*****Japan concedes that Fukushima may be buried in concrete like Chernobyl*****

Frantic repair efforts failing—radioactive steam again rising from Fukushima

The New York Times reports about frantic repairs efforts at Fukushima.

(emphasis mine) [my comment]

March 17, 2011
Radiation Spread Seen; Frantic Repairs Go On
By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD

WASHINGTON — …
another day of frantic efforts to cool nuclear fuel in the troubled reactors and in the plant's spent-fuel pools resulted in little or no progress, according to United States government officials.


The effort by the Japanese to hook some electric power back up to the plant did not begin until Thursday and even if they succeed, it is unclear whether the cooling systems, in reactor buildings battered by a tsunami and then torn apart by hydrogen explosions, survived the crisis in good enough shape to be useful.

"What you are seeing are desperate effortsjust throwing everything at it in hopes something will work," said one American official with long nuclear experience who would not speak for attribution. "Right now this is more prayer than plan."


… On Friday,
steam that was likely laced with radioactive particles was again rising over the plant, this time billowing from reactor No. 2…

Radiation fears prompt mass exodus from Japan

The Chosun Ilbo that radiation fears prompt mass exodus from Japan.

Radiation Fears Prompt Mass Exodus from Japan
Mar. 18, 2011 13:21 KST

Governments around the world are evacuating their citizens from Japan as fears mount over a massive radiation leak from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeastern Japan. Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo were packed with foreigners leaving the country on Thursday.

Tokyo Unsafe

Reports of
higher-than-normal radiation levels in Tokyo prompted most countries to call on their nationals not only staying near the Fukushima power plant but also in Tokyo to leave the country. … Air France dispatched two planes at the request of the French Embassy in Tokyo to fly its citizens out.

Some countries are temporarily shutting their embassies. As of Thursday, Angola, Bahrain, Croatia, Iraq, Kosovo, Lesotho, Liberia and Panama had closed down their embassies. The Australian embassy and diplomats said they plan to temporarily relocate to Osaka. ... Foreign journalists who have been covering the Fukushima crisis are also leaving from the region.

Chartered Flights

Asian governments are stepping up efforts to get their citizens out of Japan. Starting on Tuesday,
the Chinese government deployed buses to the Fukushima, Iwate and Ibaraki prefectures, which were the hardest hit by the earthquake and began shuttling Chinese people to Narita and Niigata airports. On Wednesday night alone, 1,900 Chinese arrived in Dalian aboard China Southern and China Eastern flights. …

The Philippine government said it will foot the cost of airplane tickets for citizens either returning home or moving to other areas, while Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told officials to assist its citizens leaving Japan.
The Indian government has chartered a B747-400, capable of carrying 400 passengers, to shuttle between India and Japan every day for the time being…

Meanwhile,
the number of foreigners entering Japan has plunged. On one flight from London to Tokyo on Tuesday, only 20 of 300 seats were filled. The World Travel and Tourism Council forecast the latest earthquake and nuclear crisis will severely impact Japan's tourism industry, which accounts for 6.8 percent of its GDP.

Fukishima radiation reaching the US

Chicago Breaking News reports that Tokyo flight triggers O'Hare radiation detectors.

Tokyo flight triggers O'Hare radiation detectors
12:06 p.m. CDT, March 17, 2011

Mayor Richard Daley acknowledged today passengers on a flight from Tokyo had set off radiation detectors at o'hare international airport, but he offered no details and said federal officials will be handling the situation.

Reuters reports that very low radiation detected on US west coast.

Very low radiation detected on US west coast-sources
March 18
Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:17am EDT

VIENNA (Reuters) -
Very low concentrations of radioactive particles believed to have come from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant have been detected on the U.S. west coast, diplomatic sources said on Friday.


"It is very low level," another source in Vienna said. [Low levels for now maybe, but what happens if/when Fukishima get worse?]

Even nuclear defenders begin to have their doubts

Reuters reports that Even nuclear defenders are beginning to have their doubts.

Analysis: Even nuclear defenders begin to have their doubts
Thu, Mar 17 2011
By Ben Berkowitz

NEW YORK (Reuters) -
Even the most ardent defenders of nuclear power are starting to admit the situation in Japan looks bad.

On March 14, the Wall Street Journal carried
an opinion piece from author William Tucker condemning those who were expressing concern about nuclear safety [see Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl (by William Tucker)] when there was the full devastation from the earthquake and tsunami to focus on.

On Thursday,
Tucker told Reuters THE SITUATION HAD CHANGED SINCE HIS ARTICLE.

"I think
that story probably has to be revised, we seem to be in deeper water now than we were originally," he said. "I think WE ARE FACING ANOTHER CHERNOBYL NOW OR SOMETHING ON THAT ORDER."

Japan concedes that Fukushima may be buried in concrete like Chernobyl

Yahoo News reports that Japan weighs need to bury nuclear plant.

Japan weighs need to bury nuclear plant; tries to restore power
2011-03-18
By Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoko Nishikawa

TOKYO (Reuters) —
Japanese engineers conceded on Friday that burying a crippled nuclear plant in sand and concrete may be a last resort to prevent a catastrophic radiation release, the method used to seal huge leakages from Chernobyl in 1986.


It was the first time the facility operator had acknowledged burying the sprawling 40-year-old complex was possible, a sign that piecemeal actions such as dumping water from military helicopters or scrambling to restart cooling pumps may not work.

"It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete. But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first," an official from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, told a news conference.

Asked about burying the reactors in sand and concrete, Nishiyama said:
"That solution is in the back of our minds, but we are focused on cooling the reactors down."

Burying the reactors would leave part of Japan off-limits for decades.

My reaction: Frantic efforts to cool nuclear fuel show no progress.

1) The effort to hook some electric power back up to the plant did not begin until Thursday, and even it works, the cooling systems may not have survived the crisis in good enough shape to be useful.

2) On Friday, radioactive steam was again rising over the plant, billowing from reactor No. 2…

Radiation fears prompt mass exodus from Japan

1) Governments around the world are evacuating their citizens from Japan as fears mount over a massive radiation leak

2) Countries are temporarily shutting their embassies.

3) Foreign journalists who have been covering the Fukushima crisis are also leaving from the region

4) The number of foreigners entering Japan has plunged.

Fukishima radiation reaching the US

1) Passengers on a flight from Tokyo had set off radiation detectors at o'hare international airport

2) Very low concentrations of radioactive particles have been detected on the U.S. west coast

Seriousness of situation starting to be acknowledged

1) Even the most ardent defenders of nuclear power are starting to admit the situation in Japan looks bad.

2) Japanese engineers conceded on Friday that burying a crippled nuclear plant in sand and concrete may be a last resort to prevent a catastrophic radiation release


Conclusion: Fukushima is on track to replace Chernobyl as the new "standard" for complete nuclear disasters.

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