A video image taken by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) shows the spent fuel pool of the unit four reactor at the tsunami and earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant on May 7, 2011
Seattle Post Intelligencer, Nov 11, 2014 (emphasis added): Mike Priddy, supervisor of Washington’s Environmental Sciences Section [wrote] in an email exchange today: “… if the water has radioactive material in it at any level, coming into contact with it will cause the contamination to transfer. That said, the levels… pose no real health affects… whether you come in contact with the water or somehow casually ingest it. The levels I have seen in seawater are interesting from a scientific point of view, but well below health concerns.”
KHUM, Nov. 12, 2014 — Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (10:00 in): In winter time… offshore waters might move inshore… I’m hoping to get samples… as this plume moves its way maybe on to shore.
Take Two Show, Nov. 14, 2014 — Host: The thing that I read that did do a good job of reassuring me was a comparison to a dental x-ray. Maybe tell us that one? Buesseler: We’re comparing to a dental x-ray because that’s something people experience and choose to do… The risk is never zero, any additional radioactivity can cause additional cancers… There’s really very little we can do once its in the ocean. Fukushima was an unprecedented event… God forbid something happens today, it’s pretty unstable off Japan.
Santa Rosa Press Demiocrat, Nov 11, 2014: [Dan Sythe, CEO of International Medcom] shares Buesseler’s concern that the federal government is not monitoring… Some people are “on edge” about the prospect of Fukushima radiation reaching them, he said. The radiation now reaching California is at the front edge of the plume, and Buesseler said the concentration is expectedto increase [for] the next two to three years. But it’s worrisome, he said, that what’s happening now in Japan will reach North America in about three years.
- Nov. 10, 2014 — Sample F#5049 (offshore Calif.):Cs134 @ 0.8 Bq/m³; Cs137 @ 6.9 Bq/m³
- Nov. 15, 2014 — Sample F#5049 (offshore Calif.):Cs134 @ 1.7 Bq/m³; Cs137 @ 6.9 Bq/m³
Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen, Radio Ecoshock, Oct. 29, 2014 (23:30 in): [In addition to the radioactive plume off the Canadian coast], there’s also another plume heading a little bit further south, down near Oregon coast into California… We are not at the peak, it’s still coming, and it will continue to come as long as Fukushima continues to bleed into the Pacific, we’re seeing the beginning of this… The problem is that the fish that live in that water bioaccumulate that material.
Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen, Nuclear Hotseat, Nov. 12, 2014 (31:45 in): [Fukushima is] going to bleed for decades, if not centuries [into the Pacific]… There will still be a huge residual amount of radiation in the soil and in the groundwater so that the site will continue to bleed into the Pacific a century or more.
Mainichi, Nov 18, 2014 (emphasis added): Attempt to stop water flowing into trench at Fukushima plant fails… TEPCO determined that the leak must be continuing… critics have pointed out the possibility of it escaping into the ocean… TEPCO planned to freeze the water… However, the water was insufficiently frozen to stop the flow, and while an effort continued until Nov. 6 to fill in the gaps in the ice with special cement, this effort also failed… While the water remains in the trench, TEPCO cannot create a planned underground wall of frozen soil around the No. 1 through 4 reactor buildings…
NHK, Nov 18, 2014: Officials… say a barrier designed to prevent radioactive water from entering underground tunnels is likely not doing its job… highly-radioactive water from tunnels under the facility… leaks to surrounding soil… Monday, workers removed 200,000 liters of water, estimating that water levels in the tunnels would drop by 80 cm. However, the levels went down by only 20.
NHK World (original): Officials [at] the Fukushima plant have another problem… Officials concluded more water was likely entering the tunnels from the reactor building than was being pumped out… Officials say workers [plan to fill tunnels with cement] carefully to prevent contaminated water from overflowing.
NHK World (updated): The aim is to prevent the water from leaking into the surrounding soil but the barrier is not holding back the water… Officials concluded more water was likely entering the tunnels from the reactor building than was being pumped out.
Japan Times, Nov. 19, 2014: Tepco unable to halt tainted water flowing… from the No. 2 reactor building to underground tunnels at [Fukushima Daiichi,] officials said. Tepco has injected cement… but water levels suggest the effort has remained unsuccessful… The company began the cement injections after failing to create an “ice wall”… Tepco pumped 200 tons of tainted water out of the tunnels Monday… [If] completely sealed, water levels would have fallen roughly 80 cm [yet levels only dropped 20 cm], the officials said, indicating the possibility that contaminated water is still flowing into the tunnels. The officials also noted the possibility that groundwater may be flowing into the tunnels. However… the amount of radioactive materials in the tunnel water is very high, an official in the Nuclear Regulation Authority said. “Concentrations should have been lower if large amounts of groundwater are really flowing in”
Jiji Press, Nov. 19, 2014:The tunnels are believed to contain some 5,000 tons of tainted water. Some observers believe the water may be leaking into the ground and reaching the Pacific.
NBC News (emphasis added): Scientists may have fingered the culprit responsible for a mysterious epidemic that has killed millions of starfish… the disease was a relatively common parvovirus found in invertebrates that rose to epidemic levels due to overpopulation, a genetic mutation or other unknown environmental factors.
