Entries in Fukushima Daiichi (3)


Nuclear Crisis In Japan Will Not Slow Relicensing of U.S. Plants

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant will not have an impact on the re-licensing of U.S. nuclear reactors, a top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official told lawmakers Tuesday.

“There’s no technical reason, that I’m aware of, that this would impact the license renewal process for the remaining plants in the U.S.,” Bill Borchardt, the NRC Executive Director for Operations, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Over half of the 104 operating reactors in the U.S. have already received license renewals for an additional 20 years of operation.  The NRC expects that the other half will continue with the license extension process.

“If there was a design change necessary in order to adapt the plants to what we’re learning from Japan we would take that action absent or outside of the license-renewal, review process,” Borchardt explained. “We would take that without hesitation.”

Several lawmakers have called for a moratorium on relicensing in light of the ongoing crisis in Japan.

Peter Lyons, the acting assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy, explained that the Fukushima Daiichi plants “are in a slow recovery from the accident. However, long-term cooling of the reactors and pools is essential during this period and has not been adequately restored to date.”

Borchardt agreed. “The situation in general continues to further stabilize, although there are many hurdles that remain.”

Among those hurdles are reports of radioactive water in the basements of the turbine buildings which, according to Borchardt, is from the water that has been injected to cool the reactors.

“We believe that the water is the result of the ‘bleed and feed’ process that they have been using to keep water in the reactor cores and in the containment of the units,” Borchardt said. “The exact flow path of that leakage has not been determined.”  

As for reports of plutonium in the soil near the nuclear plant, Lyons said the news did not come as a surprise. “All operating reactors, whether they start with any plutonium in the fuel or not, build up plutonium in the course of operation. So finding plutonium that was derived from either the operating reactors or the spent fuel pools would not be regarded as a major surprise. Certainly it would be a concern if it were in significant levels,” he explained.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Trace Amounts of Japan's Radioactive Fallout Found in US Rainwater

Michael Blann/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has had a residual effect felt all the way in the U.S., with rainwater here showing trace amounts of radiation.

It seems that the very lightly contaminated rain is turning up coast-to-coast, with radiation showing up in Nevada and other Western states and as far East as North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

One of the radioactive by-products found in U.S. rain is in iodine-131, which briefly caused Japan to institute a ban on tap water in Tokyo and other prefectures.  However, there are no such worries here, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In fact, the risk to the public is so low that the EPA says that Americans are exposed to far more radiation when they take an international airline flight.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan's Nuclear Crisis: US Safe From Radiation, Say Engineers

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As radiation levels continue to rise in Japan while engineers keep struggling with the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, many people in the U.S. are wondering if the danger could spread to American shores.

To those who might worry, nuclear engineers and meteorologists said the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, is safe.

"These releases from the plant, because they're not elevated, because they're not getting up high in the atmosphere, they won't travel very far," said Kathryn Higley, director of the department of nuclear engineering at Oregon State University.  "There are so many factors in our favor.  Rain will knock it down.  There are 5,000 miles of ocean between us and Japan.  It will be diluted, it will mix with sea spray, long before it gets remotely close to us."

The high-aititude winds over Japan are primarily out of the west, which is good news for Japan in a worst-case scenario if there were a large release of radiation into the air.

And in a worst-case scenario, where radioactive particles would be carried long-distance by upper-level winds, Edward Morse, a nuclear engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, told ABC News in an email that "we will get some fallout on the West Coast two to three days after its release in Japan."  He added that "the levels will not be threatening to life and health but they will be observable."

"If any radiation were to make it here, it would be merely background levels,"said Jere Jenkins, the director of Radiation Laboratories at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.  "Nothing for people on the West Coast or people in the United States to be concerned about."

Higley said she has been spending a lot of time over the last few days urging calm.

"We have monitoring capability here in the U.S. that is extraordinarily sensitive.  We can detect radiation that is like a hundred-thousandth of what you get from a regular X-ray, and we don't expect to see even that."

"For the stuff to travel, it has to be picked up by the wind," she said, "higher-level winds that have global distribution.  And that's just not happening.  This is a little like a campfire -- the smoke is all near the ground."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio