When your geiger counter needle nails to the top of the scale, it’s time to pull back.

NYTimes reports:

The concerns began when a worker attempting to measure radiation levels of the water puddles there saw the reading on his dosimeter jump beyond 1,000 millisieverts, the highest reading. The worker left the scene immediately, said Takeo Iwamoto, a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant.

Michiaki Furukawa, a nuclear chemist and board member of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a Tokyo-based watchdog group, said exposure to 1,000 millisieverts an hour of radiation would induce nausea and vomiting, while levels between 3,000 to 5,000 millisieverts an hour could be lethal.

Such high amounts of radiation would clearly make continued recovery work near the reactor very difficult and could hobble attempts to bring the nuclear crisis under control. Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University, said that at the sharply elevated levels of radiation, workers would be able to remain on site for only about 15 minutes before health considerations required them to leave.

The Japanese government’s top spokesman, Yukio Edano, told an afternoon press briefing Sunday that it appeared the radioactive puddles had developed when the No. 2 unit’s fuel rods were exposed to air, but that “we don’t at this time believe they are melting. We’re confident that we are able to keep them cool.”

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The one thing that could destroy civilization more quickly than global environmental disaster, would be a global nuclear conflict. So, I would argue, one of the most important and legitimate functions of government would be that department, and those people, whose job it is to track down, neutralize and destroy loose fissionable materials or weapons.

So guess what the mad haters of the Tea Party  want to do with it?

Rachel Maddow reports.

Kyodo News has this:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday it has begun injecting freshwater into the No. 1 and No. 3 reactor cores at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to enhance cooling efficiency, but highly radioactive water was later found leaking near all four troubled reactor units at the plant.

A day after three workers were exposed to water containing radioactive materials 10,000 times the normal level at the turbine building connected to the No. 3 reactor building, a water pool with similarly highly concentrated radioactive materials was found in the No. 1 reactor’s turbine building, causing some restoration work to be suspended, it said.

Pools of water that may have seeped from either the reactor cores or spent fuel pools were also found in the turbine buildings of the No. 2 and No. 4 reactors, measuring up to 1 meter and 80 centimeters deep, respectively, while those near the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors were up to 40 cm and 1.5 meters deep.

The latest development in Japan’s worst nuclear crisis raises the risk of more workers being exposed to radioactive substances, hindering their efforts to restore the plant’s crippled cooling functions that are key to overcoming the crisis.

Freshwater is being injected to prevent crystallized salt from seawater already injected forming a crust on the fuel rods and hampering smooth water circulation, thus diminishing the cooling effect, the utility known as TEPCO said, adding it is preparing to inject freshwater into the No. 2 reactor core as well on Saturday.

and in an ironically sad distillation of the overall tone of crisis communication so far..the article notes, “the high-level radiation is suspected to have come from the reactor…”.

In another report, Kyodo News said:

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Botched communications remain the most remarkable and consistent feature of of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

With each passing day, we are told that officials at the scene are bringing the situation under control, only to find, in a day, or an hour, that “you know, that thing we told you yesterday? Well, that wasn’t exactly true, it turns out things are worse than we thought….”

With this as the backdrop, today’s announcement that Japanese authorities are urging “voluntary evacuations” to a wider  zone around the afflicted reactors comes as an ominous confirmation that all is still not well at the site.

The NYTimes reports:

TOKYO — Japanese officials began encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday as new signs emerged that parts of the crippled facility are so damaged and contaminated that it will be hard to bring the plant under control soon.

The authorities said that they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 12 to 19 miles outside the plant and that they were now encouraging “voluntary evacuation” from the area. Those people had been advised March 15 to remain indoors, while those within a 12-mile radius of the plant had been ordered to evacuate.

“The situation still requires caution,” (Japanese Prime Minister Naoto) Kan, grave and tired-looking, told the nation. “Our measures are aimed at preventing the circumstances from getting worse.”

“The state of the plant is still quite precarious,” he said. “We’re working hard to make sure it doesn’t get worse. We have to ensure there’s no further deterioration.”

In the latest setback in the effort to contain the nuclear crisis evidence emerged that the reactor vessel of the No. 3 unit may have been damaged, an official said Friday. The development, described at a news conference by Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, raises the possibility that radiation from the mixed oxides or mox fuel in the reactor — a combination of uranium and plutonium — could be released.

Observers speculate the the new announcement is related to recent reports that a containment vessel at one of the reactors has been breached.

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California had the Terminator. Now, Wisconsin has the Turbine-hater.

Solveclimate reports:

Wind energy developer Invenergy pulled the plug on a planned wind farm in Wisconsin last week, in the first of what may be a slew of such money-losing exits for the state.

The Chicago-based firm cited the state’s “regulatory uncertainty” in its decision to cancel plans for the 150-megawatt Ledge Wind Energy Center in southern Brown County.

Invenergy said that the abrupt suspension of state wind siting rules and an “unstable climate” — namely Gov. Scott Walker’s bill to establish the nation’s most stringent wind standards — had forced the firm to think twice about building its 100-turbine project in Wisconsin.

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From New Scientist:

Japan’s damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl.

The difference between this accident and Chernobyl, they say, is that at Chernobyl a huge fire released large amounts of many radioactive materials, including fuel particles, in smoke. At Fukushima Daiichi, only the volatile elements, such as iodine and caesium, are bubbling off the damaged fuel. But these substances could nevertheless pose a significant health risk outside the plant.

Again, comparing radiation “levels” is treacherous. Chernobyl’s fire blasted volumes of material high into the atmophere and spread it globally.
Fukushima is unique in that it is directly on the ocean, and prevailing winds have carried the majority of releases “away” – out to sea. The effects on ocean food chains are only now beginning to be examined.

New Scientist goes on….

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Solar Cookers for Uganda

March 23, 2011

For decades, boosters of Big Energy have promised that coal plants, nuclear plants, breeder reactors, or some other such high tech, high cost solution will bring the Frigidaire Kitchen of Tomorrow to the third world.

Maybe that’s not the best, quickest, simplest, and cheapest way to go.

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