and produce a comprehensive briefing every day? And, their press releases are, still, not very informative. The other thing that we have commented on is the lack of a website that an average person can got to and have radiation and contamination readings, in plain English, so that they can understand where it’s above the limit, and where it’s below the limit, and, where they should or should not be concerned. And, the IAEA had put some information out there, and we had referenced people to it, but, still, as far as I know, today – and there may be a site in Japanese that I can’t find or read- but, to my knowledge there’s still not a website that people can go to that shows them “here’s the radiation and contamination readings for the past 24 or 48 hours, and, here’s where we’re above the limit and where we’re below the limit” It just doesn’t seem to exist. The information is scattered. And, so, clearly, I think that the Japanese government could be doing a better job there. And, I’m surprised that they’re not.
And the other thing that we pointed out – we had a very long discussion about venting, and the fact that the NRC in the US had required plants with the Mark 1 containments to go back in and put in hardened vent systems, and, TEPCO obviously didn’t do that. Now, they’re not in the United States, so they are not compelled to follow orders from the NRC, but certainly they were aware that this design change had been required in the US, and I think that TEPCO, as a nuclear operator, has the responsibility to do the right thing, whether they’re required by the government or not But, also, where was the Japanese government in requiring this for the plants in Japan? So, as far as I’m concerned, they’re both at fault, and, that has to be looked at. The Japanese government has to look at their regulatory stance, and say “OK, what else should have been done to our nuclear plants in Japan that we haven’t required?”
Q: Do other countries – and you may not be able to comment on the details of this – do other countries generally follow the advice of a bigger organization, like the NRC?
A: Generally, speaking, they do…Obviously, every country has its own laws and regulatory bodies, but, in general, especially for something as significant as this, they would follow the guidance and direction from both the manufacturer and the NRC. And, had we had these hardened vents, we would have avoided the explosions of the reactor buildings for units 1, 2 and 3. Unit 4 was caused by the spent fuel rod pool. We’ve already talked about how, had they gotten…inspected and gotten water up there sooner, they could have avoided all that. I think, given the lack of transparency, given the lack of implementation of design changes; given some of the other short-comings, that we’ve heard of , in terms of radiation suits, and radiation badges I don’t think it’s unreasonable to question if TEPCO should be allowed to continue to operate nuclear power plants. Now, I’m not yelling, I’m not screaming but, I don’t think I can be any clearer in saying that I don’t trust TEPCO, and, I’m not sure anybody else should, either, based on what happened during this accident.
Q: And if the Japanese government can’t get good information from TEPCO, how can they…How can you trust them either? I guess they’re doing independent radiation readings but it is frustrating that there isn’t clear information on that.
A: It’s the government’s responsibility so, if they’re not getting the information, then, they need to do more. it’s their responsibility. They’re the ones that authorized this company to build these plants; that issued the licenses. It’s the government’s responsibility.
Q: And, as good a job as the IAEA and NEA and other websites have done, with our limited time and resources, it’s really not our job to do this. It’s the job of TEPCO, it’s the job of the Japanese government and, they’re not doing it.
A: So, I think, 3 weeks into this, a lot better job could be done. I’m not questioning the challenges they have in the plant. I’m not questioning how hard most people are working and risking their lives, but, providing better information about what’s going on in the plant, and providing better information to the public on contamination and radiation levels wouldn’t seem that hard of a job, three weeks into this. And, so, I think you have to question both TEPCO and the Japanese Government in the way this is being handled.
Q: Ok. Do you have anything else you would like to say before we wrap up the interview today, Dad?
A: I do. I didn’t include this in the update, and, kind of wanted to save it for the end From the time of the earthquake and tsunami, TEPCO had reported that two of their plant workers had been unaccounted for. And, unfortunately, and, I guess not that it wasn’t unexpected, but, in the past 24 hours they found the bodies of these two workers in the -1 level of the unit 4 building. So, kind of sad.
Q: Did they die during the earthquake and tsunami?
A: Apparently they died during the earthquake and tsunami, yes.
Q: that is sad. I hope that…I don’t know how many more casualties there will be as a result of this, but with the exposure, it’s probably too soon to say. But it’s very sad.
A: But, again, obviously, thousands and thousands of people in Japan died in this event. But, these people had been unaccounted for, obviously, for almost three weeks, so, at least they found their bodies which will give their families some peace.
Q: Yes… Ok, well, We actually did receive some more emails with questions, and, I’m going to try and address those questions. We couldn’t do every one of those questions today. There was an email from another person who is in Japan, and someone who wants to know a little bit about different units that measure radiation. So, we will try to address those questions tomorrow, and any other questions that get sent today, or that I go through and decide would be a good question to answer. We’re still receiving many questions that are duplicate questions, When I can very clearly find an interview, I write back and tell you where it is. But, if I don’t answer your question, it is probably because we have already answered it and, we’ve done enough interviews at this point that it’s difficult for me to go back and find out where we answered a specific question. But, we are trying. In some cases, we reiterate things that aren’t clear, but, we’re trying not to completely answer questions that we have answered in detail in some of the previous interviews. So, with that, Dad, should we do an update tomorrow? Are you able to do that?
