Monday, May 16, 2011

Japan has widened evacuation zone around Fukushima nuclear plant. - Japan has started the first evacuations of homes outside a government exclusion zone after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled one of the country's nuclear power plants. About 4000 residents of Iidate-mura village and 1100 people in Kawamata-cho town, in the quake-hit northeast, began the phased relocations to public housing, hotels and other facilities in nearby cities. Their communities are outside the 20km radius from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, officially designated as an area of forced evacuation due to health risks from the radiation seeping from the ageing and damaged plant. Although Iidate-mura and Kawamata-cho are 30km from the plant, they have consistently received high amounts of radioactive materials due to wind patterns.
Emergency crews have also started reassessing the status of REACTOR ONE at the six-reactor power plant after discovering THE FUEL INSIDE HAD APPARENTLY MELTED DOWN. About 3000 tonnes of highly radioactive contaminated waste water have been discovered under reactor one, forcing officials to think of ways to properly pump it out and process it. The government still hoped to keep its pledge to achieve the cold shutdown of four damaged reactors by the end of the year. REACTOR THREE HAS NOT COOLED DOWN as hoped earlier - IT IS MORE OF A WORRY THAN REACTOR ONE, which has been relatively stable at low temperatures.
In a related development, Chubu Electric Power Co said all reactors at its ageing Hamaoka nuclear power plant entered into a state of "cold shutdown" on Sunday. Seismologists have long warned that a major earthquake is overdue in the Tokai region southwest of Tokyo where that plant is located. It will stay shut until a higher sea wall is built and other measures are taken to guard it against a quake and tsunami.
Cores Damaged at THREE Reactors - Substantial damage to the fuel cores at two additional reactors of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex has taken place, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday, further complicating the already daunting task of bringing them to a safe shutdown while avoiding the release of high levels of radioactivity. The revelation followed an acknowledgment on Thursday that a similar meltdown of the core took place at unit No. 1.
Workers also found that the No. 1 unit's reactor building is flooded in the basement, reinforcing the suspicion that the containment vessel is damaged and leaking highly radioactive water.
The revelations are likely to force an overhaul of the six- to nine-month blueprint for bringing the reactors to a safe shutdown stage and end the release of radioactive materials. The original plan, announced in mid-April, was due to be revised May 17. Tepco said the No. 1 unit lost its reactor core 16 hours after the plant was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a giant tsunami on the afternoon of March 11. The pressure vessel, a cylindrical steel container that holds nuclear fuel, "is likely to be damaged and leaking water at units Nos. 2 and 3." There could be far less cooling water in the pressure vessels of Nos. 2 and 3, indicating there are holes at the bottom of these vessels, with thousands of tons of water pumped into these reactors mostly leaking out.
Tepco found the basement of the unit No. 1 reactor building flooded with 4.2 meters of water. It isn't clear where the water came from, but leaks are suspected in pipes running in and out of the containment vessel, a beaker-shaped steel structure that holds the pressure vessel. The water flooding the basement is believed to be highly radioactive. Workers were unable to observe the flooding situation because of strong radiation coming out of the water. A survey conducted by an unmanned robot Friday found radiation levels of 1,000 to 2,000 millisieverts per hour in some parts of the ground level of unit No. 1, a level that would be highly dangerous for any worker nearby. Japan has placed an annual allowable dosage limit of 250 millisieverts for workers. The high level of radioactivity means even more challenges for Tepco's bid to set up a continuous cooling system that won't threaten radiation leaks into the environment.
Tepco separately released its analysis on the timeline of the meltdown at unit No. 1. According to the analysis, the reactor core, or the nuclear fuel, was exposed to the air within five hours after the plant was struck by the earthquake. The temperature inside the core reached 2,800 degrees Celsius in six hours, causing the fuel pellets to melt away rapidly. Within 16 hours, the reactor core melted, dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel and created a hole there. By then, an operation to pump water into the reactor was under way. This prevented the worst-case scenario, in which the overheating fuel would melt its way through the vessels and discharge large volumes of radiation outside. The nuclear industry lacks a technical definition for a full meltdown, but the term is generally understood to mean that radioactive fuel has breached containment measures, resulting in a massive release of fuel. "Without the injection of water [by fire trucks], a more disastrous event could have ensued."
Tepco also released its analysis of a hydrogen explosion that occurred at unit No. 4, despite the fact that the unit was in maintenance and that nuclear fuel stored in the storage pool was largely intact. According to Tepco, hyrogen produced in the overheating of the reactor core at unit 3 flowed through a gas-treatment line and entered unit No. 4 because of a breakdown of valves. Hydrogen leaked from ducts in the second, third and fourth floors of the reactor building at unit No. 4 and ignited a massive explosion.

**No matter how cynical I get
I just can’t keep up.**
Nora Ephron

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/15/11 -

The QUAKE damaged Japanese reactors BEFORE tsunami. - Radiation seen as too high immediately after temblor. High radiation readings taken in the No. 1 reactor building the night of March 11 suggest it was the quake rather than the loss of cooling that critically damaged the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, a utility source said Saturday. The belated disclosure could trigger a review of quake-preparedness at nuclear facilities across the country. Many have been focusing on increasing defenses against tsunami, which knocked out the plant's poorly placed emergency power generators.
On March 11, the nuclear plant shut down automatically just after 2:46 p.m., when the magnitude 9 quake occurred. Within an hour, it was hit by at least two tsunami. The external power supply then shut down, stopping the emergency cooling system from injecting water into the reactor core at 4:36 p.m. That evening, Prime Minister Naoto Kan declared the country's first state of nuclear emergency and residents near the plant were asked to evacuate. Workers entered the No. 1 reactor building during the night to assess the damage only to hear their dosimeter alarms go off a few seconds late. Since they thought the building was filled with highly radioactive steam, the workers decided to evacuate. Based on the dosimeter readings, the radiation level was about 300 millisieverts per hour, suggesting that a large amount of radioactive material had already been released from the core. The source of the steam was believed to be the No. 1 reactor's overheated pressure vessel.
But for that scenario to hold, the pressure in the reactor would have to have reached enormous levels — damaging the piping and other connected facilities. It should have taken much more time to fill the entire building with steam. A source at Tepco admitted it was possible that key facilities were compromised before the tsunami. "The quake's tremors may have caused damage to the pressure vessel or pipes." The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has so far said the reactor withstood the shaking and that the unexpectedly large tsunami caused a station blackout, which led to explosions.
On the night of March 11, Tepco did not open the containment vessel vents to relieve pressure that was supposed to be rising. The move was finally taken the following morning, releasing radioactive steam from the vessel. In the No. 1 reactor, the water level began falling from the night of March 11. Though Tepco sprayed in large amounts of water, the fuel was exposed and the reactor core melted down. Subsequently, the fuel pellets' zirconium casings began reacting with the hot steam, generating the hydrogen that blew the reactor building's roof off at 3:36 p.m. on March 12.

NEW ZEALAND - Aftershocks Continue Daily after Christchurch Earthquake. A series of aftershocks woke a number of Christchurch residents in the early hours of Sunday 15th May. Aftershocks continue to rattle Christchurch on a daily basis with 7 occurring between 4pm on the 14th May and 3pm on the 15th May. Some of these shocks relate to the 7.1 September 2010 earthquake and others to the 6.3 February 2011 earthquake. Christchurch was shaken by 3 large aftershocks between 1am and 3am on Sunday 15th May. The first was a 4.0 magnitude centered near Springston. This aftershock was close to the area of the September 2010 earthquake. The second and third aftershocks measured 4.6 and 4.0 and both were in the ocean off the East Coast. These aftershocks disturbed many people’s sleep and Facebook comments reported that frightened children ran and climbed into bed with parents. Other people described the tremors as a good shake and shudder. One person said their windows rattled and there was also a comment about chairs on wheels moving.
The inner city red zone of Christchurch is still cordoned off to the public with many buildings unstable and severely damaged. Every aftershock has the potential of causing further damage to these fragile structures. It is possible that as many as 900 buildings in Christchurch central will need to be brought down; a number of these have already been demolished. Christchurch residents are still upset that they cannot get into town to see the damage for themselves. Civil Defence denied access to the CBD while the country was in a state of emergency and the area is still too dangerous for Christchurch people to enter. A call has been made to open up a walkway so people can walk through the ravaged city center and leave flowers or small items as an expression of their loss and sorrow. (photos)


PHILIPPINES - 15 quakes recorded at Mayon in last 24 hours. Restive Mayon Volcano in Albay showed signs of increased activity with 15 volcanic quakes in the last 24 hours, state volcanologists said Sunday. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) also noted one rockfall-related event .

No current tropical storms.


WASHINGTON - Weekend storm dumps RECORD-BREAKING RAIN over Puget Sound. A storm that swept the Puget Sound region around 7 pm Saturday dumped the AVERAGE MONTHLY RAINFALL FOR MAY IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS and broke two daily records.

Mississippi River Flood Was Expected: Says A Leading Climate Cycle Expert. Global Weather Oscillations Inc. (GWO), a leading climate cycle forecast company, says that they accurately forecast this year's historical Mississippi River flood, and predict the next great Mississippi River flood to be in the year 2035, but added that climate cycles often occur in tandem and the area should be on alert for another possible flood in 2015.
GWO’s prediction model is based on climate cycles. These cycles are built around a Primary Forcing Mechanism (PFM) for climate changes. GWO also uses the PFM to predict hurricane landfalls up to 4 years in the future because the PFM cycles are unique for each coastal zone and are related to the average position of the Bermuda High pressure center from one year to the next.
The PFM based Model tracked multiple climate cycles which are related to the great floods of 1927, 1951, 1973 and 1993, and then accurately predicted this year’s great flood. GWO is currently the only company accurately forecasting hurricane and tropical storm landfalls 4 years into the future for 11 coastal zones from Texas to New England.
GWO is in its sixth year of issuing landfall forecasts for hurricanes and tropical storms. For the upcoming hurricane season beginning June 1, the tropical Atlantic Ocean is a little warmer than normal and last year’s strong Pacific La Niña is now in neutral status. That normally translates to an active tropical season for the Atlantic Basin. GWO’s PFM climate cycles do indicate an active season with conditions more conducive for storms tracking into the Gulf and western Atlantic. Specific zone forecasts for this year were issued to GWO’s clients in September and December of 2010. GWO also prepares predictions for the EL Niño, regional major earthquakes such as in California, Climate Change Global Warming cycles, and historical climate events.