Rare ‘severe’ geomagnetic storm is hitting Earth right now

A rare G4, “severe” geomagnetic storm, is underway. It has the potential to disrupt radio transmission signals, cause problems with the electrical grid and have a range of other possibly costly impacts.

The event, which is just one notch below the highest category of solar storm, began at about 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, according to the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The geomagnetic storm is the result of a pair of coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, that left the Sun on March 15 and are now interacting with Earth’s atmosphere and geomagnetic field.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, NOAA scientists said the two CMEs may have unexpectedly combined as they sped toward Earth, which could explain why the geomagnetic storm has been so strong.

Coronal mass ejections, which are essentially magnetic clouds ejected at high velocity from the sun, can affect the electricity grid, radio transmissions and GPS signals, among other things, when they interact with the planet’s magnetic field. According to NOAA, there had not been any reported abnormalities in the U.S. power grid as of noon eastern time on Tuesday.

However, there have been numerous reports of “vivid” sightings of the Northern Lights across the northern tier of the U.S., including Washington State and Minnesota. The G4 solar storm is expected to lead to a widespread viewing of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, on Tuesday night from Alaska across Canada and much of Eurasia.

It’s possible that the Northern Lights will be visible as far south as Tennessee, New Mexico and Oklahoma on Tuesday night, NOAA experts said, depending on the evolution of the event’s intensity.

Aurora forecast

Northern Lights forecast for March 17, 2015.

IMAGE: NOAA

The Space Weather Prediction Center issued a G1, or minor, geomagnetic storm watch for Wednesday in response to the two recent CMEs, with the first effects to be felt on Tuesday. Scientists think the two CMEs unexpectedly combined into “one sort of larger shock front traveling and intersecting Earth’s orbit,” according to Robert Rutledge of the Space Weather Prediction Center.

The CMEs in this case were not oriented head-on in relation to Earth, causing forecasters to think the planet would just receive “just a glancing blow,” rather than a severe geomagnetic storm, Rutledge says.

Severe solar storms such as this one have the potential to cause “possible widespread voltage control problems” in the electrical grid. It could also disrupt tracking of spacecraft, and impede the efficacy of high-frequency radio signals, such as those used by flights that travel across the Arctic between North America and Asia. These storms can also degrade the accuracy of satellite navigation.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, these storms tend to occur about 100 times per every 11-year solar cycle, or about 60 days per each 11-year cycle. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, the ongoing event is one of just two G4 events in the current solar cycle.

Dalton Highway

The Northern Lights seen from the Dalton Highway in Alaska on March 17, 2015.

IMAGE: MARKETA MURRAY/SPACEWEATHER.COM

This event is nowhere near the strength that would be required to create a nightmare scenario that space weather specialists have been warning about for years. In that scenario, a powerful geomagnetic storm, a G5 on the five-point scale, shuts down the electrical grid, wreaks havoc on radio communications, GPS devices and aerial navigation systems, costing billions in damage.

Solar storm could disrupt GPS, cause Northern Lights show

This strong solar flare Wednesday is part of an ongoing solar storm that is bombarding earth with charged, magnetic particles today. NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

This strong solar flare Wednesday is part of an ongoing solar storm that is bombarding earth with charged, magnetic particles today. NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

Look outside. Believe it or not, it’s storming right now.

The Earth is presently being bombarded with a powerful geomagnetic storm. It’s the result of explosions on the sun two days ago that threw off coronal mass ejections, globs — a billion tons or so — of the sun’s plasma along with magnetic clouds of charged atomic particles, in the direction of Earth.

It’s the strongest geomagnetic storm — known as a category G4 — since fall 2013. While such storms can sometimes cause fluctuations in power grids, there are no reports of outages or other disruptions from this one, said Brent Gordon, space weather services branch chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

Satellite disruption is not expected, but people could see glitches with their global positioning systems today, center director Thomas Berger said. Services such as the Google Maps app rely on satellites to lock onto ground positions, but that signal must travel through the ionosphere, an area of Earth’s upper atmosphere with charged, magnetized particles, he said. As those particles are reacting to the solar storm, GPS service could be spotty, he said.

How long the solar storm will last is uncertain, researchers said. But if it continues into the evening, Michigan could be in store for a light show in the night sky. The aurora borealis, dancing bands of green and red light in the sky caused by electrical activity in the upper atmosphere, is typically confined to areas around the North and South Poles. But Alaska, Washington, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin all saw the so-called northern lights shows before dawn today. And the aurora borealis could be seen as far south as the central U.S. tonight, Gordon said.

“If the storm continues into nighttime hours, Michigan is certainly going to be in a prime location to see this, given what we’ve seen so far,” he said.