A: I should, if it’s about the same time.
Q: Ok, sound good. I will talk to you tomorrow.
Q: Alright. Have a good night, Dad.
Firstly, just like to thank you and your dad for all the hard work and dedication you guys have put into keeping the public informed.. stellar job!!In relation to you guys being too trusting of TEPCO and the Japanese government, I definitely agree with you both that you have been critical of them both through out your interviews and rightly so in my opinion..However this does bring up something that's been on my mind while listening to your broadcasts..While history surely teaches us that we HAVE to be sceptical about information provided by nuclear utility companies particularly during crises, I think blind faith in Nuclear regulatory agencies is just as, if not more dangerous..Both the IAEA and NRC are ostensibly industry driven bodies that represent industry interests just as much and if not more than the public interest..Two examples of this are:The official death toll from Chernobyl as 'confirmed' by the IAEA and also the way the IAEA is positioned in the UN, i.e. unlike all the other specialised agencies it is a non-democratic (not a 1 man 1 vote ) institution that is set up outside the machinations of all the other specialised agencies which ensures dominance by a few powerful countries and enalbes industry lobby groups to have far easier access ..While a cool, critical and pragmatic analysis is crucial at times like these, I think we also need to be aware that the 'public interest' is in many cases mutually exclusive with the 'industry interest'..I am not saying there is some big conspiracy at play here, rather this is just a small snapshot of the bigger picture of how 'representative democracy' works in a capitalist system where special insterest groups often drive government in policy and practice..Unfortunately, these agencies are our only source of data but at least there are people like you and your father to help us interpret it..I do think this issue does warrant further discussion..Also a I have read a number of studies which have investigated spent fuel pool fires in the same GE Mark 1 reactors done by organisations such as Sandia Labs and Brookhaven institute that have put the estimated death toll (premature deaths from cancer) of such an accident as between 4,000 – 6000 (35MCi release of Cesium 137) in one study and 54,000 – 143,000 (85MCi release of Cesium 137) in another.My question is:How do these senarios compare to Fukushima and if so what are the implications?heres a link to one of the studies:http://www.princeton.edu/sgs/publications/sgs/pdf/12_beyea.pdfCheers.
Thanks, Ramel! If he can, I'll have my dad address your question tomorrow.
some technologies are too risky to be controlled by human institutions. i argue that a technology with a worldwide track record of rendering 1 square mile per plant per year indefinitely uninhabitable crosses that line. why should americans expect anything other than the same treatment from industry and government when our time comes?there are several topics i wish you guys would address:-what should we make of reports that the GE engineer who installed these plants believes the core has completely melted through reactor 2? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/29/japan-lost-race-save-nuclear-reactor) what are the public health consequences of meltdown? what are the standard procedural responses to a meltdown? if primary containment is not breached, why are water levels being kept at only 50% core height in all three reactors?-why haven't you addressed groundwater contamination? my understanding is that the worst consequence of meltdown is the steam explosion that occurs when hot fuel contacts groundwater, combined with the impossibility of containment/cleanup once groundwater is contaminated. you didn't mention groundwater as a sink for all the emergency coolant runoff, why? (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/jan-june11/othernews_03-31.html)-what are the provisions for workers in situations like this? it is reported they have almost no sleep or food (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-japan-workers-20110329,0,319767.story). i don't understand what financial incentives would get anyone to risk death for a company that has shown such little regard for public or worker safety. can americans expect that plants can attract and adequately provision workers in times of crisis? how is liability handled for exhausted workers with no reliable instruments who make mistakes that make the situation worse?-you indicated that power has been returned to instruments, but how reliable are temperature/pressure/water level instruments given this amount of damage to a 40 year old plant? my understanding is that the electrical systems are destroyed because they are in basements flooded with seawater that is now radioactive enough to be deadly with one hour of exposure. how is it that power has been returned to instruments in this case, and how can we expect power to return to cooling systems? what plan of action could possibly drain and decontaminate the basements and replace tremendous amounts of destroyed electrical gear?-the spent fuel pools are so full because industry continually lobbies for revisions of safety limits, and it is clear that no one will take responsibility for a long-term waste solution. is there any hope that this crisis will prompt the development of a sane waste policy?
I was able to locate radiation data which is being released by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology on a daily basis. http://www.mext.go.jp/english/I'll be happy if this can help you guys in any way. Again, thanks so much to you and your Dad for taking so much of your time to do this.- Mike (Tokyo)
Mike, Thank you so much! I will pass on that link to my father. Best,Evelyn