Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nuclear workers in Japan evacuated as radiation soars - EXTREMELY high levels of radiation have been detected in water leaking from reactor two of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, forcing the evacuation of workers. The level of radiation found in the leaked water was 10 MILLION TIMES HIGHER THAN IT SHOULD BE for water inside the reactor, indicating damage to the fuel rods. "We detected 1000 millisieverts per hour of radiation in a puddle of water at the reactor number two. This figure is 10 million times higher than water usually kept in a reactor. We are examining the cause of this, but no work is being done there because of the high level of radiation. High levels of caesium and other substances are being detected, which usually should not be found in reactor water. There is a high possibility that fuel rods are being damaged."
The head of the world's nuclear watchdog agency has warned that Japan is "still far from the end of the accident" that struck its Fukushima nuclear complex.
Japanese authorities are still unsure about whether the reactor cores and spent fuel are covered with the water needed to cool them. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that he saw a few "positive signs" with the restoration of some external electric power to the plant. But he added that "more efforts should be done to put an end to the accident".
The nuclear emergency COULD GO ON FOR WEEKS, IF NOT MONTHS, given the enormous damage to the plant, he warned. He said his biggest concern was the spent fuel rods sitting in open cooling pools atop the reactor buildings. He said he was still uncertain that the efforts to spray seawater into the pools to keep the rods from bursting into flames had been successful.
Two weeks after the 9.0-magnitude March 11 quake and subsequent tsunami seriously damaged the ageing nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, rescue work is still under way to avoid a major nuclear disaster. Radiation levels have surged in the seawater in the area and there are concerns that fuel rod vessels or their valves and pipes are leaking. More than 27,000 people are dead or missing after the quake and tsunami.
Levels of radioactive iodine in the sea near the plant have risen to 1,850 times the usual level. The radiation found in the sea will no longer be a risk after eight days because of iodine's half-life, officials say.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government said that airbone radiation around the plant was decreasing. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency has now sent extra teams to the Japanese nuclear plant. Tepco has been criticised for a lack of transparency and failing to provide information more promptly. The nation's nuclear agency said the operator of the Fukushima plant had made a number of mistakes, including worker clothing. This week three workers were exposed to radiation levels 10,000 times higher than normal, suffering burns. Two injured workers were wearing boots that only came up to their ankles and afforded little protection. "Regardless of whether there was an awareness of high radioactivity in the stagnant water, there were problems in the way work was conducted." Tepco also knew of high air radiation at one reactor several days before the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Emergency workers are continuing to cool the reactors in an effort to prevent a meltdown. They have now switched to using more favoured fresh water as a coolant, rather than sea water. There had been fears the salt in sea water could further corrode machinery. The fresh water is being pumped in so that contaminated radioactive water can be extracted. The US 7th Fleet is sending barges loaded with 500,000 gallons of fresh water. The team of more than 700 engineers has found radioactive water in three of the six reactors. Four of the reactors are still considered volatile. "We seem to be keeping the situation from turning worse. But WE STILL CANNOT BE OPTIMISTIC."
Japan radiation killing sea life - While the U.S. Department of Energy said in public statements that there are “no significant quantities of radiological material” deposited on West coast beaches, there’s growing fears in West Coast fishing communities that Japan’s radiation will spread from its coast to here. Locals have been treated to a clear blue horizon after evenings of disturbing flaming-orange and red sunsets that locals say are “not so much beautiful,” but “sort of scary because of what’s happening with the radiation in Japan.”
The Japanese public television featured new reports Saturday morning that Tokyo’s 13 million residents are under recent measurements of “ambient radiation of 0.22 microsieverts per hours. The Japanese Health Ministry stated that this is “six times normal for Tokyo.” The World Nuclear Association said it cannot predict where the radiation from Japan will eventually wind up because precise radiation detection both in and over the Pacific is “not possible at this time” due to wind and ocean currents that can change.
Japanese media is reporting that the latest radiation scare in its waters have “destroyed aqua farms for abalone, sea urchins, oysters, scallops and seaweed. In turn, officials say this loss accounts for “more than 80 percent of the revenue of the region's fisheries.” New radiation tests on Saturday showed “iodine 131 levels in seawater 30 km (19 miles) from the coastal nuclear complex had spiked 1,250 times higher than normal, but it was not considered a threat to marine life or food safety." News that Japan’s radiation crisis has now spread to the Pacific has heighten international concern over Japanese seafood exports, and fish exporters elsewhere are equally worried that the fear of radiation spreading worldwide may tarnish the reputation of the local fish that buyers may view as tainted by radioactive particles.
Oregon authorities have issued new strong warning to keep humans and pets away from all dead sea life found on any Oregon coast beach, “as they could become infected by a disease that’s hitting the population in this area.” While radiation levels are viewed as safe right now along Oregon and other West coast beaches, there have been new warnings about a disease called “leptospirosis” that more recently infected California sea lions by the hundreds. Officials said the disease can spread to humans and dogs who come in contact with an infected sea lion or other dead sea life after the recent quake in Japan triggered massive amounts of questionable debris along West coast beaches. Tthose who walk their dogs along coastal beaches have been warned about dogs reported to be ill with unknown causes. A schnauzer puppy named “buggers,” is now seriously ill, and several other Newport dogs who frequent the local beach are also said to be sick and acting crazy.
U.S. Environment Protection Agency says radiation monitors were offline - Although no dangerous levels of radiation have reached American shores from the troubled Japanese nuclear reactors, some lawmakers are asking if the Nation's Radiation Monitoring System can safeguard the U.S. against future disasters. Federal officials use the monitors' readings to confirm the impact of nuclear incidents. Then, they alert local governments and the public. But in California, the Environmental Protection Agency says 4 of its 11 stationary monitors were offline for repairs or maintenance last week. Reports say out of 124 monitors nationwide, about 20 monitors were out of service earlier this week.

