Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Japan Plans on Dumping Fukushima's Radiation Contaminated Water

On March 29, 2012 a Japanese professor of nuclear engineering told the New York Times that “Unfortunately, all we can do is keep pumping water inside the reactors” in response to reports that the drywell inside Fukushima Daiichi reactor 2 had radiation levels of 72.0 sieverts an hour:
Cited in Hiroko Taubchi “Japan Nuclear Plant May be Worse Off Than Thought,” The New York Times (2012, March 29): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/world/asia/inquiry-suggests-worse-damage-at-japan-nuclear-plant.html?_R=1&src=tp.

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster of March 2011 resulted in endless production of contaminated water because melted reactor fuel must be continuously cooled. I have written quite extensively about the problems of contaminated water production and management at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Now TEPCO has ran out of space for storage facilities for water contaminated with tritium and is planning on dumping diluted tritiated water into the Pacific Ocean.

Bellano has a good article covering this plan (see here) but it does potentially under-estimate how much contaminated water is produced daily because it turns out that far more than 165 tons is created with heavy rains, as explained in this article which says that levels reached 1000 tons a day during last October's rains:
Masanobu Higashiyama and Yusuke Ogawa (2018, March 2). TEPCO defends Fukushima ‘ice wall,’ but it is still too porous. THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201803020042.html
The Bellona article says other options are available but dumping is the most cost-effective (which sadly appears to the top decision-making criterion). 

TEPCO clearly has to do something because it cannot continue to build more and more tanks, which pose risks of leaking and may produce "breaking" radiation. However, dumping seems like a truly risky option.

The argument is that the amount to be dumped is not more than already dumped in the UK at plants such as Windscale but when one considers how much has already been released intentionally and accidentally the assault is much more significant.

Moreover, it turns out that tritium does bioaccumulate in fish. Tritated fish may be mobile vectors of contamination.

Fukushima's Director of Reconstruction Promotion Group, Hideyasu Tamura, recently stated that the "the successful management of contaminated water has resulted in the improved safety of Fukushima’s fishery products. No marine products caught off Fukushima has exceeded the standard limit (100 becquerel/kg) in monitoring surveys over the fiscal years from 2015 to 2017."
See Hideyasu Tamura (2018, May 210). Fukushima, seven years on. The Japan Times, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/05/21/commentary/japan-commentary/fukushima-seven-years/#.WwTSr-4vz3g
However, I'm not convinced given the challenges in measuring radionuclide concentrations in seafood coupled with the expected onslaught of tritiated water.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Meanwhile, 80% of Fukushima Prefecture radiation monitors to be removed

Geoengineering and Carbon Dioxide: Can We Escape Collective Insanity?

I've been reading about geoengineering as a solution for climate change.

I've noticed its introduction as a novel set of strategies for resolving the looming problems of erratic systems disequilibrium in weather produced (or exacerbated by) the industrial revolution and, I would add, atmospheric testing (see articles cited at bottom of this post for examples of geoengineering).

[i don't discount the role of solar cycles but believe human impacts cannot be discounted: e.g., heat islands are obvious indicators that human infrastructures increase temperatures]

As I understand it, however, the problem of increasing carbon dioxide will NOT be solved by spraying "non-toxic limestone dust and/or sulfates" to block solar radiation (Fecht, 2017 see below).

Climate change is problematic because erratic weather and desertification will decrease food production, leading to refugees and wars, but rising carbon dioxide levels may pose an even more pressing problem.

Dr. Joseph Romm succinctly explains the problem of rising carbon dioxide levels, citing a study finding adverse cognitive effects from slightly elevated carbon dioxide levels occurring inside buildings:
They found that, on average, a typical participant’s cognitive scores dropped 21 percent with a 400 ppm increase in CO2. Here are their astonishing findings for four of the nine cognitive functions scored in a double-blind test of the impact of elevated CO2 levels....
NASA has also observed CO2-related health impacts on International Space Station (ISS) astronauts at much lower CO2 levels than expected and has identified a mechanism by which CO2 levels could affect the brain, as I will discuss in Part 2. As a result, NASA has already lowered the maximum allowable CO2 levels on the space station.
Here is the study, which you can download and read for free:
Joseph G. Allen, Piers MacNaughton, Usha Satish, Suresh Santanam, Jose Vallarino, and John D. Spengler (2016, June). Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments. Environ Health Perspectives 124(6), 805-812; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1510037
Carbon dioxide levels are increasing throughout our environment, not simply within our enclosures.

Increased carbon-dioxide levels would help explain the rising tide of insanity around us. Insanity is clearly visible as eruptions of anger and violence.

