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.

Magnitude 7.5 quake strikes off Solomon Islands: USGS

Sydney (AFP) – A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 struck off the Solomon Islands on Sunday night, hours after a 7.6 tremor, the US Geological Survey said.

A tsunami warning was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, but it later cancelled the alert for all three areas.

The USGS said the quake — which it had initially assessed at 7.7 — occurred at 11:36pm local time (1236 GMT) at a depth of 35 kilometres (22 miles), 111 kilometres south of Kirakira in the Solomon Islands.

It said the likelihood of casualties or damage was low.

A 7.6-magnitude quake had woken the residents of the Solomons capital Honiara early on Sunday.

It struck at 7:14am, about 300 kilometres from the capital, and was followed 10 minutes later by a 5.9-magnitude aftershock.

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Flood waters run past damaged homes in the Solomon …

Flood waters run past damaged homes in the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara on April 4, 2014 (AF …

The US Geological Survey measured the undersea quake at around 29 kilometres deep.

Honiara resident Dorothy Wickham said the National Disaster Council was warning people to stay away from low-lying areas as the islands experienced high waves.

“People are moving away from the coasts and are going up into the hills, but I have not heard of any damage,” she said.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission put out a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea following the Sunday morning quake, but later cancelled the alert.

The Solomons were hit by flash floods 10 days ago which left more than 20 dead. Several more are still missing in Honiara after the city’s main river burst its banks following days of heavy rain.

The Solomons are part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

A 6.1-magnitude tremor hit the Solomons on Saturday and a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake and 6.7 aftershock struck off Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville island on Friday, to the west of the Solomons.

In February last year, the Solomon Islands were hit by a major 8.0-magnitude quake that generated small but deadly tsunami waves which washed away houses and reached as far away as Japan.

In 2007, a tsunami following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless.

The quake lifted an entire island and pushed out its shoreline by dozens of metres.

5 dead as magnitude-8.2 quake hits northern Chile

Vehicles and boats lie on the shore after a tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique
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Vehicles and boats lie on the shore after a tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique, April 2, 2014. A major earthquake of 8.2 magnitude struck off the coast of northern Chile on Tuesday, causing five deaths and triggering the tsunami that pounded the shore with 2-meter-tall waves. REUTERS/Cristian Vivero (CHILE – Tags: DISASTER)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A powerful magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off northern Chile on Tuesday night, setting off a small tsunami that forced evacuations along the country’s entire Pacific coast. Five people were crushed to death or suffered fatal heart attacks, the interior minister said, but Chile apparently escaped major damage or serious casualties.

The shaking loosed landslides that blocked roads, power failed for thousands, an airport was damaged and several businesses caught fire. About 300 inmates escaped from a women’s prison in the city of Iquique, and Chile’s military was sending a planeload of special forces to help police guard against looting.

In the city of Arica, 86 miles (139 kilometers) from the quake’s epicenter, hospitals were treating minor injuries, and some homes made of adobe were destroyed and 90 percent of customers were without power, authorities said.

The quake also shook modern buildings in nearby Peru and in Bolivia’s high altitude capital of La Paz.

Hours later, a tsunami warning remained in effect for northern Chile, but alerts were lifted elsewhere.

“We regard the coast line of Chile as still dangerous, so we’re maintaining the warning,” geophysicist Gerard Fryer at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center told The Associated Press.

Chile’s Emergency Office said its tsunami watch would remain in effect for six more hours, meaning hundreds of thousands of people along the coast would not sleep in their beds. Swimmers and surfers in the U.S. state of Hawaii, thousands of miles away in the Pacific, might see higher waves Wednesday, the warning center said.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported the quake at 8.0, but later upgraded the magnitude. It said the quake struck 61 miles (99 kilometers) northwest of Iquique, hitting a region that has been rocked by numerous quakes over the past two weeks.

Psychiatrist Ricardo Yevenes said he was with a patient in Arica when the quake hit. “It quickly began to move the entire office, things were falling,” he told local television. “Almost the whole city is in darkness.”

The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia’s capital about 290 miles (470 kilometers) away was the equivalent of a 4.5-magnitude tremor, authorities there said.

More than 10 strong aftershocks followed in the first few hours, including a 6.2 tremor. More aftershocks and even a larger quake could not be ruled out, said seismologist Mario Pardo at the University of Chile.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said President Michelle Bachelet was closely watching the situation and was ready to take “any measures” to ensure people’s safety. Hundreds of soldiers were being deployed in the quake zone, and a flight would be leaving soon with 100 special forces on board, he added.