**He who cannot lie does not know what the truth is.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/26/11 -


Tsunami threat could catch U.S. Northwest off guard - the West Coast is unprepared for an earthquake and tsunami on the scale of what happened in Japan. Scientists say it's inevitable that an offshore seismic menace called the Cascadia Subduction Zone will one day unleash a megaquake. The last time it happened was 300 years ago when a magnitude-9 shaker spawned enormous ocean waves that slammed into the West Coast and damaged Japanese fishing villages.
Mindful of the risks of waves as high as 60 feet, communities in the Pacific Northwest have worked on their defenses, installing sirens to warn of dangerous waves, posting hazard signs to mark inundation zones, designating evacuation routes and holding evacuation drills. Scientists in the Pacific Northwest hadn't understood the geology and the threat it poses until recent decades when they discovered evidence of big quakes near the coast over the last 10,000 years — about 20 that were the size of the March 11 quake in Japan.
By contrast, the Japanese have long paid close attention to quakes and tsunamis. Their written records from 1700 allowed North American scientists a few years ago to fix the timing of the last Pacific Northwest megaquake, right down to the hour it occurred. So the death and damage caused by this month's earthquake and tsunami in Japan were worrisome on the other side of the Pacific. "We're not nearly as well prepared as the Japanese, and clearly they were overwhelmed. It is a problem."
Elevated refuges are among the Japan-style responses to the tsunami threat that experts say helped to mitigate the destruction and death. And these are just pieces in a giant puzzle for the Northwest in dealing with the aftermath of a disaster that could bring Katrina-style devastation to a region of 13 million people west of the Cascade Range. In Cannon Beach, the former mayor has proposed replacing the current City Hall, seismically unsound, with a two-story building on stilts to provide refuge to as many as 1,500 people. The second floor would house city offices. Atop that would be a terrace. The idea is still conceptual, awaiting vetting by structural and geophysical engineers. That could add to the tentative $4 million price tag. There's nothing like it from Northern California to British Columbia and, so far, no money for anything like it.
There are no current plans in California to build special tsunami-resistant structures, but some communities are looking at ways to herd residents to existing buildings perched on higher ground in the event of dangerous waves. In Washington state, emergency managers are working with coastal communities to develop local plans for elevated evacuation structures that could do double duty, such as steel-reinforced earthen berms 20 feet high that could support bleachers at a stadium.
"Right now, there's no funding for anything like this, through state and federal funding." Many places on the Pacific Northwest coast don't have high ground close to the beach, such as the flats of southwest Washington's Long Beach peninsula.
The message that has to be driven home for coastal residents is there are just a few keys to surviving a tsunami, including the importance of getting to higher ground and staying there, even if your family is scattered. It's also important to find a way to hoof it to higher ground — rather than trying to drive and dealing with gridlock — while also designating someone on solid ground as the family contact point. Governments can make it easier for people to survive tsunamis by creating shelters on high ground, and making sure paths uphill are clear of the invasive blackberry brambles that plague the coast.

