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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This rural school district is an energy producer, and earns $120,000. annually doing it.
What would the impact be,  if this were applied to rural schools and small communities across the country?

This is another example of how renewable energy systems, and distributed, smart grid solutions, can empower small communities, small businesses, and even individuals – see below–

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Important to remember, talk of “radiation levels” is somewhat meaningless without context – what kind of radiation? what kind of nuclide involved? (long lived or short lived, bio-available or not..)

The piece briefly mentions ocean contamination. We have been continually told about land based measurements, while the majority of the contaminants have been carried out to sea by the prevailing winds, where, we are told, they will go “away”.

Except, in the Biosphere, there is  no “away”.

NYTimes reports continuing concerns about spent fuel pools:

The storage pool at Fukushima Daiichi Power Station’s No. 2 Reactor, which holds spent nuclear fuel rods, was spewing steam late Tuesday, forcing workers to divert their attention to dousing the reactor building with water. If unchecked the water in the pool could boil away, exposing the fuel rods and releasing large amounts of radiation into the air.

“We cannot leave this alone and we must take care of it as quickly as possible,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, told reporters.

Thufferin' thuckatath...

From the New York Times:

While public attention has focused on wind turbines as a menace to birds, a new study shows that a far greater threat may be posed by a more familiar antagonist: the pet house cat.

new study in The Journal of Ornithology on the mortality of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs found that cats were the No. 1 killer in the area, by a large margin.

Nearly 80 percent of the birds were killed by predators, and cats were responsible for 47 percent of those deaths, according to the researchers, from the Smithsonian Institution and Towson University in Maryland. Death rates were particularly high in neighborhoods with large cat populations.

This is, of course, more confirmation of what my own research for a pair of wind energy videos showed.
(I’ve embedded them below the fold)

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Click for Larger Image

How much is there? More than we thought.

According to Dennis Elliott, NREL’s (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) principal scientist in wind resource assessment, “areas with gross capacity factor of 30% and greater are generally considered to have suitable wind resource for wind development with today’s advanced wind turbine technology. The new estimates for 80-m height and capacity factor of 30% and greater indicate about 10,500 gigawatts (GW) developable potential in the contiguous United States, compared to previous estimates of 7,000 to 8,000 GW for 50-m height and power Class 3 and greater.”

How much is that?

Well, a very large nuclear reactor might put out one gigawatt.

And renewables? Sorry, we prefer the last century’s technology here. To hell with you and your “future”.

After this situation winds down in Japan, I’ll explain why very little has changed, except maybe now more people get why nuclear has, for at least 30 years, been a future technology whose time has passed.

VOA:

Workers have been temporarily evacuated from Japan’s troubled nuclear plant, after dark smoke was seen coming from one of its reactors.

Officials said Monday that no increase in radiation levels has been detected and they are still trying to determine the cause of the smoke.

The new threat at the Fukushima nuclear plant came as heavy rain pounded northeastern Japan’s earthquake-stricken regions, prompting increased fears about radiation. Restrictions on the sale of certain foods contaminated by the radiation were expanded.

CNN reported smoke from two reactors:

Tokyo (CNN) — Smoke spewed Monday from two adjacent reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a nuclear safety official said, setbacks that came despite fervent efforts to prevent the further release of radioactive materials at the stricken facility.

After 6 p.m., white smoke was seen emanating from the facility’s No. 2 reactor, according to Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. About two hours earlier, workers were evacuated from the area around the No. 3 reactor after gray smoke began to rise from the wreckage of its steel-and-concrete housing, which was blown apart by a hydrogen explosion last week.

The No. 3 reactor has been the top priority for authorities trying to contain damage to the plant and stave off a possible meltdown. Its fuel includes a small percentage of plutonium mixed with the uranium in its fuel rods, which experts say could cause more harm than regular uranium fuels in the event of a meltdown.

BBC:

A plant spokesman says some workers were temporarily evacuated from the complex after grey smoke was seen rising from the No 3 reactor.

Reports said the smoke appeared to have come from a pool where the reactor’s spent fuel rods are kept.

Radiation levels did not appear to have risen significantly though after the smoke was spotted, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said.

White smoke was later seen rising from the No 2 reactor, the agency said.