What I wonder is if the acceleration of carbon-dioxide production in the atmosphere will be mitigated, hidden, or exacerbated by the aerial spraying now under way, as explained in the following three new articles:
Kevin Bullis (December 21, 2009) The Geoengineering Gambit. MIT Technology Review. Available, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/416801/the-geoengineering-gambit/Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have already climbed to 385 parts per million, well over the 350 parts per million that many scientists say is the upper limit for a relatively stable climate. And despite government-led efforts to limit carbon emissions in many countries, annual emissions from fossil-fuel combustion are going up, not down: over the last two decades, they have increased 41 percent. In the last 10 years, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by nearly two parts per million every year.

…. strategies for geoengineering vary widely, from launching trillions of sun shields into space to triggering vast algae blooms in oceans. The one that has gained the most attention in recent years involves injecting millions of tons of sulfur dioxide high into the atmosphere to form microscopic particles that would shade the planet. Many geoengineering proposals date back decades, but until just a few years ago, most climate scientists considered them something between high-tech hubris and science fiction. Indeed, the subject was “forbidden territory,” says Ronald Prinn, a professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT. Not only is it unclear how such engineering feats would be accomplished and whether they would, in fact, moderate the climate, but most scientists worry that they could have disastrous unintended consequences. What’s more, relying on geoengineering to cool the earth, rather than cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, would commit future generations to maintaining these schemes indefinitely. For these reasons, mere discussion of geoengineering was considered a dangerous distraction for policy makersconsidering how to deal with global warming. Prinn says that until a few years ago, he thought its advocates were “off the deep end.”

…It’s not just a fringe idea anymore. The United Kingdom’s Royal Society issued a report on geoengineering in September that outlined the research and policy challenges ahead. The National Academies in the United States are working on a similar study. And John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, broached the idea soon after he was appointed. “Climate change is happening faster than anyone previously predicted,” he said during one talk. “If we get sufficiently desperate, we may try to engage in geoengineering to try to create cooling effects.” To prepare ourselves, he said, we need to understand the possibilities and the possible side effects. Even the U.S. Congress has now taken an interest, holding its first hearings on geoengineering in November.

James Temple (2017, April 18). The Growing Case for Geoengineering. MIT Techology Review, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604081/the-growing-case-for-geoengineering/
Mitchell, a lanky, soft-spoken atmospheric physicist, believes these frigid clouds in the upper troposphere may offer one of our best fallback plans for combating climate change. The tiny ice crystals in cirrus clouds cast thermal radiation back against the surface of the earth, trapping heat like a blanket—or, more to the point, like carbon dioxide. But Mitchell, an associate research professor at the institute, thinks there might be a way to counteract the effects of these clouds.

It would work like this: Fleets of large drones would crisscross the upper latitudes of the globe during winter months, sprinkling the skies with tons of extremely fine dust-like materials every year. If Mitchell is right, this would produce larger ice crystals than normal, creating thinner cirrus clouds that dissipate faster. “That would allow more radiation into space, cooling the earth,” Mitchell says. Done on a large enough scale, this “cloud seeding” could ease global temperatures by as much as 1.4 °C, more than the planet has warmed since the Industrial Revolution, according to a separate Yale study.

Sarah Fecht (2017, April 18). Everything you need to know about geoengineering. Popular Science, https://www.popsci.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-geoengineering Scientists may finally put some of the basic principles to the test in 2018—and not everyone is happy about that

Next year, Harvard physicist David Keith and his colleagues plan to spray a small amount of water vapor into the stratosphere. Although he won't be doing any actual geoengineering, the goal is to see how well this artificial cloud reflects the sun's energy back into space, before it can heat the Earth.

The idea of purposely manipulating the climate is a controversial topic, and some environmental scientists aren't even fans of feasibility studies like this. But as other types of climate initiatives dry up, geoengineering appears to be gaining momentum….

… Keith's team plans to experiment with the second type of strategy next year, when they launch a high-altitude balloon to a height of 12 miles. Once at altitude, the balloon will spray up to two pounds of material into the sky across a space about half a mile long and about as wide as the length of an American football field. Then the balloon will swoop back through the spray to monitor how the particles interact with each other, how they distribute themselves through the air, and how well they scatter light….

… nitially, Keith's team will start by spraying water. On later tries, they may release a non-toxic limestone dust and/or sulfates, but only in very small amounts. An op-ed in the Guardian notes that if they do decide to test sulfates, they'll release less material than a commercial aircraft typically emits during one minute of flight.