Northern Lights may be visible tonight

Discarded Russian submarines could cause a nuclear disaster in the Arctic

The Arctic could become a site of future turmoil, and not just because of the emerging geopolitical tensions and militarization in the region.

Beyond concerns of a frozen conflict in the icy north, there is the additional fear that the Barents and Kara Seas could become the location of a slow-motion nuclear disaster. Until 1991 the Soviet Union used the seas as a junkyard where it would dispose of its nuclear waste.

Sunken Russian Nuclear WasteGoogle

According to the Bellona Foundation, citing the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities (NRPA), the Soviet Union dumped “19 ships containing radioactive waste; 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery; 17,000 containers of radioactive waste,” and three nuclear submarines in the seas.

Disposing of nuclear waste and spent reactors at sea was actually a common practice around the world until the early 1970s. But the Soviet Union dumped a significant amount of material into bodies of water that were sometimes not that far from neighboring countries.

Three scuttled nuclear submarines are the most dangerous of the disposals for the overall safety of the region  — the K-27, the K-278, and the K-159, according to The Moscow Times. Of those, the K-27 is the one most likely to cause a Chernobyl-like event in which the casings of the reactors fail and dangerous amounts of radiation escape into the environment.

The K-27 is particularly risky, the BBC reports, due to its unique design. The submarine, which was launched in 1962, was experimentally developed with two previously untested liquid-metal cooled reactors. Soon after deployment the submarine began emitting high levels of radiation, poisoning its crew.

In 1981, the Soviet Union sunk the submarine in the Kara Sea. But the sub was scuttled at a depth of only 99 feet (30 meters), significantly below international guidelines.

The Moscow Times also reports that the K-159 and K-278 are potential causes for concern. The K-278 is at depths too deep for possible retrieval if it begins to leak radioactive material into the ocean.

The K-159, meanwhile, remains a point of contention between Russia and Norway — Oslo believes that the submarine and its potentially leaky reactor could disrupt fisheries along Norway’s northern shore.

Soviet Submarine K-159Reuters Photographer/REUTERSAn undated photo of a Russian 1960’s era November class nuclear attack submarine similar to the K-159 which sank in the Barents Sea on Saturday morning. The ageing submarine sank during a storm as it was being towed into port for scrapping and upto eight service men were feared killed, the Defence Ministry said.

“K-159 represents the biggest potential for emission, considering the levels of radioactivity in the reactors, compared with other dumped or sunken objects in the Kara Sea with spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste,” Ingar Amundsen, the head of the NRPA told the Barents Observer.

In August 2014, the NRPA and Russian authorities conducted a joint investigation into possible nuclear leaks emanating from K-159. After the probe, Russian scientists reported that there were no signs that 800 kilograms of spent uranium fuel had begun leaking out of the submarine, Bellona reports.

National Geographic has previously reported that the chance of a leak from a nuclear submarine was miniscule in the near term, as reactors are shielded. Individual fuel rods within the reactor are then further encased in a special alloy to slow corrosion. This means that reactors should take centuries to leak into the ocean, by which time a majority of the nuclear material would have decayed.

But that assumes a level of durability that older Soviet models might not have. And a possible Russian-related environmental disaster in a contested geopolitical frontier like the Arctic could have unpredictable consequences.

Source of Fukushima’s nagging radioactive leak finally discovered – TEPCO

Fukushima-Leak-discovered

The source of the radioactive leak at the earthquake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was finally identified by the facility’s operator TEPCO

It was in January when the crew of the plant first noticed that water was leaking through to the drain on the first level of the building housing the reactor.

Engineers probed the space with a camera and found the water leakage to be near a pipe joint that connects directly to the containment vessel.

There is still water inside the containment vessel due to the ongoing flow of the coolant used to keep the stricken reactor’s temperature down.

The most likely scenario is that there’s more water in the vessel than there is in the area where the pipes enter it, the Tokyo Electric Power Company believes.

Before engineers can start decommissioning reactors 1, 2 and 3, which suffered meltdowns, they have to deal with the leakage. The coolant water comes out the other end mixed with radioactive waste. While it is possible to remove the radioactive fuel at this time, TEPCO wants to first plug the leak and fill up the space with more water as an additional measure against radiation.

TEPCO is at present trying to figure out the best strategy for plugging the leak.

The news comes just as the facility’s operator has ensured that the groundwater leakage issue (another problem) can also be solved by simply letting the water leak into the Pacific, instead of the cumbersome process of finding ways to store it, or block it from seeping into the ocean. The operation might take place by Wednesday next week.

To ensure that the water is indeed safe for release, TEPCO’s findings had to be backed up by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the Japan Chemical Analysis Center. What they found was that the feared presence of strontium-90 and cesium-134 and -137 was way below the health hazard threshold.

