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.

Sign of the Apocalypse? Plague Is Back, With a Disturbing Twist

virus_crop380wIf you thought the film Contagion was frightening, this medical plot twist may scare you even more—because it’s real.

Back in November, the island nation of Madagascar confirmed 119 cases of plague, including 40 deaths. But the bad news recently took a disturbing turn: “The fleas that transmit this ancient disease from rats to humans have developed resistance to the first-line insecticide,” Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, said in a new report.

You probably recognize the infectious disease as the one known as the “Black Death,” which during the 14th century became a devastating epidemic that claimed an estimated 50 million lives throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, the disease spreads from rodents to humans via infected fleas. Those infected generally develop bubonic plague—exhibiting swollen lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms—or, if it spreads to the lungs, the deadlier advanced form, pneumonic plague. Caught early, antibiotics can effectively treat the disease; left untreated, however, plague kills 30 to 60 percent of those infected.

Steamboats from India carried plague to Madagascar in 1898. What makes the recent outbreak there particularly troubling is that scientists have been warning about insecticide resistance in fleas for years. Plague surveillance in Madagascar was discontinued in 2006 due to a lack of funding, but almost 17 years ago—and just six years after the first-line insecticide was initially used in Madagascar—an article published in the Journal for Emerging Infectious Diseases closed with the admonition, “the increasing resistance of fleas to insecticides have caused much concern.”

A November 2014 study conducted by the health research center Institut Pasteur in Madagascar found conclusive evidence that more than 80 percent of the fleas tested were resistant to Deltamethrin, the insecticide referenced in the WHO report. Out of the 32 flea populations examined, only two demonstrated susceptibility to the insecticide. The report’s authors conclude, “In the…re-emergence of plague…in Madagascar, Deltamethrin is ineffective against fleas. Its use in Madagascar should be stopped and the control program for plague diseases needs to change to another insecticide.”

While the study explains that many factors could contribute to the fleas’ increased resistance to insecticides—including environment, climate, geography, urbanization, and human social and cultural behaviors—the core mechanism at work is natural selection. Each time a population of fleas is treated with insecticide, fleas that by some quirk have a built-in resistance survive and breed to create the next generation of fleas, born genetically resistant to the insecticide that wiped out their parents’ peers. Over time, the insecticide becomes less effective as the flea populations are increasingly comprised of only those with the quirk of DNA that protects against it. To compensate for its lowered levels of efficacy, a higher concentration of the insecticide is often used—which breeds a generation of fleas even more resistant than the last.

For the people of Madagascar, Deltamethrin restistance is a case of déjà vu all over again. Use of the insecticide, a man-made version of a natural insecticide that chrysanthemum flowers produce, began in the 1990s after insects developed resistance to the flea-control chemical being used at the time. Some scientists have hypothesized that fleas’ resistance to Deltamethrin may be a result of the species’ exposure to the old insecticide.

What can be done? For now, Institut Pasteur researchers are testing 12 insecticides to see which will be most effective at controlling flea populations. Without plague surveillance, however, there is no way to tell how long it will take for the fleas to build resistance to the next line of insecticides. Funding shortfalls also continue to stand in the way of those trying to track and control plague in Madagascar—not to mention the growing number of other health concerns the institute must deal with: When Sébastien Boyer, head of the medical entomology unit at the institute, was contacted for comment on the status of the insecticides currently being tested, he responded by e-mail, “No time…we are currently in malaria outbreak in Farafangana…sorry.”

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.

Liberia confirms spread of ‘unprecedented’ Ebola epidemic

Conakry (AFP) – Aid organisation Doctors Without Borders said Monday an Ebola outbreak suspected of killing dozens in Guinea was an “unprecedented epidemic” as Liberia confirmed its first cases of the deadly contagion.

Guinea’s health ministry this year has reported 122 “suspicious cases” of viral haemorrhagic fever, including 78 deaths, with 22 of the samples taken from patients testing positive for the highly contagious tropical pathogen.

“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country: Gueckedou, Macenta, Kissidougou, Nzerekore, and now Conakry,” Mariano Lugli, the organisation’s coordinator in the Guinean capital, said in a statement.

