More resources and updates (as of March 16, 2011, 1600PM EDT) about the status of Japanese nuclear plants and the situation surrounding them. I think the good news is the information pertaining to the restoration of electrical power at the Fukushima Daiichi site (see bellow) :

  • Kyodo News: “Japan asks IAEA to send nuke accident experts quickly” (March 16, 2011):

    Japan has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to send experts to help it deal with the crisis at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant following last Friday’s deadly earthquake, a top Japanese diplomat in Vienna said Tuesday.

    Kyodo News has a page dedicated to the situation in Japan. It’s being updated several times each day. Each update is fully accessible (no subscription needed).

  • The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS): “New Satellite Image of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Site in Japan From March 16, 2011”:

    DigitalGlobe has released a new satellite image of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear site in Japan taken at 9:35AM local time on March 16, 2011 (see figure 1). Damage to the Unit 1 reactor building from a previous explosion can still be seen. Damage to the Unit 3 reactor building from an explosion can be seen as well. Steam can still be seen emitted from the top of the damaged building. The angle of this new image, however, shows what appears to be more extensive damage to the Unit 3 reactor building than can be seen in previous satellite imagery. The image also shows damage to the reactor building for Unit 4 from an explosion. Steam can be seen venting out of a hole in the side of the reactor building for Unit 2. Workers likely removed a panel in the side of the building to vent the steam.

DigitalGlobe commercial satellite image of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site taken at 9:35AM local time on March 16, 2011.
DigitalGlobe commercial satellite image of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site taken at 9:35AM local time on March 16, 2011.
  • Reuters: “French nuclear agency now rates Japan accident at 6” (March 15, 2011):

    France’s ASN nuclear safety authority said on Tuesday the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi plant could now be classed as level six out of an international scale of one to seven.

    The American think tank ISIS issued a similar statement on Tuesday:

    ISIS assesses that the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has worsened considerably. The explosion in the Unit 2 reactor, the third so far, and the fire in the spent fuel pond in the reactor building for Unit 4 means that this accident can no longer be viewed as a level 4 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Events (INES) scale that ranks events from 1 to 7. A level 4 incident involves only local radiological consequences. This event is now closer to a level 6, and it may unfortunately reach a level 7.

    It is important to notice that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not changed the classification of the event at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1: see its Update on Japan Earthquake page (it’s still level 4)

  • INES: the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale is accessible online (PDF). See examples of events at nuclear facilities and how they were classified below (click for hi-res):

INES:  events at nuclear facilities and how they were classified

  • World Health Organization: “Japan earthquake and tsunami. Situation Report No 7” (PDF) (March 16, 2011):
    • Radioactivity has been detected outside the units in Fukushima Daiichi. The highest radiation levels reached were 8 217 microsieverts per hour near the front gate of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power station at 08:31 am 15 March. On 16 March at 11:00 am, measurements at the facility decreased to 3 391 micro
      Sv (3 milli Sv).
    • The evacuation zone is 20 km for Fukushima Daiichi plant and 10 km for Daini plants. All persons within the 20 km zone have been evacuated.
    • People residing between 20 to 30 km of the Daiichi plant (No. 1) are advised to stay indoors and avoid the use of ventilator systems.
    • 750 staff from the reactor have been evacuated and 50 staff remain to continue injecting water to cool the reactors.
    • A hospital in Fukushima has been designated for responding to persons potentially exposed to radiation.
    • Reactors 5 and 6 are confirmed to have an increase in temperature.

    Here’s the WHO’s dedicated page for the Japan earthquake where all the reports (along with additional resources) can be found.

  • As we all know by now, an explosion occurred at unit 2 of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant (at around 0520PM EST on March 14, 2011). This explosion is believed to have “affected the integrity of its primary containment vessel” (IAEA: Japan Earthquake Update / 15 March 2011, 14:10 UTC)
  • TEPCO: “Press Release (Mar 16,2011) / Impact to TEPCO’s Facilities due to Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki Earthquake (as of 2:00PM)”:

    At approximately 6:00 am, March 15th, an explosive sound occurred and the damage in the 5th floor roof of Unit 4 reactor building was confirmed. At 9:38 am, the fire near the north-west part of 4th floor of Unit 4 reactor building was confirmed. At approximately 11:00 am, TEPCO employee confirmed that the fire was off.
    At approximately 5:45 am, a TEPCO employee discovered a fire at the northwest corner of the Nuclear Reactor Building. TEPCO immediately reported this incident to the fire department and the local government and prepared to extinguish the fire. However, during an inspection at approximately 6:15 am, TEPCO staff found no signs of fire.

    Although unit 4 was under a 105-day long outage, the fire raised some concerns because of the presence pf spent fuel in the unit’s spent fuel pool. For more information about spent fuel, see “Unit 2 Explosion and Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool Fire” over at the MIT’s NSE Nuclear information hub. This blog was setup and is maintained by the students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT to provide adequate information about the incident at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It’s worth reading.

  • MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub: “News Updates and Current Status of Facilities” (march 16, 2011 10:59 am UTC):

    Units 1 and 2: TEPCO has released estimates of the levels of core damage at these two reactors: 70% damage at Unit 1 and 33% at Unit 2. They have also stated that Unit 1 is being adequately cooled.

  • Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI): “Information on the Japanese Earthquake and Reactors in That Region” (Update as of 0115PM EDT, March 16, 2011):

    News reports that high radiation levels led to the evacuation of all workers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station are not accurate. Workers were evacuated for about an hour but returned to the site to continue efforts to restore safe conditions at the plant.
    Restoration of electrical power to the site was under way at the Daiichi plant as of 6:00 a.m. EDT Wednesday. A temporary cable was being connected between an off-site power line and Daiichi reactor 3. Off-site power has not been available at the site since the earthquake on March 11.

  • The Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA): “Responding to a Nuclear Emergency” (PDF) I think (although I’m not sure) this was released sometime between Tuesday and Today (Noriyuki Shikata, Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Public Relations and Director of Global Communications at Prime Minister’s Office of Japan tweeted about the brochure a couple of hours ago). It’s a vulgarization brochure aimed at the general public.

     "Responding to a Nuclear Emergency" by the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)

  • Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan on the official website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet.
  • Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF): “Status of nuclear power plants in Fukushima as of 19:00 March 16 (Estimated by JAIF)” (PDF; original link is dead: webarchive)
  • Finally, I strongly recommend listening to an ongoing interview Evelyn Mervine (a 5th-year PhD student in the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program) is having with her father, Mark L. Mervine who’s a nuclear engineer. All the existing interviews can be listen to in MP3 or on YouTube. Transcripts are also being made available. Simply visit Evelyn’s blog to find out more: Georneys. Mr. Mervive provides clear and (what looks like to me) unbiased information about what exactly is going on with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A great initiative (in my very humble opinion). Here’s an excerpt:

    MARK – So they really need to work on the transparency and um, I think that the Japanese government has got to ensure that that happens and they’re transparent with the general public.
    EVELYN – Well, I think that’s especially important, because if you’re not transparent, there’s going to be all sorts of false information that’s circulating around and you don’t want that, because you don’t want people either to under- or over-react to a situation. You want them to have the proper information so that they can make an informed decision. Wouldn’t you agree with that, Dad?
    MARK – I- I think if, if, if there’s someone like myself, that has y’know, a significant understanding of how these plants work and you’re having difficulty piecing together the different pieces of information that are available, then I don’t know how you would expect someone in the general public to be able to know what’s going on. So again, I think that there’s gotta be more transparency and more communication relative to this event that’s occurring at the Fukushima Plant.

Previously on Aphelis:

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