TEPCO is currently in talks with local authorities about releasing the groundwater. About 560 tons is to be released in the first round, which will only take about two hours, according to an official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
But the water buildup continues, and the short-term storage tanks that TEPCO has been relying on in the past are no longer a solution, so the operator is to set up a bypass system to prevent further buildup of the other, highly radioactive groundwater.

As for the load, that’s passed the safety test, local communities have been notified and an agreement was reached on releasing it into the Pacific Ocean as soon as possible.

Volcano Updates Worldwide

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Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under Earth's oceans have been presumed by scientists to be the gentle giants of the planet, oozing lava at slow, steady rates along mid-ocean ridges. A new study shows otherwise. It shows that these undersea volcanoes ...

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“People have ignored seafloor volcanoes on the idea that their influence is small – but that's because they are assumed to be in a steady state, which they're not,” said Dr Maya Tolstoy of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who is ...

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National Geographic

Seafloor Eruptions Triggered by Tides, Ice Ages
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She found the eruptions tended to occur near “neap” tide, every two weeks, when the amount of seawater over the volcanoes is slightly lower than at other times. The reduced weight on the volcanoes apparently encourages small earthquakes, which can be ...

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Submarine volcanoes may alter long-term climate: Study
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Washington: Volcanoes hidden under the oceans may have a greater influence on our planet's long-term climate than previously thought, a US study said. The study found that submarine volcanoes flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two ...

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Fukushima radiation: Is New Zealand’s ecosystem in danger?

Researchers from the University of Auckland will conduct a pilot study to establish whether radiation has entered the New Zealand ecosystem or food chain via the birds.

Researchers from the University of Auckland will conduct a pilot study to establish whether radiation has entered the New Zealand ecosystem or food chain via the birds.

Researchers from the University of Auckland will conduct a pilot study to establish whether radiation has entered the New Zealand ecosystem or food chain via the birds. The research aims to determine the degree to which the mutton bird population of the country was exposed to radiation from Fukushima.

Scientists plan on testing the feathers of the shearwaters for gamma rays since millions of these birds spend the winter off the coast of Japan. “Detection of gamma rays would tell us whether the birds spend sufficient time near Fukushima to accumulate cesium-134 from nuclear fission,” says Dr David Krofcheck of the University of Auckland’s Department of Physics.

He adds that the study is precautionary given that so far “there is no evidence to indicate that the birds have been vectors of radioactivity.” Dr Krofcheck notes that “obviously, what we are hoping to find in this latest research is that cesium levels in muttonbirds do not exceed exposure levels you would expect from natural sources.”

The sooty shearwater is of cultural and economic value to Maori, the country’s indigenous population, who use the birds for food, oil and feather down. Thus, researchers will need to consult with the local residents to undertake the study. “We will need to go through a number of approval processes and engage in consultation with local people before anything can happen as there are sensitive issues to consider before work can begin,” Dr Krofcheck said.

Experts agree that many species of wildlife and fisheries are endangered globally due to the large release of radioactivity into the ocean in the wake of the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that resulted in a meltdown of three nuclear reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Moreover, radioactive water continues to leak into the Pacific Ocean to this day.

Fukushima water decontamination system down again March 25th, 2014

Welded tanks are shown above ground at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 10, 2014, nearly three years after the plant was paralyzed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in 2011

Welded tanks are shown above ground at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 10, 2014, nearly three years after the plant was paralyzed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in 2011

Tokyo (AFP) – The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday it had shut down a key decontamination system used to clean radiation-tainted water, just hours after it came back online.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) switched off its Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) after workers discovered leaks “seeping” from a tank late Monday.

About eight litres (2.1 gallons) of tainted water is believed to have leaked out, a company spokesman said. He added there was no immediate safety risk as the water had been recovered.

The suspension came just six hours after the embattled operator switched back on two of three lines in the system, which cleans radiation-tainted water used to cool the reactors damaged by Japan’s devastating 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

The whole system had been shut down last Wednesday after TEPCO discovered a defect. The firm has repeatedly switched the system off over a series of glitches since trial operations began a year ago.

TEPCO is struggling to handle a huge — and growing — volume of contaminated water at Fukushima following the quake-tsunami, which sparked the worst atomic crisis in a generation as well as sweeping away some 18,000 victims.

Giant waves crashed into the plant, sparking reactor meltdowns and explosions. Cleaning up the shattered site is expected to take decades.

There are about 436,000 cubic metres of contaminated water stored at the site in about 1,200 purpose-built tanks.

Many experts say that at some point the water will have to be released into the sea after being scrubbed of the most harmful contaminants.

They say it will pose a negligible risk to marine life or people, but local fishermen and neighbouring countries are fiercely opposed.

Fukushima fallout damaged thyroid glands of California babies

A new study finds that radioactive Iodine from Fukushima has caused a significant increase in hypothyroidism among babies in California, 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

baby_thyroidThe Fukushima catastrophe has been dismissed as a potential cause of health effects even in Japan, let alone as far away as California.