The group, known by its French initials MSF, said that by the end of the week it would have around 60 international field workers with experience in working on haemorrhagic fever divided between Conakry and the south-east of the country.

“MSF has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years, but they were much more geographically contained and involved more remote locations,” Lugli said.

“This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities have announced two Ebola cases among seven samples tested from Liberia’s northern Foya district, confirming for the first time the spread of the virus across international borders.

Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale told reporters the patients were sisters, one of whom had died.

The surviving sister returned to Monrovia in a taxi before she could be isolated and the authorities fear she may have spread the virus to her taxi driver and four members of her family.

The woman and those with whom she has come into contact are in quarantine in a hospital 48 kilometres (30 miles) south-east of Monrovia, Gwenigale said.

 

— Unstoppable bleeding —

 

Ebola has killed almost 1,600 people since it was first observed in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo but this is the first fatal outbreak in west Africa.

The tropical virus leads to haemorrhagic fever, causing muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

The WHO said Sierra Leone has also identified two suspected cases, both of whom died, but neither has been confirmed to be Ebola.

No treatment or vaccine is available for the bug, and the Zaire strain detected in Guinea has a historic death rate of up to 90 percent.

It can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, and between humans through direct contact with another’s blood, faeces or sweat, as well as sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

MSF said it had stepped up support for the isolation of patients in Conakry, in collaboration with the Guinean health authorities and the WHO.

“Other patients in other health structures are still hospitalised in non-optimal conditions and isolation must be reinforced in the coming days,” it added.

The WHO said it was not recommending travel or trade restrictions to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone based on the current information available about the outbreak.

But Senegal has closed border crossings to Guinea “until further notice”.

103 Ebola cases registered in Guinea as deadly virus hits capital, neighboring states.

Guinea's capital Conakry was on high alert on Friday after a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed dozens in the southern forests was confirmed to have spread to the sprawling port city of two million people.

Guinea’s capital Conakry was on high alert on Friday after a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed dozens in the southern forests was confirmed to have spread to the sprawling port city of two million people.

Guinea’s capital Conakry was on high alert on Friday after a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed dozens in the southern forests was confirmed to have spread to the sprawling port city of two million people. Four people believed to have been infected after attending the funeral of a brother in central Guinea have been put into isolation centres to avoid the highly contagious virus getting into the population.

Aid organisations have sent dozens of workers to help the poor west African country combat a haemorrhagic fever outbreak which has killed at least 66 people, many of whom have been confirmed to have been infected by Ebola.

“Intensive case investigations are underway to identify the source and route of these patients’ infection, record their travel histories before arrival in Conakry and determine their period of infectivity for the purposes of contact tracing,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement.

Guinea is one of the world’s poorest nations despite vast untapped mineral wealth, with a stagnating economy, youth unemployment at 60 percent and a rank of 178th out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index.

Residents of Conakry’s suburbs said they feared venturing into the city centre to shop and were keeping their children home from school.

“I wonder what Guinea has done to God to make him send us this untreatable disease… I’m wary of anything that moves that could be a carrier of the disease,” said unemployed graduate Abdoulaye Soumah.

The 15-member Economic Community of West African States said the outbreak was now “a serious threat to regional security” and appealed for help from the international community. Fifteen new confirmed or suspected cases, including in the Conakry outbreak, were reported on Thursday, the health ministry said, bringing the total in Guinea to 103. The tropical virus – described in some health publications as a “molecular shark” – causes severe fever and muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.Ebola had never spread among humans in west Africa before the current outbreak, but further suspected cases being investigated in Liberia and Sierra Leone could bring the total death toll to at least 77.
Scientists have examined 41 samples from victims, Guinea’s health ministry said, with 15 testing positive for the Zaire strain of Ebola, the most virulent.

The WHO said Liberia had reported eight suspected cases of Ebola fever, including six deaths, while Sierra Leone had reported six suspected cases, five of them fatal. Transmission of Ebola to humans can come from wild animals, direct contact from another human’s blood, faeces or sweat, as well as sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

The health charity Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, said the spread of the disease was being exacerbated by people travelling to funerals in which mourners touch the bodies of the dead.