PBS: Scientists… said it’s a virus that’s different from all other known viruses infecting marine organisms [and] don’t yet know what sparked the seemingly benign virus to transform into the perpetrator of what’s considered the largest marine disease outbreak ever…
National Geographic: The virus [is] quite common. [Cornell professor Ian Hewson, lead author of the study, said] “It’s been around for 70 years [and] probably present all over the world.”… Why such a pervasive virus is suddenly killing millions of animals is still up for debate… Previous events [were in] one or two species, but the virus is now infecting 20. It’s unusual for a single type of virus… But mutations in a key part of a virus… can help the infection spread to more species, the study authors write…
Hewson: “It is very peculiar to find a virus [infecting] such large numbers of species.”
Reuters: The researchers detected it in… specimens from as early as 1942. They said it may have been present at low levels for years and only recently became a large-scale threat due to some kind of viral mutation, environmental trigger, starfish overpopulation or other factor.
AP: Hewson adds they don’t know yet what triggered the outbreak of the virus… He said it could be related to… a change in the virus, or changes in the environment.
National Geographic: [Hewson] suspects that the virus may not actually cause the symptoms… [it may] disrupt the sea stars’ ability to control the bacteria that they normally co-exist with… Why is the current outbreak… so dramatic when [virus] is actually an old presence?
- Dr. Pete Raimondi, study author: “Something may have happened recently that caused[virus] to go rogue, because we’ve never seen anything like current outbreak“
- Amanda Bates, Univ. of Southampton: “[The virus] has been living with sea stars for over seven decades without causing the large-scale mass mortality of the past two years… we still don’t know why such a large number of sea stars over such a wide geographic area have succumbed to this disease. Has the virus changed to be more virulent, or deadly?Perhaps something in the environment has shifted.”
- Dr. Mike Murray, Monterey Bay Aquarium: “It provides a… place to start and say, ‘OK, we found this virus in lots of sea stars. What was the trigger? What started it all off? Are there other problems in other species? [This] may or may not have a human basis”
- Dr. Ian Lipkin, Columbia Univ., pathogen discovery specialist: “The authors… note themselves, there is much more work to be done before we will know whether the densovirus they describe is necessary and sufficient to cause disease.”
- Vincent Racaniello, Columbia Univ. virologist: “The crucial experiment that remains… is to… inoculate [the virus] into sea stars, and show that it causes wasting disease.”
- Drew Harvell, Cornell ecologist: “The million-dollar question in all this: Why now? What is it that changed that created the conditions for this outbreak? And we don’t have the answer to that. But certainly a viral mutation would be one explanation.”
- Carol Blanchette, Univ. of Santa Barbara: “It is likely that… environmental causes… have played an important role [and the virus] may only be one part of the story.”
- Harvell: “Their disappearance is an experiment in ecological upheaval the likes of which we’ve never seen.”
- Watch an interview with lead author Hewson here
National Geographic, Nov 17, 2014 (emphasis added): Urchins and cucumbers seemed to have escaped the ill effects of the virus until now. But in recent weeks, reports have started to come in that they too are dying along beaches in the Pacific Northwest, Hewson said… [He and his team are] studying the urchins and sea cucumbers that are already dying to see if the same killer is responsible.
Dr. Bill Bushing, kelp forest ecologist, Nov 2, 2014: I’ve mentioned before that [in Southern California] our starfish and sea urchins have been dying… I’ve recently seen sea cucumbers that appear to be diseased as well… I’ve also observed strangely colored sea hares (big shell-less snails) in the park. The red algae they normally eat seems to have died out… Divers also report seeing far fewer of the sea hares this year.
Ronald L. Shimek, PhD, marine biologist, Nov 10, 2014: Jan Kocian, diving photographer extraordinare… has been actively surveying several marine subtidal areas in northern Puget Sound for some time… [During a Sept. 18] dive… on Whidbey Island, Washington… he started seeing things he had never previously observed.… there were many animals lying exposed on the sandy sea floor, looking limp, sick or dead. Red sea cucumbers were flaccid and dead… Aleutian Moon snails were in odd postures… pink/yellow worms [were] another rare or unusual sight…. Nuttall’s cockles were on the sediment surface with their siphons out, instead of being buried… 22ndSeptember, the area containing dying animals was not only still present itwas spreading; whatever seemed to be the cause was still doing its dirty work… 25th September [many] red sea cucumbers… were lying fully exposed, and apparently dead… 29th of September… A few living Cucumaria were acting oddly, not quite dead, but just slightly responsive to touch… Numerous green sea urchins were found with their spines in abnormal postures, definitely not looking healthy… The full extent of the dead area, and the reason for the mortality, remain indeterminate.