A new study of the effects of tiny quantities of radioactive fallout from Fukushima on the health of babies born in California shows a significant excess of hypothyroidism caused by the radioactive contamination travelling 5,000 miles across the Pacific. The article will be published next week in the peer-reviewed journal Open Journal of Pediatrics.

Congenital hypothyroidism is a rare but serious condition normally affecting about one child in 2,000, and one that demands clinical intervention – the growth of children suffering from the condition is affected if they are left untreated. All babies born in California are monitored at birth for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels in blood, since high levels indicate hypothyroidism.

Joe Mangano and Janette Sherman of the Radiation and Public Health Project in New York, and Christopher Busby, guest researcher at Jacobs University, Bremen, examined congenital hypothyroidism (CH) rates in newborns using data obtained from the State of California over the period of the Fukushima explosions.

Their results are published in their paper Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. The researchers compared data for babies exposed to radioactive Iodine-131 and born between March 17th and Dec 31st 2011 with unexposed babies born in 2011 before the exposures plus those born in 2012.

Confirmed cases of hypothyroidism, defined as those with TSH level greater than 29 units increased by 21% in the group of babies that were exposed to excess radioactive Iodine in the womb [*]. The same group of children had a 27% increase in ‘borderline cases’ [**].

Contrary to many reports, the explosion of the reactors and spent fuel pools at Fukushima produced levels of radioactive contamination which were comparable with the Chernobyl releases in 1986. Using estimates made by the Norwegian Air Laboratory it is possible to estimate that more than 250PBq (200 x 1015) Bq of Iodine-131 (half life 8 days) were released at Fukushima.

This is also predicted by comparing the Caesium-137 estimates with I-131 releases from Chernobyl, quantities which caused the thyroid cancer epidemic in Byelarus, the Ukraine and parts of the Russian Republic.

More on this later. At Fukushima, the winds generally blew the radioactive iodine and other volatile radionuclides out to sea, to the Pacific Ocean. The journey 5,000 miles to the West Coast of the USA leaves a lot of time for dispersal and dilution. Nevertheless, small amounts of I-131 were measured in milk causing widespread concern.

The authorities downplayed any risk on the basis that the “doses” were very low; far lower than the natural background radiation. The University of Berkeley measured I-131 in rainwater from 18th to 28th March 2011 after which levels fell. If we assume that mothers drank 1 litre of rainwater a day for this period (of course they didn’t) the current radiation risk model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) calculates an absorbed dose to the adult thyroid of 23 microSieverts, less than 1/100th the annual background “dose”. The foetus is more sensitive (by a factor of about 10 according to ICRP) but is exposed to less as it is perhaps 100 times smaller.

So this finding is one more instance of the fact that the current radiation risk model, employed by the governments of every nation, is massively insecure for predicting harm from internal radionuclide exposures or explaining the clear observations.

The Fukushima catastrophe has been dismissed as a potential cause of health effects even in Japan, let alone as far away as California. And on what basis? Because the “dose” is too low.

This is the mantra chanted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization (WHO, largely the same outfit), and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). And let’s not forget all the nuclear scientists who swooped down on Fukushima with their International Conferences and placatory soothing presentations.

This chant was heard after Chernobyl, after the nuclear site child leukemias; in the nuclear atmospheric test veterans cases; and in all the other clear situations which in any unbiased scientific arena would long ago have blown away the belief that low level internal exposures are safe.

But this one-size-fits-all concept of “dose” is the nuclear industry’s sinking ship. It provides essential cover for the use of uranium weapons, whether fission bombs or depleted uranium munitions; for the development of nuclear power stations like Hinkley Point; the burying of radioactive waste in landfills in middle England; releases of plutonium to the Irish Sea from Sellafield (where it drifts ashore and causes increases in cancer on the coasts of Wales and Ireland); and most recently, for the British Governments denial of excess cancers among nuclear test veterans.

This new study is not the first to draw attention to the sensitivity of the unborn baby to internal fission products. In 2009 I used data supplied to me when I was a member of the UK government Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE) to carry out a meta-analysis of infant leukemia rates in five countries in Europe: England and Wales, Germany, Greece, and Byelarus.

There had been an unexpected and statistically significant increase in infant leukemia (age 0-1) in those children who were in the womb during the (whole body monitored) increased levels of Caesium-137 from Chernobyl. The beauty of this study (like the TSH study) is that, unlike the Sellafield child leukemias, there is really no possible alternative explanation.

It was the low “dose” of Caesium-137 that caused the leukemias. And the dose response trend was not a straight line: The effect at the very low “dose” was greater than at the very high “dose”. Presumably because at the high doses the babies perished in the womb and could not, therefore, develop leukemia. I published the results and drew attention to the failure of the ICRP model in the International Journal of Environment and Public Health in 2009.

