Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

Archive for May, 2011

Sunny day – typhoon a no show

It looks like the typhoon bypassed Tokyo altogether. It’s been beautiful weather today.


Fox News really is off in its own little world, isn’t it?

Headlines at major news sites just now:

NY Times – In Joplin, Obama Offers Healing Words to Residents
Yahoo News – Obama tours twister-ravaged neighborhood in Joplin
Google News – Obama Tours Joplin, Promises Sustained Federal Help
USA Today – Obama tours Joplin devastation
ABC News – Obama Tours Tornado-Torn Joplin
CBS News – Obama tours tornado-ravaged Joplin

Fox News (big banner headline) – McCain: Palin Could Defeat Obama


TEPCO says stabilizing reactors by end of year may be impossible | Kyodo

Stabilizing reactors by year’s end may be impossible: Tepco


Stabilizing the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant by the end of the year may be impossible, senior officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday, throwing a monkey wrench into plans to let evacuees return to their homes near the plant.

The confirmation of core meltdowns hitting reactors 1 through 3, accompanied by breaches to the critical pressure vessels that hold the nuclear fuel, has led officials to believe that “there will be a major delay to work” to contain the situation, one official said.

Tepco, the plant’s operator, announced on April 17 its road map for bringing the troubled reactors into a cold shutdown within six to nine months.

Even though the fuel in the No. 1 reactor was later found to have melted through the pressure vessel, the utility said as recently as May 17 that it did not see a need to revise its projections.

But “the nine months is just a target deadline for which we are making efforts,” a senior Tepco official said, indicating that the likely delay will affect the plan to review the evacuation of local residents. The government is hoping to review the order once the reactors are brought under control.

Tepco was taking steps until early May to completely fill the containment vessels housing the pressure vessels with water so the fuel could be cooled.

But on May 12, it was confirmed that a meltdown had occurred at the No. 1 reactor, forcing the utility to abandon the water entombment idea and try to install a new cooling system that decontaminates and recycles the radioactive water flooding the reactor’s turbine building instead.

Given that the contaminated water has leaked from the No. 1 reactor’s containment vessel, a Tepco official said, “We must first determine where it is leaking and seal it.”

The official added, “Unless we understand the extent of the damage, we don’t even know how long that work alone would take,” noting the need for one or two months more than previously thought to establish an entirely new cooling system.

Fukushima cooling pump fails – TEPCO doesn’t announce problem to public until next morning

Pump failure nearly brings No. 5 to a boil

Tepco installs backup unit 15 hours later for halted reactorr

The seawater pump in the cooling system for the Fukushima power plant’s No. 5 reactor broke down Saturday evening, prompting repair crews to install a backup pump 15 hours later on Sunday afternoon, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Tepco discovered the pump had stopped at 9 p.m. Saturday but didn’t announce it to the public until Sunday morning.

The beleaguered utility said it notified the local and central governments of the situation on Saturday evening.

The seawater pump was set up after the reactor’s original pumps were knocked out by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. It was part of the critical Residual Heat Removal System that was later used to safely ease the reactor into a cold shutdown on March 20.

Unlike reactors 1 through 4, No. 5 is less at risk of meltdown because it was not damaged by hydrogen blasts as some of the others were and because workers managed to restore external power to its cooling system.

The pump had been taking in seawater for the RHRS’s heat exchanger, which uses it to cool down fresh water being used to regulate the temperature of the reactor and its spent fuel pool.

The cause of the pump’s failure was not immediately known but was likely caused by seawater fouling some of its parts, Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told a news conference Sunday morning.

By noon Sunday, the core had reached a temperature of 93.6 degrees and the fuel pool had reached 46 degrees, compared with 68 degrees and 41 degrees, respectively, at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The backup pump kicked in at 12:31 p.m., bringing the core back down to 83 degrees by 1 p.m., a Tepco spokeswoman said by phone later Sunday.

The temperature of the core must stay below 100 degrees to maintain cold shutdown status. Anything above might cause the water to evaporate and expose the fuel rods.

Tepco began setting up the backup pump at 8 a.m. Sunday. Matsumoto said Tepco didn’t start until morning because the temperatures of both facilities were rising slowly and an emergency water-injection system was available for unit 5.

“We judged that it’s better to wait for the morning, rather than to start working while it’s dark. We didn’t think it would pose any immediate danger,” Matsumoto said.

“Even if the temperature (of the core) reaches 100 degrees, the alternative water-injection system is available,” he said.

Still, Matsumoto admitted that “it might have been better” to notify the media sooner about the pump’s failure.

Tepco is under fire for failing to disclose information fully and quickly since the nuclear crisis began on March 11. The quake and tsunami severely damaged units 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Fukushima No. 1, but Nos. 5 and 6 were already shut for regular inspections at the time of the disaster.

Time-lapse video of Tokyo Sky Tree growing (still under construction)


Typhoon headed this way, will pass through Tokyo tomorrow morning, Fukushima also in path

28 May 2011

 Last updated at 23:24 GMT

Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan ‘unready for typhoon’


The problems with the Fukushima nuclear plant have raised questions over Tepco’s future

Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is not fully prepared for heavy rain and winds of a typhoon heading towards the country, officials admit.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which runs the plant, said some reactor buildings were uncovered, prompting fears the storm may carry radioactive material into the air and sea.

Typhoon Songda is expected to hit Japan as early as Monday.

Fukushima was heavily damaged by the deadly 11 March quake and tsunami.

‘Inappropriate measures’

“We have made utmost efforts, but we have not completed covering the damaged reactor buildings,” a Tepco official said on Saturday.

“We apologise for the lack of significant measures against wind and rain,” the official added.

Tepco has been pouring anti-scattering agents – such as synthetic resins – around the damaged buildings of reactors one and four.

But some of the buildings still remain uncovered after they were damaged by hydrogen explosions soon after the quake and tsunami struck.

A special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan criticised Tepco, saying that the current safety measures “cannot be said to be appropriate”.

Adviser Goshi Hosono added: “We are now doing the utmost to prevent further spreading of radioactive materials”.

Typhoon Songda – with winds up to 216km/h (134mph) – was moving north-east and could hit Japan on Monday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Tepco and Japan’s government have faced widespread criticism – both at home and abroad – over their handling of the Fukushima crisis.

Old matchbook from St. Louis found in Tokyo antique store

Hao looks comfy on my finger

A beagle who can catch balls


Hao and Mon this evening

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