SNEAKER WAVES - the mighty Pacific Ocean claims, on average, about 100 people each year along West coast beaches that stretch from southern California up to the very top of Washington State. Officials say many die while “in the midst of playing on the beach or standing or hiking along coastal vantage points.”
In the coastal town of Yachats, "the danger we face is caused by rip currents that form something we call ‘sneaker waves,’ that move around the coastal cliffs and then collapse on bystanders in much the same way as what killed these teens on Saturday [February 5]." According to police officials, the two Eugene high school seniors died instantly after the 10-foot wave lifted them off the slippery rocks and took them out to sea. More than 60 deaths have occurred along this same stretch of coast over the past 10 years.
From the Oregon UFO “watchers” group that regularly patrols the rugged coastal area around Yachats to the tens of thousands of tourists who visit the region for whale watching, there’s one general rule: Be aware that these areas can be dangerous because of waves surges, slippery rocks and sharp surfaces. While it’s no surprise for locals about this rise in the number of deaths on Oregon coast beaches due to sudden wave movements by the Pacific Ocean, “it does catch our tourists unaware. You get folks coming to the beach thinking it’s laid back and easy. They let their guard down, not thinking about the ocean or being surprised by waves and rolling logs." With more people visiting who are not used to the “moods” of the Pacific, they get caught.


Heavy rain expected in North Island, New Zealand as Bune weakens - There is a severe weather warning for the central North Island. There's a overnight heavy rain warning for the Bay of Plenty and Taupo, which will continue onto Sunday. Another front is also expected to move up the South Island today, bringing heavy rain to West Coast and Alps, Southland and Otago. The heaviest falls are expected in the ranges of Westland.
Meanwhile, Cyclone Bune has weakened slightly, classing as a strong Category Two cyclone down from Category Three Saturday morning. The storm has been drifting very slowly in a south easterly direction. It is expected to track to the east of New Zealand midway through next week. There's a chance of dangerous rips and surfs along the east coast during that time. At this stage, the cyclone is not expected to hit New Zealand directly, but people at east coast beaches should expect large rips. It was too early to make predictions about its effect on New Zealand because of the high degree of uncertainty about its track.

Over 3,700 Burmese Fishermen Still Missing, Presumed Dead - Of the 7,000 fishermen that were swept into the Andaman Sea during a tropical storm on March 14-16, a total of 3,374 have now been rescued. The remaining 3,700 are still missing. Nearly two weeks since 400 fishing vessels were overturned or destroyed in 70mph winds, little hope remains of anyone else surviving. “There are currently about 400 fishing vessels at sea trying to rescue survivors of the storm.”
The tropical storm occurred off the Irrawaddy delta coast close to areas such as Bogalay and Laputta which were severely hit by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. “We already listed 7,000 people as missing at sea along with their vessels. But that figure does not include those people living in littoral areas. So the number of dead may be higher.” Naval sources have estimated that the majority of missing fishermen are from Irrawaddy Division and Mon State. On March 13 that 100 houses and 38 huts in Rangoon and 20 houses in Irrawaddy Division were destroyed by the torrential winds. Burma's Department of Meteorology and Hydrology reported on March 14 that the region would experience heavy winds and rain with some thunder and lightning, but did not predict the tropical storm.