I had published a paper on this infant leukemia proof of the failure of the risk model inEnergy and Environment in 2000, and also presented it in the same year at the World Health Organisation conference in Kiev. It was there that I first really came up against the inversion of science deployed by the chiefs of the IAEA and UNSCEAR. The conference was videofilmed by Wladimir Tchertkoff and you can see his excellent documentary, which made it to Swiss TV, Atomic Lies, re-released in 2004 as Nuclear Controversies (link to youtube, 51 minutes).

For what is done by these people is to dismiss any evidence of increased rates of cancer or any other disease by shouting at it: “the doses were too low”. In this way, reality is airbrushed away. What is this quantity “dose”? It is a simple physics-based quantity which represents the absorption of energy from radiation. One Sievert of gamma radiation is one Joule per kilogram of living tissue.

This might work for external radiation. But it doesn’t work for internal exposures to radioactive elements which can produce huge effects on cellular DNA at low average “doses”. It is like comparing warming yourself in front of the fire with eating a hot coal. Or comparing a punch to stabbing. Same dose, same energy. Very different effects.

This “dose” scam has been used to dismiss real effects since it was invented in 1952 to deal with the exposures from nuclear weapons development and testing. For those who want to dig deeper into the science there is a recent book chapter I wrote in the book New Research Directions in DNS Repair.

The most scary instances of the sensitivity of the foetus to radiation are the sex ratio studies of Hagen Scherb, a German biostatician and member of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR). With his colleague Christina Voigt he has published a series of papers showing a sudden change in the sex ratio of newborns after various radiation exposure incidents.

Sex ratio, the number of boys born to 1,000 girls is a well accepted indicator of genetic damage and perturbations in the normal ratio of 1,050 (boys to 100 girls) are due to the deaths before birth of radiation damaged individuals of one sex or the other depending on whether the father (sperm) or mother (egg) was most exposed.

We found such an effect (more girls) in our study of Fallujah, Iraq, where there was exposure to Uranium weapons. But Scherb and Voigt have looked at the major catastrophes, Chernobyl, the weapons tests fallout, near nuclear sites in data from many countries of the world. Huge datasets.

They estimate that millions have babies have been killed by these subtle internal radiation exposures. The nuclear military project is responsible for an awful lot of deaths. In years to come I believe this will eventually be seen as the greatest public health scandal in human history.

Of course, the exposure to radio-Iodine is associated with thyroid cancer in children. There was a big rise of thyroid cancer in Byelarus, the Ukraine and the Russian Republic after Chernobyl. The situation at Fukushima seems set to echo this, despite the reassurances from the authorities that there will be no effects.

Our paper reports 44 confirmed thyroid cancer cases in 0-18 year olds in Fukushima prefecture in the last six months (a figure that has since risen to 53). In the hypothyroidism paper we discuss the 44 cases relative to the population and calculate that this represents an 80-fold excess based on national data prior to the Fukushima Iodine releases.

This presents a severe challenge to Dr Wolfgang Weiss of the UN and WHO, who stated last year that no thyroid cancers could result from the Fukushima disaster as the “doses were too low”. How does he explain the 80-fold increase in this normally rare condition?

Or rather, when will he admit that the entire scientific model that underpins his views is fraudulent? And that nuclear radiation is – roughly speaking – 1,000 times more dangerous to human health than he is letting on?

Chris Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk. For details and current CV see www.chrisbusbyexposed.org. For accounts of his work seewww.greenaudit.orgwww.llrc.org and www.nuclearjustice.org

For statisticians:
* RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.04-1.42; p = .013
** RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.2-1.35; p = .00000001.

All 3 Fukushima ALPS Nuclide Scrubbers Shut Down Tuesday 03-18-14

Construction of the Advanced Liquid Processing System at TEPCO’s ruined Fukushima nuclear power complex (photo: TEPCO, via mainichi.jp).
Construction of the Advanced Liquid Processing System at TEPCO’s ruined Fukushima nuclear power complex (photo: TEPCO, via mainichi.jp).

Construction of the Advanced Liquid Processing System at TEPCO’s ruined Fukushima nuclear power complex (photo: TEPCO, via mainichi.jp).
Construction of the Advanced Liquid Processing System at TEPCO’s ruined Fukushima nuclear power complex (photo: TEPCO, via mainichi.jp).

Still dealing with the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and three meltdowns at its Fukushima I nuclear power complex, Tokyo Electric Power Company had more bad news yesterday about its Fukushima ALPS cleanup efforts. One of the three vaunted advanced water filtering systems was not purifying contaminated water as designed. It has only been a week since TEPCO last interrupted testing of the new multiple nuclide removal system. The system is not yet fully online. It remains on an extended “hot” test run, treating less than 200 tons of wastewater per day.

