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Thursday, March 10, 2016

☢ Fukushima No Place for Man or Robot ☢

The robots sent into the nuclear power plants to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima's nuclear reactors have all “died”. The subterranean "ice wall" around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished with some experts saying they have little hope in it ever being finished.

And authorities still don’t even know how to dispose of the highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site that are now starting to leak more and more. The authorities ongoing solution to the radioactive water problem to try and cool the reactors have so far been to dump it all into the Pacific Ocean.

Fukushima No Place for Man or Robot
Fukushima No Place for Man or Robot

Five years ago, one of the worst earthquakes in history triggered a 10-metre high tsunami that crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station causing multiple meltdowns. Nearly 19,000 people were killed or left missing and 160,000 lost their homes and livelihoods.

Today, the radiation at the Fukushima plant is still so powerful it has proven impossible to get into its bowels to find and remove the extremely dangerous blobs of melted fuel rods. The radiation is so powerful that experts can only guess at what depth the melted corium fuel now is located.

So far the official reports are that the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), has made some progress, such as removing hundreds of spent fuel roads in one damaged building. But the technology needed to establish the location of the melted fuel rods in the other three reactors at the plant has not been developed.

“It is extremely difficult to access the inside of the nuclear plant," Naohero Masuda, Tepco's head of decommissioning said in one interview. "The biggest obstacle is the radiation.”

The fuel rods melted through their containment vessels in the reactors, and no one knows exactly where they are now. This part of the plant is so dangerous to humans, Tepco has been developing robots, which can swim under water and negotiate obstacles in damaged tunnels and piping to search for the melted fuel rods.

But as soon as they get close to the reactors, the radiation destroys their wiring and renders them useless, causing long delays, Masuda said. 

Each robot has to be custom-built for each building.“It takes two years to develop a single-function robot,” Masuda said.

Irradiated Water

Tepco, which was fiercely criticized and still is for its handling of the disaster, says conditions at the Fukushima power station have improved dramatically. Radiation levels in many places at the site are now as low as those in Tokyo. But words like those do not speak much comfort for a disaster site know as being one of the worst nuclear disasters since Chernobyl in Ukraine 30 years ago,

More than 8,000 workers are at the plant at any one time, according to officials on a recent tour. Traffic is constant as they spread across the site, removing debris, building storage tanks, laying piping and preparing to dismantle parts of the plant.

Much of the work involves pumping a steady torrent of water into the wrecked and highly radiated reactors to cool them down. Afterward, some of the radiated water is then pumped out of the plant and stored in tanks that are proliferating around the site while the rest of the radioactive water is flushed out into the Pacific Ocean.

What to do with the nearly million tonnes of radioactive water is one of the biggest challenges, said Akiro Ono, the site manager. Ono said he is “deeply worried” the storage tanks will leak even more radioactive water into the sea - as they have done several times before - prompting strong criticism for the government.

The utility has so far failed to get the backing of local fishermen to release water it has treated into the ocean.

Ono estimates that Tepco has completed around 10 percent of the work to clear the site up - the decommissioning process could take 30 to 40 years. But until the company locates the fuel, it won’t be able to assess progress and final costs, experts say.

The much touted use of X-ray like muon rays has yielded little information about the location of the melted fuel and the last robot inserted into one of the reactors sent only grainy images before breaking down.

The Great Ice Wall

Tepco is building the world’s biggest ice wall to keep groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors and getting contaminated.

First suggested in 2013 and strongly backed by the government, the wall was completed in February, after months of delays and questions surrounding its effectiveness. Later this year, Tepco plans to pump water into the wall - which looks a bit like the piping behind a refrigerator - to start the freezing process.

Stopping the ground water intrusion into the plant is critical, said Artie Gunderson, a former nuclear engineer.

“The reactors continue to bleed radiation into the ground water and thence into the Pacific Ocean,” Gunderson said. "When Tepco finally stops the groundwater, that will be the end of the beginning.”

While he would not rule out the possibility that small amounts of radiation are reaching the ocean, Masuda, the head of decommissioning, said the leaks have ended after the company built a wall along the shoreline near the reactors whose depth goes to below the seabed.

“I am not about to say that it is absolutely zero, but because of this wall the amount of release has dramatically dropped,” he said.




