Today there was another accident at what's left of the Fukushima Daiichi unit 3 reactor building, when workers operating a remote control crane dropped the control console for the refueling machine into the spent fuel pool. The console weighs close to a thousand pounds.
TEPCO told reporters that they haven't noticed any change in the radiation levels around the pool after the accident, which is nice. Those levels are already high enough to require workers to use remote control, debris removal has been a notoriously dirty job. As reported in a previous diary, on August 19th of 2013 TEPCO reported more than 1.1 trillion becquerels of contamination was released in a 4-hour period during debris removal at unit 3, up to 4 TBq over two days.
TEPCO said they will check on the condition of the 566 spent fuel assemblies (and 1/3 of a core's worth of unirradiated MOX fuel assemblies there for the next refueling outage) in the pool, to see if this latest accident will compromise plans to start emptying the pool in 2015. This is not the first time debris has been dropped, pulled or pushed into the unit 3 SFP. Between 2012 and 2013 debris removal from the top of the building dumped debris - including the 1.5 ton fuel handling machine mast - into the pool quite regularly. We can expect to find out TEPCO's lowballed by factors of ten levels of contamination sent airborne by this phase of debris removal around this time next year, if TEPCO stays true to form. We'll of course hear only "everything's fine" until crops start being tested after the next growing season and it is discovered that the region has been seriously dumped on yet again.
Meanwhile, out in the yard...
TEPCO released a handout with lots of pretty graphs, diagrams, charts and pictures illustrating to the press its efforts to diminish waterborne releases to the port. One of the graphs (translated here) admits that 61 billion Bq per day "leaked" to the port last year, while just 22 billion Bq/day are leaking every day this year. Or, they expect will leak once they get the cliff wall finished, hopefully sometime this year.
And down the street...
The Asahi Shimbun reported August 24th that the number of young people (average age 14.8 years in March of 2011) in Fukushima prefecture who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer now totals 103 (plus 1 benign tumor), for a rate of 34.8 per 100,000. Data from thyroid cancer screenings in contaminated areas after Chernobyl by Nagasaki University shows rates of 31 per 100,000 in Korosten and 22 per 100,000 in Kiev. To contrast, the thyroid cancer rate in Miyagi prefecture according to cancer patients' registration is 1.7 per 100,000 for late teens.
The disaster at Fukushima is both terrible and ongoing. Things keep going wrong, problems keep compounding, and the entire world is pretty well agreed that TEPCO has done a terrible job dealing with the situation. Even with bottomless infusions of money from their government, the situation - and equipment, and components, and facilities, and - keep on deteriorating. Information and data coming from TEPCO and the NRA is slow to nonexistent on many vital aspects. For example, TEPCO admitted just this month, for the first time, that the unit 3 reactor core did suffer 100% meltdown and melt-through in the first days after the earthquake, and various analysts are back now to the original NRC Rx analysis that the unit 3 explosion was steam (from the containment when the core hit the flooded floor) and not hydrogen deflagration from the refueling floor around the SFP. All three corium flows are still (far as we know) MIA.
It ain't over yet by a long shot.