Japan Times reports:

“Tokyo Electric Power Co. halted the operations of all three advanced radioactive water cleanup systems, collectively called Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on Tuesday. Tepco made the decision after it found that one of the systems, called B, was not functioning properly. Water samples from System B on Monday showed that levels of beta ray-emitting radioactive substances, such as strontium-90, only dropped to several tens of millions of becquerels from several hundred million becquerels, instead of decreasing to several hundred becquerels [as expected]. Tepco suspended water decontamination work with the other two systems [A and C] as well due to concerns about similar problems.”

The blogspot GSBuzz quotes this email TEPCO reportedly sent to the press:

“We’ve been conducting the ‘hot’ test of the multi-nuclide removal system ALPS using the waste water after it is processed in the contaminated water treatment systems. Today (3/18/2014), one of the three lines, Line B, [was] stopped at 12:04PM to acid-clean the filters. Also today, we noted that the nuclide analysis of the water treated by Line B (collected on March 17) showed [that] there is a possibility that the treatment by ALPS is not adequate [to remove all-beta radiation]. As a precaution, we stopped Line A at 1:38PM and Line C at 1:39PM.”

ALPS multinuclide water treatment facility at Fukushima (photo: TEPCO)

The Fukushima ALPS decontamination procedure is only part of the initial discharge suppression segment of TEPCO’s stabilization plan. The company has issued an unprecedented 10 news releases, mostly water sampling reports, over the past three days. The cause of the malfunction and its seriousness have not yet been assessed.

Problems with ALPS from the get-go

For a system not yet through its testing stages, TEPCO’s Fukushima ALPS has experienced a long and incident-ridden implementation. It’s not the only system for treating contaminated water on the Fukushima site. The process actually starts with filtration to remove oil, cesium removal by adsorption, another filter for preventing adsorbent leaks, and desalination through reverse osmosis membrane treatment and evaporative condensation. About 400 cubic meters a day are recirculated to cool the cores of the offline but still radioactive reactors.

Circulation Injection Cooling System at Fukushima Daiichi power station I (TEPCO)

The rest, still highly contaminated, passes through effluent tanks into the ALPS. The three-channel system is supposed to treat wastewater high in all-beta radiation and guarantee that 62 radionuclides are within acceptable levels. It does not affect concentrations of tritium, however. (Even if Fukushima ALPS is stopped, cooling the reactors and the other water treatments must continue.) The following chronology has been assembled for this report from TEPCO documents, news releases, media coverage, and newsblogging about Fukushima.

TEPCO reported design plans to install its Advanced Liquid Processing System to lower radioactivity concentrations in previously processed water in February of 2012. The basic test showed that radionuclides and particles could be removed to a level below detectable limits. On April 1 the company began foundation work. It hoped to introduce the Fukushima ALPS in the first half of FY 2012, but Japan abolished its Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under allegations of malfeasance and replaced it with the Nuclear Regulation Authority in September 2012. NRA demanded additional safety tests and the ALPS hot tests were delayed.

Since starting the trial run in March 2013, the system hasn’t worked without some troubling intermissions. Leaks were discovered in the system’s tanks in June, which led to the first stoppage. On September 27 the initial “hot testing” resumed in channel C, but it had to stop 22 hours later, when equipment had problems discharging mud, possibly due to a human error that blocked the system.

Draft hot testing schedule for Fukushima I ALPS (photo: TEPCO)

TEPCO’s October report to investors brightly stated that cleansing of the contaminated tank water would be accelerated by “purifying” it through the ALPS system, but problems continued. At the end of February, one of the three Fukushima ALPS channels had to be suspended due to a ground fault. Another channel malfunctioned on March 6 because of an overloaded booster pump (human error again). TEPCO was reportedly unaware that the operation would cause the pump overload.

When it begins working at full capacity, ALPS will be able to process 750 tons of contaminated water every day. This capability will make it key in controlling the ongoing radioactive water crisis at Fukushima. “The company aims to finish processing contaminated water at the plant, including some 340,000 tons currently kept in storage tanks, by the end of next March (2015),” Japanese media report. “To accomplish this, it plans to expand the capacity of ALPS. The government also plans to develop a high-performance version of ALPS that leaves less radioactive waste than the current system.” Voice of Russia reports that preliminary estimates indicate that next March is realistic “only if the system is functioning properly.”

Cumulative radioactive water difficulties and what lies ahead

TEPCO has had problems with water at the site since the nuclear accident. They have included recurrent leaks of radiation, water in the basement levels, a huge and continuing influx of groundwater, slightly radioactive water gathering under the wastewater treatment facility, more radioactive water in a tunnel containing electric cables, storage tanks leaking contaminated water, typhoon-related rainwater overflow causing more leaks, groundwater contamination, radioactive contamination of the ocean, and travel of released cesium into the power complex port and across the Pacific to the North American West Coast.