Guinea has banned the consumption of bat soup, a popular delicacy in the country, as the fruit bat is believed to be the host species. No treatment or vaccine is available, and the Zaire strain detected in Guinea – first observed 38 years ago in what is today called the Democratic Republic of Congo – has a 90 percent death rate.Customers in a suburban cafe in Conakry described the epidemic as “divine retribution” and “a curse that has befallen us and will allow us to reflect on our daily behaviour”.

“There is total panic among the population,” said Fanta Traore. But the WHO played down fears of a massive spread, pointing out that the disease typically caused much less death and sickness than influenza, and adding that it was not recommending travel restrictions.

“Outbreaks tend to be limited. But certainly we need to watch this extremely carefully because there is no treatment, there is no cure and the course of the disease is more often than not fatal,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told reporters in Geneva.

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.

California drought: How water crisis is worse for almonds

An almond tree is lifted into a wood chipper after farmer Barry Baker decided to sacrifice 1,000 acres of trees to save water in Firebaugh (Fresno County).

An almond tree is lifted into a wood chipper after farmer Barry Baker decided to sacrifice 1,000 acres of trees to save water in Firebaugh (Fresno County).

Atwater, — Merced County – A huge shift away from annual crops to nut trees has transformed the California farm belt over the past two decades and left farmers perilously vulnerable to the severe drought that is currently gripping the state.

California farmers have spent past years busily ripping out lettuce, tomatoes and other annual crops in an attempt to sate the nation’s growing appetite for almonds, pistachios and other nuts.

The delicious perennials are lucrative, but the vast orchards that have been planted throughout the Central Valley require decades-long investments, year-round watering and a commitment from Mother Nature that she is evidently unwilling to make.

The crisis is a matter of crop flexibility. During droughts, farmers can fallow fields of lettuce and other crops, then replant them years later, picking up pretty much where they left off. That’s not an option for nut trees, which need 10 years of growing and a steady supply of water before they yield enough to pay for themselves.

“These orchards are more profitable, which is why the farmers do it,” said Jay Lund, the director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “It brings more money into California so there are a lot of good things about it, but the farmers have to be careful because a drought can be very tough on them.”

The result is that about one-third of California’s agricultural land is, Lund said, “very hard to fallow.”

Farmers are scrounging for every drop of water they can find – digging wells, tapping aquifers and finding alternative sources. But some are coming to the stark realization that, no matter what they do, there won’t be enough water to keep their trees alive.

Barry Baker has decided to sacrifice 1,000 acres of his Fresno County almond orchard so that he can keep the remaining 4,000 acres alive.

‘Huge economic loss’

“It’s a huge economic loss,” said Baker, who looked on forlornly this past week as workers felled his beloved trees. “That’s probably $10 million in revenue I lost right there, but with the price of water today, up to $2,500 per acre-foot, there is no way I could have found the water this year. A lot of guys are going to have to make that decision in the next couple of weeks.”

Baker is actually one of the lucky ones. He has enough well water on his property to keep his remaining trees alive without having to break the bank buying overpriced water from irrigation districts. A great many farmers south of the delta don’t have that luxury.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of trees die,” he said. “It’s going to break a lot of farmers.”

The switchover from annual crops to nuts has, by all accounts, been highly profitable. Nut production in California brings in $7 billion in sales every year, with almonds by far the biggest money maker, at $4.35 billion. Only grapes, which generated $4.45 billion, sold more.

The growth is, at least in part, because of the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, which may also explain why U.S. consumption of olive oil has tripled over the past twenty years. The average American eats 1.8 pounds of almonds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a 36 percent increase since 2008. Consumption of walnuts, pistachios and pecans has also increased.

Extreme drought areas

Most of the orchards have been planted in areas suffering from what meteorologists call “extreme drought.”

“An increase in the planting of permanent crops since California’s last drought episode in 2009 is one reason we have concerns that this drought has the potential to be significantly worse,” said Steve Lyle, the spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

About 3 million of the 9 million or so acres of irrigated agriculture in California are now orchards and vineyards, according to the experts. The Golden State is the nation’s top producer of tree nuts, with almonds far outpacing everything else.