“We have taken action to ensure public order in the case of Iquique, where we’ve had a massive escape of more than 300 female prisoners from the Iquique jail, so that the armed forces and police can coordinate and provide tranquility and security to the residents,” he said.

Some roads in northern Chile were blocked by landslides, causing traffic jams among people leaving the coast. But coastal residents remained calm as they head inland while waves measuring almost 2 meters (6 ½ feet) struck their cities.

Evacuations also were ordered in Peru, where waves 2 meters above normal forced about 200 people to leave the seaside town of Boca del Rio. But there were no injuries or major damage, said Col. Enrique Blanco, the regional police chief in Tacna, a Peruvian city of 300,000 near the Chilean border. “The lights went out briefly, but were re-established,” Blanco said.

Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries because just off the coast, the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes.

The latest activity began with a strong magnitude-6.7 quake on March 16 that caused more than 100,000 people to briefly evacuate low-lying areas. Hundreds of smaller quakes followed in the weeks since, keeping people on edge as scientists said there was no way to tell if the unusual string of tremors was a harbinger of an impending disaster.

The last recorded big quake to hit far northern Chile around Iquique was a devastating magnitude-8.3 in 1877. It unleashed a 24-meter-high (nearly 80-foot-high) tsunami, causing major damage along the Chile-Peru coast and fatalities as far away as Hawaii and Japan.

A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts. That quake released so much energy, it actually it shortened the Earth’s day by a fraction of a second by changing the planet’s rotation.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth also happened in Chile — a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.

Chile is the world’s leading copper producing nation, and most of its mining industry is in the northern regions. Top mining companies said there was no serious damage to their operations so far.

A potent threat of major earthquake off California’s northern coast

Crescent City Earthquake Warning

A man rides his bicycle in 2004 in Crescent City, where a 1964 earthquake spawned a deadly tsunami.
http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-triple-junction-quakes-20140312,0,2124861.story#ixzz2vuMIBNgr

Risk of a monster quake and tsunami off California’s North Coast is greater than researchers once thought.

If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California’s sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect.

A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish.

Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

GRAPHIC: How a 9.0 megaquake devastates California’s North Coast, Ore., and Wash.

The Cascadia subduction zone is less known than the San Andreas fault, which scientists have long predicted will produce The Big One. But in recent years, scientists have come to believe that the Cascadia is far more dangerous than originally believed and have been giving the system more attention.

The Cascadia begins at a geologically treacherous area where three tectonic plates are pushing against each other. The intersection has produced the two largest earthquakes in California in the last decade — Sunday’s 6.8 temblor off Eureka and a 7.2 quake off Crescent City in 2005. The area has produced six quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater in the last 100 years, the California Geological Survey said.

Officials in Northern California as well as Oregon and Washington are beginning to address the dangers.

DOCUMENT: The damage a 9.0 quake could do to the coast

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tsunami researchers are testing a new generation of tsunami detectors off the Oregon coast, which could provide earlier warnings about the incoming wave’s size.

During the 2011 Japan tsunami, some of the first detailed alerts underestimated the size of the tsunami to be lower than the sea walls — and then communications were cut off.

“So some people had a false sense of security,” said Vasily Titov, director of NOAA’s Center for Tsunami Research. “You want to have this information as accurate as possible.”

Installing tsunami sensors on the deep ocean floor would provide better information on the tsunami’s size in as little as five minutes. It now takes about half an hour.

Titov said two underwater test sensors off the Oregon coast seemed to perform well in Sunday’s earthquake, though the quake did not produce a tsunami.

In Grays Harbor County in Washington state, crews will begin building an elementary school gym this summer to double as a “vertical evacuation center” — built so that 1,000 people can flee to the roof during a tsunami, protected by a high wall.

“We have no natural high ground,” said Ocosta School District Supt. Paula Akerlund. “So we have to evacuate vertically.”

Washington state and federal officials have also been discussing building about 50 “tsunami safe havens,” such as artificial hills that could hold as many as 800 people.

The 2011 Japan tsunami as well as other natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have fueled efforts to better prepare for a major quake on the Cascadia fault.

“Katrina was a worst case scenario for hurricanes in the gulf. And a Cascadia would be the worst case scenario for tsunamis on the West Coast,” said Paul Whitmore, director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska.

For years, scientists believed the largest earthquake the area could produce was magnitude 7.5. But scientists now say the Cascadia was the site of a magnitude 9 earthquake more than 300 years ago.

Ripping over a fault that stretches in the Pacific Ocean from the coast of Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, the quake on the evening of Jan. 26, 1700, was so powerful, entire sections of the Pacific coastline dropped by as much as 5 feet, allowing the ocean to rush in and leave behind dead trees by the shore.