Although the advanced liquid processing system, which is supposed to remove radioactive materials from contaminated water, works well for other radionuclides, it cannot remove tritium. TEPCO has stated that “there is a technology to separate highly concentrated tritium, but since concentration of tritium contained in liquid waste at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is much lower, it is difficult to separate it. However, the technology to remove tritium will continue to be examined including overseas knowledge.”

Put bluntly, the company has not decided yet what to do with the tritium-contaminated water processed by the Fukushima ALPS.

February revealed yet another deception by the utility about the Fukushima cleanup: TEPCO apparently hid dangerous Fukushima radiation levels (in particular, strontium-90 readings) for months.

On Monday, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano recommended dumping some of the contaminated water into the ocean. He feels that continuing to store the water is not a realistic strategy. Voice of America reports Amano as saying:

“This is not a long-term solution. In order to avoid the potential difficulties, we recommend Japan to consider the option to release the water after treating it properly, ensuring that it satisfies the Japanese standard after consulting with the stakeholders like the local community.”

Other problems include whether a large, publicly financed project is necesary to handle TEPCO’s problems, an inadequately trained workforce onsite, participation by criminal groups, and government censorship alleged by Japanese academics. Struggles also abound about new nuclear generation in Japan. The conservative Liberal Democrat leadership has challenges from other groups, including the past administration, irate citizens, and the people of Fukushima prefecture.

Lack of national funding for necessary environmental studies is another concern. The New York Times quotes University of South Carolina biology prof Timothy A. Mousseau, who has made three research trips to Japan since the meltdowns: “They’re putting trillions of yen into moving dirt around and almost nothing into environmental assessment.” Finally, Japan and the rest of the world are suffering from mass speculation, rumor, and emotional innuendo about about the reach and danger of Fukushima’s radiation and the many aspects of the long decommissioning process.
Read more at http://planetsave.com/2014/03/19/3-fukushima-alps-nuclide-scrubbers-shut-tuesday/#cRwqp5cKIQDEKQMU.99 One of the three vaunted advanced water filtering systems was not purifying contaminated water as designed. It has only been a week since TEPCO last interrupted testing of the new multiple nuclide removal system. The system is not yet fully online. It remains on an extended “hot” test run, treating less than 200 tons of wastewater per day.

Japan Times reports:

“Tokyo Electric Power Co. halted the operations of all three advanced radioactive water cleanup systems, collectively called Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on Tuesday. Tepco made the decision after it found that one of the systems, called B, was not functioning properly. Water samples from System B on Monday showed that levels of beta ray-emitting radioactive substances, such as strontium-90, only dropped to several tens of millions of becquerels from several hundred million becquerels, instead of decreasing to several hundred becquerels [as expected]. Tepco suspended water decontamination work with the other two systems [A and C] as well due to concerns about similar problems.”

The blogspot GSBuzz quotes this email TEPCO reportedly sent to the press:

“We’ve been conducting the ‘hot’ test of the multi-nuclide removal system ALPS using the waste water after it is processed in the contaminated water treatment systems. Today (3/18/2014), one of the three lines, Line B, [was] stopped at 12:04PM to acid-clean the filters. Also today, we noted that the nuclide analysis of the water treated by Line B (collected on March 17) showed [that] there is a possibility that the treatment by ALPS is not adequate [to remove all-beta radiation]. As a precaution, we stopped Line A at 1:38PM and Line C at 1:39PM.”

ALPS multinuclide water treatment facility at Fukushima (photo: TEPCO)

The Fukushima ALPS decontamination procedure is only part of the initial discharge suppression segment of TEPCO’s stabilization plan. The company has issued an unprecedented 10 news releases, mostly water sampling reports, over the past three days. The cause of the malfunction and its seriousness have not yet been assessed.

Problems with ALPS from the get-go

For a system not yet through its testing stages, TEPCO’s Fukushima ALPS has experienced a long and incident-ridden implementation. It’s not the only system for treating contaminated water on the Fukushima site. The process actually starts with filtration to remove oil, cesium removal by adsorption, another filter for preventing adsorbent leaks, and desalination through reverse osmosis membrane treatment and evaporative condensation. About 400 cubic meters a day are recirculated to cool the cores of the offline but still radioactive reactors.

Circulation Injection Cooling System at Fukushima Daiichi power station I (TEPCO)

The rest, still highly contaminated, passes through effluent tanks into the ALPS. The three-channel system is supposed to treat wastewater high in all-beta radiation and guarantee that 62 radionuclides are within acceptable levels. It does not affect concentrations of tritium, however. (Even if Fukushima ALPS is stopped, cooling the reactors and the other water treatments must continue.) The following chronology has been assembled for this report from TEPCO documents, news releases, media coverage, and newsblogging about Fukushima.