 

Humberto Hernandez uses an excavator to place a dead almond tree into a wood chipper as the sun rises March 14, 2014 on a former block of almond trees on the land of Baker Farming in Firebaugh, Calif. Barry Baker decided late last year to pull up 1,000 acres of his almond trees to save water during the drought.

Humberto Hernandez uses an excavator to place a dead almond tree into a wood chipper as the sun rises March 14, 2014 on a former block of almond trees on the land of Baker Farming in Firebaugh, Calif. Barry Baker decided late last year to pull up 1,000 acres of his almond trees to save water during the drought.

There are more than 800,000 acres of almonds in California compared with 418,000 acres in 1995. Production also doubled, from 912 million pounds in 2006 to 1.88 billion in 2013. California produces 82 percent of the world’s almonds, which are neck and neck with grapes as the highest valued crop in the United States.

Meanwhile, most field crops have been cut back. There was, for instance, 1.5 million acres of cotton in California 25 or 30 years ago. Now there is only 300,000 to 400,000 acres, said Daniel Sumner, of the Agricultural Issues Center at the University of California at Davis.

Dairymen, ranchers hurt

The situation is also bad for dairy farmers and ranchers, according to Pete Craig, who owns a large cattle ranch near Lake Berryessa. He said the planting of almond orchards has taken thousands of acres of grazing land away from ranchers, many of whom are selling cattle because of a lack of feed.

“My company has lost over 8,000 acres of grasslands that I leased for cattle grazing to almonds in the last year alone,” said Craig, who believes it is bad for the environment to replace California’s diverse grassland ecosystem with a monoculture. “It is impossible to compete against a very realistic $5,000 acre net return for a tree farmer, versus a $15 acre return on native rangeland, and perhaps a $100 acre return on irrigated ground to a cattle rancher. If you were a landowner, what would you do?”

Almonds have always been big in California. The Golden State, with its Mediterranean climate, is the world’s top producer of the nut. Still, the recent expansion of the almond industry has been unprecedented, and there lies the problem.

Almond trees must get 3 to 4 acre-feet of water per acre every year or nut production will decrease for an extended period of time. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land in a foot of water.

“When you cut back on water, it stresses the tree, and when an almond tree is under stress, it produces fewer nuts,” said David Baker, the director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers, an agricultural cooperative that specializes in marketing almonds. “The problem is, they will not recover for 3 or 4 years even if the drought breaks.”

Replacing almonds with a different crop is not normally a viable option. It costs as much as $6,000 an acre to plant an almond orchard and raise the trees until they are 5 years old, about the time it takes them to begin producing almonds. It takes about a decade before the orchard produces enough almonds to pay for itself, according to farmers.

“Almonds are a huge investment,” said Craig Arnold, who grows almonds on 800 acres of his 1,200-acre farm in Atwater (Merced County) that his great grandfather, Lawrence, built after leaving San Francisco following the earthquake in 1906.

The Merced Irrigation District, which gets its water from nearly empty Lake McClure, recently told Arnold he would be getting only about 6 inches of water per acre this year. Arnold said almonds and peaches require at least 30 inches of water per acre, which is the amount he received last year.

Can’t afford to let trees die

“We have been trying to figure out what we are going to do,” Arnold said recently as he stood near the family farmhouse, which he oversees with his father and uncle. “It’s the almonds and the peaches that I worry about. I can choose not to plant everything else for a year, but I can’t afford to let the trees die.”

Arnold’s plan right now is to leave fallow 250 acres of sweet potatoes and squash and use the water to keep his almonds and peaches alive. He has already converted 75 percent of his orchards to low volume drip or micro sprinkler irrigation and recently hired workers to refurbish an old well on his property that hasn’t been used in decades.

Farmers are, in fact, sinking a large number of new wells across the state, but irrigating with well water can be problematic. Harmful salts and minerals from the aquifer can kill trees and damage crops. Wells can also cause the water table to drop, creating a whole new set of problems.

Nut prices to rise

It is a balancing act that thousands of farmers are now facing. One thing that is certain is that there will be huge economic losses and the price of almonds and other nuts will go up as production goes down.

