Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update (22 March 2011, 04:15 UTC)

Japanese authorities have reported that they will measure radioactivity in the marine environment around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The monitoring will be conducted from 22-23 March by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC). Sea water sampling from eight locations will be sampled and analyzed by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), and results will be provided on 24 March. The analysis will include radionuclide concentrations found in sea water and dose rate. The IAEA will continue to follow this information.

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update (21 March 2011, 23:15 UTC)

Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Japanese authorities have notified the IAEA that efforts to restore power for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are on-going. As of 19 March at 21:46 UTC, the power centre at Unit 2 had received electricity. Work to restore electricity to Units 3 and 4 is continuing.

White smoke was reported seen emanating from Unit 2 on 21 March at 9:22 UTC. Grayish smoke was reported seen emanating from unit 3 at 6:55 on 21 March, and this was reported to have died down two hours later. All workers at Units 1 through 4 evacuated after the smoke at Unit 3 was seen. The IAEA is seeking further information at this time on the status of workers at the site.

Japanese authorities have also reported that water has been sprayed over the Common Spent Fuel Pool; this started on 21 March at 1:37 UTC. The IAEA is seeking further information on this development and will report further as updates are received from Japan.

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update (21 March 2011, 15:30 UTC)

On Monday, 21 March 2011, Graham Andrew, Special Adviser to the IAEA Director General on Scientific and Technical Affairs, briefed both Member States and the media on the current status of nuclear safety in Japan. His opening remarks, which he delivered at 15:30 UTC at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, are provided below:

1. Current Situation

We are seeing some steady improvements, but the overall situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious. High levels of contamination have been measured in the locality of the plant.

The restoration of electrical power to Unit 2, which we reported yesterday, is good news. AC power is available and an electrical load check to pumps, etc. is currently on-going. Work on the restoration of off-site power to Units 3 and 4 is also underway.

Seawater is still being injected into the reactor pressure vessels of Units 1, 2 and 3.

Pressure in the reactor pressure vessel and the containment vessel drywell at Unit 3, which had been rising yesterday, has again fallen.

Water is being sprayed periodically into the spent fuel pools at Units 2, 3 and 4. The Agency still lacks data on water levels and temperatures in the spent fuel pools at Units 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Following the restoration of cooling at Units 5 and 6, temperatures in the spent fuel pools continue to decline.

2. Radiation Monitoring

As I reported yesterday, the IAEA radiation monitoring team took measurements at distances from 56 to 200 km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. At two locations in Fukushima Prefecture gamma dose rate and beta-gamma contamination measurements have been repeated. These measurements showed high beta-gamma contamination levels. Measurements by the IAEA and the Japanese authorities were taken at the same time and locations. The Japanese and independent IAEA measurements gave comparable results.

Measurement of gamma dose rate and beta-gamma contamination were taken on 20 March at more locations. The dose-rate results ranged from 2-160 microsieverts per hour, which compares to a typical natural background level of around 0.1 microsieverts per hour. High levels of beta-gamma contamination have been measured between 16-58 km from the plant. Available results show contamination ranging from 0.2-0.9 MBq per square meter.

Further measurements are needed to assess possible contamination beyond the area currently monitored - both closer to the facility and further way. We have no contamination measurements showing that that contamination levels are high at greater distances than 58 km from the plant, but this cannot be excluded.

I have no further information available regarding the measurement of alpha radiation. As I reported yesterday, from the measurements taken within the evacuation zone (20 km), no significant alpha radiation had been detected at that time.

In the coming days, the IAEA monitoring team will continue to take measurements in the Fukushima prefecture. We are seeking data from Japan on radioactivity contamination measurements for the rest of Japan.

Some results on the monitoring of foodstuffs have been made available by Japan to the IAEA and FAO. Results provided recently by the Japanese authorities range up to 55 000 Bq per kg of I-131 in samples of Spinach taken in the Ibaraki Prefecture. These high values are significantly above Japanese limits for restricting food consumption (i.e. 2 000 Bq/kg). I understand that the Japanese Government is actively considering relevant precautionary measures and has instructed four Prefectures (Ibaraki, Totigi, Gunma, Fukushima) to refrain, for the time being, from distributing two types of vegetables (spinach and kakina) from these Prefectures and milk from Fukushima.

3. Agency Activities

The Director General briefed the Board of Governors today on the outcome of his visit to Tokyo.

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update (20 March 2011, 21:00 UTC) 

Summary of Conditions at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Located on the Eastern coast of Japan, the six nuclear power reactors at Daiichi are boiling water reactors (BWRs). A massive earthquake on 11 March disabled off-site power to the plant and triggered the automatic shutdown of the three operating reactors - Units 1, 2 and 3. The control rods in those Units were successfully inserted into the reactor cores, ending the fission chain reaction. The remaining reactors - Units 4, 5 and 6 - had previously been shut down for routine maintenance purposes. Backup diesel generators, designed to start up after losing off-site power, began providing electricity to pumps circulating coolant to the six reactors.

Soon after the earthquake, a large tsunami washed over the reactor site, knocking out the backup generators. While some batteries remained operable, the entire site lost the ability to maintain normal reactor cooling and water circulation functions.

Here is the current status of the six reactors, based on documents and confirmed by Japanese officials (new information from 20 March in bold):

Unit 1

Coolant within Unit 1 is covering about half of the fuel rods in the reactor, and Japanese authorities believe the core has been damaged. High pressure within the reactor's containment led operators to vent gas from the containment. Later, an explosion destroyed the outer shell of the reactor building above the containment on 12 March.