TEPCO reported design plans to install its Advanced Liquid Processing System to lower radioactivity concentrations in previously processed water in February of 2012. The basic test showed that radionuclides and particles could be removed to a level below detectable limits. On April 1 the company began foundation work. It hoped to introduce the Fukushima ALPS in the first half of FY 2012, but Japan abolished its Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under allegations of malfeasance and replaced it with the Nuclear Regulation Authority in September 2012. NRA demanded additional safety tests and the ALPS hot tests were delayed.

Since starting the trial run in March 2013, the system hasn’t worked without some troubling intermissions. Leaks were discovered in the system’s tanks in June, which led to the first stoppage. On September 27 the initial “hot testing” resumed in channel C, but it had to stop 22 hours later, when equipment had problems discharging mud, possibly due to a human error that blocked the system.

Draft hot testing schedule for Fukushima I ALPS (photo: TEPCO)

TEPCO’s October report to investors brightly stated that cleansing of the contaminated tank water would be accelerated by “purifying” it through the ALPS system, but problems continued. At the end of February, one of the three Fukushima ALPS channels had to be suspended due to a ground fault. Another channel malfunctioned on March 6 because of an overloaded booster pump (human error again). TEPCO was reportedly unaware that the operation would cause the pump overload.

When it begins working at full capacity, ALPS will be able to process 750 tons of contaminated water every day. This capability will make it key in controlling the ongoing radioactive water crisis at Fukushima. “The company aims to finish processing contaminated water at the plant, including some 340,000 tons currently kept in storage tanks, by the end of next March (2015),” Japanese media report. “To accomplish this, it plans to expand the capacity of ALPS. The government also plans to develop a high-performance version of ALPS that leaves less radioactive waste than the current system.” Voice of Russia reports that preliminary estimates indicate that next March is realistic “only if the system is functioning properly.”

Cumulative radioactive water difficulties and what lies ahead

TEPCO has had problems with water at the site since the nuclear accident. They have included recurrent leaks of radiation, water in the basement levels, a huge and continuing influx of groundwater, slightly radioactive water gathering under the wastewater treatment facility, more radioactive water in a tunnel containing electric cables, storage tanks leaking contaminated water, typhoon-related rainwater overflow causing more leaks, groundwater contamination, radioactive contamination of the ocean, and travel of released cesium into the power complex port and across the Pacific to the North American West Coast.

Although the advanced liquid processing system, which is supposed to remove radioactive materials from contaminated water, works well for other radionuclides, it cannot remove tritium. TEPCO has stated that “there is a technology to separate highly concentrated tritium, but since concentration of tritium contained in liquid waste at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is much lower, it is difficult to separate it. However, the technology to remove tritium will continue to be examined including overseas knowledge.”

Put bluntly, the company has not decided yet what to do with the tritium-contaminated water processed by the Fukushima ALPS.

February revealed yet another deception by the utility about the Fukushima cleanup: TEPCO apparently hid dangerous Fukushima radiation levels (in particular, strontium-90 readings) for months.

On Monday, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano recommended dumping some of the contaminated water into the ocean. He feels that continuing to store the water is not a realistic strategy. Voice of America reports Amano as saying:

“This is not a long-term solution. In order to avoid the potential difficulties, we recommend Japan to consider the option to release the water after treating it properly, ensuring that it satisfies the Japanese standard after consulting with the stakeholders like the local community.”

Other problems include whether a large, publicly financed project is necesary to handle TEPCO’s problems, an inadequately trained workforce onsite, participation by criminal groups, and government censorship alleged by Japanese academics. Struggles also abound about new nuclear generation in Japan. The conservative Liberal Democrat leadership has challenges from other groups, including the past administration, irate citizens, and the people of Fukushima prefecture.

Lack of national funding for necessary environmental studies is another concern. The New York Times quotes University of South Carolina biology prof Timothy A. Mousseau, who has made three research trips to Japan since the meltdowns: “They’re putting trillions of yen into moving dirt around and almost nothing into environmental assessment.” Finally, Japan and the rest of the world are suffering from mass speculation, rumor, and emotional innuendo about about the reach and danger of Fukushima’s radiation and the many aspects of the long decommissioning process.

Fukushima 3 Years on & Impossible to Fix or Decontaminate ☠

3 Years On: Contaminated Fukushima water may be dumped into Pacific Ocean http://youtu.be/dmYC09HtiKA
The operator of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant says it might eventually have to dump hundreds of thousands of tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. It’s been three years since the nuclear disaster, but TEPCO is still struggling to clear up, with occasional radioactive leaks still happening. RT has been following the disaster since it began.