Skip to main content

The Leak at Fukushima

No two ways about it:

Some 45 tons of highly radioactive water leaked Sunday from desalination equipment used to decontaminate the radioactive water in Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and it is unclear if any made it to the sea, a Tepco official said Monday.

This isn’t good. No radioactive anything should be flowing anywhere at this point and no excuse mitigates it.

Having said that, the threat seems low:

"Even if all 300 liters reached the sea, the radiation would be diluted, and the amount that escaped is tiny compared with what has already leaked into the sea (on earlier occasions)," said Genichiro Wakabayashi, a radiology professor at Kinki University, playing down the potential danger of the leak. "The leak (even if to the sea or to the groundwater) would not be enough to increase radiation levels in marine or agricultural products in the Tohoku region," he said.

He may be “playing down the potential danger” because that’s all the potential danger there is. But at least as of now, it is not known whether any of the water went into the ocean, if it contains radioactive strontium, and if it does, how much.

"We currently believe the leak will have no effect on the water circulation system or our judgment on whether we've achieved a cold shutdown of the reactors," said TEPCO plant location headquarters representative Junichi Matsumoto.

That’s not much of a response. The story still has too many “may haves” to be certain about it. The international media has been on the job, but details have been widely divergent. Check back on our Japan Updates this week for more on this.

You can check out the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum report about  this here.


BangkaAn interesting story about nuclear energy in Indonesia – it’s planning two plants – contains some tidbits that aroused further curiosity. For example:

The cost of building a nuclear reactor, using the example of Vietnam, may reach Rp 20 trillion (US$2.1 billion). While initial investment is expensive, nuclear plants are cheaper to operate than oil-fueled power plants.

I don’t think most stories from elsewhere would use oil-fueled plants as a reference point, but that’s where Indonesia gets a lot (29 percent, with brown coal at 44 percent) of its electricity from. That’s rather – awful.

And consider this estimation of future electricity needs (form the World Nuclear Organization):

With an industrial production growth rate of 10.5%, electricity demand is estimated to reach 175 TWh in 2013 and 450 billion kWh in 2026. At present a low reserve margin with poor power plant availability results in frequent blackouts.

The nuclear facilities promise to generate a lot of electricity all at once.

Batan then looked for other possible locations for a nuclear power plant, eventually choosing Bangka-Belitung. The government currently plans to build a 10,000-MW reactor West Bangka and an 8,000-MW reactor South Bangka with a launch date of 2021 or 2022.

Batan is the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan is an acronym for the agency in Indonesian – Badan Tenaga Nuklir Nasional – I like the spelling for nuclear – you can visit it here). Frankly, Batan could probably learn to get buy-in from an area’s residents before setting down a plant,  but there you are.

In the future, Taswanda [Taryo, Batan’s research chief] said, Batan wanted to “improve communication” with the residents of Muria and Bangka and share with them how a nuclear power plant might improve their well being.

“Electricity from a nuclear power plant is very important for industries to expand their businesses, which in the end can absorb more workers,” he said.

So – live and learn. The story points out that Batan will not build any plant, just select a location. And no vendor to build a plant has been solicited much less chosen. So we’ll see if the country has a facility up and running by 2022.

In Bangka Indonesia. I volunteer to – do – anything there. To help the facility. Of course.


Joffan said…
The JAIF report would be more interesting if they were passing on information direct - but according to the top of their report, they're just passing on what they heard from the broadcaster, NHK.
trag said…
How does 300 liters of water mass 45 tons? By my guesstimate, it should be about 300 kilograms, or 660 lbs, or about 1/3 of a ton. Or were there two different quantities of water in the story?

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…