“I have heard that between 200,000 and 250,000 acres will have significant reductions in production as a result of water shortages,” said Dan Cummings, who grows 4,000 acres of almonds in Butte, Colusa and Glenn counties. “California produces almost 2 billion pounds of almonds. Think about it. If 200 million pounds of that is not produced, that’s $700 million that doesn’t go to the farmer. It’s huge.”

And it could actually get worse before it gets better.

“Another year of this and you will see even the people who planned ahead getting hurt really bad,” said Baker, the farmer who cut down 1,000 acres of orchard just so he could stay afloat another year. “It will really be a disaster next year.”

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 radiation expected at U.S. West Coast beaches soon

West Coast Radiation Hitting Soon

A couple walk along the coast at Olympic National Park near Forks, Washington, on Tuesday, the third anniversary of the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that sparked the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster. Scientists predict low levels of radiation from Fukushima will reach waters off the Pacific Northwest next month

NEW YORK – Scientists have crowdsourced a network of volunteers taking water samples at beaches along the U.S. West Coast in hopes of capturing a detailed look at low levels of radiation drifting across the ocean since the 2011 tsunami that devastated the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

With the risk to public health extremely low, the effort is more about perfecting computer models that will better predict chemical and radiation spills in the future than bracing for a threat, researchers say.

Federal agencies are not sampling at the beach. The state of Oregon is sampling, but looking for higher radiation levels closer to federal health standards, said state health physicist Daryl Leon. Washington stopped looking after early testing turned up nothing, said Washington Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer.

The March 2011 tsunami flooded the Fukushima No. 1 plant, causing radiation-contaminated water to spill into the Pacific. Airborne radiation was detected in milk and rainwater in the U.S. soon afterward. But things move much more slowly in the ocean.

“We know there’s contaminated water coming out of there, even today,” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said in a video appealing for volunteers and contributions.

In fact, it is the biggest pulse of radioactive liquid dropped into the ocean, ever, he said.

“What we don’t really know is how fast and how much is being transported across the Pacific,” he added. “Yes, the models tell us it will be safe. Yes, the levels we expect off the coast of the U.S. and Canada are expected to be low. But we need measurements, especially now as the plume begins to arrive along the West Coast.”

In an email from Japan, Buesseler said he hopes the sampling will go on every two or three months for the next two to three years.

Two different models have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals predicting the spread of radioactive isotopes of cesium and iodine from Fukushima.

One, known as Rossi et al, shows the leading edge of the plume hitting the West Coast from southeast Alaska to Southern California by April. The other, known as Behrens et al, shows the plume hitting southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Washington by March 2016.

The isotopes have been detected at very low levels at a Canadian sampling point far out to sea earlier than the models predicted, but not yet reported at the beach, said Kathryn Higley, head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University. The Rossi model predicts levels a little higher than the fallout from nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s. The Behrens model predicts lower levels like those seen in the ocean in the 1990s, after the radiation had decayed and dissipated.

The models predict levels of Cesium 137 between 30 and 2 becquerels per cubic meter of seawater by the time the plume reaches the West Coast, Higley said.

The federal drinking water health standard is 7,400 becquerels per cubic meter, Leon said.

Becquerels are a measure of radioactivity.

The crowdsourcing raised $29,945 from 225 people, enough to establish about 30 sampling sites in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and California, according to Woods Hole. The website so far has not reported any radiation.

Sara Gamble, who lives in Washington state and who is the mother of a young child, raised $500 because she thinks it is important to know what is really going on.

Woods Hole sent her a bucket, a funnel, a clipboard, a UPS shipping label, instructions and a large red plastic container for her sample. She went to Ocean Shores, Washington, a couple of weeks ago, collected her sample and shipped it off. No results have come back yet. To do another sample, she will have to raise another $500.

“I got lots of strange looks at the beach and the UPS store, because it’s labeled ‘Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity,’ and it’s a big red bin,” she said. “But it’s funny; nobody would ask me anything out on the beach. I was like, ‘Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to ask?’ “

Taking the sample has allayed her initial fears, but she still thinks it is important to know “because it affects our ecosystems, kids love to play in the water at the beach, and I want to know what’s there.”

More Fukushima Updates Courtesy of FUKULEAKS.ORG

Earlier

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Sun, Mar 01, 2015
Source: FUKUSHIMA_SUB