Archive for the ‘Evacuation’ Tag

Japan Nuclear And Earthquake-Tsunami Disaster Anniversary: 2011~2013   39 comments

Japan Nuclear Disaster And Earthquake-Tsunami 2011~2013

“I bowed and begged them to stay…”

Two years ago today the Japanese people were reeling from the nightmare of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake – the most powerful one ever recorded in Japan, and the 30-foot wave tsunami that crashed as much as 6 miles inshore on March 11 2011; It was a nightmare that killed in the region of 20,000 people and triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster 27 years ago.

Fukushima Nuclear Plant...Remembering...

Whilst the atomic accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant did not actually claim any lives it has left tens of thousands of people driven from their homes in a mass evacuation and reduced whole towns to an uninhabitable state as a consequence of the dangerous radiation levels. A situation that will probably last for many decades to come.

                     Fukushima-radiation-could-be-ocean-risk  Japanese Evacuees  Contamination

A report compiled by America’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations highlights the heroism of workers at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the disaster’s aftermath, which saw three reactors go into full nuclear meltdown…

“The plant’s back-up generators also failed, leaving most of the facility with no power. Workers struggled to cool the overheating reactors in ‘complete darkness’ while hundreds of aftershocks rocked the area, including two of greater than 7.0 magnitude. The workers persisted in their efforts despite ‘elevated and continuously changing dose rates and contamination levels,’ the report said. Food shortages meant they were given only a biscuit for breakfast and a bowl of noodles for dinner. Many slept on the floor. Some of the workers had lost their homes and families to the tsunami, but continued to toil at the crippled nuclear plant. Some operators volunteered to perform dangerous jobs, the report notes, while many had no formal training for the tasks they were attempting. They relied on "creativity" and "unconventional or unique methods to deal with ‘conditions that were beyond the design basis for the station.’ “ ~ America’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations

Reactor Explosions and Fires

No. 2 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered an explosion when cooling systems in the Unit failed and pressure inside the reactor soared. Reactor Units Nos. 1 and 3 were blasted by hydrogen explosions which blew the roof off No. 1 unit and tore No 3 reactor apart, and a fire broke out in reactor No. 4 spent fuel storage pond.

                  

  No 4 reactor building Fukushima  FukDaic1 Reactor building covered by steel frame

Masao Yoshida then Fukushima Daiichi plant chief told state broadcaster NHK: "In the first week immediately after the accident I thought a few times ‘I’m going to die.”

Making reference to the explosion of hydrogen that ripped the buildings around rectors 1 and 3 to shreds, he added: "I thought it was all over.”

In a provisional report released by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Masao described how he was forced to face the fact that they had a full blown disaster on their hands “When lights flickered and went out, including those on the control panels.”

fukushima-control-reactor

"I came to realise a tsunami had hit the site as one of the workers rushed into the room, shouting ‘Sea water is gushing in!’ I felt totally at a loss after losing power sources. Other workers appeared anxious. They argued, and one asked: ‘Is there any reason for us to be here when there is nothing we can do to control (the reactors)?’ I bowed and begged them to stay.

As immobilised electrical and cooling systems at the nuclear power plant ground to a halt the largely unsung heroes – the heroic plant workers – in a terrifyingly high risk situation took life-threatening health risks in a desperate, punishing bid to prevent a worse nuclear disaster.

The beleaguered, under fire operator of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant released accounts from the plant workers’ themselves describing some of their most desperate moments as they struggled and fought to bring the stricken nuclear plant under control…

                No 4 reactor at Fuk Dai plant  Fukushima 11 March 2012 Credit Reuters_Kyodo 

  • Overwhelming challenges as workers endeavoured to manually open a ventilation valve in a vital effort to discharge pressure from a reactor container.

"We put on the full protection gear but couldn’t possibly let young workers do the task, as we had to go into an area where the radiation levels were high. When I got to the place to open the valve, I heard eerie, deep popping noise from the torus (a donut-shaped structure at the bottom of the reactor). When I put one of my feet on the torus to reach the valve, my black rubber boot melted and slipped (due to the heat).” one worker recalled.

  • Dire working conditions as they strove relentlessly to combat the dangerously unstable and crippled nuclear plant.

"We experienced big aftershocks, and many times we had to run up a hill in desperation (fearing a tsunami) with the full-face mask still on,” one worker said.

  • Race against time to set down power cables and reinstate the electric supply:

"We finished the work (in one section) in several hours, although it usually requires one month or two. It was an operation we had to do in puddles, fearing electrification,” the worker said.

  • Explosions and fires at the plant give a free rein to the release of critically hazardous radiation levels, compelling TEPCO to evacuate all but a handful of brave and desperately needed workers, out of a nuclear workforce of hundreds.