Japan faces 200-year wait for Fukushima clean-up
The Times of London, Mar. 27, 2015
The chief of the Fukushima nuclear power station has admitted that the technology needed to decommission three melted-down reactors does not exist, and he has no idea how it will be developed. 
In a stark reminder of the challenge facing the Japanese authorities, Akira Ono conceded that the stated goal of decommissioning the plant by 2051 may be impossible without a giant technological leap. 
“There are so many uncertainties involved. We need to develop many, many technologies,” Mr Ono said. 
“Forremoval of the debris, we don’t have accurate information (about the state of the reactors) or any viable methodology…
Japan may be obsessed with robots
The Telegraph (UK), Mar 26, 2015
But it is a British company that has solved the “impossible” problem of visualising the radiation leaks inside the crippled reactor buildings at Fukushima.
State-of-the-art British imaging technology has been deployed at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to overcome problems that Japanese engineers declared to be insurmountable… 
The system is able to create a real-time, three-dimensional image of the area being surveyed and identify “hot-spots” of radioactivity. More than four years after… radiation levels within the structures remain too high for humans to enter. 
That has severely hampered efforts to clean up the site. Experts have already estimated that process will take three decades but progress to date has been slow. TEPCO was only able to confirm on Thursday (Mar 2015) previous suspicions that nearly all the fuel from the No. 1 reactor at the plant has melted and fallen into the containment vessel. 

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Geiger Counters - Radiation Detection Meters - Handheld Radiation Detector



When it comes to radiation detection meters you really have a wide field of gadgets to choose from, however radiation detectors are the most common to use. First of all if you need to know what type of radiation you are looking for. There are Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation detectors. And also there is neutron emission of nuclear radiation. And all these different types of emissions have radiation detectors for a specific type of radiation that you can buy radiation detector for. Some also measure both Alpha and Beta. Others detect Alpha, Beta and Gamma. While others let you measure Beta and Gamma radiation.



What most people have use for though are Dosimeters you can buy a handheld radiation detector pretty cheap that are good addition to a survival kit. There are different kinds that you can use that will detect radiation. There are radiation badges that will tell you when radiation become high. Workers at nuclear power plants use these to inform them of how much radiation they have been exposed to. Now also children in the Fukushima prefecture have each been given a radiation badge so they know if they are exposed to radiation. Some come in the shape of a pen that you can carry in your pocket while other are made more compact so that you can attach them to your keychain. And then you have what is called a personal radiation monitor. These are also called Dosimeters and also normally called Geiger counters. Although not all use the Geiger-Muller Tube for the radiation detection some use a semiconductor instead. These and mostly the older geiger counters seen are pretty big to carry around, so they might not be best suited for a survival situation where you only need to carry the most important things. However if you have land and want to check radiation around the property and drinking water then these are the geiger counters to get because they are very well built units.

These are the once that you normally see people use. They have different units of radiation detection, because when it comes to radiation there are many standards used. some give the measurements in Rads, while other use Sieverts. Some have the maximum radiation value for the measured radioactivity quite low but they will still give you an idea of the amount of radiation in the area. With the units ranging from between background radiation 0.001 mSv/hr all the way up to 10 Sv/h. Normally a dosimeter will measure radiation in micro siverts per hour. If you were to walk into one of the reactor units at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant you probably would get an error reading from your dosimeter because the radiation levels are so high there.

Note that some places outside the exclusion zone in Fukushima that are too radioactive for people to live in have areas where the radiation levels are above 30 Sv/h. So if you are in a area that have high radiation the radiation detectors would also there go off the scale. However Geiger counters or radiation detectors are still favored as general purpose alpha/beta/gamma portable radiation detectors and radiation detection equipment, due to their low cost and robustness. Most come with an LCD Display that show you the radioactivity in the area. Nowdays you will even get alarm sound and the possibility to connect the device to a computer. Either with a Infrared, Bluetooth or USB connection.

So if you look at the radiation detectors for sale that have this, then these radiation detection meters will allow you to make maps of contaminated areas that show where the radiation is high and low. This also will help you to see which areas are becoming more contaminated over time. With several nuclear reactors in the US and around the world located near fault zones that makes it a danger if a big earthquake would hit the area there is always a good choice to have a radiation dosimeter avaliable. I'm sure many in Fukushima would have been grateful to have dosimeters avaliable at the time of the disaster and I am sure you to would be grateful to have a geiger counter handy when you need one.

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