Captions to photos taken by diver Jan Kocian: (3) Death of the sea urchins; (4) [Red sea cucumber] Cucumaria miniata dying and decomposing [alt text on photo: “Everything’s dying”]; (5) Dead, dead, dead, and dead – or dying
NRC, Nov. 13, 2014 (emphasis added): NRC inspection found that Honeywell did not recognize that the HF [hydrogen fluoride gas] released… warranted an emergency classification of ALERT. Honeywell agreed with the NRC findings and subsequently reported their failure… The NRC has reviewed Honeywell’s calculations on the amount of HF released and their subsequentplume estimate… weekly radioactive air monitoring reports for the fence line and nearest residence [show] the activity results were within the Honeywell license limits.
NRC, Oct. 27, 2014: An operator noticed on the room monitor video screen a haze in the air… This haze indicated a UF6 leak… public outside the plant reported a cloud emanating from the building for five minutes before the mitigation spray towers were activated… Region II received initial notification of this occurrence by public inquiry…
NRC, Nov. 12, 2014: Hydrogen fluoride gas… was visible emanating from the building.
ABC 3, Oct. 28, 2014: A leak… has residents concerned for their safety… Company officials say there’s nothing to be worried about, but neighbors and plant union workers think it’s more serious than they’re letting on… Heather Cremeens lives less than a block from the plant… Throughout the years, she’s seen a few releases… but nothing this big.
Heather Cremeens, lives a block away: “I have lived here for 30 years and I have never seen anything like that before in my life… We grabbed our child… and we took off, we didn’t know what to do… I was shocked they didn’t let us know.”
NBC 6, Oct. 30, 2014: A spokesman tells us the release was contained… But people that live nearby are trying to figure out what was that large cloud blowing away… Gary Cameron… says the hour-long release Sunday night was different.
Gary Cameron, 30 years living a mile away: “It’s ridiculous, they have these leaks and they say it’s contained every time. It’s not contained — everybody stood there and watched it.”
John Smith, worker: “Water’s heavier than air [and] going to sink… HF vapor is lighter than air, it’s going to move up, the cloud leaving the facility was definitely moving horizontal and up”
ABC 3, Oct. 28, 2014: Neighbors have reported there was a heavy metallic smell in the air.
Stephen Lech, union president: “Smoke [was] billowing from… the building… 7 minutes after the release started, the mitigation towers began… An impossibility [the cloud was water]. The spray towers [are] large, they look a lot like a fire stream… Honeywell’s explanation is that fog [is] water vapor… that’s just not a possibility. We expect Honeywell to come clean.”
Lech: “The company refused to warn the community and told responders that the release was contained to their building and the cloud was water… We believe this video shows that the release was out of control and went on for almost 6 minutes before the spray towers were activated (5:46 in the video). We believe Honeywell has lied to the community.”
Sante Fe New Mexican, Nov. 15, 2014 (emphasis added): The combination [of neutralizer and wheat-based organic litter] turned the waste into a potential bomb that one lab chemist later characterized as akin to plastic explosives, according to a six-month investigation by The New Mexican. [Los Alamos National Lab] then shipped [the waste] to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant… Feb. 14… the drum’s lid cracked open… Temperatures in the underground chamber soared to 1,600 degrees, threatening dozens of nearby drums… Documents and internal emails show… officials downplayed the dangers… and withheld critical information.
- LANL chemist Steve Clemmons [found] the drum’s contents match the makeup ofpatented plastic, water-gel and slurry explosives… “All of the required components included in the patent claims would be present,” Clemmons wrote… “I am appalled that LANL didn’t provide us this information!” [wrote DOE official Dana Bryson]… On May 27, when they learned of the memo about patented explosives… WIPP abandoned plans for the next day to sample the area where the breach occurred, fearing it was too dangerous. “In a phone call withLANL, they indicated that there is a possibility that any sampling of the kitty litter/drum contents could cause another event,” [wrote] David Freeman, Nuclear Waste Partnership’s chief nuclear engineer… “We have a formal letter on LANL letterhead implying there is a real and present danger in the WIPP underground,” Bryson wrote.
Up to 55 more drums of waste ‘destabilized ‘
- The intense underground flare may have destabilized up to 55 more drums of waste [near the one that ruptured], calling into question whether they, too, had become poised to burst. “[The high heat event] may have dried out some of the unreacted oxidizer-organic mixtures increasing their potential for spontaneous reaction,” the report said. “The dehydration of the fuel-oxidizer mixtures… is recognized as a condition known to increase the potential for reaction.”
Over 5,000 more waste drums a threat
- LANL began treating waste with assorted varieties of organic kitty litter as early as Sept. 2012, spawning thousands of drums of waste that hold the same organic threat… [It] may have been mixed in up to 5,565 containers of waste at LANL.
LANL (pg. 21 of pdf): [The team] evaluated the effect of a heat generating event on the adjacent waste containers [that] could have chemically or physically changed the waste and introduced a reaction hazard. Unreacted drums of nitrate salt waste stream… continue to pose a potential reaction hazard… Reactions may have occurred within some of these drums at levels insufficient to lead to detectable visible evidence.
KOB, Nov. 16, 2014: Nuclear waste so volatile, it’s been called a potential bomb by experts… Greg Mello, former nuclear waste inspector for LANL: “The drum in question was basically kind of a time bomb.”… [A WIPP] assessment… estimates over 5,000 drums of waste may contain the volatile organic kitty litter that caused the one drum to split open.