                   Fukushima Nuclear Plant Workers  Credit: Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO): radioactive water on the floor inside the building of a water treatment facility at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.  Fukushima No2 Reactor torus room_Credit: REUTERS

Those workers became known as the "The Fukushima Fifty”, but the final numbers of workers risking lives and health to join the battle increased by thousands who were also joined by partner company technicians, the likes of Toshiba and Hitachi.

They undertook the commission of ensuring the steady flow of cooling water streaming into the six plant reactors, three of which none-the-less were later to undergo overheating and ultimate melted down.

Cooling System Failures at Japan’s Power Plants

“Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced a full meltdown in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March” ~ Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters (Japan}

“Nuclear fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 probably melted during the first week of the nuclear crisis whilst fuel rods at the heart of reactor No. 1 melted almost completely in the first 16 hours after the disaster struck.”

A time to remember...2011~2013Fukushima Explosion

“We Came Close To Losing Northern Japan”

~Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Discrimination against Fukushima’s “Nuclear Refugees”   20 comments

Fukushima Residents Suffer Discrimination At Refugee Shelters

Japanese residents who fled the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are being rejected by shelters and evacuation centres for fear they may be radioactive and contaminate others. These displaced people-”nuclear refugees” had to leave their homes, their farms, their animals, because of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant number 1 now will require an official certificate proving they are not contaminated in order to have shelters accept them, as they are expected to accommodate all the homeless.

Displaced Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Refugees

Radiation Fears and Distrust Push Thousands From Homes

Many are already traumatized by the tsunami that swept away entire towns in northern Japan, leaving more than 15,000 dead or missing. They tell tales of gruelling journeys, of post-disaster shortages, of scrounging for gasoline, and arriving with only the clothes on their backs.

They are driven not just by suspicion of the government but also by a deep fear of radiation, in a nation where the word conjures images of the atomic devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As they flee, they enter a life in limbo, camped out on gym floors with hundreds of others, uncertain when or if they will ever be able to return to their homes.

 japanese-child-screened-radioactivity-fukushimaScreening_for_radioactivityScanning Nuclear Refugees_Fukushima Radiation

Each shelter set-up to accommodate the displaced “nuclear refugees” around Fukushima Prefecture, where the plants are, unlike the areas further North ravaged by the tsunami, is equipped with radiation detection equipment at its entrance and serves as an entry checkpoint for people. These are staffed with health officials in plastic body suits and masks who scan new arrivals with Geiger counters to check for radiation.

Scanning For Radiation At A Temporary Scanning Centre For Residents Living In Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

Scanning for Radiation_Fukushima sheltersjapan-radiation-dog-eg_temp scan centre for residents nr Fuk plantScanning for Radiation_Fukushima shelters

Japanese experts have stated that Fukushima evacuees are not a threat to others. Kosuke Yamagishi of the medical department of the prefecture of Fukushima stated that ordinary people from the area are not dangerous unless they are employees of the Daiichi plant.

fukushima fear

Ichiro Yamaguchi, head of the Testing Station in Yamagata also confirmed regular evacuees are registering only low-levels of radiation. But the people are fearful, and it is this fear that is leading to discrimination against Fukushima residents.

 

An eight-year old child who lived 20 kms. from the nuclear site was refused entry into a Fukushima hospital and their appointment at the hospital had been cancelled as she had no non-radioactivity certification; her shocked father told Japan’s Mainichi newspaper.

However, officials at evacuation centres are sticking to their guns:

Rad_check_point‘All persons residing within a radius of 30 km around the plant must provide a certificate; If they do not, they must submit to an on-site detection. This is so that other evacuees feel safe.’

Tens of thousands have been forced to leave an area of a ​​20-km radius around the Fukushima Daiichi plant or being confined to their homes in an are of 10 kms further. “How can you stay at home if you have to go out to get drinking water?” asked Kumiko Kowata, 45, a homemaker, after the earthquake knocked out water supplies to her home. The exodus has also been spurred by private companies in towns near the plants who chartered buses to help their employees and families flee to the shelter in Yamagata, even as the government has played down the effects. Many believe that the situation at the plants was twice as bad as authorities and the government were admitting. “We might be overreacting, but we also know Tokyo Electric” — the plants’ operator — “is not telling us everything,” says Hitoshi Suzuki, a 34-year-old construction worker.

Munehiro Okamoto, 36, who works for a drug making company, led a convoy of four cars and 15 people, and one golden retriever, to Yamagata from Namei, a town right by the Fukushima Daiichi plant. He described a situation in which the parents feared that their children would get radiation sickness. He said the group would reach a city, stop, then fear that it was not far enough, and resume their journey westward. “We didn’t want to keep panicking and moving on and then stopping again,” he said.

Prime Minister adviser Kenichi Matsumoto, told the press that the region surrounding the Fukushima central plant could be uninhabitable for 10 or 20 years+. But if Fukushima Daiichi becomes another Three-Mile Island or Chernobyl then they may never go back. In the meantime, people are furious at being refused shelter and medical services on the assumption that they are contaminated.

Fukushima Daiichi chernobyl_openpit3-Mile Island