There are no indications of problems with either the reactor pressure vessel or the primary containment vessel.

Efforts to pump seawater into the reactor core are continuing.

No precise information has been available on the status of the spent fuel pool.

On 18 March, Japan assigned an INES rating of 5 to this Unit.

On 19 March, the containment vessel pressure indication was restored.

Unit 2

Coolant within Unit 2 is covering about half of the fuel rods in the reactor, and Japanese authorities believe the core has been damaged. Following an explosion on 15 March, Japanese officials expressed concerns that the reactor's containment may not be fully intact. As of 19 March, 11:30 UTC, officials could no longer confirm seeing white smoke coming from the building. Smoke had been observed emerging from the reactor earlier.

Efforts to pump seawater into the reactor core are continuing.

No precise information has been available on the status of the spent fuel pool. On 20 March, workers began pumping 40 tons of seawater into the spent fuel pool.

On 18 March, Japan assigned an INES rating of 5 to this Unit.

Unit 3

Coolant within Unit 3 is covering about half of the fuel rods in the reactor, and Japanese authorities believe the core has been damaged. High pressure within the reactor's containment led operators to vent gas from the containment. Later, an explosion destroyed the outer shell of the reactor building above the containment on 14 March.

Following the explosion, Japanese officials expressed concerns that the reactor's containment may not be fully intact. White smoke has been seen emerging from the reactor, but on 19 March it appeared to be less intense than in previous days.

Efforts to pump seawater into the reactor core are continuing.

Of additional concern at Unit 3 is the condition of the spent fuel pool in the building. There are indications that there is inadequate cooling water level in the pool, and Japanese authorities have addressed the problem by dropping water from helicopters into the building and spraying water from trucks. Spraying from trucks continued on 20 March. There is no data on the temperature of the water in the pool.

On 18 March, Japan assigned an INES rating of 5 to this Unit.

Unit 4

All fuel from Unit 4 had been removed from the reactor core for routine maintenance before the earthquake and placed into the spent fuel pool. The building's outer shell was damaged on 14 March, and there have been two reported fires - possibly including one in the area of the spent fuel pool on 15 March - that were extinguished spontaneously.

Authorities remain concerned about the condition of the spent fuel pool, and Japanese Self Defence Forces began spraying water into the building on 20 March.

On 18 March, Japan assigned an INES rating of 3 to this site.

Units 5 and 6

Shut down for routine maintenance before the earthquake, both reactors achieved cold shutdown on 20 March. The reactors are now in a safe mode, with cooling systems stable and under control, and with low temperature and pressure within the reactor.

Instrumentation from both spent fuel pools had shown gradually increasing temperatures over the past few days. Officials configured two diesel generators at Unit 6 to power cooling and fresh-water replenishment systems in the spent fuel pools and cores of Units 5 and 6. As of 20 March, temperatures in both pools had decreased significantly.

Workers have opened holes in the roofs of both buildings to prevent the possible accumulation of hydrogen, which is suspected of causing explosions at other units.

Restoration of Grid

Progress has been achieved in restoring external power to the nuclear power plant, although it remains uncertain when full power will be available to all reactors. Off-site electrical power has been connected to an auxiliary transformer and distribution panels at Unit 2. Work continues toward energizing specific equipment within Unit 2.

Evacuation

Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that the evacuation of the population from the 20-kilometre zone around Fukushima Daiichi has been successfully completed. Japanese authorities have also advised people living within 30 kilometers of the plant to remain inside.

Iodine

On 16 March, Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission recommended local authorities to instruct evacuees leaving the 20-kilometre area to ingest stable (not radioactive) iodine. The pills and syrup (for children) had been prepositioned at evacuation centers. The order recommended taking a single dose, with an amount dependent on age:

Baby 12.5 mg
1 mo.-3 yrs. 25 mg
3-13 yrs. 38 mg
13-40 yrs. 76 mg
40+ yrs. Not necessary

Radiation Measurements

Radiation levels near Fukushima Daiichi and beyond have elevated since the reactor damage began. However, dose rates in Tokyo and other areas outside the 30-kilometre zone remain below levels which would require any protective action. In other words they are not dangerous to human health.

Dose rates have been provided by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology for 47 cities and town representing a comprehensive nationwide monitoring network. The data set covers the period from 15 March, 08:00 UTC to 20 March, 17:00 UTC with an hourly sampling frequency. No significant changes of dose rates have been observed if compared to previous day data.

At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, radiation levels spiked three times since the earthquake, but have stabilized since 16 March at levels which are, although significantly higher than the normal levels, within the range that allows workers to continue onsite recovery measures. Two new on-site environmental monitoring locations have been added to the monitoring network.

Radionuclides in Foodstuffs and Water

The IAEA has received information from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare regarding the presence of Iodine-131 in three milk samples tested in the town of Kawamata. The concentration is reported to be above allowed levels. Cesium-137 was detected in one sample, though in concentration below allowed levels.

In the Ibaraki prefecture, Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 have been detected in leaf vegetables such as spring onions and spinach. Some of the samples have been reported to be above the levels allowed by the Japanese food hygiene law for emergency monitoring criteria for intake of vegetables.

According to the Nuclear Safety Division, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) analysis for Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 in tap water from 46 locations yielded the majority of samples as non-detects. Only six out of 46 exhibited any iodine-131, though the concentration was reported to be below levels allowed by the Japanese food hygiene law for emergency monitoring criteria for drinking water.