Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

High Radiation Readings Expected as TEPCO Surveys Vent From Reactor

Plant Status

• Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it has detected radiation levels of at least 1,000 rem per hour at the base of an exhaust pipe between reactor buildings 1 and 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. It is the highest radiation level detected at the site. The pipe was used to vent air from the reactor containment the day after the accident began on March 11. TEPCO also detected radiation of 500 rem per hour on the second floor of the reactor 1 building, the highest level found indoors since the accident. TEPCO has restricted access to both areas. These levels of radiation are not unexpected. As recovery efforts proceed, more extensive and detailed radiation surveys are being conducted. Given the severity of events at the site, it would not be surprising if similarly high radiation levels were measured in some areas of the plant in the future. Radiation assessment is important work that will continue. These surveys help ensure that proper safety measures are implemented before workers enter previously inaccessible areas of the facility.

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

• The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee heard testimony Aug. 2 from the commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the agency’s follow-up to the accident in Japan. The commissioners discussed their views on implementing the recommendations of an NRC task force in light of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. Statements from participants and an archived webcast of the hearing are available online.

• The Japanese government will begin full-scale decontamination work in the 12.5-mile evacuation zone around Fukushima Daiichi. A government official said the goal is for residents to return by early next year.

• Japanese authorities will centralize radiation monitoring within one organization after complaints about difficulties of finding radiation information from the several government agencies, prefectures and electric utilities that collect it. The central government also plans to set up 250 monitoring stations across the country and map radiation levels. It will begin providing information online by mid-August.

• The Fukushima prefecture government next week will start buying cattle that are believed to have eaten feed contaminated with radioactive cesium. Beef shipments have been banned from four prefectures near Fukushima Daiichi that account for 15 percent of Japan’s production. Several prefectural governments also plan to test this year’s rice crop for radiation.

Media Highlights

• Nuclear energy will remain a key electricity source for Florida and energy companies should continue with development of new reactors, state Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham told the St. Petersburg Times. “The biggest mistake that we made when Three Mile Island happened was that we turned and ran from it,” said Graham, referring to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.

• NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff outlined six recommendations of the agency’s post-Fukushima task force that the commission could act on “in a matter of weeks,” The New York Times reports.

• Japan’s parliament has approved a $26 billion fund to help pay compensation claims resulting from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, The New York Times reports.

• Japan’s government is expected to announce the creation of a new nuclear energy oversight agency, Reuters reports. It would combine the current regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, with another government organization and put them under the Environment Agency.

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